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  1. A woman holding three tarot cards to conceal her face.
    Photograph: Matt Hass
  2. Items including a newspaper and tickets that are included in an at-home escape room.
    Photograph: Arcadium Adventures
  3. An envelope and newspaper with a plate of cookies and a tea on top.
    Photograph: Arcadium Adventures
  4. Screengrab from Isolation escape room
    Photograph: Escape Room

The best online and at-home escape rooms

Keep your spirits up during lockdown by sharpening your wits and figuring the way out of these fun games

Adena Maier
Written by
Stephen A Russell
&
Adena Maier
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Since everything changed in 2020, congregating together, getting hectic, sweaty and sweary while running around breathlessly in a locked room seemed like a really bad idea. Which should tank the entire concept of a high-stakes escape room, right?

Wrong. Turns out everyone’s favourite panic-inducing entertainment made the switch to digital too. The rapidly expanding at-home take on the escape room genre comes in many forms. Some will have you interacting with an actual actor on a video call, some are glorified surveys and others are a bit more video game-like.

Here are a few of our faves to keep you screaming for more clues/time/chill while you're stuck at home.

Virtual and at-home escape rooms to keep you sane right now.

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Bring the fun of an escape room into your home with 'A Most Mysterious Convention,' the latest release by Brisbane escape room company Arcadium Adventures. After you place your order online, a mysterious manila envelope sealed with wax will arrive on your doorstep. Inside, you’ll find materials from the Annual Mystery Convention known as ArcanaCon including instructions on how to uncover a secret message. For those who don't like waiting for mail to arrive, the escape room is also available for instant download online.

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Experios has got you covered with options for two to six players and different levels of difficulty to choose from. Start off with the beginners escape room 'Time's Ticking Jr', a classic detective game designed to be suitable for teenagers, too. Then ramp up your challenge with a trip to bank robbing fantasy land with 'Ben's Big Heist', a money-grabbing, code-cracking puzzler. And if you consider yourself and your crew escape room experts, try 'Jack's Hangover', Experios' most challenging room that has you tracing a central character's post-big night room for clues and racing to the airport.

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The room is entirely virtual, but that does not mean it's a videogame. The 'Isolation' experience takes place entirely over Zoom. After a video introduction, you'll realise there's someone else on the call, and that someone is not doing very well. The man with us is Dr Logan Kaye, an astrophysicist stranded in a remote research station across the globe, and he really needs our help. He's suffering from amnesia, and we soon discover that if we don't recover his memories quickly, he's not going to ever leave the station. 

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'Bad Altitude' probably belongs more in the category of story-based online video games than actual escape rooms. But let's not quibble. The setup is this: you are with some number of friends, either clustered together around one computer screen, using different screens in the same room or in different locations and linked via Google Hangouts, Zoom or any other video chat platform of your choosing. Your mission is to solve problems aboard a commercial flight, from overly sensitive passengers to lost luggage to, as you might expect, landing the whole damn plane. There is no human on the other end in real-time, but several different cartoon characters help or hinder you on your quest. Your primary contact is the flight attendant on board, a very friendly but slightly inept Welshman named Rhys. 

While auditoriums have sat empty during lockdown restrictions, the Sydney Opera House team got busy developing a virtual escape room designed to transport you into the hidden labyrinth of backstage rooms underneath the venue – without you ever leaving your home. 'The Trials of Wisdom' is a free online game that engages your problem-solving skills to solve riddles and puzzles in order to free yourself. Taking inspiration from Mozart’s fantastical opera The Magic Flute, this game has plenty of hidden Easter eggs to tickle the interests of classical music aficionados and theatrical fanatics, but prior knowledge is not a prerequisite to give these puzzles a crack, which involves decoding ballerinas’ dance positions and deciphering meaning from the ramblings of a frustrated orchestra player.

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Funlab, the team behind Holey Moley, Archie Brother Cirque Electriq and B. Lucky and Sons, has pivoted to offer entertainment online. You and your friends can now enjoy formerly in-person-only events like trivia, escape rooms and something which the crew is calling the "funlympics". The company is offering two virtual escape rooms – the swashbuckling 'Pirate Island' and the enchanting 'Magic School'. Each room is perfect for isolated teams of six to ten, with each participant joining the virtual room individually via Zoom. As with most escape rooms, a gamemaster will be present if you need assistance as your team solves puzzles together online. There's no official advice to dress up for the game, but heck, we'd certainly recommend it. 

For when we're out of lockdown

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