Outside the room
On to the final room of our Escapologic visit: 13utcher. There aren’t many truly scary escape rooms in the UK but this one comes up time and time again as being one of the scariest. Reports suggest that 20% of people drop out of the game before the sixty minutes is even up, a significant number of them within a few minutes. I’m not at all interested in scare attractions so I was curious – would I find this scary? Would I enjoy it? How could they even make me nervous?
So, yes, they’re building this game up before you even cross the threshold. Telling you about that quit rate. Telling you that the Butcher will return after 40 minutes – play fast and you may never even have to worry about him… Of course, you know you actually WILL be worrying about him. Even if you’re playing well, you’re never quite sure how that time is progressing, and whether the sound you just heard was a bolt sliding on the door…
Anna and Max have the kind of relationship everyone pretends to find annoying. But really, their friends are just a little bit jealous. Because you can see how much these two people are meant to be together. They just-fit. Anna is daring and inquisitive, Max is sensible. She encourages him to try new things. He stops her from doing stupid stuff. Usually. But not today. Maybe it’s the sunshine. Maybe it’s the wine. Because today, when Anna finds a randomly-unlocked shutter on a random side street, Max isn’t quick enough to persuade her not to go inside. His mind is on the picnic they’ve just had, the kisses they’ve shared. So what if Anna is intent on seeking out some new dark and gloomy pace to scare him with. It’s just Anna being Anna, right? This is why he loves her. It’s just an adventure. A dare. It’ll be OK. And then the shutter bangs down, and everything is very far from OK.
Inside the room
Make no mistake: this game is not a traditional escape game. I mean, it’s traditional in the sense that you have to solve puzzles and escape the room, but thinking of it like that kind of misses the point. This is about sheer, unbridled terror. From the moment you walk through the door and into the Butcher’s lair you’re on edge. I’m not attracted by scare attractions but I can appreciate their beauty (if that’s the right word) and the theatre. This had both in abundance.
There’s good use of darkness throughout the game to keep you on your toes. Sometimes that’s just shadows in the room, other times it’s complete darkness and the worry of what lies within. At one point I had to plunge headlong into a dark area and, even though I’m not someone who struggles with fear in this sort of experience, I was still uncomfortable taking those steps. Add to that noise and unexpected movement during the game and you’ll not rid yourself of the sense of foreboding and the accompanying tension till you’ve found your way to safety – and that’s exactly as it should be in this game.
In terms of puzzles, it’s very much aiming for the “real” escape room feel. You need to find your path through the Butcher’s lair, finding ways past the obstacles you encounter and rarely feeling like you’re genuinely solving a puzzle. On the one occasion where I felt like it was bordering on the more traditional puzzle style, it still did it in a way that fitted with the narrative.
That leads me nicely on to the one big problem in the game for me, which was with that traditional puzzle: it felt to me like it required a leap of logic, and in the end we brute-forced part of the solution because we couldn’t see any other way of solving it. Maybe there was some logic but neither of our teams could spot it, or perhaps brute-forcing the solution was the correct way to proceed – that would fit in with the “real” nature of this game.
Inevitably, this room built up towards a stressful finale which played out perfectly…
We escaped after around 38 minutes. I say escaped. It was more like escape velocity – I have never run so fast out of a game. I’m going to claim that I went first through the exit door in case it turned out the Butcher was on the other side but I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about that.
For fans of scare attractions and escape rooms, this is a must do. For big enthusiasts, I’d say the same. If you’re not a fan of being scared and you’re in it for the puzzles, then I think the payoff isn’t worth it, plus there are several other games you could play at Escapologic which aren’t scary.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the experienced but, more than anything else, I appreciated it. The puzzles were enough to keep me engaged, the decoration was really good (in a serial killer’s lair kind of way) and the theatre throughout kept the adrenaline high in a way that few other games will achieve. They even managed to convey a little more of the story as you went along. All in all, a pretty amazing game and one that I can imagine some people rating as their absolute favourite.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.