They might appear as common objects, but each item could provide a clue to aid visitors' escape. Photos: Courtesy of Takagism Club
It's only been three weeks since the Takagism Club opened in a humble residential apartment in Chaoyang district. Based on the escape the room genre of computer games known in Japan as "takagism," the club operates under a similar premise to the first-person computer adventure games that require players to break free by exploiting their surroundings. The Takagism Club has been visited by about 700 people since it opened, with tickets sold out until late next month. Besides the novel experience the club offers adventurous visitors, its 28-year-old founder Peter Huang hopes it will help foster the spirit of teamwork among those who try their luck.
Escape the room is a challenging computer game genre that involves players being locked in a room with few objects. They must manipulate the objects to find clues used to help them escape. For example, drawers can be searched in a dresser to find clues or escaping could even be as simple as lifting a trapdoor under a rug on the floor. Popular examples of escape the room computer games include Crimson Room, Viridian Room and Droom.
Using a one-room apartment spanning 50 square meters, the 10 different games the club has developed have different scenarios, including one based on American horror movie Saw that requires two chained men to escape a bathroom. At 50 yuan ($7.90) per person for an one-hour game, it requires two to six participants. Huang offers real-life gamers a simple explanation of the rules and outlines their task. Groups who successfully solve the puzzles are rewarded with either cash or gifts.
"A lot of people initially thought our club presented a life-death situation. Actually, what we offer is game of knowledge, logic and reasoning," chuckled Huang, who used to work in the advertising industry. "Although some scenarios seem terrifying, we only make them appear like that to enhance the experience."
For example, staff at the club sometimes put a clock in the room that shows a different time to the real time. "This is to encourage participants to look at their watch and figure out the time difference, so they know can surmise which country the story is unfolding in," said operation manger Chen Lei.
During the game, players can't refer to books or use any electronic gadgets such as smartphones. Instead, they need to rely on their knowledge to plot their escape. "Sometimes we get complaints from people who say the puzzles are too difficult," noted Chen. "But a lot of the time it just requires people to use common knowledge."
Leadership and keeping a cool head under pressure are valuable attributes for would-be escape artists at the Takagism Club. "We don't normally acquire problem solving skills at school," said Chen. "When a problem occurs, visitors are often at a loss at how to cope. To solve the puzzles, they need to work as a team. It is best if there is one person can lead and assign different tasks to the team members."
So far, most feedback has been positive from the club's visitors. Complaints center on the crowded space in the room and lack of excitement compared to the scenarios depicted in the computer games, Huang admitted.
"The club is unique. It's the first time that I've played a game and had to use logical reasoning to solve puzzles," said Xu Rui, 18, of his experience in cracking a number puzzle to successfully escape the room at the club on Wednesday.