End of August news round-up

News round-upA few different news stories to end the month:

  • Clue HQ have outdone themselves, announcing plans for a new attraction at each of their two locations. Blackpool will host The Experiments Live on the weekend of Hallowe’en, plus the two weekends beforehand: nine days, a total of 32 sessions. Two teams can play at once in each session, so there are only 64 spaces to book, full stop. Each team can consist of three to six; the game will last 60 minutes and will include both a room to escape and an outdoor section. The fee is higher than usual, though far from the top of the market – £139 for up to 6, or £250 for up to 12 – but the excess pays for the addition of scare actors. Bearing in mind Clue HQ‘s heritage, while there are increasing numbers of horror-themed exit games out there, there are people for whom the experiments within will doubtlessly be delightfully distasteful.
  • For the rest of us, the original Warrington location is adding a new game, Sacrifice. It is played by teams of four or six – but these teams are split into two pairs or triplets respectively for some intra-team competition. The two half-teams compete in the same room in full view of each other, to increase the intensity further; one half-team may escape, the slower half-team will be the sacrifice of the game’s title!
  • Red House Mysteries, responsible for the live hunt events and also part of the team behind the recent live ChatRoulette first-person shoot-’em-up, are crowdfunding their first exit game; the Kickstarter campaign has got off to a decent start.
  • Locked in Edinburgh have good news; their return from a Fringe-necessitated pause will be one day earlier than expected: Monday 7th September.
  • The site formerly known as AK Escape Room of Cork has been renamed to We Escape and have suggested that they plan to launch in a second city. Exciting times!

Coming soon to Durham: Escape Rooms Durham

Escape Rooms Durham logoA new exit game is opening in Durham, which is about twenty miles south of Newcastle. Think of the Cathedral, think of the history, think of the high-class university and try not to think of the hills. The site is called Escape Rooms Durham and is not knowingly connected with any of Escape Rooms Plymouth, Escape Rooms of London or The Escape Room. Now you might think that this site is being flippant with that last sentence, but that list of similarly-named but unconnected games is only going to get longer and longer over time.

To begin with, the site is only opening its single game on Friday evenings and throughout the day on Saturdays and Sundays, which is a perfectly reasonable and logical way to begin operation if caution must prevail; the first booking available is for September 4th. The game has an hour time limit; teams of two are charged £50 and teams of three to six are charged £60. The site’s first room “ is called “Mr Borrowdale’s Office”. You and your team will find yourselves rooting through Mr Borrowdale’s puzzling possessions in order to escape the room“. The site has posted pictures of its first couple of test teams who seemed to enjoy the game, and that’s about as much as is known.

As ever, look out for possible discounts when the site opens and consider signing up to the mailing list. Mailing list members have already been sent out an opening discount code that works for bookings in August to play in September or October; might there be more to come?

Now open in Sheffield: escExit

escExit logo and briefcaseescExit is a site in Sheffield that was flagged up by Ken and his mighty algorithm. Perhaps site is not necessarily the right word to use, as it has been designed to be relocatable for corporate events or private parties; however, it has held a number of pop-up events at the Bloo88 pizza-and-cocktails bar in the old Hallamshire Hotel building, a javelin throw away from the West Street stop on the Supertram, which is as close as the game has to a permanent base. Compare, perhaps, with Escapism of Nuneaton – and, similarly, on the road.

The game is recommended for teams of two to five. “You have one hour to escape from a locked room. Can you find the hidden clues, solve the puzzles and crack the codes to get out in time?” The pop-up events have charged just £10/player and the corporate rates are very reasonable as well.

This site sometimes struggles a little to know whether a game has a future, or is designed as a pop-up with a deliberately short life-span. (This site looks set to be here, and to be offered as a pop-up, indefinitely, even if irregularly.) Happily, it’s not unknown for intended pop-ups to prove so popular that they are extended; the St. Helens Library system’s St. Helens vs. the Lizards (co-designed by Exit Strategy) has proved so popular that bookings have opnened, and indeed nearly all gone, for a third week rather than the intended two. Even if you can’t make it to enjoy the room in person, you can at least enjoy the fab, barely-8-bit Teletext art and hints as to what sort of game it might be.

