Month: August 2014

Room review: Encounter: The Apartment

Their description: Millions of people around the world went missing without a trace every year.

Could they ever be found or return?

Suspense surrounding this apartment of a missing family has brought you and your friends to embark on a mission to find out the truth. You found a way into their locked apartment and now you are standing right in front of the gate, what will you do?

Are you ready to put your courage to the test?


 

Among the many escape rooms in Singapore, Encounter’s The Apartment stands apart. It describes itself as a “suspense game”, and that’s a good way of looking at it. It’s not just a room of puzzles to solve; it’s an immersive experience. It reminds me of interactive theatre, with the apartment itself being ‘alive’.

The friendly staff told us to set aside our preconceptions about escape rooms, and they were right. Many other escape rooms have puzzles that are only thinly connected to the plot, but this has a different approach. To get the most out of this room, you have to engage with it and get wrapped up in the storyline. In fact, the experience is a very curated, deliberately crafted one — you don’t solve the room on your own terms, but on its terms. (This could be annoying to some players, but it’s fully intended and not the product of bad game design or anything like that.)

The extremely detailed, realistic setting really helps with suspension of disbelief, and the tasks you have to do are also integrated seamlessly into the plot.

The puzzles themselves are not that hard, and most are not too complex. I wouldn’t go to this room in search of a merely intellectual thrill. But there are many other thrills and surprises in store which make up for this.

As the official description suggests, it’s not a room for the faint-hearted. But it doesn’t rely on cheap scares or artificial hindrances such as darkness. I’m a coward, but I was there with some brave team-mates, and I had a great time.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for everyone. It helps to have some brave people in the group, though.

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

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

Their suggested number of players: 4 to 8
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6

 

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Overall review: Exit Plan

NOTE: I haven’t tried the existing rooms at Exit Plan, only two of the old ones.

Exit Plan is an escape room company that I really wanted to like. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic, and their policies are customer-friendly, down to their special ‘lone wolf’ challenge where you get to play for free if you complete a room on your own. But based on my experiences with two of their previous rooms, this just isn’t the escape room company for me.

Their old medium-difficulty room, Mad Scientist, was decent but unremarkable. Some of the puzzles were interesting; others felt rather arbitrary and disconnected from the plot. But the main problem was with their previous hardest room, Dizzy Me. It wasn’t difficult because of ingenious or complex puzzles. Instead, it was full of ‘busy work’, with everything relying upon execution and logistics rather than figuring out how to solve the puzzles. I haven’t been back since, but I’ve heard from friends that at least two of their current rooms rely on such ‘busy work’ elements.

Sometimes, escape rooms can compensate for weak puzzles by having other strong points. But with a peak charge of $18 and an off-peak charge of $15, this is one of the cheapest options in Singapore — and accordingly, the rooms don’t have much in the way of special effects or exciting physical aspects.

Exit Plan’s rooms could be good for beginners, team exercises, or people who like the excitement of an escape room more than actual, rigorous puzzle-solving. But if interesting puzzles are what you are after, then based on my previous experience, Exit Plan is probably not your best bet.

Staff: Friendly and enthusiastic. You can really tell that they enjoy puzzle rooms too.

Hints: Unlimited hints via doorbell. Staff are quick to respond.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 2 older rooms, none of the current ones.

Recommended team size: N/A as I haven’t played the current rooms.


 

Exit Plan
http://www.exitplan.sg/

Overall review: Xcape Singapore

Xcape Singapore’s rooms are generally big on special effects, hidden doorways and other exciting physical elements. They can be quite entertaining as a result, but you’ve got to bear with the risk of being combined with another group.

The puzzles themselves vary quite significantly across rooms. Some are not that inventive or enjoyable and may involve a lot of tedious matching, and can be downright unsatisfying or anticlimactic. Still, better rooms such as Chamber of Secrets have good multimedia puzzles, which help to make up for it.

In any case, one doesn’t come to Xcape for the puzzles per se. Instead, Xcape is notable for:

  • Scale. With the important exception of Upside Down, Xcape’s rooms are usually physically complex, with Tomb Raider in particular featuring the most extensive network of rooms I’ve seen here.
  • Tasks and hands-on problems-solving, which are still fairly rare in the Singapore escape room scene, and make a nice change from regular puzzles.
  • Technological frills and thrills, particularly in its Xcape Funtasy and Xcape Haunted series. These later rooms are great at providing a full ~experience, not simply an escape room.

