Outside the room
Escape Kent opened their doors a few months ago, making a few headlines by convincing Dame Kelly Holmes to come along as part of the opening celebrations. Obviously she took on their other game, Alien Attack – I can’t imagine there would be many serial killers who could catch her. We, on the other hand, weren’t so clever and were up against the Butcher in Kidnapped.
Of the three venues in Canterbury, this is the only one that’s not in the centre. If you’re looking to play a game and stroll the streets of the medieval town, then you may want to bear that in mind; but, if you’re just here for the game, then the free parking (subject to availability) right in front of this venue has to be a plus. The building itself is situated on an industrial estate but, once we were inside, we left all that behind and were greeted by a friendly host and shown to a pleasant waiting area with plenty of space and a fair number of table puzzles to keep us occupied while we were waiting.
After years of hard saving you have finally made your dream come true, to be able to travel throughout the USA, but little do you know where this trip will take you. Midway through your travels you find yourself in the grasps of one of Texas’s most renowned serial killers and cannibal, ‘The Butcher’. No one knows who he is, only that he leaves little left of his victims after he has satisfied his appetite for human meat. You find yourself locked in a dark, dank basement with no recollection of what’s happened, all you know is that you need to escape alive, or risk succumbing to the disturbing appetite of the man who had kidnapped you, The Butcher.
Inside the room
You’d think serial killers would have a bit more self respect. I mean, if it’s the last place you’re going to see on earth, you’d think they could spruce the place up a bit. Sadly not. Like most serial killer games, this was a pretty grim place to be – little in the way of decoration and what there was was pretty beaten up. That’s fair enough – it goes with the theme – but it made the space a less enjoyable place to be and really put us off searching too carefully.
That said, a lot more effort had gone into this game than into your average serial killer’s lair. Where most stick to just a couple of pieces of simple furniture, here they’d gone that step further to make the place a moderately believable ranch. Similarly, on the story, there was a real theme (the Butcher), and you got to see a little bit more about his psyche, and perhaps how he came to be this way, as you read through the clues and solved the challenges.
The puzzles themselves were mostly reasonably straightforward, with the real challenge coming from finding the items or information that you needed to make up the puzzle. It seemed like every time we got a clue it was for – at some level – a search failure: either we’d not found the item or we’d found it but not realised it was a clue. I’d like to say this was a search-heavy room, but I don’t think it was – perhaps we were just a little more reticent because we didn’t want to get our precious fingernails dirty?
The finale is where this game really came into its own. Much as I feel the penultimate puzzle in the game is pretty weak, it allows you to involve the whole team, and the pressure it puts you under is likely to make something straightforward seem incredibly complex. Add to that the designer’s real focus on creating an environment that fits the room and a pretty inventive finish, and I think most teams will come out on a high.
We escaped by the skin of our teeth with less than a couple of minutes remaining and having taken four or so clues. Most of those were, at some level, search failures. Clues were generally given at the right time but, with one puzzle where we struggled, we felt the cluing strategy wasn’t great – leaving us to drown to the point where we got frustrated with the game.
If you’re looking for a gritty serial killer escape room, this is probably one of the better ones you’ll find. The place, while pretty grim, is believable, and the puzzles are generally logical. We played with two, which worked OK. I’d recommend three enthusiasts given the search angle and one more if you’re taking beginners.
Detailed Room Ratings