A group of people agrees to be locked away. In order to get out, they have to solve puzzles, look for leads and crack codes within a given time as a team. This is the basic concept of Exit Games. Allegedly, the idea was conceived around 2006 in Japan and swept across Hungary to the rest of Europe, though information about its origins is contradictory. But this much is true: the game that takes place in real life, far from the gaming consoles of our time, is incredibly fun, promotes team spirit and rewards its participants with wholesome endorphins. Exit Games are growing in popularity and attract families, friends and firms alike. Germany alone is home to around 50 providers. The puzzles often have to be solved within an hour and incorporate themes such as viruses, hackers, mad professors and secret intelligence agencies. In Japan, the imagination knows no bounds. Here, the rage is all about rotating walls, secret rooms and movable floors.
Berlin – Aliens in the GDR bunker
This Berlin-based Exit Game takes place in a former GDR bunker located not far from Alexanderplatz. The historical catacombs alone infuse the games with a profoundly thrilling sensation and the hallways and chambers where the game rules are explained are decorated with great attention to detail. As a visitor, you are offered a total of four rooms with different puzzles of varying difficulty: Madhouse, Secret Prison, Hackers Home Reloaded and Alien Invasion. The names are self-evident, and often the city of Berlin or all of humanity have to be saved from complete destruction. A special feature of the Berlin provider of these Exit Games is the battle mode, which enables guests to play against each other. A word of caution: it has an extremely high addiction factor!
Exit Game: Klosterstraße 62, 10179 Berlin, Germany
Frankfurt – Bank robbery with consequences
The makers of „Trappd“ have created a small parallel world. Four rooms each constitute a chapter in a story about Tony Schwarz, who in 1979 was an accomplice in a San Diego bank robbery. Besides cracking curious puzzles, players re-experience the tale of Tony Schwarz piece by piece. The narrative structure is very similar to a video game. Players find themselves in the role of a private detective in the financial district of Frankfurt in January 2008. Tony Schwarz has vanished, and his wife has commissioned you to track him down. But Tony’s mistress is also searching for the “Wolf of Manhattan”. And this is just the first chapter…
Trappd: Rudolfstraße 13, 60327 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Munich – The Finest Arts
Munich was once a centre of European painting, and this is where the Escape Game München takes place. In the vicinity of Hohenzollernplatz, players take on the roles of art thieves. The heist: break into a painter’s apartment and steal a painting before he returns. The extravagant residence of the eccentric artist is equipped with plenty of technical and visual subtleties, and the sophisticated technology of the whole setup certainly feels very Indiana Jones. To open secret compartments or to move specific items, other objects must be placed correctly and combinatory actions have to be carried out in the right order. A lot of love has been put into the making of this inventive project and this is something you feel deeply as a player.
Escape Game München: Tengstaße 20, 80798 Munich, Germany
Amsterdam – Logic Locks
Indiana Jones wouldn’t be Indiana Jones without the fascinating women that he meets along the way. The team at Logic Locks in Amsterdam thinks along the same lines. Now it has created the only exit game to combine adventure puzzles with a love story. The puzzles are tricky, the story is inspired: an incredibly precious amulet belonging to a 19th-century Dutch noblewoman has disappeared into thin air. Known as “the Lionheart”, it absolutely has to be recovered. Surprisingly, her ancestors have decided to open up her study chamber to the public. So this is where players find themselves investigating a 19th-century case involving a certain Elizabeth van Leeuwenhart. Now they have to gather clues, piece together information and decipher secret meanings. The mysterious atmosphere packed with details has been constructed by the unique synergies of Logic Locks’ three creators. Firstly, Elles van Asseldonk, a blonde whirlwind who welcomes visitors with open arms (and locked doors). She spent the first ten years of her life in Sri Lanka and has brought her wealth of ideas and impressions to the Amsterdam escape room. Alexander Gierholz from Germany is the mind-reader among the three founders. A psychology graduate, he uses his knowledge to create games and puzzles with incredible twists. Sander van Asseldonk is the alchemist who sprinkles the story with a mystical magic. Logic Locks opened in January 2014 and now the room is often booked out many weeks in advance. Children love the game too, but every team has to include one adult. It took the three founders seven months to create the game. Visitors have just 63 minutes to solve the puzzle and escape from the room.
