I’m always up for a challenge. I love solving problems, and things don’t get a whole lot better than reading a good old murder mystery, trying to solve the “whodunit” riddle before the truth is actually revealed. So when my colleague Athina Simeonidou suggested we check out Brain Game, a new series of escape rooms in Karama (and a trend that’s sweeping across the city), I jumped at the chance. How could I not, with rooms such as The Museum, Prison Madness and even one themed around Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express on the cards?
First, the rules of the rooms are explained. We’ll be locked in and given 60 minutes to escape. We will not be allowed any of our personal belongings in the room and we will not even be able to drink water.
Within the allocated time frame, we’ll need to put our minds together and use logic to solve the clues all around us that will help us to escape. We’re informed that everything we see in the room means something. We’re told that pressing the green button will reveal hints (except for in the prison, where we will have a walkie-talkie to communicate for extra clues). Pressing the red panic button in each room will automatically unlock the doors and end the game. It is revealed that those who play Prison Madness (a maximum of four people) will be handcuffed together and chained up, which sounds particularly ominous to me.
Low and behold, my team is sent to prison. But before we’re led away, we’re blindfolded, which adds an entirely new dimension (of mortal terror) to this intriguing game. We’re carefully guided to our cell and told not to remove our blindfolds until we are chained, handcuffed and locked in. A terrifying story is related to us, about a paranoid, psychopathic killer who will return to finish us off if we don’t make it out in 60 minutes, and that’s when I start to panic. All I can think about is that red button. But I mustn’t let the side down.
It feels like an age before we’re told we can remove our blindfolds, but it’s still not long enough for my nerves to settle. So when I see what faces us in the room, it only increases my fear. It’s almost impossible for me to think quickly and clearly with that level of anxiety clouding my judgement. Thank goodness I have three friends with me who are ready and raring to work together to crack the codes.
Now, I love horror movies. And having spent my teenage years watching a huge number of them, I thought I’d been hardened to the terror that they can induce. But all the horror films in the world won’t prepare you for that dreadful feeling of being in the scenario of one.
You might deem yourself the most logical person in the world, but when confined to a small space with a seemingly endless number of meaningless clues, in the form of numeric problems, symbols and pictures all around you, in dead silence, logic goes out of the window. At least it does for me. And without a second thought, I reach for the walkie-talkie. “Help!”
I scream. It cackles into life. “You need your first clue?” It says back at me. That and many more, so please don’t hang up for the rest of the game, I think to myself. “Yes please,”
I whimper. All I want is to be out of there. But it also makes me realise how exceptionally well the owners of these escape rooms have prepared the setting. They’ve managed to make the game about so much more than just solving clues. And just when I think we’ve finally cracked them all, we end up in the setting of Saw… The terror feels endless in Prison Madness and that’s exactly what makes this game so good. It’s not just about using your brainpower to unravel the mystery. It’s interactive and brings you closer to the people you’re working with to get out.
If initially you weren’t so sure of the people you got thrown into jail with, rest assured, you will be by the time you get out. Dhs110 per person (Sun-Thu), Dhs120 per person (Fri-Sat). Minimum two people. Open Sat-Wed 10.30am-9.30pm; Thu 10.30am-10.30pm; Fri 11.30am-10.30pm. Kanoo Group building, Karama, www.braingame.ae (04 396 155604 396 1556).
Four more Escape games to try
Challenge Chambers Solve the riddles and find the hidden objects that will lead to your escape. There are six 60-minute rooms to try, including “The 13th Victim” and a 30-minute taster room, “Trapped”. Dhs125 per person (minimum two people). Sunset Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.challengechambers.com.
Claustrophobia Already in Berlin, Ukraine, Spain and Kyrgyzstan, Claustrophobia flung open the doors to its escape rooms in Dubai this month. Enter them and complete a mission in order to get out. From Dhs190 per person (minimum two people). Jumeirah Bay X1, Cluster X, JLT; Red Diamond Building, Cluster Y, JLT www.phobia.ae.
Escape Quest Nothing is as ordinary as it seems in these rooms. In groups of two to five, you must race against the clock to crack the codes and brainteasers that will lead to your freedom. Dhs140 per person (minimum two people). HDS Business Tower, Cluster M, JLT, www.escapequest.ae.
Hint Hunt Designed for groups of three to five, you must solve a mountain of puzzles in order to escape cubicles as mysterious-sounding as JM’s Office and Zen Room. From Dhs110 per person (for a group of five). Times Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.hinthunt.ae.