Outside the room
What do you get if you lock three escape room bloggers in a room? I fancied finding out, so I reached out to the two other people who write UK escape game review sites, ReallyFun.UK (née QMSM) and Escape Game Addicts, and asked whether they fancied playing a game together. I really didn’t expect to have much success (I know how jealous team mates can get when you play around!), but both said yes, so all that was left was to find a room that neither had done. Oh… Fortunately “the Hatch” had recently opened at Tick Tock Unlock in Salford – a perfect location for the three of us. Before I knew it, I’d arranged to meet two strangers in a pub and get locked in a room with them. What could possibly go wrong?
Trying to book the room for starters… The website said you could only book for 4+ people, but looking at the Leeds version of the game, that didn’t seem to be a restriction so I gave them a call. No answer, so I emailed them. No answer. So I tweeted. No answer. It took 24 hours to get a response, and I never managed to get through to them on the phone. It didn’t really matter in the context of booking this game, but it seems like a significant problem if you’re, say, lost and trying to find the venue…
…which isn’t that unlikely, because there’s almost no signage outside – just a small A2 poster leaning against the wall next to the door. Fortunately my team mates had been before, so had a rough idea where it was and guided me confidently to the entrance. A few seconds later and we were greeted by a friendly host who ushered us inside.
The backstory was pretty weak. Something about having to stop an electro magnetic pulse going off. It’s not clear to me whether this was the fault of the script or just poor delivery from the host, but I’m inclined to think the former because generally the host did a reasonable job.
Inside the room
I don’t want to spoil this room, because it’s not mentioned anywhere on their website, so I’ll be as vague as possible about this. The first thing that happens when you enter is a nice twist – I’m aware of other escape rooms that do it, but I’ve never experienced it myself, and it lived up to my expectations. The only problem was that there was absolutely no context given as to why it was happening. We often suspend disbelief about, for example, the reasons clues are written on the wall to explain how to open a lock, but this was something where they could easily have concocted a two-line story to fit the scenario into the game.
Following on from that, I really disliked one of the early puzzles in the room. It’s not a spoiler to mention that it involved a directional lock, because you’re told in the briefing that there will be one. I hate this type of lock because they’re hard to use, and I know they’re easy to accidentally reset, so I never really trust them. More subjectively, I seem to screw up directional stuff a lot and did so here. I really want to criticise the puzzle, because two of us failed to decode it with about twenty goes, but ReallyFun.UK breezed through it with minimal help.
What about the rest of the puzzles? Well, in general they were fun and, while there weren’t a huge number, it was probably just about enough. There were three in particular that I really liked. One forced you to work together, while another two strongly encouraged it, and, to add to my enjoyment, a couple of the puzzles had very pleasing mechanisms.
But, and there’s always a but, some of the other puzzles were quite dull. One in particular was a particularly horrible example of a classic escape room trope. My guess is that 95% of teams request a clue on that particular puzzle, and it was completely unsatisfying once we’d found out what we were meant to do.
My big problem with this room though was that it just didn’t make any sense to me. I said at the beginning that we suspend disbelief as to why clues are written on walls, but this room barely paid any attention to the story at all. Even the title of the room didn’t seem to be relevant. If you’re not going to follow the story then just don’t bother having one. Tell us it’s a game and our mission is to escape…
In spite of taking ridiculously long to get past the initial puzzle, probably wasting ten minutes or so, we still managed to escape with 17 minutes left on the clock and bag the record (albeit for a relatively new game!).
Was this a fun room? Overall, yes. Would I recommend it? Not particularly – there are better rooms in the North West and, for me, this didn’t stand out from the crowd. It avoided doing anything terrible, but at the same time, it never did much to excel.
Would I recommend playing with random strangers? Definitely! It was fun watching how other people solved puzzles. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t contribute a huge amount, but I’ve always said that my skill is in bringing along great players, and on that front, once again, I excelled!
Don’t take my word for it
Unsurprisingly, there are a couple of other reviews of this game:
Detailed Room Ratings