28. Mar, 2016

Prison Break – Escape Rooms Manchester

We were running out of Breakout rooms (at that moment in time) and still had the new bug for playing escape rooms so we decided to venture out to another company. Escape Rooms had a good rating and loved the sound of a jail theme:  

You are locked in a maximum security prison and are awaiting your execution. You were framed by a serial killer and you are now facing charges for a murder. There were multiple attempts to escape from this prison but many people failed and most inmates were either killed or recaptured while others disappeared without a trace, giving hope to inmates that there are ways to escape! You have sixty minutes to escape from the premises and free yourself before the prison guards return.

When we got there the place looks impressive. It is not just an old office (sorry Breakout) they have put the time and effort in to make the place welcoming with a bar and waiting area. I loved that they had a wall of fame with a leader board with winning times for each room which is something Breakout lacks. Let’s face it, everyone loves a bit of competition especially with other teams!    

We were given our briefing and were told we were going to be handcuffed to each other (new and exciting at the time). All five if us were then led handcuffed to the room; a dark, dingy and realistic looking prison cell and warden’s office separated by bars. It was looking promising and everyone was excited for the impending game. Notice how I say WAS. Before our GM left and started the clock she basically told us step by step how to get out of the handcuffs! It was not like there were dozens of things in the cell to work on either it was something we could have figured easily ourselves and it just felt like the mystery was taken out of the room a bit. Within 3 minutes we were all out of our handcuffs, which was a massive disappointment. If you are going to use things like handcuffs you need to make getting out of them and challenge and achievement otherwise they are not needed. Rant over. Now we were five people in a tiny cell. Too many cooks spoil the broth comes to mind.

This was our first experience of a linear game room and it did come as a shock to the system. We had just escaped Madchester in Breakout where we all went off in our little groups and solved puzzles simultaneously so was in that mentality of escaping rooms. These puzzles only required at most 2 people so a lot of the time a few of us were watching a person open combination locks which was not what we had signed up for.

Being used to the hint screen this was our first experience of the hint button which we were to press whenever we were stuck. Being an empty prison cell consisting of a bed and sink we could not for the life of us find the next step to escaping the cell. After 5 to 10 minutes of debating (some stubborn people in the group) we finally gave in and pressed the button. After a few minutes our GM came in and asked where we were in the game. Sorry aren’t you supposed to be watching us?! After being watched intently in other company rooms this was a bit disappointing. In my opinion a hint screen is a far superior method of communication purely on the basis that no gamer ever wants to admit defeat on a puzzle and press a button pointing this out. It is much better if the GM is watching you and providing you with helpful hints when they feel you need a nudge. In these rooms if the screen doesn’t go off you know you are doing well and if it does it’s for a useful reason. GMs see dozens of games a day and know where you should be at a certain time. If you have to depend on yourself on that knowledge you don’t know if you are doing well or badly to make that judgement. Are we pressing the button too early in the game when we have plenty of time to solve the remaining puzzles? Or is this the right decision because there are way harder puzzles in the rest of the game that we need to focus our time and energy on? Tough call.

Getting back to the game. When given our hint it was a proper eye roll moment. Without giving much away we had basically not fully inspected an area in the room. Let me remind you the room was basically pitch black and we were provided with ONE mini torch between the five of us, yes we were going to miss it! For me making a room challenging is about putting work into the puzzles, not making the room darker so you cannot actually see the puzzles.    

On a positive note there were a couple of clever puzzles that I enjoyed and the first time there was a physical element to an escape game we had never experienced in order to unlock the cell. One of the best challenges in there as all of us had a chance to try and fail at it and move it on to the next person. There were a good couple of logic problems and maths problems for us to get our teeth into too.

We escaped with 20 minutes to spare and had our picture taken. The woman was nice enough to show us another room for us to peek at which was done up just as well and stuck with the theme. Aesthetics wise it is a great company and the rooms are impressive. They just need to combine this with some rich puzzles to make the rooms more impressive.