Beyond a simple heritage walkabout, Tribe Tour’s new Chinatown Murders game tour sets participants on the trail of a fictional serial killer through one of Singapore’s iconic cultural districts. Pamela Chow joins the hunt
As Singapore welcomes the revival of small group tours, operators are evolving their tourism products to cater to a domestic clientele. That greater demand for something beyond the cookie-cutter experience among locals exploring their own backyard has prompted travel agencies to push out a raft of immersive, value-added experiences.
Local agency Tribe Tours has gamified the tour experience in what it touts is the first-of-its-kind product in the local market. Chinatown Murders is a walking tour – with a whodunit murder mystery twist. Participants put on their imaginary Sherlock Holmes caps and work together to solve challenging puzzles in one of Singapore’s richest heritage districts. While there is no overall time limit, each puzzle has a ten-minute countdown to beat. Our tour took two-and-a-half hours.
Our Chinatown Murders journey started out with a pre-tour briefing, before each participant is handed sanitised mini-intercom units, earpieces, and hand sanitiser.
In keeping with safe management measures, this game tour can be played in teams of two to five persons, capped at 10 participants. Our 10-person outfit was split into two teams of five, led by a group of game masters and a guide-slash-storyteller. Each team was supplied a game kit, comprising material needed for our mystery jaunt, such as a puzzle book, a map and markers.
We kept our eyes peeled for clues hidden in our surroundings, and ears open for possible hints dropped by our storyteller. Each puzzle we solved helped unlock a new clue that narrowed down our suspect list, and brought us a step closer to nabbing the killer.
In between solving puzzles, our storyteller role playing a character which has lived in Chinatown for 48 years regales us with tales about growing up in the district – though a work of fiction, the stories were inspired by real people, we are told.
For a walking tour, the mini-intercom units worked excellently as all of us could hear the guide well, even from the back of the group. It also helped the guide summon some of us back to the meeting point whenever needed.
Overall, the experience was a fun and interactive spin on the traditional walking tour. Already, the concept has piqued the interest of some local audiences, with Tribe Tours co-founder Jason Loe reporting bookings coming in from interest and corporate groups.
It’s easy to see why – the game tour makes for a refreshing alternative to typical icebreaker activities and team-bonding games. Throughout the tour, our game masters repeatedly emphasised teamwork ¬– indeed, we found that splitting up the puzzle-cracking between the members helped speed things up, while fostering greater discussion and collaboration.
I personally felt that the tour could have struck a finer balance between historical commentary and fictional storytelling. As much of the guide’s narration was fictional retellings, I did not learn as many new facts about Chinatown as I’d hoped. An even more immersive experience could be achieved if the commentary incorporated lesser-known tidbits about Chinatown or non-fictional accounts about its previous occupants.
Although we were told from the get-go that this game tour wasn’t a contest, it was hard for our competitive instincts not to kick in. Since safe distancing rules have taken inter-team collaboration off the table, the tour experience could have been enhanced with the introduction of a solid competitive element. – Additional reporting by Cheryl Ong
Rate: S$50 (US$37) per person
Frequency: Every Friday/Saturday/Sunday from 10:00 to noon