Outside the room
Having played Ruby Factory and escaped with no time left on the clock, we’d had a welcome break for lunch to calm the nerves before heading back into the fray. In contrast to the deserted car park we’d encountered when we arrived at 11 am, there was a long queue at the main door which seemed to be related to the arcade club upstairs – for a tenner you can play all the arcade games you want (and there seem to be a lot – 100 or so games plus a handful of pinball machines).
No time for us to indulge, though – it was straight into the action.
The clown has gone mad and won’t let you leave his carnival tent until you’ve completed all his challenges. If you’ve played other escape games you can expect something completely different with this one. You’ll need to use all your skill and teamwork to complete the clown’s challenges, and if you enjoy playing games at the carnival fairground you’ll love this!
Inside the room
One of the things that impressed me in both Air Traffic Control and Time Machine was the pieces of kit they had to enhance the theming in the room. While those rooms had gone for one thing that was truly impressive, this game went for breadth across the room rather than depth on a particular prop. It worked well – as soon as I walked into the room, I had the feeling of walking through the middle of a funfair with games of chance all around beckoning me to come and play…
I say chance but actually, this room included games of skill which, needless to say, is unusual for an escape room. All but one were pretty reasonable – you might fail a few times but you’d likely get there within a minute (even if you, ahem, didn’t notice that you’d succeeded…) – but there was one that was particularly frustrating. If you come as a team of two, there’s a decent chance you’ll get annoyed but, if you come as a group of five, then it’s probably a positive experience – you’ll just keep cycling through the team till you’ve completed the puzzle.
Aside from the skill puzzles, there’s a little bit of observation and searching, although not a huge amount. The searching was on the hard side without being quite unfair but, for me, the observation overstepped the mark: there were just too many possibilities for numbers in the room, and working your way through them wasn’t much fun. At times, it wasn’t even clear whether we were meant to be searching for numbers or doing something else. For example, we spent a lot of time trying to find the combination for one lock only to find that we had to complete a different task first. Maybe that’s just the luck of the draw, but it felt more tedious than fun to me.
There was one puzzle where I questioned whether I should really be doing the action that the room seemed to be asking me to do – I went with my usual approach: say what you’re going to do out loud a couple of times and, if the GM doesn’t scream, then you’re probably OK… (they didn’t).
One good thing about this room is that you know right from the start what your progress towards the end goal is: there’s a clear sense as you work your way through the game of how close you are to the finish. And what a finish: it strongly favoured taller players so, being the tallest on the team by a considerable margin, I got the joy of doing it. Truth be told, the puzzle was fun to start with but it significantly overstayed its welcome. Worse still – if you make a mistake, you have to restart, so I could easily see a team, especially one in a bit of a rush or a bit tired, taking twenty minutes just to complete that final step. Games of skill are OK in an escape room but this one just went way too far.
We finished with 13 minutes left having taken one clue (or maybe two, depending on how you count it, but certainly we only needed help with one puzzle).
Honestly, I was disappointed with this game, but I can see other teams having a very different experience. If you like the idea of something almost devoid of conventional puzzles but with some skill challenges thrown in. and if you come with a reasonably sized team that can help spread the burden of the more tedious aspects of the game, then I think you’re likely to have a good time. I left more with a feeling of accomplishment at having overcome that final puzzle than of joy at having played the game.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.