Month: July 2016

Room review: BreakOut: The French Connection

NOTE: Breakout is closing by the end of 2017 (possibly as early as October), so this room will soon be gone! Play it ASAP while you still have the chance.

Their description: A series of attacks on major cities has been traced to a crime organization in Paris, who call themselves The White Society.

You and your team of agents have been tasked to infiltrate their basecamp to obtain evidence of any wrongdoing, and more importantly, to discover the location of their next target so you can prevent yet another attack. Can you escape successfully from your mission? Remember, your efforts will be futile if you fail to identify the location of the next attack.

One of the oldest and most reliable players in Singapore’s escape room industry is back with new permanent rooms. The French Connection is a room perhaps best suited for teams that have matured along with the industry, and are looking for a bigger challenge.

Like BreakOut’s new temporary room (a collab with Nomis Piy), The French Connection is a treat for puzzle-lovers. There’s a consistent and rigorous logic underlying all the puzzles, and yet the experience isn’t boring, thanks to the constant string of aha moments required to make progress. There’s also a pleasing coherence to many of the puzzles, which thankfully stops short of being repetitive.

It’s not just puzzles, though. Technological devices are used to great effect — or, more accurately, teams will have to use technological devices in some fun and creative ways. This more than makes up for the lack of flashy special effects. Some other fun tech-enabled moments also enlivened the game as a whole.

Clues and puzzles are integrated neatly into both the setting (which is arguably too cozy for a crime HQ, but does make for a very comfortable solving experience!) and the plot itself, in a way that pays off satisfyingly by the end.

In short, this room is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for experienced teams that enjoy puzzles. I probably wouldn’t recommend it for beginners; such teams should try BreakOut’s older rooms instead, which are much more beginner-friendly and are good rooms in their own right.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 3 to 6

Another year of…

This blog has reached its second birthday! I’m glad there are still new rooms to play and enjoy and that the industry has continued to evolve, three years after I first played an escape room.

To mark this anniversary (okay, not really, it’s just coincidence), here’s a write-up of some rooms in Kuala Lumpur, which Singapore-based fans should definitely check out.

There might also be some thoughts on this year’s recently-concluded Singapore Puzzle Hunt over on eventually. In the meantime, check out our updated hunt webpage (especially the puzzles) and join the SG Puzzlers Facebook group if you haven’t done so yet!

Room review: Freeing SG: Alice in Wonderland

This review is left here merely as a record.

Their description: While taking a stroll in the woods, you discovered a book on the ground and realised it was “Alice in Wonderland”. As you picked it up, a smartly-dressed rabbit flashed past you and darted into a rabbit hole. Out of curiosity, you approached the rabbit hole. As you leaned forward, a mysterious force pulled you in and you lost consciousness. When you woke up, you found yourself in an unknown place. What has happened?!

This was the first new Freeing room I’d played after a long while, and I was pleasantly surprised. Freeing’s tech-based strengths are still there, the atmosphere is well done, and the puzzles are reliably logical, making for a good experience overall.

Unlike some other companies, Freeing’s use of tech has always been purposeful rather than gratuitous. This room is no exception: technology is used for puzzle- and story-relevant purposes, and to achieve some fun effects. That’s just as well, as these flourishes make up for the absence of some other surprises that you might have expected.

The framing device of the storyline enlivens one room aspect that could otherwise be boring. It also props up the logic of various puzzles, which include some fun hands-on aspects.

Just two warnings:
– The text means it’s possible to be thrown off by how to start (as happened to us), so watch out for that.
– There’s a point at which one puzzle answer is meant to unlock two things, but could end up unlocking only one, due to technological sensitivity.

If you manage to avoid both the above issues, then your Alice in Wonderland adventure should go well. RECOMMENDED as a fun, multi-faceted experience.

Freeing’s other rooms have tended to deteriorate over time, but the Alice in Wonderland room was still in good repair, possibly because it’s quite new. (There was already one technical aspect of the room that was broken when we played and caused some trouble for us, but we alerted the staff after the game and it’s easy to fix, so hopefully that won’t be an issue anymore.) It might be worth playing this room ASAP, just to ensure you get as good an experience as possible.

