Outside the room
Atherton? Hands up then: who’s heard of Atherton? I grew up half an hour away from the town, and I was only vaguely aware of its existence and had certainly never been there. One thing I was certain of: I didn’t expect to see it opening an escape room, let alone four rooms, so it was a bit of a shock when Really Fun pointed it out. Atherton Escape Rooms
has no Twitter feed (correction: it does), it’s not on TripAdvisor and even its own Facebook page ranked higher in Google than its website. To say it’s not well advertised is an understatement.
Critically, though, it’s the closest venue to my parents’ house, so it was almost inevitable that I’d pay them a visit on my next trip up. Their booking calendar was relatively open, so I decided to take a risk when we were passing by and just turn up at the door for a last-minute appointment. That proved to be a bit of a mistake as they don’t always turn up for the early slots unless they’ve got bookings. No matter: we headed into town for lunch and then called them up a little later to book our appointment for “the Missing Child”.
Both on the phone and in person they were very friendly, greeting us warmly when we arrived and happy to chat about the rooms before and after. This is a family-run business, set up after a trip to Poland saw them playing a couple of escape rooms that they really enjoyed. I wouldn’t quite describe them as enthusiasts – I didn’t get the feeling they’ve played a lot of rooms, just that they’d really enjoyed what they’d seen and thought it could work in Atherton.
A child’s gone missing and you’re trying to track down who’s got them, which will allow you to escape the room. This is billed as one of their easier rooms.
Inside the room
I’ve not played many escape games that are based in a child’s bedroom, but my big worry would always be that they’d go and pick up some tatty children’s toys, books and clothing from a local charity. Worse still, they could get *a lot* of it and fill the room with red herrings. I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything we came across was in good condition and gave the impression of a tidy but sparse (in a good way!) children’s bedroom. I can only imagine they’ve never been in a real child’s bedroom then ;-).
The Atherton room philosophy is very much coming from online ‘escape the room’ games, where you’re trawling the room for codes with less of an emphasis on why the codes would be there or developing a story, so it was quickly down to business ransacking the room for clues. The clues were generally straight padlock connections, so not amazingly exciting, but they’d at least come up with a couple of novel ways of integrating the puzzle into the room, which could be quite fun, particularly for less experienced players.
As they mention in their briefings, there’s information you collect along the way which is important, and I liked the way that added a bit of intrigue to the game. We quickly worked out what that was likely to be, but it was still fun to be building up clues safe in the knowledge that we’d eventually be presented with a way of using them. The puzzle mechanic showed a nice bit of on-theme innovation.
All the puzzles were solvable without help, and on the one puzzle where we got stuck it was because we’d ignored something that had grated with us both, so I can’t complain. The clue we did get was nicely obscure – pleasingly, they don’t just give you the answer when you ask for some help.
We got out with 13 minutes remaining and a single clue, but don’t read too much into that because we got stuck on a single puzzle for over fifteen minutes. We knew we were close so desperately didn’t want to ask for help when we had plenty of time (indeed, we refused when they asked if we wanted a clue!) – but eventually we decided we were truly stuck and raised the clue request sheet of shame to the camera.
This isn’t an exciting game, and it’s not a difficult game, but what it does do, it does reasonably well. The hosts are friendly, the story’s a bit weak but acceptable, the puzzles aren’t really on theme, although they make use of appropriate props and, importantly, they are all solvable without a clue.
I wouldn’t recommend this game for enthusiasts, but I think it’s good enough for novices and, if you’re in desperate need of an escape game, I don’t think you’ll find much here that’s truly frustrating.
Most of the interesting looking restaurants in Atherton seemed to be closed at lunchtime but, just as we were about to resign ourselves to a sandwich shop, we chanced upon The Pendle Witch down a little side street. I’m a huge fan of any restaurant that’s hard to find because it suggests it manages to survive without passing trade. It didn’t let me down – it’s a pub that does good, homemade food with seemingly a changing theme. When we went, there was a Flemish influence with beers to match.
Don’t take my word for it
Brit of an escape habit visited in June and posted this review.
Detailed Room Ratings