Return of the… Guardians?

Lockdown is restaging their Whisper of the Guardians escape game for one day only, on Apr 3.

I played the original 2017 version and found it to be a fun adventure; it makes use of its real-life setting (in Chinatown) to a greater degree than many other outdoor games. If you missed it the first time, here’s your chance!

From limited-time event to daily game

After holding several sessions on June 6 and 13, Lockdown.sg is now offering their online escape event Virtual Agents on a daily basis, as a regular virtual escape game. Bookings can be made via their website.

I played their first session on June 6 and reviewed it over on my event blog instead. Interesting to see how the distinction between “rooms” and “events” blurs when things go online, I suppose! Regardless, Virtual Agents is more of a virtual escape game rather than an escape room, in terms of structure and puzzle types.

I’d say this game is RECOMMENDED if you’re used to Lockdown’s logical style and care more about puzzles than narrative (and if you want to support local companies), but I don’t know how it compares to what’s available out there, because I haven’t been playing many international virtual escape experiences. I will say that it’s a good game for people who hate videoconferencing (like me) because it doesn’t rely on that.

Room-in-a-box review: Lockdown.sg: Bearscape

Their description: You woke up from your deep slumber and stare ahead, but all you see are walls of grey and silver stretching to no end.

As you hear small distant explosions, you realise that your space station has been hit by meteors!

I’ve played quite a few escape-room-in-a-box games, both commercially-produced and indie ones — but haven’t reviewed any, since I figured there’d be multiple reviews available online. Clearly I had to make an exception for Bearscape, since it’s by a local escape room company.

Bearscape is pitched as an educational escape game, which seems about right. Each puzzle requires some math or science knowledge — my sense is that the content is suitable for PSLE or lower secondary students. Players who have long forgotten their school-era syllabus will probably still be fine, since the information required isn’t obscure. (Full disclosure: I did google once during the game.)

In general, content-focused puzzles run the risk of being little more than glorified trivia quizzes. Happily, that isn’t the case here. There’s a good mix of puzzle mechanisms, some of which are quite creative. As usual for Lockdown, the puzzles are faultlessly logical — though there’s also a helpful deck of hint and solution cards, if needed.

I tend to find that play-at-home games have a negligible storyline, but Bearscape does decently in maintaining one, aided by the fact that the narrative flavourtext for each puzzle contains clues.

Finally, the game’s production values are a delight, both in terms of the cute and polished illustrations, as well as the physical materials and print quality. The sturdy components mean that the game should stand up to multiple replays by different groups.

With its educational focus and polished production values, I’d say this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for an enrichment class or a post-exam classroom chill-out setting.

For general escape room fans, the game is still solidly WORTH PLAYING. You might hesitate at the S$49.90 price (not least since the game can be played alone, as I did), but I considered it worth paying 1) to support a reliable local escape room company, and 2) because you can pass the game on to others after you finish. A good chance to introduce escape games to friends and family, perhaps?

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5

Use of physical components: 3/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 1 to 5
My suggested number of players: 1 to 3

Escaping via Zoom

It seems I spoke too soon in my previous post! Lockdown.sg will be the first Singapore escape room company to hold a Zoom-enabled escape event with its Virtual Agents game on June 6, a 90-minute event for teams of up to five people. Tickets are now on sale. (edit: They’ve now added sessions for June 13.)

I’d love to take part, despite my dislike of videoconferencing, but that also happens to be the first day of the REDDOThunt 2020, of which I’m one of the organisers. We’ll see… I’ve bought my June 6 tickets and will write a review ahead of June 13.

Room review: Lockdown.SG: VR Escape – Illusion

Their description: Trapped inside your own mind, inside your own dream! Test subjects of a secret organization that is feeding you hallucinogenic drugs, you are lost between reality and dream.
Your guard is gone for 2 hours and you have to find the antidote and return to reality so you can escape! Nothing makes sense though…
Just when you thought you found the solution, a door transports you to another universe, you will have to fight against your own logic, because the dream can become a nightmare!

When I heard about Lockdown’s two-hour VR room, my first thought was: How does anyone survive two hours in VR?? That was despite the fact that I’m keen on VR experiences. At $45 per person, the game is by far the cheapest dollar-for-hour VR experience around, but its long runtime can be daunting.

