Three years on

So this blog turned three on July 19, and while I didn’t have an update planned for then, I did play my 99th and 100th Singapore* escape rooms today — reviews to come soon. This was after having gone for S-capegoats‘ excellent NS-cape event, of which more over on (eventually).

After four years of escaping from rooms and three years of running this blog, I’m glad that the escape event scene continues to expand and improve, and that there are still new rooms here which I haven’t played (Freeing’s ongoing takeover of the former U Escape space; the fourth chapter of The Escape Artist’s Forsaken Vault room; an apparent upcoming Captivate (!) room). Though the industry has seen its share of casualties, here’s hoping that the escape scene in Singapore will stay very much alive.

*I’ve also played a further 26 overseas.


Room review: Freeing SG: Poseidon

Their description: The gods are furious with mermaid princess Ariel’s relationship with the prince. Her father Poseidon, God of the Sea, refused to give them his blessings and sealed the Pearl of the Seas in his palace. Legend has it that this magical Pearl will allow mermaids to live on Land.

Touched by their true love, you decided to sneak into Poseidon’s palace and steal the Pearl of the Seas for Ariel…

So it turns out that the U Escape unit at Plaza Singapura was bought over by Freeing SG a while ago, and all their rooms have been replaced. Good news for us — better an untested Freeing room than a U Escape room which you can rely upon to be tedious.

I’ve only tried one room at the new outlet so far, but it seems to be classic Freeing: lots of physical/electronic frills, a smallish number of generally-okay-but-sometimes-a-bit-dubious puzzles.

Credit where it’s due: this room has the most distinctive and surprising beginning of any room I’ve played (though some might find it questionable). The use of technology is generally storyline-motivated, particularly at one fun moment in the endgame stretch. And there are some dramatic things in store.

Weak points include some red herrings and a slightly rough-around-the-edges feel to the set. Sadly, this room is completely unplayable if you have mobility issues.

Nothing groundbreaking puzzle-wise, but WORTH A TRY if you care about fun frills; maybe even RECOMMENDED if you really enjoy novelty and dramatic elements.

Puzzle difficulty: 2.5/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 3/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 6
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Room review: LOST SG: Mausoleum

Their description: Built to protect the Emperor in his afterlife, the Terracotta Army are clay figures of Emperor Qin’s army in an underground mausoleum.

You together with your group of friends decided to visit the Terracotta Army world heritage site one day. Intrigued by the history of the mausoleum, you wandered deep into the restricted area to feed your curiosity and unfortunately lost your way.

Cut from all forms of communication, everyone panicked and entered the restricted area in an attempt to escape. Everything is unfamiliar and you can’t shake the uneasiness creeping in.

Going deeper, you found a door and led everyone in. Little did anyone expect the door to be shut from the outside. It appears to be a trap door! As everyone panicked about the situation, you notice a reflective liquid filling up the room.

We were excited at the prospect of a new LOST SG room, given our decent experiences at their other ones, but unfortunately their newest room is a bit of a letdown.

First, the good stuff. LOST SG’s old strength of high-tech mechanisms is still very much in evidence, with barely a standard lock in sight. But whether flashy gadgets are suitable for an old Chinese tomb is another question. Some effects are both exciting and appropriate for the setting, with one mid-game highlight giving a frisson of tomb-raiding; many others are, unfortunately, a little out of place.

That applies to the setting and narrative more generally: although some effort has clearly been made, the room is still relatively unconvincing as a tomb, and the puzzles are vaguely thematic in form but not so much in substance.

The puzzles also have other weaknesses: an early one is (in my view) fairly impossible without reading the setter’s mind, and the endgame puzzle makes unintuitive and partial use of given information. Unless you really enjoy exciting effects, Mausoleum is unfortunately NOT RECOMMENDED.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 2.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

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

Room review: Freeing SG: Rise to the Challenge: Biohazard

This was a pop-up escape room that was only around for about a week (19 to 27 Jan 2017), which is why I’m not posting the actual review here. But it was a great and groundbreaking (for Singapore) room, and I’d love to see more like it.

