The burgeoning Japanese Puzzle Drama genre

By | March 7, 2014

I can’t really claim much credit for discovering this, thanks to Clavis Cryptica (webpage, Twitter) and long term FOTB Chris M Dickson (Twitter) for basically doing most of the research, but here I present it for more general perusal.

Basically Real Escape Game TV has become a mildly popular occasional show in Japan over the last year. They are based on (and indeed they co-produce the shows) SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events – basically the original in the increasingly popular “escape the locked room against the clock by solving lots of puzzles” thing like Hint Hunt, Clue Quest and so on. And now they’re up for awards.

It’s essentially a 24-esque drama where the terrorist Nazootoko plans to destroy things but usually leaves a clue in the form of a puzzle as to how to stop said thing from happening. Whilst the officers in the show try and foil his plans (which they invariably do) you at home are also invited to playalong and solve the puzzles, playing in real time with an app or online, apparently with prizes going to those who perform best.

It’s a strange idea – they’ve spent all that money on a drama and then they expect you to concentrate on solving puzzles instead of watching it. But it appears to work. It shows a running total of how many people are logged in to play and (I’m extrapolating from translated Wikipedia) how many people have apparently got all three right. As that second one seems to start counting up after the second puzzle, presumably online players get them all at once or early with a deadline for each one?

Anyway, you can judge for yourself, the first episode is right here.

But the plot deepens. there was also a full drama based on the locked room puzzle apparently only shown in the Kanto region of Japan – Real Escape Game Girls Behind Closed Doors – Five 15 year-old schoolgirls wake up to find themselves in a room where a puzzle is projected on a wall. They’re told they have thirty minutes to work out the code to escape or they’ll die. This is more character led than the big scale show but similarly each episode has a puzzle to solve and the people who work it out fastest at home getting mentioned on the next episode. Unfortunately for our girls escaping the room leads to another room and another puzzle but presumably at the end of episode 11 they escape. It’s got a really neat Cube-esque feel and aesthetic. The only thing it lacks is english subtitles.

You can watch episode one (and with judicious use of cut and paste and locked-room logic most of the episodes – the final episode isn’t labelled 11 and is extended) on DailyMotion. Here’s an advert for it:

We’re not normally so explicit with this sort of thing but you can also torrent it at your own risk. Make sure you’re downloading the torrent not the malware.

5 thoughts on “The burgeoning Japanese Puzzle Drama genre

  1. Chris M. Dickson

    If you like locked room games, there might be something worth looking at on within the next week or two.

    On the grounds that this is quite a puzzle-y topic, I’m going to push my luck and squeeze in some ads: Puzzled Pint takes place in a London pub on the second Tuesday of the month, so Tuesday coming up. Imagine a pub quiz, lose the questions and replace them with puzzles. It’s a team event so you can solve alongside your friends and there are always hints available for free.

    David, Lewis and Dan turn up each month (plus others – Iain documented December’s event on Fifty50, Ronald was there last month, there are doubtless lots of other Bar denizens of whom I’m not aware and I’ll be coming down from Stockton-on-Tees for it this time) so it’s effectively as close as you ever get to an unofficial Bar meetup, short of a show recording, and you can even get some Schlag den Baar taunting in early if you like. It’s easy to find the details; I know that if I include too many links then it’ll probably spring the spam trap.

    If an evening’s puzzles are not enough for you then a full day of them are on offer at the DASH puzzle hunt in London on Saturday 26th April, i.e. se-VENNN weeks away. Similar sort of team puzzle solving, but slightly bigger puzzles (word puzzles, picture puzzles, pattern recognition, code breaking, maybe some logic, etc.) solved one at a time, a journey from location to location between the puzzles and competition against teams from 13 US cities. Again, easy to find the details for yourself, and Iain wrote up his experiences from last year in the Week a while back. Loads of lovely people going, should be good company and a good time all round.

    1. David B

      Please DO NOT turn up to Puzzled Pint. It’s getting too popular and I don’t get a seat any more. Bah.

      I hope that will add some ‘professional’ reviews. A lot of these games are reviewed by newbies ON TripAdvisor and the like, so they’re invariably positive. However, not all games are made the same and some are run better than others. Reviews by someone who’s been to a few of these things before would provide some useful perspective.

  2. Poochy.EXE

    I’ll offer to translate (to the best of my ability, at least) any of the puzzles/solutions in these shows if anyone’s interested. I do need to figure out how to handle the spoilers though. Anyone got any ideas?


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