A NEW craze for escape games is taking the UK by storm, and it seems Edinburgh is home to two of the best.

Can You Escape? and Exit Plan were named in the UK’s top 15, and the two business owners are now looking to expand with venues and new game ideas.

Escape games have increased in popularity over the last two years and there are now more than 250 across the UK. Similar to The Crystal Maze, above, they get teams working together, using a range of skills in order to succeed.

Multi-award winning Can You Escape? is a live escape game founded by Alastair Watson, recently named VisitScotland’s Regional Rising Star at the Thistle Awards. He says escape games have captured the imagination of people all over the world.

“The appetite for escape games doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon and the public is demanding more and more immersive and involved experiences,” Watson said.

He first heard about escape games taking off in eastern Europe and thought they sounded “great fun”. He visited the first in London, ClueQuest, and was instantly hooked.

Watson says it is teamwork and the competitive element that have made escape games so popular.

“There are few activities that can actively engage all members of a group,” he said. “Escape games also offer an opportunity to escape from reality for an hour, to forget about demands from day-to-day life, to leave your mobile phone behind and get involved in something where you all need to work together in order to escape.

“It’s an exhilarating experience where the whole team get involved. Of course there’s also the competitive element and no matter what anyone tells you, deep down, they all want to get the top time.”

Craig Douglas of Exit Plan agrees: “People just love opening up things that were previously locked and finding the goodies inside, even better if there is a secret door or compartment they manage to discover.

“I see games in the future having greater effects in them and also having more interactive elements customised for each group.”.

Douglas says that while online games are good, they simply can’t compare to working together as a team to solve tasks, nor do they provide the tangible tactility of opening up a previously locked or an out of reach lock.

Escape games have evolved considerably over the last two years, from low budget rooms which involve a lot of padlocked boxes to more high tech and immersive games, which are taking on the online gaming world.

“The key difference between these games and computer games is the interaction, both with your other team members and with the actual environment around you,”

Watson added. “Whether it’s pouring water down pipes, driving buggies or controlling lasers, it’s always more fun doing it for real.”