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Only a select few can escape Agatha’s clutches

Steve and Gina Smith, owners of Retro Oasis in Okotoks, have created an escape room from a Nordic folk tale.

Beyond the classic arcade games at Retro Oasis in Okotoks, there’s a door to another dimension, one filled with witches, magic and danger. 

It’s a dimension where you, the player, are part of the story and must get out. This is the terrifying world of Agatha’s Abysmal Abode escape room.  

Retro Oasis owners Steve and Gina Smith say the story about Agatha came from a Nordic folk tale. They liked the name and they thought that Agatha was an interesting villain. 

Here’s the story of the escape room: You and your friends have wandered into Agatha's humble home. She is sweet and kind on the outside but on the inside, she’s a witch. She locked you in the room to make you do her bidding, then she left to get some supplies for a spell. 

Luckily, you managed to break from the chains and you thought of a brilliant plan to escape. You need to leave the house in one hour. If you do, you’ll be free from the witch. If you don’t, she’ll turn you into wood for her fireplace.  

There are two different modes (adult and junior) with brain-challenging puzzles you can play with two to six players. The Smiths recommend four players so there aren’t “too many cooks in the kitchen,” but they understand that not everyone has a group of four. 

Only about 25 per cent of players manage to escape. 

Retro Oasis has since opened a second escape room, The King’s Horde, to provide another challenge for players. It’s rated for adults and is scarier than the first room, but also a little easier. 

Why mash up an arcade with escape rooms?  

“Part of it was not to put all of our eggs in one basket,” said Steve. “We really enjoy doing escape rooms ourselves, and we have a lot of experience building. We’ve done pretty comprehensive yard haunts. One year, we built a small cabin in the backyard just for Halloween. Our haunts were very popular, but COVID hurt that a lot. 

“For our first escape room, it was easier than expected to make, but we are creative thinkers and we have the necessary experience and tools to do it. 

“The thing that makes most escape rooms exciting is creative thinking and beta testing (having people we know test the room). We watch what they do and how they get stuck and we tweak things along the way. We want them to enjoy it, but we don’t want to give it to them.” 

The Smiths plan to change out the escape rooms every so often and already have about a dozen other really cool ideas.  

They also have plans to host events like Arcade Olympics, an adult-only evening and video game tournaments. 

Steve has more arcade units in the garage that he wants to get up and running as well as lots of “teensy projects” to complete.  

The Smiths’ son has autism and ADHD, so another long-term goal is to employ special needs people to gain work experience. 

Silus Baekeland is a Foothills Composite High School student doing work experience at the Western Wheel. 

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