Coming soon to London: a door in a wall presents “An Appetite for Murder”

a door in a wall: An Appetite for MurderEvery time London interactive theatre company a door in a wall announce a major new work, this site gets excited. Spring and Autumn of the past few years have seen hit after hit, and this site has previewed The Diplomatic Corpse, A Stab In The Dark and The Life and Death of Paul Marrane. That time of year is coming up once more, and with it bringing An Appetite for Murder.

In a professional kitchen, execution is everything. A high pressure environment means that tempers run as hot as ovens and resentments can boil over all too easily. Celebrated chef Amelia Love is London’s newest gourmet sensation, but when her body is found locked in the restaurant’s freezer one morning, a menu of suspects isn’t hard to compile.

Was it her talented apprentice, a spiteful critic, or a greedy partner who committed this chilling crime? Gather a table of hungry detectives and prepare to digest the evidence hidden around the streets of the City as you explore in pursuit of a culinary killer.

The company have found a format that works very well for them. The event is offered on weekday evenings through October (except Mondays and a couple of Wednesdays), plus weekends having both afternoon and evening performances. Not many tickets left on Saturdays already, though. The games are scheduled to run four and a half hours or so, probably with half-hour briefing and debriefing around three and a half hours of promenade-style puzzling. This site really loved the review of the last event at The Logic Escapes Me, which suggests precisely what sort of things might be involved: varied puzzles, highly immersive environments and plenty of characters to interactive with.

With a little horror, this site gets the impression that a door in the wall may have independently reinvented the genre of the puzzle adventure, and come closer to the platonic ideal of the puzzle hunt, more effectively than the puzzle hunts that amateurs have put on in this country already. That’s just not fair – but players are lucky to have such amazing opportunities to play. Book your tickets soon before the remaining dates sell out!

Late August news round-up

News round-up
Tuesday night seems to be becoming “list of short news stories” night. This isn’t deliberate, but here goes:

  • Episode five of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. In truth, I haven’t watched it yet, but if it’s anywhere near as good as last week’s then it will be a glorious thing indeed. As ever, illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites, of which megavideoz.eu will be the first port of call.
  • It’s Fringe festival time in Edinburgh, and three of the local sites have an unofficial competition to see who can get the most famous player come through their doors by the end of the month. Comedians and Dr. Who assistants are being thrown as punches, as if by a heavyweight. How do you judge how famous a person is? Search engine hits, perhaps, but it would take some carefully-selected search terms to ensure you’re finding a famous person and not any of their namesakes. All the participants are winners in this site’s eyes, perched from atop a fence. (This site’s official footballer has been playing rooms in Manchester again, too.)
  • Crowdfunding heroes Enigma Escape of London have updated their site with a nearly-eight-minute video of online video stars trying their game for the first time. It’s probably the best video of its type that this site has seen; it’s a good advert not just for its site, but for the genre as a whole, with the comment “We modified the game so that no spoilers are shown in the video” a telling one. Go and take a look!
  • Escape Plan Live of Chatham, Kent offer not only daytime games but also nighttime “After Dark” games by torchlight as well. One of their first had an additional special effect that even the team behind the game didn’t intend.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington are famous for the difficulty of their games – or, perhaps more accurately, the difficulty of their most challenging games. They also go out of their way to celebrate their most successful teams; they’ve celebrated the first team to go 4/4 at their games (2/2 at Warrington and 2/2 at Blackpool) and now the first team to go 4/4 at Warrington. Full disclosure: one of the team has written for this site! They’ve also posted this graphic, possibly hinting at filling the question-marks they’ve left on their site in discussion of a potential fifth game.
  • Two weeks until Puzzled Pint in London and elsewhere… and two weeks until a possible London Underground strike, making attending trickier. If you go to the London East venue, please would you fill out this form about how any strike might affect your attendance? Thank you!
  • Speaking of Puzzled Pint, one of its co-founders (and Snoutcast veteran) Curtis Chen reccently Tweeted the following: Look, at this point I am more likely to give you money to NOT start up another escape room business. Not a statement about the state of the Portland market, but in the context of its follow-up message, perhaps a call to arms: I mean srsly there are other puzzley experiences you can build for general audiences. Be creative! You can do it! I believe in you!

