Month: August 2014

Room review: Encounter: The Apartment

This review is left here merely as a record.

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


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

Overall review: Xcape Singapore

Note: Bugis Village (which houses Xcape’s entire empire of rooms) is slated for redevelopment, with existing tenants able to stay until March 2021. It’s not clear how or when this might affect Xcape — I’d suggest playing their rooms ASAP!

Xcape Singapore’s rooms are 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 (though this doesn’t apply during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Puzzles vary significantly across rooms. Some are not that inventive or enjoyable, may involve tedious matching, and can be downright unsatisfying or anticlimactic. Still, better rooms 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 and a sense of adventure. Xcape’s rooms are usually physically complex, with multiple rooms and interesting transitions. Shutter Island has a four-way split start, making it good for larger teams.
  • Tasks and hands-on problem-solving, which make a nice change from regular puzzles.
  • Technological frills and thrills, particularly in its Xcape Haunted series (as well as Busan Express in Season 3). 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.

Xcape has several different outlets along the same stretch of Bugis Village, but now also has a main ground floor outlet where all teams are meant to report. If you’re looking for a thrilling time alongside fair puzzles, the Xcape Haunted rooms are particularly RECOMMENDED (as is Busan Express, my personal favourite out of their Season 3 rooms — even though I’m not a fan of horror!).

Then there is the stellar Xcape RPG, Shanghai 1943 — not an escape room, but a 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: Customer service has improved a lot since Xcape’s early days. Staff are 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: 7 out of 7 current rooms (+ one excellent murder mystery RPG); various former rooms

Recommended team size: Ideal team sizes for Xcape Haunted and Season 3 rooms vary significantly; check the individual reviews.

Specific room reviews

Current rooms

Season 3
Shutter Island
Busan Express

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

The Morgue

Not an escape room, but highly recommended
Shanghai 1943

Former rooms

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

Season 2
Vampire Diary
Upside Down
Tomb Raider
Resident Evil

Xcape Singapore

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

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