'Escape Rooms' bring live-action puzzle solving to Hamilton 2 puzzle businesses prepare to open on the Mountain and in the lower city

Submitted: November 05th, 2015



'Escape Rooms' bring live-action puzzle solving to Hamilton 2 puzzle businesses prepare to open on the Mountain and in the lower city

By Adam Carter, CBC News

Does getting trapped in a locked room where your wits and puzzle-solving skills are your only hope of escape sound like a good time?

Then you're in luck – two Hamilton "escape rooms" are on the verge of opening, bringing a massive overseas trend in live gaming to the city.

While there are dozens of these businesses in the Toronto area, Hamilton has been an escape room desert until now – and so the time is right to change that, says Will Steadman, the co-owner of The Crux Escape Rooms, which is about to open on Upper James Street.

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"The response has been incredible so far," Steadman told CBC News. "People seem to be really excited."

"When I was setting up our bank account, our banker even asked if she could do her Christmas party there."

Escape rooms are kind of like a real-world analogue to puzzle-solving video games. For about $25 (in most venues), participants are "imprisoned" in a room with several others and forced to hunt for clues to puzzles in the game environment in a race against the clock.

'I'm excited to see how Hamilton responds, because it has exploded everywhere else.' - Mike Idzenga, The Adventure co-owner

It's kind of like the mega-popular Saw movie series – just without the grisly murders.

"People have been doing this for 25 years in video games," Steadman said. "I think it's one of those things that will continue to grow as you continue to challenge the customer."

The Crux is planning soft openings for the next three weekends to test how people react to their room and fine tune its puzzles. Steadman says they hope to have the business' grand opening in just over a month or so.

While The Crux prepares to open on the Mountain, Mike Idzenga and his team are working on the designs for puzzle rooms at The Adventure on King Street East. They hope to be up and running by Christmas, Idzenga says, pending building permits from the city.

"I've always been a puzzle fiend – anything where I have to figure something out," Idzenga said. "It exploded into an obsession for me."

Idzbnga has visited 33 escape rooms throughout Canada. Most focus on "physical puzzles," he says, like opening a puzzle with a word lock or putting a certain object from the room on a pedestal to trigger a door opening.

"It's not just the puzzles that appeal to me – it's also the fact that you're doing it with people in a room and not just on a screen," he said.

"I'm excited to see how Hamilton responds, because it has exploded everywhere else."

For more information, visit www.thecrux.ca and theadventurehamilton.comadam.carter@cbc.ca