Print Edition: April 1, 2015
If you’ve ever wished you could be trapped in a room with zombies, your wait is finally over. Countdown Escape Rooms, Abbotsford’s newest attraction, opened March 1.
My friends and I decided to check it out on a whim when our picnic plans succumbed to a Fraser Valley monsoon. Owner Sean McIntosh explained that the general concept is to pick a room and we’d be “locked” in. The goal is to find your way out in 45 minutes, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“Most won’t get out,” he says. “In other [escape rooms], only one per cent get out.”
The attraction features three rooms, each with a different theme and storyline: a “zombie fever” room where participants try to escape zombies, “the tomb,” where the goal is to steal a golden idol from a temple, and an enchanted forest where “nothing is as it seems.”
When my friends and I tackled the enchanted forest, we added to the aforementioned statistic of people who did not escape the room in time. As if we were rifling through props on a theatre set, my friends and I tried to find the various hidden clues. However, that wasn’t our biggest problem — every time we stumbled on another puzzle to solve, my group of five friends swarmed the new puzzle and abandoned the others. We were attracted to the excitement of the new puzzle instead of sticking with the previous ones, like ducks swarming over a piece of bread tossed into a pond.
We chose the enchanted forest room because we are mostly theatre students, and the allure of fairy tales and magic appealed to our inner children. We were too chicken for the zombie fever room. The great thing about these rooms is that the entrance door is always open, so if you start to feel claustrophobic or frightened you can run out.
While the escape rooms require participants to complete interactive puzzles and trials in order to escape, they’re not physically straining.
“You have to sign a waiver, especially for scary ones, but it’s not that physical,” McIntosh says. “There’s no running, there’s no jumping. This shouldn’t be any more strenuous than the stairs.”
This was great news to me — the last two years of packing on the freshman 15 while writing poetry meant that I was well-versed in wit, not strength. The only physical part of the experience was bumping into my friends excitedly as we hustled to find new clues.
But it’s not too smart — my advice to anyone trying the room would be to stick to what the clues give you; don’t try to get too meta. For example, I made the awful mistake of counting a bunch of little props that were merely there for decoration — and I wasted 10 minutes.
Although Abbotsford has never seen anything like Countdown Escape Rooms, the concept is not new. There are quite a few similar attractions in the Vancouver area, and McIntosh says a lot of people travel from Abbotsford to Richmond to play.
Countdown Escape Rooms is not only more conveniently located for those living in the Fraser Valley, but it also boasts larger rooms.
“Our stages are much more elaborate [and] our rooms are about three times bigger,” McIntosh explains. “Most of the other ones, they take cardboard and they print it and put it on the walls. We’re 3D, so we actually built everything.”
McIntosh is already planning for expansion of the business by including a room where the goal is not only to escape, but also to escape from a murderer.
“It’s this idea of a maniac has you trapped in a room,” he says.
Countdown Escape Rooms is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Reservations can be made at countdownescaperooms.com.
With files from Vanessa Broadbent.