Allow me to start this piece with a confession, when I first got invited to do a review of an Escape Room, I was cynical for one reason. I had seen reviews of other escape room type attractions on Tripadvisor when I was doing research for some of my trips in the last 12 months. With some of those attractions receiving extremely good reviews, I got cynical as I didn’t think that an attraction like that could rival some of the oldest and most famous tourist attractions in Europe – some of these attractions had overwhelmingly good reviews (of HintHunt Paris’ 1030 reviews, 931 were excellent and 88 were very good: too good to be true? Even the most famous French attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum didn’t get such good reviews in comparison). So you can see why my cynicism was put to the test when I was invited to gather a few good friends and play an Escape Room at Lost.sg (at Peace Centre, nearest MRT Dhoby Ghaut, Bugis or Bras Basah): I thought, fine let’s give it a go – what have I got to lose?
This is when I have to admit that my sister’s enthusiasm did rub off on me – she had convinced me spend a day with her practicing two other Escape Rooms before our visit to Lost.sg and oh my goodness, I totally crumbled under pressure for the first one which was far more difficult than I had imagined but we managed to crack the second one with about 8 minutes to spare. I had realized the mistakes I had made and thus tried to play the role of the project manager/team captain when I rounded up my seven friends that Saturday morning to take on the Escape Room Exodus at Lost.sg, confident that we would succeed. In my group, I had: the head of social media at a local Polytechnic, a journalist, an IT expert, a researcher, a speech therapist, an English literature academic, a linguistics expert and of course, yours truly Limpeh. Between all of us, we spoke 16 languages in total from Welsh to Thai, Finnish to Korean. I thought, with eight highly educated professionals drawn from four countries, what could go wrong? How could we fail?
So the first person I invited to come along was my sister Ming, who turned out to be a veteran of Escape Rooms in Singapore. As the story goes, she started out with one Escape Room adventure during a bonding exercise with her colleagues and she has been hooked ever since. “Either you like it or you don’t get it – there’s no in between. Some people totally rise to the challenge when in the game, others just completely give up and their brains cease to function.” As she explained it to me, you are locked in a room where you have to solve a series of puzzles in order to eventually escape from the room within a set period of time (usually an hour, but some Escape Rooms only offer 45 minutes). Now I had seen quite a number of reality TV programmes which do involve such puzzle-solving challenges including The Amazing Race, The Great Escape and The Mole, so I am familiar with the format of such challenges.
Now it is going to be a bit difficult for me to describe where we went wrong as I cannot reveal the specifics of the Escape Room itself as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers; Exodus is a biblical themed room based on the life of Moses – but any knowledge of the bible would not help you as you would be relying more on lateral thinking, logic & reasoning and thinking outside the box to solve the puzzles.So how did we do as a group then? Unfortunately, it was clearly a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. Everyone was shouting and I confess, totally lost control as a project manager. It is easy to lose control of a situation like that when everyone gets very excited. Instead, I got intrigued by the puzzles at hand and focused on the puzzle, rather than trying to manage to team before me – eventually, the journalist amongst us seemed to have emerged as the leader (given that he shouted louder than anyone else) and I quickly relinquished the role to him. The tasks we faced involved the following three categories:
– searching the room for hidden clues to obtain the combination for locks
– deciphering codes and patterns to unravel hidden clues
– reading between the lines to figure out the solution to a puzzle
Now of the three categories above, I found that I was excellent at sweeping a room to find vital clues like a tiny key, I was also quite good at figuring out cryptic texts to work out the solutions to puzzles; I was however, totally hopeless at deciphering codes and patterns – I am just not good at that kind of puzzles. It would make sense to bring someone who is naturally good at those IQ tests – we’re not just talking about straight forward mathematics here, but someone who could look at a question like the one below and just instinctively be able to figure out the answer without taking too much time.
So did we succeed as a group to get out of the Escape Room before our one hour was up? No, we didn’t – but we were painfully close. Despite running out of time, we were given an additional three or four minutes to finish the last puzzle to finally escape. Hindsight is always 2020 – we could have saved precious minutes if we were a lot more organized from the start. We wasted a lot of time when we were distracted by red herrings in the room which were not actually clues. And furthermore, you are allowed to ask for help but we were too proud to do so earlier in the process. But despite the disappointing result, yes we all had a lot of fun and it was certainly an unforgettable bonding experience for my team. I was surprised to hear that Exodus (the room we tried) was considered one of the easier rooms, but perhaps with some more experience and better team work, I am sure it can be done.
