Last week, I went on an adventure. To a castle. I hope right now that you have a vision in your head of mydangblog, dressed in golden armour, engaged in swordplay on the battlements of a stronghold, a handsome squire (named Ken) tossing me a stick with a studded ball attached to it, which the squire insists is called a “mace” and he won’t give me a cooler weapon, or at least one with a cooler-sounding name, but despite my handsome squire’s insolence, I defeat Sir Loin of Beef and his cow army and we celebrate with a barbeque…
OK, in reality, I went to an Adventure Room at Casa Loma. For those of you to whom either of those things is a mystery, let me explain. An Adventure Room is a live-action game where a group of people work together to solve puzzles and escape from a room that they are trapped in. Casa Loma is a stunningly beautiful, ACTUAL castle in Toronto. It was built by a wealthy financier at the turn of the last century, and it rivals anything you might see in Europe. Or Disney. I went with a group from work, and I was really excited to go—the week before. On the actual day, true to introverted form, I was overwhelmed with the usual dread of social interaction. But I’d played it smart—it was $48 and I had no intention of forfeiting that much money just to go home and watch Season 3 of Elementary all tucked up in my cozy bed…which would have been a lovely option too.
But I work with really nice people, and I’ve known most of them for a while, so off we went on our adventure, which actually began with trying to figure out, over dinner and drinks, how to actually GET to Casa Loma. That involved a subway ride, then a streetcar (no one was sure of the stop, so we kept jumping off, panicking, and jumping back on, much to the amusement of the other passengers. Actually, they were more annoyed than amused, but we’d all had a bit to drink at the restaurant, so WE thought it was funny), then a 10 minute walk. In Canada. In the winter. At night. So yes, by the time we arrived, we were freezing, and in need of first, a bathroom, and second, more to drink. The first we got. The second—well, I asked the woman who greeted us if there would be “an opportunity to purchase some beverages”. Her response was ‘No’. Seriously, what kind of adult adventure room doesn’t allow you to sip a nice glass of Chianti whilst codebreaking?
Then we were ushered into a movie theatre, where we were to watch a film that would explain our upcoming adventure, described thusly: “The war is over, the fascists in Europe have lost, and it’s time for celebration in Toronto; or so it would seem. Deep beneath the gothic exterior of Casa Loma, there lies a secret. You and your closest friends stumble upon the soon to be decommissioned Station M. Within the hidden workshop of failed projects and confidential experiments, you find one last mission. Be careful who you trust, and make sure you have an escape plan.” Sounds cool, am I right? We would also be accompanied by a character who was part of the scenario, and we would meet him after the film. “But,” warned the young man who was explaining this to us, “you can’t touch him. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU TOUCH HIM. Do not EVER touch him. Are there any questions?” And all I could do was whisper, “So many…” because then we were ushered into a hallway and I couldn’t ask them, but here they are:
1) Why can’t I touch him?
2) What do you mean by “touch”? Does it count if I accidentally brush against him? Is it OK to poke him to see if he’s real, and not animatronic or whatnot?
3) Can I touch him if he touches me first, like in retaliation?
4) You said, “Under no circumstances”. But what if there’s a fire? Can I grab his arm and pull him to safety or do I just leave him to fend for himself? What if he falls down? Can I help him get up or do I just stand there staring at him?
5) Is this a rule you created because someone in the past slapped him for not giving them enough help with the puzzles? Is he really that unhelpful, or is he just a smartass?
6) What happens if I DO touch him, like he’s being funny and I lightly punch him in the shoulder, like one of those “Oh you!” kind of gestures? Will he taser me?
7) Is this part of the game? Is this a clue? Like when someone says, ‘Don’t think about elephants’, and then you absolutely do? Because now all I can think about is poking this guy, and I haven’t even met him yet.
And then I did meet him. He was in his early twenties and dressed in an old-fashioned suit. His name was ‘Steven Rutledge’. He claimed to be a spy or a secret agent or something, but I’m not really sure because I was trying not to touch him. We were in a room that was full of really cool antiques and things, but it was hard to concentrate because everyone else was running around looking for clues. I wasn’t sure for what, since I hadn’t really been paying attention, but suddenly someone yelled in triumph, a door opened, and we were all in ANOTHER room. Apparently the first room was like the launch pad for the actual adventure in ‘Station M’, which was to save a scientist from his Russian kidnappers. We had to get a radio to work, so I said to Steven, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” in an attempt to lighten the mood, but he gave me a weird, kind of dirty look. I wasn’t sure if he was just ACTING like he didn’t get it, or whether he really didn’t get it, so I said, “R.E.M.? It’s a pop culture reference,” to which he replied, “Pop Culture?!” and rolled his eyes. Then I knew why we weren’t allowed to touch him, because with THAT attitude, he would get slapped a lot.
Anyway, we solved a lot of puzzles, and Steven was actually pretty helpful, dropping cryptic hints and whatnot, until finally we were at the last puzzle. The timer was counting down, people were running around, it was madness, there was an air raid siren going off, lights were flashing, Steven was trying to avoid being touched, and then—we ran out of time. It wasn’t really a letdown, except that the scientist was still at the mercy of his Russian kidnappers, but it was a lot of fun. Casa Loma has two other adventure rooms, and I would totally do it again, because it finished early enough that I still had time to watch Season 3 of Elementary in my own cozy bed afterwards. With a nice glass of Chianti.