For international visitors: Please note that this blog (and its recs!) are intended for a Singapore-based audience. I wouldn’t recommend Singapore as a destination for escape room tourism; it has few must-plays on an international scale. (None of my personal top 10 still-operating rooms are in Singapore.)

Please use the Contact form if you have specific questions about which rooms to try, how scary/difficult a particular room is, etc.

I’ve also noticed people searching for walkthroughs. I won’t give spoilers for rooms. However, if you failed to escape from a room, don’t want to try again, and the escape room company didn’t tell you the answers, drop me a line and we can chat about it.

Last call for Shanghai 1943

The Xcape Singapore closures continue, alas. The last day to play their excellent not-an-escape-room murder mystery RPG, Shanghai 1943, is April 24.

The genre is very developed in China and Taiwan, but this might be one of only two English-language examples (the other being LOST in JB’s The Tenants Upstairs), where players take on the role of suspects, and there’s a full set to physically search for evidence.

More last chances to play

Xcape Singapore is now closing its Funtasy rooms, Mission X and Kungfu Panda, with April 16 being their last day of operation. It’s sad to see them go. Mission X is my go-to recommendation for small teams (ideal for two players!) and/or teams who like cute hands-on elements; Kungfu Panda is admittedly blemished by an early resemblance to another room, but is otherwise a great all-rounder, with a particularly fun physical aspect.

I do wonder if Xcape’s room closures are related to the impending redevelopment of Bugis Village. It could be worth playing Xcape’s various rooms as soon as possible, just to be safe.

Black Lake Facility – The Research Lab

Their description: Time is ticking, and the reactor will blow up in the matter of minutes! The contamination has begun and soon it will be impossible to undo the mistakes of the science team that has mysteriously vanished. The Head Scientist in charge of the laboratory has a strange fascination that she is trying to hide… Your investigation team has been assigned to power down the reactor in time and find out her secret before the inevitable happens. It is a race against time.

The Research Lab’s greatest strength is its shiny and fairly interactive set, which younger players might find particularly exciting. If you appreciate a sense of setting, this room delivers quite well.

The gameplay itself is generally smooth. The puzzles aren’t flawless — there are some distracting elements in the beginning, a questionable mid-game task, and a minor annoyance in an otherwise pleasingly layered late-game puzzle — but the flaws don’t detract much from the overall experience.

Elevted by a cute ending, The Research Lab is RECOMMENDED as a solid if not groundbreaking adventure.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 3/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 4/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 2 to 5

Black Lake Facility – The Medical Centre

Their description: Step inside the Medical Centre where accidents and emergencies are dealt with. This facility holds the answers to the unimaginable horrors and experiences faced by the soldiers during the previous mission. It is up to you and your team to get to the bottom of the mystery and gain a searing insight into their plight. Can you escape before the mind-blowing and grueling revelation destroys the last strands of your sanity?

Despite the blurb, The Medical Centre is at most creepy, rather than being a proper horror room, so fellow cowards shouldn’t be afraid to give it a try. The room’s strongest point is probably its unsettling narrative, built up from the beginning with well-integrated details, and leading towards a visually striking climax.

It’s a shame, then, that the experience is marred by some logical leaps. Some early connections between clues and locks felt arbitrary, for example. But the real issues came later, with multiple puzzle flaws that meant we ended the room on a sour note.

Our gamemaster offered an in-narrative explanation for the massive logical leaps needed at the end, but these didn’t make them feel less unsatisfying. If not for the endgame puzzles, I would have been able to recommend the room as a solid adventure. As it is, I can only say that it’s WORTH A TRY, but you should be prepared to call for help.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 2/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 3.5/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 2 to 5

Remote game review: Breakout (Malaysia): Finding Chris

Official website

Format: Zoom-based (but also beyond Zoom) with live actors
Price: US$60 for 5 connections
Gameplay duration: 60 minutes

(I’m posting this here, rather than on my usual blog for overseas/online games, in case fellow Singapore-based enthusiasts would like to support the industry across the Causeway.)

As fans of Breakout Malaysia’s offline rooms, we decided to try their online game too. Like some other digital experiences, Finding Chris makes good use of the medium by going beyond Zoom and including ARG-esque elements.

Indeed, I enjoyed the narrative/ARG puzzle-solving aspects more than the traditional escape room-style puzzles that also feature in the game. The latter felt less integrated into the storyline — though my teammates didn’t think they detracted from the experience.

Interestingly, the game uses a real CCTV app rather than relying solely on Zoom, which adds a layer of realism. Having to download and set up the app is a little troublesome, but there’s sufficient time (and technical help from the gamemaster if needed) to do so before the game starts.

Unlike other online games I’ve played with live actors, Finding Chris opts for a serious tone rather than a campy one, with the actors staying solemnly in character throughout. The effectiveness of this may vary depending on your tolerance for dramatic acting, but it does add to the sense of urgency.

