A glimpse of another tradition

Ahead of an upcoming trip to Japan, I wanted to get a sense of the escape room/event scene there (or more specifically, to see if there were any rooms I might want to attempt). I found an amazingly comprehensive Japanese blog/website, なぞまっぷ, which has detailed spoiler-free reviews, real escape news, and tips and techniques, among other things.

I’ve only really glanced around, but my initial impression is that the Japanese real escape ecosystem is very different from that in Singapore and what I’ve seen of Europe. Though SCRAP has a chain of room locations around the country, there still seems to be a focus on events rather than rooms.

I also get the impression that language-heavy puzzles — of the sort seen in SCRAP’s English REG editions and SCRAP-produced REG television shows — and a relative lack of technical frills are the norm, although I leapt to this conclusion based mainly on the fact that the website owner makes a distinction between gimmick-heavy 上海型 or “Shanghai-style” rooms and the SCRAP-style アジト or “secret base” sort.

There’s also an interesting review of Escape Hunt’s Tokyo branch, which is classified under the “secret base” category but described more specifically as a “Shanghai-style room minus mechanics plus quality”. (It was also deemed too easy, but if Escape Hunt’s Singapore offerings are anything to go by, that’s not a surprise.)

I think the most important observation made in that blog post is that Japanese rooms/events have a heavy focus on storyline. Anyone who’s ever taken part in a SCRAP REG will probably agree that even though individual puzzles may seem arbitrary, the endgame is invariably narrative-driven. I’d really like to see how that maps onto an escape room experience — would there still be a lot of paper-based puzzles?

Other points that the blogger made include:

– Compared to Japanese rooms/events, foreign rooms are less likely to have any indications as to how teams should get started.

– Japanese rooms/events tend to require division of labour (I suppose that accounts for why SCRAP’s rooms take up to 10 people), in contrast with Escape Hunt’s more linear approach with fewer puzzles. I think the degree to which rooms are linear does vary a lot within countries, though.

– Apparently SCRAP’s rooms are devilish when it comes to searching!

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