The Lock of the Irish


After delving into Welsh news, it’s time to head across the Irish Sea to the Emerald Isle. Unlike Wales, Ireland has had escape rooms almost as long as anywhere in the British Isles with Escap3D in Belfast and XIT in Dublin being the second and third entries in the timeline respectively. Fast forward to mid-2016 and there are now thirteen venues open across the island. Many of those have already been covered in earlier articles on this site, but here’s the new news.

1) Discovering a new escape room is always a joy, but discovering one that has been open for a while is a rare joy indeed.  This site has never seen a room that has managed to fly under the radar for as long as the one at Lifford Old Courthouse. According to the Twitter feed, the first players entered Jailbreak in June of 2015, almost a full year ago.  At €8 per person, it’s a veritable steal, while if you fancy something that’s less of a metaphorical steal and more of a literal one then their new game, Heist, can entertain you for a still modest €12 per person. This site applauds the criminal theming of rooms set in a courthouse and looks forward to hearing more from Lifford in the future.

2) Back in January this site reported, somewhat belatedly on the October opening of an escape room in Galway.  It’s almost embarrassing then to find that not one, but two venues opened in Galway that month. So, almost eight months late let this site introduce you to Great Escape Rooms. The venue already boasts three separate rooms, Quarantine, Prison Room and the Auld Shebeen Room, each of which can hold 2-8 people at a cost of €40-120 depending on numbers.  No descriptions for any of those rooms, which was particularly intriguing for the final one – this site had to Google shebeen to find out that it was an unlicensed establishment.

3) Moving along to more recent openings, Escapade Cobh opened this month in, unsurprisingly, the town of Cobh. For those readers whose Irish geography is lacking, that’s on the south coast of Ireland near to Cork. Escape from Spike Island is a locally themed game for 2-6 players, costing €50-75. Spike Island, in the middle of Cork Harbour, has been an island prison for centuries but in the 1990’s it was used as correctional facility for young offenders. You and your cell mates are imprisoned for stealing cars and racing them through the streets of your home towns. By solving clues and breaking codes you can escape. Late Night Bank Robbery has the same capacity and pricing: You are a team of professional robbers that have been assigned to get into the Cobh Trustee Savings Bank and transfer into an offshore account the incredible amount of €1 Billion. Your client has made some arrangements to allow you to successfully enter the bank premises and vaults. An accomplice employee of the bank will have left clues for you to decode and instructions to follow to allow you to access an account and transfer the money to an offshore bank account. Finally, due to open in September, Sherlock Holmes’ Last Case pits your team in the role of the famous detective, tracking down some legal documents: One last case before his retirement brings Sherlock Holmes to Queenstown. There is evidence that Sir Hugh Lane, who died at the board of RMS Lusitania a few years before in 1915 had an office in the town. Here he might have kept a number of documents relating to his valuable art collection. It is Sherlock’s duty to follow any clues the collector might have left in his rooms and discover the documents which will end the legal dispute about where this art collection will be permanently exhibited.

4) Moving up to Northern Ireland, Escape Hour have brought their game over to the capital with bookings for Escape Rooms Belfast available for next week. Interestingly, at least for this site, they’ve opted to open two copies of the same room, rather than take across separate games which suggests they think the head-to-head market could be lucrative.  Major Plott’s revenge is a spy escape game, where teams of between 2 and 6 players enter the office of an ex KGB spy master with a mission to try and steal his top secret plan before he returns in an hour. The game has space for 2-5 players and costs £35-60 per team.

5) Finally, on the escape room front at least, Breakfree NI opened in Lisburn with two rooms, Curse of the Pharaoh and The Creepy Dark House. No descriptions of the games on their website, but they both cost £45 per team for 2-6 players.  Pleasingly, to this site’s eyes, the FAQ specifically mentions that the venue is wheelchair accessible.

6) Finally, while not an escape room, the opening of GoQuest is surely of interest to followers of this blog. Avid readers will have heard about Boda Borg and as far as this site can ascertain, GoQuest is a similar type of establishment. Described as an Indoor Challenge Zone, it aims itself at children and adults with 27 different “rooms”, 4 different zones and physical, mental and skill challenges. They charge €16.50 per person for an 85 minute session and teams are made up of 3-5 people. With the success of the Crystal Maze and these two establishments opening in Ireland, how long before we see similar challenge sites opened up across the British Isles?

