Just heard that SCRAP’s remote-play game Escape from the Alien Research Facility is ending soon, which prompted me to get around to reviewing it. tl;dr — it’s an excellent and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED game, which I deeply enjoyed despite my continued dislike of videoconferencing. Here’s the review, and here’s where to get tickets — only available until the end of September!
A quick update on the state of play for escape rooms in Singapore, as several companies prepare to reopen this Saturday (and have started accepting bookings).
Update: As of July 6, all current escape room companies in Singapore have reopened — apart from The Escape Artist, which reopens on July 11! Do show them some support after the tough time they’ve had in the last few months.
Amazing Chambers [overall review] – reopened July 6
Captivate Escape Rooms [overall review] – reopened June 18
Escape Hunt [overall review] – reopened July 6
Lockdown.sg [overall review] – reopened July 4
LOST SG [overall review] – reopened July 4
The Escape Artist [overall review] – reopening July 11
Trapped [overall review] – reopened June 19
Virtual Room Singapore [reviews] – reopened July 4
Xcape [overall review] – reopened July 4
Their description: If you crave for good puzzles, this book will not disappoint you – a 24-page fully-coloured novel, packed full of aha moments. In this book, you played the role of a detective, searching for a missing friend in a dark mansion. Would you be able to unravel all the mysteries and escape the mansion unscathed?
I admit, I was initially sceptical when I saw their estimate that the book will take an average of 24 hours (!) for a single player to complete. Several hours later, I understood why.* This book is jam-packed with interesting, creative, non-trivial puzzles, many of which are multilayered.
If you’ve attended Nomis Piy’s events before, you’ll recognise their general style here (which takes some inspiration from puzzle kits that SCRAP (and other companies) offer in Japan). Yet most puzzles in this book are more complex than what you’ll find in escape events, while remaining logical and elegant.
It’s hard to say more without giving spoilers, so I’ll just add that the book makes very good use of its theme, as well as the physical nature of, well, being a book. There are also surprising discoveries in store.
While many puzzles are integrated into the setting but not the narrative per se, the narrative does shine nearer the end of the book. The production values are worth mentioning: this is a glossy, well-made** book, with nice clear illustrations that contribute to the sense of setting while facilitating puzzle-solving.
Don’t let the S$25 price tag put you off — that price is more than justified by the amount of puzzling packed into this story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who enjoys puzzles. (During these days of social distancing, you could even consider buying separate copies, and then getting onto a video call to solve together — the book is helpfully divided into chapters, allowing for several sessions of gameplay.)
Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Use of multimedia: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3.5/5
Their suggested number of players: n/a
My suggested number of players: 1 to 4
*Admittedly, I took significantly less than 24 hours to complete this book alone. However, I’m pretty experienced (in escape rooms/games as well as the much tougher genre of puzzle hunts) and my team is usually among the top few for competitive escape game events, so.
**Full disclosure: There is a single minor mistake in the book, which doesn’t affect your ability to get the right answer for that puzzle. At the risk of being a bit spoilery: Some other parts may look like mistakes at first glance, but they’re not…
Amid the pandemic, escape room companies around the world are going online. Some offer remote playthroughs of their actual, physical room, via videoconferencing: you give instructions to a gamemaster who is in the room and acts as your eyes/ears/hands. Others have created print-and-play kits, or digital escape games. (Escape The Review has quite an extensive list that you can filter by format.)
I don’t know of any escape room companies in Singapore or Malaysia which have launched such digital offerings. (edit, May 28: As it turns out — Lockdown.sg is holding a virtual escape event on June 6! | edit, June 16: …and is now offering it on a daily basis, with bookings via its website!) Lockdown.sg does have their existing escape-game-in-a-box, Bearscape (available on Amazon with free delivery in Singapore), and Nomis Piy seems to be launching an escape puzzle book soon. (edit: Here’s my review.)
As for previously-played games which are now available online, SCRAP has a remote version of Escape from the Werewolf Village, which I played many years ago when it was staged in Singapore. 60Out has a remote version of their Miss Jezebel game, which I played in LA last year (and thoroughly enjoyed).
Recently, I received an invitation to play the digital not-quite-an-escape-room Pentargo Quarantine, and have written a review on my other blog. I’ve also ordered Bearscape, and will review that on this blog once it arrives.
Both Captivate and Xcape have opened new rooms, but sadly I probably won’t be playing them any time soon.
However, following a couple of trips to KL, the Escaping Malaysia page has been updated with reviews of the rest of Breakout’s rooms, and two horror rooms at LOST in KL (one of which is also available at LOST in JB).
I’m still wondering whether to mention Breakout’s not-an-escape-room Hauntu experience somewhere, given that it features negligible puzzling. In the meantime, here’s a link to my TripAdvisor review. The first chapter is closing at the end of June, so I’d recommend checking it out soon! (I, for one, am looking forward to the sequel.)
