Yorkshire expansion

Yorkshire Terrier Puppy Green Fields

For a long time Yorkshire looked distinctly under represented in the escape room industry. Only the NE of England and Wales took longer to jump on the bandwagon but Yorkshire is certainly making up for it now. So often, expansion is brought about by local individuals seeing an opportunity but this time round it’s mainly an invasion from north of Hadrian’s Wall as two out of the three companies, Escape and Can You Escape?, are originally from Scotland. The third is home grown in Doncaster but even they are looking to expand with plans already in the works to colonise other parts of the county.

1) Escape have an ever growing list of franchise locations, but this time round they’ve got their eyes set on Doncaster. With a large stable of games, it’s always interesting to see what they’ll release in any given town. This time round they’re opening with two games on 6th August, Da Vinci and Area 51. They’ve gone for an interesting pricing model of a fixed £66 per team of 3-5 people with a discount of £18 for teams of 2. If you get in quick, though, you can grab a veritable bargain. Any game booked during August is a mere £39 – as little as £8 per person.

Area 51 is a title that instantly brings to mind a particular type of game but in case you’re in any doubt: “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 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.

2) Enigma Rooms is a home-grown Doncaster company which already has three games to its name.

Opening on 8th April, the Clueless Detective Agency casts you as detectives in your office where a case has just landed on your desk. A murder! You only have 60 minutes to solve the murder and escape.

In parallel with that game, they also released Ward 13 where you’ve been mistakenly taken and have only 60 minutes to escape before been trapped here forever. Ward 13 is otherwise known as The Morgue!

Their most recent game, Hostage, opened on 1st July and sees you and your team captured and placed in confinement with only 60 minutes to escape before you are taken for interrogation!

Games are for 2-6 people and cost £40-70 depending on numbers. No word on whether they plan to open new games at that location, but not content with the Doncaster outfit, they’ve already started expanding and have targeted Sheffield for their first invasion. No details on timelines as of yet. Watch this space!

3) Completing the Scottish invasion, Can You Escape? are an Edinburgh-based company that have been looking to expand for a while. Indeed, they recently got funding to develop a portable game – a veritable Trojan horse of an escape room. Their franchise in York has but a single game for now: Operation Lone Eagle. In the game, an embarrassing incident earlier this year left world renowned scientist, Doctor Aquila Mind, red faced. Not taking the incident lightly, he has since been working on a machine that will erase the incident and all other memories from people’s minds. His Assistant has seen the light and wants to put a stop to the Doctor’s evil plans. He can’t do this alone and so is recruiting spies of the highest calibre to put a halt to things, do you have what it takes to stop him, navigate his room and retrieve the trigger before the clock hits zero?

The game opened back at the start of May and costs £40-70 for 2-5 players.

It’s not easy in the East

Compass direction east.

The East of England seems to have been having it easy when it comes to escape rooms but games are starting to appear to fill in some of those gaps. Later in the year there should be news in Ely and Ipswich, but this time round it’s Harlow and Peterborough (and a bonus puzzle hunt in Stowmarket).

1) The Panic Room has an impressive reputation down in Gravesend where they’ve amassed a loyal following and have a booking calendar that would make grown long-established room operators cry. It’s about time for them to share that joy with other parts of the country. Up first is Harlow, a small town just a short distance from London. They opened on 22 July and are starting slowly, with just a single game, co-located with a Quasar centre. According to Twitter conversations, they plan to cycle through some of the rooms from the Gravesend operation (next up is the Witch Room) but one of the most interesting things about the location is that they’ve also announced an intention to open a room dedicated to children, of ages 5-10, called “The Lost Treasure of Captain Panic”. As far as this site is aware, this is the first room in England aimed at children and the first in the UK to be aimed at such a young age. Watch this space for more information.

That’s the future though, what about now? Well, their first room is the eponymous game “The Panic Room”. In it you are a team sent to a crazed conspiracy theorist’s mansion where he has been found dead. He found out something he shouldn’t have and clearly someone wanted to cover it up and hide it. The room is trashed and clearly in the murderer’s haste he couldn’t find the documents. It is now your job to solve the trail of puzzles and riddles left by the conspiracy theorist, find the files and exit code and escape before the 60 minutes is up. 

Games cost £40-85 for between two and eight players.

2) Hour Escape Peterborough opened its doors on 1 June this year and has steadily built up its collection of rooms, now boasting a total of four games with three different scenarios.

First to open was Dr Paulitious’ Lab, a game set far into the future. “The year is 3031. The world is suffering from a new strain of the Bubonic plague that has mutated from the original strain and is resistant to all medicines. You need to get some of the original strain of the plague to create a new antidote. You have travelled back in time to Edinburgh to 1888, where remains the last viral of the original strain of the plague is known to be stored in Dr Paulitious’s Lab. Dr  Jacob Paulitious is a direct descendant John Paulitious Edinburgh’s first plague Dr who kept the vial of blood from one of the plague victims.  The time portal only remains open for 60 minutes. You must find where the doctors hid the vial and bring it back so the scientists can extract the original DNA.”

Next up, on 24 June, was Airlock in which you have successfully been in space for 176 days and are now returning home after completing your space mission. Your crew come across an abandoned space craft and decide to investigate. You have all been transported onto the alien craft to carry out investigations. Whilst you are exploring what seems to be the rest and relaxation area, the space craft is hit by a meteor strike and there is now a breach in the hull. All areas are now on lock down. Trapped in the space lounge, you need to find the manual override code to escape through to the escape craft. You quickly realise that there is a problem with the oxygen being supplied to the lounge. The oxygen levels in the room are beginning to decrease and you only have 60 minutes to find the code to get out of the room before your oxygen levels are depleted.

Finally they opened a pair of rooms called Time Bomb on 7 July, which can be played in competition mode. These games are set in the 1940’s and Europe is under siege. The resistance needs the secret code to deactivate a bomb that has been placed in their underground headquarters. The enemy thinks that they have been very clever by infiltrating the headquarters and placing the device, but in their quest for devastation they have inadvertently left a trail of clues which leads to the secret code. There remains 60 minutes left before the bomb explodes you must find the code and deactivate the bomb to prevent chaos reining.

The individual games are for 2-6 people while each Time Bomb can take 5-10. The price per player is £20, although there’s a discount for teams of 6 or more.

3) Finally, if you’re looking for something puzzly but not escape related in the area, then you could do worse than checking out the Stowmarket Treasure Quest, set up by the person behind Puzzle Room. Figuratively speaking (please don’t take spades!), a pot of cash containing £500 has been buried somewhere in Stowmarket and you are invited to find it! A challenging series of puzzles has been created which must be solved. You need to unlock ciphers, fathom out riddles and hunt for clues hidden around the town. Collectively these answers will help you locate the treasure.

To enter you will need to purchase a book of clues, either as a PDF download or in printed form which will be sent via Royal Mail. In addition copies can be purchased from the Suffolk Library in Stowmarket and the Stowmarket Tourist Information Office. The first correctly drawn entry on 1st September will win the prize of five hundred pounds.

This summer long Treasure Quest is taking place in Stowmarket until 31st August. Why not put a team together and go hunting for the treasure?