You have most likely heard of escape rooms, and if you haven’t then you’re missing out. These ‘real-life computer games’ have been becoming increasingly popular around the world over the last decade and are a popular group activity for young adults. For those of you that have not heard of them or have never been, here is a brief explanation; generally groups of 2-6 people are locked in a room, and have to figure their way out. To do this, they will need to find various clues and solve the puzzles which will lead them to the next ones, until eventually they ‘escape’. The time allowance varies, however, the average is roughly between 60-80 minutes.
Now, I love mystery and crime dramas, and I love puzzles, so naturally, when I first heard of escape rooms, I was very intrigued. I found the company that does them here in Sydney and decided I was going to give one a try. Four months later, I am proud to say that I have now done a total of five escape rooms – 2 in Sydney and 3 in Seoul (how many I have actually successfully completed is a different story though…#noteasy).
Before I talk about these, I do have to mention that I did sign a waiver at both companies agreeing not to post anything online that would give anything away or ruin the game for anyone else (fair enough), so, unfortunately, I won’t be able to talk too much in detail and reveal the answers…sorry!
I’ll start off talking about the similarities between the two. They both have different themes for their rooms, the time allowance is similar at both (they both allow an average of 60-70 minutes, depending on the room you choose), they both provide you with an in-depth story that explains the situation you are in once you get into the room, and why you are trying to get out (I will go into more detail when I talk about each company separately), they both offer clues, and of course in my humble opinion, they are both great value for money.
Now in Sydney, I went to the Strike bowling in Macquarie shopping center (currently they only have escape rooms at 3 locations in Sydney). We got to choose between 3 different rooms; Prison Break, Forensic and Moon Shot – I chose to do the first 2. Before you enter the room, the instructor tells you your story – in Prison Break, you have been falsely imprisoned for a crime you did not commit. The prison guards are about to change over, so you take this opportunity to escape your cell. In Forensic, you are a detective working on a serial killer case. You have figured out where his lair is so you decide to go investigate it in the hopes of catching him. From there, you are blindfolded and guided to your room.
If you get stuck and need a clue or help, you are given an iPad that you can use to scan QR codes around the room, which then gives you the clue. However, the catch to this is, each time you do this, a 2 minute time penalty is added to your end time – honestly though I still prefer this to the method Seoul Escape uses…From memory, I think we used about 6-8 clues in total for both rooms. If you run out of time (which we did…oops), the instructor will come to get you and if you want, explain to you how you were supposed to escape. These were somewhat hard, you do need to think outside of the box a lot of the time, however, they are definitely doable.
As I mentioned, in Seoul we went to Seoul Escape. Now, these work a little bit different to Sydney. For one, there are many, MANY more stories/’episodes’ as they call them, for you to choose from, which is a major plus. However, they are all connected. In total there are 3 ‘seasons’, each with 5 or 6 ‘episodes’. This immediately gives it extra points, as it will take you a while to run out of rooms to do. We went to the one in Gangnam and the one in Hongdae. In Gangnam, we did episode 6 of season 1, The Jazz Bar of Death, and in Hongdae, we did episodes 3 and 5 of season 2, The Lost City of Amazon and Escape from the CIA Headquarters (looking back I wish I had started from the beginning and then gone in order, but they are VERY popular so their rooms are always booked out).
The time allowance for all of these was 75 minutes. Straight off the bat, the biggest relief for me was that these were in both English and Korean – Sydney’s is of course only in English, so I was very grateful for this. Like Sydney, the instructor tells you your story, who you are, how you got there, and why you are trying to escape. In the Jazz bar of Death, you receive a letter from the man that kidnapped you about a year ago and tried to frame you for multiple murders once you had escaped. He asks you to meet him for a drink at a Jazz Bar in New Orleans, and you decide to go. In The Lost City of Amazon, you travel back in time to 1988 in an attempt to find your lost father and end up in an Amazonian Rain-forest.
You find travel notes and clues left behind by him so you decide to follow these to find what he previously referenced as “an ancient Incan city of Gold”. In Escape from the CIA Headquarters, you have traveled to a different destination in search of your father, which ends up being the CIA Headquarters. You are locked in an interrogation room with CIA agents questioning you when the alarm sounds and they quickly leave. You take this as your opportunity to break free. And again, from here, you are blindfolded and lead to your room. Now, I won’t lie, straight away I was immediately more enticed with Seoul Escape as opposed to Strike in Sydney.
I really like the stories in Seoul are all connected and that there are A LOT of them. I also feel that the attention to detail in the rooms, the decor, the props and even the sounds were of a higher standard. The one thing that I don’t like about Seoul Escape though, is the method they use for you to get clues. In each room, there are cameras and TV screens. So while you are in the room, someone will always be watching you. If you need help or a clue, you have to dance….yeah. I’m not a big dancer myself, especially in public or in front of other people, so this was a bit daunting to me and I flat out refused to dance in the first one we did. However, I quickly learned that without help, there is no way for you to complete the rooms unless you have already done them.
The good thing, however, about the clues at Seoul Escape, is that there are no time penalties so you can use them more freely. And of course, in the last 2, I decided to swallow my pride and dance for the clues which helped IMMENSELY, so I guess it wasn’t too bad ;). I also found that the clues given in Seoul Escape are a lot clearer and overall more helpful compared to the ones given in Strike in Sydney. And like Sydney, if you run out of time, one of the instructors will come to get you and explain the rest of the game and how to escape. Seoul escape rooms have a reputation in Sydney of being much more difficult than our ones here, which after having done both, I can vouch that that statement is true. However, I think this is a good thing, as it really challenges you and your teammates individually as well as a team as a whole. It also forces you to have a dance every now and then which will always instantly put you in a better mood. I also think that the clues provided in Seoul Escape make up for the difference in difficulties – I found the clues in Sydney a bit vague.
Overall, I of course prefer the escape rooms at Seoul Escape for many various reasons, but mainly because I liked the challenge, and I felt like they were better organized and well thought out. And while I think Strike in Sydney is good value for money, Seoul Escape is cheaper which of course makes everyone happy. The cost depends on how many people you have, but it ranges from 18,000 won – 24,000 won per person which is a bargain if you ask me.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures to show because of course you are not allowed to take your phone into the rooms, but here is the link to the Seoul Escape website (it is available in English and Korean), if you are interested in doing these: http://www.seoul-escape.com
Next time I go to Korea, I’d like to do as I said earlier and start from the beginning and follow the storyline properly, so keep an eye out for that!
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great day! 🙂