Now open in Cardiff: Escape Rooms Cardiff

Escape Rooms Cardiff logoGo half-way between Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Stadium (or the Principality Stadium, as it now apparently must be called), face east and go forward the length of a hefty up-and-under. You’ll be within a drop-kick of the first- and second- floor location of Escape Rooms Cardiff, which opened today. The site has opened with three different rooms, each of which have a one-hour time limit and are designed for teams of two to five. The web site’s graphic design is gorgeous with one of the best logos in the land.

The Finding Sherlock game is rated as the easiest of the three and recommened for teams of three. “This is the private office of the world famous Sherlock Holmes. He’s gone missing during an investigation and you must solve the clues that he’s left for his trusted friend Dr Watson. Can you complete the trail of clues and make it out in time? He’s counting on you.

A shade more difficult, the recommended team size for The Tomb is four players. “Stumbling inside the lost tomb of an Pharaoh, you set off the booby trap and you have 60 minutes before the walls come down around you! All the puzzles are from ancient times, so you have to think like an Egyptian if you want to get out of this one in time.

Also towards the upper end of the spectrum, you’re recommended to have a team of five to take on The Heist and win. “You’ve broken into a museum to steal their prize possession. Split into two, teams will have to work together, work out the clues from the gallery to get through the laser trap and make off with the goods! It’s tricky! You’ve got 60 minutes before the police turn up!

Prices start at £50 for a team of two and go up to £85 for a team of five. The site is set to open daily, with games beginning every 90 minutes between 9am and 9pm. All the nines; this site looks forward to seeing the reviews – hopefully the games turn out to be dressed to the nines!

Now open in Cardiff: City Mazes Cardiff

The Cardiff Maze: Fall-In logoThe Cardiff Maze: Ice Breaker logoWales finally had its first exit game open on Friday 15th January! City Mazes are the company behind the wonderfully-named The Bristol Maze; sadly there are no other UK cities with names that will facilitate an exit game with nearly as good a name – though could there be a gun-themed game called The Pistol Maze some day? – so the company’s other branches will have rather more intuitive names. The site suggests that the company’s expansion plans might be characterised as “the M4 corridor”, noting that they also plan to open in Dubai in 2016. However, to get to Dubai, you have to drive along the M4 to Heathrow, right? Perhaps.

City Mazes Cardiff has opened with two different games, though the site’s “About Us” page suggests that “Our Cardiff centre, which is of the first of its kind in the local area, is now open with two complexes – Fall In and Ice breaker with a further two giant complexes to open shortly.” The site refers to its games as complexes, which hints that you shouldn’t expect an easy ride from either of them. Both games are set up to cater for larger-than-average teams and have themes that are rather unusual for exit games, though their inspirations are obvious and popular.

The Ice Breaker game is for teams of two to eight. “You have been lucky enough to secure a ticket for the first (and possibly last) voyage upon the Titanic! You are staying next door to a rather well known couple Jack and Rose. Your objective is to beat Jack and Rose to the top deck. Do you think you have what it takes?

The Fall-In game takes teams of four to ten. “It’s the 1950s and life couldn’t be better for your family in the most cliche American dream home. Or at least it was until the Nuclear Fall Out 2025! Your objective is to get in contact with your past/future self and find out what is going on… and shoot some aliens of course!

The site will be open daily. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it will open during the evenings only; on Thursdays and Fridays, it will open during afternoons and evenings. Weekend days will offer games all day. The price is £25/player. Here’s hoping that Wales takes to the world of exit games like England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have done!

Crowdfunding round-up

Savings jar graphicThis site has long had a policy, among many others, of prioritising efforts not to play favourites. While the policy continues as ever, the biggest challenge to it yet has arisen; for the first time, it happens that people who I already knew and liked are starting their first UK exit game. Impartiality (as far as consciously possible, and making efforts to consider subconsious effects) remains critical – but, by way of full disclosure, there’s more of a reason for me to have a rooting interest in this one particular case.

This site has given a few mentions to Mink Ette, one of the team behind the Spark of Resistance game in Portland, near the Pacific coast of the US, and also mentioned Gareth Briggs of last year’s MOLE game and more. The two of them, and others, are teaming to start an exit game in Brixton, with an associated Adventure Society situating its headquarters in the site’s retail presence; the crowdfunding campaign has started like gangbusters.

