Outside the room
When I had two people recommend The Escapement to me only a couple of weeks after it had opened, it went from being a cleverly named curiosity to high up on my to do list. With a couple of good rooms in Canterbury, there was a clear path out to Margate for a potentially great day of escape rooms.
I don’t like to judge a book by its cover (I’ve made that mistake in the past with Escape Hunt London), but it felt pretty clear that this was a venue to be reckoned with – there’s an intriguing-looking frontage, and the waiting area is well appointed. Be warned, though, that the waiting area is right next to the front door, so previous groups will potentially be talking about the game (and, trust me, they will be talking about the game!) as they wander past you.
Once inside, we got a friendly greeting from the GMs and owners. From the moment we arrived until we said our farewells, they exuded enthusiasm. It’s clear they have a passion for escape rooms and for what they can do with theirs.
Trapped onboard the ship Polaris, you and your crew of have been thrown in the brig, however, there’s been a mutiny onboard and all remaining crew members have abandoned ship! Navigate the stars and the seas and figure out how to sail the ship through thunder bolts and lighting back to land!
Inside the room
I’ve seen a fair number of good pirate ship games in my time, but this one is particularly stunning. That’s not entirely surprising since, as they say on their website, “Pirates Of Polaris features genuine artifacts and items from a 130 year old ship – Polaris“. Throughout the game, the immersion was spot on, and they couldn’t have made the game feel more like a ship unless they’d made the deck rock. Visual beauty in a room is one thing but, with this being a hands-on kind of game, the feel of the ship really helps with that immersion.
The story is given to you in the pre-game briefing and doesn’t really extend from there, but it’s a clear mission: escape from the brig, fix up the ship and then work out how to navigate it back to shore. Sometimes those puzzles are physical manifestations of what you’re asked to do, while at other times they’re metaphors for the steps, but virtually all of them felt integrated with the story, and the few that weren’t certainly fitted with the theme.
In terms of variety of puzzles, they had the basics covered and a fair bit more: there were physical interactions, observational, pattern-matching, some deduction puzzles and a couple of puzzles that significantly benefited from communication. The puzzles weren’t the most challenging you’ll encounter in an escape room, but they were fun and rarely trivial, even for experienced escape room players. The game was pretty linear and flowed well from start to finish. I’ll warn you now that there’s a decent chance you’ll get entirely stuck with the opening of the game. If you’re the sort to get frustrated easily, then be warned (or equally, if you’re not, be warned that you could burn a lot of time!).
As befits a good game, there’s a strong finale with probably the most involved puzzle in the room seeing you sail through the storm back to safety. I’m usually a fan of the final puzzle in the room being quick, so that you’re on a high when escaping and not feeling disappointed if you needed to take a clue as almost the last action in the game. Having said that, this worked, because it fitted really well with the story and, once you’d worked out the solution to the puzzle, you had something fun to do to finish your experience.
We escaped the room in 38 minutes with a single clue right at the beginning for a search fail.
Pirates of Polaris is a great game with some real history behind it. Anyone that takes an actual ship to pieces in order to get an authentic feel for a game is obviously going to perform well on the immersion front, but they’ve backed that up with some great puzzles, and the flow through the room was excellent. Talking to them afterwards, it’s clear that the experience is only going to improve over time: they’ve got some exciting plans to enhance the room.
We played as a couple and had a great time. Given its linearity and the relatively cramped start, I’d suggest taking along no more than three enthusiasts. It’s a beautiful space, though, so if you took the full capacity, I still think there’s plenty of enjoyment to go round and, for beginners, those extra eyes on the puzzles will be useful.
We ate at Roost, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Escapement, down near the sea front. It’s a little pricey, especially compared to the local area, and it’s very much a chicken-based menu but, if you’re OK with all that, then it’s an excellent choice: good-sized portions, high-quality food and friendly service. I can heartily recommend the Cajun chicken burger and the cookies and cream milkshake.
Detailed Room Ratings