Escape rooms are popping up along the full length of the English South coast, from Penzance to Margate and many of the places in between. This time round it’s the turn of Margate, Southampton and Hastings to be in the spotlight.
1) OK. Hands up – Margate isn’t strictly the South coast but it’s within a few miles so please don’t be too judgmental. Clue Cracker opened late last week with a press night on the Friday and a public opening at the weekend. Situated in Dreamland, a century old amusement park that was refurbished last year with public funding, this seems to be following the trend of games opening up adjacent to other entertainment venues. They’ve clearly been working the local press, with articles heralding their arrival as well as some complimentary comments on Twitter, with the result that they were sold out for their opening weekend. It’s always good to see a successful opening!
Their first (and as yet only) game is Jailbreak where, unsurprisingly, you have to escape from jail. According to the story, “30 years ago, ex-prisoner Terrance Swift attempted to escape Standfast Jail. Over the five years he was held there, he created an elaborate escape plan which, on July 23rd 1986, he executed right up until the final stage when he was caught red handed attempting to steal the Warden’s keys. Unfortunately, prisoner Swift was transferred to a high security unit in Dover, but fortunately for you he has left a trail of intricate clues and codes to help lead you to freedom.”
They’ve also produced a series of charming vlogs which cover the last few days before they opened, giving a hint about both the highs and the lows of opening an escape room.
2) It’s a town that people have mainly heard about in the context of history lessons, but Hastings has most definitely joined the modern era with the arrival of its first escape game. Abducted Live is very clearly a horror game whether you read the description, look at the imagery or just take the 18+ warning at face value. It comes in two flavours: the normal (still 18+) 60 minute version or the 90 minute extreme mode. How extreme is the extreme version? Well the website says “The extreme version is very scary and is not recommended for anyone with heart conditions, pregnant women, anxiety, mental health or claustrophobic issues. The environment you will be playing in is like a real life movie set. The environment is intimidating, tense and stressful. You could be living your worst nightmare.“. Sounds pretty extreme…
Beyond that, there’s relatively little on the website, just a brief overview of the game: “Imagine being abducted and locked in a dungeon. Do you wait it out and hope for the best or do you try to escape? This is a cross between the movies Hostel/Saw and the Crystal Maze. Can you solve the puzzles and find the keys to escape the rooms before your captors return? “
3) Cyantist have a long history in Bournemouth, at least long by escape room standards, where there have two well received games. They’ve now quietly opened up in the centre of Southampton. Interestingly, they’ve gone one step further than the numerous other places that compare themselves to the Crystal Maze and opened a game bearing that name.
The Crystal Maze is a little different to your average game as it’s not just about escaping the room, but about solving as many puzzles along the way. As the website says: “You are in a room with plenty of puzzles and logic games, you have 60 minutes to solve them, but I can guarantee that there are many more puzzles inside than you can solve in that time. The goal is to solve them and collect as many Crystals as you can. You will need a large variety of skills to prevail in this room. At the end we check how many Crystals you collected, then you can go on the leader board if you were good enough!”
There’s often a temptation to rush through rooms as fast as possible in an attempt to get on the leaderboard or be faster than friends but the trade off is that the room potentially becomes poorer value for money since the team spends less time playing for the same price. Here, there’s every incentive to rush as you get to play more puzzles for your money. It’s a trend (Bad Clown at Escape Quest, the Vault at Clue HQ and the upcoming Ruby Factory at Trapped In and Million Pound Heist at Enigma Quests) that this site will follow with interest.