A dream from a Knightmare: Bewilder Box open in Brighton


The story behind the latest game to open on the South Coast began back in Budapest when the two founders played one of the famed TRAP games. That gave them the dream of starting an escape room and, after a fairly long gestation period, Bewilder Box was born. In the process they got Hugo Myatt on board, a shrewd move that surely contributed to them breaking this site’s prediction of no crowdfunding campaign (for a new venture) raising more than £5,000. If Hugo Myatt doesn’t ring a bell then perhaps you’ll be aware of the character he played: Treguard, the games master from children’s TV hit program, Knightmare. Today’s announcement that the Crystal Maze is making a (brief, but potentially extendable) return to the UK’s screens later this year is a reminder that late 80s/early 90s kids’ TV nostalgia is a big seller and Bewilder Box undoubtedly saw the opportunity that having a star from that era would offer (and, of course, who wouldn’t want to get someone from Knightmare involved!).

In fact, the game itself has an 80s backdrop with one of the longest backstories that this site has seen for an escape room. They introduce you to Dr Benjamin Wilder Snr, a scientist who devoted his life to the preservation of the human race; his son, Dr Benjamin Wilder Jnr, who is trying to reopen his father’s research; D.A.V.E, a supercomputer that surely has to have some influence from Holly in Red Dwarf and B.R.U.C.E., a research drone designed by Dr B. Wilder Snr. The story centres on an assessment created by the Bewilder Box Initiative, the organisation set up and run by the Drs Wilder.

In the game, “you and your team are new recruits, tasked with completing the Bewilder Box assessment and qualifying for inclusion in the program. Do you have what it takes to answer this unfathomable challenge with a hearty laugh and a self-assured thumbs up? Can you complete the various tasks, challenges and brain tickling puzzles before the time limit expires? Will you uncover the secret of Dr Wilder Sr’s mysterious disappearance all those years ago? You have 60 minutes to find out… Good luck.”

The game opened above the Hobgoblin pub on 19th August and can accommodate up to six players on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Pricing is £95 with a £15 discount for off peak bookings (Thursday/Friday before 6:30pm).

Full disclosure: The author spent a few hours chatting with the Bewilder Box team a few months ago before they launched their campaign and also backed their Kickstarter.

Do Stuff Escape Games – now open in London

Do Stuff Escape Games Logo

Hardly a week goes by at the moment without a new escape room venue or game popping up in London.  This time round it’s Do Stuff Escape Games, a new venture that has launched in Battersea, South London. Like Handmade Mysteries and Bewilder Box, they’ve eschewed getting their own premises and have instead chosen to locate themselves inside a pub. While being the lord of your own manor might appeal to some escape rooms, the lure of a waiting area which can accommodate teams for a significant time before/after the game must be appealing.

They opened their doors on 4 August with a single game, Hostage Hideout. In it, the last thing you heard, as you scrambled to safety through an unmarked door, was that they had taken hostages… You are in a safe place but you must find the clues and solve the puzzles to escape the room. Will your team set the hostages free?

The game costs £80 off peak or £100 during peak hours (6pm onwards and all weekend) although the lower price applies to all two person bookings regardless of time/day. If you’re quick, you can snap up their opening Groupon offer. Oh, and if you read through their plentiful (and very positive) TripAdvisor reviews, it sounds like it’s worth allowing time to grab a burger from the pub.

The Cornish Cream

Cornish Cream

The denizens of Cornwall must have been looking over enviously at their Devon neighbours for quite some time, with games in Exeter and, tantalisingly close, Plymouth. Good things come to those who wait, though, and the good news is that they need wait no longer – escape rooms have arrived. As is so often the way, this site is pleased to introduce not just one new venue to the area, but two.

1) Taking the crown for mainland Britain’s most southerly venue is Cornwall’s Great Escape Rooms and it seems unlikely that any site will ever break their reign. For now they’ve opened with just a single game although more games are planned for October and December.

In the game it’s 1863 and your co-writer is having difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy. In order rewrite the final 4 stories you will need to combine your imagination with his. You have 60 minutes to get in and out with the lost tales, before his mind shuts down completely, leaving you and the stories to die with him.

