Dasshutsu Game DERO! (2010, Nippon TV, Japan)

Are you a fan of that film where people escape dangerous situations by solving visual, word and logic puzzles? Me too! Dasshutsu Game Dero! (Escape Game Dero!) attempts to recreate those dangerous life-or-death style situations from the movies but with the added interest of mental challenges.

Here is the official Nippon TV format flier.

OK, let’s begin by meeting the contestants. Usually there are two teams, but this is a special episode so there are going to be three. Like many Japanese games, many of the contestants are regulars. They change the rules and the set-up regularly so what’s given in this feature may be different in other episodes.

The guy who looks like he’s wearing a paperbag on his head in the corner is the show’s host and narrator Ryota Li. The guy with the dollars on his hat is apparently Terry Ito and seems to be the comissioner, and today he’s putting up 1m yen for the winning team.

Right, according to a translation on Wikipedia, this translates to something like “Unravel the mystery behind closed doors game variety DERO Escape!” (usually abbreviated to Dero Escape Game) and the slogan is “Do feel like the climax of the movie.” We’ll probably just stick to calling it DERO from hereon.

Here are today’s three teams.

The show is split into three rounds. Each team will take part in round one simultaneously. Each team will get their own round two, and the two teams with the best scores will go through to face their own round three, so six games will be played today.

Each game is opened with a wireframe schematic. Each game involves the contestants being locked inside a room, and having to solve challenges to unlock it. Contestants are led into each room as they are blindfolded.

When the room turns red that means the game is about to begin.

Three platforms have come out of a hole in the wall. Unfortunately the floor the contestants were standing on has retracted to reveal a bottomless pit (the reality is it’s CGI, from the camera angles the drop looks more like 6-10 ft). Two people from each team stand on each platform.

An explanation graphic explains the game.

The pit in action.

OK, the game. Teams will get asked to solve visual puzzles of four kinds. Unfortunately the platform they’re standing on retracts at a rate of 2cm per second they don’t shout out the right answer. To help they have a plunger they can use for grip when the platforms get really small, and each team is entitled to pass once. The last team left standing earns a point for each surviving member, but teams must answer the same amount of questions to end the game (i.e. if Teams A and B survive to round five,Team A dies on round five, Team B must still complete round five to end the game)

Round one. Poochy.EXE who has our thanks describes it thusly: “They take a picture of an ordinary object and replace each individual part of the object with a word or short description of the part, written exclusively in kanji (Japanese characters borrowed from Chinese) with all the grammatical particles and conjugations stripped out wherever applicable. The words/descriptions are still in the same relative locations and roughly the same shapes as the parts they replace. The contestant then has to guess the original object (as opposed to a phrase in most rebuses).”

This one’s quite easy, I suspect.

The computer read-out of length is used often throughout the show. This is the end of round one, each team still has their pass.

Round two is my personal favourite, it’s the hidden picture round. This normally takes two forms. The first, as you can see here, is the same object repeated over and over. But can you work out what it is? The other version is one large object hidden in some sort of pattern, although it might be at an unusual angle.

As time passes, the picture will zoom in or put itself at a better angle to help the contestants.

If you yurn the picture through 90 degrees, you might make out that the pattern is full of camels. Clever, eh?

Game three is the celebrity faces round. Two celeb pictures but you only see half of each at a time. The midpoint moves around the pictures, so you will get to see more of them as the time ticks away.

However, it looks like we have our first casualty!

The view from the pit.

When someone “dies” we’re treated to a balck and white replay. Incidentally, even if someone falls off, their partner still has to complete the round.

Here’s the final game, working what the word is when it’s recreated from blocks of differing heights and shown at an angle. This game is repeated until a winning team is found.

Yatta! Stage clear! Etc.

And she’s allowed to leave the room in a more dignified fashion.

One survivor = one point for the team.

Game two is played by three members of the same team. They are each led into boxes.

But oh-no, there is a timebomb in each box! And all the bombs appear to be linked! To help, each person is supplied with a pair of pliers and an earpiece so they can communicate with their teammates.

To survive, they’re going to have to work together to answer three multiple-choice questions against the clock. Each one appears to be in the ranking style, but it looks like they only need to collectively cut one answer for each one. And they’ve got to finish within eight minutes or they all lose.

When they select an answer, the person who represents that answer cuts their wire…

… but if they’re wrong, the bomb “explodes”, they get a face full of CO2 and they’re eliminated from the game.