The good news is that the physical toll of VR wasn’t as great as I feared, and two hours passes faster than you’d expect. There’s plenty to do, ranging from environment exploration and tool usage to more standard escape-room-style puzzles. Indeed, the two-hour time limit is barely enough to complete the game — not due to time-wasting aspects, but simply the sheer volume of content. If you often feel let down by content-light escape rooms that end too early, then you should try Illusion for a thorough challenge. Some puzzles are admittedly challenging for the wrong reasons, but the overall puzzle standard isn’t bad.

Illusion is made by the same company behind Lockdown’s other VR escape room offering, Abandoned Mine, and starts out in a familiar environment: dingy, kind of ominous, vaguely industrial. Unlike Abandoned Mine, however, Illusion makes good use of the VR medium to take players to a vast range of environments as the game progresses. There are also some cool moments and transitions that are only possible because of the game’s VR nature.

If you’re interested in how VR can be used to its fullest potential in creating adventures, my top recommendation remains Virtual Room Singapore’s two excellent, haptic-feedback-heavy, multi-environment games, with their exciting use of non-conventional physics — the only problem being that they aren’t escape rooms per se. If you’re happy with a decent escape room adventure that takes place via VR, and/or would like to challenge yourself with a content-heavy room, then Illusion is RECOMMENDED. If you’re not already a fan of VR, though, this game is unlikely to change your mind.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Gameplay variation: 3.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting moments, effective use of VR: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

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

Room review: Lockdown.sg: Bearcraft: Dreamworld

Their description: This is why you should stop playing so much video games during the day. You are now trapped in your dream and this is a game where you must win in order to wake up!

Bearcraft combines rigorous logic puzzles with a pleasant if fairly minimalist setting. I can’t stress enough that your enjoyment of the game will be directly related to how much you like solving logic puzzles in an escape room. There’s still some hands-on interaction and a couple of cute surprises, but the room is ultimately much more of a cerebral experience than an adventure.

At the risk of repeating myself from my other Lockdown reviews: if you don’t mind the use of a tablet and logic-heavy puzzles, Bearcraft is WORTH A TRY. If you actually enjoy rigorous logic puzzles and don’t mind a less immersive room, it’s RECOMMENDED.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

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

Room review: Lockdown.sg: Bears of Justice

Their description: A super villian has planted a bomb in a nuclear facility. It is up to the Bears of Justice to save the day!

Lockdown rates this as their hardest room, and that’s certainly the case. But there aren’t unreasonable leaps of logic required, at least. On the contrary, all the puzzles are scrupulously logical, to the extent that teams that aren’t fond of logic-based puzzles might find not find this room’s puzzles to their taste — though at least one puzzle has quite an inspired aha which I enjoyed.

There’s some clever incorporation of puzzles and reveals into the physical setting, with a few dramatic touches and a sustained attempt at maintaining the narrative. But as is the case with all rooms in this outlet, the tablet remains a somewhat immersion-breaking layer between players and the room. If that doesn’t bother you, Bears of Justice provides a very rigorous experience that’s WORTH A TRY, or even RECOMMENDED if you prioritise puzzles over setting and are a fan of logic puzzles.

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

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

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

Room review: Lockdown.sg: Bearry Potter and the Secret Doors

Their description: As a first year student in the wizarding school, you chanced upon the biography of the legendary Quidditch player Jordan Whittaker, who mysteriously vanished on his way to his secret training grounds decades ago. Tracing his path, you soon discovered that it is a bad idea as you unknowingly entered a maze of Secret Doors..

Lockdown’s new Orchard Gateway outlet takes a novel approach to escape rooms, aided by technology — specifically, a tablet and QR codes. While this might make sense from a business perspective (see fuller comments over at the company review), it arguably dampens the magic, particularly given the theme of this room.

On the plus side, the room still has some magical aspects and fun surprises, with significant amounts of hands-on room interaction in order to solve puzzles and proceed further through the room. The puzzles themselves are faultlessly rigorous and logical (to the extent that one is just a logic puzzle, which I personally don’t enjoy — though that’s more a matter of taste). There’s a sustained attempt at maintaining the theme, and references that might amuse Harry Potter fans.

While I would have liked a stronger hands-on feel (like that of the old Forgotten Temple room, for example), Lockdown’s Bearry Potter room is by no means bad. Although it could have been more magical, it’s certainly WORTH A TRY, or indeed RECOMMENDED if you prize solid, logical puzzles over a detailed setting. The very forgiving hints system (which my team didn’t use) might make it good for beginner teams.

