[Personal recap of the 24HPC]
On the forward trip, I sat next to a Turkish college student who was studying in Hungary. I asked what “Akil Oyunlari” meant in Turkish. He said “umm…like brain games”. He was born in Antalya so I was like, “hey, that’s where they hosted the 2009 WPC”, which was an excuse to explain why I was going to Budapest to solve puzzles. Pushing my luck of shoving puzzle talk to a stranger’s face, I also asked if he knew who Serkan Yurekli was. And I got a positive response!
“Yeah. He was on TV one time, I think he makes puzzles right?”
I admit I’m terrible at coming up conversation topics.
Like last year, I was the first to arrive and the last to leave Budapest. It certainly helps to spare a couple of days rinsing off your jet lag, especially when one had just covered over 17,000km in about a day and half. My first priority of looking for non-sparkling water was achieved at a dairy just across the road. Illiterate in Hungarian had me buying bagfuls of snacks based solely on its marketing appearance. I did enjoyed most of them fortunately.
The next day, I met Tom and Neil at breakfast and had plans for two escape games in the city. We went early in case of the very likely event of us getting lost, which meant we had a good hour munching on coffee and cake at a lovely store next to the location of the first escape game.
We were joined by the German puzzle team of Silke, Robert and their friend Hammond. The first game was held in a quiet residence and was hosted by a polite woman who apparently wasn’t the host of the English-language version, but we can agree that she did a fantastic job running the game.
As with all escape games, the theme was loosely-based on a narrative. Hell, I can’t even remember the theme now. A friend is getting married in France? Somehow you’re on a boat to New York? He was framed for something? We needed to find a train ticket? A ring? Oh, I give up.
[Spoilers ahead: if you plan to play an escape game in Budapest, you might suddenly be the most competent member of your team]
So the first room was decorated like a boat and we had to find 5 coins to open up the next room. It wasn’t obvious, but there were 5 “things” to do and it was sensible to assume that they run independently and each lead to a coin. We had no system going in, everyone just solved whatever they felt like they could. All I can recall was peeking through a chest to see a picture of a sailor, holding a mop and hitting a seagull. On the ceiling was a seagull and there was a mop lying on the floor. The clever trick was that the mop was magnetic and it had to drag a key from a ledge on the ceiling. Going on simultaneously in the room, was a map puzzle being solved to unlock a rope ladder which Robert had to climb to a balloon which contained a coin.
The second room was the train scene. We had to fill a briefcase with the correct set of five items to finish. There was an invisible code written on the mirror that Neil helped me solve, a classic logic puzzle that Hammond and I solved, while others revive a dead cellphone to get specific time schedules for a train ticket hidden behind a picture. There was a dummy in the room (I think it was the ticket collector) which we mercilessly murdered because what else do you do in escape games? You flip the whole room upside down and look into every inch of every single item that was there. The dummy’s head rolled right off by the time we finished.
We clocked in at 36-37 minutes, without hints, and were told that the current record was around 34 minutes. Ah, we did great. Afterwards, we returned to the same café (called Death by Decaf) for seconds and headed to the next escape game. It was held in a spacious cellar (or “dungeon”, as Neil insisted). The theme this time was that we had to stop a biotechnical warfare by finding some sort of poison concocted by some mad professor. The room was his lab and there were heaps of things to solve.
My favourite had to be where a box was opened by placing a stethoscope on to the heart of a skeleton. Several puzzles ended up adding one piece to a chessboard so we incorrectly assumed that the chessboard was probably the last thing to be solved and proceeded to solve other puzzles in the room. We burnt at least 20 minutes trying to figure out how to make sense of colourful chemicals on the table and got nowhere.
We had to phone for help and the host directed us to “a green monster”. There was a green rubbish bin and surely enough, magnetized to inside of the lid was the crucial final chess piece. Gahh, honestly we must’ve opened that bin at least five times each. Good warm-up for the 24HPC.
Fast forward to the end of the competition, I left Budapest for Dubai. The purpose of entry on my VISA was cultural/sports which prompted “what sport were you playing in Budapest?” at the customs. I thought for a second before replying, “puzzles.”
Of course I got a confused look.
That elicited an “Ahh… I know sudoku. Wait. You flew all the way from Auckland to solve sudoku?”
In Dubai, I tried their Snooze Cube, which was a little bedroom for transits. Air-conditioned, free Wi-Fi, universal outlets and the room goes pitch black when the lights were switched off. Absolutely perfect.
After two more transits at Melbourne and Auckland. One last domestic flight carried me home.
No more planes for me.
Until next time!