With just one person left the game played as before would be very easy. Unfortunately for the contestant, when they unscrew their cylinder they find they have two wires, and thus would still have to make decisions.

The next game is my personal favourite room. A corridor 15m in length. The contestants are chained by the foot…

… but at the other end is a terrible monster. Aiee!

To begin with the contestants are dragged to the far end of the corridor towards the monster, and three panels block off the corridor, each one with a word puzzle.

The contestants race forward to the first puzzle. To escape the room they must solve each puzzle to unblock the corridor and reach the big exit button at the far end. But all the time the monster is enroaching upon them! It seems to move at 5cm a second, but when it reaches the yellow “danger” zone slows down a little.

If the contestants feel the monster is getting too close they can turn round and punch it on the nose. This will roll it back to the 3m mark but it comes at a price…

…the monster opens its mouth and the chain attached to the loser is yanked back through it so the contestant gets eaten! If the monster reaches the red zone then all the remaining contestants die (I think, would be happy for clarification)

I’d like to show you more of this game, but this team are useless and don’t get past the first puzzle.

The next room is the final of the this week’s round two rooms and it’s in a quickly shrinking room. Each contestant is harnessed to a wall which is closing in. The only way out is to exit through the “safe zone” in an entirely different room 15m away. How to escape?

Each player looks through a hole in the wall at a screen and is asked a question. Contestants register their answers by pressing one of two buttons. If all three agree on the same correct answer three times, the game is stopped and one of them is released.

But they haven’t escaped yet! The potential escapee must participate in the Keybox challenge!

To unlock the door in the Safe Zone and escape, three keys are required. In the corridor between the danger area and the safe zone is a perspex container containing lengthy keys which the player uses rods to pick up from one tube and drop through the other. If he thinks he has time, he can go for more than one, as three are required in total.

At the othyer end of the corridor, the keybox. Put the key in and twist it round. But what happens after the thirty seconds expires?

This does. The effect is not instanteous, so you still have time to sprint out as the walls close in.

This guy fumbles the key and gets “squished”. However, he managed to turn the key in time so it’s a “stage clear!” for the team, or the two surviving members of it at least.

At this point the team with the lowest score is eliminated, and the other two have one more challenge each. Both are similar in that it involves a treasure hunt of sorts, correctly solving puzzles which lead to keys which open boxes but the situations are slightly different. Each one also has an endgame.

In this one the contestants are manacled to the wall and the ceiling begins at 3m and apparently drops 1cm every three seconds (although close inspection suggests that whilst the graphics give an indication of the time limit, the celiling won’t drop past a point the players can’t complete a puzzle by the looks of things). Lots of different objects around the room and three boxes. In this first puzzle the contestants must play sumo (the box out on the right features a puppet sumo referee). This leads to a clue.

Through some means and wordplay, the answer is “shruiken” – the viewer gets three potential ideas as to where the key to the box might be.

In the next box, a photo and a DVD upon playing of which a suggestion than looking at something upside down turns a chair into a cow. This is probably a very clever Japanese word puzzle, but obviously I have no idea.

Also in each room is a telephone. Their teammates are watching and listening, and if the team in the room need help they can phone up their watching teammates and have a thirty second chat. However, it looks like their teammates can’t just give an answer directly, they can only hint at something if they’ve worked it out (again, happy for clarification here).

This final one I can work out though, the contestants correctly identify that it’s something to do with the word ‘hand’. If you trace out the word ‘hand’ on each of the three grids, the characters created tell them to look in the statue of the toilet.

Inside the third box is a screwdriver which enables them to unscrew a panel on the wall.

The ceiling is paused. To escape the room they must partake in the duct challenge!

The airduct is opened up and the ceiling restarted. One contestant pushes one of the three buttons in front of them, it releases a key. The contestants must work out which manacle it opens, and that freed person…

…must crawl through the air duct as fast as they can and hit a button. The button is protected by a panel the contestant has to slide up. There is otherwise nothing nasty in the duct other than cobwebs, it’s a pure race against the clock.

Button hit, all the power goes out. The room then resets, but did she get there fast enough?

Yatra! Stage clear! etc., three points to the team.

The final game played by the other team is in a similar vein. They have to climb down a ladder into their locked room. It’s a similar sort of thing – solve puzzles to find keys to open boxes (the final box has a combination lock on it)

But oh no, the room is filling up with water!

As before, the team are allowed one thirty second phone call to their teammates. The phone is kept in a waterproof bag. The aim is to open the third box to release a remote control, which stops the water.

