I remember loading up these flash games about 10-ish years ago, wherein you the nameless/faceless protagonist are trapped within a room of a certain color. These games are fun in a really creepy sort of way. The object of the game is to escape from the room but this can only be accomplished by completing a series of puzzles. Usually this involves several weird seemingly unconnected objects and a lot of lateral thinking. At times, they may seem impossible, but you know that you have been given the tools to save yourself, it’s just your dumb brain that’s keeping you away from that sweet, sweet freedom.
Yesterday, my students told me we were going to play this game together but in real life. If you’ve ever played one of these games, you know the kind of headache-inducing anxiety these games can bring even when you have the ability to close out a window any point.
Four of my students and I arrived at this apartment complex on middle street, which is the main shopping area in Shenyang. We went up the 16th floor and down a tiny narrow hallway. I was really excited but still nervous because I have no idea what I’ve signed up for. The proprietor of the business shows us into this tiny space, tells us that we have 1 hour to get out. The blue numbers on the clock slowly ticking down doesn’t help. After a few minutes, the stress of being in this room evaporates and we start having a lot of fun. Everyone is grabbing everything in the room and basically yelling “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!” in both English and in Chinese.
To give you an idea of how this puzzle worked, I’ll give you the steps for this room in particular. Disclaimer: This was not figured out so simply and there was lots of backtracking and trying so many things while freaking out and shouting ideas.
First, there is a dictionary on a bookshelf. Inside of the dictionary there is a safe with a key. We moved around another cabinet on the other side of the room and found the key hanging on a hook behind it. Second, inside the book safe there is a pencil, eraser and paper with a math equation written very heavily on it. The math problem doesn’t add up correctly. When examined more closely, there was pen writing inside the numbers that gave us 3 numbers that opened a lockbox inside the cabinet mentioned earlier. Inside the lockbox was a #1 pool ball, and a Rubiks cube that didn’t move. There were 5 paintings on the walls, a big black light and loads of strange things. All of the weird objects in the room corresponded with the paintings. Pool player painting = Billards ball, Munch’s “The Scream” = Scream mask, Eiffel Tower Painting = Figurine of Eiffel tower. Each of these things had a color on them. Third(I guess?), the if the colors on the Rubiks cube were counted, you could put the paintings in order based on the objects with their color. Fourth, once the paintings were in order, four switches needed to be pressed in the room at the same time and the black lights would come on, revealing hidden numbers on the back of the paintings. This code opened the door… to another room just like this.
We were so close! We ended up running out of time. We solved everything in the second room except for the very last thing. The room’s owner told us we needed to flip our keycode over because the whole room was upside down. (OF COURSE!) We laughed a lot and it feels really good when your suggestion gets you to the next step. By the end, our brains were throbbing out of skulls and I demanded coffee or beer. The boys agreed and we settled on some delicious milk tea before heading to the arcade. At the arcade, I ran into some more of my students and they told us they just escaped from a room too! But, it seems it was a different one. There are apparently a lot of these in Shenyang and they’re pretty popular.
Which makes me wonder if people would get a kick out of escape room games in America or if this something that would only fly in Asia. If anything I think it’d be perfect for Halloween. I can’t wait to go back.