— Room reviews

Room review: Trapped: The Purge

This room was attempted in collaboration with Escapist X from Singapore Escape Room Reviews.

Their description: It’s Purge Night, and your group is being held captive by a demented torturer…with only 60 minutes before the start of The Annual Purge


As with Trapped’s other rooms, The Purge is advertised as a horror room but isn’t particularly scary, so it’s perfectly playable by cowards such as myself.

There isn’t much immersion, whether in setting or in narrative, but the room manages not to be boring. An early puzzle is tough for arguably the wrong reasons (so do consider asking for help); in contrast, a later puzzle is pleasingly layered, though context-free.

There’s one room aspect that you might either find clever (as I did) or somewhat unfair — either way, it’s a good example of how Trapped’s rooms reward exploration in a way that few other rooms do.

Nothing spectacular, but not a room you need to avoid — in other words, it’s WORTH A TRY if you keep your expectations in check. Though you might want to prioritise Trapped’s other two rooms, which are somewhat more interesting.

Puzzle difficulty: 2/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2.5/5
Storyline integration: 1.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3. You really don’t need more.

Advertisements

Room review: Trapped: The Mental Ward

Their description: It is your first day as an intern in the Mental Hospital. During your lunch break, you and your colleagues decide to explore the codorned ward. Rumour has it, the most notorious mental patients were in that ward before it was shut down. You have an hour to find out if the rumours you heard about the ward are true, before you have to report back to your superior.


The Mental Ward provides a more comprehensive experience than the room it replaced, and is probably Trapped’s hardest and most engaging room.

First, the usual reassurance: despite the advertising, this is not a scary room — creepy, at most — so it’s perfectly playable even if you’re a coward like me.

The room starts off without much plot, but with some clever use of the space and of technology (for puzzle-solving, not special effects). As you advance, the puzzles remain largely context-free, but the narrative surfaces and there’s an attempt at strengthening the theme. I found one stretch interesting as it had a nice (albeit only initial) sense of world-exploration rather than puzzle-solving.

There’s a risk of technical malfunction midway through, so don’t be afraid to call for help if you think you should be getting something that you’re not. The finale, while underwhelming, is at least somewhat novel.

My reviews for Trapped rooms sound lukewarm even though I generally enjoy them; I suppose they lack stand-out moments that would lead me to recommend them. Nonetheless, when I say The Mental Ward is WORTH A TRY, I don’t mean that in a bad way.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 2.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2.5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

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

Room review: Freeing SG: The Enchanted Wardrobe

Their description: Your good friend Jack has gone missing! You are very worried and you look for him everywhere. When you search his home, you come across a suspicious wardrobe and a mysterious letter on the table. Both these items seem to be clues to his whereabouts…


The Enchanted Wardrobe shares many similarities with another Freeing room, Poseidon: an emphasis on fun, a reliance on narrative flavourtext, various special effects, and — unfortunately and accordingly — a high risk of technical malfunction.

But if you had to pick one of the two, The Enchanted Wardrobe is probably a better experience. The puzzles are more varied, the sense of adventure is stronger, the cool moments are cooler, and the narrative is more coherent and maintained.

The room doesn’t get off to a great start, with a dubious early puzzle that’s easily over-thought. But the room’s first surprise sets the mood for the rest of the experience, and I found myself repeatedly charmed or amused by what lay in store.

It’s not a perfect room — apart from aforementioned early puzzle, there’s a tedious mid-game task that I really disliked. The high-tech wizardry isn’t incorporated that smoothly into the setting, either (there’s something incongruous about clearly electrical components in a fantasy world).

If you can forgive those flaws, and if you’re prepared for possible technical malfunctions, The Enchanted Wardrobe is RECOMMENDED for players who enjoy a sense of wonder and adventure. If you’re focused on puzzles and not impressed by such frills, this is probably not the room for you.

Unfortunately, this room is not for players with mobility issues.

Puzzle difficulty: 2/5
Puzzle logic: 3/5
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: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: 6
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3. Any more and it’ll start getting crowded.