But that’s not the end! To escape the room they must play the Last Answer Quiz. A question comes up with many different answers, the contestants are required to find enough to fulfill a quota. The problem is the water has restarted, and if the contestants give a wrong answer then not only is the question thrown out, but they have to endure a thirty-second time penalty whilst the water keeps poring in. Three correct answers unlocks the door and lets them escape.

And after all that it’s a draw, and they both seem to split the million. How lovely.

46 thoughts on “Dasshutsu Game DERO! (2010, Nippon TV, Japan)

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  2. Alex

    With the monster game, I think it stops at the yellow zone for the first two, and at the red for the final person. There are three walls, the first two have a single puzzle, the final wall has three to do with completely different tiles each time, and a really nifty conveyor wall segment thing that disposes old tiles delivers the new ones. Also I think the speed is variable. At one point in the one I saw it was doing 10cm a second. Maybe it speeds up for each wall.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Well it doesn’t stop on the yellow in this episode, instead it starts doing a quick bunny hop sort of thing.

    2. Poochy.EXE

      If the monster reaches the red zone (“Dead Zone”) at any time, it swallows up all remaining members and the game ends in failure immediately; this is explicitly pointed out in the show’s rules explanation. (It’s at 8:45 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cMaLlPCMjA ) So if you can’t decide in time who amongst you is going to sacrifice themselves, you all fail.

      The yellow zone is simply labeled “Danger Zone”, and it’s 80cm. All the Danger Zone seems to do is trigger an audio warning and make the monster slow down significantly in it.

      Even the show’s own rules spiel was a little vague on this part, but as far as I could tell, the rules didn’t mention any restrictions on when the self-sacrifice option is available. Of course, the obviously optimal strategy is to wait until the last second to do it.

  3. David B

    So… what’s the weird Bertie Bassett-type mascot that was hanging around in the episode you linked to on YouTube?

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      Pass. Since he appeared ‘with’ a team in a scoreboard I would assume he’s some sort of wacky Japanese mascot.

    2. Poochy.EXE

      That was Anpanman, a classic Japanese children’s cartoon character.

      It took me a bit of research via Google, but it turns out one of the contestants is a singer who voiced a character and sang a version of Anpanman’s theme song for a recent Anpanman movie.

  4. Brig Bother Post author

    Incidentally, other known rooms not featured:

    * Contestants stand in “quicksand” , must correctly identify four things from clues gradually given before they sink without trace.

    * Three members of a team lie on floors with a crack in it. To succeed, they must correctly answer three sets of three questions answering questions in turn. A wrong answer means they have to start the set again, and the crack of the person who answered incorrectly widens. Three wrong answers is usually enough to eliminate a player unless they’re somehow magic.

  5. Poochy.EXE

    A couple random notes and tiny nitpicky corrections:

    The prize, as indicated on the top right corner of the second screenshot, is 1 million yen, not 10 million. According to the Japanese Wikipedia, they split the prize for a tie.

    I’m guessing “Ya-tai!” is actually “Yatta!”, a Japanese exclamation which literally means “I/we did it!” It’s commonly used to celebrate a success, as frequently demonstrated by Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) on Heroes.

    Also according to the Japanese Wikipedia, some bad news: the show was put on hiatus in the aftermath of the March earthquake and tsunami disaster. Apparently people didn’t want to see dark and tense stuff on TV immediately after such a terrible disaster, and I don’t blame them. However, the team behind DERO! quickly started work to revamp it into a new show, “Treasure Hunt Adventure: Puzzle Battle TORE!” which is basically the same show (right down to the same old regular contestants from DERO!) but more lighthearted and will apparently replace the Saw-like theme with something more like Indiana Jones. The premiere is next Wednesday (July 6) with a 2-hour special and it’ll have DERO!’s old timeslot.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I’ve changed these things, thanks.

        Incidentally, am I right about the phone thing? It seemed in the Youtube vid that the teammates watching had worked out that the key was in the fish, but when the team in the room phoned up they didn’t just tell them to look in the fish.

        1. Poochy.EXE

          I think you’re right, although I’m not 100% sure. I couldn’t find anything in the show’s rules spiels, but it seems that in general, teammates aren’t allowed to say the correct answer directly, only try to steer the active player in the right direction. One of the other episodes I watched had one player struggling on one of the puzzles in the Beam Room while another player on another beam seemed to know it and kept trying to drop hints; he apparently wasn’t allowed to just shout out the answer.