Games cost £60-84 and can take 4-6 people but if you get in quick, it looks like they’re running a half price opening offer, so you could play for as little as £7 per person.

2) Locked In Cornwall is based a little way up the peninsula about halfway between Penzance and Truro. The owner played a variety of games across the UK and Europe (although his favourite is still his closest neighbour, Escape Rooms Plymouth) and decided to bring the love to Cornwall.

The site opened with a single game, the Arinon Room, and will be following up with the Yong Room next month. Their first room is a maze of puzzles, clues, riddles, code cracking, games and physical challenges to test teamwork, relationship skills, logic and camaraderie. Games take 2-8 players and costs £30-80.

Why not try one of the new venues out and find out if they’re the Cornish cream?

Now open in Waterford – The Great Escape

Great Escape Logo

It’s not the first escape room to be based in Waterford and it’s not the first to be called the Great Escape, but in the Venn diagram of the world, it is most definitely the first to sit in the intersection.

The Great Escape Waterford opened its doors on 21 July with two rooms, Cludo (sic) and Prison Break. Cludo is set in May 1933, in the lovely town of Chesterfield where Lady Loulou has been found dead at her own home. She was an elderly, prestigious woman, known as a charitable and generous person. Nobody knows the whos or whys of this terrible deed. The best investigator of the town, Miss Harpel has been asked to uncover all details about the murder. The team has to assist Miss Harpel and her company, and has the mission of solving this grisly case.

In an unusual twist, in Prison Break you’re not locked up for a crime you haven’t committed. Or rather you are, but you’re not doomed to rot in the jail. In the game, Rikers Island is an infamous prison located in The Bronx, New York. Since its establishment only a few have managed to escape out of it. One from the few was Anthony Skape. He’s got help from inside but naturally none of his fellows are ready to cooperate with the police. Federal agent Murphy has been sent to prison with a cover story of an attempted murder which has allowed him to infiltrate the prison. The players have to help the agent, who is trying to find Anthony Skape’s means of escape and hopefully pick up his trail. Note that this game is only suitable for participants who are over 18.

Their latest game, House of Mystery, opened at the end of July. In it, the famous magician James Boudini, only known by a few, has been charged by the administration with the crimes of trickery & swindle. The illusionist fooled not only his public, but the Internal Revenue Service alike. The police have captured Boudini prisoner and taken over his venue where all the events in the previous years have been performed. The team, playing the roles of the police, has to solve the riddles to locate evidence of Boudini’s crimes… but be careful! The Magician’s spells remain and something awful will happen if the puzzles are not solved within an hour.

The website lists one more game in the works – Madness or a Brilliant Mind? No details on when that’s likely to open. All the games can accommodate 2-6 players and cost €50-84 per room. And if you’re hungry after all that escaping, then why not have a break in their cafe which has a variety of bakery and hot drinks as well as pizza and panini.

Lock Down Escape – now open in Warrington


It requires a special sort of company to take on a powerhouse in their own backyard. Most people will associate Warrington with a well known escape room brand, but that hasn’t deterred Lock Down Escape from opening in the town. In truth, at this stage in the market, good games located near each other probably help each other out far more than they represent competition, so hopefully this is actually a smart move. The site opened with two games on 24th April, both designed by the owner Craig who has plans for a third to open soon. In fact, based on correspondence, he has a whole heap of ideas for new rooms.

In The Lost Soul you are a Paranormal Investigator who has been trapped in a VORTEX of LOST SOULS. You have 60 minutes to piece together evidence, find a trace and solve the puzzles before your soul is forever TAKEN to the other side…

Their other game, Death Row, sees you locked down in a high risk prison for a crime you didn’t commit. You are on death rowa nd have to find a way to escape in 60 minutes and prove your innocence, before walking the green mile to the execution room. Solve puzzles and find clues before it’s too late and you are sentenced to death by electric chair.

Both games can accommodate 2-6 people at a price of £16-20 per person depending on numbers .

