Imagine if you were part of a group of paranormal investigators tasked with solving a decade old mystery. As you and your crack team of investigators enter the old and dusty abandoned house, the door creaking as you open it, you immediately realize that something is amiss. Tonight will be a night you won’t soon forget. Welcome to #ESCAPE (Hashtag Escape), a new escape room adventure game in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Fortress of Solitude was fortunate enough to be invited by Hashtag Escape and Dark Carnival to take part in an evening of fun puzzle solving and the occasional scare.
When I first hear about #ESCAPE, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that we would be locked in a room for one hour. The only way to escape would be to work together and solve a series of puzzles. How hard could it be?
After receiving a warm welcome from Chris and Stratis, the guys behind Hashtag Escape, we were given some information on what to expect. Currently #ESCAPE consists of two rooms. The first one called The Rebel Room has you and your team captured by terrorists. You need to escape your prison before they return from a supply run. The second room called Closure takes a turn for the paranormal as you and your team are sent to investigate strange activity in an abandoned house.
We were told that our team would be tasked with solving the mysteries of The Closure room.
Without giving too much away, let’s just say that not only was the experience one of the best I’ve had in quite a while. Working as a team felt really rewarding, and finally escaping from the room in the last few minutes felt exhilarating.
I was surprised at how atmospheric the rooms were. Even though we obviously knew that we were taking part in a game it wasn’t difficult to loose ourselves in the narrative that unraveled with each puzzle we solved. We were continually spurred on by the ever present timer, counting down the minutes we had left to solve the mystery and escape. The timer screen not only served as a reminder of how much time was left but also enabled the Hashtag Escape team to display hints should some of the puzzles prove too difficult.
The puzzles themselves are really clever and well structured. Although we did receive a few hints from the #ECSAPE team, we never felt that we were at our wits end.
Puzzles included figuring out combinations to locks by finding clues in our surroundings, solving riddles and even some interesting environmental based puzzles. Although the puzzles are considered a central part of the experience, the narrative that the Hashtag Escape guys weave and attention to detail in each room really pays off. You will find yourself not just wanting to escape but also invested in the story. It’s this combination of atmosphere, story, and puzzles that reminded me so much of old Sierra and Lucas Arts adventure games (more specifically Maniac Mansion).
At the end of the evening, our team not only felt a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of camaraderie. A group of strangers went into the room and came out a well-oiled machine that felt like they could solve anything by working together.
While reflecting back on the events that transpired I realised that Hashtag Escape was more than just a few puzzles in a locked room. It was about losing yourself in the story and also meeting some new friends. Calling #ESCAPE a game doesn’t do it justice. It feels more like an experience, one that I would suggest everyone try.
The #ESCAPE team will also be setting up some smaller puzzle rooms at Geekfest 2016. So if you are still on the fence about giving it a try, then visit them at Geekfest on the 7th and 8th of May 2016.
For more information regarding #ESCAPE (Hashtag Escape) visit their website: http://www.hashtagescape.co.za/