Dubai has a wonderful obsession with escape rooms. There’s something about transporting yourself and your mates/colleagues/family to a whole new world (usually dystopian or perilous or both) that will totally capture their imaginations.
Throughout the city there are a number of escape room games, all of which offer the closest experience many of you will ever get to feeling like you’re in the real-life ’90s TV sensation The Crystal Maze.
Here’s our pick of five that you’ll want to put high up on your must-do-with-visitors-in-Dubai list. So gather your nearest and dearest, bring your wits and most certainly bring your patience – it’s easy for arguments to break out when you’re under pressure.
Make your great escape from these top rooms…
The team behind Escape Reality describe it as “the perfect alternative entertainment option for those who are bored of the usual movie and restaurant routine”. Reading between the lines, that means you totally expect to need a real mixture of skills if you’re going to battle your way through a whopping great eight different games. That’s right, eight.
Sprawling across a 6,000 sq ft arena on Sheikh Zayed Road near FAB Metro Station, Escape Reality is the Dubai branch of a worldwide escape room concept. In this city, you’re encouraged to think outside the box, crawl, poke, roll and think your way around games based on popular films, TV shows, real-life historic events and folklore.
One game, for example, transports players to a world where vampires roam, and you must find a way to defeat them. Whether you like horror or adventure, there are eight different worlds to explore and with each game lasting an hour, you could thoroughly puzzle yourself out going from room to room, from one perilous scenario to the next.
There’s even a definitely-not-inspired-by-Game-of-Thrones challenge, so we’re most definitely there.
Three to try
Escape while a distraction has diverted your guard’s attention – this is your prime opportunity, so don’t mess it up.
Broadly based on The Da Vinci Code, this challenge sees you take the role of a cryptologist seeking to unearth a secret that has been kept for thousands of years, in the face of a dangerous group trying to catch you.
The iron kingdom
Defintely in no way related to the George R. R. Martin series. In a world known as The Seven Kingdoms, war breaks out over rightful ownership of the Iron Throne (they’re not even trying to hide it, are they?). Find out who the rightful heir is within the time limit.
From Dhs100 per player per game. Open Sun-Wed noon-10.30pm; Thu-Sat noon-midnight. Sheikh Zayed Road, opposite FAB Metro Station (04 332 7777).
This place calls itself the “original live escape game” and promises you an action-packed hour where three to five of your mates will get together and test your might against an array of challenges.
Around the world, HintHunt has had more than one million players, and claims to really put its back into the set design to help fully immerse you in one of the five games it has to offer you.
Check this place out if you’re bringing your mates together or trying to forge a bond with your colleagues (without shouting at them – there’s always one over-competitive guy in the office, right?). P.S. Don’t bother if you get stressed out easily, HintHunt says it’s a non-starter if you can’t keep your cool in the last five minutes.
Three to try
A private detective finds a dead body in his office and has been falsely accused of murder. The police have sealed off the space, but as you and your team manage to sneak in, you’ve got one hour to prove JM’s innocence. You’ll need your finest detective hat on, and show that you can think outside the box.
Submarine – Torpedo
In the depths of the ocean, you and your crew aren’t the only submarine in the water. Your colleagues on another ship have disappeared without a trace, and fallen off the radar. You need to find out what happened to them, and ready your torpedo in case of threats.
This challenge requires patience, team work – and definitely isn’t one to do with the in-laws.
Probably the hardest challenge of the lot, in our opinion. You’ll need to work individually and as a team to piece together the many puzzles in this Tokyo-based scene, where your team has been contacted by a wealthy property owner over a robbery that has taken place, with her estranged uncle sitting firmly as the main suspect.
From Dhs115.5 per person. Open daily 10am-10pm. Times Square Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 2242).
In among the swathes of escape rooms you’ll find in Dubai, there’s a brand-new challenge in town, and it has something of a twist on the norm.
Fans of The Crystal Maze will love Jumble, in Al Barsha. It’s an array of mental and physical challenges, and the organisers say you’ll never have the same experience twice. There are more than one hundred games, with varying consequences for failure and prizes for success.
Jumble calls itself the world’s first indoor urban maze, an unconventional gaming experience and “nothing the UAE has ever seen”. Basically, it’s a giant, 3,500 sq m maze, with a twist.
The twist is that you’ll sporadically have a new room, and a new challenge, chucked in your face, which will push your logic, reasoning, athleticism and teamwork skills to the max with a series of physical and mental tests.
“It’s hard to describe Jumble without giving too much away,” says Max Oscroft, Jumble’s chief enjoyment officer. “So I guess you’ll just have to try this unique experience for yourselves. I guarantee it’ll mess with your head.”
This is something entirely different and totally worth checking out. We can’t give you any information on the three challenges to try at Jumble – we’ve literally been sworn to secrecy.
Dhs149 per person (two hours), Dhs199 per person (four hours). Open daily 10am-10pm. Al Barsha (800 586 253).
This is one of the city’s longer-serving escape rooms, and offers a wide range of games to stump you, gazump you and challenge every ounce of your grey mass. Try the Victorian detective-inspired Sherlock and Impossible Mission, a game whose name does little to veil the identity of the movie it’s obviously inspired by (that’s Mission Impossible, by the way).
It’s the latter that has a particularly interesting looking challenge. “You are the top secret agents of Syndicat – the world’s biggest mafia organisation,” it reads. “Syndicat has been hunting for this treasure for many years. Now it’s time to finally steal the priceless artefact from the highly secured museum of arts”. The game is described as “probably the hardest mission of your career”, which we like.
You’ll find Phobia in two locations across JLT, firstly in Cluster X, and then also in the Red Diamond Building just across the road from Cluster Y.
Three to try:
Based loosely on the events of Saw, make your escape from a serial killer’s basement.
You play the friend of a Victorian detective in this room and you must save his life, solve a mystery and catch an on-the-loose killer, all before he makes his escape. Elementary, surely.
A challenge that’s technologically advanced, convincing, immersive, and – most importantly – tough. Escape zombies in a post-apocalyptic world where you’ve survived in an underground bunker.
From Dhs115 per person. Open daily 11am-midnight. Cluster X, JLT (050 873 0445).
Tee and Putt Escape Golf
The final, and probably the most unusual, entry on the escape room list comes from Tee and Putt at Wafi Mall.
“Can you escape to play?” they ask us. Well, this new locked mini golf game challenge will put your creativity, logic and problem-solving skills to the test, while also seeing if you can nail that 18ft putt.
In order to play each hole, you’ll need to first unlock it. To do so, you’ll need to solve a series of cryptic puzzles, a variety of challenges and work with your teammates to make it happen. To find the solution, you’ll have to pay attention to hidden clues dotted around the room. Once you have done so, you’ll be given the opportunity to take a crack at the four-number code. If you get it right, you get to play the next hole.
It’s as simple as that.
Dhs50 per person. Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm; Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Wafi, Oud Metha (04 357 3290).