The newest form of entertainment that has left arcade and video games in the dust is the thrilling real-life escape room experience. For the first time, citizens of Guwahati will be able to experience the same as a new centre, part of the nationwide popular company called Mystery Rooms, has come up at ABC, GS Road. Their first location in the Northeast, it is the best place where you can take your love for room escape games to the next level.
But have you ever wondered how did such games come about? Live escape room games owe much to their virtual predecessors that first introduced gamers to the concept of being locked in a room and having to escape by looking for clues and solving puzzles, all within a time limit. Dialling the clock back to the 1970s, one of the first ever escape video games called Planet Mephius by Eiji Yokoyama was released in Japan. An enormous boost came in 2004 when Toshimitsu Takagi from Japan created the game, Crimson Room, which had a short introductory text presenting the back story of the game to its players, enabling the player to become wholly absorbed in the game.
Experience it Live
The first ever live room escape game called Origin was launched in 2006 at San Francisco, USA and was inspired by Agatha Christie’s work. In 2010, real life room escape games started to become very popular in Japan, Taiwan, the USA and especially in China.
Japan, in particular, found a lot of fans for real-life room escape games. The most popular one is called Real Escape Game, developed by 35-year-old Takao Kato in 2007. More than 2,00,000 players from all over the world have played his game – in Japan, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore and the USA. Another original game called Escape from the Mysterious Cathedral appeared in Singapore in 2011, growing to over 50 games by 2015. Currently, real-life room escape games are being played in more than 50 countries and over 280 cities.
Taking Shape in India
This global rage also took shape in India because of the efforts of three adventure enthusiasts. Sapna Bhutani, Shikhir Bhutani, and Pratweek Panjwani put their heads together to start India’s very own real-life escape experience company, Mystery Rooms. Their intriguing rooms started changing the entertainment industry as well as weekend plans of gamers all across the country.
During a phone interview, Sapna Bhutani, CEO and co-founder of Mystery Rooms, explained the concept behind the company. ‘Mystery Rooms is basically real life escape experience. As you know, escape games are very popular online. So the idea was to add a real life effect, where you can participate in real time. It was an experiment for us. We started in Delhi in 2014. That was the first branch, we started with one room first and then we started spreading nationwide.’
The idea was to introduce a new form of entertainment for city folk. ‘When you talk about any metro city nowadays, there are very limited options for entertainment. Besides a movie or going out to a pub or club, there’s nothing more that we can do. People are looking for something new every weekend. Everybody wants to explore something new.’ She shares that it was a customer-ready industry so they were more than eager to experiment this revolutionary idea in India.
The company has over 16 centers all over the nation, and by 2019, they want to increase that number to 25. The Mystery Rooms centre in Guwahati opened in the month of February and has grown immensely popular. The centre is always swarming with energetic players ready to ‘Sherlock’ their way out of the rooms.
Open from 10 am to 10 pm on all seven days of the week, the venue has four rooms. Four missions are available to the customers. In the order of the easiest to the toughest challenge, they are: The Hurt Locker – A Bomb Defuse Challenge, Lockout – A Prison Break Challenge, Abduction – The Final Hour, and Cabin In The Woods – The Murder Mystery.
‘For now, we are working on adding more mission rooms. We are also trying to increase the difficulty level, but we are adding easy ones as well to enhance the experience of every player,’ Sapna revealed.
The missions are group activities, varying from a strength of 2 to 8 people in a team, who pick a mission from the 4 and are locked inside an escape room with 60 minutes in hand. The sole motive is to get themselves out of the room before time runs out. The price ranges from Rs 700 to Rs 800 per person, depending on the team size and peak hours. Price reduces when you go in big teams so the more, the merrier. They also offer ‘Early Bird Discount’ till noon.
Although weekdays are less crowded, customers are requested to pre-book their slots on the official mystery room site. Also, do not worry about being stuck, as every second is monitored by a ‘Game Master’ who helps out the players and life lines are also presented to the participants. For added advantage, Facebook check-ins unlock 2 extra lifelines. An extra Rs 500 can buy you extra time, so it is as easy as it is hard.
The staff is friendly and helpful. Players can also use the costumes and props for a fun photoshoot to help preserve the memories.
The centre offers locker rooms as mobiles and smart watches are not allowed inside the escape rooms; food facilities are also available. They also host birthday parties and corporate events. Corporates can enjoy karaoke rooms, dancing, special sets of games called Mad Minute games to encourage team work, interpersonal bonding and problem solving skills. The company will also introduce portable escape rooms in the future.
The Road Ahead
After tasting success in Guwahati, Bhutani shared, ‘With the response that we have received, we are encouraged to move deeper into the Northeast and are planning to open more branches. Probably in the next six months, we plan to have at least two more branches in the region.’
The action-packed escape experience is definitely here to stay. So, we just have one last question to ask, are you game?
Pushpanjali Arcade, 2nd Floor
ABC Chowk, Tarun Nagar
Opposite Dona Planet
By Nandana Phatowali