Date completed: September 2016 (2 players). Failed to stop the bombing!
Creativity: 8; Difficulty: 9.5; Atmosphere: 4; Fun: 5.
- Fluent English
- 2-8 players (we recommend 4-5)
Following a series of what appear to be terrorist attacks on major cities around the world, the source of the mayhem has been tracked to a Paris-based organisation called the ‘White Society’. To investigate The French Connection, Pa and I infiltrated their hideout and had one hour to find out evidence of any wrongdoing and uncover where there next attack may be.
As escape rooms go, BreakOut certainly does a good job of developing hard puzzles and French Connection has a respectable sequence of intricate ones. At the same time, its intricacy highlighted how setting and game design have to be well balanced to maintain player engagement.
In this escape room, players are introduced to the headquarter office of the White Society. Do terrorist groups have offices? I guess they would if they are an organisation like Hezbollah in Lebanon or even the Islamic State in territories under their control. The French Connection didn’t really strike us as a terrorist hideout though. A corporate office for an architectural business maybe, but it definitely lacked the sort of ideologically charged undertones of an organisation hell bent on global chaos for political ends.
We begin the review with this comment on the setting as we felt this aspect did in fact affect how we engaged with the game and our overall enjoyment. We’ll caveat that both Pa and I had just arrived in Singapore after a long plane trip and had played BreakOut’s Magician’s Secret just prior to taking this game. We were a bit tired and that could have affected our enjoyment. However, the tiredness didn’t stop us from having a good time with Trapped in My Own Mind straight after the French Connection either, so take from our review what you will. We have tried to be as objective as we can.
This room does pose a solid challenge in both quantity and difficulty. Some of the association puzzles early and late game were quite layered and the use of smart devices was very creative, even if it was not evident why a player in the situation would do some of the required tasks. The use of smartphone/tablet apps in puzzles was not something we had come across until we visited Singapore and it was interesting to see just how the integration of this technology worked in an escape room. Point to note for players who haven’t come across smartphones/tablets in Singaporean games: check them thoroughly and make sure you use their features and apps to the fullest! You will be surprised by what you can do with them in this room!
The puzzles for the French Connection were challenging, requiring a high degree of complex association. However, with not much atmosphere to tie them together, the associations within some of these key puzzles felt forced and did not incite us to tackle them to the best of our abilities. Pá and I had the impression that some of the difficulty of the harder puzzles were boosted by getting players to “brute force” associations among elements that had little to do with one another – or maybe it was just a cultural/mindset barrier that we could not overcome. This blow to our enjoyment deepened when one of these association puzzles repeated itself more than once in the game.
Structure wise, the puzzle flow is linear but teams would benefit from at least having four players, so more people can explore potential associations between the different objects in the game. Our gamemaster allowed us to finish the room after the time was over, as we were curious to see how it ended. There is definitely a style to the puzzles in The French Connection which demands the processing of a lot of information. Once he explained all the puzzle creation chain, it was admirable. Not our cup of tea, but there was a lot of thought on that.
In BreakOut we also played Trapped in My Own Mind (our favourite), Magician’s Secret and Magician’s Revenge.
Out of the room
Service: There are lockers for your belongings at BreakOut. Breakout offers discounts for students and for multiple games. They also sell cold drinks at the downstairs reception, which are especially pleasant under Singapore’s hot weather!
Communication: BreakOut uses the bell hint system – you ring a bell on the wall and the gamemaster comes into the room to give you a hint. The gamemaster was quick to answer us, however we do think this method breaks the flow of the game.
Surroundings: This venue is located in Singapore’s Chinatown, at walking distance of Outram Park train station. If you have the time, visit the Tooth Relic Buddhist Temple, with its stunning golden walls and statues. It is just a few streets away from BreakOut and said to be the home of one of Buddha’s teeth. Do not skip visiting the rooftop, where an orchid garden grown in the middle of a highly urbanized area of Singapore.