The new GR.iD shopping center on Selegie Road recently opened, taking over the premises of the former PoMo shopping centre.
The design of GR.iD, which stands for “Grand Identity”, was strongly oriented towards creating social spaces where people can connect, interact and form communities.
As such, the mall offers eclectic offerings including the MADDspace arts school, Golftec golf practice facility, and gourmet restaurant House on the Moon.
In keeping with its theme of connecting people through entertainment, GR.iD is also home to Loading, Singapore’s first English-language “scripted murder” game site.
Bringing China’s ‘scripted murder’ craze to Singapore
“Ju ben sha”, which means “script-killing”, was all the rage in China in the last few years. 30,000 ago Jubensha studios across the country.
Script-killing consists of live role-playing games (LARP). Players are assigned roles in a murder mystery story and placed in rooms that are built and decorated to simulate the setting of the storyline.
They must then play their part by deducing who among them is the murderer.
Scripted murder games therefore combine the puzzle-solving elements of escape rooms with the social interaction and performance elements of LARP.
Loading founder Huang Jiawei bought the scripts for his games in China and had them translated into English for the local market.
There are a few other tables Jubensha shops in Clementi which only offer scripts in Chinese. Loading is the first Jubensha studio in Singapore to translate scripts into English.
Loading’s games were also designed to immerse players in realistic environments, with elaborate props and rooms that allow players to move around and search for evidence.
Huang, who has a day job as an IT product manager, hopes to introduce locals to scripted destruction games and adapt them to local culture.
Jubensha the scripts are very complicated, with several characters and complex scenarios. In China, game stores and gamers buy these scripts from specialist writers.
As such, scripted murder mysteries are longer and more intense than escape rooms. While escape rooms typically last around an hour, Jubensha games in China can last up to four to five hours.
However, Huang said Loading’s games have been tailored to last around three to four hours.
The loadout features two games that are set in ancient China and rural Europe. Huang bought the scripts in China but they were translated from Chinese to English by his team so that more people in Singapore could enjoy them.
The scripts contain both Chinese and English, and players can choose to play in either language.
Jiawei said he plans to eventually open a shop in another location with scripts written in-house. This first mall outlet in a central location serves as an accessible venue to expose locals to the game.
We asked Huang if the price, at S$68 per person for one game, was a little too high. Huang said Jubensha games in China cost around 200-300 yuan, which is equivalent to around 50-60 Singapore dollars. Considering his rental and renovation costs for building the studio, he said the price they set for Singapore was reasonable. Also, because murder mystery LARPs are longer, three to four hours, the price per hour is lower than escape rooms, which cost around S$30 for an hour of gameplay.
For this review, we played along with a Chinese setting, in which we were transported back in time to the ancient Tang Dynasty, ruled by China’s only female emperor, Empress Wu Zetian.
The game can be played in groups ranging from 5 to 8 players and in addition to the costumes, each player receives a script detailing the backstory of the character you choose before the game begins.
The kind female staff member helped us get into our costumes which was difficult as I had to squeeze into the insignia of the Phoenix Saint, the game’s main character and a divine oracle who was loved and revered by the Chinese people as a semi-deity.
If I have one major gripe, it would be the extremely long backstory script provided for each character.
We all took about 20 minutes to read the lengthy exposition provided to us, and even then there was a lot of heartbreak and paper riffling to figure out how to progress the goals laid out in the script without accidentally revealing our motives.
We had a lot of fun playing, searching for evidence and talking to each other in our attempt to solve the murder.
The ensuing mayhem included plenty of hand-twisting, finger-pointing, sifting through evidence, and accusatory screams as we scoured various rooms of the game’s maze in search of evidence of the Murderer Among Us.
Much of the confusion also involved the misdirection our group employed to distract and equivocate to conceal our motives, resulting in a lot of hilarity.
“Why do you work for this noble family and how are you related to them?” My friend asked pompously in character, waving his propeller pipe accusingly at me.
“I import spices for them!” I retorted in protest, ducking behind my phoenix fan in defiance. “I’m a poor divine oracle so I need more of an income stream!”
We finally emerged after three hours, exhausted but triumphant after successfully solving the murder mystery.
Benefits: If you love getting into character and costumes, learning and remembering character stories, taking lots of Instagram selfies, acting out a script, and spending hours trying to solve a murder, then these mystery games are for you.
The inconvenients: If you have a fleeting memory of a goldfish like me, a bladder that needs to be emptied once in a while, and little patience to read, absorb, role-play, and chat with your friends for hours to solve a murder mystery, so maybe you might want to give it a pass.
1 Route Selegie, B1-03 & 04, GR.iD, S’pore 188306
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Telephone: 9132 8088
E-mail: [email protected]