As referenced above, it’s perfectly possible for escape rooms to go under the radar for an extended period and this site is happy to find out about any escape rooms of which it was previously unaware. So, if you are aware of any sites that aren’t shown on the map, please do get in touch!

Now open in Belfast: Escap3d @ the MAC, popping up at the MADE festival

MADE festival logo complete with emergency exit signHere’s another exciting and logical way for the exit game to develop: the UK’s first pop-up exit game. (Surely not the world’s first, though; compare with, for instance, the The Purge: Breakout attraction, as discussed back in May.)

The Metropolitan Arts Centre is an arts venue (think combination gallery, theatre and so on) that opened in Belfast two years ago. This has a dedicated space called The Den where young creatives meet weekly; the Den collective put on the MADE Festival, “Belfast’s only arts festival produced by and for 14-18 year olds“, MADE standing for Music, Art, Dance and Everything. Pretty cool. Even cooler, and more relevant to this site, is one of the events that the collective have featured as part of this year’s event: Escap3d @ the Mac. However, as it’s only running from Monday 6th October (er, yesterday) through to Sunday 12th October, you’ll need to move quickly to get to take part. There are five slots per day from Tuesday to Sunday, two in the afternoon and three in the evening.

You are in a room. The door is locked. You have 60 minutes to get out.

Think you can make it out?

Can you bring your A-Game and assemble a team who can solve puzzles and think outside of the box? No more point’n’click pixel hunting at home as you sit in front of your monitor in a superhero onesie. Things just got real!

£4 per person and maximum of 6 per team.

So it’s an exit game, with a name revealed on Facebook to be “The Revenge Of The Alchemist”, at a theatre as part of an arts festival. Escap3d, quoted in the title of the event and presumably responsible for the content, is one of the oldest exit games going – second in the UK only to HintHunt, this site believes – so there’s a fine pedigree.

The price and context are about as neat as it gets. The island of Ireland, on both sides of the border, is very much punching above its weight in terms of having exciting (if sometimes short-lived) games going on. Kudos to the Den collective for having the creativity to schedule the event. It should deliver great results all round: good for the festival, good for Escap3d and certainly good for everyone who gets the chance to play.

This site loves exit games, but it also loves interesting public games, particularly if they strongly have the puzzle nature. This initiative brings exit games and interactive theatre closer together than ever before, and this site hopes that it will be the first example of many.

The Gr8 Escape

The Gr8 Escape logoSo the fourth city to have two or more exit games is Belfast. Exit Games UK didn’t see this opening coming, but as the official opening was only last Saturday (and historians may enjoy noting this wasn’t the first day with two different exit games opening) then a reaction time of five days is acceptable.

Unusually, The Gr8 Escape has chosen to launch with its physical site before its web site. However, the Facebook page has all the information you need (this post in particular has details of address, parking, pricing and timing) and plenty of information from the site as it was created. The Twitter feed is pretty active as well. All the social media content is unusually friendly, which is a plus point. This blends well with the lovely logo and the tagline (“Can you Craic the code?”) which sets the atmosphere well. Some exit games go for an air of tension; this is explicitly in contrast. Cool!

What else is known? The first game’s title of “Life’s a game of cards – will you have a winning hand?” gives another sense of the prevailing style. Refreshments are complimentary, and escaping the room within the 60-minute time limit earns a 50% off voucher for a future room, a free glass of bubbly or orange juice and a “I craic’d the code” certificate. The venue seems to have plenty of room to host further rooms in the course of time. The game is set to cater for teams of two to eight and prices vary from £30/team to £40/team depending on team size, with family and student discounts on top. The location seems to be reasonably central Belfast and games will be available seven days per week – to begin with, through this booking app.

And yet, and yet, despite the image this site might have given, the proprietors seem to be taking rather a degree of delight at how difficult the game has proved. Among the playtest teams taking part in the soft launch, the score was “room 8, teams 0”. So if the kudos of being the first team to beat a particular exit room appeals, maybe best to get in sooner rather than later!