We had 2 hours, a city full of secrets, and no detective experience.
On Good Friday, a special group of Do Sask agents assembled to escape a Russian Spy-themed scavenger hunt in Saskatoon.
BreakOut Escape Rooms is a popular activity in Saskatoon where groups of people have to find their way out of a locked room. They’re given clues and a limited amount of time to find the code to escape.
I’ve talked about how much I love to do geeky things like Escape Rooms before. So when BreakOut invited Do Sask members to take part in “Russian Around”, a special one-day city-wide scavenger hunt, we couldn’t say no. The contest was simple: our private Facebook group members told me the name of their favourite spy to win their way in.
Last week, after the winners were notified we received the following mission orders:
You have been recruited for a top secret time sensitive assignment. As you are aware there was recently a breach at Ft. Wallaby Army Base. Top secret documents were stolen and an attempt was made to launch a nuclear strike on our own country. We were able to thwart that attempt and recover the documents. All but one member of the team that infiltrated Ft. Wallaby have been located and detained. However, one fugitive remains at large. Intelligence reports suggests this remaining fugitive was the team leader and therefore the acquisition of this fugitive is our top priority. We have managed to track the fugitive to Saskatoon, Sk. This is where you will begin your hunt!
Your mission: Follow the trail the fugitive has left. We have sent support agents into the field who will make contact and provide you with updated information as it becomes available. Our best agents have tried and failed to locate and capture the fugitive. It is up to you and your team to locate and capture the suspect before they are able to leave the area. This is our last chance. Everything is riding on your success.
Our team of five recruits faced the complicated task of finding the Russian Spy on a city-wide chase.
We arrived at the starting point greeted by two special agents with neutral faces and dark sunglasses. They handed us a special envelope and said, “Team Black Storm: this is your mission, should you choose to accept it.”
The envelope contained a map, rules, and a set of laminated paper keys. We tried to use the keys on the map until we noticed a strip mall across the street from Prairie Sun Brewery had a small spy symbol. It could only be… Create Café 3D Printing.
We gathered our intel, packed into the tiny car like a bunch of clowns, and sped off to the next location.
Meet the agents:
Agent Kowalchuk made sure everyone was on task and kept a close eye on the time. Favourite spy: Harriet the Spy.
Agent Davis used his competitive spirit to ensure that the team was solving puzzles faster than the other teams (even though we were told it was not a race). Favourite spy: Carrie Mathison.
Agent Adams wasn’t afraid to dive right in to the assignment with a stellar ability to translate symbols into words. Favourite spy: Susan Cooper.
Agent Schwabe was in the pilot’s seat and drove the team across the city with an unwavering demeanor. Favourite spy: Austin Powers.
Agent Rederburg expertly decoded maps, hustled at pinball, and recorded the day’s events. Favourite spy: Harry Tasker.
Once we arrived at Create Café we searched high and low for the symbol. (And we got totally distracted by all of the cool stuff they had made with their printers.) After about 5 minutes we found clues right in front of our noses. They were a coffee cup, a poster with symbols from the old country, and a poster in the same style with different types of coffee.
Using both posters to translate, Agent Adams took the lead to determine the secret message was “Pinball”. The barista handed us a hot drink and our next clue which was the address to Pokey’s Pinball.
At Pokey’s Pinball we were told to look for 3 digits. Since there are numbers everywhere in a pinball shop we had a hard time narrowing down our selection until we started looking at the bigger picture.
Agent Davis successfully spotted the numbers “3-4-7” which unlocked two credits each for pinball and a clue that led the agents to our next location: Crave Cupcakes. We spent 30 minutes distracted by the fun pinball selection, but all of the agents admitted they had CUPCAKES on their minds.
At Crave Cupcakes we got to make use of our paper keys from the beginning of the mission. There was a poster full of letters and outlines where the paper keys would fit. All we could smell was fresh cupcakes, so deciphering the code proved to be a challenging task. We worked together to find the phrase “Shaken Not Stirred”.
We stopped to eat about a million cupcakes. Literally. And since we were the last team they gave us a pack of the ones the other teams left behind. Then we got our next clue which pointed us to…
We walked in Mastermind to find a floor puzzle that linked letters together spelling the name of our fugitive: Nastasha Ivanahumpski. It didn’t take us too long to solve, so we took our clue and went on our way to the food court at Midtown.
Since parking at Midtown is pricey, Agent Adams and Agent Schwabe dropped the rest of us off and drove around the mall taking selfies.
Agent Kowalski, Agent Davis and I walked around the food court until we found another agent with a briefcase and ball cap. The agent said she would only give us our next clue if we could uncover her name, so she gave us a riddle that led us past the bitten fruit, beyond the forbidden box and up the stairs to a sweet surprise: it could only be…
Hung all over the walls there were posters that gave clues about the agent’s name through the process of elimination. We were definitely stumped at this point, but we made a guess at Agent Black and it turned out to be correct. They gave us a handful of chocolates and we made our way back to Agent Black.
When we arrived at Agent Black’s station we were given another clue which used numbers corresponding with letters in the alphabet. The letters spelled out Bartari, a video game bar on 20th Avenue. Agent Schwabe and Agent Adams were ready and waiting, so we wasted no time in getting to our last location of the day.
At Bartari we were finally face-to-face with the elusive fugitive Natasha Ivanahumpski. By the time we arrived she bared a striking resemblance to one of the agents from our starting point. (The fugitive in the picture below had to leave before 5 pm due to licensing, so we all had a good laugh.)
Ivanahumpski gave us two options: 1) take a bribe and let her go, or 2) do what we came there to do and arrest her.
We chose the latter option, but sadly it was the wrong choice. (Bad behaviour is rewarded in this game!)
Even though Ivanahumpski got away we felt good about valuing justice over greed. Plus, BreakOut covered a bar tab and free gaming. So we ordered a platta, popped a few drinks, and played a Yoshi’s Island.
Here are our final thoughts on the mission:
Agent Davis: “In the end as in life the heroes get shot. Next time I’ll be sure to take the bribery route so that I can actually feel like I earned something for all my hard work. The chase itself was really fun and got me into some new businesses that I had never been to before. I’d like to try one of BreakOut’s rooms next, as this was my first experience with an escape-type game.”
Agent Adams: “I really loved getting to try out so many new Saskatoon activities, and realized how many neat places and neighborhoods the city has to offer. Especially since I am new to town! Getting to actually talk, taste and try new things was the highlight. The puzzles were just the right difficulty for the event. Tip: leave yourself lots of time to chat with other teams, business owners and take photos with your team! Make a day of it.”
Agent Schwabe: “Since I was the driver, I had some fun and… some frustration. Finding new places was an “adventure”- good thing I’m cool-headed. Put your team’s road-ragers in the backseat! My favourite stop was the Pinball Bar – the free tokens were a nice touch. Also nom nom nom’ed the Crave Cupcakes. My only advice to the organizers would be to avoid areas where parking is hard to find/expensive, or organize one that can be done on-foot in Downtown/Riversdale. We waited in the car while the rest of the team played at Midtown to avoid dealing with pay lots.”
Agent Rederburg: “We had a great time figuring out the puzzles and putting clues together. It was good to see local businesses collaborating to make this event happen across the city. And the escape rooms partnered to create something better than they could do on their own. All of our Do Sask agents naturally fell into different roles and helped each other get to the next step. There were so many irresistible treats that I definitely felt like I had a food baby at the end of the day. I can’t wait to do it again!”