Escape room

5-Minute Escape Rooms

As a relatively new industry, the escape room game genre is constantly experimenting with new ideas and concepts...

As a relatively new industry, the escape room game genre is constantly experimenting with new ideas and concepts. The main focus has always been to give the customer the best bang for their buck in terms of gameplay and excitement. As a result, many games don't toy with the basics, such as the length of the game. So it was interesting to see that some escape rooms are trying out a different approach to the game's basic structure. Namely, changing the allotted time from 60 minutes to just 5. 

The idea came about due to the popularity of a set of escape room games being played at RISE in Baton Rouge in the State of Louisiana. Such was the demand for their games, that crowds of people would start to form as soon as the doors open. With a limited number of rooms to play in, it meant that only so many games could be played during opening hours. So, those waiting can choose to wait in line, or for the sum of $5, they can play a 5-minute escape room game. As you can imagine, this new attraction was a huge hit.   

The games are played in the "first" rooms of the regular games. There's no game master and no hints given and the time for this mini-game is a mere 5 minutes from start to finish. So as soon as a team who is playing the regular 60-minute game has moved on from the first room, the new players are ushered in. This allows much better utilization of the rooms as opposed to waiting for each 60-minute game to complete. 
There are a total of 6 scenarios: 

Voodoo (Voodoo Theme)
Locked-Up (Prison Theme) 
Saw (Serial killer Theme) 
Heist (Museum heist Theme) 
Captured (Serial killer Theme) 
Abyss (Submarine Theme) 

Each theme is self-complete and is beautifully done. The set design is second to none and the lighting and sounds make for a truly immersive experience. There is a countdown on the outside of each room so that those waiting can see how the players are progressing. 

Each mini-game features the first room of a regular game, with the same puzzles and clues. as it's the starting point of each game, the puzzles and clues are a little simpler to allow the players to get into the whole escape room concept and gameplay. Having said that, you will still have to work with your teammates in order to finish within the time frame. Many who have taken part describe the experience as similar to watching a movie trailer as opposed to seeing the complete movie. Of course, with a gameplay period as limited as 5 minutes, it just offers a taster of the real thing. 

A proper escape room game of 1 hour is going to be much more challenging, complex, and immersive. There's a narrative that propels the players through the story-line, making the imagination do more work and creating a believable scenario, no matter how wild or strange. But the 5-minute effort certainly works. They have removed any distracting content and left a tight gaming experience, that was instantly immersive, which is a pretty impressive feat. For the business, it's a win-win. The rooms that would otherwise spend most of the time empty, can now be utilized. Because it's a single room, then the reset times are also minimal. And because the play-through time is so short, a lot of customers can pass through the room before it needs to be utilized by a 60-minute game.

Are there any potential downsides? One is that these 5-minute games really suit players who have an understanding of the whole escape room genre, by playing these games before. A total newbie is not going to be able to achieve much in the allotted minutes as they probably will not know where to start. They simply will not have enough time to make sense of what they're supposed to do, let alone find and solve any puzzles. So we can see some players being put off by the whole experience. 

To that end, some within the industry claim that the 5-minute game is a risky venture. Whether you have a captive audience or not, these tiny games need to be perfect in all the details. In other words, they really do have to act as the trailer for the escape room movie. it's probably not enough to simply open up the first room of a game and hope that all will go well. The room needs to be re-designed for a different type of game, one that's faster and therefore requires faster gameplay from the players. If they are not done well, then they could well put customers off the whole escape room genre.

If you want to have a go at speed-escaping, then make sure you come mentally prepared. You'll need to be extra focused as every second of a 5-minute game counts. Keep in mind, for every 10 seconds wasted, that's the equivalent of 3% of the total playing time! please note that most if not all present 5-minute games are add-ons, and do not form any part of the regular games.

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