Month: February 2016

Overall review: Captivate Escape Rooms

If I were to sum up Captivate Escape Rooms in a single word, it would be “friendly”. The staff are pleasant. The booking process isn’t demanding. Most importantly, the rooms are among the most forgiving ones I’ve ever played, from the gentle hand-holding via over-cluing, to the generous 75 minutes that you’re given for each room, and which you won’t even come close to using up.

Some escape rooms make you feel like you’re in a thrilling battle of wits with the game designers. At Captivate Escape Rooms, in contrast, the game designers want you to win.

But maybe kindness has its place. These rooms would be great for beginners or groups with kids, for instance. And the surfeit of clues certainly makes a change from rooms which require torturous leaps of logic — part of the reason the puzzles are so solver-friendly are that they make perfect sense.

Furthermore, though the rooms are friendly, they’re not necessarily boring. The puzzles may be simple, but they’re fairly original, providing a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with familiar puzzle types and structures — and making them worthwhile even for veterans. There are also some clever or trickier puzzles mixed in with the rest, and some variance in room difficulty; experienced groups might find Elixir more to their taste than Kellar’s Magic Emporium, for instance. Their latest additions, Murder on the Singapore Express and Alien vs Human, should prove more challenging for experienced teams.

It also helps that the rooms contain fun little surprises. There isn’t much “high-tech” stuff of the sort that escape room players here might be familiar with, but there are still enough gadgets and physical aspects to help make up for the reliance on code-locks.

So yes, Captivate rooms are forgiving. But that aside, they’re also simply fun.

RECOMMENDED for beginners. WORTH A VISIT for veterans who don’t mind having fun rather than facing a challenge.

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 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; 1 former room

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
Black Out
Kellar’s Magic Emporium
Murder on the Singapore Express
Alien vs Human

Former rooms

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