Month: July 2015

Room review: Xcape: Resident Evil

Their description: The Government had developed biological weapons in the 80s under the project code “X” and built the X-Lab. In 1987, the X-Lab was closed and all the personnel working on the X project mysteriously disappeared. Thereafter all relevant information on the X project was filed and classified as Top National Secret. There are three passcodes required to open up the files, each passcode held by the President, Vice-President and the Minister of National Defence respectively. In order to counter the Company, Mr. President decided to reactivate Project X and specially task Hachi’s team to penetrate the X-lab. Will the Project X work? Why had Project X been terminated in 1987?

Reading that description makes me wonder if Xcape’s Resident Evil room was originally quite different, because I certainly didn’t notice any of that plot-related stuff in the room itself. Fortunately, even without much of a driving narrative, Resident Evil is a room with enough going on to keep you occupied.

First of all, you can usually expect a decent setting and atmosphere with Xcape’s rooms, and Resident Evil is no exception: not mindblowing, but it certainly gets the job done. (If you’re worried about it being scary, based on their promotional video, don’t be; it’s slightly creepy at worst.)

Where most of Xcape’s rooms really shine, in my view, is in their physical aspects. I appreciate rooms that involve hands-on problem-solving, and Resident Evil has some great examples of that, including perhaps one of my favourite observation-based, hands-on ‘aha’ moments in any escape room in Singapore. There’s also a segment which requires pure execution — or, as they helpfully but spoiler-ifically state in their own room description, “shooting skills”. This may not be what everyone wants as part of their escape room experience, but it at least makes a refreshing change from merely intellectual challenges.

It’s on the intellectual front that this room fails to deliver, and I think some of my comrades were sorely disappointed by this. You should avoid overthinking any of the puzzles; many might stump you precisely because of how straightforward they are. There are also one or two red herrings which I found unfair.

That having been said, I still found Resident Evil to be a decent adventure that wasn’t at all generic or boring. RECOMMENDED unless you place a lot of weight on intellectual puzzles.

It’s also a tricky room to evaluate based on my current rubric. The actual puzzles have easy answers, but the room as a whole is fairly demanding. When I started this blog, I deliberately decided to rate rooms based on ‘puzzle difficulty’ rather than ‘overall room difficulty’ (which would include other things such as logistical challenges, sheer volume of puzzles, etc.). But Resident Evil leans so strongly on aspects other than traditional puzzles that I feel I should make an exception here.

As for the traditional puzzles, they have technically logical answers but are too ambiguous to be considered well-crafted, in that there are too many possibilities in solving them.

Basically, don’t take the following numerical scores too seriously.

Puzzle Room difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 9
My suggested number of players: 4 to 7. You’ll be split into two groups at the start, but the split-start doesn’t last very long.

a year of

The first post on was made exactly a year ago, as it turns out. (And if anyone’s keeping track — well, okay, I am — the first escape room I played was on July 21, 2013, so it seems these anniversaries come close together.)

Sadly, I didn’t have any special plans to mark the occasion, so it’s business as usual — just look out for a new room review (Xcape’s Resident Evil, at last) in the coming week, and eventually some reflections on the recent Singapore Puzzle Hunt over on

Speaking of which, the puzzles and solutions from that July 12 event are now online. Take a look, and perhaps you’ll be tempted to explore the world of puzzle hunts as well…

Room review: Freeing SG: War: The Battle for Freedom

This review is left here merely as a record.

Their description: You are a member of the Special Operations Unit, and are now onboard an army carrier from which you’ll be parachuting out of to an area outside of enemy surveillance. Your mission, is to retrieve highly sensitive information of our enemy’s tactical response headquarters and send the data back to base using the signal set. This mission is critical and will give us the upper hand in crushing our enemy. You must succeed!

Players take on the roles of four types of soldiers, each holding on to an important tool, all of them, crucial for the mission. Only when you have switched on the power supply, will you be able to activate important clues. You must decipher the codes fast and obtain the confidential information before your enemy sees you!

Soldiers, move out!

I completely forgot that I hadn’t written this room review yet, which should tell you something about what I thought about the room. Perhaps in earlier, happier days, War: The Battle for Freedom indeed lived up to its promise that players would take on the roles of four types of soldiers. Perhaps the equipment in the room was once actually used to send signals — a war-themed room is excellent for multimedia puzzles such as Morse code, after all.

But no. When we attempted the War room in June, it was a lacklustre experience. We didn’t notice any particular roles we had to play. The puzzles ranged from passable to literally non-existent: one box opened up simply to reveal the code for another box. Even Freeing SG’s usual multimedia flair seemed absent, except for the very last task (which wasn’t even as impressive as it could have been). This seemed particularly strange as, again, a war-themed room opens up all sorts of possibilities for special effects or background noises to create atmosphere.

The physical setting is at least appropriately grimy and war-zone-esque, though the lighting is also frustratingly dim. On the whole, unfortunately, this was not a room worth fighting for. NOT RECOMMENDED.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2.5/5
Storyline integration: 3.5/5

Their suggested number of players: Up to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room preview: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 1)

This room has been replaced and no longer exists.
This review is left here merely as a record.

NOTE: This room was visited at the invitation of The Escape Artist.

Their description: You’re out with your friends when you overhear an archaeologist talking about the location of a dungeon, said to have once belonged to Baron Richard Percy.

Legend tells of the many treasures that would belong to anyone brave enough to enter and find the last clue left by the mad Baron. You decide to take action before the archaeologist’s team, and as you arrive at the dungeon, you are greeted by two pathways leading east and west.

With the archaeologist’s team hot on your heels, what adventures await you as you explore The Forsaken Vault?

The post title isn’t a typo; for the first time, this blog broke with its general policy of not accepting any invitations, and went to a preview play-through of The Escape Artist’s new room, The Forsaken Vault, with the understanding that we could provide feedback that might help them improve the room. (We’ll get into the ‘Chapter 1’ thing later.)

The Forsaken Vault (Chapter 1) will feel familiar to anyone used to The Escape Artist’s brand of rooms, with logical puzzles and a sustained narrative thread. But the room’s distinguishing feature is that it applies clever twists to common experiences.

So yes, there’s quite a bit of matching, but this is livened up by variations on that formula, including a puzzle that makes great use of verbal clues, and another that rewards engagement with the storyline. It’s a wake-up call to overly task-focused teams who are too used to the sort of blind matching that many escape rooms require.

Sadly, there are also some intermediate puzzles which fell flat, but at least they’re logical as well.

The room makes good use of the split-start format, with more than mere information-swapping involved. There are some modest technological touches, including one fun puzzle mechanism, and a prop-related touch that I can’t mention without spoiling it (except to say that my group missed it entirely even though other groups figured it out quickly, apparently).

The atmosphere was a little lacking compared to The Escape Artist’s other rooms, but since we played a beta version, they might have improved it since.

On the whole, it’s like a standard Escape Artist room but with some clever non-standard twists, and hence WORTH A TRY even if you think you already know what The Escape Artist is like.

What about that ‘Chapter 1’ thing? Apparently, The Forsaken Vault’s secret is that it is three rooms in one, with Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 being playable in the same general space. Sounds like an interesting idea in principle; I’m looking forward to playing the next two chapters to see how it works out.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 14
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6, though it should still be possible with fewer. You’ll be split into two groups at the beginning, so take that into account.