Room review: Captivate: Cirque

This room was attempted in collaboration with Escapist X from Singapore Escape Room Reviews.
Check out his review of the room too!


Their description: The smallest man in the world is found dead in his caravan at the Cirque travelling circus in Singapore. The police believe it was suicide but you don’t have to be a Fortune Teller to know otherwise. Can you catch the killer and escape?


Unlike some of Captivate’s other rooms, their new room Cirque has little in the way of handholding, making it marginally harder to breeze through. Fortunately, Cirque is harder for the right reasons. A mix of solving skills is required, contributing to the overall sense that this is a well-rounded room.

If the room is lacking in any aspect, it’s probably in the relative lack of technological frills (although there are some). The decor also feels somewhat token. But what made the room memorable, for me, were some brilliant moments of realisation — which demonstrated that you don’t always need special effects to provide a surprise. These included the clever little endgame that closed the game on a good note.

You also do get a conclusion to the room’s central mystery, although the narrative disappears a bit before getting picked up at the end.

This review might not sound that glowing, yet I finished the room with a sense of satisfaction. Despite not being flashy, this room is RECOMMENDED as a decent all-rounder that should prove entertaining for both beginners and veterans.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 1.5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 10
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Room review: Freeing SG: Back to the Future

This room was attempted in collaboration with Escapist X from Singapore Escape Room Reviews.
Check out his review of the room too!


Their description: After Benson’s grandpa passed away, his father has been obssessed with finding out the truth about his birth. Benson’s father left a letter saying he found something leading to the truth and left home.

It’s been more than 2 months since he went missing. Benson gathered his group of friends who are geniuses in their own field to assist him.

His dad mentioned that FreeingSG has a way to help him peep into the past…


Back to the Future is a fascinatingly atypical Freeing room. It plays to the company’s main strength of creating a sense of fun and adventure, but is also unusually (for Freeing) challenging and features a much deeper engagement with the narrative than usual.

The room leans satisfyingly into its story, with a strong sense of setting and a clear thread running through the puzzles. To say too much would be to spoil the room’s surprises — and there are quite a few — but suffice it to say that Back to the Future provides a comprehensive, well-rounded experience. There are puzzles which are clever, rigorous, and/or original. There are non-trivial hands-on tasks. Perhaps most satisfyingly, the room rewards exploration — not least in its thrilling endgame, which allowed me to experience a real sense of wonder.

That’s not to say that the room is perfect — one early puzzle suffers from questionable flavourtext, and another midstage puzzle is great in concept but falters in execution. Yet these flaws don’t compromise the overall experience.

The room is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re stuck at an early stage — it’s really worth getting to the excellent finale. Sadly, this adventure is not suitable for players with mobility issues.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
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: 3.5/5

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

Room review: Trapped: World War 3 (Zombie Edition)

Their description: The World is at war with the Zombies. As you and your friends seek shelter in an abandoned building, you realized that you are not alone. You have 60mins to solve the mysteries and escape within 60mins before you too join the ranks of the undead.


As with Trapped’s Escape from Pulau Tekong room, World War 3 is nowhere near as scary as the website might have you believe. It’s adequately lit and contains no jump scares; you’ll only really be scared by your own apprehension.

The puzzles are fair and logical. Most are on the easy side, but there are some clever touches and one particular late-stage puzzle that I liked.

The room is WORTH A TRY for beginners. Experienced players who don’t mind a quick game (I attempted this room with one other player and we got out in about 20 minutes) can check it out too — the game may be brief but it’s still fairly satisfying.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 2.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 1/5

Their suggested number of players: 7
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3

Room review: Trapped: Escape from Pulau Tekong

Their description: You have been sent by your commanding chief to Pulau Tekong to find out why the commanding officer there has not been responding to HQ. Upon reaching the island, you find something odd that the entire island is quiet and creepy. You managed to get to the C.O’s bunk and from there your wildest imaginations started to come alive!