The Crystal Maze live attraction delayed until 2016

The Crystal Maze liveHappily this is not a three-month game, let alone a three-minute game; the team behind the stunningly successful The Crystal Maze live attraction crowdfunding campaign have announced the following:

Thanks to the incredible response from you, our Pledgers, all expectations have been raised and it is imperative that we deliver a Maze even greater than we ever imagined.

In order to do this, we have had to find a bigger, better venue for the Maze. This has slightly changed our timeline and the Maze will now open in early 2016.

This has the consequence that this site’s plans for an industry-wide meeting in late 2015 must be rescheduled for 2016. More news as soon as it becomes available, and fingers crossed that the extra time spent on the project can result in something truly spectacular, living up to the immense potential.

Looking forward to the 2015 Mind Sports Olympiad, including a Sudoku and Kenken contest

Mind Sports Olympiad medalsIf it’s the week before the August Bank Holiday, it’s time for the annual Mind Sports Olympiad. This will be the nineteenth installment of the mental-games-and-skills-themed multi-sports festival. You know how the Olympic Games have some of the world’s most prestigious contests in many different physical sports? The principle behind the Mind Sports Olympiad was to try to emulate that for brain games. The budget has never really been there to attain this at the very top level, but the event has kept going year after year and developed its niche.

Some people prefer to focus their efforts on a single mind sport at the highest level they can attain, others take a much broader view that it’s more fun to compete at many different games, and the Mind Sports Olympiad is a great place for those who take the second viewpoint. This web site has a lot of sympathy with the principle. By analogy, some people like only exit games, others only logic puzzle contests, others only cryptic crosswords or mechanical puzzles or geocaching or one of maybe a dozen other things; this site tends to believe that if you like one but haven’t been exposed to the others then it may well be that you turn out to enjoy the others as well.

This year’s event runs from Sunday 23rd August to Monday 31st August and is held at JW3, the London Jewish cultural centre. (Accordingly, there is no play on the evening of Friday 28th or at all on Saturday 29th, being the Sabbath.) The most immediately relevant event to readers of this site is the contest in sudoku and kenken (also known as calcudoku – think killer sudoku, but with other mathematical operations as well as addition) on the morning of Sunday 30th August, which this year has £140 of prize money provided by sponsors. However, there are contests in scores of other mind sports as well, plus an open play room with a well-stocked games library open from 10am to 10pm each day.

Mark Goodliffe has won the contest for each of the last two years, so expect competition to be fierce – but if the event sounds interesting at all, you can read his write-up to get a better feel of what it’s like in practice. Perhaps the World Athletics Championships taking place at the moment are putting you in a competitive mood!

Red House Mysteries

Red House Mysteries logoThis site considers it a natural fit when companies who have their own exit games get into live events and mystery-themed walking tours as well. Bath Escape had this from the start, Cryptology of Nottingham offer something similar and Can You Escape? of Edinburgh have their outdoor Operation Heckle game as well.

It’s good to know that it can work the other way around as well, though; established treasure hunt and theme event company Red House Mysteries, based in the south-west of England, are planning an exit game for later in the year. That’s an excellent pedigree to have. They’ve also made a name for themselves very quickly by being involved with the plot design, alongside Realm Pictures who made it happen, in a (possibly exit-game-inspired?) Internet viral video of a live action version of a first-person shoot-’em-up, where the players were found at no notice and dumped straight into the game on ChatRoulette. (At last! A use for ChatRoulette!)

The video is doing the rounds already today – but, with the exit game link, no reason whatsoever not to share it here as well. As you’d expect from the video game trope, lots of zombies and a fair bit of cussin’, but the results are spectacular.

There’s also a look behind the scenes available as well.

No promises, but that’s a remarkably good way to get your name out there for the right reasons very quickly. Watch Red House Mysteries with great interest. (Tip of the hat to Escape Rooms in Toronto first and Bother’s Bar for the link.)

