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All photos by Kenneth Ingram.

Unlocked Ottawa pits cops against robbers in a unique escape room scenario

By Kenneth Ingram on January 6, 2017





Apt613 went to Kanata over the holidays to try out a new escape room that offers a slight twist: rather than just racing against the clock, two teams compete against each another to solve puzzles in near-identical rooms at the same time.

2016-12-31_10-45-32Seated at a sturdy table under bright lights in the lounge at Unlocked Ottawa, our group of four is asked a simple question by co-owner Calvin Joy:

Do you want to be the bad guys, or the good guys?” he says with a wide grin.

We’re about to enter The Krylon Crew Versus the Police Duo, one of two rooms built on the second level of an office building in Kanata. The adventure room is designed up to six players in total who are split into two teams and for 35 minutes, one team will be professional bank robbers while the other is a police duo determined to track them down.

Unlocked Ottawa: A Different Kind of Space

A few details about the room will follow below (no spoilers) but it’s important to emphasize that Unlocked Ottawa has branded itself differently from other escape rooms in the city.

“I didn’t like the idea of being locked in a room,” says Rebecca Joy, also a co-owner (and Calvin’s sister).

2016-12-31_10-47-12She notes that in contrast to other escape rooms, Unlocked Ottawa calls their spaces ‘adventure rooms’ and chose to embrace a slightly different approach.

“No doors are locked here,” she explains.

And we don’t have a dark theme or a dark lobby. We’re trying to be the opposite.


The differences are apparent from the moment you walk in and see a bright reception area and lounge. The location also has a game library (a mix of board games and card games) on site that offers more than 50 titles to play – free for the month of January. Snacks and beverages (no liquor license at this time) are available for purchase.

Unlocked Ottawa founders and staf: Melissa Sydney, Calvin Joy, Jessica Joy, and Jessica Lim

Unlocked Ottawa founders and staff: Melissa Sydney, Calvin Joy, Jessica Joy, and Jessica Lim

“We are all born and raised in Kanata,” says Calvin, explaining that Unlocked Ottawa is co-owned by four people – including his girlfriend.

“So we thought, let’s bring [the business] to Kanata,” he adds, noting that one additional plus of having the business in Kanata is that parking is not a ‘nightmare’ like in downtown Ottawa.

The Krylon Crew Versus the Police Duo: Review

We are led into adjacent rooms where a chain-linked fence separates our two teams and adds another dimension to the game play. You can’t help but overhear (and occasionally watch) the other team as they race to solve the same clues. If you find the walkie-talkie (a common feature in escape rooms), you can ask for clues to help solve puzzles if you get stuck but beware: the other team gets to hear the hints too. All of these factors add a bit of tension, especially because the game time is a mere 35 minutes. But it’s not just about beating the clock.

“We want someone [either the cops or the robbers] to win,” says Calvin.

“It’s more fun that way.”

While Apt613 didn’t try the other room, Our Man on Sussex, we did have a quick tour. The spy-theme room is a mock apartment where you have 60 minutes to search for clues and discover the occupant’s secret agenda – all while trying to escape without being noticed.

Calvin and Rebecca say that a third room is in the works and will likely open in a few months. In the meantime, Unlocked Ottawa has a lot to offer residents not only in Kanata but also the greater NCR – especially new players of all ages.

The Krylon Crew Versus the Police Duo takes 35 mins and costs $17 per player. Unlocked Ottawa is open most Thursday and Friday evenings, and weekends. Check hours here.