Captivate: FBI Zero Hour [Review]

cativatelogoLocation: Captivate, Singapore Shopping Centre (Dhoby Ghaut MTR), Singapore

Date completed:  September 2016 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 8.5; Difficulty: 7.5; Atmosphere: 8; Fun: 8.5.

Requirements:

  • Basic English
  • Full mobility
  • One player not colour blind
  • 75 minute-room
  • 2-12 players (we recommend 3-6)

In this very surprising escape room, you work for an FBI anti-terror squad and must enter a school which is under a bomb threat. A genius mastermind stole dangerous chemicals and intends to blow up the entire place! Not many rooms in Singapore develop characters and stories, but FBI Zero Hour presented a very singular “enemy” for us to fight against, with an unexpected background!

We began our game in a normal classroom, where we should gather evidence and track the culprit. But there is much more in a classroom than books and computers… What happens if we look into people’s past instead of inside their bags?

Soon enough, we realized FBI Zero hour was going to be a mix of Mean Girls with Contagion. The entire classroom was filled with association puzzles that utilized very normal school apparatus, which helped with immersion. There was some arithmetic and just the right amount of search as well, with items not completely hidden or in illogical spots. Things could actually have been placed in those spots by the characters of the story.

Trapspringer and I really enjoyed the mix of low tech puzzles with electronic devices, the latter being used thoroughly – an aspect we saw in more than one room in Singapore. If you find a phone, a tablet, a computer, go beyond just accessing it and looking at some files. Use it. Explore it. Use the apps. Carry it around the room. In this game, a device we found was used for a fair few things, and really helped with creating a better image of the bomber.

fbiFBI Zero Hour is not a “high tech” room though, and my favorite puzzles were the colourful, (literally) hands on ones. We were actually faced with items we never expected to see in a escape room before – and if you think it was something obscene, it isn’t (and the room is quite family friendly). It was something big and pink – and weird! Keep in mind parts of this room requires full mobility, or players may not be able to access some areas.  Especially the one with the big pink prop.

Captivate also included a Deus Ex Machina element to this game. This plot device, usually used in books or movies when a character is stuck and a solution “comes out of nowhere”, can be quite polemic. I’m still in doubt if I liked it in FBI Zero Hour, but it was definitely unique! We needed a hint at that point, and when we solved the task, my reaction was “Whaaaaaaatttt? How would anyone reach that conclusion?” I can see some people thinking it was great and others hating it. I’d say I appreciated the designers being bold enough to try something like this. After the game, Trapspringer and I discussed this controversial puzzle and we found that there is there is a minimal chance of it failing due to human behaviour. We hope that this never occurs!

Zero Hour challenged many of our senses along its 75 minutes, and playing with only two we needed almost the entire time to get out. Although there is enough space for the max capacity of 12 people, it may be a bit too much as there are some parts of the game that are quite linear. The two of us still managed to stop the crazy bomber of destroying the school and escaped in time! It was a fun game, in a realistic setting.

In Captivate we also played Dead Man Walking. The venue also licences three very popular rooms from the Australian company Escape Room Melbourne, where we played: Kellar’s Magic Emporium, Amnesia and Elixir (“Flemington”). We did not have the opportunity to check how similar the Singaporean version is to the Australian one. Maybe in the future!

 

Out of the room

Service: Captivate has lockers for your belongings and vending machines in case you want a drink. Remember to bring cash if you do not own a Singaporean card! Gamemasters were polite and efficient.

Communication: Captivate  uses the bell hint system, which is very common in Singapore. You ring a bell on the wall and the gamemaster comes into the room to give you a hint. We are not big fans of this method as the entrance breaks a bit of the game’s atmosphere, but our gamemasters were quick and were following our game well.

Surroundings: This venue is located in Singapore Shopping Centre, just beside Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. It is just adjacent to Orchard Road, the famous shopping avenue in Singapore. If you are adept of retail therapy, you will be quite at ease around here!

FBI Zero Hour has also been reviewed by Escaping.sg and S-capegoats.

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