One of my favourite activities in Prague is something that I actually can’t tell you very much about because it would simply spoil the game; yet it’s something I enjoyed so much that I can’t keep it all to myself because I think everyone passing through the city should try it out! So in the interest of introducing you to one of the city’s best kept secrets, I will try my best to explain Prague’s Mind Maze while still sounding really ambiguous and not giving any clues away…
Did you ever watch “Fort Boyard” as a child? It was a French game show from the 90s that was filmed in a fortification out at sea off the coast of France. The whole premise of the game was that each team had to solve riddles, find keys, unlock clues, and use their minds to solve the task in front of them in order to win the gold and escape this scary fort located out in the Pertuis d’Antioche Straits. This was one of my favourite TV shows as a child and even though it didn’t come on until 10:00 p.m., I would stay up past my bedtime to watch the teams get locked in cells, decipher obscure riddles, piece clues together, win gold, and ultimately escape! Now doesn’t that sound like a fun game?
If you didn’t grow up watching this show, did you ever play Encyclopaedia Encarta MindMaze on the computer? Again taking you back to the 90s, this was a digital multimedia game set in an old castle, where you had to go from room to room – picture creepy looking dungeons and stone-walled chambers filled with treasure chests – and answer trivia questions in order to get past each door.
Well, Prague’s Mind Maze is a combination of these two games, except that YOU get to be the player, and YOU have to use your mind to find your way out!
Located on a quiet little backstreet, you press the buzzer on a purple door and enter a dimly lit building where the signs lead towards the basement. You descend the spiralling stairs and are met by someone who takes you into a room, sits you down on a sofa, and explains the goal of the game:
“You have 60 minutes to find the Philosopher’s Stone and use it to escape the Alchemist’s Chamber.”
You and your team enter the Alchemist’s Chamber where the door locks behind you.
Inside it feels like you’ve travelled back in time several centuries. There are stone walls, mysterious manuscripts, and bottles filled with colourful potions. You are surrounded by wooden chests, writing desks and little boxes, all of which are locked!
You start picking things up, turning them around, flipping through books in search of clues. You try pushing furniture to see if it will unlock a secret trap door. You shake sculptures, pick up glass balls, sift through pebbles – are any of them the Philosopher’s Stone?
You’re in a live game and it’s kind of surreal. You and your teammate work your way around the room. You are looking for something, but at the same time you don’t really know what you’re looking for so you don’t want to discard any clues. What seems useless now may come in handy once you’re further in the game. But right now, you’re just looking for the first clue to get things rolling.
You open a leather folder and pull out sheets – drawings of the human body, botanical studies, cryptic astronomical symbols – what do they all mean?
You feel your way around walls. Stare at paintings. Will this candle come in handy? What’s this giant key for? Where are the missing puzzle pieces?
A black raven stares down at you and a hooting owl signals that you have already spent 15 minutes trying to piece together the clues that will ultimately help you get out of this room. You need to sort through the objects that are there to help you versus those that are there to distract you.
You find the first key and unlock a series of locks which get you one step closer, but you get stuck again. You need something to move forward, but what?
You look behind curtains, pick up magnifying glasses, find more keys than you know what to do with. What is the walking stick for? Dare I stick my finger in the bubbling cauldron? What’s the meaning behind the colours on the pentagram? So many numbers. So many locks. There must be another key!
It’s been half an hour. How much further do you have to go? Are you any closer to finding a way to escape the Alchemist’s Chamber?
You unlock something which opens a whole slew of possibilities. This could change the game. Things are colour coded, and there are more numbers. You try to recall the roman numerals you learned in elementary school. Are you supposed to be using the numbers now or later?
You tear through the room again to see if you’ve somehow missed something. Clues. Clues. You are looking for clues.
You start to think you’re just over-analyzing everything you see in the room, but no, it must be there for a reason! It must serve a purpose.
You manage to unlock the trap door and find yourself in another chamber. There are more mysteries to unravel, but you’re running out of time! The bells are ringing signalling that you only have 15 minutes left in the game. If only you had another 30 minutes you could surely figure this all out! There is so much to look at. So many objects to pick up and analyze; they could all mean something!
You go back to that astronomical clock – you know it’s important. But why? Are those planetary symbols or zodiac symbols? And which is it that you need to move forward?
Aghhh, you need more time! You know you can do this!!
And then, it’s over.
Sam and I didn’t manage to escape the Alchemists’s Chamber, but what an exhilarating hour it was.
We saw the Philosopher’s Stone – we gazed at its mysterious beauty with our eyes and it was within our reach! – but we ultimately ran out of time trying to decipher a much needed equation.
I really can’t tell you anymore because I don’t want to give away any secrets, however, if you do find yourself in Prague and are up for a mind challenge, then you can’t skip out on the Mind Maze.
All you need is some logic, imagination, and a team with good problem-solving skills.
This was seriously one of the highlights of my visit!
To experience Mind Maze Prague, you must make your booking online ahead of time. This escape room game is quite popular with the underground gaming crowd and a few curious minds, so it’s best to make your reservation a few days in advance.
You need between 2-4 people to play the game, and the price is 1200 CZK for the group, regardless of whether there are 2 or 4 of you.
You have 60 minutes to solve the game and you will be armed with a walkie-talkie should you get stuck and need help at any point during the game. Someone will be watching you through webcam so if you hit the wall, you can ask for clues!
Have you ever played a ‘room escape game’ anywhere else around the world?
If so, let me know in the comments below. I’m hooked and I can’t wait to try this somewhere else!