        2. Poochy.EXE

          I was just watching an older episode, and I noticed that above the 30-second countdown for the Telephone of Life was smaller text that translates to roughly “Cannot directly tell the answer.” (It’s too small and blurry to make out in the YouTube video because of the poor video encoding, though.) So we do have confirmation that they’re not allowed to just blurt out the answer directly.

    1. Chris M. Dickson

      I’m guessing “Ya-tai!” is actually “Yatta!”, a Japanese exclamation which literally means “I/we did it!”

      Everybody say… YATTA!

      “I’ll take Internet memes older than Epic Fail for 400.”

      “You are on the way to destruction.”

      “What you say, Alex?”

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        Ta for this. I’m not convinced the games are as good really (I don’t think the blocks are a match for the beams) but it was still fun to watch.

      1. Gizensha

        It does rather strike as a way of getting challenging lateral thinking puzzles (though probably not the difficulty of Only Connect or Round Britain Quiz) into… Well, channels that don’t have a four in the name, really, yes.

        And dear god does BBC1 need another Saturday Night light entertainment hit.

    1. Chris M. Dickson

      If we say “Chatsworth revival” enough times can we make it happen? I’d be fascinated to see the answer to the analogy “The Crystal Maze is to Fort Boyard as ((this)) is to Exit”.

      Double bonus: NTV’s formats catalogue is made to make your mouth water in a fashion not seen since Starburst were Opal Fruits. Train of Thought is a known winner – Brig, it’s the one that there’s a clip of at the end of Tokyo Friend Park II, I think – and Move This, It’s Yours looks like it has the potential to be spectacular. Let’s Wakey Wakey! also looks like… well, a round of a show, but what a round it might be. Loads and loads of good stuff there.

      1. David B

        Chatsworth had kind of been there, done that. The ill-fated follow-up to TCM, The Magic Carnival, had a similar motif whereby losing contestants were ‘disappeared’ by an illusion such as a piano falling on their head.

      2. Gizensha

        If I’m honest, I think it’s Key Master that I’m most interested in. (Though if each key only opens one door in each room, doesn’t that make it a bit overly linear? Eh, linear worked well for Interceptor, I guess.)

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  7. Poochy.EXE

    I found the episode used for this feature (specifically, it’s the December 22, 2010 episode), which means I can attempt to translate the wordplay puzzles from the Ceiling Room and the Water Room.

    First, a quick test to make sure I can use Japanese text here without it turning into mojibake: 「脱出ゲームDERO!」

    1. Poochy.EXE

      All right, Japanese text works. In the words of the show’s narrator: “OK, now begin!”

      First, a quick and (overly-)simple crash course on Japanese writing systems, which will come in handy:

      Japanese has three alphabets, hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are phonetic; the overly-simplified version of the distinction is that katakana is used in place of hiragana in similar situations as you might use italics in English. Kanji consists of characters borrowed from Chinese; it’s used in place of hiragana for root words in a fashion similar to the use of “&” in place of “and” in English. (However, kanji is used much, MUCH more frequently in Japanese than any English analogue, because kanji is much less ambiguous than all hiragana. For example, the hiragana “いった” can mean “went” or “said”, but the two words use different kanji; “said” is “言った” and “went” is “行った”. The “った” is a grammatical suffix here and has no kanji equivalent, so it’s always written in hiragana.)

      The hiragana and katakana alphabets are traditionally arranged in a table:

      With that out of the way…

      First, the Ceiling Room.

      Puzzle 1:

      The contestants are given a scroll with “修理消すもん” and a small message prompting them to hit the button, which triggers a sumo-referee puppet to come out and prompt them to engage in a sumo match. Then it asks them, “what did you do just now?” The answer is “have a sumo match” (“すもうをとって”). In a Japanese pun, this can also be interpreted as “take out sumo” (written exactly the same, even if you’re using kanji). I actually had to look this one up – turns out the Japanese verb for “to take” is also used in sumo jargon for “to have a match”.

      Now, if you take the text from the scroll, “修理消すもん”, and convert it to hiragana, you get “しゅうりけすもん”. Take out the characters that also appear in “sumo” (“すもう”) and you’re left with the answer of “しゅりけん”, which means “shuriken”. The key is stuck to the back of one of the shurikens.

      Puzzle 2:

      The contestants have a picture of Mitsuo “Tsunku” Terada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunku) and a DVD.

      The guy on the DVD says “lower one’s head, raise one’s rear, and a chair (いす) becomes a cow (うし)”.

