Perhaps the most unusual experience I’ve had in China was being locked in a dark room for an hour with seven friends at Mr. X’s Escape Room and Puzzle House in Shanghai. Real-life escape rooms, Mr. X being a well-known example, are remarkably popular with Chinese teenagers, and serve up their own macabre take on group entertainment.
Mr. X, along with more than five-hundred other 'escape room' companies around China, take early-2000s point-and-click adventure games as their copestone; that is to say, anyone familiar with “Escape the Room” flash games from the early days of Facebook should also be familiar with their real life counterpart’s basic mode of play: with minimal explanation, the player finds him/herself locked in an unfamiliar room with no – or at least not an obvious – way out. Using found items such as keys, cyphers, coins, glasses, etc., the player then undergoes the daunting task of – well, escaping the room.
The real-life experience adds a few perks, of course. While playing through “Mr. Huang’s Time Machine” at Mr. X, our group searched around with blacklights, scoured over solar system-y cyphers, and even had the chance to fiddle around with revolving bookcases. There’s something remarkably exhilarating – and perhaps a tad frightening – about how quickly everyone falls into the puzzle-solving mentality: wracking our brains as to why, exactly, that last bookcase had two copies of On the Origin of Species instead of just one.
Mr. X will open its first Beijing location near Sanlitun – according to their Weibo – before the end of July. If the experience is anything like Mr. X in Shanghai, be prepared for courteous (bilingual) staff, careful attention to atmosphere, and the disintegration of whatever group you’re in into a raving gaggle of detail-possessed lunatics.
Mr. X Beijing
13 Gongti Beilu, Shimao Guangchang, Chaoyang District, Beijing (Across from the North Gate of Beijing Workers’ Stadium)
朝阳区工体北路13号 世茂广场.工三 (工体北门对面) 2F
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