Remember the board game Cluedo? Miss Scarlett and Colonel Mustard? In its time, it was the classic detective mystery game. You investigated rooms, discovered evidence and solved clues. It first came out in 1949, and is still going strong, being updated every year. It is so popular that, with the development of video gaming, it spawned any number of copycat video games.
But, one way or another, this wasn’t enough. Even with multi-player online video games there was something missing. They were cold and unemotional. They didn’t have the excitement, frustration or spontaneous interaction of real people in a real room, all of them working together to solve a common problem. And so, somewhere around 10 years ago, the ‘escape room’ environment was born.
This first appeared in Japan, where it immediately became a hit and a way of letting off steam with highly-stressed students and young professionals. And from there it’s spread, really taking off back in the early ’90s, at a one-week symposium held in Silicon Valley, which was not only based on Cluedo, but also added-in Agatha Christy’s crime
novels and their characters. And today it’s estimated that there are now over 3,000 escape room venues worldwide. And one of these is on Samui, down in Lamai, hosted by the very popular Beach Republic.
For those of you of the Cluedo generation who might not be fully acquainted with the escape room idea, you’ll find it involves a bunch of people (you!) actually being inside a series of locked rooms, and having to use your wits, powers of analysis and deduction to unlock each door and progress to the next room in order to achieve your set objective.
You have a time limit of one hour per room to unlock the door and proceed onwards, with a total of three rooms in all. Clues are found in all sorts of places and come in all kinds of ways – sometimes from info on a map, or connecting dots and dashes found in a journal with a chart found elsewhere. And it’s non-linear – meaning that maybe you have to open other rooms first to be able to find clues still locked back where you started!
There are locks on chests, cupboards and drawers, plus of course on the ultimate objective, the door to the next room. Some of these locks need a key to open them. Others need a combination of numbers – one or two even have letter-combination locks. And at least one of the clues is quite abstract in nature, meaning that if you have the kind of mind which can solve the Sunday Times crossword then you’ll be an invaluable asset to the team.
Although a quick word of comfort – you’re not alone. There are two ‘game masters’ who are there to keep an eye on you. You’re continually covered by CCTV, and the game masters monitor your progress from outside. If they can see that you’re going round in circles, then they’ll step in and offer you a clue. Or should that be ‘a clue to a clue’? Because they’ll start you off with a hint to set you in the right direction, and usually that’s enough. But if not, then they’ll give you more direct help.
There are four theme-rooms here at Escape Break, each on a different theme, and each with differing degrees of difficulty. Some of the rooms are easier than the others; Ghost Ship, for example. And I’d say to you right away – have a go at the easier ones first! The parallel with solving crossword clues is a good one; once you begin to understand the way things work, then the quicker your mind gets into the groove.
I’m not going into a detailed description of each of the rooms, their themes and the challenges – you can get all of that on their excellent website. But let me put it like this: today’s generation of video games are super-realistic. And being inside one of these locked rooms is identical to the colours and realism of these video games; take a look at the website photos and see what I mean. It’s exactly like finding yourself inside a video game – but it’s real!
You’ll all jump into action, searching for clues, fathoming out puzzles, figuring out the combinations to locks and scribbling down notes, shouting out discoveries – and getting in each other’s way! And time will fly by. You’ll spend the first 20 minutes getting frustrated, then you’ll begin to think outside the box and realise that even seemingly meaningless items can hold the key to your freedom. And then, suddenly there’s only 10 minutes to go and you still haven’t opened the door –
you’re on the last clue!
Khun Tat, the long-time manager of Escape Break, explained to me that out of the hundreds of teams that have enjoyed themselves here, nobody has ever ‘died’ in place! In fact, the adrenaline rush has proved so addictive that 80% of first-timers just can’t wait to have a go at one of the other escape rooms. And you don’t need to wait for a rainy day either. Everything is air-conditioned, making it perfect for a complete change of activity once you’ve been out on all the day trips and fancy something different.
She went on to add that there’s a big demand from companies engaged in team-building activities. And then, with a grin, mentioned that the most fun happens with wedding parties, here on Samui to tie the knot. It seems that after the hen night and the boy’s night out, there’s a fierce completion between the sexes to show who has the upper hand, with lots of colourful sexist comments and more than a little inter-gender rivalry. (She discreetly declined to disclose which gender usually came out on top – obviously a very wise lady!)
Making a booking is a must, because you really do need to start on the easier rooms to begin with. You can do this online at the website below. And then the proof of the pudding is in the eating – as you put everything on the line to show that you have what it takes!
Rob De Wet
For further information, telephone 0 7745 8100.