January 19, 2018 (Flashback) – I’m excited to be writing about my trip to Windsor. It’s not a part of my 50 state goal, but it was still easily worth the slight detour. After a disappointing trip to Toronto in 2017, in which my dad and I struggled to find rooms that would allow a group of two to either book a room or join with others, we weren’t sure what to expect from Windsor, but my time at Mind Over Matter still stands as one of my favorite escape room experiences ever.
As I write this reflection, I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my own car (for just the second time since getting the car ten years ago!) headed east on I-80, bound for Pittsburgh. Nearing the border between Indiana and Ohio, it seems appropriate to think back to the last time I was in this part of the country, the first trip of my 2018 journey. I already posted about the first stop on the journey, Paradox Escape Rooms in Valaparaiso, Indiana. That very same day, I continued on to Windsor, Ontario to try Mind Over Matter escape rooms.
I had never driven across the border between the US and Canada before, nor had I ever been to Detroit. I was familiar with the basic geography of the area thanks to the common joke about Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” that being born and raised in South Detroit is either impossible or implies that the song’s “city boy” was from the Canadian side. I drove into Detroit, passport ready, and started to follow the signs.
Detroit, for all the jokes about it in pop culture, seems to be a neat place. Granted, I only passed through the city itself briefly, but it has an impressive skyline and a very cool waterfront. At the time, I was unaware, but there are two routes between Detroit and Canada, a tunnel and a bridge. I was following my GPS’s directions, and it led me to the tunnel.
Crossing the border into Canada was fast and easy. The US side just wanted a few dollars. The Canadian side asked a few questions to make sure my dad and I weren’t planning on causing trouble in their country, and after a quick, pleasant chat about escape rooms, we were on our way. It was already getting quite late, approaching midnight, but we still felt energized (the time zone change helped us).
I didn’t get a good look at Windsor because it was already dark, but weaving through town we quickly arrived at Mind Over Matter and made our way up. The owner, Dennis, greeted us and told us about each of his three rooms. Because of our ample previous experience, we chose the room in the middle in terms of difficulty- Timepiece Genesis.
Timepiece Genesis was themed around the concepts of time and space and really made good use of the physical space. As I started getting comfortable with the area and the elements I had to work with, there would be a twist that would shake things up and make me reevaluate where I was. It was a really fun experience.
After Timepiece Genesis, my dad and I were pumped up and were thrilled when Dennis agreed to stay open a little while longer so we could book another of his rooms. After watching us play through Timepiece Genesis, Dennis thought the two of us might just have a shot at taking on the hardest room. He gave us the history of the room, Project Elise.
Project Elise was developed as a normal sixty minute room, but after a long period with literally no team escaping on time, Dennis changed it to a ninety minute room. The escape rate was still shockingly low, with only a few teams ever completing the room, and those that did were rewarded with a key hanging on Mind Over Matter’s wall of honor. So of course, I HAD to try it.
I make a point never to rank escape rooms or label any one as my “favorite,” but if I were inclined to do such a thing, Project Elise would either be at or very near the top of my list. There was just such a remarkable volume of one of a kind puzzles combining digital and physical elements, plus a unique and clever storyline going along with it. I really got to feel like I was swimming in puzzles.
It was also probably my single best personal performance in an escape room. The pressure of having a near-impossible task forced me to go all out, and even six months later, many of the room’s combos are still seared into my memory. We ended up finishing in just over an hour, and we could have completed it within the hour if I didn’t take the time to double check something I was curious about before completing the final puzzle.
Dennis was almost as excited as we were about how we did on Project Elise, so even though we were already burning into the early AM, we kept the party going and tried the third and final room. The third room was laboratory-themed, called Proxilin-After, and once again kept us guessing with the room’s design and layout. It was also great to see a subtle reference to Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, a semi-obscure murder mystery video game.
It’s not very common that I ever tackle back to back escape rooms at the same venue, let alone three, but the circumstances were right and I’m glad I did. Funny that in a year dedicated to traveling and experiencing puzzles across the US, I had a highlight on the other side of the border. Many thanks to Dennis for being so welcoming and staying open really late so that two goofballs from the midwest could experience his puzzles.
The trip back to the US was eventful. On the way back we took the bridge, which provided a great view or the city. The guy at the US customs office was clearly unhappy with the shift he drew, and he took it out on us, grilling us for ten minutes and rifling through our bags, leaving our clothes scattered on the back seat of the car. Finally we satisfied his inquiries, crossed the border, and headed to the hotel we booked in Romulus, MI, ready for day two of the adventure.