Published on October 5th, 2019 | by Dean Love0
An Escape Fan’s Guide to… Budapest (2019)
Note: there are over 100 escape games within in the city limits of Budapest. We played 13 of them in 2016 and returned for 10 more in 2019, based on a mixture of recommendations from friends, the internet and Trip Advisor, along with taking a few punts on things that just looked interesting. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and of course the scene is constantly changing with new rooms opening all the time. This is a snapshot as of May 2019. This is an updated version of the original 2016 article with new games added and some closed games removed.
Budapest has a lot of escape rooms, but handily most are located in Budapest’s District VII, the old Jewish District on the Pest side of the Danube. Abandoned for a long time post-World War II, over the past few decades it’s seen a huge amount of gentrification, with every street dotted with ruin bars, restaurants and such. It’s very much hipster-central and full of young people, but it means that there are plenty of hostels and Airbnb options around making it easy to find somewhere to stay, and you won’t be short of things to see.
In terms of language, most people speak a bit of English, and you can generally get by. For the games themselves, the simple rule we followed was that if they had an English website, they’d be English-speaker friendly, which worked out for us (and 95% of the games we investigated have an English site). The one snag will be with clues – your host may be anything from slightly familiar to fluent in English, and as most sites will employ multiple people our experiences won’t necessarily be representative. Just be prepared to ask questions as simply as possible, and remember the host can generally see you, so physical gestures can still work on your end. The especially nerdy amongst us can have some fun watching for the clever ways certain puzzles have been made language independent, and indeed, if you get a clue sheet with English on one side and Hungarian on the other, you may be able to infer something about the solution!
Budapest has a fairly comprehensive public transport system, with a metro, buses and trams available. Handily for escape game teams, you can get a 24-hour group travel pass for 3300HUF, which covers up to five people. If you buy single travel tickets, be aware that you need to buy one for each leg of a journey, and validate them on the platform (metro, tram) or bus itself.
Nearly every game requires booking online in advance, and payment in cash, generally after the game, so be sure to take enough HUF. You can expect to spend an average of 10000-15000HUF per game (for a team of three) which is around 27-40GBP or 33-49USD.
Budapest gets very hot in the summer (mid-June to mid-September) and very cold after that. But, most of the rooms we played were quite temperate, many being down in basements, insulating them from the worst of it. Also note most of the rooms tended to be on the dirty/dusty side, so I’d recommend against wearing your going-out clothes and maybe take some hand sanitiser with you for after the game!
Handily, plenty of the games in District VII are located in or next to ruin bars (bars built in and around the ruins of old abandoned buildings) so it’s possible to make a pub crawl out of it!
The best – our top three Budapest games
Enigma – Enigma Mission and Flux
Enigma are probably what I’d term the “enthusiasts choice” in Budapest. A bit out of the way, longer (90 minute) games, and an emphasis on puzzles and technology rather than flashy set dressing. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with how they look, just it’s function over form all the way. This adds to the puzzle-based feel, as you know that if something is in the game, it likely serves a purpose – there’s no such thing something that “just for show”.
There are two games on site, the first is simply called Enigma Mission, and what stood out for me was the way it produced what I’d call “themed puzzles”. Normally when we talk about escape rooms combining puzzle with theme, we mean that, for example, the puzzle of mixing spell ingredients was appropriate for a Harry Potter game. In the case of Enigma Mission, the theme was thin to start with, but instead a single type of prop was used throughout the entire game in many, many different ways. It was subtle, but it gave the game a feeling of cohesion, which is really helpful in a longer game like this. It also had a really nice way of delivering hints, and large mix of puzzle styles.
The second game is Flux – it’s available to play in English, though that’s not obvious on the English version of website – you have to go to “Booking” then “Other games”. Flux is a more cerebral game, and much more high tech in both theme and execution. There’s some really clever puzzles in this one, with ideas I’ve not seen anywhere else. It’s a newer game, and perhaps not as smooth as Enigma Mission – certainly there’s a quite annoying repetitive task to be done at various points – but it also has some impressive set pieces, and an ending that was really neat for the science nerds among us.
