Early February 2016 news round-up

News round-upTime for an assortment of links and news stories.

  • Congratulations to The Gr8 Escape of Belfast for announcing their recent award from Acquisition International, earning the Best Creative Corporate Activities Company title for Belfast. Escape Live of Birmingham also announced that they are a finalist in the Midlands Business Awards; looks like it’s in the Service Provider of the Year (up to £1m) section. Best of luck for the 26th!
  • That’s not all the Escape Live news, though. Tomorrow night, i.e. the evening of Friday 12th February, sees them host “((…)) a date night with a quirky twist ((…)) hoping to strike the city’s singletons with cupid’s arrow by hosting a mass double date at the venue – inviting them not just on a search for the puzzles’ answers, but for love too. The venue is hoping to attract couples of single friends on Friday, February 12, for a date night which will include meeting other single couples of friends as they work together to escape each room. Manager Jordan Ladley said: ‘Valentine’s Day for couples is one of the most exciting and fun days of the year, but what about those who don’t have someone to share it with? ((…)) Throughout the evening we’re inviting up to eight couples of friends to join us for a mass blind double date as we enter them into each room on a quest to crack the codes and escape. But who knows what – or who – else you might find while on the frantic search for answers!’” Very cute gimmick; Exit Games UK hopes it works out well for them.
  • Breakout Games of Aberdeen and Inverness have suggested that they will be featured in a TV show about a collaborative hiring process. That sounds dry, but the practice is much more fun than the theory. Candidates try out for a regional manager position at hipster craft brewer BrewDog, but are unaware that it’s their potential subordinates – rather than their potential bosses – who’ll be assessing whether they’re a good fit for the company. Will the exit game experience show the candidates at their interview-prepared best or what they’re really like when the pressure’s on? Time will tell!
  • Also in Scotland, Exit Plan Edinburgh got in touch and suggested that they’re offering a 25% discount this month. A little unusually, the site is not too strict about applying their nominal sixty-minute time limit, and have happily posted pictures of teams who have extracted the maximum value from their game by taking several tens of minutes more than that to get out with the Tesla Cube.
  • Lastly, to the cool links. Liz Cable of Time Games, organiser of the recent unconference in Leeds, is leading a workshop on Sunday 6th March at the Courthouse Words festival in Otley on How to create a puzzle room in a box. Given the quick but fun boxes of tricks in play at the unconference, this should be a treat.
  • The Escape Rooms Master directory site are asking site owners to fill in this five-minute questionnaire. The results of the survey should be extremely interesting – and the more responses, the more representative the survey.
  • A review site based on the Eastern Seaboard of the US, Escape Clues, has made a well-regarded post simply entitled Why Some Escape Rooms Rock! – and Others Suck! Indeed so; neat comparisons and contrasts between desirable and undesirable properties in various categories.

(UPDATED!) Black Friday 2015 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play escape games for less

All-black discount starEven the discount starburst has blacked out completely to celebrate the day! As you might be able to tell, the time at which the articles are published reflects the time at which writing started; this article is being started on Thanksgiving Thursday and completed very early on Black Friday, with the benefit of some new information that became available at midnight. Whether you approve of limited timescale deals or not, or the Black Friday phenomenon in particular, today is an unusually good day to purchase play – and it’s worth checking the social media of wherever you’re buying before you do so. All deals may expire quickly, maybe not even lasting the whole of the day.

Escapism of Nuneaton have posted an offer on weekday bookings at 10am or noon in December or January; any number of players, up to eight, can play for just £50, or alternatively you can get 20% off gift coupons to play outside these specific times.

Clue HQ have four locations from Sunderland to Brentwood, but it’s not immediately clear whether or not all of them are participating in today’s special offer. The posted deal suggests that they’ll sell a hundred games at £49 each for up to six players, to be played between the 1st and 2nd of December if you use the code BLACKFRIDAY when you book.

The same BLACKFRIDAY promo code also works at Escape Rooms Scotland of Glasgow. This deal runs from Friday 27th November to Monday 30th November and there’s no time restriction on when your booked game must be played; the code will give you a £10 discount, reducing the 2-6 player Jail Break and Zombie Quarantine rooms to £50 each and the brand new 4-10 player Bank Heist room to £90, from its opening on 9th December.

Escape Live of Birmingham posted their offer on Twitter. That BLACKFRIDAY code will give you 15% off any games for four or five players that you book today. At this point, it might be worth trying the code BLACKFRIDAY pretty much everywhere, just to see what happens!

No codes required in Belfast, where The Gr8 Escape now offer four rooms and are offering gift vouchers valid for the first half of 2016; any room, up to six players for £45. Buy ’em today via PayPal.

