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HintHunt Escape Game in Cape Town
The Mother City’s ultimate mental challenge: 60 minutes to solve your way to freedom. Do you have what it takes?
We’re led into a small, unfamiliar room; our team – there are five of us – shuffles closely together; blissfully unaware of what is to come. As our last group member enters the unknown venue, the lock on the space’s only door is turned – securing us inside. Taking in our new surroundings, we notice a large screen perched near the ceiling. Its message – 60:00 – stares glaringly obvious. Suddenly the numbers spring to life and the digits begin to descend…
59:59 – Our countdown has begun.
59:58 – We start to frantically scramble around the room looking for… anything.
59:57 – Time is ticking…
59:56 – And we’ve got to find our way out.
On arrival at the nondescript Cape Town building that houses HintHunt, an exhilarating live group escape game, you have almost no idea of what you’re actually in for. Quite oblivious to what’s to come; your team (between three and six people) is locked inside a mysterious venue. The clock starts to tick, and you and your crew have only 60 minutes to collectively crack tough codes, uncover hidden objects and decipher difficult puzzles in order to solve the conundrum at hand and secure your freedom before the hour is up.
“It’s like Big Brother meets CSI,” explains Stephen Schutte, one of the innovative co-owners who brought the quick-thinking, problem-solving challenge from the United Kingdom (UK) to South Africa (SA) – more specifically, The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock – in October 2013. “It’s about bringing people together and creating a completely abstract and unique experience.”
Today we’re tackling HintHunt’s latest addition, the Submarine room. Billed as one of the most high-tech escape game rooms in the world, the subaquatic adventure is designed to encourage teamwork and communication and the advanced underwater setting was created to make you feel as if you’re actually inside the nautical vehicle fully submerged under the ocean’s surface. In short, our submarine is sinking and we have to find a way out. Fast!
Having undergone a recent expansion, the thrilling Woodstock establishment now houses six escape rooms comprising four different challenges as well as a large conference space and bar area. As one of the pioneers of the captivating activity – the exhilarating game came to the UK in 2012 – HintHunt has found itself at the helm of the escape game phenomenon sweeping the globe and constantly strives to raise the metaphorical escapism-bar. Cape Town – being the innovative metropolitan that is it – was the first city outside of the UK to import the activity and is yet again the first to introduce its newest underwater nautical venture.
The game is so gripping and incomparable, in fact, that in 2014 – only one year after launching HintHunt Cape Town – the institution earned the status of the Cape’s leading attraction on TripAdvisor.com (the UK HintHunt was rated the top to-do in London in 2013). Yes, that means that above our iconic Table Mountain, history-rich Robben Island and lavish V&A Waterfront, tourists who are active on the site picked this little obscure Woodstock affair as the ultimate highlight of their Mother City visit.
But what is it exactly that gives the concept this appeal? Well, aside from the fact that it’s so rich with intrigue, the allure also lies in the sheer greatness of the challenge at hand and the invigorating, heart-racing sense of urgency that comes with having only one hour to navigate as a united front solving mind-boggling mental mazes and break free from the enclosed space holding you captive. And then when it’s all over and clock hits zero or groups successfully solve the final riddle, there’s a sense of relief and exhilaration like you’re unlikely to experience elsewhere. Of course, not completing the task in time is disheartening (on average, only between 20% and 50% of all teams manage to escape the various rooms), but regardless, you’re likely to leave pumped up and flying high on the rush of it all.
“People come out feeling like they’ve been on a rollercoaster ride,” says Stephen, who sits up in a control room during each session and feeds crews cryptic hints and clues if and when they need them. “They’re energised, and the adrenaline is flowing.”
And it’s a buzz that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. HintHunt is as appropriate for teens, pregnant women, friends and families visiting the Neighbourgoods Market as it is for businessmen, gamers and IT geeks. Plus, because the challenge really exercises those mental muscles and requires members to communicate, collaborate and live and breathe in unison for 60 minutes, it’s perfect for an out-of-the-ordinary type of corporate team-building activity (and far more exciting than paintball outings or go-cart races). Housing a large multifunctional conference space, business lounge and bar area – comfortably accommodating 100 people and includes free Wi-fi and HD projector and screen – HintHunt offers life coaching sessions, cheese and wine tastings, on-site catering as well as a couple other fun team-inspired games that can be tailor-made to suit any office’s needs and budget. The space can also be hired out for events and special occasions.
Featuring three couplings of rooms side by side, different troupes can enter at the same time and compete to see who makes it out first…if at all. The original two duplicate rooms, known as the ‘John Monroe’s Office’, are dressed like an investigator’s work space whereas the second two, titled the ‘Zen’ rooms (added in 2014), are arranged according to a Japanese theme. As mentioned, HintHunt’s latest additions, the two Submarine rooms (launched in 2016), are built to represent the exact interior of a submarine. Within the two identical nautical-themed rooms, there are two different missions – Deep Down and Torpedo – that can be played individually. Regarded as slightly more challenging, Stephen suggests that first-timers attempt the John Monroe’s Office first and then either the Zen or Submarine rooms.
“I’ve played quite a few escape games and this game in terms of its setting and how it is created inside and what you need to do – it’s total escapism,” Stephen enthuses referring to HintHunt’s newest member.
Regardless of which room is opted for though, HintHunt is the sort of adventure that sucks you in completely, gets into your head and leaves you talking and thinking about your experience for hours and days afterwards. And it’s certainly one that should be added to any Cape Town dweller or visitor’s to-do list.
00:05 – Our time is running out.
00:04 – We don’t have a second to waste…
00:03 – Hurry!
Have you escaped?
NOTE: Up country residents, and SA travellers, will be happy to know that HintHunt Johannesburg officially opened its doors in April 2016 at the Thrupps Centre in Illovo. Currently, the inland city only houses John Monroe’s Office and the Zen room.
Age Restrictions: Due to the complexity of the game, there are a few age limits involved: for the John Monroe’s Office, kids should be no younger than seven years of age if accompanied by an adult and no younger than 15 if unaccompanied. The Zen rooms and Submarine rooms, which are considered more difficult, all children must be older than 15 (accompanied or unaccompanied) to really enjoy the experience.
Group Sizes: The minimum group size is three people for all rooms and the maximum is six for the John Monroe’s Office and five for the Zen and Submarine rooms.
Tip: Looking for a unique present for a friend or family member who enjoys a good challenge? Consider purchasing a gift voucher for a HintHunt game. To do so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bill: JDifferent rooms will cost you different prices per person, ranging between R200p/p - R300p/p.
NOTE: Booking and paying in advance is essential and can be done via the online system linked to HintHunt’s website.
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