Xcape

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.

‘Room’ review: Xcape: Shanghai 1943

If you’ve already played Shanghai 1943, then check out The Tenants Upstairs by LOST in JB, which features the same game format.

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! (And once you’ve played Shanghai 1943, cross the Causeway and play The Tenants Upstairs.)

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: Xcape: The Morgue

Their description: The creepiest place of that hospital would be the morgue. Cries of help were heard from time to time and the electronics always malfunctioned in there. Interns from other hospitals have always bragged about these spooky events but you have not been permitted to enter yours yet! Today you decided to break into the morgue. What scary experiences will be awaiting ahead?


Compared to Xcape Haunted’s other room Annabelle, The Morgue is a bit less of a typical escape room and more task-oriented, at least by Singapore standards. This fits well with the horror elements and the surprisingly significant storyline, making The Morgue more of an ~experience~ than a regular room.

The puzzles themselves are fine. The room gets off to a somewhat weak and semi-tedious start, but swiftly improves, with fair ahas and intriguing mechanisms. Some puzzles are integrated very naturally into the setting, adding to the sense of narrative immersion.

But in any case, the puzzles aren’t really the point. The atmosphere, surprises, and sense of tension are what make this room work. There’s also at least one key point where you have to engage with the storyline to a greater degree than most escape rooms, which elevated the experience. And the conclusion is actually a narrative conclusion — which can be a little confusing if you’re used to more conventional endings, but makes a nice change nonetheless.

It’s not a perfect room, and there are certainly points where it sags, including an exposition-dump near the end, and a somewhat muffled sound system. But it’s still wholly RECOMMENDED for the sheer thrill of the experience, even if you’re a coward like me. For logistical reasons, teams should contain at least two members without mobility issues. Larger teams might find themselves without much to do — I’d recommend that larger teams try Annabelle instead, which scales better.

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

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

Their suggested number of players: 5 to 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room review: Xcape: Annabelle

Their description: The paranormal investigator, William had performed exorcism on the infamous Annabelle doll and showcased it in the Paranormal Museum within his home. Unfortunately the demon that possessed Annabelle had returned! As demonologists, can you help William to end the curse on Annabelle once and for all, or die trying?


Xcape continues their slow takeover of Bugis Village with two ‘Xcape Haunted’ rooms, in collaboration with Malaysian outfit Lost in JB. Having heard a lot about how terrifying Lost in JB’s rooms apparently are, my curiosity triumphed over my cowardice — and I think it was worth it.

In promoting its Annabelle room, Xcape has highlighted the horror aspect, and that’s fair enough. There are plenty of multimedia thrills and scares, some of which do feel quite cinematic. The scares are also somewhat more propelled by the narrative than e.g. random body parts, giving a mixed sense of progress and apprehension.

But even if you don’t enjoy horror (and I certainly don’t), there are other things to appreciate. The puzzles are fair and logical without being entirely boring. Scares aside, there are various great physical aspects, from puzzles to hidden spaces.

It’s also great that Xcape doesn’t use logistical constraints to make this room artificially hard. Surprisingly for a scary room, the lighting is bright enough that torchlights aren’t needed, which I deeply appreciated. The room also has a generous, longer-than-usual 75min time limit, presumably to make up for the delay that fear could cause.

My only real complaint is that there’s a risk of technical malfunction, which did happen to my group and basically caused the creepy atmosphere to dissolve; good if you’re a coward, but bad for general room immersion. But maybe you’ll be lucky enough not to face that issue.

If you enjoy horror, you should definitely play this room. But even if you’re a coward like me, this room is RECOMMENDED for fair puzzles and a real sense of (fear-laced) adventure due to the room structure. (And though this room was more consistently scary, I personally found it less terrifying than certain aspects of Unravel’s Ouija, though I don’t know if this was also due to the people I was playing with…)

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 4/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 8
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6

Room review: Xcape: Kungfu Panda X – The Return of Tai Lung

Their description: After 50 years, Tai Lung had returned to the Valley of Peace, stronger than ever, seeking revenge and to claim the scroll of Wuxi Finger Hold! As Master Shifu, Po and the Furious 5 were out fighting evils, Po Juniors were defenseless and had been locked away in the kitchen. There’s no time to waste! Po Juniors must quickly free themselves and stop Tai Lung from stealing “Wuxi Finger Hold”…


This feels like one of Xcape’s most coherent and thus satisfying rooms, combining their well-established strength of hands-on problem-solving, a largely convincing sense of setting (at least to begin with), fair and logical puzzles, and a ridiculously fun climax.

