Escaping Malaysia

Most of my reviews of overseas escape experiences are on my general-purpose blog, escape.sg. Given how close Malaysia is to Singapore, though, I figured that reviews of Malaysian rooms could be placed here instead, since Singapore-based fans can easily make the trip up north.

Johor Bahru

If you’re a regular visitor to JB (and you’re reading this page), you’ve probably already tried their escape rooms. But even if you rarely visit, it’s worth braving the Causeway crossing for an affordable escape-room-filled day trip.

LOST in JB (Malaysia)
http://lostinjb.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CrimeSceneByLOST/

No relation to the similarly-named chain from Hong Kong, LOST in JB is a major player in Malaysia, with two escape room branches and one Crime Scene outlet in JB, as well as branches in KL and Kuching. They have some collaborations with Xcape Singapore, including two rooms which are available in both countries.

On a Sunday in January 2018, I took a day trip to their Mount Austin branch with Escapist X from Singapore Escape Room Reviews and three other friends.

The Mount Austin branch is about 30 minutes from the Johor checkpoint by car, located in a residential area with a range of food options nearby. There are comfortable waiting areas both inside and outside.

Given their partnership, it’s perhaps unsurprising that LOST in JB’s rooms share many traits with Xcape Singapore’s rooms: large and complex spaces, a sense of adventure, physical elements, and extensive use of technology. You’ll get the most out of their rooms if you focus less on puzzles and more on the overall experience. Constant movement through new spaces gives a sense of progress, and the physical aspects are cooler than the average Singapore room — though they also mean that LOST in JB is not for players with mobility issues (except for Bar Murder).

Unfortunately, with extensive tech comes a significant risk of malfunction. We experienced laggy or unresponsive tech several times. Give the technology some time to react, adjust things as needed, and contact the game master if you think you’ve solved something but nothing’s happened.

Though each room has a few flaws and rough edges, a visit to LOST in JB is nonetheless RECOMMENDED — not least because these are the closest and most affordable rooms outside Singapore.

Full disclosure: I received an unasked-for discount on the four rooms which I booked that day.

Staff: Friendly and chill. Briefings happen in English or Chinese. Staff may sometimes explain an entire puzzle instead of just giving a hint, so watch out for that.

Hints: Apparently unlimited hints, given through walkie-talkies or handheld intercom phones.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No

Rooms tried: 6 out of 6 at Mount Austin (but Singapore versions of 2 rooms); ? out of ? at The Haunted House (Sutera); ? out of 3 cases at Crime Scene

Recommended team size: 3 to 5 people

Mount Austin
Bar Murder
Bar Murder features a complex case that runs on murder mystery logic rather than escape room logic: you’ll have to assess suspects, figure out motives and pinpoint the murder method. New evidence is unlocked in various ways; some were satisfyingly tied into the narrative, others felt a bit extra. While not perfect (the dramatic finale was cool until its confusing final act), the room is recommended for its central mystery. Though LOST in JB gives this room a 3/5 scariness rating, it isn’t actually scary.
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 2 to 5.
Legendary Swordsman
This room delivers what you’d expect from the theme: mysterious caverns, special effects, use of Chinese, and quite a bit of hands-on work. Nothing groundbreaking if you’ve seen enough tech-heavy rooms, but fun and adventuresome enough to be worth a try. Part of this room will be familiar if you’ve played Xcape Singapore’s Kung Fu Panda room.
Difficulty: 3/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 4 to 6. Less fun with fewer than 4.
Soulmate
A mixed bag both puzzle- and setting-wise, Soulmate’s highlights (a couple of particularly creative puzzles, one late-stage setpiece) are still strong enough to make up for its weaker moments (a bizarrely unused red herring midway through, a not-very-intuitive endgame). Despite the risk of unresponsive tech marring the dramatic finale, the room provides a satisfying journey that’s scary without being incapacitating. Recommended, even for cowards.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 3/5
Suggested players: 2 to 5.
Stealth
Possibly LOST in JB’s most adventuresome room, Stealth makes great use of its extensive space. The room’s many tech-enabled flourishes have suffered some wear-and-tear, and some puzzles are questionable, but the finale alone (I can’t say more without spoilers, alas) makes it worth a try — especially if you enjoy adventure and are very forgiving of technical malfunctions.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 3/5
Suggested players: 4 to 6. Possible but less fun with fewer than 3.
Annabelle
[I played this room at Xcape Singapore; here’s my review.]

A stellar horror room that has plenty to offer for non-horror fans too. Recommended for fair puzzles and a real sense of (fear-laced) adventure due to the room structure.

Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 4 to 6. Possible but less fun with fewer than 4.
Doraemon – Nobita’s First Love
[I played this room at Xcape Singapore; here’s my review.]

Recommended as a cute, fun, magical experience; just don’t expect a lot of traditional puzzle-solving. Especially good for beginners.

Difficulty: 2/5
Logic: 4.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.
The Haunted House (Sutera)
Reviews to come!
Crime Scene
Reviews to come!

Kuala Lumpur

If you have at least two days to spare, KL is a great place to visit for an escape room marathon, as my regular team and I did in July 2016.