Amid closures in the Singapore escape room scene, I headed back up to JB instead. Check out updated reviews for four rooms at LOST in JB’s Haunted House branch at Sutera (spoilers: the games there are seriously worth playing, even for cowards like myself!) and the third and final case at LOST in JB’s Crime Scene branch, The Castle.
In unrelated news, Lockdown is holding a rerun of its Battlebox event this June; you can get tickets here. The Escape Artist is holding a new game on the first weekend of June, but sadly I won’t be in the country for it.
Note: I don’t usually post standalone reviews of games in JB, but I thought this Crime Scene case deserved its own post.
Their description: In Fortune Apartment lives a single 48 year old rich man called “Landlord Shi”. He has a strange personality and a bad temper, and all his tenants dislike him. Even weirder is that the 7th floor of Fortune Apartment is a restricted area, none of the tenants are allowed to go up there. However, one day, Landlord Shi was found dead lying in a pool of blood, someone had given him a heavy strike on the head. The 5 tenants in the apartment immediately became the top suspects. Was this an accident or a planned murder? Visit the scene of the crime, it is up to you to find the real killer. A forbidden storeroom, and a bizarre murder mystery. The real killer is among you…
If, like me, you enjoyed Xcape’s Shanghai 1943 roleplaying murder mystery game and wish there were more such cases available, then you absolutely need to visit LOST in JB’s Crime Scene branch to play The Tenants Upstairs.
LOST in JB collaborated with Xcape on the Shanghai 1943 case, and both games draw upon the format of Korean murder mystery reality gameshow Crime Scene (as well as its Chinese adaptation 明星大侦探). [For a description of the game structure, please check out my Shanghai 1943 review; if you’re based in Singapore then you might as well play that game first before going up to JB!]
The only real structural difference in the JB version is that the suspects’ timelines are stated by the gamemaster rather than the suspects themselves; they are also provided in black-and-white to the detective. I found this slightly unsatisfying, as it potentially limits the murderer’s scope for lying, but it’s a minor flaw.
So, the game structure is a huge draw in its own right. What about the case itself? I personally found The Tenants Upstairs even better than Shanghai 1943, due to its clever use of evidence.
Admittedly, given the setting, the costumes are less elaborate and the set more pedestrian than Shanghai 1943. However, the set boasts greater verisimilitude and more of a “lived-in” feel, which also made the evidence feel more naturally integrated into each room.
As for the plot, the character storylines aren’t interwoven as densely as in Shanghai 1943, and some tenants have more satisfying storylines and motives than others — but on the whole, there’s nothing to complain about on this front.
In any case, the greatest strength of The Tenants Upstairs is its use of evidence. Firstly, you have to do more to access some evidence than in Shanghai 1943 (which also makes it truer to the Korean Crime Scene/明星大侦探 experience). Secondly, the evidence is sometimes used very subtly and cleverly; you have to really think about the significance of certain items.
Indeed, for me, the highlight of The Tenants Upstairs was its incredibly clever use of certain decisive pieces of evidence. We didn’t manage to draw those links, so we were completely blown away by the reveal video. Yet rest assured that even without those specific inferences, it’s entirely possible to capture the murderer.
LOST in JB’s The Tenants Upstairs is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and well worth the trip up to Johor Bahru. Not just because it’s the only other game of its kind besides Shanghai 1943, but also because it’s an engaging, well-crafted mystery that keeps surprising you all the way till the full reveal.
If you’ve played Shanghai 1943 and liked it, you have to play The Tenants Upstairs.
If you’ve played Shanghai 1943 and didn’t quite like it, you might still enjoy The Tenants Upstairs.
If you haven’t played Shanghai 1943, go and play it first!!!
While you’re at it, do check out the Korean and Chinese versions of Crime Scene — they’re both well worth a watch.
(Despite the extensive use of Chinese on LOST in JB’s Crime Scene Facebook page, rest assured that the case is presented fluently in both English and Chinese; my English-reliant team faced no issues.)
Case difficulty: 4/5
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
After a recent trip over the Causeway, I’ve changed the “Escaping KL” page to “Escaping Malaysia” and added reviews of some LOST in JB rooms — more to come over the next few months!
If you enjoy escape room puzzles, but wish they were more interesting;
If you love the intense puzzles that some escape game events offer;
If you want more escape rooms to be like Trapped in My Own Mind;
Then check out the RED DOT hunt!
It’s a free 48-hour online puzzle hunt for teams of one to four players, happening from 10pm on Friday, September 29 till 10pm on Sunday, October 1.
There’s also a 🌟 prize 🌟 for the first Singapore-based team to finish!
Registration’s open now.
Head over to reddothunt.sg to find out more!