1134 Budapest, Csángó utca 13
12000-17000HUF (based on number of players and language)
One of the few games outside of District VII, but only a ten minute ride on the M2 Metro line, the Pirate Cave sees you trying to break an ancient pirate curse. It starts with a great teamwork and dexterity challenge, and has some great puzzles. There’s not a huge amount of searching, and you’re pointed in the right direction for anything that needs more than a cursory look.
There’s a great physical element in the middle of it, and well placed music and sound effects. The clue system is great fun (and actually leads to a few extra puzzles and bits of story) and we didn’t find anything too easy or too difficult. What really stands out is the sense of atmosphere. The set dressing is fantastic (coming complete with a water feature), and it genuinely feels like an old pirate cave. It’s very well maintained, and everything worked perfectly. The story is strong throughout and comes to a nice climax, where you each have to break your own personal curse. The best game we played in Budapest, and one of the best we’ve ever played full stop. We made our final escape in 43 minutes.
Interestingly, I’d seen this recommended on an escape room Facebook group, and had to direct the host to the group, as he was quite confused as to why he’d been getting an influx of foreign tourists over the summer!
1106. Budapest (Hungary), Fehér út 10.
12000HUF-19200HUF (based on number of players)
E-exit Escape Games – Heaven and Hell and Santa Muerte
For Heaven and Hell, the story is that you’ve temporarily killed yourself in order to have a look at heaven and hell, before you resurrect yourself with a defibrillator which will only work for an hour…
It’s crazy, and the game lives up to this description. You really do start in a morgue and “kill” yourself, ending up in purgatory, where you need to open the gates to heaven and hell. The rooms all look great, and the puzzles are all solid. The one complaint might be that a couple of the puzzles become busy-work that goes on a bit too long: you figure it out but then have to spend a good few more minutes just implementing the solution. But it’s a minor gripe. The other ‘negative’ worth noting: you can’t play this game if you have claustrophobia. There’s nothing particularly awful or scary, there’s just a bit that all team members have to do that we found immeasurably cool but could definitely be a trigger for some people.
There are some other really neat physical tasks, including a bit in heaven that induced pure childish glee in some of the team! The story itself is pretty simple: go have a look at heaven and hell then come back, but the game commits to it well and it all comes full circle in the end.
Santa Muerte is a newer game we played on our return trip – it’s located in the same building, but has a different entrance and reception to the other games. If you’ve ever wondered about foreshadowing in a game – well, the reception for Santa Muerte has the end of a slide visible in one part of reception. Suffice it to say, if the game didn’t involve using that slide at the end, it’d be very disappointing!
Still it’s not all reinvented children’s playgrounds, as you explore a space based loosely on the Mexican Day of the Dead searching for the Sombrero of Life. It’s neither a horror game or comedy game, instead just being a bit kooky, but it’s one of those games that fits together really well, with some really bulky, kinetic puzzles and a fascinating environment to explore. Probably the best all-round game in the city.
10000-14000HUF (based on game and number of players)
Bubbling under – best of the rest
MindQuest – Legacy of Noo’Zaca
The most recently opened game at MindQuest when we returned on our second visit, an Aztec tomb game with a fantastic set and strong puzzles. The tomb holds all sorts of secrets, and slowly working your way through the game, discovering new and different elements made for a really cohesive game. The only down side was we kept returning to one puzzle that we thought might be solvable, but wasn’t at point. Nevertheless it could still be interacted with. It would have been useful at that point to have been given a basic “you don’t need to worry about that yet” nudge. At one point we were convinced it was the only thing we had left to interact with in the room and spent a good five minutes on it in desperation.
1072 Budapest, Klauzál street 19. (on the first floor of Füge Udvar)
7000-18000HUF (depending on number of players)
ARoom – Metro and House of Escobar
ARoom are a brand aimed at providing a “premium escape room” experience, seemingly as a spin-off of Locked Room, another Budapest-based company. What this means in practice is slightly higher prices, with a major emphasis on technology, set design and larger experiences.
Metro, as the name suggests is set in a Metro station and train, and offers a fairly enjoyable game, though some of the puzzles required certain leaps of logic that seemed a little bit much. House of Escobar on the other hand was a game set over a large space, including a multi-story “house” and its surrounding “street”. While not exactly to scale, they do a good job of letting you suspend your disbelief enough to sell the fantasy. Again, some of the puzzles were a little out there, but we were stumped at lot less often – though it’s possible that’s because we played this second and had adapted to the mindset a bit more.
