Over the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play escape rooms in the Hungarian capital on three occasions. Over that time, I’ve offered advice on Budapest games to numerous people, so it seemed about time I put this page together. The first visit was a three-day trip in September 2016, the second a slightly longer stay in April 2017 as part of the Red Bull Mind Gamers world championship and my most recent trip, in late 2018, saw me fly into the country and take a train out on the same day but still fit in seven games!
We chose the rooms by, well, pretty much playing all the games we could find. OK, that’s not quite true, but it’s really not far off the mark. We used exitgames.hu to find a list of most of the games in Budapest, and then filtered them based on which ones could be played in English. We took into account the look of the websites and occasionally looked on TripAdvisor for any particularly poorly reviewed games. More recently, we’ve used the enthusiast Facebook groups to gather recommendations.
Budapest rooms are generally grouped in twos or maybe threes around the capital. They take advantage of basements in much the same way as the famous ruin bars that abound in the city, and so there’s no real space for more than a couple of games together. If you want to play more games in a single space, then you’re looking at Locked.hu, Mystique or PanIQ. The flipside is that venues are very densely packed in the Jewish quarter, so you can easily nip from venue to venue without adding much travel time to your day. On our most recent trip, we had ten minute walks between the six venues.
To be honest, the games in the city weren’t as impressive as I’d hoped and, while it may be the motherland of escape rooms in Europe, I don’t think it offers a better experience for those of you looking to play five rooms over a weekend than say Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague or Warsaw. In particular, most of the games are very much old-school – padlocks and mechanical puzzles – although that’s changing in some of the more recent additions. While I don’t think tech is great in and of itself, it certainly gives more options to designers. What Budapest most definitely does have is a huge number of reasonable games. If you’re looking to spend a week playing escape rooms, then it’s a good choice. And the best games are still pretty damned good!
Too Long; Didn’t Read?
50+ games is a lot of reading, so I can’t entirely blame you for not wanting to trawl through them. Here’s my summary:
- Top games
- ARoom: A new player on the block, this is the new brand from stalwarts locked.hu. We didn’t play their other two games but I was impressed by the decoration – big centrepiece and clean lines through, good puzzles and a nice reveal along the way.
- Heaven & Hell: Amazing sense of exploration, physically fun interactions, playful. Couple of moments that might be a bit claustrophobic for some people.
- Santa Muerte: Even more exploration than Heaven & Hell with bold decoration and some decidedly whimsical moments.
- Enigma: Enigma Mission: An escape room over an entire building that lasts 90 minutes. Huge range of puzzles, good use of the space, surprising finish.
- Pirate Cave: Beautifully imagined room, good puzzles, great sense of exploration. A bit out of town, so a pain to reach.
- Gozsdu Mission: White Mission: A game which is all about exploration albeit in a slightly less expansive way than the other games here. Harder puzzles than average and, in theory, a 90-minute experience, although few experienced teams take more than 60 minutes.
- MindQuest: Legacy of Noo’Zaca: If you like temple-based games, then they don’t come much better than this. Not amazingly difficult but full of magical interactions and solid puzzles. Weak on in-game player feedback.
- Time Machine: What’s not to love about steampunk games? This one is start to finish, in your face, brass and clockwork. Plenty of good, original puzzles in a beautiful set.
- Pirate Bay: A stunning set with a real sense of exploration and where you might find yourself getting a little more physical than usual. I loved the tactile nature of the set.
- Top venues
- Mystique: With Time Machine and Pirate Bay you’ve got a couple of great games, while Cathedral and Shogun’s Shadow are both very solid experiences.
- Gozdu Mission – White room was unusual and enjoyable, while Maffia Mission was a good second game. I didn’t play their prison game but friends do recommend it.
I want to read everything!
If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, I’ve written up articles on each of the venues we visited…
The ones we’d already done…
We’d already played various games that are available in Budapest and, where appropriate, I’ve included them in the articles about the company that runs them. The one exception is Exit the Room, which we played in Austria and then skipped entirely in Budapest as it had no new games to offer us there. You can read the reviews of the Vienna versions of Zombie, Mind Boggling and The Bomb here, but I don’t think they’re sufficiently good to change your mind about which games to play.
I’ve also played copies of The Matrix and the Bomb at other venues. The Matrix is a reasonable game with some cool tech and fun puzzles but the Bomb was nothing special.
That’s all, folks
I hope you found this write-up useful. If you did, then please let me know via email, and that will encourage me to write more in future. If you’ve got opinions on the above or, equally, if you’ve found some other gems that people should take a look at, do drop a comment below.