Escape the room
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Escape the room, also known as room escape or escape game, is a subgenre of point-and-click adventure game which requires a player to escape from imprisonment by exploiting their surroundings. They are usually created as a freeware browser game for the Adobe Flash platform, but similar game mechanics have been identified in PC and console games such as Myst and 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Some examples include "Crimson Room," "Viridian Room," "MOTAS,", "Droom". The room usually consists of a locked door, several objects to manipulate as well as hidden clues or secret compartments. The player must use the objects to interact with other items in the room to reveal a way to escape.
Most escape-the-room games play from a first-person perspective, where the player must click on objects to interact with them. Most room escape games offer only token plots, usually a short cut scene consisting only of text to establish how the player got there, and sometimes another when the game is finished. Room escapes usually have a minimalistic interface, ambient soundtrack, and no non-player characters; elements which can enhance the gamer's sense of isolation.
During gameplay the player must click on objects to either interact with them or add them to their inventory. As the player passes the mouse over the game screen, usually the mouse cursor will change shape (e.g. to a hand or different kind of arrow) if the item under the cursor can be used, opened, manipulated, collected, searched or (if an exit) followed, but some games do not provide such hints to the player. If the object cannot be collected, opened, used or manipulated, the player is usually assumed to be inspecting it; in most cases, the player will see a brief text description. The player must collect items and use them with various objects (or other items in the inventory) to find a way to get out of the room. Some games require that the player solves several rooms in succession. Some escape the room games require significant amounts of pixel hunting (tedious searching for a small clickable area), which can frustrate players. For example, when reviewing the PSP game "Crimson Room Reverse" (a collection of room escape games that were originally free online flash games), critic Brad Gallaway said, "Key items are often hidden behind other items, and the player has no way of knowing these areas exist or that it's possible to search there unless the cursor falls in a very specific location, sometimes a "hot spot" as small as a few pixels." Another problem is translations, being that most escape the room games are Japanese, causing poor hints and otherwise easily solved puzzles to be both confusing and grammatically incorrect.
Most escape-the-room games include at least one puzzle, such as a sliding-block puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle (or a similar type in which a note is pieced together), a colour puzzle or a word or number puzzle. These might be combined, as for instance when a painting of a rainbow hides a safe, and the safe combination is found by counting the number of appropriately coloured objects in the room and entering those as digits.
Some clichés of escape-the-room games are the following:
- A wastepaper basket in which or under which is a clue.
- The safe holding an important key or clue
- The dresser or set of cupboards, whose drawers must be individually searched
- The bookcase, each of whose books might contain a clue
- The flat surface whose underside might hold a clue—e.g. tables, chairs or benches
- The two-sided flat object, such as a poster or painting, whose reverse side holds a clue, tool or key
- The screwdriver
- The inexplicable object that the player discovers early in the game, which later turns out to be one of many such parts that combine to form an outlandish but necessary device (e.g. rounded prongs that turn out to be the ears of a toy rabbit that completes a set, thus opening a hidden compartment)
- The rug whose corners flip over to reveal tools or keys or trapdoors
- The movable box, chair or table, which either reveals a hidden object or allows the player to reach high shelves and ledges
- The bed, which often has something hidden under or in a pillow, under the blankets or under the frame
- The crack between furniture and the wall, which often conceals a key or clue
- The cushion or pillow that must be slashed open with a knife to reveal some important object inside
These elements rarely combine in any straightforward way. For instance, a player may find a keycard under a rug, but the card is useless until they find a code on the backside of a painting. The code and keycard are then used to open a cash register, which has a small brass key in its till, which in turn opens the basement door and thus allows the player to explore a new room and find important items. Escape-the-room games rarely permit quick escape, and the opening cut-scenes usually explain that the player has been trapped by malevolent, sometimes even supernatural, forces.
Real-life events have been put on to resemble room escape games. One company that sets up "Real Escape Game" events is SCRAP Entertainment, Inc., whose website describes how the team-based puzzle solving physically draws the player into the story.
In Europe, Parapark has been the first company to introduce Real-life escape the room games in one of the famous "ruin cellars" of Budapest in 2011. Soon afterwards, many companies copied the idea, and in the meantime there are more than 30 rooms available in Budapest alone (April 2013), and many more all over Hungary. The website Exitgames.hu lists all rooms. Hinthunt, also a Hungarian company which started in Debrecen, started a real escape the room game in London in 2012. The second London based real escape the room game clueQuest opened in 2013 which offers a secret agent themed scenario and is also run by Hungarians. Parapark offers a copy of its Budapest rooms in Barcelona.
AdventureRooms, a Swiss company, offers an enhanced real escape the room game based on experiments in Bern and Lucerne. There is also a new Canadian location for Adventure Rooms in Kitchener, ON, Canada called, AdventureRooms Canada.
Asia now has several escape the room game centers. In Hong Kong, FreeingHK offers an escape the room experience with a late night feel of lasers and lights. In Singapore, Lockdown.sg offers original game designs, with one of the rooms based on Singapore's transport railways.
In Thailand, Escape Hunt is the first escape the room experience to open. It opened in Bangkok in July 2013 with 4 rooms, now expanded to 6 rooms in total. It is set up as a mini theme park experience in a 5 star spa environment where customers are also offered tea and dressing up time in period outfits once they have solved the 100 year old mysteries.
In China, the biggest chain and the most popular room escape provider is Omega Room Escape. Founded in April 2012, this domestic Room Escape provider now has three flagship venues, located respectively in Taiyanggong, Zhongguancun and Chongwenmen in Beijing, covering an area of over 2,500 square meters. Omega Room Escape has franchised partnerships in Taiyuan, Shenyang, Xiamen, Changsha, Tianjin, Xiangtan Liupanshui, Luoyang, Fuzhou, Hohhot, Changchun and other places in Mainland China, and is preparing for its first international venue in Phuket Island, Thailand.
- Alexander, Leigh (2013-01-25). "Could The Room's success predict a new trend?". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
- Meer, Alec (October 6, 2009). "Room Escape: A Secret Giant?". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- "The Two Parts Of Extreme Escape: 9 Hours 9 People 9 Doors / Siliconera". Siliconera. January 10, 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-08. "The first is the Escape Part. Here, you explore the rooms and use the DS touchscreen to examine everything in the room -– anything that could give you a hint on how to escape from the locked room. As you discover new things, the people with you will also give their input and provide you with more hints. Sometimes, you can also find usable items, which can be combined with other items for various purposes. Once you solve all the mysteries in the room, it is possible to unlock the door and escape."
- Hamilton, Kirk (2013-01-28). "I Spent Saturday Morning Solving Puzzles In The Belly Of A Naval Battleship". Kotaku. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
- "Escape-the-Room Games: A History, A Catalogue, and an Explanation - Kino Diaries". October 12, 2009. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- Brown, Kristine (September 4, 2012). "Reading Escape from the Blue Room - Digital Rhetoric and New Media". Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- Gallaway, Brad (January 7, 2010). "Crimson Room: Reverse Review / GameCritics.com - Games. Culture. Criticism.". GameCritics.com. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- Kosman, Joshua (2013-02-28). "Real Escape at Japantown's New People". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
- Real Escape Game official website