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Participants work with a series of puzzles and props.
Participants work with a series of puzzles and props. Eliah Lillis

At new venture, a different sort of escape

For logic lovers and puzzlers, a new challenge has been unlocked in Phnom Penh.

Leave your smartphone at the door. You’re about to enter a room where, for the next hour, only your wits are able to help you.

At Escape60, participants enter a locked room and must crack codes in order to escape. While a few of the quirky games have been established in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, Escape60 is the capital’s first.

Spanish expatriates Sergio Bakali and Rebeca Murillo – who previously worked as a lawyer for an NGO and publicist, respectively – joined forces with businessman and friend William Eastwood for the venture, which opened its doors last week.

Murillo and Bakali’s imaginations were piqued after they entered an “escape room” for the first time on a vacation to Spain. Seeing an opportunity to get Phnom Penh to join in on the global trend, they threw their efforts into constructing mysteries.

“For us it’s really important that it’s challenging enough that they enjoy it,” Bakali says. “We needed to find the perfect balance,” Eastwood adds.

Over the past couple of months, they designed two themed rooms – “The Shelter”, set in a 19th-century private detective’s office, and the more challenging “Night City Prison”, a creepy late-night lock up. They plan to roll out a Khmer version of the escape challenge in January.

The founders wanted to bring an ‘escape room’ to Phnom Penh.
The founders wanted to bring an ‘escape room’ to Phnom Penh. Eliah Lillis

The trio describes their escape rooms as a great bonding experience for firm friends and a team-building exercise for colleagues.

The aim is for participants to become immersed in the virtual reality of the game, and, from the attention to detail, it’s clear the three were a little immersed in the process themselves.

“We put a lot of care into the ambience of the rooms … We want them to go into the room and believe they are there,” Murillo says.

Eastwood said a lot of the props were difficult to come by in Cambodia, so he made about 90 percent of the features himself.

The founders have also come to observe that surprising character traits emerge when people are thrown into an unlikely situation.

“You see some people who are quite shy, but when they are inside and they know the answer, they start to feel more confident and everyone starts to follow them,” Murillo says.

The set-up is also an escapism of a different kind – allowing punters to lose themselves in the worlds they normally only see in movies.

“People get addicted,” Murillo says.

Escape60 is located at #9C Street 147, south of Russian Market. Bookings are $20 per person ($15 through December 26) and can be made by calling 098 481 210, by emailing info@escape60pp.com or through the Escape60 PP Facebook page.

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