Escape from Pulau Tekong was surprising on several levels, for me: it was surprisingly not scary (which I consider a plus); contained some fun or clever in-game surprises; and was just surprisingly good overall (given that I hadn’t heard much praise for Trapped before).

The room is completely playable even if you’re a coward like me, with adequate lighting and no jump scares. There’s a haphazard but decent attempt at setting the scene, and exploration of the room is well rewarded.

The puzzles are generally straightforward but not too trivial. For me, the room’s highlight was (the bulk of) its central midstage puzzle: logical without being tedious, and conveyed in a manner that fit seamlessly into the story and setting. There’s also a solid narrative pay-off that ends the room on a good note.

For me, the strength of that midstage puzzle alone is enough to make the room WORTH A TRY for both beginners and veterans — and the rest of the room certainly isn’t bad either. The room is not physically taxing, but you will need at least one player without mobility issues.

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

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: 7
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3

Room review: Breakout: The Forgotten Treasure

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: One day, you stumbled upon a note left to you by your late relative. You suspect that he has bequeathed upon you some treasure before his last breath.

You gather your friends to join you in search of the forgotten treasure. Will you complete the mission before you are discovered by his immediate family members?


Although it’s not mentioned on Breakout’s website, The Forgotten Treasure is actually two escape rooms in one. The Escape Artist attempted something similar previously, with their original three Forsaken Vault rooms — but those rooms involved different subsets of chambers. In contrast, Breakout’s two room versions play out within exactly the same spaces.

As a result, the second version of Forgotten Treasure which you play (whichever it is) has fewer surprises in store; it also means that red herrings can be harder to avoid. A happier difference is that, with the Breakout rooms, you can play the second version free if you complete the first version within 30 minutes.

At the start, you’ll get to choose between the Lights or Letters version. We did the Lights one first. I don’t think it makes a big difference which you choose — the Lights version perhaps has more cool moments, but playing the Letters version first could help to eliminate more red herrings.

In any case, both versions have solid, logical puzzles; some nice aha moments and little surprises; and even a mild physical element (but don’t worry, the room is completely playable as long as your team has just one member without mobility issues).

The storyline generally stays in the background, though some puzzle elements fit well into it. The decor is nothing amazing but it gets the job done — and the carpet is a pleasant touch!

Instead of being flashy or high-tech, The Forgotten Treasure is a cosy puzzle-focused experience. For beginners, both the Lights and Letters versions are WORTH A TRY as solid introductions to escape rooms. Experienced teams might get a kick out of challenging themselves to complete each room within half-an-hour. Both rooms are also entirely manageable for two-person teams.

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2/5
Storyline integration: 2.5/5

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

‘Room’ review: Xcape: Shanghai 1943

Their description: In 1943, The Paramount flourished, bringing about an unprecedented golden age in Shanghai night club scene. The sun is setting, and breaking news emerged. The Paramount’s top singer, Red Rose, was found dead in her personal dressing room. There were signs that she was strangled… Behind all the glamour and bright neon lights, chilling dark secrets are waiting to be uncovered: Who’s The Murderer?


Xcape has brought something new to the escape room scene with its new Xcape RPG experience, Shanghai 1943. As a huge fan of the Korean murder mystery reality gameshow Crime Scene (as well as its Chinese adaptation 明星大侦探), I was thrilled to have a chance to essentially become a player in an episode of that show.

The Xcape creators have indeed watched both versions of the series, and Shanghai 1943 is a faithful adaptation of the Crime Scene format. Five players are suspects, each with their own secrets, motives, and case timelines. Any remaining players take on the roles of detective and assistant detective(s). The case unfolds over several ‘rooms’ full of evidence to be found and storylines waiting to be pieced together.

All players investigate the case together — but one suspect is secretly the murderer, and has to participate in the mystery-solving without being discovered. Only the murderer is allowed to lie, but all players can withhold information unless directly questioned about it.

The flow of the game (which lasts about 2 to 2.5 hours) is also closely patterned to that of Crime Scene. Players introduce themselves and say what they were doing before the crime scene was discovered. There is an initial round of searching, followed by the first group discussion. The detective (who gets two votes, unlike all the other players) casts a first vote. Then there’s a second round of searching, a final group discussion, and the final round of voting.