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

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

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

Room review: Lockdown.sg: VR Escape – Abandoned Mine

Their description: Experience virtual reality escape games with your friends at V-Room Jurong East!
A landslide trapped you inside an abandoned mine as you tried to seek out treasure. Your only hope is to get the old elevator working, find a way to get out quickly because oxygen is running low!

Hosted within Lockdown’s V-Room virtual reality arcade in JCube, Singapore’s first full VR escape room works both as an escape room in its own right and as a VR-enabled adventure — though it might not gain new converts to VR.

The controls and VR experience are a shade less impressive than Virtual Room’s not-really-an-escape-room game — though Lockdown’s offering is much cheaper, at $30 per person for an hour, versus Virtual Room’s $39 (off-peak) or $49 for 45 minutes.

Lockdown’s helmets are decent, allowing for glasses to be worn. The physical limits of VR (players have a small area in which they can physically walk, since the VR headsets are wired up) are cleverly overcome via a teleportation mechanism. Unlike Virtual Room’s game, Abandoned Mine lacks haptic feedback from the controllers, but that doesn’t affect the gameplay too much.

Speaking of which, what about the gameplay? Abandoned Mine was a much larger adventure than I expected, with extensive spaces to explore. There are some ‘traditional’ escape room puzzles, but they’re not remarkable. More interesting is how the room requires you to interact with the environment and use objects; in some ways, this VR room resembles more closely the point-and-click online escape rooms that came before the offline versions. The VR medium also enables some ‘physical’ room aspects and flourishes that would have been hard to include in reality.

Throw in some dramatic moments (within an admittedly under-explained storyline) and an entertaining (if possibly for the wrong reasons) ending, and you have a room that’s RECOMMENDED for the novelty of the experience as well as a decent underlying game — unless you dislike VR, in which case this room might not change your mind.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Gameplay variation: 3.5/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting moments, effective use of VR: 3/5
Storyline integration: 2.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 6
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5

Room review: Lockdown.sg: CSI: A Good Night to Die

This review is left here merely as a record.

Their description: A suicide has occurred in the premises of a hotel. The police suspects that there is more to the death than meets the eye, but they are unable to solve it and the suspects will be released soon. You have been invited to help the police solve this mystery and find more evidence that the initial investigation may have missed. Will you be able to solve the mystery before the murderer goes scot free?

This is not a normal escape game, but a real life CLUEDO game brought to you exclusively by the Lockdown team. If you like investigating murder mysteries, come together with your friends and families to experience the new breakthrough in escape games!

As stated, this is very much not a normal escape game. I’d say it’s not an escape game at all, but a murder mystery — and that’s why it is absolutely worth playing.

While the escape room market in Singapore is pretty developed, there are few murder mystery options. Some companies have organised one-off events, but (apart from a notable exception) these are often large-scale affairs that don’t really give you a good sense of cracking a case.

With CSI: A Good Night to Die, you get the room and the investigation entirely to yourself. Even better, it’s a cleverly interactive game, in which you take pictures of evidence and send them to be analysed. The hotel room setting is also convincing, increasing the sense of immersion even further.

In fact, comparing this game to real-life Cluedo is selling it short. Unlike Cluedo’s rather boring method-of-elimination process, this game contains a substantial plot that unfolds throughout the investigation. You’ll have to juggle motives, alibis, and evidence to not only deduce the culprit, but get a full picture of the story behind this crime scene.

Speaking of which, I consider this the closest easily-available experience to that excellent Korean gameshow Crime Scene, which is high praise (as anyone who’s watched the show will know). [edit, September 2017: this is no longer the case, as Singapore now has a room that is directly modelled upon Crime Scene – Xcape’s Shanghai 1943, which is therefore the closest experience to said awesome show]

You do pay for this, quite literally. The experience can’t be booked via Lockdown’s normal booking engine; instead, you’ll have to contact them about a booking, and be prepared to pay rather more than you would for a normal escape room. But as I said, this isn’t a normal escape room, and the degree of interactivity helps justify the price.

I can’t really rate this on my usual rubric, so I’ve tweaked the criteria below. Suffice it to say that the room is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED — or indeed, unmissable — if you’ve ever wanted to solve a mystery. And who hasn’t wanted to do so, seriously?

Case difficulty: 3.5/5
Case logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of investigation: 4/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 3 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 6