Singapore, Jan 2019
This was a temporary pop-up game, and is now closed
Collab and Conquer is a 30-minute museum-themed escape room experience developed jointly by Singapore’s Ministry Of Culture, Community and Youth, and Kult, a collective of multidisciplinary artists. This popup game, which runs until 17th February 2019, is conceived with the intent of encouraging cohesiveness and highlighting strength in diversity. Because it’s operated as a public-minded government initiative, it’s free to play and uses a public booking system.
Hosted inside a 7-metre long truck, Collab and Conquer is your classic art heist where a painting has been stolen but hidden inside the museum, and your task is to locate it. “Paintings on bare white walls” pretty much sums up the decor, but that’s unsurprising for a popup game inside a truck, and it’s befitting of its theme.
With no physical padlocks immediately in sight, the game kicked off with potential (there was one later on near the end of the game). A couple of high-tech components integrated into innovative puzzles were refreshing, but suffered from ambiguity in their implementation. Players were also left on their own to find the clues/solve the puzzles, with no hint system and no way to get a clue – a major obstacle to progress any further if you are stuck.
Typical escape games follow conventions about what is and what is not part of the game, but two puzzles in this game contravened the normal rules. The designer(s) may have intended this as “thinking out of the box”, but those conventions are there for a reason, and breaking them trains players to do things that in a different game could be unsafe or could damage the set. One particular puzzle was unnecessary as solving it led to something which could be found just by searching.
The number of players in this game is the luck of the draw. Officially the maximum is five players, but they may top groups up with walk-ins. Unfortunately, my team of three was grouped with two other teams, making us one short of a baseball team. Eight players in a 7-metre by 2.5-metre area – claustrophobic in my opinion. It also did not help that the puzzles were very linear. The intention of building teamwork/cohesiveness amongst strangers is commendable but somewhat idealistic, as there were definite breakdown in communications and group dynamics. As with any game that uses public booking, you’re at the mercy of who you end up paired with.
Despite some clever use of tech and its worthy aims, Collab & Conquer is too patchy on its puzzle design to recommend. Since it’s free to play, you might want to give it a go anyway, if only for the freebie merchandise. However, it’ll likely attract plenty of beginner players, and the combination of weak puzzle logic, the lack of a clue system and the public booking system means that it may not give a great impression as a first escape room experience.