North West England has been at the forefront of escape rooms since soon after they came to the UK. That seems set to continue with the Crystal Maze opening a bigger and better site up in Manchester in a few months. In the meantime, plenty of other new companies are available if you’re looking to be locked in a room.
Read on to find out more about Breakout Chester, Clue HQ Manchester, Timed Trap in Preston, Lucardo and Mission Exit in Manchester and Moviescape in Stockport,
1) Breakout don’t open many venues but the ones they do open tend to be pretty big so, at first sight, Breakout Chester‘s opening in mid November with just two rooms might have come as a bit of a surprise. Look more closely, however, and you’ll see that there’s room for a massive seven games at this franchise. Indeed, just as this article was being written, another room popped up on their booking page, available from early December. All three games, Wanted, Identity and Vacancy have been taken from the High Street Branch.
Wanted is a game with a confusing history, so worth paying careful attention if you plan on playing. It originally appeared in Liverpool and came in one of two variants: Cowboys, a relatively easy game and Indians, meant to challenge even the most hardened team. The Manchester venue decided it would get in on the act and produced Most Wanted, an entirely different game but with similar theming. Chester’s version takes Liverpool’s name but Manchester’s game.
As for the game itself, it’s another race to escape although this time the bigger reward you collect, the higher up on the leader board you will go! ((…)) Think of yourselves as bounty hunters of the Wild West breaking in to a Saloon in search of loot! Make sure you’re out by the time the Sheriff returns, even if it means leaving some of your riches behind, or you’ll end up spending the night in a cell as Breakout Chester’s Most Wanted!”. Yes – this is another of those non-binary win condition games where it’s not just a binary escape/don’t escape but a score attached. If you’ve loved Casino Escape, Bad Clown and the Ruby Factory then perhaps this is a game you’ll want to head along to before too long.
In Vacancy, exhausted after a long journey, you place your bag down on the freshly made bed, ready to relax. Suddenly, an ominous sixty minute countdown begins. No matter what you try, the door will not open. Welcome to Crimson Lake Motel. You check in, but you NEVER check out…
Finally, in the soon to be open Identify, your friend has been murdered! You know who did it, but the police do not believe you. In a desperate attempt to find justice you have invaded the killer’s lair in the hopes of finding the proof to bring the killer to justice. However, the maniac could return at any time. Gather the proof and send this killer to prison before he returns. Do you have what it takes to IDENTIFY this psychopath’s other victims?
All games take 2-5 people and cost £34-£70 depending on number of people and day of the week.
2) The original North West company, Clue HQ took a short hop across the M62 a couple of weeks ago, to open Clue HQ Manchester. For fairly obvious reasons, they’ve brought two of their non-Warrington games to the new venue, Detonation and Cell Block C, although who knows what games will appear there in the future.
In Detonation, you and the rest of your detective team have been on the case of Danny Badd. Badd has been wanted for 7 years and is a known criminal all over Europe. He’s wanted by many different countries for various crimes. After a year of gathering information, 24 hour surveillance, and even capturing Badd’s brother, you’ve finally got the best lead that any intelligence unit has ever received with regards to his location. You’re going in, but not without a plan. Badd is notorious for blowing up anyone who attempts to track him down. Watch your step.
Cell Block C appeared down in their Birmingham franchise earlier in the year and has obviously been judged good enough as it’s just appeared in two separate venues. This game sees you framed for a crime you didn’t commit, and you’re about to be sentenced to a lifetime in prison. You know that notorious criminal Danny Badd is responsible but with only 60 minutes before you face the barrister, you don’t have the resources to prove your innocence. Can you escape top security CELL BLOCK C and buy yourself some time or will you be locked away forever?
Both games take 2-6 players and cost £44-90 depending on numbers.
3) Timed Trap are proof once more that an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign doesn’t mean the end of the line, when they appeared on the scene in late October. This Preston-based room has jumped straight into the market with three separate games Serial Killer, The Great Escape and Treasure Theft.
In Serial Killer, which seems to relate to a certain film that is often associated with escape rooms, Jigsaw has returned! The brilliant mastermind behind the cruel identity is back for another round of his horrific live or die games. The serial killer has booby trapped a house for an unlucky group of unwilling participants. The house has been pumped with lethal nerve gas. You must try to dodge the traps so you don’t get killed and find the antidote to the nerve gas.
