Outside the room
As soon as I heard that the Escape Room Centre was opening in Blackpool with games designed by TRAP, a renowned Hungarian design group, I knew I’d be making my way up the M6 before long. Both of their opening games are popular in Budapest, and you regularly see them recommended in enthusiast circles. The website looks good, the venue is right in the centre and they’ve got just about everything going for them – how could I not pay a visit?
Once we got there I was pleased to see that they’ve not just focused on the games – the waiting area is nice with some great spray-painted murals on the wall, dressing up stuff for the post-game photo (and the game itself, if that appeals) and toilets on site. There’s a video explaining all about escape rooms for the uninitiated and, after chatting with our host for a few minutes, we were taken to the pyramid to start the game. And yes – this does belong in the “outside the room” section because I was impressed to see that they’d decorated the entrance to this game appropriately. Oh yes, I had a good feeling about this room.
Thousands of years ago there ruled the pharaoh Horus, named after the great falcon god. Horus was very proud of his intellect and wit but with no children to inherit his kingdom he spent 25 years, and the lives of thousands of slaves, building the Pyramid of Doom. Following its completion the pharaoh challenged Egypt’s nobility to test their intellect and wit by entering the Pyramid and attempting to escape before they starved to death. The reward being that should they be successful they would inherit all of Egypt. His kingdom has long since gone but the Pyramid of Doom remains and anyone entering will pay with their lives should they not escape – are you brave enough to take on the pharaoh’s challenge?
Inside the room
I try not to be too shallow about games and to look beyond the visual aspect, but first impressions do matter. The feeling you get when you cross the threshold is likely to stay with you throughout the game. If it’s good, it can paper over cracks and, if it’s bad, then you’ll likely focus on any minor issues you hit. This room didn’t disappoint. As soon as you walked in, you could see several chunky puzzles to get stuck into. This isn’t a room for pieces of paper and thinking (actually, at one point it most definitely was but generally it’s not!). You’re going to get your hands dirty (metaphorically speaking) touching and moving things. I’m a total mug for the physical side of the game; I like to think that I’m paying for an experience I couldn’t recreate using a book or a computer, and you’re pretty much guaranteed that as soon as the puzzles get a little physical.
In fact, at times it was overly physical – you’ll need at least one person on your team who’s got some strength. It’s not massive amounts of effort but, by the end of one puzzle, I was sweating from the exertion. I don’t think there’s a way round that requirement, which is a shame, but I don’t expect it to be a problem for most teams.
So yes, it’s physical but it’s also intellectual. These were puzzles that really exercised my brain to an extent that I don’t recall seeing in an escape room. There was one that was a little Mathsy for my liking. Or rather, perfectly Mathsy for my liking but that I suspect would put most people off. I don’t think anything in an escape room should feel like a maths problem you would get at school, and this did.
It may have been Mathsy but it was definitely solvable without help and, pleasingly, so were all the other puzzles in the game. There were a couple where we needed a clue; one where we’d missed something obvious and another where we were expending too much time and weren’t sure whether we’d suffer for it later. A team of three or four would probably have been fine. Admittedly we accidentally bypassed another puzzle because we fluked a different answer which got the same result. There’s not much that you can do about that, though, and, again, the puzzle was solvable. I thought the game host lacked some subtlety in the clues – when we got stuck on one puzzle we pretty much got given the answer rather than a hint in the right direction.
Oh, and I forgot one of the other unusual aspects of this game: there weren’t any padlocks. Now, I don’t mind a few padlocks but there’s something very appealing to not having them at all, especially in an Egyptian-themed game.
We got out with about eight minutes remaining having taken three clues.
I really enjoyed this game. It was puzzly in a way that I enjoy – chunky props with good physical solutions. Parallelisable puzzles allowed you to work separately, but then the sequence of puzzles in the finale brought the team back together again. If I had a worry, it would be in team sizes. I can see a larger experienced team storming through the first half of this game because of the relatively low communication requirements and then finding that the game bottlenecks towards the end and only one or two of them can really get involved. If you’re experienced, I’d recommend a team of three. Playing as a team of two, though, was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Note that there is a mobility challenge in this game (not a big spoiler – you can see that as soon as you go through the door), so you should give them a call if you have any concerns on that front and they’ll be able to advise you. I’m pretty sure they can make it work as long as at least one member of your team is fully mobile.
Detailed Room Ratings