Either way, while not up there at the very top, they’re two very strong games in the city.
1068 Budapest, Király utca 14.
12000-22050HUF (depending on number of players)
Mystique Room – Time Machine, Tower of Wollongong and The Iron Throne
Similar to ARoom, Mystique offer a higher end experience than most, with an emphasis on technology and set design. Overall though we found their puzzles better, if a bit more straightforwards, than those of ARoom. Time Machine was the most impressive, with a great set and somewhat non-linear approach, it really drove home the idea that you were, piece by piece, fixing this broken time machine.
Iron Throne is an unofficial Games of Thrones room that does nothing to hide its origins. There are no Tyrone Launisters here. The game just outright uses Game of Thrones, names, imagery and references throughout. To the point of ending with a giant replica of the throne itself! The puzzles here are pitched a bit more on the easy side of things, but that works as the media tie-in means it’s more likely to be a lot of players’ first game. Nothing special, but if you’re a Thrones fan it might be worth it to get a photo of you sat on the Iron Throne at the end!
Tower of Wollongong is the most interesting but also worst of the three games we played at Mystique. There is no “room” to explore in this game. Just a big tall device in the centre of the room, with many, many compartments that you need to access and solve puzzles within, to then access another compartment and so on. It’s a pure puzzle experience, with no story or set dressing to speak of. Which would be fine, if those puzzles were brilliant. But they weren’t. Rather we found they were mostly either too simple, or too obscure and nearly impossible to figure out without a clue. Add into that one puzzle where we had the right answer but the technology was a bit dodgy and didn’t pick up us entering it, and it was more a frustrating experience. I’d love to see a game like this done well, but alas this one is not that.
Overall Mystique have some interesting games – a bit more varied both in style and quality compared to ARoom, but Time Machine especially is worth a look.
1055 Budapest, Szent István körút 9.
12990-23920HUF (depending on number of players)
This is a game I wish we could have played when it was new. But rather than being a really good game marred by some minor issues, like Rabbit Hole, this was a brilliant game marred by some huge problems. We should have probably got suspicious when the host returned from resetting the room with a screwdriver in his hands, but one of the puzzles was broken, requiring the host to enter the room, stop the game, and fix it for us – utterly ruining any sense of immersion. There were other puzzles where we had to try to the solution a few times to get it to register, and another that required more force than expected.
Which is all an awful shame because what does work is brilliant. You’re trying to lift the curse of the Mayan sun god and return the world from the inevitable fate of permanent darkness. There’s not a huge amount of padlocks, with a lot of solving puzzles to ‘mystically’ activate the next bit, which is always fun. The puzzles themselves are good, with a few new ideas we hadn’t seen before. The hints were given by walkie-talkie, but there was (another) issue with the microphones in the room, so the host couldn’t hear us, so was offering clues based only on what he could see. So on two occasions he gave us a clue explaining something that I was literally just suggesting to another team member!
Oh and if you’re going to have stickers that mark certain things in the room as “not part of the game”, don’t start the game in total darkness and expect players to somehow guess what has a sticker on and what is actually a light-switch!
We really wanted to love this one, but it really needs a bit of love and care to bring it back up to being one of the city’s best games.
Wesselényi street 78. – 1077 Budapest
7700-11000HUF (lower price if at least one team member is a student)
Goszdu Mission – White Mission
The concept of White Mission is fantastic: you enter an entirely white room, with just a single key hanging from the ceiling. How will you get out? Pretty cool, but after a few minutes the reality hits: it’s just an escape room without a theme or decoration. Which means it has to live and die purely on its puzzles. Luckily those puzzles are pretty good. Both Goszdu Mission rooms we played had very logical, mathematical puzzles, which were a good fit for my brain, but as you may expect from a minimalist room, there was significant use of a blacklight, although those clues were generally in positions you’d expect.
To unlock the final key you need to input six different numeric codes, each of a different length (2 to 7), into a terminal. You can verify each as you go along, so there’s a good sense of progression, and many opportunities for people to split up and work on different parts of the room.
