Do Sask Special Agents Went on a City-Wide Chase to Capture a Fugitive

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:

“Agents,

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.

Col. Johnston”

Our team of five recruits faced the complicated task of finding the Russian Spy on a city-wide chase.

BreakOut Escape Rooms Contest
Receiving our Black Storm Mission documents at BreakOut Escape Rooms.

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.

Create Cafe 3d Printing

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.

BreakOut Escape Rooms Contest Create Cafe
Agent Adams putting the clues together at Create Cafe.

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.

Pokey’s Pinball Cafe

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.

BreakOut Escape Rooms Contest Pokey's Pinball
Agent Davis puts on his game face at Pokey’s Pinball.

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.

Crave Cupcakes

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”.

BreakOut Escape Rooms Contest Crave Cupcakes
Unlocking the secret phrase using our paper keys at Crave Cupcakes.

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…

Mastermind Live Escape

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.

Midtown Plaza

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…

Laura Secord

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.

Bartari 

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.)

Catch me if you can….. #russianaroundbreakoutsask #breakoutsask #1team1room1hour

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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!)

BreakOut Escape Rooms Contest Bartari
From left: Agent Kowalski, Agent Davis, Agent Adams, Agent Schwabe, and Agent Rederburg relaxing after a hard day of spy hunting at Bartari.

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!”

Check out all of our “Russian Around” highlights in the slideshow below.

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Find out more information about where you can play the next scavenger hunt at BreakOut Escape Rooms.

Pick 10: The Best Geeky Things to Do in Saskatoon

best geeky things to do in saskatoon)

There are all different types of words people use to describe those who are incredibly passionate about games. The negative meaning behind dork, geek, and nerd has been thrown on its head by modern society. That’s why there was no shortage in choosing the best geeky things to do in Saskatoon.

Over the past ten years there’s been a transformation that’s turned some of the bullied into billionaires. People who have a knack for coding or comics have reached a new level of cool. And Saskatoon knows it.

People have called me a nerd for years. But I’ve never identified with the fangirls of Star Wars and LOTR, or played a MMORPG. I was in a bit of denial at first, but now I’ve learned to embrace the term. Geeky things I love to do are actually really fun. It’s like you get to be a kid again and the only thing people can say is, “What a geek!” Burn.

I have a message for the fellow geeks that stumbled here: there is no shame in embracing your passions. From arcades to comic book stores, read on to journey into the best of Saskatoon’s geekdom.

*This list has been edited to reflect business changes on March 25, 2018.

Don’t miss Riversdale, a.k.a. home of the best geekiest block in Saskatoon: Mana Bar, King Me Boardgamery, Deadlock VR, and Bartari.

Mana Bar 523 20 St W

Owner Chris calls it “a nerdtopia for those into every geeky subculture”. And he’s working very hard to satisfy every niche of nerd across the city. Whether you’re into Magic or live streamed e-games, this is a bar with a pixelated heartbeat. Check their calendar for specialty nights like trivia to meet and compete with other bespectacled people of the prairies.

Pro Tip: Make sure you visit the gender-neutral Star Wars and Zelda-themed washrooms that play music from their respective titles while you pee.

Update: Chris makes specialty waffles on Wednesdays (Jalapeno Popper, Mac N Cheese, and Gingerbread to name a few). He also has a selection of bourbon and scotch for tasting (November 18, 2017).

Update: According to its regulars, Mana Bar permanently closed in March of 2019. An official confirmation of closure has yet to be released from its owner Chris on Mana Bar’s social, storefront, or website (April 7, 2019).

King Me Boardgamery and Cafe 527 20th Street West

Best Geeky Things to Do in Saskatoon King Me Boardgamery and Cafe interior
Photo via King Me Boardgamery website.

Next door from Mana Bar, you’ll find King Me where your fiver goes far with All You Can Play board games. They’re open seven days a week, so you can plan your regular board game night here.

The thing I like about King Me is that you can try out the latest board games at a fraction of the cost of buying to avoid overspending on games that you may not want to play again. Check out the board game library to see if they have the one you want.

Update: According to their Facebook Page, King Me has started offering solo player promotions on Tuesdays (November 19, 2017).

Deadlock Virtual Reality (added March 25, 2018)

While I haven’t personally experienced this gaming arcade, Chris from Mana Bar tells me that it’s worth a visit. Deadlock’s new second location offers a combo of escape rooms and virtual reality gaming options. There are 6 stand-up VR stations with dozens of multiplayer games to challenge your nerdy friends.

Bartari 511 20th Street West


Walk a few doors down from Mana Bar to grab a table for you and a few friends to play unlimited games all night for $5. You can choose from a vast collection of retro and new console games, or arcade style pinball. Start a battle with your friends and the servers will fuel your evening with treats like milk and cookies between rounds.

