One way many companies use to draw customers is to leverage on festive gimmicks. With the celebration of Halloween right around the corner, many restaurants, theme parks, escape rooms can be seen spicing up their décor with Halloween elements although the festive is not widely celebrated in Malaysia. One escape room in particular grabbed our attention—Breakout in NU Sentral.
The trend of escape rooms is hugely popular in Malaysia. Few years ago, different new escape rooms with various themes began to appear, thanks to the appeal of experiential entertainment. Other than Breakout, there are a number of other escape rooms in Malaysia: Mission-Q, Code Factory, Escape Room Malaysia, and many more.
Basically the participants (games are played in either a pair or as a group of 8) are trapped in a room and they need to figure out how to escape while fighting against the clock (45 minutes time limit for Breakout). The participants have to solve puzzles, look for clues, crack codes and find secret passages to find their way out.
Is it scary?
That was the first question we first asked the staff in Breakout. “No it is not, it is not a fright house,” the staff explained to us. “It has some scary elements in it but there is no jump scare, no ghost popping out and stuff.”
The theme varies according to the escape rooms. As for Breakout, they claimed that their themes are more mature in nature because instead of providing a fearfully good time to the customers, they offer the combination of light physical and mental games with real-time role playing strategies.
Our game master also pointed out that their games require no heavy physical activities so there is no need to lift or overturn heavy objects and the game play route is fairly straightforward as it isn’t a maze.
Confident in our problem-solving skills, the team in Vulcan Post tried two rooms in Breakout—The Secret of Hocus, and Terraform. We were told that Terraform is the harder one of the two, with a 4 over 5 difficulty rating.
Nearly 2 hours later, we emerged champion for both the rooms, with 8 seconds to spare in the first room, and 8 minutes for the second. And here’s what we learnt about being a pro at escape rooms.
#1 Observation is the key to success.
When you enter the room, your senses will be on high alert due to adrenaline, you will bombarded by all kinds of visual stimulation, and the darkness will confuse you. Don’t panic, pay attention to your surroundings and have a keen eye for clues. The posters on the wall, or written words on a signboard, or a seemingly innocent notebook on the floor—many of them are possibly the clues you need to get answers to the riddles. Spread out in the room with the team and collect as many clues as possible, piece them together and connect the dots, you’ll never know when it might be helpful.
#2 Make use of everyone.
To ensure that everyone in the team actively participates in escaping the room, Breakout came up with a simple and effective method—every team member has a specific role to play.
The Light Bringer carries a small flashlight that will serve to illuminate the room and assist in solving the tasks; the Lockmaster has to memorise a passcode (only given to the lockmaster by the game master) that will come in handy when dealing with locks; the Timebender has the ability to ‘bend time’ and provide an additional 5 minutes if the team is unable to escape in the allocated 45 minutes; the Scholar has the ability to at any given time bypass a particular puzzle (can only be used once) if it’s too difficult and the team doesn’t have to waste time on it; and so on.
These roles are very handy and it’s important to make sure that everyone is aware of the “skills” that they have and work together to escape.
#3 Too many chefs spoil the soup.
A bunch of complicated puzzles are littered around the escape room and everyone is going to have a say in what they think is the best method to solve it. Instead of everyone trying out their method at once, be systematic. Go with one’s suggestion first, if that doesn’t work, try another, and if that doesn’t work, try the next idea. This prevents everyone from talking at the same time and elevating confusion.
Also, it helps to think aloud (one by one) so that no one is left out and everyone is on the same pageand can contribute helpful suggestions or observations.
#4 When you’re stuck, do whatever it takes.
No, I don’t mean you should break anything in the room (although that is what you suppose to do in reality). Most of the codes are either a 3 or 4 digit combination, if you’ve already gotten most of the digits and you don’t know what is the last digit, just fire away at possible combinations by trying every number. It’s a cheap trick, but it’s quicker and it works.
#5 Keep track of time.
Be wary of the time that is ticking away when you’re in the room. You only have 45 minutes to get out, after all. The Timebender is given a stopwatch that is great for making sure that you are not wasting too much time on any one particular puzzle. If it’s taking too long, just use one of the ‘abilities’ of a team member and exchange it for a hint.
The phrase “the more, the merrier” is a double-edge sword for this case. Having more people in the team means more brains to assist in solving puzzles and escaping (and the price per pax is cheaper too), but it is important that everyone participates by lending a helping hand or eye because if not, it will result in 5 people crowding around 1 puzzle and the others wandering aimlessly around the room.
Nonetheless the main goal of every game in the world is simply to have fun. In this case, Breakout certainly delivered. It made us put our heads together and work as a team, and it gave us a great sense of satisfaction when we figured out the right combination to a lock and when we opened the final door to our freedom.
If you’re itching to escape from reality and you want to escape from a made-up room instead, check out Breakout’s Facebook page to put your Houdini skills to the test.