As a kid, I got my vicarious thrills watching MacGyver save the day with little else than a Swiss Army knife and the odd knickknack he picked up along the way. Since then I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, be it a short game of Unblock Me while commuting or an engaging mystery novel.
And so it was with more excitement than I’m willing to admit that I joined my group of friends to try out this activity from Breakout Philippines, which promised to be a thoroughly immersive puzzle-solving experience.
Breakout Philippines puts you and your team in a carefully designed room from which you must escape within 45 minutes, or remain trapped forever (or until the staff busts you out). If you’ve ever played apps such as Can You Escape, this would be its real-life counterpart.
The themed rooms contain all the clues and tools you will need for your escape; it is up to your team to work together, find the clues, and solve the puzzle before time runs out. The people behind Breakout Philippines are the same ones behind Outbreak Manila, where hungry zombies provide the extra motivation for you to finish your 5-kilometer run.
Prison Room vs Adarna’s Lair
Breakout Philippines offers two scenarios as of now: the Prison Room and Adarna’s Lair.
As the name suggests, the Prison Room will have you and your fellow inmates thinking like Michael Scofield and attempting your prison break during a jailhouse riot.
Adarna’s Lair, on the other hand, is a prequel to Outbreak Manila. You and your detective friends have broken into the house-cum-laboratory of Dr Adarna, who is suspected of starting a zombie epidemic, to discover more about the virus. However, things take a turn for the worse as the zombies close in on your location.
After gathering our 7 members, we registered online for Adarna’s Lair. Weekend slots fill up quickly and we had to wait about 2 weeks for game day. Their website tells us how strict they are about time, and we arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled hour so that we can talk some strategy before heading in.
After a quick briefing about the mechanics of the game, we were blindfolded and led into the lair. We heard the door lock behind us, and a muffled voice from the speakers explained our situation and asked us to take our blindfolds off. The large LED timer began its countdown. The game had begun.
I don’t want to spoil the game, but I can tell you this: there’s a lot of intensity packed in these scarce 45 minutes. You’ll feel a lot of things: delight as you find new clues; anger when the key just refuses to fit into that keyhole; and then a glorious sense of accomplishment when you finally figure things out – only to fall back into panic as you scramble to find more clues.
Allow me to share with you some tips for making it out successfully:
Teamwork is key. The rooms are designed to overwhelm your senses. Random things are scattered around, and it will feel like the clues are everywhere. Divide the tasks among your teammates and they will be much more manageable.
One thing that helped us tremendously was to have someone keep track of all the clues the team finds so that the clues can be pieced together more efficiently.
Be thorough. As a corollary, be organized. Key items can sometimes be found in unexpected places, and it is important to keep your eyes wide open and really scour the place for clues.
Being organized will allow you and your teammates to pursue the more promising leads without having to do things over. I personally lost my team a few precious minutes by misplacing a clue, all because I started becoming sloppy as I felt time running out.
Stay focused. Forty-five minutes might seem like a long time, but when frustration sets in, people might start to panic and abandon their tasks halfway. Resist that urge! Time will slip by much faster if you flit around from task to task without focus.
Be observant, but have the end in mind. Often, a quick survey of the environment will give you an idea about what you need to find. Is it a key, a tool, a combination? Searching for clues will be much easier if you know what you’re looking for. It will also keep you focused and help you discern if the object in your hands is an important clue or just a distraction.
While the website specifies a maximum of 6 people for the Prison Room and 7 people for Adarna’s Lair, we were told by the manager that larger groups can be accommodated, but will not qualify for the Wall of Fame if they do break out. Of course, all members of the team will have to be first-time takers of the room to be eligible for the Wall of Fame.
For those interested, the ground rules are stated clearly in the FAQs section of Breakout Philippines’ website. Things marked with their special sticker are off-limits and are not part of the game. These include equipment such as the sound system.
One thing that is not mentioned, though, is that there will be an onlooker in the room to make sure that everyone stays safe and that the rules are followed. Don’t bother trying to extract clues from this guy – believe me, we’ve tried! If you think that the presence of an onlooker might distract from the experience, you need not worry. You’ll probably be too focused (or frantic) to notice him, and he’ll only step in if you’re doing something dangerous or forbidden.
Prices are P600 ($13.80)* per person for 1-2 persons, P500 ($11.50) per person for 3-4 persons, and P400 ($9.20) per person for 5 or more persons. To get your preferred schedule, it is best to register online through their website; however, note that there is an extra PhP50 ($1.15) fee per person for online reservation and payment.
Check out breakout.com.ph for more details. Their Facebook page also has pictures of every team that has attempted the escape, calling them either “Living Legends” or “Trapped Forever.” In case you’re wondering, my team belongs to the latter, but we’re already talking about going back just to break out of prison. – Rappler.com
Maurice Wong is a chemist by profession and likes to read and paint in his spare time.
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