— Company reviews

Overall review: Trapped

A confession: I avoided Trapped’s rooms for a long time, partly because their previous rooms were reportedly lacklustre and partly because I’m not a fan of horror. As it turns out, I should have given them a chance earlier.

With a ground-floor location along the exterior of teen mall *Scape, Trapped seems particularly well-placed to receive walk-in customers. Unfortunately, I think the company does itself a disservice by playing up the horror element of its rooms. Creepy props fill the shop window, and their website’s room descriptions suggest that players will have a terrifying time. All of this could dissuade first-time escape room players, or those who (like me) dislike horror.

And that’s a shame, because Trapped’s rooms are beginner-friendly, suitable for small groups, and not actually that scary. Most of their puzzles are logical, fair, and relatively simple. The rooms contain some familiar tropes, providing a good introduction to the escape room genre.

While veterans may breeze through the rooms, they won’t necessarily be bored — there’s at least one particularly satisfying puzzle in each room, and the rooms do repay exploration. It does also appear as though soloing a room might be possible…

Trapped is very much WORTH A VISIT for beginners, or two-player teams who want manageable rooms. Experienced teams are unlikely to feel challenged. But if you’re an experienced player who is running out of rooms to play yet doesn’t want to end up playing bad rooms (like me), rest assured that Trapped’s rooms are worth checking out — even if your visit could be brief.

Staff: Friendly and helpful. They are careful not to reveal too much when you ask for a hint.

Hints: Three (if I recall correctly) hints via intercom phone.

Will your group be combined with strangers? Yes.

Rooms tried: 2 out of 3

Recommended team size: 2 to 3 people



Specific room reviews

Escape from Pulau Tekong
World War 3 (Zombie Edition)
The Purge


Trapped SG
http://www.trapped.sg/

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Overall review: The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)

At The Escape Artist’s new 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.

(The Escape Artist also has a Prinsep branch, with rooms that are significantly different in style but still very much worth playing.)

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.

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
Flashpoint
Last Light
Outpost X


The Escape Artist (Sentosa Gateway)
http://theescapeartist.sg/

Overall review: Encounter

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: 4 out of 4

Recommended team size: 3 to 5


Specific room reviews

The Apartment
The Hospital
The Cruise
The Boutique


Encounter
http://encounter.sg/

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 (now that they’ve thankfully moved away from their reliance on Sistic). Most importantly, the rooms are 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 really, really 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.

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.

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, helpful, pretty 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: 5 out of 5

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


Specific room reviews

Labyrinth: Dead Men Walking
Zero Hour
Black Out
Kellar’s Magic Emporium
Elixir


Captivate Escape Rooms
http://www.captivateescaperooms.com/

Overall review: Unravel

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


Unravel takes pride in its incorporation of local urban legends and history into its rooms. In practical terms, this means a lot of attention paid to setting and atmosphere, and a general attempt to keep puzzles tied to the storyline — all of which makes for a satisfyingly immersive experience.

These strengths are also combined: details in the setting are often directly relevant to the puzzles, which makes for a better experience than rooms where the puzzles are just lying around on scraps of paper. The corollary is that you’ll really need good observational skills. In some rooms, the setting details also contain red herrings, which could be annoying.

But for the most part, the puzzles themselves are sound and logical, with one or two particularly creative puzzles in each room. There’s also fun technology use and trigger mechanisms — most notably in The Ouija and The Haunting, though all of Unravel’s rooms have at least one or two elements more exciting than simple code-locks.

The emphasis on these rooms’ local flavour might seem a bit gimmicky, but I think it does add to the experience. Given that Singapore’s escape room scene already has several foreign chains, and even the homegrown companies stick to generic or international themes, it’s nice to have an escape company with rooms that belong squarely in Singapore. (The only other example I can think of is Encounter’s The Apartment.)

Though Unravel’s rooms do have the odd weakness or two, each one of them is still well worth playing. Add the friendly staff and customer-friendly policies, and this is an escape company that is definitely RECOMMENDED — whether you’re a beginner to the concept, or an experienced and jaded veteran.

Staff: Very friendly, not overly strict about starting time, and happy to talk about the rooms once you’ve done them. Their enthusiasm for the games is great to see.

Hints: Unlimited hints via walkie-talkie. Even though communication is via walkie-talkie, the staff tend to enter the room when you call for help; if you find that immersion-breaking, you could try asking them not to do so. Staff are very cautious and will simply ask questions and give hints rather than revealing the answer outright, which is great.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 4 out of 4 current rooms; 1 older room

Recommended team size: 4 to 6


Specific room reviews

Current rooms
The Betrayal
The Haunting
The Wish
The Ouija

Former rooms
The Missing


Unravel
http://www.unravel.sg/

Overall review: LOST SG

LOST SG seems to pride itself on its use of technology, and that’s certainly one big selling point. Its rooms are full of fun mechanisms and triggers. Some of them are genuinely part of a puzzle; others liven up what could otherwise just have been the standard box-with-a-number-lock method of hiding the next clue.

