Note: this review was from a visit in June 2017. One of the owners got in touch to mention that the game has been significantly improved since then. You can read their response in the comments below.
Note: A fellow enthusiast made a visit in January 2018 and said that it was a much more rounded game: “Newbies will be impressed, enthusiasts will not walk away disappointed”. See the comments at the end of this review for details.
Outside the room
We’d planned a trip up to Leicester one Saturday morning and, as luck would have it, Escaper MK had opened their doors a couple of weeks earlier. Even better (for me, if not my teammates) they had an 8 am slot. Yes, 8 am. I can’t imagine that any other company opens up this early, but it worked well because we could fit in both games and still arrive in Leicester for a morning game. Yes, there’s a reason I’m continually victimised by my teammates…
The venue is located in the heart of an industrial estate, which isn’t the most inspiring start. Once inside, the waiting area is pleasant enough and, aside from a long walk to the toilets along a warren of corridors, you’d have no idea you were in an industrial space.
The hosts were friendly enough, but I got the feeling they were still getting to grips with running an escape room. That was probably part of the reason why they chose to get us to read the briefings ourselves from a laminated card. That’s never a great start to a game, but things looked a up a little when they led us to the room itself – a cabin door decal and a nice sign next to the entrance suggested that they hadn’t gone entirely bargain basement.
You and your friends decide to go camping in the woods. It’s a cold, dark night and you are all sitting round the camp fire enjoying each other’s company until you hear a distressed woman scream. Everyone decides to track down the source of the scream and come across an old cabin in the woods.
You all head towards the cabin when you look further you discover a door which is unlocked. You decide to go investigate what’s inside when suddenly the door slams shut behind you. Once you are inside you hear banging from the outside and you are not able to leave, the door seems to be locked. You have discovered that this is no ordinary cabin in the woods but, In fact it’s the home of a serial killer.
Inside the room
Hello darkness, my old friend. In fairness to Escaper MK, the website clearly states that this game is played with minimal lighting throughout. The thing is, it’s kind of implicit in that sort of statement that it’s also going to be “enjoyable” darkness. That there will be enough light to engage the whole team. Sadly, there wasn’t and, even after we’d found the light sources available to us, a couple of players were still wandering round in the dark at any one time. Inevitably, whoever didn’t have the light sources ended up less engaged in the game and, to be frank, a bit bored.
Unsurprisingly given the low light levels and the theme, they’d not put much effort into decoration. In fact, it felt very much like they’d kitted out the room with Freegle and IKEA furniture. Similarly, there was next to no progression in storyline, although there were one or two references inside the game to help reinforce the narrative we’d heard outside.
It was clear, though, that the joy in this room would have to come from the puzzles. So how did it fare? Well, there really wasn’t much to the game on that front, and what was there didn’t impress. An absence of direction meant that we were left floundering at the start, eventually realising that the first puzzle required a huge leap. That was one of the worse offenders, but there were plenty of weak puzzles following that one. Some were just plain lazy, while others were badly made – we knew exactly what to do but it still took ages to get an answer because the props didn’t quite line up.
The game was mostly linear, which is probably a good thing given the low light levels, but there were a couple of times towards the end where two puzzles could be tackled in parallel. Obviously, the team came back together for the final puzzle, which was sufficiently difficult to keep us working at it for quite a while. They’d recently “improved” this stage because they were finding that no one could complete it. Having seen the enhanced version, I dread to think what the original was like.
The correct solution required small leaps in logic and resulted in us coming up with a series of potential solutions. I tried each of them out on the final lock as my teammates shouted them out, eventually finding the correct one. The result was that we all missed out on the proper rush you should get when completing a room – by the time we found a match, we were trying numbers more in hope than in expectation. Personally, I don’t think finishing with a tough puzzle is good. Finishing with a dubious tough puzzle is terrible.
We finished in 34:23 – the first team to escape – having taken a single clue for the opening puzzle. Note that, while we may have been the first team to escape, the game had only been open two weeks and the final puzzle had just been simplified. Clues were given over a walkie-talkie that you had to find in the room.
