Onigo: The Outdoor Escape Room Designed To Improve Your Health

(Image credit: Unknown)

“Health by stealth.” That’s how founder Alex Stanley describes the aim of Onigo, an outdoor escape room game that launched in January. By getting people outside for a walk or jog while solving clues with their friends, Onigo aims to boost both your physical and mental health.

We went to London’s Hyde Park and tried Onigo’s “The Break Out” game, which involved covering around 3.5km on foot and solving a series of clues to gain the equipment needed to escape a virtual prison. Naturally, your character has been imprisoned unjustly – Onigo isn’t about getting rightly convicted felons off the hook.

To complete the game you and your team have to solve all the clues in 60 minutes, which means a brisk walking pace is required most of the time even if you’re solving the puzzles rapidly. You can skip a puzzle that’s stumped you, but that will cost ten precious minutes, meaning you’ll need to run to the next location, which of course will only boost the physical health benefits of the game.

Onigo currently runs two different games in Hyde Park and Battersea Park in London, with plans to expand to other parks and cities in the future. You use the web browser on your smartphone to play the game, although Stanley told us that a dedicated mobile app is something that could be introduced to help expand the game in the future.

Given that we played Onigo during the height of the UK’s recent heatwave, we were delighted to complete The Break Out without having to push beyond a brisk walk, but you will need be prepared to jog a little if any clue stymies you for longer than a couple of minutes. We can’t think of many better ways to spend an hour than strolling or striding around Hyde Park in the sunshine solving clues, all the while bolstering your step count and catching up with friends as you head for the next location, so we’d recommend giving Onigo a go.

After we completed our game we spoke to Stanley about Onigo and how playing the games can provide both mental and physical health benefits.

Why did you set up Onigo?

“I started Onigo to provide an activity that’s effective, engaging and accessible for people who currently aren’t particularly active,” says Stanley. “Forty percent of the UK population don’t do enough physical exercise. That was the problem I wanted to tackle and the reason why Onigo began.”

So is the idea that the game gets you active without you thinking it’s exercise?

“Absolutely, that’s what we’re aiming to to do. I call it health by stealth,” says Stanley. “You’re in a team environment so there’s the social element. Then there’s the fact that there’s an immersive storyline and a gamified experience where you have to solve things – it disguises the 3.5km you covered today through the game you’re playing and the social element.”

“Physical inactivity and social isolation or loneliness are two of the biggest precursors to poor mental health,” says Stanley. “Those are the two we’re targeting specifically. If we can get people active and connecting with other people, whether that’s with friends or new people, that is all very positive for your mental health.”

Onigo costs £10pp, with teams of up to six players. For more info visit onigoescapes.com

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.