Logic Locks: Ferdinand Huyckstraat 64, 1061 HW Amsterdam, Netherlands
London – Mystery Cube
Do you like zombie-killing equipment and muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzeneggers? If so, the Mystery Cube London is not for you. Here the only way to solve the puzzle is to use your brain! Do you need to open the box or move something? Here the answer is not to push or pull it harder. It may be a cliché, but you really do have to think outside the box. The small room is packed with puzzles and clues. Everyone is kept busy and at the same time has to communicate with the rest of the group. Things that seem to have no connection come together to create another clue and another step towards finding the answer. The more players, the more fun – but when you’re selecting your team it’s good to think about including a range of abilities. Someone with a logical brain, someone who’s good at lateral thinking – the more diverse your team, the quicker you’ll solve the puzzle. Visitors also say it’s good couples therapy, because it only works when you communicate. Whether that’s true or not, the Mystery Cube is certainly cheaper than a marriage counsellor! Two to five players are admitted into a top secret organisation to investigate strange and mysterious cubic phenomena throughout space and time. The organisation is so secret that you never learn its name and only one thing is guaranteed: you can only keep the cube stable in space and time for one hour at a time. After that, it is impossible to predict what will happen to the Mystery Cube – with you inside. So you have to solve the puzzle within 60 minutes if you want to escape from the Cube. Your first challenge is to actually find it. The Mystery Cube is not exactly lit up with big neon signs, but you are given the correct address. Once you get there, you are welcomed by a professor who introduces you to the weird world of the Cube. The Mystery Cube is open to all 20th and 21st-century humanoids – whether colleagues, family or friends. There are no shocks, bright lights or other scary things inside.
Mystery Cube: 19 Deer Park Rd, London SW19 3UX
Brussels – The Escape Hunt Experience
Brussels offers three Exit Games that are all linked to the Belgian capital. “Kidnapping at the Opera” plays out at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie, known as La Monnaie (the coins). A renowned reporter has been kidnapped. There are no leads and no witnesses – it’s like he’s vanished into thin air. Exit gamers play the role of a famous London detective who has to help the Brussels police to solve this serious case. The second game is about a bomb threat in a highly frequented spot. In “Bomb in the Royal Palace”, a ransom letter has just arrived stating that the bomb with detonate in 60 minutes if a large sum of money is not paid. It’s your job to assist the police in finding the perpetrator before the bomb goes off. And of course any game in Brussels has to involve the famous Manneken Pis. But in fact he’s not there, because in “Robbery of the Manneken Pis” he’s been stolen! “The oldest citizen of Brussels” is an extremely important artefact that must be restored to its rightful place. You have to help bring the thief to justice!
The games last 60 minutes, but you should allow 90 minutes for the whole event. First there is a short briefing, and after the game a surprise awaits the eager detectives. The games are conceived for two to five players and fun is guaranteed. We can’t give away too much, but you can be sure it won’t be easy! Visitors walk in the footsteps of a great London detective. It’s even possible to play on your own, but the organisers have to charge you for two people because of the expense involved. But it’s much more fun to play in a team. For six or more players it is possible to book two rooms and play at the same time.
The Escape Hunt Experience: 13 rue de Livourne, 1060 Brussels, Belgium
Cologne – AdventureRooms
Gabriel Palacios is a T-shirt-and-sneakers-wearing physics teacher, a down-to-earth, nice guy who is totally committed to making learning fun. He founded the first AdventureRoom in 2012 as a school project in Bern, Switzerland. Even before he told anyone about it, the local newspapers were reporting on how his game was addictive. Schoolkids were telling their friends and families, who all wanted to start puzzling it out for themselves. It is based on classic computer games such as Monkey Island and full of tricky challenges. Palacios has very quickly torn down the seemingly fixed barriers between boring school work and addictive computer games. He has also shown that he has a good head for business. He has sold licences to a number of countries, including Greece, Estonia, Germany and even the USA and Canada. He is constantly being bombarded with new requests, but he wants to focus on the original ones first. The AdventureRooms seems destined to be a huge corporation. But it is not famous for fries or clothing – guests are simply handcuffed and left to try and escape.
