Poster boys and poster girls: Mystery Manila offers an array of themed rooms that have to be solved within an hour.
When senses fail
Margarita Buenaventura (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - You know that we have truly reached the peak of modernity when people willingly pay to get locked in a room for an hour. That’s the kind of new age entertainment that Mystery Manila offers; they feature an array of themed rooms that two to six people need to solve in order to escape. I am personally one such fan of locked room scenarios — take the key and throw it away until I weasel my way out. In fact, I’ve already tried three Mystery Manila rooms with various friends and family: from the X-Men room in their Century City Mall branch, the Aztec-themed room in Libis, to the Harry Potter room in their Jupiter outpost. It was time for me to rope in more fans to this low-key addiciton.

Mystery Manila’s themed rooms thus felt like the perfect way for the Young STAR team to test its ability to work together and not kill each other in under an hour. The Mystery Manila team let us try out one of their more difficult rooms in the Century City Mall branch called the Sinister Sensorium. Without giving away too much info about the room, the room’s storyline involves an evil mastermind called Enigma who has “kidnapped” us and taken one of our senses each. As we were a group of six, there were two people each who were blind, deaf, and mute. (The game blindfolds, covers your mouth, and makes you wear noise-cancelling headphones.) We have to cooperate and help each other communicate any clues, which is a lot harder than it sounds. It was an absolute riot, of course — the deaf among us were yelling, the blind were walking around aimlessly, and the mute were, well, really quiet.


Thankfully, we were able to get out of the room with two minutes to spare — mystery thankfully solved. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we were almost willing to try the other, more frightening themed rooms that Mystery Manila has to offer. (Almost being the operative word. We could hear the background music of Debbie’s Doll, which is inspired by the horror movie Annabelle, while we were playing. And it was effin’ scary.) If I ever had to play again, I would love to try out another Harry Potter themed room — maybe even Lord of the Rings or Star Wars for a bit more geekiness — and challenge myself and my friends even more.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we learned during our pseudo-team-building exercise in Mystery Manila is that teamwork is truly an underrated trait. It takes a lot of patience, cooperation, and (surprisingly) fun in order to get moving as a group. Our next goal now is to finish a room in under 20 minutes, because you get to win a shirt that says “Mystery Solved.” (Want. So. Bad.) So if you ever want to find out how bonded your squad can really be, this is the ultimate test.

Because we’d love to try out even more rooms in Mystery Manila, we asked the team behind this renowned escape room brand about coming up with room designs, future plans, their most memorable puzzle-solvers (it’s a funny one.)

YOUNG STAR: What sets Mystery Manila apart from other breakout rooms available right now? Is it about the stories or the challenges within the room?

MYSTERY MANILA: Mystery Manila always makes sure that there is a concrete story behind every mystery and the flow of the game is coherent to the story. It’s both about the challenges and the stories. We also make sure that our staff is fully trained to deal with customers and their inquiries. Given that there’s a unique way for each group to solve a mystery, we ensure that however their approach is, our game keepers will be able to give them the best experience possible.

How do you guys come up with the stories for every room? I know that they’re all very detail-specific. Is it a collaborative effort?

Mystery Manila is owned and created by four individuals who collaboratively conceptualize each room down to the puzzles used, clues given, and overall story. We spend days after days of brainstorming and throwing ideas off each other. Each room was conceptualized from scratch with clues that we came up with ourselves. We get inspiration from the series or movies we watch as well as the games we play.

Which of the rooms did you guys enjoy designing the most?

Well, we can’t really identify just one because each room was created in the most unique and enjoyable ways. Since we opened May 2014, we’ve created 23 mysteries and we enjoyed the creative process behind each of them.

Do the difficulties of each room vary? How do you determine how hard it will be to solve the puzzle?

Yes. The difficulty levels vary but we make sure there’s a good mix of different difficulty levels per branch. We test each room internally first before we release it to the public. We do tweaks here and there if the puzzles are too difficult or easy.

Have you guys had any memorable puzzle-solvers yet? Any group who’s been able to solve a room in under 15 minutes?

Oh, there are so many memorable players. We had one group who quit after 30 seconds inside the room because they were so scared. This is for one of our best selling rooms, Rebecca’s Room, which is at the Jupiter branch.  So far no group has solved it in under 15 minutes for their first time playing that room.

Do you guys plan on changing or adding rooms soon? What can we expect from future Mystery Manila rooms?

In Mystery Manila, we change our rooms all the time. Not only does each branch have totally different rooms but each room lasts only for six to nine months. We change it up after so that players always have something new to look forward to. Right now we have three branches open in Metro Manila but we are opening a fourth one real soon.

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Mystery Manila has branches in Libis, Jupiter, and Century City Mall. For more information on rooms and bookings, visit

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