Finally, there’s another aspect that I can’t really talk about without spoilers, but I appreciated the added dimension that it provided. Like Breakout’s offline rooms, Finding Chris ends on a strong narrative note, and there’s a thorough debrief to ensure that teams have understood the plot, as well as to answer any remaining questions.

Overall, this was a solid experience with interesting touches; not groundbreaking on the international level, perhaps, but still RECOMMENDED. Especially if you have an interest in Breakout’s survival, which — full disclosure — I do, as a fan of their work.

Puzzle kit review: Nomis Piy: Quest for the Merlion Eye

Their description: During this holiday season, we present to you a treasure hunt puzzle game that will bring you deep into the heart of Singapore. Play it with your family, friends or play it solo. Do it at your own time and at your own pace. Travel to five locations using the SMRT lines to search for clues. The treasure awaits. Will you find it?

Following their excellent puzzle book, Nomis Piy has released a play-at-your-own-pace outdoor puzzle game kit, reminiscent of similar offerings in Tokyo. Quest for the Merlion Eye is a delightful experience on multiple levels, showcasing Nomis Piy’s established strengths while introducing new aspects.

First, the game is a chance to rediscover parts of Singapore. The locations are chosen well: interesting, easily accessible, close to shelter (and cafes), and without too much walking. There’s no danger of getting lost.

Second, the puzzles are up to the usual high Nomis Piy standard: clever, logical, and fun. Though the game starts off simple, it soon increases in complexity. There’s lots of subtle but conscientious clueing, and all the intuitive leaps are fair. One danger of outdoor puzzle events/kits is that ‘info collection’ may be trivial. Apart from one or two early instances, that isn’t the case here; you’re really using your surroundings to solve puzzles, not merely collect info.

Third, the production values are great, from the cute artwork to some very cool surprises that are revealed in the act of solving. The hands-on, physical aspects of the kit are a highlight; to say more would be spoiler-y, alas.

The narrative is perhaps the only aspect where the game doesn’t shine; though sustained, it’s a little thin. Nonetheless, that doesn’t detract from the overall experience, which is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as a great puzzle-y way to spend an afternoon.

Each game kit costs S$35 including postage (or S$32 if you’re buying 5 or more), which is a very reasonable price for several hours of gameplay. We spent about 2.5 hours including travel time (with some walking), but I imagine most teams might take longer. Although a whole group could, in theory, just share one kit, I’d recommend having at least two kits — though of course the ideal would be one kit per player.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5

Physical kit aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 1 to 4

Black Lake Facility – The Armoury

Their description: The soldiers’ living quarters bear witness to the secret and intimate conversations between soldiers. Get a close in on the inexplicable and peculiar mysteries surrounding the seemingly innocent common military spaces. You and your team are about to find out that the nondescript bunk holds a dark and sinister secret. One warning though, leave the place before it’s too late!

What’s frustrating about The Armoury is that it could have been a great experience, with high production values and fun ideas — but various flaws get in the way. (While I’ve given feedback to the team behind the rooms, I don’t know if/when changes will be made; if you’ve played the room and would like to share some thoughts, please do get in touch!)

The very beginning demonstrates this, with a rigorous puzzle that would have been perfectly fine if not for ambiguities in clueing. Generally, The Armoury’s puzzles have solid underlying ideas, but some are marred by implementation.

The middle stage of the experience is the strongest in terms of atmosphere and drama, with some cool moments and physical touches — so it’s a shame, again, that its puzzles have frustrating aspects. The endgame stretch, too, contained both clever ideas… and tiny annoyances.

One thing I did appreciate was how this room’s narrative is conveyed through the setting and physical discoveries, rather than text-based exposition. More is suggested than revealed, which feels in keeping with the Black Lake Facility’s overall sense of mystery.

I wish I could recommend The Armoury, but based on my playthrough of it, I can only say it’s WORTH A TRY — and be prepared to call for help. If it’s improved since then, I’d love to know.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 2.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 4/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 2 to 5

Black Lake Facility – The Basement

Their description: Dark, dank and hidden from the rest. The Basement is the perfect place to conceal a gruesome tragedy. Someone or something twisted and depraved lurks below. There is imminent danger to anyone who poses a threat to its existence. Your investigation team must orchestrate a heart pounding escape fast through the twists and turns of the Basement before it is too late.

Fellow cowards or players with kids can rest assured that despite the official blurb, this isn’t a horror room — though there are certainly some creepy chills, right from the start. The Basement’s setting and atmosphere is perhaps its strongest point, with the layout of the rooms further contributing to a sense of exploration and adventure.

Besides the reveals of new spaces, The Basement also does well in narrative reveals — though these could perhaps have been more closely tied to the puzzles.

The puzzles themselves are varied and fair. There’s significant physical searching (some teams, like mine, might find the searching more difficult than the puzzle-solving!) and hands-on work, which adds to the immersion.

While The Basement doesn’t necessarily do anything groundbreaking, I’d still say it’s RECOMMENDED as a satisfyingly atmospheric and hands-on experience. You won’t really need a large team, but you can certainly bring one if you want, given the spacious rooms and not-that-linear puzzle structure.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 2 to 5