Code to Exit: The Dark Ages

Sword in the Stone

Outside the room

It’s not often that I see a theme which feels entirely original, but I’m not aware of any other UK room that’s set a story in a castle in the middle ages. Throw in the Holy Grail and Excalibur and you’ve definitely piqued my interest. The fact that this was Code to Exit in Altrincham, who produce good games, made it even more enticing, and it was just a matter of when I could fit it into my already busy escape schedule. Who am I kidding? There’s always room for just one more!

As always, it was easy to park round the corner, and we got a warm welcome from the owner before heading downstairs to the basement.

Background

This game takes you back to the legendary Camelot. By revealing the secrets of the castle you will be able to defeat the power of the rock and rescue the mystical Excalibur whose energy helps you on the ultimate goal to acquire the Holy Grail. You need teamwork, skills, and excellent power of observation to complete the mission otherwise you remain a small part of history.

Inside the room

There’s no door to this room; instead, they’ve opted to have an iron gate. It’s a lovely alternative which fits well with the theme and also means you have a few moments to start to get excited about what’s ahead of you before you enter the game. In another unique experience, our first task was to actually *enter* the room. There’s no escaping to be done here of course – you’re on a quest to get the holy grail. Right from the beginning of the game you can see your quest’s goals: Excalibur is firmly embedded in its stone and the grail teases you with its presence behind a wooden grate.

And I genuinely mean “start to get excited”, because this is a room that’s visually appealing, with big wooden puzzles on display ready for you to get stuck into as soon as you’ve unlocked the gate. And what puzzles! Anyone who’s a fan of physically interactive puzzles is going to have a field day. I saw one puzzle and raced straight across, absorbing myself for probably ten minutes in overcoming it. With that done, there was another big puzzle to attack that dominated the centre of the room before heading over to yet another big puzzle to investigate.

The puzzles were lovingly homemade and were a decent balance in terms of difficulty. There were a couple that might be tedious for an individual to complete on their own (although personally I didn’t find that), but with a team you could always swap over if you get bored. To some extent there’s a skill element in a couple of the physical puzzles, but it’s the sort where a lack of skill can be made up for with a little more perseverance, and I doubt it will affect game play much,

If you’re looking for hard mental puzzles like you’d find up in the Test (their alien-themed game), then you’ll be sorely disappointed. This game has physical puzzles galore and a good amount of searching, but there’s nothing that requires significant brain power. I don’t think it’s any the poorer for it, though (and afterwards I had it confirmed by the owner that this is a deliberate decision – people were put off by their more cerebral game).

If you look closely, you might point out that the story is a little strange – you have to get the sword in order to retrieve the grail and there’s no progression of the story within the room to suggest why getting the sword is linked to getting the grail. In fact, there’s almost no story-telling in this room, which would usually have been a disappointment for me, but I just let it wash over me and thought of it as a giant game room with the grail and the sword as prizes.

Result

We escaped with about 18 minutes remaining having received a couple of clues.

Verdict –

I thoroughly enjoyed being in this room. It’s a beautiful, engaging game that enchanted us from the moment we walked in to the moment we seized the holy grail. The puzzles are logical and a team could easily complete the experience without taking a single clue. Indeed, my big concern for this game is that a large team could probably complete the whole game in well under half an hour. So much of the room is parallelisable that a team of good players will likely totally miss out on seeing half the puzzles being solved, and that’s a real pity.

I’d highly recommend this game to anyone. Enthusiasts – go as a group of two to three people and be prepared to escape in under forty minutes. A team of four or five novices will probably get out reasonably comfortably. Family groups of four, five or even six would have fun in this room sharing out the different tasks among the players according to their skills and preferences.

Detailed Room Ratings

Venue
Host
Wow! factor
Immersiveness
Difficulty

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