Escape rooms rising in popularity

Sally Dobie

Escape rooms are a relatively new concept that only rose to prominence in that last five years, but now in Ireland, there are over 20 escape rooms on offer, with at least six in Dublin alone. 

The general idea is you and your friends get locked in a room, and have 60 minutes to – you guessed it – escape. Usually, the teams can be between two and six people, but this can vary depending on where you book. Most places offer a range of difficulty levels from beginner to advanced.

Most rooms have a theme, and the possibilities in Dublin include Sherlock Holmes, Witchcraft and Wizardry (rooms operated by Escape Dublin), The Cabin in the Woods (Incognito Escape Room) and Alice in Wonderland (Clockwork Door).

Escape rooms are not for everyone. You have to enjoy solving puzzles, be brave enough to be locked in and cope well under time pressure. Also, some themes will be scarier than others, so you have to pick a room bearing in mind everyone coming along with you.

Another turn-off might be the price: due to the props and preparation that goes into some escape rooms, they can get pricey. Incognito Escape Room, one of the highest-rated companies in Dublin (five stars from 569 reviews on Tripadvisor), has prices starting from €28 per person for a team of two. Most companies decrease the price per head the more people you take, but with a bigger team, you’ll probably finish the room faster.

Although I’ve never done any escape rooms in Dublin, I do have two under my belt. I went to ClueHQ in Leicester and Seoul Escape Room in South Korea. The two experiences were very different, not only because in one I couldn’t speak the language (I’ll let you guess which one), but also the set-up, the sophistication and the support differed greatly.

My first experience with an escape room was a 2/5 difficulty room called A-I-9 in ClueHQ, Leicester. It was a last-minute booking when my partner, my father and I had some spare time in the city. There were a variety of puzzles including different kinds of padlocks, number puzzles and matching challenges. For the locks, we received a demonstration beforehand on how to use each one.  We were also told if we need help, there will be a staff member watching our progress on the security camera so hints will be sent to us if need be.

In both rooms, we were told to leave our belongings in a secure box outside and were blindfolded before entering so we weren’t able to figure anything out until the time started. Funnily enough, both times we were given extra time to try and complete the room.

In Seoul Escape Room, it was just me and my partner in a Sherlock Holmes-themed room meant for up to six people. As my Korean isn’t perfect, we were already at a disadvantage. The puzzles in our room were a bit more advanced: aside from the traditional riddles and number games, there were also puzzles that used electric currents, heat and invisible ink. Also, halfway through the game, the wall opened up and there was an extra room. Granted, this room cost a little bit extra because the group was smaller, but in my opinion, it was definitely worth it.

So there are a lot of factors to take into account when deciding if escape rooms are something you want to try, but even if you only try them once, it will be an experience you never forget.

Sally Dobie

Image Credit: PxHere