Outside the room
We thought we’d done pretty well when we’d played just along the road in terms of being immersed in the local history, but Escape in the Towers is set inside the jail cells in an actual medieval gate tower in Canterbury. Rooms don’t come much more authentic than that. Rather than putting together a simple “escape from jail” scenario, which would have been the obvious play, they’ve opted for a slightly more sinister story line where you’re trying to work out what’s been going on at an old research centre for crime and punishment.
When you arrive, you’ll be taken up the winding staircase to an upper floor in the tower where there’s a cosy briefing area that doubles as the GM’s office during the game.
It’s 1994 and you’ve stumbled across Dr Wellington’s abandoned laboratory at the former Canterbury Experimental Electric Company formed in 1883. Dr Wellington based his controversial crime and punishment experiments in the treacherous cells of the former city gaol which has since laid abandoned for 80 years after his sudden and mysterious disappearance.
Escape Dr Wellington’s Crime & Punishment Lab before you are trapped for eternity and in certain mortal danger, sharing the fate of his many victims!
Death is just the final nail in the coffin.
Inside the room
As you look around your surroundings, the sense of history washes over you. This is a very old, very solid, very intimidating venue, and it’s perfect for an escape room. The game’s name, the website description and the intro gave a vague sense that something pretty nasty went on here. During the game, you find out a few more tidbits of information. In other rooms, I’d probably have felt that the story was lacking, but here it worked well – the central theme of punishment was amplified with the various props left lying around. Not that it’s a scary room – there’s nothing inherently frightening – but there are some moments clearly designed to be dramatic and that could make you jump. Plus, with the theme being crime and punishment, there are a few props that may make you a little uncomfortable.
It’s a cosy space for bigger groups, but they’ve packed in a good number of puzzles. Indeed, throughout the game I thought they’d made very good use of the space they had available. The puzzles were carefully paced, so that I never felt overwhelmed but equally never felt there was a shortage of things to work on.
You might think those puzzles would be low-tech given the theme, but there’s a tremendous variety of mechanisms used in this room – yes, they have simple locks and keys, but at other times the tech’s in place to make things work as if by magic. Magic being the operative word in that sentence – it never felt in your face, and therefore jarring, in a space that had last been touched in the late 19th century.
Even more importantly, the puzzles all made sense. Where they occasionally strayed into some of the more standard escape room material, they more than made up for it by making the props higher quality, fitting them well to the theme and usually adding a little embellishment on top.
There’s a gradually building audio track throughout the game to add tension to the experience, and that ramps up as you edge towards the final few puzzles. By the time we reached the final lock, I really could feel the adrenaline and the excitement of the escape.
We escaped in 47 minutes (I think) having taken three clues. The GM timed the hints perfectly – just as we were running out of ideas but before we were frustrated. Definitely one of the stand-out performances I’ve had from a non-character GM.
Of the three games we played in Canterbury, this was our favourite. The setting is amazing, the puzzles are fun, there’s good progression during the game and the GMing was spot on. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s in the general area. It’s very manageable by a pair of enthusiasts but I think would be suitable for three or four.
With beginners, I’d happily max out the room capacity as long as you’re happy with it being very cosy in there. While you might find that you’re sometimes short of things to do and treading a little on each other’s toes, I think the general ambiance of the venue would more than make up for it.
Detailed Room Ratings