Outside the room
No sooner had we had our victory photo taken for Amazon Escape than we were back into the firing line once more to play Curiosity Shoppe, the original Escape Quest game. It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t have to wait around to allow other briefings to take place. For reasons that entirely escape me, Mike and Elaine (the owners) only allow a single game to take place at a time in spite of having three entirely separate rooms. I guess this falls somewhere between a hobby and a business for them, and you can see that in the love they’ve poured into creating the games.
The ‘Professor’ has invented the world’s first time machine. Powered with six rare ‘time echo’ crystals, the machine is able to transport between 3 and 6 people to any time and place in history. You have volunteered to test the Professor’s invention and will be transported to Victorian England in 1873, where you will arrive at Mr Copplestone’s curiosity shoppe. Solve the puzzles, mysteries and clues in this emporium of wonder to find your way back to the present day.
The travelling vortex created by the ‘time echo’ crystals will stay open for one hour, during which time ‘The Professor’ will stay in contact with you. Before the 60 minutes is up you must find all six time-echo crystals and re-enter the vortex to return to the present, or face being trapped in the past forever.
Inside the room
You begin your game in the yard outside Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe where your first job is to work out how to get into the shoppe itself. The game decoration here sets the scene for the whole game, any part of which you could imagine in a museum. It was an interesting contrast to the Amazon room – it’s quite possible that both rooms took an equal amount of effort (although, given the four tonnes of sand in the Amazon, probably not quite…) but Victorian England is, in my (potentially controversial!) opinion, inherently less beautiful to look at, and so I wasn’t quite as enchanted here. Having said that, it was still far better than most escape rooms!
There’s a real emphasis on searching in this game which, perhaps, isn’t surprising in a curiosity shoppe – they want you to interact with the props and appreciate their beauty. So many games that are set in the past have one or two old items and some period furniture, but this rooms was full of interesting curios carefully woven into the puzzles. I was particularly impressed by the old children’s toys (although I was also incredibly nervous about breaking them – it’s one thing to damage a prop in a game, but these were pieces of history!). If you’re a searcher, I think you’ll enjoy that aspect here.
There were a couple of particularly nice puzzles as part of the game, where you built up a set of clues over a series of stages before finally working out which puzzle they belonged to and how you were meant to use them. I like games where it’s obvious that you’re collecting a set of clues that go together, because it encourages the team to communicate more and discuss their various ideas. All too often I see someone pick up a prop, solve the puzzle and move on with hardly a word to the rest of the team, so it’s sometimes nice when that can’t happen. It’s not all traditional logic puzzles; Escape Quest are fans of their riddles so, if wordplay isn’t your thing, then you might get a little frustrated at times.
Throughout the journey, we collected our “time echo” crystals ready to make our journey back to the present day. It’s a nice way of measuring your progress – as you slowly amass your jewel collection, you know that you’re homing in on the final prize, and it certainly built up the excitement as you gradually ticked them off.
Much to my surprise, we broke the record for the room, and made it three for three, with a time of 42m29s (although that has since been utterly smashed by a team of two!). Again, we had a couple of clues along the way.
There’s plenty to be done in this room, it looks pretty and it was definitely fun but, for some reason, it wasn’t as exciting to me as the other two games I’d played. The puzzles were probably of a similar standard to the Amazon Escape game but the set, while good, wasn’t quite as stunning. In isolation this is still a thoroughly good room which I’d encourage people to play, but it suffered a little when being compared to their newer offerings. The perils of constantly improving your games! The hosts are lovely people who take pride in what they’ve created and I suspect one of the reasons they only host a single game at a time is that they like to see first hand how you experience the room – indeed, they were keen to hear feedback after each of our games and actually seemed to listen to it and consider it, which is pretty rare in my experience.
If you’re ever in or near Macclesfield, I’d heartily recommend any of Escape Quest’s games – Mike and Elaine are great hosts who’ve created pretty rooms and fun puzzles. I’m already looking forward to their next game, The 13th Element, which opens in August.
Detailed Room Ratings