You can find the review over on my escape event blog,, instead:
Freeing SG – Rise to the Challenge: Biohazard

Room review: Freeing SG: Funeral: The Mourning Widow

Their description: In one’s lifetime, a visit to the funeral palour is inevitable. One day, you receive a letter from your friend’s wife, informing you of your friend’s death. Successively, mutual friends receive similar letters. Tonight is the setting up of the wake. Following the address stated in the letter, you make your way to attend the wake. As you enter the mourning hall, you feel a strange sense of discomfort. You decide to call your friend’s wife but there is no response. With no alternative, you make your way in alone, wanting to pay your last respects to your dear friend. The room where your deceased friend’s body lie, it is locked! What is going on??

The selling point of this Freeing SG room is its unprecedented (in Singapore) use of VR technology — but that also makes this a hard room to assess.

So let’s set aside the VR component for now. The room isn’t bad. The atmosphere is appropriately creepy and the setting evokes a traditional Chinese funeral convincingly. It’s not cripplingly terrifying, so even cowards like myself can give it a fair shot. There are some cool mechanisms used, and the initial flow of the room is very much in line with the storyline.

On the puzzle side of things, the room does sag a bit. The puzzles are generally logical, but the wording of clues isn’t perfect, there’s one throwaway puzzle (so throwaway that it’s easy to dismiss the solution as surely not being correct), and none of the puzzles are that exciting as puzzles (although the mechanisms compensate for this).

But for me, at least, none of that was really the point. I wanted to play this room to see how the VR headset would be used — and I think it was used to good effect. The actual puzzle it facilitated wasn’t impressive, but the execution was pretty cool; it’s hard to explain further without getting spoilery.

One big problem, though, was that my team experienced some technical difficulties. Which is a shame, because if the VR headset had worked perfectly, I think we’d have had a more satisfying experience in the room and come away with a better impression of it. As it was, I’m personally willing to overlook a lot of flaws if a room is ambitious and different — but my teammates were much less forgiving.

If you’re interested in seeing how VR can be used in escape rooms, then this room is definitely worth playing purely for the experience. Is it a fun room in its own right? It can be, particularly if the technology is working. On the whole I’d say it’s WORTH A TRY — unless you really can’t bear any technical malfunction or are completely uninterested in the VR aspect, in which case this is NOT RECOMMENDED for you.

Do note that a knowledge of Chinese is basically required for one puzzle and very helpful (though not technically necessary) for another one.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 4/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 4.5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

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

Room review: Escape Hunt: 27 Club

Their description: The 27 Club is a group of real-life famous musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain who have died tragically at the age of 27. You are playing a famous rock star who will turn 27 soon, and an unexplained mystery has occurred in your dressing room. With 60 minutes to midnight, can you solve it or be the next addition to the 27 Club?

This room is a little silly, but I mean that in the best possible way. Escape Hunt’s rooms weren’t previously known for their sense of fun; 27 Club stands out for bucking that trend.

The room starts out straightforwardly enough, with logical puzzles of varying difficulty which also make good use of the dressing-room setting.

But then things start to get… interesting. The tasks and puzzles in the latter half of 27 Club are ridiculous, but for reasons unrelated to their underlying puzzle-logic. This means that — if your team is anything like mine — you shouldn’t have trouble solving them, but you’ll likely have a few laughs along the way. The endgame is particularly cute, and does actually provide a solution to the mystery.

Despite the would-be creepy room description, there’s nothing scary about this room either. In all, it’s a fun, occasionally quite creative ride that’s RECOMMENDED if you’re willing to be entertained more than challenged.

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

Atmosphere and setting: 3.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3.5/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

Their suggested number of players: N/A
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

Room review: Escape Hunt: The Whitechapel Murderer

Their description: The year is 1888. You and your friends are famous London detectives who have been tasked with investigating the mysterious killings of the most dangerous and wanted serial killer in history. You have found what you believe to be the secret den of Jack the Ripper, and have 60 minutes to sneak inside to confirm his true identity before he returns and makes you his next victim!

This felt like an atypical Escape Hunt room, for good and bad reasons. There were a few fun physical flourishes and puzzle-solving mechanisms, which enlivened the experience and marked a step up from the lock-filled Escape Hunt rooms of old.