Now open in Peterhead – EscaFun


These days, it seems that all escape rooms have a website, Facebook page, Twitter profile, Instagram account and a variety of other web presences so it’s unusual to find a venue that has only the briefest of online profiles. Perhaps that’s somewhat in keeping with the games themselves – where the digital world is eschewed for the joys of real life.

EscaFun is based in the small town of Peterhead (population 20,000) which itself is located, more or less, on the most easterly point of mainland Scotland. Head north along the coast from Aberdeen until it starts to bend to the west and that’s where you’ll find this fishing and oil town.

At present they have just a single game, Escape from Grannie’s Living Room, which is £40 for a team of 2-4. That’s all the info the Facebook page provides about the game, but reviews are universally five star and one talks of a new army themed room being planned.

If you’re in the Peterhead area then why not head on over and check it out?

Battle of the Brands

Boxing Glove[Correction: in the original version of this article, Escape was said to have 20 rooms open. This didn’t include the two escape rooms at its Noughts and Coffee branch in Edinburgh. This has now been fixed below]

Escape rooms in the UK and Ireland range from single room locations up to multi-site brands and everything in between. With over 400 rooms and 170+ venues, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see some brands starting to really spread across the countries. Whether you prefer the “boutique” escape rooms, doing a single room incredibly well, or the mass-market companies that are perfecting how to deliver escape rooms across several locations, it’s fascinating to see what the movers and shakers are in the UK.

The analysis below is based on the room list here and will likely be out of date within a few days even if it were correct at the time of publishing. Any corrections gratefully received by email or in the comments below.

What’s the biggest brand?

Quantity isn’t necessarily more important than quality but, in terms of being a profitable company, it surely has  to help. There are four main contenders for biggest operator in the UK and Ireland, all of them with approximately twenty rooms, although the number of locations varies significantly. Note that this totally ignores any venues outside of the UK/Ireland which would change the picture significantly given that some major international brands have opened in the UK.

Escape sneaks the title for most rooms with 22, but are the clear leaders  on the venue front with nine. They opened the doors of their first location during May 2014 and have been growing steadily ever since, opting for large numbers of small venues. From their first location in Edinburgh to their most recent opening in Doncaster, they have never opened more than three games simultaneously in one site.
Breakout Breakout, spread across four locations sit just a single room behind with a total of 21. There must have been something special during May 2014 because they opened their first room the same month as Escape and have been steadily growing, developing new rooms and new venues, with two in their home town of Manchester, one over in Liverpool and their latest franchise opening in Cardiff just a couple of months ago. It seems that their model is to go after sizable venues in major cities with a good potential audience.
Sitting right behind those sites, ready to pounce, are Clue HQ and The Escape Room, both with 19 rooms:
Clue HQ Clue HQ started life in Warrington, just a month after Breakout and Escape, and grew steadily at that site before taking the plunge with their first franchise after almost a year. Since then, they’ve been driving forward opening their sixth venue back in June. They’ve generally gone for medium sized population centres but the site sizes vary hugely. One particular strand they seem to be following is co-locating with laser tag – that’s true of their Sunderland, Blackpool and Glasgow sites.
The Escape Room The Escape Room is the only one of the top four which didn’t start life in Britain, instead opening its doors initially in Malaysia. It was also a relatively late developer here with the first room only opening in early 2015 in Manchester. Since then it’s spread its wings to Preston, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Barrow-in-Furness, seemingly favouring smaller population centres after that initial opening. As you might expect with an international brand that has plenty of rooms in its portfolio, there’s a huge variety of games on offer although Prison Break is a firm favourite, being present at all of the local venues.

What other companies are there?

Those four companies are way out in the lead (no other companies have even reached double digits) but there are still plenty of interesting franchises out there.

