Outside the room
A couple of people had recommended Can You Escape to me, and York hardly needs an excuse to visit anyway, so we’d booked ourselves in for a quick game followed by a wander round the city. Parking’s not cheap if you’re going during the day so, if you’re going to be there for a while, it’s worth planning ahead to get a decent space – park and ride, walk from the outskirts or park in an inexpensive car park such as the one in The Crescent off Blossom Street.
We wandered in along Micklegate until we found the place – it’s easy to miss so keep your eyes open. Once inside, there’s a small waiting room with pictures of previous teams to inspire/intimidate you as you’re waiting – I knew that there were at least two photos up there of fellow enthusiasts but, as per usual, my search skills let me down… We had a brief intro to the concept of escape rooms and then the host took our photo before giving us the intro spiel. That was a little unusual but presumably gave her time to make the key ring souvenir that they provide to players. A souvenir that would later cause me to panic when I got home to find a random keyring in my pocket that I briefly thought I had taken from a game…
An embarrassing incident earlier this year left world renowned scientist, Doctor Aquila Mind, red faced. Not taking the incident lightly, he has since been working on a machine that will erase the incident and all other memories from people’s minds. His Assistant has seen the light and wants to put a stop to the Doctor’s evil plans. She can’t do this alone and so is recruiting spies of the highest calibre to put a halt to things, do you have what it takes to stop him, navigate his room and retrieve the trigger before the clock hits zero?
Inside the room
As soon as you walk into the doctor’s office (and yes, it is yet another scientist’s office), you know you’re going to be kept busy. Evenly spaced around the room is a bunch of padlocked boxes that you’ll clearly need to open to progress. We were a team of two but, for a larger team, that would be great, with each team member going off to try to defeat a single puzzle and the team joining up as they defeat more and more of the room. The nice thing about how they’d built it is that generally everything you needed for a padlock would be located close by. It also gave a great measure of progress – as you built up the contents of these boxes, you started to get a feel for what you might need to solve.
As mentioned above, the game is located within a scientist’s office. It’s a pretty enough room but I wasn’t at all excited. There are a couple of nice touches they’ve made for specific puzzles that impressed more but, on the whole, it was a bit lacklustre. Those puzzles, though, were really nice interactions with the room and one in particular combined two escape room tropes that I enjoy into something a bit novel – and novelty always bring a smile to my face!
The boxes may have all been secured by padlocks, but the combination of having puzzles associated with the locks and having a separate set of puzzles (towards the end) that didn’t make use of padlocks helped to make this feel like a well ordered room rather than the trial-and-error on padlocks into which I originally thought it might devolve. That was good because I needed all my mental energy to concentrate on searching – this is a search-heavy room where you need to be really thorough and, almost inevitably, we struggled with that.
On the whole, the puzzles in the room felt solvable without help and, when we were given clues by the host, it was invariably that we’d missed something reasonably obvious or not searched well enough. I did find there was a tendency for the clues to be a bit too leading – telling us exactly where to search or how a puzzle worked rather than gently leading us towards the answer. I’d have preferred something more subtle to have been said a bit earlier.
The set of puzzles built up to a finale but, rather than have a crisp finish when you’d solved the obvious set, it then started a second set of puzzles, which felt like a bit of an anticlimax having done the first collection – I’d have liked to see something impressive but short to finish off the game and really make it stand out. On the other hand, it’s a nice way to make you think things are going smoothly before injecting a bit of panic at the last minute.
We escaped with a couple of minutes remaining having taken four or five clues.
We’d been on a bit of a roll of good rooms leading up to this room, and it didn’t stop here. In principle, this game should have been right up my street: it had a fun mechanical puzzle, lots of parallel strands for us to get our teeth into and a central puzzle to work towards where you could track your progress. Sadly, while I definitely enjoyed it, it never quite delivered as well as I’d have liked. Usually I can put my finger on exactly what turned me off, but here I’m not sure. It was probably a lack of anything truly surprising, a room that looked OK but not exciting and clues that were a little too blunt.
Don’t let that put you off, though – experienced players and novices will have a good time here (we did!), and I’ll be looking forward to trying out their next installment.
Detailed Room Ratings