That’s the game structure, and it’s intriguing in its own right. The roleplay element makes the experience more fun and engaging than if all players were simply detectives — particularly for the murderer, who has to cast suspicion on other players while avoiding suspicion themselves. The existence of a physical set full of clues sets the game apart from similar genres such as interactive theatre or murder mystery dinners. And the need to piece together storylines and infer motives makes for a richer intellectual experience than, say, simple possibility-elimination.

What about the content of the game itself? The central plotline is satisfying and not too obvious or shallow. The set rewards exploration and the evidence is well-calibrated — suggesting enough without giving everything away. Much of the fun comes from drawing links between disparate pieces of evidence and making inferential leaps to uncover all the suspects’ stories.

There are some caveats, the chief one being: the quality of your experience will depend to a large extent on whether the murderer plays well. If the murderer gives away too much, is bad at explaining themselves, or is just too obviously suspicious, then even though there are still other fun storylines to figure out, the central case might become too easy. My team was lucky to have an excellent murderer, making our game experience tougher and hence more rewarding. (Your experience will probably also be more fun if your team is willing to roleplay and banter a bit.)

The game also has some minor flaws. Some evidence is a little confusing or ambiguous. The initial briefing files (each suspect gets a few minutes to read up on their character) have a couple of weak spots. And the final solution, while satisfying upon revelation, might have one or two questionable aspects upon further reflection.

Nonetheless, Xcape’s Shanghai 1943 is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as a must-play experience: firstly, as the only game of its kind here, and secondly as just a thoroughly engaging and satisfying mystery. (The only remotely similar thing here, not counting one-off events, is Lockdown’s CSI room, which offers a fun crime-solving time in its own right but lacks the roleplay element.)

Go and have fun — and definitely consider watching the Korean and Chinese versions of Crime Scene before/after your game, too!

Case difficulty: 3/5
Case logic: 4/5

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Storyline integration: 5/5

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 7
My suggested number of players: 6 to 7

Room review: The Escape Artist: The Forsaken Vault Heroes

THE ESCAPE ARTIST’S PRINSEP BRANCH IS NOW CLOSED.
This review is left here merely as a record.


Their description: 23 years ago, several groups of intrepid explorers entered the depths of the Vault… and were never heard from again. The authorities sealed off the entire area, and it seemed that the mysteries of the Baron’s castle would remain hidden forever. However, the discovery of a scroll with the Baron’s insignia describing a treasure of unimaginable value has sparked your team to make one final desperate venture into the Vault…


When it first opened, The Forsaken Vault was notable for being three escape rooms in one: Chapters 1, 2 and 3 took place in subsets of the same multi-chambered space. Now, the three separate chapters have been retired and the vault has become one large escape room instead. Billed as TEA’s hardest room, The Forsaken Vault Heroes has a longer-than-usual 75-minute time limit — which may still seem to fly by as you grapple with the multi-layered puzzles.

The decor is largely unchanged from the vault’s early days, and some of the room’s secrets and tricks may be familiar to players who’ve played earlier chapters. In that sense, the room might be most enjoyable for those who are visiting — and thus discovering it — for the first time.

Still, for returning players, it’s interesting to see how the decor and spaces have been repurposed. Most importantly, the puzzles are all completely new.

The puzzles are as logical as we’ve come to expect from TEA, but also more complex than before, making this a good room for puzzle enthusiasts. Highlights include a multi-layered puzzle which makes fun use of one of the room’s few physical changes, and a satisfying finale.

A reliance on flavourtext means that the room’s narrative serves mainly as a source of clues rather than immersion. But this isn’t a room that you should play for immersion, anyway (though it does make an effort on that front).

If you find the puzzles in other escape rooms too easy, then The Forsaken Vault Heroes is RECOMMENDED as a rare room that’s challenging for largely the right reasons. Beginners will probably find it too hard.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 10
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5. Players are split into two groups at the beginning.