Paying $20 to $30 to be locked tight inside a cold, forbidding chamber designed to resemble your worst nightmare or fears might smack of sadism and idiocy.
But the sheer thrill of making a Houdini-type escape with a potent combination of strategic decision-making and nifty psycho-motor skills is what drives most punters to lose themselves in these real-time interactive games.
Popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, such “escape games” have contagiously caught on with the gaming community in Singapore since its introduction here last year.
So what exactly is this mysterious phenomenon all about some might ask?
To put it simply, one is entrapped in a themed room, think of it as a live-action version of ‘Cluedo’ meets ‘CSI’ and sometimes ’50 Shades of Grey’, and as a player, you have to collaborate with your fellow teammates, typically up to eight members, to plot your escape within a stipulated time period of 45 minutes to an hour. You do this by solving a range of both cryptic and logical puzzles, usually using the clues found in the rooms as well as showcasing physical skills such as expert marksmanship.
While the world of “5-D gaming” is still pre-dominated by hordes of frazzled male students in tertiary institutions, it also has room for families looking for a fun day out, executives who want to de-stress, and corporations intending to build rapport among their work teams.
Here is a list of five escape games that any punter should play at least once:
The Painter’s Murder
This is a whodunit where players have to take on the persona of a world-class sleuth to solve the mysterious death of a famous painter.
Seemingly rated as the least challenging game at Freeing Sg, you would think escape is easy, but this crime caper is deceptive.
While the initial seven minutes was ridiculously simple with most clues pointing to the culprit, the underlying circumstances behind the death were much trickier. The fierce bickering among fellow participants (a group of five young working adults who are novices) hindered any strategic decision-making needed to complete the game.
The clues and puzzles of this game are not unlike the popular board game ‘Cluedo’, and punters have to use their reasoning and deduction skills to piece together the various clues such as weapons strewn around the room and the connection to the murder.
Instead of finding the murderer, we ended up being an embarrassing failure, reeling at how we were outwitted by the easiest gaming chamber in this list.
The game is supposed to make you lose yourself in entertainment, but nothing crushes the ego and psyche more than the failure to successfully navigate a reportedly “easy” game.
Difficulty: 4 / 5
Most suitable for: A fun family get-together, all the mahjong and ‘Cluedo’ sessions over the years will come in handy in solving this whodunit.
The Unforeseeable Pyramid
The objective of this game is to rescue your archaeologist colleague who has disappeared while excavating the tomb of a nefarious pharaoh.
The game was a barrage of hieroglyphs for the mathematically inclined to solve. Think of this as ‘Temple Run’ on a Mensa test makeover.
The clues were relatively difficult yet solvable, although solving them within the stipulated time frame was excruciating due to poorly conceptualised hints.
It didn’t help that there was an arachnophobic teammate who was wailing everytime she came across mock scorpions. This was yet another failed mission.
Difficulty: 3 / 5
Most suitable for: Corporate types who want to fleetingly experience the adventurous spirit of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.
These gaming rooms are available at Freeing Sg | Address: Level 7, Bugis+, 201 Victoria Street | Tel: 6636-9655 | Website: http://www.freeingsg.com
Loosely based on Chris Nolan’s trippy sci-fi flick ‘Inception’, this game is one the most challenging in town and not recommended for beginners.
This game is all about penetrating the psyche of a nation’s president who is afraid of an evil organisation called “The Company” and you have to implant bold, positive thoughts in his mind.
Unlike most games that are dominated by number-based and memory puzzles, the abstract puzzles on display here require the player to use creativity to connect the dots and infiltrate the subconscious of the president.
This game was tested by a motley crew of six undergrads ranging from a quartet of insanely competent gaming geniuses, a reasonably skilled amateur, a self-proclaimed doofus, and one drunken player. We were able to traipse through the obstacles with such ease and the team even cleared it with three minutes to spare.
Difficulty: 4 / 5
Most suitable for: Experienced gamers and boozed-up novices who are deluded enough to think they might just pull off an escapade like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb.
There is forbidding darkness in a spooky castle that is populated by bloodthirsty supernatural creatures – the perfect environment to scare the wits out of anyone.
Gamers undertake a mission to retrieve a magical cure, which transforms vampires into human beings, straight from Dracula’s castle.
There is a mix of number puzzles and tricky clues, usually leaning on the “logic” of the conniving supernatural beings.
Despite the plot’s tendency to veer into stomach-churning cliched territory, it is one of the more challenging games around. We were so flustered by some of the puzzles midway, we gave up on the prospect of completing this mission.
Difficulty: 4 / 5
Most suitable for: A group of teenagers who want to plot their way out of an eerie castle.
The gaming rooms are available at:
Xcape Singapore Purvis | Address: 8 Purvis Street, #04-01 | Tel: 6338- 4451
Xcape Singapore Bugis Village | Address: Level 2, 160A Rochor Road | Tel: 6337 -4905 | Website: http://www.xcape.sg/
Dodgy game title aside, this escape game has one of the more compelling original narratives in town.
Players travel back to the 1980s, sniff around for clues and solve the various cryptic puzzles and riddles to save the life of the entrapped chairman of the world’s largest weapon manufacturing corporation in an hour.
A bonanza of Sherlock Holmes-like problems test gamers on how they synthesise information and make deductions on the given clues.
While the exhilaration of unravelling the mystery and completing the mission was fun, this reviewer was persistently in an ethical quandary, wondering what is the point of saving an arms industry head honcho.
Difficulty: 4 / 5
Most suitable for: A couple on an unconventional date, as well as aspiring Sherlock Holmes types who enjoy solving mysteries.
The gaming room is located at TYWO Games | Address: *SCAPE, 2 Orchard Link, #05-03 | Tel: 8117-8832 | Website: http://www.tywogames.com/