The final puzzle stumped us for a good while as we made an incorrect assumption about the level of mathematical literacy we were expected to apply, but it was a nice moment when it finally came together and we got out with around three minutes to spare.
There’s no music in the room, but while we were playing, we could hear the music being listened to by the host outside, which appeared to be the same song. On repeat. For a good 80 minutes. We’d like to say that her ex is a bastard and she can do better!
16. Dob street 1075 Budapest (Gozsdu Udvar F” yard)
9000-16500HUF (depending on number of players)
Paniq Room – Invisible Forest
The only game in Budapest we played that was outright bad. The idea is cool: a game played in pitch darkness. And I mean pitch. You may find after you’ve been in a dark room for a while, your eyes adjust if there’s a little bit of light. That’s not the case here. You’ll spend an hour unable to see anything. And you will spend an hour, because you’re not going to be getting out of this one without a lot of help.
And the weird thing is: that’s not awful. You could take this game and have it hosted and run really well, by a clue giver that’s really on the ball, and it could work. This was not our experience. Our host was awful. You’re given clues via walkie-talkie, and I assume the host can see you with night-vision cameras, but ours seemed oblivious to the fact that we were playing in total darkness. The sort of hints we needed were “there’s something you need a couple of feet to your left”, instead we were asked “have you found the white pieces yet?”. I don’t know mate WE CAN’T SEE. But you could take the entire room, have the host guide you more explicitly, perhaps in character, and the game might work. Instead our host twice came into the game, visibly frustrated and annoyed, to literally solve the puzzles for us.
If it wasn’t for the bad host it could be a good experience up until the point that you have to do a puzzle involving smells, where none of the smells are really strong enough and it all falls apart. Luckily that puzzle only has 120 combinations so if you can get one right you just have to try 24 possibilities for the others. That’s how we solved it.
When we finished, the host (admittedly, it seems having given us an extra fifteen minutes) came in and reset the room without even talking to us. We were just left to get our stuff and leave, on our own. Oh and that room was really not safe to be wondering around in when you can’t see – pointy things at eye level, that sort of thing. You might not have as bad a time in this game if you get a different host, but I struggle to see how you’ll have a good one.
Gozsdu Mission – Prison Mission
Another Gozsdu game, but this one is a far more traditional sixty minute experience. And it’s a fine game, just a little slight. We escaped in 37 minutes, although the record is about half of that! It’s a single room and there are essentially four strands of puzzles to follow. We were instructed by the host to complete it in a linear fashion, moving from one strand to the next as we finished each one, but realistically it seemed like there would have been plenty of opportunities to work on bits in parallel.
One nice touch is that each puzzle-relevant element is marked so you know what clues go together, and the puzzles are all fairly logical. The final puzzle actually requires a nice bit of real-world deduction, and is the sort of puzzle I’ve not seen in an escape room before, so made a nice change.
But it is essentially entirely as advertised, you’re in a prison cell, you need to get out. There’s no hidden room or additional spaces to explore. It’s just that. And a prison cell isn’t the most interesting of environments to start with! A solid, enjoyable game, certainly worth trying if you enjoy the style of puzzles Gozsdu use, but nothing special.
16. Dob street 1075 Budapest (Gozsdu Udvar F” yard)
9000-16500HUF (depending on number of players)
MindQuest- Mission Matrix
One of the more contradictory games we played – themed around the 90s sci-fi film, your first task is to hack a nearby phone to activate The Matrix. When you do so you pass into another world… a world full of dismantled 90s computer hardware! The aesthetic is certainly less sci-fi and more retro-PC, though it works, in its own way- the light and sound design definitely making a statement, just maybe not one of super-advanced technology!
There’s a nice little puzzle involving remote controls, a fair bit of maths and other fun bits and pieces. The finale doubles down on the whole retro-cool thing, though younger players might get confused as to why there is a massive version of the “save” icon from MS Office in the room.
The game was handily located in a ruin bar, but this time above it, with the balcony just outside the room looking down on the revellers below. Which did mean you could hear the constant partying happening below from inside the room, which was a little weird!
We go out with ten minutes to spare and enjoyed it a fair bit, but nothing really stood out.