Palacios has been making a living from his company for some time now, but he is keen to carry on teaching. The books he has at home are more important to him than his ever-growing success – he doesn’t want them to remain unread! With his love of brain work, it’s hardly surprising that the AdventureRooms say only 30% of teams manage to escape. It’s not enough to sit around playing on your phone and solving a puzzle. Like other similar games, you have 60 minutes to escape from the room. This Exit Room has as much to do with horror and scary happenings as MacGyver has to do with violence. Instead, players need to apply skill, logic and strategic thinking in order to solve the riddle. No prior knowledge is necessary. The standard format is a team of two to six people. But it can be even more fun to play a duel, where four to twelve people split into two teams. Children above 9 years old can play, but they have to be accompanied by an adult. Otherwise the game is open to everyone. And by the way, we don’t know whether Richard Dean Anderson has ever been locked in an AdventureRoom!
AdventureRoom: Maastrichter Str. 22, 50672 Cologne, Germany
Hidden in Hamburg
On her way to work, Ulrike Muuß always listens to the “Three Investigators”. Puzzles are her passion, but also her bread and butter – she runs the Hidden in Hamburg exit game. She caught the exit game bug when she spent a study semester in Budapest. Ulrike Muuß is also planning to expand, because customers are flocking to her escape room – and her escape boat. She has four rooms, two of which are on board the Rickmer Rickmers, a three-masted sailing ship moored at St Pauli piers in Hamburg. Her stories are not designed for the faint-hearted. On the Rickmer Rickmers there are two games: In “Captain Overboard” the ship is overtaken by a huge storm while sailing from Hamburg to Hong Kong. And as if that isn’t bad enough, pirates board the ship and lock the exit gamers in the captain’s cabin. They have to escape within one hour, because the ship is already starting to sink. “Murder On Board” is the second story. It’s about Smutje, who suddenly disappears into thin air. It is thought that he fell overboard after a drinking session, but the crew starts to suspect each other and the situation escalates when a finger is found in the soup…
There are another two rooms and two games on Hamburg’s Rothenbaumchaussee. “Mutiny on the High Seas” is also set on board a ship and plays out in the year 1570. The crew mutinies while sailing from Hamburg to Portugal. Once again the team are shut in the captain’s cabin and have to escape within 60 minutes. “The Rosie Scandal” is about the death of a famous high-class prostitute. As usual, she simply disappears into thin air. This time the exit gamers play the role of inquisitive journalists who snoop around in Rosie’s brothel, but her pimp is not impressed. „Hidden in Hamburg“ teaches gamers a lot about the city. The games are played by teams of up to 6 people, and the different locations mean that several groups can play at the same time.
Hidden in Hamburg: Rothenbaumchaussee 3, 20148 Hamburg, Germany
Vienna – Mystoria
Here the games are called “tracks”. There are currently four of them, all exciting games with varying degrees of difficulty. Even before you start playing, Mystoria lures you in with two short, fascinating introductory videos about the puzzle. “The Revenge of the Don” is about family honour and a big secret. The police have found out where the Mafia boss is living. The players have to solve the puzzle before his “friend and helper” in order to uphold the don’s family honour. In the “Mad Professor”, the players are in a secret laboratory packed full of strange inventions. Is this the location of mysterious experiments that could change the world? And is there even time to find out? Because the laboratory has a self-destruct mechanism that will go off in 60 minutes – time is of the essence!
Mystoria has a very special room for fans of science fiction. Track three is played out on a spaceship. But all its systems have gone down and after an emergency landing the crew is left in complete darkness. They have to rely on their sense of taste and smell and prick up their ears even more than Mr Spock. One thing is clear, the crew wants to get to the station on Mars safe and sound!
The newest room involves the popular theme of secret societies. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be part of a secret sect, then now’s your chance! Just like in the movies, the secret meetings take place by the light of flickering candles. The team members wear authentic robes and the challenges faced by the secret society are the hardest that Mystoria has to offer. The highly complex one-room puzzle is a real treat for connoisseurs, but the other rooms are also well worth a visit.
Mystoria: Kliebergasse 1, 1050 Vienna, Austria