Thinking Outside the Room
Phnom Penh’s first ever escape room experience is Sherlock Holmes meets Monsters, Inc. We volunteer to get locked inside and try our hands at solving the mystery.
“Quick! Quick! [We’ve got] 15 minutes left!”
In the dark, we had only a torch to illuminate our way while uncovering the eccentric secrets buried in a room which once belonged to our fellow investigator, until his untimely death.
With only 60 minutes, we had to be quick on our feet unfolding the gloomy truth of his demise or god knows where we would wind up…
Harking back to the 19th century, a time when infamous unsolved crimes such Jack the Ripper roaming the street of England were rife, The Shelter is a story written by pioneering Phnom Penh-based Escape 60 creators Rebecca Murillo and Sergio Bakali which transports participants to England for much less than the price of a flight.
The Spanish expat spouses decided that Cambodia’s capital needed a new kind of fun, something that family and friends could participate in – a bonding activity. Teens meet up at a coffee shop to chitchat, and adults might gather at the pub. But the Spanish gamechangers wanted to make a change to the ordinary routine.
What they came up with is the mind-boggling puzzle that is Escape 60. They hope that their creation will give Phnom Penh residents an alternative day out.
Before the game was available to the public, the founders had to make sure that the challenge was feasible. So they had many trial runs, putting the room to the test before opening its doors last year.
Their creative minds certainly landed on an adventurous experience for the three of us.
Two of my best colleagues, Dara and Jane, and I covered our journalist badges with our new investigator coats and hats, and approached a room marked with a wooden plaque reading “The Shelter” from the outside.
Leaving behind the typical scorching Cambodian heat, we stepped inside. When the door cracked open, we could have been in an entirely different place, on any side of the world.
I gave it a look and did a quick calculation. England. Hah! At least that was what Sergio had told us. The room really was convincing. “Someone [from the UK] once told us it looked like their gran’s house,” Sergio had laughed.
We were trapped in. No keys. No phones. No food. No water. For the next hour.
I spotted the chimney mounted to the wall. A bookshelf an arm’s-length away from my right. A swift glance at an occupied coat rack to my left.
The only thing to remind us of the outside world was a white computer screen lit up to show the players instructions, controlled by Rebecca and Sergio back in Phnom Penh.
The picturesque English room was packed with an astonishing number of trinkets, all registered under the name of our murdered fellow investigator. The suspect we were searching for was camouflaging themselves among strange cults.
The white screen flickered: the story showed up on the screen, and the room took on an even more somber atmosphere.
The escape game is meant to cage you in a kind of Sherlock Holmes playground. Embracing this, we kicked off our homicide investigation by looking for hidden objects that would help us connect the dots and discover the circumstances of the murder. It had happened earlier, in that very room.
The tension built and we felt walled in by the confined space. We were dressed as three investigators but we could have been three experimental subjects waiting to be surprised by the murderer.
“Does the ‘60’ in Escape 60 refer to how much we age the moment we step inside the room?”
We could make out the sound of our heartbeats beneath the Sherlock Holmes theme music.
The room was full of surprises. And our experience wasn’t free of twists. Just as we thought we had discovered everything, we were caught off guard by a final bombshell.
The dynamic duo behind the game gleefully admit that they constantly renew their game plan. The next time players come back, they have a new puzzle to solve.
And the amount of time and brainpower Sergio and Rebecca put into planning is all worth it – Escape 60 is a crazy ride that will stretch both your nerve and your mental abilities.
Escape 60 comes in two themes: The Shelter and The Night City Prison, leveled medium and expert respectively. The team hope to build a brand new themed room soon.
“Maybe an outer space concept next? Who knows?” Sergio says.
Escape 60 Phnom Penh, located near Russian Market, opens daily from 9am to 9pm and is available for reservation. Players can team up with maximum of five in a game and the game fee is $20 per person.
BY: Chhem Sreynet