((UPDATED, 2:30pm!)) Over to Bristol where Puzzlair (including their new second location, a short walk away from the original) used Twitter to post their Black Friday deal, which offers a handsome 30% discount on weekday bookings.

In north-west London, QuestRoom also tweeted their offer; there’s 20% off the two spaces available this evening but also 20% off games played this weekend.

Ken kindly pointed in the comments to an offer by Trapped In of Bury in Greater Manchester. It was posted on Facebook, which is as ever charmingly intermittent about which stories it shows to people, unless you pay it cold hard cash. The BLACKFRIDAY code used today will get you 20% off your booking. If you know any other deals posted to Facebook that haven’t made it to Exit Games UK, please speak up.

From the north of Greater Manchester to the south; down to Altrincham for Code to Exit. The Tweeted offer is for a discount of 30% on bookings using promo code BLACK. That said, there has been a suggestion that the code is no longer available – maybe a temporary glitch, maybe a limited offer. It applies to the Blueprint game only, not their new game, “The Test”.

This site knows of at least one other place offering a Black Friday discount for hunt participation, but it’s restricted to members of a mailing list, so the details won’t be shared here. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible that other sites might mail one-day discounts out to their own lists so check your mailboxes carefully.

As ever, if you know of other coupons, deals, vouchers or competitions, please send them through. If your site has a offer not listed above, please don’t assume the worst; get in touch and this site will happily spread the good news. (Alternatively, if you would prefer that this site does not list your coupon, or if the details of the offer are mangled, that’s fine too; again, please get in touch.)

Nous sommes tous Français

&heart; FranceThis site sends its love and warmest thoughts to the www.escapegame.paris and www.escapegamefrance.fr blogs – and, indeed, everyone in France, whether they’re part of the exit game industry or not.

While there’s no pretending that this is in any way, shape or form any sort of compensation for the horrid developments of the last 24 hours, this site needs to share some good news for its own benefit.

  • Congratulations on their opening to Clue HQ’s new location in Brentwood and to Extremescape of Disley in rural Cheshire. The latter is a particularly pleasant surprise as prior suggestions were that it would open in 2016, but its Pirate Ship room is already open and taking bookings. Two rooms are open in Brentwood; The Logic Escapes Me has reviewed them and raved about the location.
  • Congratulations also to Escape Live of Birmingham for winning the “Business Start Up and Enterpreneur” category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards. (Other sites have also recently made it to the final shortlists in regional business awards and also deserve their own congratulations.) Escape Live have also recently been featured in The Guardian, in an article about the genre; news of their expansion, both at their original location and at a forthcoming Essex branch, has also made the press.
  • Escape Quest of Macclesfield are celebrating their first birthday today, with three celebrated games and more on the way. Hooray!
  • Much younger, Code to Exit of Altrincham are opening their second room, The Test, today. No locks! No furniture! No other games quite like it, by the sound of things! Definitely one where this site is looking forward to the reviews.

All of this is, at best, distraction from the real issues of the day. Sometimes a little distraction isn’t so bad, though.

Hatches, a match and an underground patch

Cartoon of people reading newspapers and a bookSome quick news stories:

1) This site has previously discussed Escapologic of Nottingham and gamEscape of Liverpool as locations opening soon; happily, both launched as planned on Friday 1st May. They look cool as well as being exciting additions to both of their cities; best of luck to them both.

A couple of weird coincidences: there are only two exit games in the UK whose names include the word “logic”, and they’re both in Nottingham. This site is also not quite sure where to put the stress in either of the names (EscaPOlogic? EscapoLOgic? EscaPOLOgic? GamEScape? GAMEscape?) when you pronounce either of them out loud. No matter!

2) The Room opened in Glasgow only four weeks ago, but already it has hosted its first proposal! Congratulations to the happy couple, and to The Room as well. This isn’t the first exit game to host a proposal; the Breakout Manchester Twitter was appropriately joyous when they hosted theirs, and it seems far more likely than not that other sites have hosted proposals as well. This site only hopes that exit games have hosted more proposals than they have caused divorces.

3) Last March, in the first dozen days or so of the life of the site, this site pondered whether there might ever be an exit game in a deep-level shelter, far beneath the streets of London. Entirely seriously, something rather similar to this might become an option. Transport for London recently announced that its “Commercial Development team are looking for third party partners to develop innovative commercial projects across Underground, Rail and Surface Transport assets“. The current opportunity is one of the most evocative of them all: Down Street station, on the Piccadilly line until it was closed over 80 years ago; Wikipedia notes that it was “used by prime minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet until the Cabinet War Rooms were ready for use“.

