Hunt for treasure in Chinatown

Participants solving puzzles for clues at a media preview of the game.
Participants solving puzzles for clues at a media preview of the game.PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A large-scale escape game will take place in the heritage district next month

A massive treasure hunt in the form of a large-scale escape game will take place in Chinatown on May 20 and 27.

Treasure-seekers will scour the historic district and beyond to solve complex puzzles that will lead them to the hidden prize left behind by wealthy Chinese businessmen during World War II.

The large-scale game will also be injected with facts about Chinatown's history.

In teams of six, players will trace the footsteps of Chinatown's pioneer inhabitants via clues.

To join the two-hour-long escape game, participants must buy a ticket. Prices are $228 for a team of six - the early-bird price. So far, close to half of the 480 tickets have been sold.

Called Whisper Of The Guardians, the game is part of escape game operator Lockdown Singapore's move to head down the edutainment path.

  • BOOK IT / WHISPER OF THE GUARDIANS

  • WHERE: Meet at Chinatown Heritage Centre, 48 Pagoda Street

    WHEN: May 20 and 27, 11am to 7pm

    ADMISSION: $228 for a team of six (early bird price till May 7). Otherwise, it is $45 a person or $258 for a team of six. Ticket includes free entry to the Chinatown Heritage Centre

    INFO: chinatown200517.peatix.com

"We plan to produce more large-scale escape games that include bits of history and heritage so players can learn something instead of playing for the sake of playing," says the company's director Jonathan Ye, 33.

He hopes players will notice their surroundings and pick up nuggets of information about Chinatown along the way.

At the end of the game, a gamekeeper will also give players a crash course on the history behind each of the places they had encountered.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre, which is a supporter of the game, is the registration point.

Players can enter the centre for free as part of the ticket price. Entry typically costs $15 for an adult.

Mr See Toh Yew Leong, centre director of Chinatown Heritage Centre, hopes that the game will "expose more youth to the history, stories and places interwoven in Chinatown's rich cultural tapestry". 

This is not the first time that Lockdown Singapore has organised such a large-scale escape game.

Last year, it organised two - in Jurong Point mall and theme park Haw Par Villa.

The Haw Par Villa edition was "particularly encouraging", says Mr Ye, who described the response as overwhelming.

The four-day-long game, which was aimed at youth who might never have stepped foot in the otherworldly attraction, attracted 1,200 players.

The Jurong Point game attracted close to 1,000 players over two days.

Lockdown Singapore is already planning its next outdoor game for later this year and is considering the Battlebox, a former World War II British underground bunker on Fort Canning Hill, as the venue.

The interest in such games seems to be on the rise.

On Sunday, escape room operator Xcape Singapore organised an outdoor detective-style game in Dhoby Ghaut called Xcape The City Vol. 1: CIA Crisis. About 500 people attended, says Xcape Singapore's co-founder Freya Zhou, 29.

The company has also been expanding its number of escape games, where players must solve puzzles to escape a room within a time limit.

It now has 10 rooms spread across three store units in Bugis Village, up from four rooms in one unit four years ago.

It plans to hold two more outdoor games this year, says Ms Zhou.

For project manager Melvin Ho, 34, who took part in the recent game by Xcape Singapore, the large-scale formats provide a different challenge for escape room fanatics such as himself.

"I'm always on the lookout for new escape games as I have tried the majority of the escape rooms in Singapore. It's good that companies keep introducing more, but the storyline needs to be strong as well," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'Hunt for treasure in Chinatown'. Print Edition | Subscribe