Outside the room
Another pretty town and another escape room. This time we were in Salisbury for, you’ve guessed it, Salisbury Escape Rooms. I had high hopes for the game – I’d heard good things from previous players and I was also intrigued by the fact that it was run by a group of retired (I think) policemen who promised to use that experience to enhance the game. As we chatted to our host, it became apparent that the owners have been friends for a long time, playing in a band before they ran an escape room, and I definitely got the feeling that this was just as much a hobby as a business.
This is the third of the Salisbury games. Unlike most locations, they cycle through their rooms rapidly and only ever have one in play at any given time. I found that a particularly interesting decision because I’d say they have the space for two games, and I suspect many of their peers would have wedged the extra game in, but they’ve taken the decision to limit them to one. I think that says quite a lot about what they’re trying to do.
Accused of a crime you haven’t committed. Is all as it seems at the Wessex Serious Crime Squad?
Inside the room
The game starts with an introduction from a real policeman explaining the situation you’re in, and there’s some clever use of video to really bring the story home to you. First impressions last, and the professionalism and creativity of this briefing really stuck with me long after the game was over. Contrast that with my usual state of having forgotten the briefing before I’ve even entered the room.
The game is set inside a police station, which has a big impact on the set. While a prison cell might make for an exciting backdrop, police offices don’t, and ultimately that meant the sense of discovery wasn’t there. This is a hugely expansive game, probably one of the very biggest I’ve played, but I never really got that feeling of excitement through exploration. It feels harsh to criticise what was, when you came down to it, probably reasonably authentic design, but I think that sense of discovery is a big part of what makes escape rooms exciting, and this game missed out on that front.
One of my team mates has described a previous game at the same venue as a bit Crystal Maze-like. At the time, that really hadn’t made sense to me but, as the game progressed, that’s exactly how it felt. There’s this relentless pressure onwards with small self-contained games and a generally very linear flow. In terms of puzzles per minute, this was right up there at the top of the scale, leaving you almost breathless as they arrive thick and fast, right from the start. While that might sound intimidating, I think it actually works really well for beginners – the puzzles are fun but generally self-explanatory. You’re not going to have anything ridiculously hard and I don’t remember a single leap of logic.
With so many puzzles, I’d have predicted a lot of repetition in the game, but that never came to pass. There was a huge amount of variety in what we had to do, including a couple of places where I encountered something entirely different from anything I’d seen before. So often, the puzzles were entirely on theme but in keeping with that Crystal Maze feel. They also had some that were unbridled, gratuitous fun.
The biggest problem with the game is the level of linearity. With relatively simple puzzles, there’s a significant risk with a bigger team that you might feel a bit of a passenger. That never felt the case with our team of three and the rapid pace we held throughout the game, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking of taking along five or six people. Of course, the sheer number of puzzles means that it’s unlikely you’ll feel like you haven’t been fairly involved, so it’s not a showstopper.
We escaped in 31:03, picking up the necessary evidence to prove our innocence, without having taken a clue.
This was an action-packed, fun-filled sprint of a game, stuffed to the gunnels with fun and original puzzles. If you ignore the somewhat drab setting of the police offices and concentrate on the relentless flow of the game, you’ll have a great time inside the room.
I’d recommend three to four players if you’re experienced, and probably a limit of five even for first-timers.
Detailed Room Ratings