Month: April 2016

Overall review: Encounter

Note: As of 9 Oct 2017, Encounter has closed its Geylang branch. Its only game, once again, is The Apartment.


My opinion of Encounter is irrevocably shaped by The Apartment, which I still consider the only definite must-play room in Singapore. The Apartment has been around since 2014, yet there’s still no other room here which comes close in its atmosphere, immersion, and dedication to storyline.

But for a long time, it was also Encounter’s only room, which is why I didn’t write an overall review for the company. Now that Encounter has expanded to its second location — and I’ve played all of its rooms — I can make a more general assessment.

Which is: no other rooms live up to The Apartment, but then again, it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to do so.

Taken on their own merits, Encounter’s rooms are still solid experiences, with the attention to setting and storyline making up for the occasional weak puzzle. The rooms are among the priciest here, at $33 per person for a group of five to eight, and $38 per person for smaller groups. But you’re paying for much higher production values. In many other rooms, the use of technology is exciting but also crudely obvious — think blinking lights in an ye-olde setting, or clunky moving parts. Encounter’s rooms feel a lot more seamless, making for a more immersive experience.

Incidentally, if I use the word ‘experience’ a lot when writing about Encounter, that’s because it’s really the best description of their rooms: not mere collections of puzzles to be solved, but stories and settings in which you’re a player.

What about the puzzles, though? They’re certainly not bad — most of them are fair and rigorous, and there are usually a few exciting, clever, or particularly well-integrated puzzles in each room. But you shouldn’t go to Encounter’s rooms in search of purely intellectual challenges. Instead, accept each room on its own terms and let yourself be immersed, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

It’s HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you play The Apartment. After that, step back, regard Encounter with fresh eyes — and then try some of their other rooms. As a company in general, they’re still very much RECOMMENDED. Beginners won’t find the puzzles too tough, and veteran teams should find their style different and refreshing.

Staff: Friendly and genuinely interested. Uniquely in Singapore, they never once break character.

Hints: Unlimited hints, and with the least immersion-breaking hint system in Singapore: pick up the nearest phone, and dial. Staff are very good about not giving things away too easily.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 1 out of 1 current room; 3 out of 3 former rooms

Recommended team size: 3 to 5


Specific room reviews

Current rooms
The Apartment

Former rooms
The Hospital
The Cruise
The Boutique


Encounter
http://encounter.sg/

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Room review: Encounter: The Boutique

ENCOUNTER’S GEYLANG BRANCH IS NOW CLOSED.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description: A murder has just occurred in a boutique involving the sales representative, Miss Rochelle. The forensic team arrived earlier to mark out the crucial evidence. As police inspectors you will be the next team to arrive at the scene.

Will you be able to solve this murder case? Or was it even a murder in the first place?


Encounter’s consistent strength, across its rooms, is in achieving a realistic setting. In that aspect, at least, The Boutique delivers. In a less well-designed room, a low signal to noise ratio might be frustrating; in The Boutique, the extraneous information simply feels like a natural part of, well, being in a boutique. Nor does it get in the way of puzzle-solving. Like Encounter’s other rooms, you aren’t meant to blindly search for things. Rather, by observing the setting, you realise what you need to zero in on.

All this makes the start of The Boutique fairly satisfying, though teams might feel a little lost at first since the puzzles aren’t obvious.

But then there are some weaknesses. An early puzzle is disappointingly tedious; a mid-stage one has enough ambiguity that you can know exactly what to do yet fail in the execution, which is always a frustrating place to be in. If you’ve done Encounter’s other rooms, certain parts of this room (not the puzzles, to be fair) might also feel a little familiar.

That’s not to say that it was a bad room. The puzzles don’t require unfair leaps of logic, there’s a nice undercurrent of suspense (tamer than The Apartment and The Hospital, if you’re wondering), and Encounter continues to pay scrupulous attention to the storyline. You’ll find some answer to the mystery, if you make it to the end…

In all, the room is WORTH A TRY, though not one of Encounter’s stronger offerings.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 3.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room review: Unravel: The Ouija

UNRAVEL IS NOW CLOSED.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description: October 15th, 1985

The headlines were unreal: “School Cleaner Missing After Student Found Hanged”. The police initially thought the student, Judy Lim, committed suicide as she was found hanging in one of the toilet cubicles. Post-mortem revealed that she was actually strangled and the killer made it look like a suicide. The biggest suspect is the school cleaner who had not reported for work since October 15th. Police spoke to his family and he had not returned home since the night of October 14th.

Are things really that simple? What will the Ouija board reveal to private investigator Kai?


The main thing I remember from The Ouija is being terrified. If you enjoy horror rooms at all, you must play this one. Just do it. Don’t expect the usual cheap scare tactics of rubbery body parts; this room takes a more sophisticated approach, and is thus also better than Unravel’s other scary room, The Haunting.

If horror alone isn’t enough of a draw, don’t worry — The Ouija is still a solid escape room experience.

I personally thought that the first puzzle was one of the tougher ones in the room, which seemed a strange way to start. Get past that, though, and it’s relatively smooth-sailing. The puzzles are not mindblowing, but they’re all logical and fair, and there are various fun (and occasionally creepy) mechanisms involved.

Setting, plot, and puzzles are also integrated well with each other. The first puzzle fits particularly well into the setting, and unlike many escape rooms out there, this one does actually provide a conclusion to its plot.

This room also plays very well on the tension between the need to search and the fear of doing so. Bring at least one brave person, or you simply won’t make it out. (My team made it out with three cowards and one brave person.)

Perhaps my only real quibble is that one late-stage puzzle felt a little misleading, in that the correct answer is not the most natural variation of what you have to hand. But that’s a minor point.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you enjoy horror. The solid storyline and decent puzzles make this WORTH A TRY regardless — unless you really hate horror, in which case, stay away.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 4.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4