Visit one of London’s escape rooms for a unique experience
From project managers looking for a new team-building experience to get employees working better together, to birthday boys and girls seeking a day out with a difference, it seems everyone wants to get a piece of the capital’s latest craze.
Anyone who has ever watched The Crystal Maze on TV or played one of those infuriating PC puzzle games where you are locked in a room that seems to have no way out will be familiar with the concept of an escape room. You and your team, which typically consists of 4-12 people, are locked in a room and have to work together to unravel clues and use all your ingenuity to a way out – and you have 60 seconds to do so.
The idea was born in Japan when developer Takao Kato fulfilled his childhood dream of bringing the wonder of his beloved manga to life and creating real-world adventures. He started to arrange “escape games” in bars and clubs, setting up complex trails of clues and codes for the players to solve.
Such was the popularity of the games that he moved the idea into purpose-built facilities, and so the first escape room was born. Over the subsequent years, the idea has spread across the globe and nowhere has it achieved greater popularity than in London. Now Escape offer more than 100 escape rooms, each with their own theme and located at a variety of venues across the capital.
Escape rooms have also proved to be a popular tourist draw in some of the least likely locations. Budapest, for example, is a city with a growing reputation for its unique nightlife. The city has already found its own niche, with its many derelict buildings hosting the immensely popular ruin bars. It takes no great stretch of the imagination to see that these can also make highly atmospheric venues for escape rooms, which are starting to appear throughout the city.
A great night out
One of the cleverest things about the whole escape room phenomenon is that it provides a memorable experience that doesn’t take up an entire day or half-day. Compare it with activities such as paintball or carting, which sound fun, but are so time-consuming that they can become logistically difficult to arrange.
A one-hour adventure at, for example, 6.30pm on a Friday evening, is the perfect precursor to a night on the town. You’ll be all done and ready to hit the pub or restaurant by 8pm, and everyone will have worked up an appetite and be bursting with things to talk about.
In another nod to The Crystal Maze, each escape room has a different emphasis. Some require lateral thinking and cracking codes, others demand more physical activities to overcome obstacles, while there are some that are more reminiscent of the traditional murder mystery.
One thing is for certain, you and your fellow inmates will come out of the experience knowing far more about one another, and each person’s strengths and weaknesses, than when you went in.
What does it cost?
Prices vary depending on the escape room you choose, but it typically works out between £10 and £20 per person. Where else can you get such a memorable experience at that sort of price in London? No wonder the popularity of escape rooms is continuing to rise, both in the nation’s capital and beyond. Takao Kato must still feel like he is living in a world of make-believe when he sees just what has evolved from his childhood dream.
The editorial unit