It’s not just all style and no substance, though. The puzzles themselves are fairly solid and sometimes imaginative, with a good mix of puzzle types in each room. There’s the odd red herring, but so far, this hasn’t seemed unfair.

There’s also a short video you’ll have to watch for each room before you try it, which is a nice effort on their part (even if it doesn’t necessarily add much!).

Though each room tends to have one or two annoying flaws, LOST SG is a great addition to Singapore’s busy escape room scene. RECOMMENDED as a good all-round escape room company: fun tech, solid puzzles, decently atmospheric rooms, and friendly staff. It’s just a shame about their policy of combining smaller groups.

Staff: Generally friendly and not overly strict, and happy to talk about other groups’ experiences with the room you’ve tried.

Hints: Three (?) hints, obtained via intercom. Staff seem generally cautious about revealing too much unless you ask for it, which is good.

Will your group be combined with strangers? Yes, unless you book the room for at least 7 players.

Rooms tried: 5 out of 5 current rooms; 1 older room

Recommended team size: 3 to 5


Specific room reviews

Current rooms
Exodus
Alcatraz
Castiglione
Aokigahara
Mausoleum

Former rooms
Isometrick


LOST SG
http://lost.sg

Overall review: Freeing SG

NOTE: This review has been edited to reflect changes in Freeing’s branches and policies.


Freeing SG’s rooms are great if you’re looking for fun experiences rather than intellectual stimulation. Even after the games changed from 45- to 60-minute ones, they don’t necessarily contain that many puzzles — but they’re certainly not boring.

The rooms generally make an effort with setting and storyline, and are filled with exciting mechanisms, special effects, or multimedia aspects, all of which are closely tied to the room theme.

The puzzles themselves are fairly logical, and often go beyond that tired old escape room staple of mere matching. And even if the puzzles are seldom novel in structure, there’s a whole range of methods in which they are conveyed and solved, making for a fun experience nevertheless.

edit, June 2015: Sadly it appears that the Freeing Cathay rooms have gotten a bit tired and worn out from overuse. I still think some rooms are worth a visit, but do adjust your expectations.

edit, July 2017: Freeing have opened a second outlet in Plaza Singapura, with more rooms still being added. Given their maintenance track record in the Cathay, I’d say it’s worth checking out the Plaza Sing rooms ASAP, so you can appreciate all their dramatic frills and flourishes while they still work.

RECOMMENDED if you care about setting and fun mechanisms. Still WORTH A VISIT otherwise.

Staff: Staff are friendly and responsive.

Hints: Two hints, via doorbell. Staff used to tell you the answer rather than give you hints, but are now more circumspect. You also get a walkthrough if you fail, which is nice. (June 2017: It seems that you can get unlimited hints at the Freeing Plaza Singapura branch; not sure if that’s the case at The Cathay.)

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 6 out of 7 at The Cathay; 4 out of 6 (and counting) at Plaza Singapura

Recommended team size: 3 to 5


Specific room reviews

Current rooms – Cathay
Alice in Wonderland
Funeral: The Mourning Widow
Secrets of the Past: From Russia with Love
Ninja: The Secret Disciplines of the Shinobi
Spaceship: Galactic Survival
War: The Battle for Freedom

Current rooms – Plaza Singapura
Poseidon
White House
Twilight
Jurassic
The Enchanted Wardrobe

Former rooms
Mission Incredible (Bugis+)
Painter’s Murder (Bugis+)
Rise to the Challenge: Biohazard (pop-up)


Freeing SG
http://www.freeingsg.com/

Overall review: Exit Plan

NOTE: I haven’t tried the existing rooms at Exit Plan, only two of the old ones.

Exit Plan is an escape room company that I really wanted to like. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic, and their policies are customer-friendly, down to their special ‘lone wolf’ challenge where you get to play for free if you complete a room on your own. But based on my experiences with two of their previous rooms, this just isn’t the escape room company for me.

Their old medium-difficulty room, Mad Scientist, was decent but unremarkable. Some of the puzzles were interesting; others felt rather arbitrary and disconnected from the plot. But the main problem was with their previous hardest room, Dizzy Me. It wasn’t difficult because of ingenious or complex puzzles. Instead, it was full of ‘busy work’, with everything relying upon execution and logistics rather than figuring out how to solve the puzzles. I haven’t been back since, but I’ve heard from friends that at least two of their current rooms rely on such ‘busy work’ elements.

Sometimes, escape rooms can compensate for weak puzzles by having other strong points. But with a peak charge of $18 and an off-peak charge of $15, this is one of the cheapest options in Singapore — and accordingly, the rooms don’t have much in the way of special effects or exciting physical aspects.

Exit Plan’s rooms could be good for beginners, team exercises, or people who like the excitement of an escape room more than actual, rigorous puzzle-solving. But if interesting puzzles are what you are after, then based on my previous experience, Exit Plan is probably not your best bet.

Staff: Friendly and enthusiastic. You can really tell that they enjoy puzzle rooms too.

Hints: Unlimited hints via doorbell. Staff are quick to respond.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 2 older rooms, none of the current ones.

Recommended team size: N/A as I haven’t played the current rooms.


