Cracking the code at Joburg's Lostland escape room

26 Jun 2017

If you haven't yet tried the new global phenomenon that is the 'escape room' then make your way to Rivonia and test your skills against Joburg's very own version, Lostland. A cross between a game show and a Sherlock Holmes novel, you and your team are locked inside a mysterious room and tasked with solving a number of clues and puzzles to escape and complete your mission.

The escape room craze started in Japan, marketed at stressed city dwellers looking to relieve the pressures of urban life by becoming the fantasy heroes of their own real-life video game. The game has since gone global with hundreds of escape room challenges, with themes ranging from Harry Potter to Star Wars, operating in major cities around the world, including Joburg.

Joburg's Lostland is tucked away in a nondescript building in a car park behind the Rivonia Centre strip mall. Although the entrance is somewhat incongruous, finding it is by far the easiest part of the Lostland experience.

Upon arrival the simple rules of the game were explained to us: 1. You may ask for three clues during your time in the escape room, two of which will cost you a 'penalty' and 2. Do not attempt to destroy the place (there are even a few amusing cartoons dotted around the entrance reinforcing this rule). After being assigned a walkie talkie and a pair of flashlights, one member of our team was then kidnapped and imprisoned in a neighbouring room while the rest of us were led blindfolded into Mission Impossible (the most difficult of Lostland's three escape rooms), to complete our first task, free the prisoner.

There's a reason why the girls on the front desk were giggling so much when we estimated that we would escape from Mission Impossible within 45 minutes (it usually takes on average one hour). As we soon discovered some of the puzzles are fiendishly difficult. It also didn't help that we had already spent 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to free our prisoner before we remembered the first rule; you may ask for a clue and the first one is 'free'.

One hour later we had successfully freed our prisoner, solved several puzzles to unlock several boxes and doors, found the secret files of our foes and destroyed a missile. But we still had to find a code to destroy the supervillain's computer systems in order to open the final door. It is at this moment, so tangibly close to the end of the mission, that inevitably one (or more) of your team will feel tempted to break the second rule of the escape room; do not get angry and destroy something in frustration. Happily for everyone involved the supervillain's high-tech equipment remained intact, as did the fractured remains of our team spirit, and we finally cracked the code without resorting to vandalism.

After almost an hour and a half, our team of five players eventually escaped from Mission Impossible. As we sheepishly handed over equipment and had our photos taken, the staff on the desk (still giggling) casually remarked that perhaps the challenge was more difficult than we had anticipated? Indeed. However, the difficultly did little to detract from the fun. In fact it had quite the opposite effect. All members of the Mission Impossible team agreed a return visit is in order.

Lostland has three escape room games – Mission Impossible (the most difficult), Castle Secret (the 'easiest') which sees teams working their way through a haunted castle and Prison Break, a fun scenario whereby you need to bust out of a prison cell before collecting pieces of evidence that prove your innocence.
Each escape room takes approximately one hour to complete in a team of between three and six players, aged 12 and above. Lostland is open daily from 09:30 - 20:00 (last entrance at 20:00, closed on 25.12 and 26.12). Players need to arrive 15 minutes before their escape room start time. It is recommended that you book your time slot 48 hours advance. Costs R200 per person.
11 Rivonia Center, 369 Rivonia Blvd (cnr 11th Ave and Rivonia Rd), Rivonia, Sandton,Tel. +27 11 803 0386,


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