#Escape Review

#Escape review: A tense, nail-biting time trial

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The clock is ticking.

I’m locked in a room with a clutch of strangers surrounded by an assortment of items and knick knacks. Between the six of us, we have an hour to open the door and escape.

The clock is ticking.

We’ve been told that everything we need to escape our prison is in the room we’re standing in. The objects and areas spell out a progression we’re going to have to follow if we’re to find our way out.

A pair of empty oil drums stand in one corner of the room. A waterproof tent sits opposite a desk in the centre. Someone has created a makeshift fireplace near the door, made up of rocks with patterns on them and a series of coloured and numbered cans.

There’s an office at the far end of our prison, locked behind a wire gate. The only information we’ve been given as a group is to take down a target poster that’s plastered over a door revealing our first clue.

That’s when the clock started ticking.

Now, if all of this sounds a little like some Kafka-esque nightmare, don’t fret; at no time was I under any risk in this scenario and, really, I and any other member of the group I was with could’ve left the prison room at any time. Our progression was being constantly monitored on closed-circuit TV the entire time we set about escaping.

Rather than being inmates, we were players in a game set up by the lovely folks over at #Escape in Norwood. #Escape run a couple of escape rooms just off of Grant Avenue; one scenario sees players enter the room of a haunted house in which they have to solve a crime and the other imagines them as P.O.W.s in a prison camp cell, charged with escaping before their captors return. My group enjoyed the latter experience.

If you’ve never heard the term ‘escape room’, imagine a scenario much the same as a point-and-click adventure that’s filled with puzzles in which you’re tasked with solving your way out of entrapment. An escape room is pretty much the same thing, except it exists in the physical space.

As was mentioned earlier, participants aren’t in any danger while they’re trapped in the room; #Escape staff watch them through CCTV and when the players hit a wall in their efforts, they’ll receive a hint on the LED clock read-out.

As far as the puzzles themselves are concerned, we don’t want to go into too much detail here, as it would likely result in spoiling the experience for any interested punters. However, we can reveal that players will find themselves trying out scenarios, hunting for scraps of information and assembling puzzle pieces that usually reveal combination numbers, hidden keys and other useful items they’ll need in their escape efforts.

You might be wondering how difficult it is to escape from the rooms at #Escape. Well, the organisers revealed to us that the fastest a team has ever taken to unlock the last door is around 45 minutes – just 15 minutes before their time expired. If you’re wondering, the team we were a part of didn’t manage to escape in the hour provided, although the #Escape crew told us we did come within an eyelash of busting out. Maybe they were being kind.

We can report that #Escape offers an hour-long experience that starts off mildly intriguing, but as a team solves the puzzles and unlocks more clues, a palpable buzz creeps into the room. As the clock winds down, this excitement ratchets up to nail-biting levels of tension. You’re so close to your goal you can almost taste it, but unless you exercise your grey matter, you’ll find time to be an unforgiving taskmaster.

#Escape in Norwood is pretty reasonable. Prices for an hour long experience start out at R200 per person but the organisers do offer additional services on request for corporate groups, including detailed feedback sessions. It all really depends on the sort of experience you’re after.

If, like us, you find the prospect of an escape room a little left-of-the-dial initially, we strongly urge you to give it a try. Like the best puzzle games, #Escape encourages players to work together and uncovering a room’s many secrets results is as rewarding as it is exciting. You’ll also leave feeling a little more confident and clever than you did before that door slammed shut behind you and the clock started ticking.

  • #Escape is situated at 39 Grant Avenue, Norwood, Johannesburg. For more details on the experiences offered, pricing and bookings head over to the official website.