Locked in a Room Locked in a Room are a fascinating company because they have just two distinct games but, with four copies of each, they sit quite high on the rankings with 8 rooms. What makes them even more interesting is that, in the next couple of weeks, they’ll be opening 13 rooms in the ExCel centre in London (which will become the biggest UK venue), bringing their total up to 21 and seeing them tied with Breakout for first place. It seems unbelievable that a company with just two locations and two games could have a total of 21 rooms.
Tick Tock Unlock Tick Tock Unlock have four venues across the UK and a total of nine rooms across them with a clear preference for large cities – Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds. There must have been something special about May 2014 because this is yet another major brand that opened their first room during that month.
Breakout Games Breakout Games (not to be confused with the Breakout mentioned above) opened in Aberdeen first before expanding to Inverness. They rotate their rooms rapidly which is probably not surprising in relatively small locations but still manage to have a total of nine rooms open.
clueQuest The final company with nine rooms is clueQuest – the second oldest game in Great Britain and already on its third different location. Having started life in the relative outskirts of London, it’s moved towards the centre, finally alighting in a single venue in Kings Cross.

Other smaller companies of interest include:

  • City Mazes (eight rooms across three venues but two more imminent in Oxford and maybe more)
  • the Panic Room (about to open a third venue and potentially a total of nine rooms)
  • Handmade Mysteries (only four rooms, but spread across three different venues)
  • Xscape Reality (five rooms in a single venue but plans to open in a couple of other cities soon)

And that’s about it. Inevitably some interesting companies will have missed out on a mention here – this site tries hard not to play favourites but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Apologies if you feel that your favourite company deserved a mention here and didn’t get one. Feel free to leave a comment below to explain why!


Now open in London – Escape London

Escape Map

Have you ever tried to search for an escape room only to find you turn up one of its competitors? Well, good luck finding Escape London if you don’t have its URL (although, obviously you do if you’ve read this article!). Fortunately it’s backed by the wide ranging Escape brand which is spreading its way across the land and so the page ranking will surely improve rapidly and allow people to find it. As mentioned before, they’ve built up a decent sized portfolio of games, so it’s always interesting to see what they decided to deploy in each location. This time round they opened (on 1st August) with three games, Da Vinci, Casino Escape and Area 51. All three games can take two to six players with the price ranging from £48 to £95 depending on numbers.

Area 51 is clearly targeted at the Sci Fi/conspiracy theory stories popular among X-Files fans. It’s probably not a coincidence that this game has been released around the same time as the X Files TV series has been revived – 15 years is a good time to have a renaissance and the children of the 90s are very much the sort of people playing escape games now. In terms of the more detailed plot: “Roswell is a highly debated subject. Imagine something similar on your doorstep… rumour has it that there was an incident and hidden away in a basement there is evidence to prove it. No one knows what it contains but you and your friends are about to find out as you have stumbled across it.”

The Da Vinci Room, for those who’ve forgotten the plot, sees you “take on the role of thief, but for the greater good. Dr John Albright has studied the workings of Da Vinci in great detail. He has amassed a huge collection over the years, including what many believe to be the Holy Grail. Having gained his trust by helping him “acquire” items over the years, you have access to areas of his home and knowledge of his security that no-one else does. You’ve been paid well for your services over the years, but you’ve always felt that an item of the importance of the Holy Grail should be on display for all to see. The professor is away and now is your chance. Get in the room, grab the grail and get out. It should be easy! “The Da Vinci Room” is a live escape game with a twist, you need to get an item out of the room as well as you! The setting is a beautiful old study with artwork, certificates and various vintage items ranging from typewriters to violin cases! Primarily focusing on code-breaking, symbolism and association problems The Da Vinci Room offers an exciting challenge for players young and old.”.

Casino Escape is a game that’s obviously reserved for the high rollers in capital cities, with only Edinburgh having seen it before. The plot looks like they’ve jumped on one of the most popular trends of 2016 – the non-binary win condition, where the players don’t get a straight win/loss, but get a score when they exit the room.  There’s a hint that you can choose to be greedy but at the risk that you might not escape at all, reminiscent of those Richard O’Brien door slams and pictures of unhappy contestants locked in dungeons in the Crystal Maze. To quote the website: “As if escaping the casino wasn’t challenging enough the room is filled with additional puzzles that hold rewards. Should you stay or should you go? You won’t get rich without taking the risk…

Open in Newcastle-under-Lyme: the Escape Room

The Escape Room logo

Escape games have a habit of opening with similar sounding names but long before they appeared on the scene Newcastle was playing the same game with town names. While most people in the country would think of Newcastle upon Tyne, for a small portion of the country Newcastle is firmly rooted just outside of Stoke-upon-Trent.