That’s not to say that Xcape is all style and no substance. In fact, the later rooms which focus more on tasks also tend to have fairer puzzles.

Do note that Xcape has several different outlets, although they’re all located along the same stretch of Bugis Village.

Xcape Season 1+ and Season 2 are WORTH A VISIT, especially if you’re used to completing rooms successfully and want a bit more of a challenge. But be warned, the challenges might not always be satisfying.

In contrast, if you’re looking for pure fun rather than a challenge, then their two Xcape Funtasy rooms are RECOMMENDED. And if you’re looking for a thrilling time alongside fair puzzles, the Xcape Haunted rooms are definitely RECOMMENDED too.

Then there is the stellar Xcape RPG, Shanghai 1943 — not an escape room, but a very fun and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED murder mystery roleplaying game that offers a solid plot, complex character roles and a set full of evidence to be discovered.

Staff: They’re strict when it comes to starting the game on time. But on the whole, customer service seems to have improved a lot since Xcape’s early days. Staff are now friendly and quick to respond to calls for help — as well as proactive when technology malfunctions.

Hints: When I played Season 2 in 2014 and 2015, the policy was for two hints only. You have to find hint cards in the room, and can then use them to get hints via intercom phone or waving at the CCTV (or possibly doorbell in some cases, I’m not sure). At Xcape Funtasy in 2016, you were allowed to simply ask for hints, with a limit of two hints every half-hour. The Xcape Haunted rooms didn’t have a hint limit.

Will your group be combined with strangers? Yes.

Rooms tried: 10 out of 10 (but older versions of 2 rooms) (+ one excellent murder mystery RPG)

Recommended team size: 5 to 7 for Season 1+ and 2; 3 to 4 for Upside Down. Ideal team sizes for the Xcape Funtasy and Xcape Haunted rooms vary significantly; check the individual reviews.


Specific room reviews

Season 1+
Whisper of The Dead (original version)
Chamber of Secrets (original version)

Season 2
Vampire Diary
Upside Down
Tomb Raider
Resident Evil

Funtasy
Doraemon – A Dream Come True
Kungfu Panda X – The Return of Tai Lung

Haunted
Annabelle
The Morgue

Not an escape room: Shanghai 1943


Xcape Singapore
http://www.xcape.sg/

Room review: The Escape Artist: CSI: Dismembered Body

NOTE: This room has been replaced and no longer exists.


Their description: Hot on the trail of a serial murderer, it soon becomes apparent who the next target is – you.

In the ultimate game of wits, who will prevail?


This room has a low ‘fear factor’ rating despite the name, and indeed, it isn’t that scary. Instead, there’s a strong attempt to create a sense of setting and to keep the puzzles relevant to the plot.

The first puzzles are a little arbitrary, but the storyline integration soon improves, and you’ll find yourself having to think like police officers (somewhat, anyway). The puzzles themselves are not the most sophisticated or strictly logical, but they get the job done and are satisfying enough to solve.

Nothing mindblowing, but WORTH A TRY for experienced teams and beginners alike. Less mobile players might have difficulty at one brief point of the room.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 10
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6

Room review: Phantom Joker: The Conspiracy-Haunted Office

THE PHANTOM JOKER ESCAPE IS NOW CLOSED.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description:

A disturbing no-show
Followed by a terrifying phone call.
What happened to my little brother …
A deep-pocketed biochemical company
Setting up a maze of security cameras
And armed with spectral guards.
Behind a flickering electronic lock
Conspiracies hidden in a pitch-dark office
Only succumb to my discovery …


Unlike the main Phantom Joker rooms, The Conspiracy-Haunted Office doesn’t have fancy machinery. But it makes up for that with its relatively low-tech yet immersive setting, and its extremely logical, satisfying puzzles.

The creators of this room gave it a high ‘Story’ rating, but that doesn’t mean that you have to pay attention to some convoluted narrative. Rather, all the puzzles and clues are integrated into the room’s setting, in an impressively natural-feeling way. The usual trappings of an office are highly relevant, and clues don’t stand out too obviously or seem out of place (unlike some other escape rooms where irrelevant puzzles are just taped to the sides of furniture, for example).

RECOMMENDED for experienced teams. Beginners could give it a try, but it might be tough.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 1.5/5
Storyline integration: 5/5

Their suggested number of players: N/A
My suggested number of players: 4 to 5