I cut short the trip and only tried one escape room company in KL (unlike the rest of the team, who tried a second one), but it’s probably the company most worth visiting!

Breakout (Malaysia)
http://www.breakout.com.my/

No relation to the Singapore escape room company of the same name, Breakout is an established player in KL, with two branches in posh and conveniently-located shopping malls. It was also the only KL escape room company recommended to us by the friendly people from Escman League, which probably says it all.

The overall set-up in both branches is very professional, with sleek-looking waiting areas and a dedicated game master for each team. The intro spiel is polished and delivered well — particularly important as Breakout seems to be the pioneer of a character-based power system which has been adopted by one Singapore company.

As for the rooms themselves, they’re great all-round experiences. In each room I played, the setting and atmosphere was polished and convincing, and there was a real sense of adventure. The puzzles are varied, largely logical and fair, with fun use of tech and some nice hands-on work required. And there’s a purposeful coherence to each room, with a good flow of puzzles and narrative. Puzzles are also incorporated smoothly into both the physical setting and the room plot.

Each room I played ended on a high, whether that was delivered by the puzzles, plot, physical activity, or any combination thereof. Playing Breakout’s rooms made me realise how much a strong ending can elevate an entire room experience.

Perhaps my only real point of criticism is that the rooms are strictly linear, with each puzzle/task clearly marked in sequence. This is helpful given the short 45-minute time limit, but can break immersion or be stifling if you prefer less linear rooms. Unfortunately, Breakout’s rooms are also decidedly not for players with mobility issues.

Nonetheless, if you haven’t guessed by now, Breakout in Kuala Lumpur is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Veteran teams will find plenty to enjoy, and beginners won’t be too lost if they pick the right character powers and get help.

If you can spare the time, you really should make the trip up north to visit them. And thanks to exchange rates, the rooms are significantly more affordable than their Singapore counterparts, making them an even more value-for-money experience.

Staff: Friendly, professional, and very on-the-ball. Briefings are delivered well and often with a touch of humour. After each room, you get a plot-relevant debrief, as well as a chance to ask for clarification on any puzzles, solutions or tasks that were unclear.

Hints: No hints unless you choose one of the characters that allows you to get hints.

Will your group be combined with strangers? No.

Rooms tried: 2 out of 6 at Nu Sentral, 5 out of 5 at Avenue K

Recommended team size: 3 to 5 people

If you’re going to KL, you might as well play all of Breakout’s rooms. But if you’re pressed for time, then here are some condensed thoughts on the rooms I played.

Nu Sentral
Materia Medica
The room starts off with fun physical elements which may be familiar if you’ve played a certain Xcape room here — the Breakout room came first, though. The puzzles aren’t all equally strong, but they’re fair and logical, and one puzzle is particularly satisfying in its integration into the room. The ending is inspired. Worth a try as a good all-round experience.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.
The Testament of Tesla
This is meant to be the hardest room at the Nu Sentral branch. One early, dissatisfying puzzle made us worry that the difficulty would be high for the wrong reasons. Thankfully, the rest of the room is better, with puzzles that require tough but fair intuitive leaps. There are some nice moments that make good use of the room’s setup, including the finale. Recommended for veterans. Not recommended for beginners.
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible but tough with 2.
Avenue K
Project Fallout
This is meant to be Avenue K’s easiest room, yet that doesn’t make it less satisfying. There aren’t many puzzles per se, and one mid-stage puzzle felt arbitrary in one aspect — yet from the creative beginning to the intriguing mid-stage and the exciting endgame, Project Fallout is simply a fun experience that’s recommended.
Difficulty: 2/5
Logic: 4/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible but less fun with 2.
Chamber of Hocus
This is a challenging room that’s full of surprises. One mid-stage puzzle felt a bit unsatisfying but is probably still fair. Apart from that, the puzzles are fine, and tasks that could be ordinary in another room are enlivened by some clever touches. Recommended, but beginners might want to pick their powers carefully.
Difficulty: 4/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Possible with 2.
Mr Oswald’s Greatest Show
If you’re a coward like me, rest assured Avenue K’s only ‘scary’ room is more creepy than terrifying. This is the strongest room for physical problem-solving and mechanics, and very satisfying in that regard (though it could get frustrating if you aren’t dexterous). The actual puzzles start off logical but get a little weak near the middle — still, this room is highly recommended, not least for the fun finale.
Difficulty: 3.5/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Tough with only 2.
The Greatest Murder of Westwood
This room earns its place as the hardest Breakout room, though it doesn’t sacrifice rigour in the process. There’s some excellent use of technology (not sensors and triggers, but actual gadgets), particularly in the endgame, and some puzzles with great aha moments. Highly recommended, but only for veterans.
Difficulty: 4.5/5
Logic: 3.5/5
Suggested players: 3 to 5. Technically possible with 2.
The Infinity
I like this split-start room more for its concept than its execution. The set-up is great but isn’t used in a satisfying way, making this is the only room that I wouldn’t recommend. You can still check it out for the novelty and the admittedly excellent finale, but be prepared for frustration and tedium along the way.
Difficulty: Hard to judge
Logic: Hard to judge
Suggested players: 4 to 6
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