The Room Escape

The Room Escape, also known as Escape the Room, is some very (initially) strange real-life experience whereby you try to escape a locked room by means of solving puzzles and locating clues. Rumour has it that it originated from old arcade games, but I could also be wrong. Thanks to Tristan, I had this experience yesterday and it was a little bit strange at first, but actually pretty cool.

The Sydney website looks pretty dodgy, 90s, and probably needs a redesign, but that’s the web designer/developer in me talking. So as not to make you extremely puzzled as to why I would be locked in a prison cell with three of my friends, here is a description I have taken from the website:

Real-life room escape games are a type of physical adventure game. Curious explorers are locked in a special room, given a set amount of time to solve puzzles to escape. You must be observant to discover secret clues and find hidden objects; intelligent contraptions need to be built and utilized, and team work is absolutely essential.

Tristan had booked without making sure that he had the minimum of four people, so he had actually called me up last minute to tag along with Matthew and Kevin (we had forced Kevin out of bed, apparently…). After we drove there, we found a place to park and walked to the place. It actually didn’t look very appealing from the outside. It looked dodgy, and the sign wasn’t very nicely designed (again, that’s probably just the designer in me talking).

We actually ended up accidentally visiting the rooms first. The street number was marked on the door and we walked up a flight of stairs to an open area, which looked like the landing to a series of apartments. It was dark and quiet. We found a desk at the entrance of a door, which had a sign on it that said we had to visit reception first. We got a bit lost because the instructions said “down the stairs and to the right” – it had meant the stairs outside, not the stairs that were right in front of us. After getting a bit lost, we finally found reception, and then were led to the actual room (which was behind the desk we initially found). It was quite funny because we had been a little puzzled by how dodgy the place looked. I think we were a bit unsettled…

We went to a room with a theme called “Prison Break”. The girl set up the room while we waited, and then walked us to the door and read some instructions on a piece of paper on the wall outside the door. The scenario was that we had been in a gang and put in jail for our crimes, and we had to find some secret way to escape.

The girl walked us into the room and then locked us into a jail cell within the room. As part of the general rules, we were not allowed to physically break anything in the room, because we were only allowed to use the clues to escape. Items marked with an orange sticker were supposed to only be ornaments or decorations, and held no clue. Any black tape was not meant to be removed, and we were not to switch off the electronics. If we needed an extra clue we could phone reception.

Simple enough. We had a time limit of sixty minutes. It seemed pretty long, but I think we were in there for the full sixty minutes.

We were locked in the cell and there were some cupboards and shelves, and a table outside of the cell. The clues were actually really, really smart. The first clue we found in the fake food we were given – the girl had said, “I’ll give you some food before you go, good luck”. I didn’t think of it, but one of the boys bet there was something in the food. Sure enough, in the foam capsicum there was a piece of paper with a clue.

There were obvious clues such as “the key is in the wall”. Kevin found the key in the wall, which was pretty easy. We found a toolbox and some other items inside the cell. For a while we were looking around wondering what some of the drawings on the walls meant, because they did give us clues but we weren’t sure of what to do, until Tristan and I decided to look behind the bookshelf and see if there was anything on the back. When we did, I found a laser pointer in a space behind the shelf.

It took us a while to figure out what to do with it, but there was an electric contraption through the cell with flashing lights. When we used the laser pointer to point at the lights, we could release part of the contraption. We had to use a rope with a hook to grab a handful of things through the bars of the cell. That helped greatly.

We had found a mirror, which we knew served some purpose. We kept using it to see around the bars of the cell and on the surrounding walls. After using that I saw three arrows that were obviously for the bow we had discovered earlier. Tristan and Matthew used the rope with a hook to grab the arrows, and we figured out there was a target above the door. With Kevin’s amazing single shot, he hit the target and it flipped down to reveal a combination number on the back.

It was all very clever, and there was some maths involved to open a lot of combinations on the locks. One combination was given on a piece of paper (which was hard to find) but it was not for the lock we had thought it was for. The really smart thing was that we didn’t actually escape the jail cell via the door. We had opened a cabinet door that turned out to slide open a hole in the side, which we could actually crawl through and escape the cell from.

There was also some math and a few number puzzles. As we were trying to figure out the combination to the door to the room, the guy from reception said, “It starts with C”. We didn’t really want a clue, we wanted to figure out everything ourselves – despite Tristan asking if we could please call for a clue a few times – but we had the other three digits for the combination anyway. They just weren’t in the order we thought. It turns out another group was waiting for us anyway.

Overall it was a very interesting experience, I would be keen to try it again. After the initial “this is weird” feeling, we thought it was pretty cool, and were really pleased with ourselves that we all had a part in solving the puzzles and escaping the room. It cost about $100 with a minimum of four people, so it’s a little bit pricey. But it was a really interesting experience that I would recommend to others for something different. :D

Comments on this post

This seems like such a cool experience! I found a place just like this where I live (Ottawa, Canada) and am now trying to get a bunch of friends together to try it out. /faw I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks so much for sharing, Georgie!

This sounds very interesting. I don’t think we have anything like that in out here in California. But then again, I’ve never checked. Sounds like fun though. Glad you had a good time.

Room escapes are my favourite! I’ve only experienced them through iPad apps. I’m fairly certain I’ve played and completed every room escape app available… I never thought of someone setting them up in real life. Something in me thinks they would be a hazard and there would be paperwork and insurance forms and liability waivers. But I could be overly cautious, aha.

Maybe I can find somewhere near me in Canada that has it and see if I can convince some of my friends to join me. They’d probably be keen–we’re all into logic puzzles and games. It sounds like a grand time. 👏

I have never heard of anything like that before and the concept is really cool! I would have been scared, with it seeming a bit dodgy at first. Worried if I was going to be locked up forever haha.

That is awesome that you followed the clues and escaped. It would have been an interesting test, to find the way out. I probably would have failed. xD

Their website could use a makeover. xD