Outside the room
Back in the North of England and what more would I want to do with a few days off than visit a local escape room? Apparently, visit a not-very-local escape room. The Escape chain of rooms had just opened a franchise in Blackpool and, with them now spreading throughout the land, I thought we’d give them a go and see why they’re so successful.
In common with many escape rooms, the website doesn’t allow you to book on the day. That’s pretty annoying because it also means you can’t see which games are available. At least two companies lost my business that weekend because I couldn’t get through to them for a last-minute booking. OK, I’m a little unusual, but I do wonder how often that happens. More frustratingly, I had to phone up, find when the room was available, go to the website, book a time slot on a *different* day, then go back and get them to reschedule to the slot I’d asked for. Note to self: Sort your life out earlier next time!
We got there, though, and parked up in a car park between the promenade and the venue. To be honest, it’s a pretty dull part of town – halfway between the North and South piers – but that doesn’t stop parking being tricky. If you’re lucky, you might find free parking on the street, but it’s mainly residents’ parking, so be prepared to pay. Inside, you’re initially greeted in a small reception area, but very quickly taken through a maze of twisty passages to the room.
A virus is threatening to destroy the world. While working on an antidote, you and your fellow scientists accidentally caught the illness and now have 60 minutes to find the cure before you succumb. Find the antidote and then escape the room before the authorities raze it to the ground to prevent the spread of the disease…
Inside the room
My first impression when I walked into this room was that it was a little bare. They’d put in some touches to make it laboratory-like and they just about got away with it, but only because it’s set in a jungle, so you wouldn’t expect a fully stocked lab. It was clear that it wasn’t going to be a room with hard searching which, from our point of view, was no bad thing. We split up and started finding the clues, the locks and the puzzles. Pleasingly, there was little in the way of red herrings and the flipside of the room being a bit bare was that there wasn’t much clutter, so we were reasonably confident that we’d searched it thoroughly.
The opening puzzles were OK. In fact, the vast majority of the puzzles throughout the game could be described that way. They worked, were logical and weren’t frustrating, but they didn’t get us very excited. They were journeyman puzzles, designed to make the experience last, and they did that job fine. Where this game excelled, though, was in the individual moments. There were four of them spread across the game that I think will be real highlights for players. Some were high-tech, some weren’t, but they all brought a smile to my face. Even better, two of them were brand new to me. It’s nice to still be surprised by rooms!
Overall, the game had a nice flow. The easier puzzles were near the start and, once you’d got through those, you were rewarded with the cool stuff. The finale puzzle was built up from clues that you collected along the way, something that I really like to see in a room. It won’t be to everybody’s taste – perhaps a little too much like homework for some – but I really enjoyed it. Warning: this puzzle is likely to be much, much harder under pressure, so aim to get onto it with a few minutes remaining. 😉
It wasn’t all plain sailing – we did get stuck – so we got to try out the clue mechanism. They’ve no audio (and limited video) but we didn’t have any problems. Communication comes via the screen in the room, with you having to get your questions and answers across with hand signals. Don’t worry – they don’t ask you mean questions in order to laugh at you miming the responses!
My big complaint was that they had one very deliberate red herring, which gave us a code early on that we then tried out on virtually every lock we came to. I don’t think good games need red herrings and this game certainly didn’t, so I don’t really understand what they were trying to achieve with it. Part of me wonders whether it was a puzzle that they decided to change for some reason, and they left in the clue without really thinking about it.
We got out with 13 minutes to spare having been given two clues for the same puzzle. We probably lost 10-15 minutes on that puzzle alone because we (OK, I) didn’t want to ask for a clue so, in spite of the finish time, this game is probably on the easier end of the scale.
This was a very solid room. You’ve got two choices in Blackpool at the moment: Clue HQ and Escape. I’d say that Clue HQ have the significantly harder rooms, with a flurry of puzzles and padlocks that will keep you busy for most of your visit. Escape is on the easier side but, based on this room, I’d say neither is a clear-cut winner.
I’d happily recommend this game. Beginners will get the help they need, solve some puzzles, see some cool stuff and have a great time. More experienced players will still come across plenty to excite them, but may feel a little disappointed in theming and breadth of puzzles. For experienced players I’d definitely keep the numbers down – two was just fine.
Detailed Room Ratings