1072 Budapest, Klauzál street 19. (on the first floor of Füge Udvar)
7000-18000HUF (depending on number of players)
Paniq Room – The Real Saw
A last minute addition to our schedule on our first visit, as we realised we could fit in a game at 11pm on the night we arrived as Paniq Room offer the latest running rooms in the city, with the last game starting at 11.45pm! The Real Saw is based on the Saw films, specifically the framing scene of the first film, which is replicated very well by the room itself. If you’re a fan of the films it basically makes the room a must-play, just for the cool-factor.
For the rest of us, the experience is a bit odd. There’s a weird hint system. Not the system where you can talk to the host via walkie-talkie, but an additional layer of “hints” where you will find pairs or groups of numbers around the room, which correspond to jigsaw pieces with scrambled words that themselves refer to items in the room. The numbers therefore identify elements of the room that you need to combine to solve a puzzle. Theoretically you can follow an entirely linear path through the room using these pieces, but in reality we didn’t work out how those hints worked for a good fifteen minutes, by which point we’d already jumped ahead to various parts of the puzzle-flow through observation and guesswork, so we ended up not using them much.
The opening of the game is probably the strongest bit: the reveal of the room, and the way you have to work together to progress; and the end once again picks up with some neat and different puzzles. Though weirdly the very end involves getting through a door and ending up in Paniq Room’s Lost room, which you then walk through to finish the game. We were half tempted to start solving it! They do offer the option to do the two rooms back-to-back, so I figured out what was going on, but it could probably have used some more guidance as the initial reaction was “why are we now in a jungle?”
Apparently we escaped in exactly 60 minutes, but there’s actually no timer in the room, just a clock, but if you don’t notice the precise time you start then it’s not that useful! We have a feeling we took slightly longer than an hour but they decided to give us the joy of a victory anyway, which is something I approve of hugely but might bother some enthusiasts!
We had a great time at Bunkergame!, and it’s certainly the most different game we played on our trip. But what’s important to understand about our group is that we like history, to the point that one of us is studying for a PhD in it. So if you give us the chance to spend an hour exploring an authentically restored 1950s air-raid shelter, we’re going to take you up on it. Make it a 100-minute escape game and it’s essentially a no-brainer. And the “exploring the bunker” part was indeed fantastic, and the trappings of an escape game also improve that: it’s just your group in there and you can pick up and play with whatever you want. It was awesome. But the game itself kinda sucked. Mostly it was just searching for keys and using them, or in one case, searching for bolt cutters and using them, which at least offered a bit of a transgressive thrill!
There was one neat bit that involved manipulating old radios, and there appeared to be a fairly complex puzzle in the final room, involving telephone exchanges. But after a few minutes of playing around we were given the clue “puzzle broken, just push on door”, leading to a rather unsatisfactory ending! Of course, it’s also forgivable to some extent because they’re using retrofitted old 50s tech to build the puzzles, so making them resilient is going to be trickier.
One nice touch is that while the game is situated well out of the city centre, near the airport, the ticket price includes a shuttle service to and from the site. They were even happy to drop us off at Pirate Cave after the game! This is also the location where we had the most language issues with clues – the hosts knew enough to get by but a few times we had to get clarification.
It’s hard to recommend this to escape game fans, but for history buffs it’s going to be fun. Indeed, after everything I’ve said the one improvement I would make wouldn’t be to have better puzzles, but in fact to have more historical context offered, perhaps some text in every room explaining a bit about the history of the bunker and what each room was used for. Double down on making it more of a historical experience with a game element, rather than the opposite way around.
1183 Gyömröi Út 91, Budapest
6400HUF per player
Returning to Budapest in 2019 things had certainly changed. In my original conclusion I wrote about a lack of high-tech games: that’s very much no longer the case, with a number of tech-heavy games opening up around the city. With that has been a small but noticiable increase in price. Indeed, there do seem to be almost two tiers of games in Budapest now, those under 10000HUF, and those over, with the latter tending towards more high tech games.
With E-exit and Enigma I’d also say the city now has a few “must plays” for escape room fans visiting – exceptional games that are up there with the top rooms we’ve played in the UK and elsewhere. Meanwhile Mystique and ARoom offer a number of strong experiences all located in the same place for those wanting a more densely packed getaway!