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 6
My suggested number of players: 3 or 4. Possible but logistically tough (at one point, anyway) with 2 players.

Room review: The Escape Artist: Last Light

Their description: The PowerAID Plant was launched to much fanfare – it was supposed to be the answer to a renewable power source and for a moment, it was. However, within a month of initiating operations, it mysteriously shut down.

Speculation was rife – was it closed due to safety issues? Sabotage? Or was there something supernatural?

With the authorities suspiciously quiet and all activity in the city grinding to a halt, it is up to you, the heroes, to investigate the power plant and restore life into the ghost town.

Last Light is meant to be the most difficult of The Escape Artist’s rooms. It earns that rating while staying fairly logical, though some puzzles may seem opaque to less experienced teams.

Sometimes — like in the case of the Phaser puzzle which you can skip if you choose that power — a puzzle is opaque because a significant but not-unfair intuitive leap is required. But sometimes the leap required is a little less intuitive.

Nonetheless, the puzzles on the whole show TEA’s usual dedication to logic and fairness, with some particularly clever ideas thrown into the mix.

And the room is fun for other reasons too. Hands-on aspects are used to good effect: for physical problem-solving, jazzing up an answer-input mechanism, and the dramatic climax itself. The high physicality rating comes with the usual-for-this-branch sense of adventure, and the setting shifts appropriately as your journey progresses. The puzzles feel unconnected to the storyline at the start, but this changes by the end, quite satisfyingly.

In all, this room is RECOMMENDED for experienced teams, though you might have to forgive one or two puzzles. Beginners could find this room tough unless they load up on appropriate powers.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout, Sage or Phaser powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5. More could get crowded.

Room review: The Escape Artist: Outpost X

Their description: A plague has settled in a once peaceful town, turning 98% of the population into mindless zombies, while those immune are in hiding, biding their time for an opportunity to escape.

By a stroke of luck, you catch wind of a military broadcast announcing an air evacuation at Outpost X – right in the heart of the city. You rally a band of survivors, equip yourselves and head out into the zombie infested lands…

Can you make it to the extraction point?

‘Fun’ might not be the first adjective one associates with a zombie apocalypse, but it’s probably the best one for Outpost X.

Part of the fun comes from various ways in which this room makes use of vertical space, resulting in its high physicality rating. Sadly, this makes it another room which is not for people with mobility issues.

But if you are able to play it, you’ll find a series of varied puzzles and fun tasks, some of which are integrated particularly well into the decor. (There are nice amusing moments in the decor, too.) The decor itself isn’t bad — the dedication to the theme fluctuates a little but there’s still an overall post-apocalyptic feel, particularly at one late-stage room.

Conveniently enough for cowards such as myself, the room isn’t particularly scary despite its theme. But that means that horror-seekers should keep their expectations low.

RECOMMENDED for fun and a challenge that’s a bit more physical rather than mental.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

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

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

Room review: The Escape Artist: Flashpoint

Their description: The notorious villain – Joseph Exodus, has plunged your city into great despair, as he once again signals his intent on world domination with a show of force. A dirty bomb with enough power to level the entire city has been discovered right in the heart of the city, in a dilapidated warehouse. Time is short and evacuation is impossible.

Your team of heroes are called upon to save the day. Will you make it?

Flashpoint might not necessarily blow you away — unless you fail to disarm the bomb, of course — but there’s certainly lots to like about it. The room starts off strong with a rigorous puzzle that still requires a flash of insight, and the puzzles remain fair yet not too obvious throughout. Some are also particularly well-embedded into the setting.

The physical aspects are another plus point: hands-on aspects enliven certain puzzles, and the room earns its high physicality rating in a fun, non-strenuous way. Unfortunately, that also means it’s not a room for people with mobility issues.

Finally, there’s the room’s main plot point: the need to disarm the bomb, and the possibility of getting it wrong. This added a great sense of tension to the endgame even though we were confident of our answer, and heightened the thrill of victory.