It would be fair to say that the UK has not previously seen an exit game crowdfunding campaign with such a hot start, this side of a more inclusive decision of exit game that might permit comparison to Hyde or The Crystal Maze. It would also be fair to point out that other sites have reached their targets even after a less conspicuous beginning – and that other sites again that didn’t reach their targets at all have still come to fruition, flourished and made a great many people happy.

It’s worth asking what has made the difference in this case; at a guess, informed by other articles on successful crowdfunding such as this one by beloved band the Doubleclicks, getting your name out there and being a known quantity makes a big difference, and one way to do that is to work on many other people’s projects. It also helps that other reputable people have been willing to lend their credibility by volunteering on the project, on the crowdfunding rewards or simply by being vocal about it. The whole “having run the game before in another country” issue may also make it a somewhat more plausible proposition, too.

This is far from the only game in town, though. There’s another Kickstarter project for Code Rooms, a putative exit game in Cardiff looking to open in 2016. Kickstarter is not the only crowdfunding route; on Indiegogo, the campaign for Escape Rooms Cardiff is offering early bird tickets ahead of the launch, planned for December, at a very attractive rate. This site has also mentioned Mystery HQ Wigan, though the crowdfunding campaign seems no longer available.

More about all these games, as and when news becomes available!

Hunts coming up

"A Stab In The Dark" logoWord reaches this site about a couple of interesting-looking games coming up in the UK at the start of October. It’s arguable whether or not they have as much overt mental focus as something like DASH or similar, but they involve going from location to location, finding clues and solving them. That gives them, near enough, the puzzle hunt nature and makes them relevant as far as this site is concerned. (More about some more very clearly hunt-y hunts coming up soon.)

A little over four months ago, this site covered A Door In A Wall, previewing their Diplomatic Corpse game that ran in London through May and early June. Happily, they’ve got another public game coming up in London: A Stab In The Dark, set in the world of 1970s schlock horror movies. “Adult situations, naughty words, squeezing into tight spaces and a lot of walking” are promised as you “(…) follow the clues, gather the evidence and catch ((murdered horror movie megastar Don Gowin’s)) killer“, so this is not one for the kids. Perhaps there might be something of the feel of the haunted house to it in parts; terror attractions are becoming bigger business in the UK these days.

Games start at 6pm on Wednesday to Sunday evenings from Friday 3rd October to Sunday 2nd November; teams of threeish-to-sixish (or register by yourself and join a team) should each bring comfy shoes, at least one video-capable smartphone per team, and senses of adventure. £30/player gets you 4½ hours of fun. (Alternatively, if you’re scared of the dark, matinee performances starting at midday at weekends are also available.) Already 12 of the 33 performances have sold out completely, mostly at weekends; this has to be a vote of confidence and shows the company has dedicated fans coming back from one game to the next, so don’t hang about.

If you’re closer to Cardiff than London, though, there’s a one-off game in the Welsh capital called Eye Spy 2 from 3pm to 6pm on Saturday 4th October. Again it’s a team game, involving “travelling between several locations, finding and solving clues, playing games and saving the world no less“, and again it specifies a lower age limit of 18. There is a requirement for good vision, hearing, some degree of cardiovascular fitness and mobility of extremities; running shoes and dark glasses are listed as essential basic spying equipment to set your expectations for quite a kinetic game. Smartphones and cameras (presumably cameraphones would count here) are also listed as being necessary per team.

This site isn’t familiar with the first game in the series, but the thinkARK group putting it on have plenty of past form, having hosted enticing-looking playARK festivals in Cardiff in recent years, and co-designer Julian Sykes’ blog also gives some hints as to the thinking behind the event. The booking page also has a video that may reveal even more still. There’s a limit of 75 players and tickets are about £16/player, cheaper if you book before 5pm on Tuesday. (Er, the event is almost completely sold out already, as it is, so again quick action is required.) Is there a secret agent in you?

As ever, you’ll find details of these events and all the others know to this site on the event calendar. Get your diary out!