Outside the room
So, we’d just come out of Bunker 38 with plenty of time to spare and were chomping at the bit to try Clue HQ Brentwood‘s other room. First though, they had to reset them, so the nine of us were sat in the waiting area without much to do (we couldn’t even talk about the room we’d just done because the other half of the team were about to play that game).
Fortunately, they’d set up a table with a host of puzzles to keep you entertained – some wooden construction and topological puzzles as well as some “logic problem” cards, so most people would be covered. I’ve seen similar things in previous escape rooms, but since we almost always turn up with five minutes to spare and leave straight afterwards, it’s never been very relevant. This time it definitely helped.
Resetting the rooms took a fair while, as you’d expect when you’ve only just started the business, but they were soon out and ready to lead us to our next challenge.
In this room, you’re up against the international criminal, Danny Badd. You’ve been tracking him for the last year, but finally have a tip that’s led you to his location. Unfortunately on arrival you find the location is booby trapped, and the bomb is set to detonate in 60 minutes…
Inside the room
As with the previous room, things kicked off with a video intro. It was done in a slightly annoying way to give the impression of interference and while it was still understandable, it grated slightly with me, as did the music during the game. I’m guessing that’s deliberate though, to make it more difficult to concentrate, and only one of the players found it very annoying.
As before, I immediately gravitated towards a physical puzzle. It’s not going to give much away to tell you that both rooms had pipe related games, and it was interesting to see the variety they’d managed to produce. This definitely wasn’t the sort of room where you felt you had a big advantage from having attempted another by the same designers.
I thought Bunker 38 was disappointing when I considered its padlock fetish, but this room was significantly worse. I never got round to counting them, but it certainly felt like there were well in excess of ten 4-digit locks, and whenever I got a new code, it was depressing to go round the locks one by one and try out the new code.
We made reasonable progress, with maybe the odd hint, until about halfway through, when we got utterly stuck. Eventually we got a question via the communication screen asking if we’d found a particular clue piece. We answered no, and then there was a long silence. After a while we got another question over the monitor, on a similar vein, but telling us to search somewhere more carefully. We searched and we searched, but couldn’t for the life of us work out what we’d missed. It seemed utterly impossible that we’d missed something, but the clue was reasonably clear, so we just sat there bemused, checking and re-checking places we’d searched individually at least three times.
Then they asked once again if we’d got a particular clue item and we repeated no. This time they told us what the code on that item was. Remember when I said that they were still learning to reset the room? Well, this is where they managed to get it catastrophically wrong. Using the code they gave us, we unlocked a couple more boxes and five minutes later got into a locked compartment that contained the missing clue. It’s impossible to eliminate every reset mistake, but to have three in our four games, including this fairly major one, says to me that they need to really practise this aspect. A lot of the fun in these games is about immersion, and when you have to break the spell like that, it really spoils it.
They did give us some extra time on the clock to make up for that mistake (although I have no idea whether it represented the time we lost) so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but we never really recovered from that setback, and the rest of the room seemed difficult.
The room also wasn’t helped by the puzzle stream towards the end being entirely linear. Broadly speaking you’d get a key or code which would open a lock, which would reveal a relatively simple puzzle that would get you another key or code. Repeat ten times in a row, and you get a feeling for the end game. Good job too, because things weren’t looking good at five minutes when I surveyed a mass of unresolved padlocks. That linearity, and the relative simplicity of many of the end puzzles, meant there was often just one person solving a problem, while others watched on. That was bad enough, but in one particular case we had to wait around while a piece of technology loaded – the last thing you want when you’re short of time and itching to solve some more puzzles.
That all sounds doom and gloom, but there were aspects of the room that I thoroughly approved of. Firstly, the bomb wasn’t some neat little suitcase with a digital timer, but a proper, spread out “made from fertilizer” style bomb, which covered the whole space. Secondly, they had a nice selection of physical puzzles; at least four different ones that I can remember and probably some that I’ve forgotten. The first one I got my hands on was particularly pleasing and kept me occupied for a good few minutes.
I’d only once failed a room before, and I didn’t much like the feeling, so when we had four locks left with two minutes to go, I was feeling somewhat frustrated. Happily we managed to pull it out the bag, defusing the bomb with a second remaining on the clock. Yes, literally a second – James Bond would have been proud. We raced through those last few locks at a rate that I’ve never seen in a room before. And then collapsed with exhaustion!
All of us agreed that this was the weaker of the two rooms, in spite of having a slightly greater variety of puzzles in my opinion. Both teams found the end sequence frustrating, and the puzzles too linear. The venue is still a big bonus and that combined with a decent room theme meant it still just scraped on to my 3 star rating. I’m not sure how to factor in the mis-setting. That’s a pretty serious flaw, but at the same time, it’s very early days and anyone can make a mistake, so I haven’t penalised them too much. As with Bunker 38, go in with your eyes open to some of these flaws, and you’ll still have a good time.
Detailed Room Ratings