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Rachel Dean: It's no puzzle why the craze for escape rooms is sweeping Northern Ireland

From left, Belfast Telegraph journalist Rachel Dean with friends Kori Magee, Courtney Young, Chris Watson, Rebecca Graham and Craig McAllister
From left, Belfast Telegraph journalist Rachel Dean with friends Kori Magee, Courtney Young, Chris Watson, Rebecca Graham and Craig McAllister
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

It's the new craze sweeping Belfast, but would you be brave enough to try and navigate your way out of an escape room?

Being locked in a room with just one hour to escape seems to have become a popular trend among thrill-seekers in Northern Ireland as more destinations open in the city centre.

These rooms offer the perfect opportunity to add some fun to corporate team-building activities and have also become a popular choice for birthdays, hen and stag parties.

Manager of Timescape Live Escape Games Justin Milligan said: "We launched in December 2017 and the games have been flat-out ever since.

"Our goal was to bring premium-quality escape games that are extremely immersive to Northern Ireland - something it was lacking."

On the back of the company's success, the firm recently bought premises on Royal Avenue, where it plans to introduce four new game rooms - two of which will open this year.

The 'escape the room' game is a sub-genre of the point-and-click adventure games that were widely played on smartphones and on computers.

The simple gameplay mechanism required users to decipher clues and interact with various items, exploiting the room in order to escape it, hence the phrase 'escape room'.

This first-person perspective-style game was transformed into a physical adventure in the early 2000s and has garnered more attention over recent years.

You and your friends - it usually has to be a group of two to six people - are led into a room by a game master who then 'locks' the door and starts a timer.

Immediately you are immersed in a different world in which you work together to find clues and solve riddles in order to retrieve the key that unlocks the door to freedom - all before the time runs out.

It's a bit like the horror film series Saw, but without all the blood and gore.

There's no need to worry if you get stuck because the game master watches your progress through cameras fitted around the room and is available to give extra clues or advice.

The puzzles usually include codes, symbols, hidden objects, light, maths, riddles, interacting with objects and more.

An escape room will always have a storyline and it is the intriguing, exciting themes that act as the unique selling point for these rather quirky destinations.

Some of the experiences available in Belfast include being on the captain's bridge at the helm of the Titanic with 60 minutes to get to the lifeboats, and being immersed in the world of Game of Thrones as a member of the King's Guard defending King's Landing.

An escape room
An escape room

You can also join The Time Agency on a mission to save the Storr Galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg.

Or maybe, like us, you would prefer becoming a Scotland Yard detective tasked with catching Jack the Ripper before he flees London for ever.

Whatever tickles your fancy, there's a challenge out there to suit everyone.

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