 

Exit Plan
http://www.exitplan.sg/

Overall review: Xcape Singapore

Xcape Singapore’s rooms are generally big on special effects, hidden doorways and other exciting physical elements. They can be quite entertaining as a result, but you’ve got to bear with the risk of being combined with another group.

The puzzles themselves vary quite significantly across rooms. Some are not that inventive or enjoyable and may involve a lot of tedious matching, and can be downright unsatisfying or anticlimactic. Still, better rooms such as Chamber of Secrets have good multimedia puzzles, which help to make up for it.

In any case, one doesn’t come to Xcape for the puzzles per se. Instead, Xcape is notable for:

  • Scale. With the important exception of Upside Down, Xcape’s rooms are usually physically complex, with Tomb Raider in particular featuring the most extensive network of rooms I’ve seen here.
  • Tasks and hands-on problems-solving, which are still fairly rare in the Singapore escape room scene, and make a nice change from regular puzzles.
  • Technological frills and thrills, particularly in its Xcape Funtasy and Xcape Haunted series. These later rooms are great at providing a full ~experience, not simply an escape room.

That’s not to say that Xcape is all style and no substance. In fact, the later rooms which focus more on tasks also tend to have fairer puzzles.

Do note that Xcape has several different outlets, although they’re all located along the same stretch of Bugis Village.

Xcape Season 1+ and Season 2 are WORTH A VISIT, especially if you’re used to completing rooms successfully and want a bit more of a challenge. But be warned, the challenges might not always be satisfying.

In contrast, if you’re looking for pure fun rather than a challenge, then their two Xcape Funtasy rooms are RECOMMENDED. And if you’re looking for a thrilling time alongside fair puzzles, the Xcape Haunted rooms are definitely RECOMMENDED too.

Then there is the stellar Xcape RPG, Shanghai 1943 — not an escape room, but a very fun and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED murder mystery roleplaying game that offers a solid plot, complex character roles and a set full of evidence to be discovered.

Staff: They’re strict when it comes to starting the game on time. But on the whole, customer service seems to have improved a lot since Xcape’s early days. Staff are now friendly and quick to respond to calls for help — as well as proactive when technology malfunctions.

Hints: When I played Season 2 in 2014 and 2015, the policy was for two hints only. You have to find hint cards in the room, and can then use them to get hints via intercom phone or waving at the CCTV (or possibly doorbell in some cases, I’m not sure). At Xcape Funtasy in 2016, you were allowed to simply ask for hints, with a limit of two hints every half-hour. The Xcape Haunted rooms didn’t have a hint limit.

Will your group be combined with strangers? Yes.

Rooms tried: 10 out of 10 (but older versions of 2 rooms) (+ one excellent murder mystery RPG)

Recommended team size: 5 to 7 for Season 1+ and 2; 3 to 4 for Upside Down. Ideal team sizes for the Xcape Funtasy and Xcape Haunted rooms vary significantly; check the individual reviews.


Specific room reviews

Season 1+
Whisper of The Dead (original version)
Chamber of Secrets (original version)

Season 2
Vampire Diary
Upside Down
Tomb Raider
Resident Evil

Funtasy
Doraemon – A Dream Come True
Kungfu Panda X – The Return of Tai Lung

Haunted
Annabelle
The Morgue

Not an escape room: Shanghai 1943


Xcape Singapore
http://www.xcape.sg/

Overall review: Roomraider SG

Roomraider’s Orchard branch is NOW CLOSED.
According to Facebook, they have a new outlet at POMO.

This review is left here merely as a record (until I get around to playing their new games).


Roomraider SG’s rooms are strong on experiential elements, though the puzzles themselves are not very convoluted. There are many hands-on or multimedia aspects, making for a refreshing change from rooms which are too text- or numbers-based.

Most rooms are pretty linear, which is helpful for beginners. The puzzles are also well-integrated into the room’s plot or storyline, and rarely feel arbitrary.

It’s a good place for players who like fun, thrills and technical flourishes more than strict “puzzle-solving” (although there’s still a bit of thinking involved). The corollary is that they might seem too gimmicky if you want more intellectual or convoluted puzzles.

Do note that you only get 45 minutes here, rather than the usual hour or so. However, that’s a perfectly reasonable time limit, so it shouldn’t affect your experience too much.

WORTH A VISIT for those who like hands-on work and are not looking for complex puzzles.

Staff: They seem rather busy, but they’re still friendly.

Hints: Unlimited hints via door bell. Staff are generally quick to respond, and usually just give hints instead of just revealing exactly what to do. (There have been one or two occasions where they simply stated what to do, but those seem like exceptions.)

Will your group be combined with strangers? Yes.

Rooms tried: 5 out of 6 current rooms; 1 older room

Recommended team size: 2 to 3 people for most rooms; 4 to 6 for Prison Break


Specific room reviews

Current rooms
Hyperion
Prison Break
S.W.A.T. Firestorm
Where’s Cuddles?
Operation Neon Green

Former rooms
Dark Mansion


Roomraider SG
http://www.roomraidersg.com/