Ruckers 2 locations: 2910 8th St E and  2301 22 St W

So maybe Ruckers isn’t the geekiest place Saskatoon, but you’ll have fun reliving your nostalgic arcade days. Spend around $30 to get over 100 tokens to play. Take your friends, or plan your next date here. The east location is part of a fun centre that includes: Putt ‘n Bounce mini golf, The Rock climbing wall, Grand Slam batting cages, and one of the only Fuddruckers locations in Canada.

Pro Tip: pack your hand sanitizer.

Pokey’s Pinball 211-B 33rd St W

Do Sask goes to Pokey's Pinball

What originated as a pinball servicing company is now a licensed cafe in the burgeoning 33rd Street neighbourhood. Pokey’s is made for Saskatoon’s most dedicated pinball fans. They have a rotating wall of games and regular pinball leagues. Order some nachos and a pitcher, then get some tokens and play the afternoon away.

Note: You won’t be able to find much of Pokey’s online, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit!

Aspect Virtual Reality Gaming Studio 2218 Millar Ave *Edit permanently closed

I first heard about ASPECT VR after reading an article in the StarPhoenix, so naturally we had to check it out for our next date night. The owners say this is the only Virtual Reality Studio of this quality anywhere in Saskatchewan. They also do large parties (a.k.a. the quietest birthday you’ll ever have).

When my date (my husband, Chris) and I walked into the space we could tell it was a very expensive room. We opted for the immersive experience of the Zombie story, but there are other options for folks who want ease their way into VR.  See what it feels like to be completely inside of a video game.

Pro Tip: We played for an hour, but we recommend limiting yourself to a half hour your first time.

Your nearest Saskatoon Public Library location.

Conversations already happening by the fireplace in the new Round Prairie branch #yxe #saskatoon #roundprairiemetis

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I’ve always found the library to be a comforting space. It’s somewhere I can explore the world without leaving my city. The library is the perfect spot for geeky dates because they have so much going on to satisfy all different types of people. Membership is free and gives you access to a world of knowledge. Check out a location near you, or visit the new Round Prairie branch location in Stonebridge.

Note: Do Sask’s book club is open to join and free if you borrow instead of buy. Check out the book of the month from the library, then come out to a meeting to discuss. Sign up to the newsletter to get updates on where and when we meet. Everyone’s welcome!

U of S Observatory

Best Geeky Things to Do in Saskatoon U of S Observatory
Photo via U of S Observatory website.

I remember going to the U of S a lot as a kid. The observatory was always one of the highlights. It’s open every Saturday year round, but typically you can get the best view in the summer months. For a romantic take on the best geeky thing to do in Saskatoon, pack a midnight snack and take a peek at the universe through a 6 inch diameter lens to see planets, clusters, galaxies, and even comets. There’s a small Astronomy museum with a tour of our solar system!

Pro Tip: Check out their hours to see how long they’re open for this Saturday.

Escape Rooms

I experienced my first escape room a few years ago in Calgary at a place called The Locked Room. Essentially we gathered a group of five to play a live action puzzle in which we had to take steps to find and unlock ourselves from the room to successfully save humanity from a zombie apocalypse. (FYI We made it to the last piece when the buzzer rang… Fail.)

Saskatoon has a handful of escape rooms to choose from. I’ve only tried Keller’s Magic Emporium at Escape City, so tell me which one is the best! Here’s where you can find them:

Canadian Light Source 44 Innovation Blvd

Best Geeky Things to Do in Saskatoon Canadian Light Source Synchrotron
Photo via Light Source website.

Canada’s hub for STEM research is right here in Saskatoon at the internationally renowned multidisciplinary synchrotron. Take a free tour of the spot that has grabbed the science world’s attention. The Canadian Light Source gives free tours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2 p.m. You can drop in at that time, or request another time (for groups of 5 or more).

Amazing Stories  2508 8th St E

Can you connect the dots?? #dottodot #connectthedots #spiderman #amazingstoriescomics

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If you’re going to check out a comic book store, why not head to one of the world’s best? Amazing Stories has more than comics – check them out for everything geek culture from collectibles to clothes. They’ve got a lot of community events, so check here to see what’s going on this week.

Honorable mention: Create Cafe 510 Cir Dr E

3D Printed Brain Lamp from a MRI Scan #MadeForSinterit @MyMiniFactory @Sinterit #3dprinting #yxe #yxeart #brainstorming #3ddesign

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Learn how to use a 3D printer and grab a coffee with your friends at the same time. Create Cafe has three Makerbot printers that you can rent by the hour for a very low cost. Two stations are set up for you to design and prep your project. You can send your design to be printed, or work on it at the cafe. According to their website, workshops are coming soon!

Whether you play esports, read manga, create epic Magic character-lines, enjoy a simple social board game, or have all of the game shops on speed dial to get the NES Classic Edition – you name it, there’s a spot in Saskatoon that satisfies your specific geeky needs.

Do you agree with these ten picks, or did I miss your favourite? Join the Do Sask Facebook group to have your say in the discussion on your favourite geeky things to do in Saskatoon.

Become a contributor!

Contact Do Sask, or reach out on Facebook if you would like everyone to know your pick 10.