So, how does Lost.sg compare to other Escape Rooms in Singapore? Well, the fair evaluation would be that it comes across as fairly similar – the concept of Escape Rooms is well established not just in Singapore, but across the world. Lost.sg is also present in Hong Kong – the Escape Room experience doesn’t vary that much if I may be totally honest. The prices are also fairly similar across the different Escape Rooms in Singapore: at Lost.sg, the off-peak price (11 am to 5:30 pm weekdays) is S$20.90 per person and on weekends and weekdays after 5:45 pm, it is peak period and the price rises to $26.90. I would say that what did impress me was the quality of the service – the staff at Lost.sg were friendly and helpful and most importantly, they were able to communicate the hints to us effectively when we needed help. This was not the experience I had in other Escape Rooms in Singapore, where I had struggled to understand what the staff were trying to say in English. Would I recommend Lost.sg? The answer is yes, definitely:but here are a few factors for you to consider. If you only have a very small group, your group may be combined with others – that’s a complete unknown as you will have no control over whom you are asked to work with, thus it is probably a good idea to get at least 7 people in your group to prevent that possibility. Furthermore, it is good idea to ask the staff if the room’s difficulty will be suitable for your group – I had seen two groups of kids (ages ranging between around 12 and 14) in the waiting area and perhaps I am a bit cynical, but I wondered if the rooms might have been a bit too difficult for them. The rooms do vary in difficulty and there are some Escape Rooms in Singapore who do cater for families and groups with children. The puzzles do not require any kind of physical activity to solve (hence no jumping, climbing, running, pushing, throwing, heavy lifting etc), they only require brain power. So if you have figured out Cheryl’s birthday in the famous Singaporean maths puzzle, then you’re likely to excel at these Escape Rooms.
Lastly, here are a few of my tips to help you with your Escape Room adventure at Lost.sg:
- Do make sure you have a strong group with different skill sets: amongst my team of eight, only one of the eight had a scientific background – the other seven had a very similar arts/journalism/linguistics background. The more varied the skills amongst your group, the higher the chances of solving the puzzles.
- Do have a team pep talk before starting the adventure: if there is anyone who is new to the concept of Escape Rooms, do brief them before beginning and if you have any questions at all about what the ground rules are, do make sure you ask the staff.
- Ensure that you appoint a team leader before you go into the room: it will get chaotic once you get in there: if anyone finds a clue, s/he must communicate it to the team leader. In one of my previous Escape Rooms experiences, I had found a key and I showed it to my sister, but for some reason, someone else found the lock and the fact that I actually had the key to that lock was not communicated and we wasted precious minutes before we realized that!
- The team manager should make manage the use of limited resources: for example, there may be only a limited number of infra-red torches and the team manager should decide who are the best people with an eye for detail to use them to search for clues, it shouldn’t simply land in the hands of the first person who reaches for the torch.
- Beware of red herrings in the room – not everything in the room is a clue and some of them are just decorations. If you have examined an item that doesn’t seem to yield a clue, move on!
- There will be instructions for every puzzle: read them carefully, then read them again and if in doubt, then read them again. When you are flustered, it is often tempting to simply skim through the instructions and rush into the puzzle: however, doing so may lead you to miss out vital pieces of information that could waste you more time in the end. Remember: more haste, less speed.
- Lastly, always keep track of the time – time flies the moment the clock starts ticking! If you have spent more than ten minutes on a puzzle that you simply cannot get your head around, then it is probably time to swallow your pride and ask for a clue: there are so many puzzles to solve before you can finally escape, so spending anything more than ten minutes on any one stage is likely to cause you to run out of time.
Despite my initial cynicism, this experience has certainly proven to be incredibly fun. It will be an ideal activity say for a birthday celebration or maybe a reunion with old friends. This challenged turned out to be a lot harder than I had initially imagined – which is a good thing, after all, you want value for your money; I think I would feel somewhat shortchanged if it had turned out to be rather easy! I will certainly be doing an Escape Room again with my friends. Have you tried an Escape Room before? Did you like it? Why not give it a go at Lost.sg and find out for yourself? Many thanks for reading!