Month: February 2020

Room review: Xcape: Shutter Island

Note: Bugis Village (which houses Xcape’s entire empire of rooms) is slated for redevelopment, with existing tenants able to stay until March 2021. It’s not clear how or when this might affect Xcape — I’d suggest playing their rooms ASAP!


Their description: Waking up not knowing who you are in an unknown place is a scary thought. What if it couples with a patrolling mad doctor (or whoever he is!) Will you be able to rise to the challenges of finding your identity, differentiating friends from foes, and getting out from that facility?


Shutter Island is a frustrating room: full of ambition and potential, and therefore all the more disappointing in failing to live up to this.

The first impression is a strong one, with an atmospheric and extensive set. The occasional appearance of a live actor (from whom players have to hide) spices up the experience — I’m glad to see that such actors (known as NPCs in some countries) are now in Singapore too.

Unfortunately, the rest of the experience is less satisfying. A lot of effort has clearly been put into the narrative, with revelations and plot twists even in the finale video. Yet all this is mostly unrelated to puzzle-solving, and it’s thus easy to end up ignoring the story altogether — which is a shame. Incorporating plot elements into puzzles would have given players a reason to care about their own personal backstories and therefore improved the gameplay.

And there’s certainly a lot of room for adding more puzzles. Because Shutter Island breaks a major rule of escape rooms: it uses the same code more than once. I’m breaking my no-spoiler policy here, because I think that teams can easily and unfairly get stuck simply because they don’t expect to have to use the same code more than once.

The endgame stretch of puzzle-solving, at least, is quite complex and rigorous. But because of the four-way (!) split start, there aren’t actually that many puzzles for each player to try.

If you don’t mind the relatively small amount of puzzle-solving, Shutter Island is still WORTH A TRY for its sense of adventure. I just wish this had been a room that I could confidently recommend, instead.

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 8
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6. Note that there’s a four-way split-start.

Room review: Xcape: Busan Express

Note: Bugis Village (which houses Xcape’s entire empire of rooms) is slated for redevelopment, with existing tenants able to stay until March 2021. It’s not clear how or when this might affect Xcape — I’d suggest playing their rooms ASAP!


Their description: In 2040, a mysterious virus spread across the world. Everyone infected by the virus turned into bloodthirsty zombies. You are one of the selected groups of lucky citizens to be transported to the Busan quarantine zone. Welcome aboard the Busan Express. Will your life be saved?


My favourite part of this train ride was its emphasis on setting and narrative, from the compartment where the journey begins, all the way through to the dramatic finale. Narrative is conveyed in some refreshing ways (rather than the usual pages of text), and good use is made of the train’s layout. It would be spoiler-y to even hint at some of the aspects I enjoyed the most, but suffice it to say that as an adventuresome experience alone, Busan Express is well worth playing.

The puzzles themselves aren’t particularly integrated into the narrative, but that’s true of most rooms in Singapore. There’s still a good mix of puzzle types and tasks that should keep most teams satisfied.

As for the question of how scary the room is… I’d say that it’s definitely a thrilling experience (with some quite clever scares!), but you’d be missing out if you stay away just because you don’t like horror. Conversely, if you’re a horror fan, do note that the horror elements aren’t relentless — there’s in fact quite a bit of time for calm puzzle-solving. In short, whether or not you enjoy horror, this train ride is RECOMMENDED for an all-round experience with solid production values.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 4 to 5
My suggested number of players: 2 to 5.