Escaping elsewhere

Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to experience escape rooms or games elsewhere. Here are my thoughts on all of them + TripAdvisor reviews for a few.

Johor Bahru, Malaysia

In 2018 I decided to finally start crossing the Causeway to check out the JB escape room scene. Here are the reviews.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve done a couple of escape room marathons in KL, though involving rooms from only one company. Long story short: they’re great. Here are the reviews.

Helsinki, Finland

Room Escape Running Rabbit – Murder Mystery: Death Of The Guitarist [review]
In many murder mystery escape rooms, the murder is just part of the premise, and the reveal of the eventual murderer is done via escape room logic rather than murder mystery logic. This clever, complex room bucks that trend, providing a good escape room experience but also an actual murder mystery in which you have to consider motives and suspects instead of having the solution handed to you via, say, a logic puzzle. Great stuff.

Escaperoom Helsinki – Secret of the Sauna [review]
An example of how a room can be great fun even if there aren’t that many puzzles. Some physical touches were great, and there was a highly amusing moment which was also a puzzle in its own right. I also appreciate rooms with a local touch, and this certainly delivered, down to sauna-specific details I wouldn’t have understood if not for the friend I played it with.

Tbilisi, Georgia

IQBCompany – Apartment 33 [review]
Strong sense of setting, solid puzzles, fun tasks, and several surprises in store — not least a deliciously thrilling moment that relies on the player’s own narrative-prompted realisation rather than e.g. some triggered effect. Also the first trilingual (Georgian, Russian, English) room I’ve done.

Budapest, Hungary

Pirate Cave
Famous for requiring players to venture under a waterfall (don’t worry, you don’t get wet), this room’s other highlights include hands-on tasks and a hint mechanism that’s both cute and thematic. Puzzles are decent but not mindblowing; go for the experience, instead.

Gozsdu Mission – White Mission | Mafia Mission
We played two very different rooms at this centrally-located outfit. White Mission is a theme-free collection of puzzles in a spartan setting, albeit with some cool flourishes. Mafia Mission is a more traditional escape room, with a varied puzzle mix and a fun finale. Not must-plays, for me, but solid experiences nonetheless.

E-Exit – Heaven & Hell | Santa Muerte
These were my favourite rooms in Budapest, with their strong sense of fun and adventure making up for the occasional weak spot. Santa Muerte, in particular, has a great endgame stretch and one of my favourite dramatic finales ever. Both rooms have a solid foundation of varied and fair puzzles.

Mystique Room – Time Machine
This room’s main strength is its steampunk theming. Puzzles are varied, including some that are intriguing and others that are unfortunately lacklustre. Not a bad experience by any measure, but it’s probably worth prioritising other rooms.

Trieste, Italy

Escape Room Enigmarium – Maestro Luigi | Francesco, artist’s secret [review]
The distinguishing features of both rooms were their sense of humour, and some great hands-on puzzle-solving. Each one had a key plot moment that was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Each one also had physical puzzles that were fairly complex and non-obvious, yet neither particularly tedious nor overly demanding in terms of finesse. And this is on top of solid puzzles (with some clever and/or original ones in the mix) that sit well in their setting. Just a really great time.

Tokyo, Japan

Many of the games I’ve played in Tokyo (and Hakone) have been limited-time-only and/or in Japanese. [See posts 1, 2, 3.] Here are the exceptions, which are accessible to English speakers.

SCRAP Real Escape Game Asakusa – Escape from the Red Room
A clever, language-independent room with an amazing setpiece (which I’ve never seen anywhere else) and several great ahas. Hard to say more without spoilers, but a must-play for any enthusiast.

SCRAP Real Escape Game Asakusa – Escape from Hunter X
Not an escape room, but just as (if not more) fun. You’ll have to use creativity and ingenuity to devise traps to foil your pursuers. A very interesting variation on the genre, and also a must-play — partly for the sheer originality, but also because it’s a cute and clever experience regardless.

SCRAP Tokyo Mystery Circus – Escape from the Prison
This compact, clever game packs a good amount of varied and creative puzzles into its ten-minute runtime. It also allows for solo players, which is helpful for tourists. Well worth playing, if you don’t mind the time:cost ratio.

