Last year, Toronto’s own Looking Glass Adventures (2944 Danforth Avenue, next to Victoria Park station) took us on a phantasmagorical journey through an abandoned magic shop – and beyond. It was, and remains, one of our favourite escape rooms to date (and in all our journeys ’round the world we’ve escaped from a lot of rooms!) so we were thrilled to be recently invited to try out their “Mystery at Maryweather Mansion”.
Superficially, the mansion of Maryweather is less exciting than the inherently mystical “Walden’s Wizarding World”. But while the mansion may not hold promise of magic wands or potions, there are certainly a number of entertaining twists in store. The best of which are, as always, the most tactile: many times throughout our one-hour adventure, we found ourselves startled or delighted by a particular interaction requiring us to physically interact with the environment. At least once, a member of our party screamed in surprise — rest assured, though, “Mansion” is 100% kid-friendly.
Our favourite thing about Maryweather, like all Looking Glass rooms, is that it’s not really about escape at all.
Rather, the narrative tasks you with scouring an archaeologist’s house in search of a mysterious hidden object, saving it from the clutches of “enemy archaeologists” set to break in within the next sixty minutes. (No, mercifully, there aren’t any hammy actors who show up to bother you.) With that in mind – and with a handy set of thematically appropriate costuming options on hand – you’re invited to poke and prod around, looking for anything that might resemble a hint or an unlockable objective.
As mentioned, the best parts of Maryweather go beyond your standard “input four-digit code” puzzles of escape rooms past. The mansion’s ingeniously designed devices, which operate on some combination of magnets and clockwork-like hidden mechanisms, all obey a certain logic appropriate to its constructed miniature world. At no point in our sixty minutes did anyone roll their eyes and say, “but that’s just ridiculous, how were we supposed to figure that out?” That alone is testament to the thought put into every Looking Glass puzzle.
Sure, it may take you a while to figure out, say, which handheld item interacts with which piece of decor, but once you do there’s a satisfying sense of having worked it out, like a Sherlock Holmes or, for that matter, Knives Out puzzle. Amusingly, there’s even one puzzle that’s solvable based purely on outside knowledge, freely disregarding the clues in the room. We like our escape rooms to make sense, as if someone actually went to the trouble of constructing a fiendishly complicated environment – a magic shop, a lonely mansion – with its own set of rules that can be worked out. Nothing about “Maryweather” ever feels arbitrary.
Maryweather also provided our group the opportunity to attempt something we missed last time at Looking Glass: having solved the primary mystery in less than forty minutes (weird flex but ok), we were given the change to solve a handful of bonus puzzles. Happily, this bonus round went beyond a mere set of tacked-on riddles, instead making inventive use of props and details that we’d previously overlooked. Indeed, one gets the feeling that these “bonus” puzzles were baked into the original room design, only to be cut from the main adventure for time. Their inclusion, for those quick enough to unlock them, is a satisfying reward on top of an already immensely satisfying escape room experience.
The other aspect of Looking Glass which remains true across rooms is its generally relaxed vibe. Players are encouraged to take photos. There’s a hint system – pick up an “in-universe” phone and it will connect you to Looking Glass staff – that’s free to use with no penalty. There isn’t even a pretense that you’re “locked in”.
It’s just one hour of you, your friends, and a room full of objects begging to be turned upside down, opened, twisted, shaken, and uncovered. The Maryweather Mansion isn’t predictable. But it sure is a fun place to visit.
Final score: 9/10 glass onions.
Visit the Looking Glass Adventures website and book tickets here.