Stuck in an escape room... abroad?
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The escape room craze is growing rapidly, and not just in Japan where they originated – the first room was created in Kyoto in 2007. Now they’re a worldwide phenomenon! I for one have done almost 30 escape room games across six different cities, which probably classes as an obsession… so here's some advice from an expert. The first game I did was in late 2016 in Liverpool, with a company called Breakout who had invited me along to review one of their games. Since then, I’ve tried to do an escape room wherever I go which means I’ve played in cities that lie outside of England: so, what’s it like to play an escape room in a foreign country? Having only done that one game in Liverpool, I decided to book a game during our upcoming trip to Krakow, Poland. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but figured it would be pretty similar to playing in the UK, so we got in a taxi and drove through the snow to our destination – the top of an apartment building off a tiny square full of vegan restaurants. As it turned out, we’d gone to the wrong venue: this particular company had two different addresses because they run multiple rooms, which is fairly common. Luckily their other building was only on the other side of the square, so with snowflakes in our hair we ran over to see what was in store.
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We looked at each other in a state of shock, full of nervous laughter and thoughts of kidnap – but we put the bags over our heads anyway, and allowed ourselves to be lead into a tiny, pitch-black room. And it all turned out okay, of course, and it ended up being a really fun room, although it remains to this day one of the only ones we’ve ever failed at getting out of. We went back and did the rest of their Krakow-based rooms, and had a great time all round: it’s just pretty scary when you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, and someone asks you to put a bag over your head… By the time my next holiday rolled around, I’d done escape rooms a-plenty across the UK – more in Liverpool as well as Chester, Manchester and Bury. We booked a trip to Riga, Latvia, in an Air B n B in the old town with a mezzanine bed and a mystery door, and on our very last day we discovered we’d been staying around the corner from an escape room company the entire time. It was snowing and we had a suitcase full of Latvian food and cheap European skincare, and we were ushered in by a woman whose English was as lacking as our Latvian was. She helped us drag our suitcase up the steps and into the store room, and then she handed us a walkie-talkie and ordered us straight back out into the snow. The company also owned the building next door, which is where our particular escape room was – we’d opted for a Breaking Bad themed room because we thought it would be cool, and it probably would have been if a million different things didn’t go wrong. The language barrier combined with the walkie-talkie (most games have clues come through on a screen) meant that even when we did need a clue, it was really difficult to get one. Normally, the game runner can’t hear what you say – but the walkie-talkie meant the poor Latvian woman on the other end heard all of our frustrations, albeit in a language she didn’t quite understand. We managed to break out, although our game had to be paused because one of the vital parts wouldn’t work – we had to pour water into a tank to activate the next step of the puzzle, but we didn’t have enough water and it took about ten minutes of explaining to get it sorted. You live and learn, though. I’ve got trips to Porto, Nuremberg, Prague and Lublin (not Dublin!) booked throughout the year, so I’ll be testing out some more escape room games and seeing if the language barrier is a hindrance, or if anyone else has us putting bags on our heads…
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