Bucharest, Romania

Inside Rooms – Harry Potter
A very responsive room with fun surprises, but ultimately more for adventure-seeking Harry Potter fans than puzzle enthusiasts. Puzzles aren’t bad, but not stunning either.

Escape Arena – Indiana Jones [review]
Cinematic plot-driven adventure with some cool moments, built upon rigorous and varied puzzles, some of which are satisfyingly layered. One of those rooms which is really An Experience.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

MindMaze – Occupied Ljubljana [review]
This room has at least three great hands-on aspects. The mechanical or electrical elements used were just as exciting as fancy electronic frills, and more meaningful in context.

TheKey [review]
Not all the puzzles in this room were equally strong, but the amusing storyline and a clever twist more than made up for it. The puzzles were integrated naturally into the setting, including one which really required you to engage with the room within the context of the storyline.

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul Escape Room – Back to 1988
This room felt a bit dated — not just because of its retro setting! — and has some questionable puzzle design choices early on. Still, it’s interesting and adventuresome enough to be worth playing. The company’s rooms are tied together by overarching storylines — I didn’t manage to play any sequels on this trip, but would be up for doing so if I’m ever in Seoul again.

Stockholm, Sweden

I played nine games in Stockholm. It was great fun, but certainly not cheap! Here are the reviews.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

KRTC Mystery Adventure
2018 首部曲-消失的車站/The Lost Station
2019 二部曲-青龍白虎朱雀玄武/The Four Benevolent Animals
These two escape/puzzle games, available in both Chinese and English, take place across the Kaohsiung metro system and draw upon real-world locations — similar to the Tokyo Metro series. The main differences are that 1) Kaohsiung’s metro is much smaller and thus more forgiving in terms of travel time, and 2) the use of physical puzzle kit components is even more advanced than in Tokyo (based on my single Tokyo Metro experience, admittedly). I tried the Chinese versions, but I assume the English ones are similar — and thus definitely worth playing. There’s quite a nice bit of cultural content in the latter game, in particular.

Taipei, Taiwan

Limitless Escape Room 極限密室 – Prison Break 瞞天越獄
This flawlessly bilingual room was a fun all-rounder that covered many escape room bases without seeming stale — a good fit for the mixed team in which I played it. Has several cool moments and puzzles that should wow even the most jaded of veterans.

Funlock 活動創意社 – 稻荷之歌
A cute room with a nice variety of puzzles. Not mindblowing, but solidly worth a try. The company’s intro/rules video is subtitled in English, and I vaguely recall the in-room text being in both English and Mandarin, but non-Mandarin speakers might want to confirm this with the company.

London, UK

A 2019 trip to London allowed me to play enough rooms/games for the capital to deserve its own page. Here it is.

Los Angeles (and nearby), USA

I played 12 rooms in LA and three in Orange County — here are the reviews.

New York City, USA

I played 15 games in NYC — here are my thoughts on them.

San Francisco, USA

Startup Escape
Though not the slickest in terms of production values, this room delivers a varied and satisfying puzzle-centric experience, with fun touches and tech use along the way.

Palace Games – Edison | Houdini | Roosevelt
Are these rooms good? Certainly. Are they good enough to earn their international reputation — not to mention their steep price premium, at US$410 per room? That’s harder to say. All three rooms featured expansive sets packed with puzzles, but are flimsy when it comes to narrative and thematic integration. Their most-recommended Edison room is indeed flashy — unfortunately, its coolest aspects arguably overstay their welcome. The Houdini room is a solid divide-and-conquer experience: well-suited for mixed groups of veterans and beginners, but no gamechanger. The Roosevelt room is weakest theme-wise, though its many rigorous puzzles can be appreciated nonetheless. In short, I enjoyed all three rooms, yet wasn’t as wowed as I’d hoped to be — perhaps my fault for buying into the hype! If you can stomach the price tag, the rooms are worth playing for their many and varied puzzles, and the surprises that keep unfolding. If you can’t afford the experience, you don’t have to feel that you’re missing out on truly groundbreaking games (in my opinion, anyway).

SCRAP Real Escape Game San Francisco – Pacific Rim: Shatterdome Defenders
This is very recognisably a SCRAP production, with familiar weaknesses (a couple of arbitrary minor puzzles) and strengths (general use of setting-provided info, narrative-powered endgame). The room feels a bit worn and some parts of the game might seem silly; I enjoyed it considerably, but not everyone will.


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