The physical tasks are non-trivial without being tedious — they really are about problem-solving, as opposed to execution, and thus provide a pleasantly different sort of intellectual challenge. [Update, 18 July 2016: Having now played some rooms at Breakout in Kuala Lumpur, it seems that the beginning of Xcape’s room is a copy of the beginning of one of Breakout’s rooms. The rest of Xcape’s room is distinct, but it’s a shame that such apparent plagiarism is part of this room.]

And while the more traditional puzzles (which, yes, include that old Xcape staple of matching…) aren’t game-changing, they’re at least enlivened in various ways, whether it’s fun use of tech in their execution, twists on the usual formula, or both.

There’s also a sustained attempt to keep everything relevant to the storyline — including some multimedia touches — and a conclusion that feels like a proper triumph. It’s not an especially demanding room, but even if you sail through it, I don’t think you’ll feel shortchanged.

RECOMMENDED as a competent, satisfying room with some particularly fun touches.

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

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

Their suggested number of players: 5 to 7
My suggested number of players: 4 to 6. For logistical reasons, you really should have at least four players, and having more will help.

Room review: Xcape: Doraemon – A Dream Come True

Note: This room has apparently been rebranded as Mission X – The Love Confession. No idea if the puzzles are the same, but it seems likely.


Their description: You have always been in love with Shizuka, but never been able to muster up the courage to tell her. Today, with Doraemon’s magic tools, you have finally decided to give a cherry blossom bouquet to Shizuka and confess your love. This is not going to be smooth sailing, from what we always know from the comic. So can you overcome the challenges? Will Shizuka say yes? Will your dream finally come true?


The two rooms at Xcape’s third outlet, Xcape Funtasy, are rather different from your usual escape rooms. This Doraemon room, in particular, is almost entirely task-based; there are barely any puzzles in the usual sense of the word.

But who needs puzzles when you have such fun tasks? This room features many gadgets from that fictional world, some of which were genuinely cool even to jaded veterans like us, and all of which contribute to the magical atmosphere of this room. It also helps that the tasks are largely non-tedious and logical; you’re never really at a loss for what to do.

Speaking of atmosphere: the setting is technically rather bare, with a heavy reliance on painted backgrounds, yet it manages to feel more convincing than should be possible (with one particularly fun touch midway through). You could even argue that the 2D backgrounds fit the comic/cartoon’s source material…

Another way in which this room differs from Xcape’s usual offerings is that it’s very narrative-driven — and in a rather unique way. To say more would be to spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that you get a real sense of progressing through the story, and it doesn’t involve reading lots of boring text.

In a word: fun. And given that the room was basically one tech-based flourish after another, the single malfunction we faced (which was quickly resolved by a staff member) doesn’t seem too bad.

RECOMMENDED for anyone who wants to have fun, especially beginners. Just don’t come here looking for an intellectual challenge.

Puzzle difficulty: 2/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3/5

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

Their suggested number of players: 4 to 6
My suggested number of players: 3 to 5

Room review: Xcape: Resident Evil

Their description: The Government had developed biological weapons in the 80s under the project code “X” and built the X-Lab. In 1987, the X-Lab was closed and all the personnel working on the X project mysteriously disappeared. Thereafter all relevant information on the X project was filed and classified as Top National Secret. There are three passcodes required to open up the files, each passcode held by the President, Vice-President and the Minister of National Defence respectively. In order to counter the Company, Mr. President decided to reactivate Project X and specially task Hachi’s team to penetrate the X-lab. Will the Project X work? Why had Project X been terminated in 1987?


Reading that description makes me wonder if Xcape’s Resident Evil room was originally quite different, because I certainly didn’t notice any of that plot-related stuff in the room itself. Fortunately, even without much of a driving narrative, Resident Evil is a room with enough going on to keep you occupied.

First of all, you can usually expect a decent setting and atmosphere with Xcape’s rooms, and Resident Evil is no exception: not mindblowing, but it certainly gets the job done. (If you’re worried about it being scary, based on their promotional video, don’t be; it’s slightly creepy at worst.)

Where most of Xcape’s rooms really shine, in my view, is in their physical aspects. I appreciate rooms that involve hands-on problem-solving, and Resident Evil has some great examples of that, including perhaps one of my favourite observation-based, hands-on ‘aha’ moments in any escape room in Singapore. There’s also a segment which requires pure execution — or, as they helpfully but spoiler-ifically state in their own room description, “shooting skills”. This may not be what everyone wants as part of their escape room experience, but it at least makes a refreshing change from merely intellectual challenges.

It’s on the intellectual front that this room fails to deliver, and I think some of my comrades were sorely disappointed by this. You should avoid overthinking any of the puzzles; many might stump you precisely because of how straightforward they are. There are also one or two red herrings which I found unfair.