But this was also the first room in which Escape Hunt’s usual rigorous logic seemed to falter, with one puzzle featuring unused information that served as a red herring (as far as we could tell, anyway — we forgot to confirm this with the staff on the way out), another having a somewhat arbitrary final leap, and a third with slightly questionable ordering.

Nonetheless, it’s not a bad room. The decor and layout are fine (and not that scary — I’d say this room is kid-friendly despite the theme), there’s a decent mix of puzzles, and there’s at least one cool moment which alone makes it WORTH A TRY.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 3/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2.5/5

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

Their suggested number of players: N/A
My suggested number of players: 3 to 4

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: Escape Hunt: The Secret Assignment

Their description: A powerful Chinese entity called the Chen Corporation has stolen top secret nuclear launch codes from the government and plan to start an all out nuclear war in 60 minutes. Your mission as secret agents are to infiltrate Master Chen’s office, find the secret command centre and stop the nuclear launch before it is too late!

It was with some reluctance and scepticism that I returned to Escape Hunt after a long while, since I wasn’t the biggest fan of their original three rooms. But as it turned out, The Secret Assignment was a decent and satisfying experience, which makes me feel more keen to try out future Escape Hunt rooms.

The old Escape Hunt strengths of logical, scrupulously-clued puzzles are still there. Some other Escape Hunt staples are also still there; returning teams might find these a bit stale.

Still, there’s a simple but nonetheless welcome attempt at tying puzzles to the storyline, executed more effectively than in other Escape Hunt rooms. And there’s a little more creativity with tech and setting this time, including a late-stage mechanism that I found extremely cool, since I’d never seen it before (and having played over a hundred rooms by now, that’s not something I can say often).

Perhaps some of my enthusiasm for this room comes from the subversion of my originally low expectations. But The Secret Assignment is also a logical, beginner-friendly room with at least one cool moment, all of which makes it RECOMMENDED for beginners and WORTH A TRY for everyone else. Even if — or perhaps especially if — you’ve tried their earlier rooms and not been impressed, consider giving this room a go.

Puzzle difficulty: 3/5
Puzzle logic: 4.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1.5/5

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

Their suggested number of players: N/A
My suggested number of players: 2 to 3

Room review: Breakout: Magician’s Revenge

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.

This room was attempted in collaboration with the awesome Pá and Trapspringer from Lock Me If You Can! Check out their review here.

Their description: Having incurred the wrath of the Magician when you attempted to steal his secret, he is back to seek revenge by trapping you inside another of his chambers.

Everything seems familiar, feels like you have been here before. Can you remember how you escaped from him the last time around? Will you succumb to fate or will you prove yourselves to be his apprentices by outwitting him?

**Special Note — This room is a sequel to Magician’s Secret! We strongly recommend players to attempt Magician’s Secret before playing Magician’s Revenge, so as to allow players to immerse into the story deeper, and to better appreciate the storyline and the puzzles of the sequel.

It’d been more than two years since I played Breakout’s Magician’s Secret room, but I still recalled enough to appreciate some of the references in its sequel, from decor to certain puzzle aspects or mechanics. So that was fun.

Somewhat less fun, however, were a few misaligned cues in the room. At the risk of mild spoilers, let me just say this: I feel that if an aspect of room decor could be reasonably perceived as part of a puzzle (due to corresponding pieces elsewhere, say), then it is misleading to not incorporate it into a puzzle.

There were also some clues that were helpful in how to approach the room, but partly backfired because we read too much into them. Teams less attuned to clues might actually do better in this room.

That having been said, it isn’t a bad room. Most of the puzzles are rigorous and logical, and although there isn’t much in the way of exciting flourishes, there’s still some good use of decor. There are some structural touches in the puzzle flow which I also appreciated, though I can’t say more without spoilers.

One or two amusing moments also help to break the tension. And there’s a bonus puzzle that could be distracting at first, but does justify its existence by the end, if you choose to solve it.

I’d say the room is WORTH A TRY, especially after playing Magician’s Secret. Just try not to be misled.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 3.5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 1/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 1.5/5
Storyline integration: 4/5

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