Monday, 18 August 2014

Get locked in a room and try to escape in 60 minutes: Go to Hinthunt

The minute I looked at the website for this place, it had me hooked. It sounded like a TV show – somewhere between The Crystal Maze and Big Brother: 60 minutes to climb a mountain of puzzles and mysteries in a tiny room. The goal is simple yet challenging: get out in time! Else … you could be trapped inside forever!
by Slingpool/CC-BY-SA-3.0
HintHunt, in London, is for teams of 3-5 people. We decided to book it as a family treat for our son’s 15th birthday – him, me and his dad (the minimum age is 9 so his sister was too young to come with us). Team members truly live and breathe in union for an hour, the website continued. Mmm? Should be an interesting test of our family dynamics.

We arrived at the premises, which frankly, were a bit pokey and rather uninspiring. “Clever,” said my son, the ever-cynical teenager, “How to make a lot of money out of a very small space.” Another team of five people, work colleagues on a team-building afternoon, were also in the lobby. One of them had done it before (in a different room). “Any tips?” we asked. “Look EVERYWHERE,” he said. “Be suspicious of EVERY SINGLE THING.”

A young woman appeared and gave us an introductory talk. There are two rooms here, she said. One is an old-fashioned detective’s office (that was going to be ours) and the other a Japanese spa room (the other team’s). The challenge was entirely mental, not physical, she explained. No need to try and tunnel our way out. A big screen on the wall would count down the minutes (very Crystal Maze!) which would also bleep and feed us extra hints if they felt we needed them. Yes, she said with a smirk, they would be watching our every move (Big Brother indeed!).

Then she told us this shocking bit of news:

The success rate for escape from our room was only 50%. For the other room, it was even worse. Only 45%. Crikey. This wasn’t going to be easy. We puffed out our chests.

And in we went ...
by J.Lim/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
It would be unfair on HintHunt to tell you what happened ‘inside’ and it’d spoil it for you if you go there. Let’s just say it's totally absorbing, insanely intense, and there are some very nifty surprises along the way. I also loved that the person sending us messages through the screen started calling me ‘mum’ and saying things like, “You should listen to what your son just said!”.

All three of us reverted to our instinctive states under the pressure. My husband took the academic approach, writing everything down on the white board provided. My son was kinaesthetic, taking things apart, lying upside down under desks, climbing on chairs. And I was the overseer, keeping the big picture in mind, stopping us going off track. Though I did find my body in some odd positions at times.

So, did we succeed? No. We ran out of time, but when the man came in to let us out (yes, he did!), he told us that another minute or two and we would have cracked it. He showed us the final piece in the puzzle that would have opened the door.

We left, exhausted, our brains hurting, our bodies still quivering from the adrenaline. In a good way.

“The person who thought that up must be SO clever,” said my son.

Visit HintHunt's website here.


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