RECOMMENDED as a solid room with a bit of adventure.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3.5/5

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

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

Room review: The Escape Artist: Count Dracula

This room is now available for remote play via Zoom!


Their description: A dark, secluded village is home to a bloodthirsty vampire who seeks out fresh victims every night. Having lived in fear your entire life, you decided that it was time to be a hero and end this monster’s reign of terror.

Gathering like-minded brave souls, you discover the secret chambers where his body rests in stasis during daylight. However, you are on the cusp of darkness and the maze of corridors branch off into countless paths.

If he wakes up, it is over. The time of reckoning is now.

Count Dracula is the only room at The Escape Artist’s Sentosa Gateway branch that doesn’t have a high physicality rating. You might expect it to be less exciting as a result, but there are enough secret chambers (as promised in the description) and tech-enabled frills to make things fun.

Compared to the other rooms at this outlet, the puzzles feel relatively conventional. Still, some nice layering elevates the ones that rely more on matching. There’s also a sustained integration of the puzzles with the setting and story, and a fun moment when the setting turns out to be important in its own right. Just watch out for one mid-game puzzle that could seem less intuitive than usual — though in retrospect, one aspect of it is quite nicely tied in to the storyline.

Not a must-play compared to some others at this outlet, but certainly WORTH A TRY. If you’re worried about it being scary, don’t be. There are some creepy touches but nothing intense.

(Difficulty rating is based on a playthrough that didn’t use the Scout or Sage powers.)

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

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

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

Overall review: The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)

NOTE: As of mid-2018 (at least), the Sentosa Gateway branch no longer features a Hero Class system.

At The Escape Artist’s newest outlet at Telok Blangah House (just opposite VivoCity), their established strength of logical puzzles is transplanted into larger and more exciting rooms, with a continued judicious use of tech, and a Hero Class system which adds another layer of gameplay considerations.

Let’s deal with each point in turn. The puzzles remain up to the same scrupulously fair standard that is TEA’s hallmark, with some particularly clever or fresh ones in the mix. The puzzles are decently integrated into the storyline, but go further by being integrated into the physical setting as well. You won’t encounter out-of-place text panels, for instance, or things that stick out awkwardly.

The rooms are expansive in a linear way, providing a good sense of progression. They’re also more complex vertically, which literally adds an extra dimension to the sense of adventure. Relatedly, their ‘physicality’ ratings for each room are not for show. There’s quite a bit of physical activity required, making most of their rooms more fun as a result, but sadly also unsuitable for people with mobility issues.

The use of tech and multimedia is extensive without being gratuitous, with various fun ways to unlock things. There are also some small hands-on aspects, which I always appreciate.

The ‘fear factor’ rating on The Escape Artist’s website is kind of irrelevant as even their scariest rooms at this branch are slightly creepy at best. But the ‘physicality’ and ‘lighting’ ratings are certainly helpful — with the latter, in particular, possibly playing a role in your choice of Hero Class.

Speaking of which: the Hero Class system gives players significant control over their escape room experience. Each player in the team gets to choose a special power that will confer an advantage in playing the game. (You also get a free can badge for each power you choose, which is a nice touch.)

You can therefore choose to load up on powers that will make the room a breeze; or, like us, you could try to play on the highest difficulty setting, either by choosing relatively useless powers, or just not using powers at all.

Experienced teams might want to try the latter approach — because the corollary to having a Hero Class system, as a staff member mentioned, is that these rooms are somewhat easier since hints aren’t freely given. This does mean that experienced teams might escape too swiftly, but at least there are fun moments along the way.

RECOMMENDED, especially for beginners, though experienced players will probably enjoy themselves too.

Staff: Friendly and welcoming. They are careful not to reveal too much when you use a power to get a hint, which is appreciated.

Hints: No hints unless you choose one of the Hero Classes that allows you to receive hints. Unlimited hints.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 4 out of 4

Recommended team size: 3 to 5 people

Specific room reviews

Count Dracula
Last Light
Outpost X

The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)