Here’s a secret that might shock everybody: I don’t like breaking my schedule. If something’s going to keep me from going home by 6 p.m. on a school night, it had better be worth my time. Fortunately, our play-through in one of the SmartyPantz escape rooms was very much worth my time.
Located at 10524 110 St., the facility wasn’t even in a properly marked building — the address had been scrawled on a piece of cardboard. There was a padlock on the entrance, which I hope was solely for aesthetic purposes and was not the actual building lock.
Nevertheless, our motley little team entered the building, and we began amusing ourselves with the brainteasers that were in the main lobby. Soon after our arrival, a staff member kindly explained the rules and operations of the escape room and got us to sign waivers. It was pretty standard stuff: don’t wreck things; leave if you need to (but don’t return to the room if you leave); have fun.
Once the technical matters had been put in order, our host for the evening came out. From the moment he stepped out from the back rooms into the lobby, he was completely in character. Basically, he was playing the part of a neurotic ghost hunter, and he did it very well. There was something in the way he acted that was both terrifying and oddly alluring.
He took us up the back of the building to our breakout room, Morning Never Comes, a study haunted by a murdered woman’s ghost. Complete with a 1930s theme and fake thunder-and-lightning effects, the room was reminiscent of a conventional haunted house.
We had 45 minutes to complete the puzzles and escape the room. In the event that we were totally stuck in our workings, we were given a walkie-talkie with which we could contact our host for two hints on how to proceed.
Through the powers of teamwork, logical thought and our two allotted hints, we were able to solve the mystery in less than half an hour.
Once we solved everything, our host came into the room to congratulate us, still in character. Cody Civiero, the man who suggested that SmartyPantz expand its escape rooms from Vancouver to Edmonton, accompanied him.
“[My father and I] wanted to be part of the downtown revitalization,” Civiero, a MacEwan University graduate, explains. “It’s a really exciting time to be investing in downtown Edmonton and getting in on the ground floor and all that.”
Civiero’s father’s friend initially thought of the idea for the company and managed to get Civiero and his father on board. They opened their first location in Vancouver last February and unveiled the Edmonton location on Oct. 3.
According to Civiero, what sets this breakout room facility apart from others like it is the “interactive theatre element,” which includes live actors. Civiero also gives credit to the technical people, who have previously worked on Hollywood productions.“We really want to set the bar for what an escape room is.”
Photo supplied by SmartyPantz.