In The Great Escape, it looks like you’re going to have to escape twice to win the game – once individually and once as a team. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab complete with cell, bars and surveillance cameras. For 2 weeks participants are recruited to play prisoners and guards. The prisoners are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the ‘guards’ are simply told to retain order without using physical violence. Anyone is allowed to quit at any time, by forfeiting their payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and empathetic. But soon quarrels arise and the warden employs more drastic actions to show his authority. You only have one hour to escape before your plan is discovered. You must break all the inmates out of their individual cells, before escaping through the infirmary. If you are caught, you will no longer be part of a research project, you will be an actual prisoner.
Finally, Treasure Theft sees a plot that wouldn’t look out of place with a fictional archaeologist at the helm. During the cold war, Russian agents watch professor Billy Jones when a young man brings him a coded message from an aged, demented colleague; Harold Oxley. Led by the brilliant Irina Spalko, the Russians tail Jones and a young man ‘Mutt’ to Peru. With Oxley’s code, they find a legendary skull made of a single piece of quartz. If Jones can deliver the skull to it’s rightful place, all may be well. Ageing professor and young buck join forces with a woman from Jones’s past to face the dangers ahead. You and your team follow Jones’s clue to hunt the treasure. Will you get to the treasure before it’s too late…?
Games can accommodate 2-6 players (The Great Escape has a minimum of 4) and cost between £44 and £90 depending on numbers.
4) Lucardo opened in the centre of Manchester at the beginning of September, the first new opening in the city for about a year. For a brand new venture, they wasted no time churning out rooms with a total of four already open and a fifth due to open tomorrow.
In Contamination scientists from around the world have developed a new modified deadly strain of poison: the T-200. It is capable of polluting the nation’s water supply within minutes. Only five vials were created and one has gone missing – we believe Professor Thomson has stolen it and has it hidden somewhere in his lab. Break-in to his lab and find the missing vial before Professor Thomson returns.
Enter Espionage and you’ll find the year is 1938, just prior to the outbreak of WWII. You and your team are part of the newly founded British Secret Intelligence Service. The War Office has had a number of classified documents stolen, which are thought to be held in a secret enemy bunker. Intelligence tells us the guards change every hour. Your Mission: crack the bunker security codes and recover the documents before the guards change.
Meanwhile, in Gem Runner, the famous 190 carat Saratov diamond from Russia is being deposited at the central bank in Manchester. Lucardo has hacked the security system, buying your team a one hour window to steal the diamond. Can your team pull off Manchester’s biggest ever heist?
Finally, in The Dream, your dreams are always happy and delightful, but tonight something is going wrong. Your wildest dreams of finding the magic numbers are slowly slipping away, through a whirlwind of riddles, puzzles and illusions. Can you solve your way out of this dream before your chances get lost in the subconscious forever? Be aware, things may not be as they appear…
Games take 2-5 players and cost £40-80 depending on day and numbers.
5) When it comes to escape rooms, Stockport might make you think of Extremescape, the outfit that opened in the tiny town of Disley nearby but now there’s a new game in town. Moviescape has a very clear vision of the type of escape rooms that it’s looking to offer – a movie like experience from a variety of genres – with their first game being the Haunted House where you are a group of Paranormal investigators sent to Crowley manor to investigate the disappearance of a previous Paranormal Investigation Team.
Booking is still by telephone and the website doesn’t include any details on price or capacity so all this site can do is point you at Brit of an Escape Habit‘s review and mention that the game is ranked 11 out of 64 at the time of writing.
6) Finally, welcome to Mission Exit that opened quietly on the outskirts of Manchester in mid October. They originally branded themselves as Breakout Challenge but soon renamed for reasons unknown, although this site suspects that proximity to a similarly named escape game giant might have been relevant.
As of yet, there’s just one game at the venue. In it, you have stumbled across the office of Sir Rupert Chinn, without realising you have also activated his security system which means big trouble as you are now locked in. Under the wrath of Rupert, you have 60 minutes to save your skin and escape, but will you all ‘think, solve & escape’ before Sir Chinn arrives?
If you liked the sound of that room (and pun lovers everywhere surely must) it costs £32-60 for 2-6 players.
And there you have it – six new venues and fifteen new games in the space of just three months. The North West looks like it’s set on keeping the UK escape room crown. What more will 2017 bring!