See the note at the top of this review and comments below.
From start to finish, this was a disappointing room. Darkness was used to make the game more difficult and went way beyond anything that I’d describe as atmospheric. The decoration was minimal. The puzzles were weak and lazy. I think they’d actually tried to produce a good player experience but, for all but the absolute novice, this will feel distinctly lacking.
I’d go in with a team of three. I don’t think any extra people will help much, and they’ll instead just get in the way.
Detailed Room Ratings
Hello Bloggers/Readers I’m one of the owners of Escaper MK and would like the opportunity to talk about your experience with us.
We decided to open an escape room and notice that they are popping up all over the country but nothing was really in Milton Keynes so decided here would be a good place with only our own money managed to open. We fully admit that when we opened things were not as tip top as they could have been but as the business has made money we have poured that money back in the business improving the rooms not in to our pockets. We have currently had 355 teams played Cabin in the woods since we opened and you played back in June and most have praised us for the room and have enjoyed the experience. We have had reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Google with none being less than 4 stars. The game play and the flow of the room has been vastly improved.
We are new to the escape room business and are learning everyday and always looking for ways to improve and we feel that you Posting this 3 months after playing is Unfair not just with us but for the Readers as this review in now not a reflection of how the room is now but how it was. We accept that you have your right to an opinion and we thank you for the feedback you gave us on the day. But you must see how this really should have been posted at the time of your game play as now this could damage us after we have put so much effort in to improving our games.
Lastly i would like to talk about our second room as you also played this one on your visit. We have closed our Alien Abduction room this week for a complete refurbishment as we felt that it needs it. The entire game play and puzzles will be changed and brought up to date and a more easier game flow and decor added.
Thanks for getting in touch and letting me know about the updates. I know criticism is always painful and doubly so in this case where the game has moved on. It was never my intention to be cruel with the review and I hope that the language I used in it reflected that.
I can only apologise for the delay in posting the review. I publish one article each day on the blog and so sometimes reviews take a while to appear. I’m happy to update the post to mention that the visit was in June and reference your comment here so that people can use their own judgement. I often make reference to the huge backlog of reviews I have to publish so I hope regular readers wouldn’t assume that the review was from a visit in the last month. Two months isn’t atypical – it’s just unfortunate that in your case that two months has seen significant changes.
Re: 4+ star reviews. That doesn’t surprise me. Most escape rooms get high reviews because for most players it’s their first time and they’re reviewing the concept of an escape room rather than this escape room compared to others.
I’m more than happy to make a similar update to the Alien Abduction room – just make a comment on the article once you’ve revamped and I’ll add in a note directing readers to your message.
Finally, thank you for responding constructively and politely where others in your position might not have. It is genuinely appreciated.
I’m coming up in a couple of weeks and I’m really glad the owners put this response. I look forward to seeing how my experience compares to Ken’s and how the improvements have…improved it.
Hi Rich – that’s great to hear. Let us know how you get on – I’m curious to hear an update. I saw a reference on their Facebook page to them pretty much having redone the Alien room so it sounds like both games have moved on a fair bit.
So I went to play it at the weekend. We had only booked into just the cabin game but had a generally positive experience so we played their other game a few hours later. There has clearly been a lot of work on both games since opening, only natural I suppose. The puzzles were logical and fairly appropriate to the room. They have clearly changed the last puzzle, my friends liked it, I didn’t much, I just thought there was a better way of executing it. The dimly lit room was appropriate to the experience. The updates have made this a solidly playable game. Newbies will be impressed, enthusiasts will not walk away disappointed but they probably won’t ever say wow. The Alien abduction game was probably at a similar level. There were a few more fancy bits and clearly a bit more money spent. I preferred the puzzles in the Alien room but the experience in the cabin.
Thanks for following up Rich – much appreciated! I’ll update the reviews to point readers to this comment!