      Look at the hiragana table. If you take “chair” (“いす”), replace the first character (the “head”) with the character directly below it (“lower” the “head”), and replace the last character (the “rear”) with the character directly above it (“raise” the “rear”), then you end up with “cow” (“うし”).

      Now repeat the same process with Tsunku’s name (つんく). つ becomes て, く becomes き, and you end up with “てんき”, which means “weather”. The key is stuck to the back of the weather map.

      Puzzle 3:

      They have those grids of letters and a hint, “Shake hands and you’ll understand”.

      This one’s a bit more straightforward: To shake hands, your hands connect. Connect the letters in “HAND” in each grid and the lines form “トイレ”, meaning “toilet”. The key’s in the little toy toilet.

      I’ll write up the Water Room puzzles later.

    2. Poochy.EXE

      As promised, the Water Room puzzles.

      Puzzle 1:

      The card says “Use the foods on the blue shelf to do calculations.” The blue shelf has a plate of tempura (てんぷら) and a plate of sushi (すし).

      Put the two together and you get “てんぷらすし”. If you convert “ぷらす” to katakana, you get “プラス”, meaning “plus”. “てん plus し” becomes “てんし”, meaning “angel”. The key’s on the bottom of the figurine of two little angels.

      Puzzle 2:

      The card says “カイサン” in katakana, and the little red magnet says “Where is this?” on it. On the wall is a map of part of Japan (Shikoku, Kyuushuu, and the westernmost part of Honshuu, to be specific), with an object on each prefecture. The shape of the magnet matches Kagawa Prefecture. On the map, Kagawa has a picture of sanuki udon, a noodle soup dish popular there.

      Convert “Kagawa” (香川) to hiragana and you get “かがわ”, then convert the first and last characters to katakana and you get “カがワ”, which roughly means “カ is ワ”.

      Similarly, convert “sanuki” (讃岐) to hiragana and you get “さぬき”, then convert the first character to katakana and you get “サぬき”, which means “without the サ”.

      Now back to the card. Take “カイサン”, change the カ to a ワ and remove the サ, and you get “ワイン”, which means “wine”. The key’s on the wine bottle.

      Puzzle 3:

      The hint this time is “Sort them in order by number of くち starting with the most, and they’ll lead you to 3 digits.” “くち” in kanji is “口”, which means “mouth”. But the important thing here is the fact that the kanji looks like a square.

      On the wall are 5 photos of celebrities. If you write out their names (in kanji), #1 has two box shapes in his name, and #5 has five of them. The last “くち” to be found is in #3’s name, which when written in hiragana is “きくちももこ”.

      So #5 is first with five, #1 is second with two, and #3 is third with one, yielding the combination of 513, which opens the lock.

  8. Poochy.EXE

    By the way, Brig, I think you’ll be happy to know that TORE! brought back the Stone Monster Room. The floor is now covered in those little packing-peanut-like pellets from DERO!’s Sand Room, the stone monster seems to move slower, the second wall now has 3 questions instead of just 1, and there’s a final challenge at the end to unlock a treasure chest in place of the big button to shut off the stone monster.

    The new challenge is basically a Fastest Finger First question from Millionaire, with the choices on 4 blocks that must be placed into 4 indentations on the treasure chest. If they don’t get it right the first time, above the button used to lock in the answer is a seven-segment LED display that tells them how many of the blocks were in the right spot on their first attempt, and they get a second chance. If they don’t get it right the second time, they fail. The stone monster continues to advance on them during this, naturally.

    1. The Banker's Nephew

      Ooh, and it’s got the Gyakuten Saiban cast, too! It’s like the universe is listening in on my dreams!

    1. CarbonCpy

      And it looks like the broadcaster is going to be SyFy. They announced it as part of their upfronts, as Exit (listed under “Reality Development”):


  9. Chris M. Dickson

    In other “people translate an Asian game show because their K-pop idols are on it” news, China’s Star Escape Room seems to have distinct DERO! influences in parts, particularly the first and last games. It’s the sort of thing I should get on with but don’t, though I might have more luck with another episode. Many of you might like it, though.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        Yes I quite liked this. The rooms they have invented for it work much better as elimination games compared to the American one which tried to shoehorn in its version of the format into the Japanese rooms which weren’t really designed to be played in that manner.

    1. David B

      Surely it’s just China’s version of Dero, but with some reality-type moral choices added. Love the sets.

      1. Brig Bother Post author

        I found the whole “honour” thing a bit tedious but I’m happy to put that down to cultural differences, as an adaptation of the format I thought it worked pretty well.


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