That having been said, I still found Resident Evil to be a decent adventure that wasn’t at all generic or boring. RECOMMENDED unless you place a lot of weight on intellectual puzzles.

It’s also a tricky room to evaluate based on my current rubric. The actual puzzles have easy answers, but the room as a whole is fairly demanding. When I started this blog, I deliberately decided to rate rooms based on ‘puzzle difficulty’ rather than ‘overall room difficulty’ (which would include other things such as logistical challenges, sheer volume of puzzles, etc.). But Resident Evil leans so strongly on aspects other than traditional puzzles that I feel I should make an exception here.

As for the traditional puzzles, they have technically logical answers but are too ambiguous to be considered well-crafted, in that there are too many possibilities in solving them.

Basically, don’t take the following numerical scores too seriously.

Puzzle Room difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 9
My suggested number of players: 4 to 7. You’ll be split into two groups at the start, but the split-start doesn’t last very long.

Room review: Xcape: Tomb Raider

This room was attempted in collaboration with some of the cool guys at S-capegoats.
Check out their review of the room too!


Their description: In the inheritance of the murdered scientist, Glenn, there was a map marking the exact location of an ancient tomb built in the period of the Five Dynasties. What could have triggered the Western scientist’s interest in a tomb in the Far East? Could it be the exotic treasures, the mysterious ba gua and geomancy, or even the legends of the ghosts and spirits? Nothing seems to be able to explain why this tomb would draw the Company’s attention.


I feel that Xcape’s Tomb Raider room is the unpolished, beta version of what could have been an excellent escape room. There were a lot of great things about this room, but also many annoying flaws that made the experience somehow less than the sum of its parts.

First, the good things. This room was a veritable warren of chambers, with more unlockable areas than I’ve seen before, and also various exciting physical things you had to do. This added to the sense of adventure and made for a grander experience, even if the actual number of puzzles to be solved wasn’t that high.

The puzzles, while not mind-blowing, were more imaginative than in some other Xcape rooms. There was a mix of puzzle forms and ways of both presenting and solving them, making things more fun than if you just had to read clues and enter number codes.

But then there are the flaws. There were fun verbal clues at every stage, but some seemed misleading or ill-fitting for what they were trying to convey. At least two puzzles also felt somewhat poorly crafted, making them hard to execute despite knowing exactly what to do.

Another inescapable flaw was in the physical locks involved. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that if you want a good chance of getting out of this room, you should familiarise yourself with this sort of lock. It is very easy to have the right combination and yet be unable to open the lock — a physical flaw that I don’t think good escape rooms should have.

Overall, this room is RECOMMENDED if you are used to successful escapes and would like more of a challenge — though the challenges may not be due to actual puzzle difficulty! — or if you really enjoy a large, multi-chamber room and physical aspects. Otherwise, it’s WORTH A TRY, but don’t get your hopes too high.

Do note this room has some pretty unforgiving physical requirements. You’ll need at least one member with good upper body strength, and people who are larger in build might have some trouble. Less mobile players should not attempt this room. Xcape advises people not to wear skirts and heels when attempting this room, and I’d agree with them.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 4.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 5/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 6 to 9
My suggested number of players: 5 to 6

Room review: Xcape: Upside Down

Their description: You have successfully been identified as Dr. Hachi’s apprentices and this marks the beginning of your journey of adventure to the world unknown to the rest of the world! You have been introduced to the magical world as a training ground. Unfamiliar with all the customs and practices in the magical community, you need to learn everything from scratch so that you can leave here sound and safe. Your world is going to be upside down for the day!


This is a relaxed, fun little room from Xcape, with their most coherent attempt at a theme yet: Harry Potter. A knowledge of the Harry Potter universe will speed up your puzzle-solving, though it’s not required at all.

The puzzles are clear and obvious, down to a helpful ‘walkthrough’ of sorts in plain sight in the room. Unfortunately this also makes them a little bland, and many of them just rely on that old Xcape staple of matching (sigh).

But the draw of Upside Down isn’t really the puzzles. It’s the sense of fun. Xcape veterans might feel a little surprised or disappointed by how Upside Down is less physically complex than their other rooms, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. There’s a great use of technology — unfortunately marred a bit by ‘lag’. If you think you have the right answer but are confused by the lack of progress, just give it a minute or two, and it will probably work. A very helpful staff member seemed to be overseeing our progress and would check in whenever we had the right answer but were just waiting for things to work, so that was useful.

WORTH A TRY, as long as you don’t expect much of an intellectual challenge, and go in prepared to have fun instead.

Puzzle difficulty: 2/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

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 8
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4