Escape One bring us the first of their mystery rooms
Some people will not have heard of an escape room and must think that it’s some strange kind of pastime, but in fact, it’s actually a great way to spend an hour as a group of friends or family. It’s essentially a team game, and, ideally, you should bring different types of people with you — someone with strong problem-solving skills, someone who is good with mathematical equations, someone who is curious and, most importantly, people that you can spend an hour with in a room.
Based in Portimão, Escape One opened last July and The Laboratory is the first room from a husband-and-wife team who already have their second room, Atlantis, in production and should be open for Easter. There’s also a third and slightly more spooky Zombie room on the drawing board for later this year. We drove up to the door where we were welcomed by owner Katie Bodsworth, and escorted to the room. Like most escape rooms, it’s located in a shop lot, and you could easily miss it unless you knew it was there. Katie’s husband and gamesmaster David was waiting for us, and soon the induction meeting began. Those who have never been will welcome Katie’s insight on the purpose of this activity: “In an escape room, it’s all about achievement — getting rewarded for the work you do and nothing if you don’t do anything! It’s about technique and patience,” she explains. “You have to organise yourselves, go through all the steps and wait a bit to see your results. The focus in an escape game is on teamwork, real communication between real people.”
Escape rooms can often seem like perfectly straightforward spaces at first glance, but they hide many secrets. “It might be an office, an apartment entryway, a prison cell, a bank vault or even a rabbit hole. It will depend on the story you’re starring in,” Katie says. “But wait, there’s something not quite right about that drawer — it has a false bottom! There’s a folded piece of paper in it! It has what looks like a cypher written on it, and in the corner, a page reference? You look around. There are some books on a shelf…” And so the story begins to unravel. Hidden in the room are puzzles, enigmas, mysteries and secrets the group must put together and solve “until you have played out your script. The aim is to escape the room within the hour”.
After our briefing, we entered our room and the door locked behind us. Game on. Each room is unique, and you can only solve it once, which is why we won’t give too much away. All we’ll say is that the theme here is of a laboratory and we got out just in time with a few hints from the games-masters who were watching our every move on the cameras.
The Laboratory is a mystery room suitable for all ages since it’s not dark or scary. There are chairs for people with reduced mobility to sit while exercising their brains and it’s wheelchair accessible.
According to the founders of Escape One, the demographics in the escape-rooms business is mostly comprised of millennials, but that didn’t stop them: “We are among the oldest games-masters that we have come across. Maybe that’s why our room is frequently hailed to be a bit different,” says Katie. “Escape rooms have arrived, and they’re here to stay. But what makes them so addictive? Why do we want to be locked in a room?” she wonders. “Watching all the lovely millennials (and occasionally their parents) playing our escape room has made me realise why escaping in any way is so important in our culture today.”
Katie also points out how different people react in different ways to the challenges: “If I’ve learned anything from watching people play escape games, it’s that everyone sees the world differently. Age and experience make you focus on different things, and I guess this shows through in your work.” Katie and David are very enthusiastic and their energy is contagious. They don’t limit the hints but don’t give them out haphazardly either. Everyone gets out, and getting out within the hour gives you a great sense of achievement.
We were all very excitable when we got out of the room, taking great pleasure in patting each other on the back and can’t wait for the next rooms to open!
Text: Mia Wallace