Month: February 2016

Overall review: Captivate Escape Rooms

Captivate Escape Rooms has changed quite a bit since it first opened, with its newer rooms feeling somewhat different from their original slate. It’s thus hard to generalise about their offerings, but here’s an attempt.

Captivate’s rooms have a handmade feel, which might be endearing or immersion-breaking, depending on your preferences. Still, even if the production values may not be the most polished, these certainly aren’t low-tech rooms — there are lots of technological frills and gadgets in store.

Perhaps what I appreciate most is that each room at Captivate includes some cool and original ahas, providing a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with familiar puzzle types and structures — and making them worthwhile even for veterans. The puzzles also tend to be solidly logical, though running more on escape room logic than narrative motivation.

I also enjoy the fun little surprises that each room contains. And while the puzzles themselves may not be that deeply integrated into the narrative, Captivate’s rooms do maintain a narrative throughout and provide a proper conclusion.

On the whole, I’d say that their rooms are RECOMMENDED for beginners, and still WORTH A VISIT for veterans, if you manage your expectations.

Staff: Friendly and chill. The place doesn’t feel like one of those soulless money-making operations, which is nice.

Hints: Unlimited hints. Just wave at a security camera or use the walkie-talkie, and one of the staff will enter to help you out. If you find this immersion-breaking, well — you can probably get by without hints anyway.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 7 out of 7 current rooms; 3 former rooms

Recommended team size: 2 to 4. A good escape room company for two-player teams.

Specific room reviews

Current rooms
Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking
Zero Hour
Cirque (rebranded as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation)
Murder on the Singapore Express
Alien vs Human
The Prestige
The Hitman
Mythical Beasts (coming soon?)

Former rooms
Black Out
Kellar’s Magic Emporium

Captivate Escape Rooms

Room review: Captivate: Kellar’s Magic Emporium

Their description: You have been short-listed for the role of Magician’s Assistant. Arriving at Kellar’s Magic Emporium, you are tasked with solving a series of puzzles and riddles in order to prove your skills. You’ll need to pay close attention to pass this test, as things may not always be what they seem…

Captivate’s tendency to over-clue their puzzles is especially strong in Kellar’s Magic Emporium, making this a very forgiving room. Experienced teams might be disappointed at the ease of the puzzles.

But there’s still enough to make the experience fun, even if it’s brief. The magic emporium hides various little secrets and surprises, which liven up the rather straightforward puzzle-solving process. And although the puzzles are straightforward, they’re original and rigorous.

A brief review for a brief room. RECOMMENDED for beginners. WORTH A TRY for experienced teams if you don’t mind finishing it in twenty minutes.

Puzzle difficulty: 2/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3

Room review: Captivate: Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking

Their description: Death row inmates are disappearing from the prison morgue after their execution. You are hired to go undercover as an inmate at the jail to try to discover why. But someone found out that you are investigating the prison and has scheduled your execution for one hour from now. Can you unravel the mystery of the disappearing bodies and escape from the jail as the clock counts down to the time of your execution?

Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking was a bit of a mixed bag. I think the negative feelings I have about this room can be summarised like so: the way that puzzles and puzzle-solving interfaces are presented will shape the expectations that players have about how to solve them, and if the solution doesn’t fit those expectations, then that’s unfair.

This mismatch of signal and solution happens at least three times in Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking: once at the start, and twice in the busiest section of the room. It meant that our attention was completely misdirected at the start, to the extent that we had to ask for help.

In the middle section of the room, it meant that we disregarded two correct answers that we had already found, and were thus stuck for quite some while. My general policy is to avoid spoilers, but here I think I would be neglecting my duty as a reviewer if I didn’t say this: don’t assume that a lock with x spaces means that the solution is x units long.

With that out of the way, I should say that Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking is still a decent room. There are some fun physical touches, and some great elements of the setting, particularly in the first half.

Some puzzles are weak, but many are fresh, and some are really quite clever. And there’s at least a spirited attempt at reminding players about the storyline… though I personally didn’t think it really succeeded, alas.

WORTH A TRY for both beginners and experienced teams. Just try not to be misled.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2.5/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 10
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6

Room review: Captivate: Zero Hour

Their description: You recognise a face on the FBI Most Wanted List. Intrigued, rather than call the FBI, you decide to investigate. Can you discover the dark secret they are trying so hard to keep hidden before time runs out? An extraordinary experience with amazing hidden surprises waiting to be discovered.

This is another of those reviews where the numerical scores don’t quite capture the nature of the room. Zero Hour was something of an anomaly for my team, I think: a room that was simple, yet felt satisfying nonetheless.

That satisfaction, I suppose, came from the logical and scrupulously-clued puzzles. Perhaps even over-clued: a common experience in this room (and several other Captivate ones) was that we’d solve a puzzle, only to find that it provided the clue for another puzzle we’d already solved.

But when that’s one main complaint about a room, I suppose the room isn’t doing too badly! And though the puzzles weren’t that challenging, there were some refreshing and original ones — no boring, blind matching required.

The other main complaint I have is that the storyline just wasn’t there. There’s barely anything I can think of from the room which matches the plot description above.

However, the provided description is accurate in another aspect: there were at least two hidden surprises that made me feel a genuine sense of childish delight and glee.

RECOMMENDED for beginners especially, but also experienced teams who are willing to forgo a challenge in exchange for original puzzles and a fun time. Do note that this isn’t a room for players with mobility issues.

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 1.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3