An afternoon in Manchester

This review is of three games I played back in mid-2017. Having played more than a game a day for the whole of last year, I didn’t get round to publishing reviews of every room I did. Rather than sitting in my backlog forever, I’m publishing mini-reviews of them in case anyone wants to know a bit more about them.

I’d promised myself I wouldn’t play more The Escape Room games after my last experience in Stoke had made me decide that they weren’t very exciting, but I’d been convinced to head over to Manchester by a friend and try three of them out. I didn’t hold out much hope but, with four of us playing, at least it would be quick.

Room 13 (3 stars)

You know what would make a room more fun? Turning up half an hour late and, just after you’d started it, being told that you’d only have 40 minutes to finish. Engage warp engine – we’d better make an effort.

That’s a shame, because this was a pretty set with some clever moments. I loved the start to the game and, thematically, it felt like a very nice caricature of a motel. Within that, they’d managed to include a couple of really neat puzzles, but there were also a couple of really horrible tropes of the type that the Escape Room often put into their rooms.

And the forty-minute limit? Well, in the end it only took us 16 minutes in total, including faffing around at the beginning when the host told us the bad news…

Slaughterhouse (3 stars)

This was the kind of game I’d been expecting from The Escape Room given my previous experiences. It was dimly lit throughout, and so I can’t really tell you what the quality of the decoration was like. It hit the common problem of scary escape rooms – creating an area that just wasn’t much fun to spend time in. Not one that genuinely felt creepy but just one that felt a little unpleasant. There was some effort to make it a little more interesting as the game progressed, but the collection of rubber limbs near the start just felt cheap.

This game had two aspects that really killed it for me. Firstly, it had a search aspect that was both tedious and – because of the poor condition and darkness in the room – relatively unpleasant. Secondly, there was a particular puzzle that first required you to find something almost invisible in a dark room and then gave you a solution which was perfectly reasonable but wrong, with no indication of why it might be wrong. When we finally found out the correct answer, it was incredibly frustrating. At one point in the puzzle chain there were two potential answers for something. Given the chain of answers and how clearly right that step was, it never occurred to us to look around for a second option there, and instead we wasted our time re-checking the rest of the puzzle. Given the linearity of the room, how dark it was and the lack of individual light source, that left us utterly frustrated by the time we exited the room.

Secret Lab (3.5 stars)

Everyone had said how this was one of the hardest games to play without having puzzles that were unfair, so I was curious to see what it would contain. They were right about the puzzles. They were harder than average but not numerous, so it wasn’t a ridiculously challenging room. Much harder than the usual The Escape Room fare but not the worst I’ve played. We did need a clue, admittedly, but that was only because we forgot something pretty obvious that we’d already found…

While there was a fair amount of IKEA furniture in this game (pretty surprisingly, given the title), I still enjoyed the theming. It wasn’t stellar, but it was good enough and, thanks to some decent puzzles, it kept me interested. There were a couple of them I was less keen on – one because of some dubious use of colour and another where it was hard to read the symbols. Overall, though, a room that I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t do but equally wouldn’t rave about either.

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