ESCAPE Rooms are a relatively new concept in Ireland but are catching on quickly as they grow in popularity.
They are an interactive game of code-breaking and puzzle-solving that you and your team have to crack in order to beat the game and escape the room.
Not knowing what to expect, my team and I visited the Albatross Escape Room in Bantry for the first time and were very pleasantly surprised.
I had conjured up images of claustrophobically trying to escape a stressful situation under some physical duress, but it is not like that at all.
At Albatross Escape Room, the theme is ‘Le Surveillante’, which is a delightful link to local maritime history.
We arrived about 15 minutes ahead of our booking time, which is advisable as it allows your game-master to give you a briefing of the rules and safety measures and to highlight the objective of the game.
Once the session begins, you are ‘locked’ into your escape room and the fun begins. The experience is truly an immersive one and we immediately set ourselves into action, trying to orientate ourselves as to which puzzle to start with.
Being complete newbies to Escape Rooms, we weren’t even sure where to start but were spurred into action at the sight of a timer counting down the hour on a screen in the corner of the room.
I have never known an hour to pass as quickly — or entertainingly — in a long time and we made it out with just a minute and seven seconds to spare!
Afterwards, talking to Michelle who is the mastermind behind the Albatross Escape Room, she explained that ‘Escape Rooms are different as they are truly an entire-family activity.
Usually, family activities result in the kids doing all the work while the parents watch, but this includes everyone. I can fully attest to that as our team consisted of myself, three teenagers, and the youngest team member, aged 10, and we quickly learned that different brains solve different puzzles.
Michelle has also noticed that it’s often the smallest one in the room that has the most imaginative mind and who can easily decipher a clue that an older, more technical mind, cannot.
Frank and Michelle opened the Albatross Escape Room in March, 2018, and have had such remarkable success with it that they are planning to open a second room by the end of January.
In the reception, there is a gigantic wall map full of dot stickers representing the countries contestants have come from and it spans everywhere from Cape Town to Tokoyo.
Escape Room tourism is a new craze too, with a couple last week from Belgium who specifically came to do the Albatross Room. They smashed the record and escaped in under half an hour, claiming it as their 60th room.
Michelle says that “day trippers come from all over Ireland as well to try and crack their code in under the hour”.
See https://www.albatrossescape.ie/ for more
The concept of Escape Rooms was created in Japan in 2004. It started as a video game called ‘Crimson Room’ where players had to solve mysteries by interacting with the people around them in order to escape and move onto the next level.
In Europe the first interactive Escape Room, ‘Parapark’, was started in 2011 by Attila Gyurkovics in Budapest. Gyurkovics wanted to create a live game room where people had to physically solve clues, riddles and puzzles and escape within an allocated time.
Parapark was so successful that it triggered an intellectual epidemic that swiftly moved through Europe. At present, according to statistics on Exitgames, there are over 70 bookable games in Ireland spread over 28 venues.
It is easy to see how addictive this form of gaming can be and we already have our eye on our next adventure in Cork, at the ‘No Escape’ room in Douglas Street. It has two themed rooms — in The Jungle Adventure room, your mission is to find an ancient tribal treasure that could make you the wealthiest person on the planet (if you don’t ‘die’ trying), whilst in the Trapped Room, you have to break free from traps set by your persecutor and escape before his return. For more information visit their website at www.noescape.ie
Escapade Cobh, located in the coastal town, says ‘your mind is the key to your escape in this immersive, hands-on experience’ as you take on one of their three escape rooms.
Lose yourself in the code-cracking Late Night Bank Heist where you and your team are a crew of professional bank robbers, or take your chances in the Spike Island themed room.
The third room is Sherlock’s Final Case and will have you thinking hard to crack Sherlock’s last case in Queenstown, 1915. Escapade offers corporate rates for large groups. You can pick your team, pick your room and pick your day.
Book online at www.escapadecobh.com