London, Sep 2021
SENSAS is not an escape room. As an experience it’s closer to the style of the live Crystal Maze, in that it involves a series of challenges for you to tackle as a team, collecting tokens for your successes as you go. Unlike the Crystal Maze, in SENSAS it’s usually more than one person active at a time, most often with half the team taking point and the other half supporting, then swapping round.
As the name suggests, SENSAS is based around the concept of the five senses, and each section is themed for one of them – though in some cases the connection is fairly tenuous. For spoiler reasons I’m going to try to avoid specifying exactly what the various sections consist of – I think the experience works better when you don’t know exactly what it involves. But I think it’s reasonable to say that, despite comments on their website about ‘facing your fears’, this isn’t any kind of endurance challenge, and you needn’t worry about it pulling reality TV style nasties on you.
Each themed section has its own style, in combination being a bit of a miscellany of unrelated tasks though also providing plenty of variety. Of those, our group of six had clear favourites, which I would expect to be the highlights for most other groups too. While the five senses concept provides the inspiration for the whole thing, I actually found it worked best when it diverged the most from the senses theme, where games had clearly been chosen primarily because they were cool and fun.
Several escape rooms have tried to involve all the senses, or almost all of them, in one way or another. Experienced players will probably have noticed that one sense is almost never used, for good reason; a second is mostly used for novelty, and sometimes leads to frustrating puzzles. The way that SENSAS uses these senses isn’t wildly different to how you might see them used in an escape room, but the difficulty level here is several notches higher. Compensating for that is greater support from the host, who gave instant feedback when we got something right; plus the fact that the whole group was focused on this one task. That made it challenging but tractable, and satisfying each time someone got something that I’d written off as impossible.
Of the obvious highlights, one had the disadvantage of being one person at a time, with little for the others to do in the meantime – it would really help if they could tweak the flow to eliminate that downtime. But another was for the whole team, and for us was a blast of pure joy. The post-experience photo opportunity was an unexpected bonus, and might provide inspiration for many escape room operators to do something a bit more special with their team photo process.
The nature of the experience isn’t perfectly suited to a world where COVID is a concern. There are hand sanitisers throughout, which players are encouraged to use regularly, we wore masks at all times, and were told there was extensive disinfecting and replacement of items between sessions. I personally was comfortable with the measures taken; I can imagine some players who are being more careful than average might have more doubts.
SENSAS was a fun, different experience. Regular escape room players may not be the ideal audience for it, due to reduced novelty value – a serious escape room habit means you’re more likely to have come across some of the elements used in SENSAS elsewhere. The audience that SENSAS is perfectly suited for are those who might like escape rooms but who are put off by the whole idea of puzzles; I suspect it’ll be a very popular option for London companies looking for team-building activities.