ESCAPE ROOMS – Interactive real-life adventure game

I’m anxiously struggling with a lock that is stubbornly securing a drawer hiding a necessary code. With one eye on the timer that informs me I have just minutes left, a bead of nervous sweat drips down my furrowed brow… welcome to Rock Escape Rooms.

Some of you may have already heard about these popular ‘escape rooms’ and may have even given one a shot yourself, but for those of you who haven’t, here is the low-down: The idea originated from the ever-popular ‘point-and-click’ computer games of the 80’s, where the user would use a variety of clues and objects around a fictional room on-screen in order to solve it and escape before moving on to the next one. These were brought to life by a 35-year-old Takao Kato from (surprise surprise) Japan, in 2007. Soon after, the game snowballed into other parts of Asia, gaining huge popularity in Singapore. By 2015, there were over 50 different games in Singapore alone.

Even Barack Obama has tried his hand at an escape room. In 2016, the US President and his family visited Breakout Waikiki in Honolulu during their Hawaii vacation after the escape room tweeted: “Hey @POTUS, if you think running a country is hard, try breaking out of one of our rooms!” He successfully completed the Mission Manoa room with 12 seconds remaining. (Of course he did. He’s Obama.)

These live ‘escape-the-room’ adventure games are set in a variety of fictional locations such as prison cells, hotel rooms, dungeons and even space stations! The games require strategy, critical thinking, concentration and determination in order for players to escape a locked room within a set time. The days of sitting around and passively watching something are over, and in its place is an opportunity to get involved and grab a piece of the action for yourself.

James Grimes

Escape rooms are still a relatively new concept, but unlike most you may see around the world, Rock Escape Rooms are not a franchise. Because they are not a franchise, they endeavour to create original and unique storylines for people to come and lose themselves in. All aspects of Rock Escape Rooms were created completely from scratch by James Grimes, Ben Clark and Jack Brown. They each used their specific skill sets in order to provide a completely unique experience to locals and tourists alike. James, a former leisure provider owner and Ben, a former manager in the gaming industry, are the operations directors; the friendly faces you’re greeted by as you follow a series of coloured question marks up their stairs and enter the dimly-lit reception area. Jack is the third mastermind of the trio, and the creative director. Although he is based in the UK, he is back in Gibraltar often, constantly designing and upgrading the games within the rooms. He is a masters qualified psychologist, specialising in behavioural psychology, a skill he has most certainly put to use in the creation of these rooms!

Since opening their doors on May 15th 2017, Rock Escape Rooms have welcomed through a whopping 300 avid adventurers. At present, there are two rooms to be cracked: The Box, and Room 83. Their third is currently under construction, and they are planning a fourth as you read. One will be an intense, compact, challenging, shorter time room and the other will be Rock Escape Room’s biggest game yet, with possible links to the culture and history of Gibraltar… stay tuned!

Rock Escape Rooms have concentrated their efforts on both the themes and puzzles of both rooms, making the challenges relevant to an immersive theme that is centred around Gibraltar. The rooms contain various challenges, riddles, codes and hints all framed within an exciting storyline. The idea is to use your skills, and those of your teammates, in order to find your way back out of the room in one hour, after which you will remain locked in the room forever. (Or at least until James comes to let you out.) If there is some spare time after your booking, the GamesMaster might be kind enough to let you have a little bit of extra time to finish the game, depending how close your group is to the finish. If not, and 60 minutes is up, better luck next time!

Both games were deliberately created to be completely different in terms of theme, storyline, and challenges. They were designed to create the feeling of being in a completely different world – and boy do they succeed. It’s quite the challenge itself just to tell you about these rooms without actually telling you about these rooms (now that would be cheating), but here is a short description for each:

‘Room 83’ – There are always vacancies at this mysterious hotel and you’ll soon see why, all is not as it seems. Check-in is easy, check-out is harder. Can your team solve the murder and escape in time to catch the killer?

From the moment you enter Room 83, you are immersed in the thrilling and chilling world of a detective. Just as you feel you’ve almost cracked the room… a new surprise comes out of the blue to turn the investigation on its head.

‘The Box’ – Welcome aboard! We have intelligence that there are enemies in the area who want to attack. Your team will go and meet Lieutenant Jenkins to make sure the secrets of Gibraltar and the box are safe.

The Box is arguably a little more ‘hands-on’. As you work your way around the room, every aspect of your senses is challenged as you diligently work together to rescue ‘the box’.

If you’re wondering am I old enough to play? Can I bring some friends? Will I be able to complete the room? The answers are yes, yes and… that’s for you to discover. There is no demographic audience as such; the games are aimed at everyone, providing an exciting, alternative leisure activity for families, friends, couples and work colleagues. Since opening, Rock Escape Rooms have welcomed children as young as eight and groups including more mature thinkers to play. The minimum number of players required is two, with a maximum of five. It’s a fantastic way of exercising those mental cogs, whether as a team-building exercise or simply a fun excursion with friends or family.

There are very few aspects of either room that involve physical challenges. All of the puzzles included can be solved to escape the room without the need or use of physical exertion. The path to escaping the room involves mental, visual and audio based obstacles with varying levels of difficulty and all requiring a different approach to successfully solve, and no previous knowledge of any subjects are needed to progress through either of the games. Result!

Now, I know what you’re wondering. What has been the quickest escape time? There have been over 50 games over the course of a month, and so far the quickest escape time for ‘The Box’ is 50:19 (escaping with 9 minutes 41 seconds to spare), while the quickest time for ‘Room 83’ is currently standing at exactly 50:00 (escaping with 10 minutes to spare) – the latter time set by yours truly, dear reader.

The Gibraltar Magazine headed over to show those rooms the correct way to be escaped. Our team described the adventure as “highly stimulating”, “more fun than the PlayStation!”, “a mind-teasingly, titillating, tour de force” and “a highly recommended challenge that will get you working together as a team… or never speaking to each other again”.

Rock Escape Rooms have had such a great response locally from the people of Gibraltar. There has been nothing but support, both online and on the streets, and for this they would like to say a big ‘THANK YOU!’.

This is an exciting, alternative leisure activity for local families, friends, couples and work colleagues to come and try. No matter your age or interests, this activity is guaranteed to be unlike anything you have experienced before. Do you have what it takes to beat The Gibraltar Magazine? There’s only one way to find out. Tick, tock, tick, tock…