THE GREAT ESCAPE
Author and escape room fan Howard Farrington chats to Andras and Zoltan about what makes a special escape room experience.
Q: You guys both come originally from Hungary. Is there something about the Hungarian way of thinking that makes you so good at creating puzzles?
Andras: I personally believe Hungarians have a really good mindset. If you think of things originally invented by Hungarian people —the concept of digital computing, the ballpoint pen, holograms, Rubik's cube, colour TV, computer Basic language. I think problem solving comes more easily to us.
Zoltan: All my life I’ve wondered what makes the world go around and how mechanical structures work. I take lots of things apart just out of curiosity— I want to know what’s inside. Extreme sports, science, art, I’m interested in almost everything. I like to travel, seeing the world, visiting old castles. All these things train my brain, helping me create new puzzles and props.
Q: Are all your rooms based on your own original ideas?
Andras: Absolutely. We create the stories, build the tasks, everything from scratch. All our puzzles are made in-house.
Zoltan: That’s why Code to Exit experiences are unique. Not all escape rooms can claim that.
Q: What mental processes do you go through when you’re creating an escape idea?
Andras: If we have a good story, that makes our job easier. After that we try to build our puzzles around the theme and the room itself just starts to generate ideas.
Zoltan: With the theme set we collect the things that are available for us— magnetic locks, sensors, things like that. Then we group different puzzles together, like the mechanical tasks and the tasks that are thoughtful, searching or observational. How we organise the tasks depends on the level of difficulty we want to achieve.
Q: Your rooms use a lot of hands-on parts. How important are those to the Code to Exit experience?
Andras: It’s because players really like these type of puzzles. It is so important for us to do a room that’s not just a game, but an experience where people learn something new.
Zoltan: Many games have only locks and keys to find and open boxes. To us they lack the wow-factor and the theatre that good props bring. It’s all about first impressions. When the players enter a room they should feel like they’re in a different dimension. By creating a rich immersive experience players feel part of the story, as if it’s happening in real life.
Q. Many reviewers talk about the way you guys work hard to make the experience special. Is that a conscious effort on your part?
Zoltan: Very much so. It’s not just about the rooms it’s also about the family-style hosting. Some customers arrive with mixed feelings because they’re not familiar with the concept and haven’t played before. Our pre-game instructions are delivered in a fun way, which helps players relax and get in the mood.
Andras: I try to be funny. Players often says they like our hosting because in a lot of places, hosts don't even watch the gamers so they can't help when people need a few clues to help them along.
Q: You mention family-style hosting. Is the young audience important to you?
Andras: As a father I really enjoy seeing kids playing with the family and playing together, working in a team. I try to help them figure out the puzzles, but I also try to let them think as much as they can. It’s a hard thing to do these days because of phones and the internet, kids don't need to use much imagination. But if you are in an escape room, you have to work hard. Lots of kids are proud of themselves when they escape from the room and we try to help them take home this feeling.
Zoltan: Many parents visit us again because they realize Code to Exit is more than a simple game that children love, it’s also educational. Children discover a lot of new things, and they’re dragged out of their everyday digital virtual reality to play together with family, friends or classmates.
Q: For someone who doesn’t know Code to Exit, how would you sum the experience?
Zoltan: Games with a solid structure and a well-developed story. The immersive feeling will blow the players’ minds, time becomes relative, sometimes they feel the whole hour was like only 15-20 minutes! Even first-time players will meet a unique mixture of puzzles and props where everybody will find some fun and team activity. At the same time, we’ve seen practiced escape room players booking for all the games back-to-back. In other words, something for everybody regardless of their age or gender.
Andras: Enjoy a unique room which is hand build and not copying the other companies. We put our hearts into each room. We build our puzzles in different ways, unlike the other companies. We avoid using lots of padlocks and try to find more creative ways to hide the clues. We build easy-to-follow concepts in the room, not just random collections of tasks.