Can you unlock a mystery in 60 minutes?

Can you unlock a mystery in 60 minutes?
Apparently, the world's first escape room was in Hungary.

A group of friends, just one hour, and a locked room with mysteries waiting to be solved. Are you up for the challenge?



By Disha Dadlani

Published: Sun 11 Mar 2018, 8:29 AM

Last updated: Sun 11 Mar 2018, 11:51 AM

Puzzles have transformed. You are now the play piece in a realistic and interactive space called an escape room.You're invited to unleash your inherent Sherlock Holmes and Byomkesh Bakshi in the 60 minutes that you're alloted. The deal? Crack riddles, solve puzzles, and tickle your grey cells in a race against time. And no, an inspirational Sattar minuteesque locker room speech by Shah Rukh Khan isn't going to help you chalk out a clever escape route. The concept of an escape room is straight out of Hollywood thriller flicks - Jumanji and Harry Potter, if you please. Usually priced upwards of Dh100, UAE's escape rooms are a growing fad. You've probably also spent one Friday at HintHunt and the next at Escape Reality.
How it works
Interestingly, the concept of escape rooms stemmed from 'escape-the-room' style videos. Most escape rooms, Phobia (JLT), Escape Reality (Sheikh Zayed Road), Challenge Chambers (Sunset Mall), Brainscape (Business Bay) and HintHunt (Times Square Center), follow a standard countdown-to-an-hour format with a general accommodation of two to six people. A Game (or Challenge) Master usually supervises the escape room, assists players when in doubt, and provides hints via a screen or speaker system. Players don't have a minute to spare, being occupied with decoding cryptic messages, finding keys and cracking codes. Escape games are generally themed on an interesting storyline. The themes usually deal with murder mysteries, battles for the throne, collecting gold and other jewels, etc. You're a professional robber one day and a detective the other!
Great alternative to conventional leisure options
"We are always looking around for something to do in Dubai, and it's nice to participate in an activity that tickles your brain a little every once in a while. This is why I love the idea of an escape room. It teases your brain and keeps the adrenaline flowing," says Dubai-based gaming enthusiast Manan Sanghavi. Escape rooms are surely emerging as a trendy recreational spot, but is the concept preferred over the conventional mall or beach? "I've been in Dubai for over 17 years now, and malls have started to bore me. An escape room is a challenging and exciting concept. What makes it all the more exciting is that there are different themes in each room," says adventure junkie Sehrish Shahnawaz. "We launched Escape Reality in December 2015 and have opened 10 stores across the UK, USA and UAE since. The inspiration behind the brand was to create a heavily-immersive experience, where we could transport players into an al-ternate world to literally 'Escape Reality'. Our portfolio of 30+ rooms are all inspired by popular movies and TV shows, where for an action-packed, adrenaline-pumping 60-minutes, players can be characters in that world," says Bhakti Khubchandani, co-founder, Escape Reality Global.
The team that solves together stays together
There's a certain chaos when people try to work in groups (usually, four to five) to crack the codes, figure the clues and solve the mystery within the prescribed time limit, Dubai resident Madhvi Arora observes. "The adrenaline rush is quite real," she adds. The concept is also being identified as a corporate activity to reinforce team building. Dubai-based Abhinav Mehta says: "When I solved the mysteries with five friends, we figured that we learnt about each other's weaknesses and strengths in the process. We found that one of us was good at solving puzzles, and the other was pretty good with equations." "The experience stimulates both your mind and spirit as you embark on an attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse or become the rightful heir to the throne, break out of jail or free yourself from the serial killer's lair! It is an exhilarating experience for anyone with a love for logic puzzles, movies or simply adventure. Escape rooms bring friends and family closer through teamwork in a fun way," adds Bhakti. 
Check out UAE's escape rooms
HintHunt
Go in groups of three to five and participate in mind-bending activities from saving a submarine from sinking to throwing yourself into a crime scene to prove someone's innocence.
Where: Times Square Centre
Escape Reality
Amateur or expert, this escape room has something for everyone. battle a vampire, a serial killer or be thrilled with a Jumanji-like experience. Don't forget to check out the difficulty level before choosing your game.
Where: Sheikh Zayed Road
Phobia Dubai
The struggle is real. Find your way out of an underground bunker, the house of a maniac or a museum. Are you ready to step into the school for wizards that you've always wanted to attend or overcome your fear of dark rooms?
Where: JLT, X1 Tower
Hungarian Games
Apparently, the world's first escape room was in Hungary. Experience the authentic adventure experience here. The concept follows a flow theory approach; a person works best under stress, and uses better strength and abilities.
Where: Al Quoz, Industrial Area 1
Brain Game
Their lock-and-key difficulty level will help you to decide if you want to brave the prison room or explore the world.
Where: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed road (Trade centre road)
disha@khaleejtimes.com


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