Month: June 2018

Escaping Tokyo

[Note: See also this more recent post on Tokyo events/games]

I’ve decided to do this as a post instead of a page because Tokyo’s escape-and-puzzle scene seems particularly time-sensitive compared to many other markets. Not because there’s a high rate of room closures, but because the scene features a lot of limited-time-only events.

In Tokyo, I recently played nine escape-and-puzzle activities of one form or another; only four were permanent affairs (and two of those were in Japanese).

The two English-friendly permanent ones I played were, unsurprisingly, the well-regarded Escape from the Red Room and Escape from Hunter X rooms at SCRAP’s Asakusa outlet; more of them over on the general Escaping Elsewhere page.

The others span a wide range of styles. Here’s the breakdown:

SCRAP – Tokyo Mystery Circus

SCRAP’s Asakusa branch and Tokyo Mystery Circus are probably the go-to destinations for English-speaking escape room enthusiasts in Tokyo. The nice thing about Tokyo Mystery Circus is its variety of offerings, from room-based variants (a 10-minute escape, a 30-minute ‘stealth game’), to larger ‘hall’ games (mainly in Japanese but also including the exciting and English-speaker-friendly projection table series) to site-specific, play-at-your-own-pace puzzle kits.

Projection Table Game vol. 1 – Spellbound Supper [available in English]
60 minutes | booking required | individual/team game

This exciting and unique game is for groups of one to five; I managed to get a table to myself, as I was the only one playing in English during that session. The game starts off with somewhat usual SCRAP REG-style puzzles, but it soon becomes something entirely different, with interactive light projections used to clever effect throughout — it’s hard to say more without spoilers, but you’ll have to do all sorts of interesting things to progress. This volume seems to be ending soon, but a new one is on the way. A highlight of my trip, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as a must-play for any escape room fan in Tokyo.

A Mystery at Magic Academy Shinjuku [available in English]
no time limit | no booking required | play-at-your-own-pace puzzle kit

This is a very beginner-friendly experience that, correspondingly, may not impress the experienced puzzler. You’ll have to walk the nearby streets of Shinjuku (a handy map is included, so no worries about navigation) to solve fairly tame puzzles; there’s one exciting real-world highlight and some clever moments, but nothing unmissable. There’s no time limit, but the estimated duration is 60 to 90 minutes; we finished it in just about an hour. RECOMMENDED for beginners, NOT RECOMMENDED for veterans.

Mystery Mail Box Global Edition [available in English]
no time limit | timeslot booking required | play-at-your-own-pace puzzle kit

I’m still not sure why timeslots are assigned for this game — to avoid crowding, I guess? This bilingual puzzle kit felt cleverer and more satisfying than the Magic Academy one; although it only took about 30 minutes, it was certainly enjoyable. RECOMMENDED and easy to fit into anyone’s schedule.

Nazotomo Cafe Shinjuku

I’d been intrigued by Nazotomo Cafe’s 765-second offerings since first reading about them years ago, so I decided to put my weak Japanese skills to the test and attempt some rooms solo at their Shinjuku branch. I didn’t do that well, but I’d still be interested in going back to try their other rooms if I get the chance. I’d previously hoped that they would be abstract and language-independent, but they’re quite the opposite — the two rooms I played relied significantly on an understanding of the language, and the staff said that most of their rooms are text-heavy.

おとな小学校 [Japanese only]
765 seconds | no booking required | individual/team room

This was a small but charming game, at least as far as I managed to play it; after a swift start, I failed due to completely misinterpreting a mid-stage puzzle (for puzzle reasons more than language reasons) and thus being unable to proceed. Well worth playing if you have a basic command of Japanese (the game relies mainly on hiragana); the success rate was ~20+% when I visited.

スピリチュアルレポーター殺人事件 [Japanese only]
765 seconds | no booking required | individual/team room 

This bite-size murder mystery was cute and clever; I managed to solve it, thanks in no small part to the interesting in-room guidance provided by video narration (which undoubtedly accounts for the room’s >70% success rate when I played).

takarush BLACK LABEL

I haven’t quite figured this out, but takarush seems to be a “Real Treasure Hunting” (リアル宝探し) outfit that offers limited-run escape/puzzle event kits, often in conjunction with various partners. Their BLACK LABEL series is for adults, which just seems to mean “more difficult” — and impressively so. Pre-set hints are available on each game’s website; it’s nice to have that option.

香港九龍財宝殺人事件  [Japanese only]
no time limit (within game hours) | no booking required | play-at-your-own-pace puzzle kit

This was probably my favourite escape/puzzle experience in Tokyo (and one of my favourite ever?). Held in collaboration with the famous Kindaichi manga series and the Instagram-worthy Anata no Warehouse arcade in Kawasaki, this site-specific, part-puzzle-solving, part-murder mystery extravaganza unfolded over some three hours (for us, anyway). No advance booking is required; you turn up, purchase a puzzle kit, then explore the warehouse to solve puzzles and receive new parts of the mystery. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but this had some of the cleverest puzzle-piece-reusing and most chill-inducing aha moments of anything I’ve ever played. A must-play if you know Japanese; the run was recently extended until July 1. [edit: A sequel is now being staged through 12 May 2019!]

古書店まんせい堂奇譚  [Japanese only]
no time limit (within game hours) | no booking required | play-at-your-own-pace puzzle kit 

This was an extremely text-heavy experience, which is why we ended up requiring some three hours (and several hints) to solve it, instead of the estimated two hours. Although it had fewer site-specific elements and far fewer dramatic reveals than the other takarush event, the reuse of puzzle kit elements was similarly masterful — to the extent that I probably appreciated it more for the cleverness of its construction than anything else. Worth playing if you are reasonably fluent in Japanese and appreciate puzzle construction.