Meeting up in London?

Illustrated London NewsYou get three guesses as to how this news reached this site, and the first two don’t count, as well as any that don’t begin with “K” and rhyme with “Ben”. Thanks, as ever!

This site is happy to cover a multitude of related puzzle hobbies, on the grounds that if you enjoy one then perhaps you’re likely to enjoy (at least some of) the others as well. Puzzle fans in London have had their monthly meetings in the capital for some time; mechanical puzzle fans have had the London Puzzle Party, and puzzle hunt-style-puzzle fans have had Puzzled Pint. Both meet on the second Tuesday of each month, by tradition and unfortunate coincidence.

However, those who are more interested in exit games may well be very interested in the “Escape Rooms and Puzzle Rooms in and around London” meetup, launched virtually at the start of the year and hoping to have its first physical meeting in September. At one level, its goals are as simple as getting people who want to play an exit game together, even if they don’t have a regular team, or if they want to meet new people and play interesting games with them. If that’s all – “all”! – that this did, it would be a remarkably cool addition to the London scene indeed, with benefits both for players and for site operators alike.

At another level, it might turn out to be (if its attendees and principals want it to be) something more: a forum at which to find friends and collaborators, a sounding-box at which (actual and potential) site operators might survey the opinions of at least some exit game fans, a gathering to help plot the future. San Francisco has a remarkable Adventure Design Group that uses the same Meetup infrastructure to connect players with all sorts of exciting games. Their library has videos of some of the high-calibre speakers they have had, with the Spark of Resistance talk a particular masterclass in exit game design.

It’s hard to know how far this can go and how far people want it to go, but someone’s got to be the first person up onto the dancefloor, and the potential is practically limitless!

More and more news

breaking-newsMore and more short news stories at the moment; sadly, they can’t all be longer pieces. Eyes down for a full house.

  • Episode four of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. (There are only six episodes in this series, but so much difference from epsiode to episode; treasure them before they’re gone.) This episode is perhaps the most so of the series to date in a room that looks like it would be tremendous fun to have played. The aforementioned illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites. Megavideoz was the starting-point used here once again.
  • Less than two and a half days to go in the Enigma Quests Kickstarter and less than two and a half hundred pounds required for the project to fund. It’s looking promising, but there’s always more that can be done and those early bird prices look attractive.
  • Edinburgh’s the place to be for exit game excitement while the Fringe is in progress. Locked In Edinburgh have done extremely well before their temporary hiatus starts tomorrow; while the intention was to hold a short run before the venue would be used for a Festival performance, it has proved so successful that it’s now taking bookings for a permanent run from the same address from Tuesday 8th September onwards. Excellent news! The game is set in a disused small animal hospital; unusually, it is a dog-friendly venue, so do bring your dogs along and see if they can sniff out the secrets.
  • The top five entries in the current version of TripAdvisor’s Fun and Games in Edinburgh chart, at time of writing, are all exit games. Great work all round and well worth celebrating!
  • Elsewhere in Edinburgh, comedian Alex Horne and team didn’t have to say “We Need Answers” as they demonstrated that they could answer yes at Can You Escape, and husband-and-wife global medal-winning judoka (? judokas? judokae? Judo superstars, anyhow) Euan Burton MBE and Gemma Gibbons both enjoyed tying Dr. Knox’s Enigma in knots.
  • The stars aren’t just coming out in Edinburgh; The Escape Room of Manchester’s recent Open Night included an appearance by two Hollyoaks actors – but no indication whether they escaped their game or not!
  • Clue HQ of Warrington have launched their fourth game, The Teleporter. In it, the anagrammatic Professor Errol Tepet was a recluse and came up with a number of different inventions during his life time. Not much is known about this device. Nobody knows how he came up with The Teleporter or even if it actually exists – some say it’s just a myth. It probably doesn’t work, but do you fancy a look around? If you’ve played any of their other games before, then you very probably do!
  • CNBC have some rather lovely Time Run clips in a piece on the genre; pity they’ve got a couple of names very slightly wrong, but you can’t have everything!