Indeed, when The Escape Room first opened, it was listed under the city of Stoke before being updated to refer to Newcastle. Perhaps customers were unhappy when they arrived in Stoke’s centre only to find they were far from their intended destination? Let’s hope that doesn’t happen with customers ending up at the wrong Newcastle…

The Escape Room is a large international franchise that has branches on four continents, in 11 countries and in over 20 cities and alongside that breadth of venues comes a breadth of tried and tested games to choose from. This time round they’ve gone with the ubiquitous Prison Break and four games that are new to the country.

Prison Break and Crime Scene: The Homicide Unit were the first two games to open on the last day of May. You can probably recite the Prison Break story by heart, so often has it appeared on these pages, but for those who’ve missed it: 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.

Meanwhile in Crime Scene: The Homicide Unit you are the captain of Hong Kong’s elite team of police forensic evidence investigation experts. You and your team have been called into investigating a homicide case at an abandoned apartment, after the murderer responsible effectively covered his tracks to baffle the police force. However, after hearing that you are on the verge of exposing his identity; he has set out to trap and eliminate you completely. You and your team have 60 minutes to gather the evidence needed to expose the killer’s identity, while figuring out a way to escape from the brilliant murder’s fatal grasp, or suffer an unthinkable fate.

Safari Jungle opened a couple of weeks later on 13 June and sees you travel a long way to visit your great-granduncle in Africa during an annual gathering and discover that your ancestor is an avid treasure hunter. You stumble across a secret treasure map left behind by your ancestor while you are snooping around the house. You and your friends have decided to go to the safari jungle in search of the secret treasure. With the deadliest insects and animals lurking besides you, you and your friends have to find the secret treasure and escape the safari jungle before you and your friends become the prey.

Finally Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Case and Spy Mission: Knight Order opened on 25th June. In the former your team has been recruited by the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes for a mystery case. The owner of the Scarlet Diner, William Garnet was found dead in his own establishment, whether it is a homicide case or a suicide the truth remains unknown. However there are traces of clues and unexplainable evidences left behind the scene leading Sherlock Holmes to suspect that the death of the diner owner is a homicide case. Your team as the Baker Street Irregulars needs to uncover the mystery and bring justice to this town.

Finally in Spy Mission: Knight Order your team works for a secret organization named “Knight Order”; a classified government agency specialized in international espionage and black operations. Recently an elite group in the agency known as “White Knights” has gone rogue and was deemed a threat to national security. Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate White Knights’s safe house and uncover the conspiracy against your nation.

All games take 2-6 players and cost £44-90 depending on numbers.

Locked in Stockton – Enigmatology


For those of you whose knowledge of English geography is a little vague, Stockton-on-Tees is a large borough in the North East of England. If you’re familiar with Middlesbrough, just head West over the Tees and you’ll find it just across the river. You can travel from Durham to York without passing a single escape room on the eastern side of the country, so it’s great to see Enigmatology stepping in to fill that gap. After a long path to find the right area and right venue, they finally opened on Saturday with a single room that sets you the task of finding out what happened to a local archaeologist:

The year is 1921 and renowned Teesside archaeologist Professor Nathaniel Crowhagen has gone missing. In the days before his disappearance the professor was unusually insular, locked in his study for hours on end he could be heard muttering of a “catastrophic gate opening” and “the sands of time running out”. His family, beside themselves with anxiety for his whereabouts, have exhausted every avenue trying to follow his last known footsteps. The police have drawn a blank, with no concrete leads or proof of any wrongdoing. With the arrival of a cryptic communication, time is running out and the pressure is on. The distraught family turn to you and your team of detectives to solve the mystery. Uncover the professor’s whereabouts and avert an event that will change history forever.

The venue admits 2-5 people at a cost of £48 for a team of 2 and £60 for larger teams. An additional room is expected to open next month!