TfL will be launching a Down Street station bidders’ conference to launch the tender process; the brochure (6 MB .pdf) invites you, among other things, to “Imagine a truly immersive theatrical production performed in front of a small, exclusive audience” in part of the lift shaft. If there can be a theatrical production, there can be an exit game, either there or in any of several other parts of the facility – and, with the right story, maybe one with as much authenticity as it gets. This site gets the impression that it wouldn’t be cheap, but if the right site ever thought about Going Underground, this might be the ideal opportunity.

Bonus! 4) Considering the world’s biggest sporting event taking place this evening, Escape Live win huge timeliness and topicality points for this delightful pun.

Now open in Birmingham: Escape Live

Escape Live logoThis site has been following the progress of Escape Live of Birmingham ever since, near enough, Exit Games UK’s first day just over nine months ago. You can track Escape Live‘s progress through its social media; the Facebook was launched quietly at the start of December, posts in early April announced the signing of an address, then a few construction photos have been leaking out month by month. It’s clear that there’s been a great deal of work put in over the year; now to see just how well it has all turned out.

Last week, developments rolled out apace. Thursday asked people if they wanted to be the first to play and Friday revealed a minute and a half’s worth of teaser video. By Saturday, it was revealed that there were no more spots available left to play in December. If you want to play, you’re now looking at waiting until at least the third of January!

Those two games are Dr. Wilson’s Office and Room 13. In the former, Dr Wilson is a master detective who has solved many crimes in his distinguished career. But this case could prove to be deadly for him. One of the suspects he is investigating is threatening his life. Dr Wilson is now relying on you and your team to unveil the identity of the right suspect. He has left clues around his office and it is up to you to find them, solve the mystery and escape. The aesthetic is old-fashioned but high-end: vintage, bordering on antique.

The latter follows up the truism that thirteen is an unlucky number. Certainly it was for Amy, who the video reveals has scrawled a request for help on a defibrillator, gagged with tape. Room 13 is a unique experience which is not for the faint-hearted. Amy is locked in a room and is relying on your team’s wit and skill to get her out alive. You are her only hope. You must piece together clues, solve puzzles and find objects to get the four digit number you need to release her. With just 60 minutes to rescue Amy, will you manage to save her life? The images on the web site suggest a pretty grisly-looking room – certainly somewhere you wouldn’t want to be trapped, all the greater incentive to get out.

The price is £48 for three-player teams (£16 each), £60 for four-player teams (£15 each) and £70 for five-player teams (£14 each). This site looks forward to early reports of what Escape Live’s two games are like to play from those lucky enough to be among the first.

Checking in on work in progress

"Under Construction" road sign graphicThe happiest job that there is to do while updating this web site is to turn a red dot on the map to yellow; congratulations to Escape Land of London, who (the bookings page suggests) took their first booking today and have further bookings lined up for tomorrow and next week. The list of sites, Timeline and map have all been updated. This site hopes to learn before long if the puzzles match up to the gorgeous web site and images.

Next cab off the rank may well be Clue HQ of Warrington, taking bookings now in advance of officially opening two weeks today on Saturday 28th June, but the first weekend is already booked up with private events.

If it’s not Clue HQ, the next most likely contender – also claiming a predicted June opening – is Escape Live of Birmingham. Not much new information, and their web site still only has a splash screen, but their Facebook page has some rather interesting-looking pictures showing the degree of progress that has been made. the phrase “Dr Wilson is busy investigating a murder case at the moment but will see you in his office soon!” sets the tone for the game, too.

Also in progress is Can You Escape? of Edinburgh, which has made an early web site available (no content, though!); no official opening date yet, but discussion on Twitter points to being open in time for the Edinburgh Festival. That runs through August, which points to opening in July.

In less happy news, Cryptopia of Bristol claim to be sold out through June and July, but they’re still taking bookings for 31st July onwards. It’ll be interesting to see if there are changes installed over June and July.

Introducing the Timeline

This site is pleased to present the Timeline, a sourced attempt to track the chronological progression of exit room openings and closures in the UK and Ireland. It covers the past and the present of exit rooms, so let’s look to the future and see which sites are likely to be next to be added to the Timeline. There was a big rush of openings around December 2013, give or take a month; there may well be another big rush of openings coming soon.

  • Tick Tock Unlock in Leeds has probably got to be considered the favourite to be next to be added to the Timeline. The first date on which books available has been pushed back at least twice, from April 29th to May 12th to the current date of May 19th, but the social media campaign remains active. Perhaps this could be interpreted as a sign of the site being very close to opening.
  • Can’t see anything on the Cipher web site or social media about when they are due to reopen for their second season, but the suggestion is that bookings are not being taken only for May. Fingers crossed that a reopening may only be a few weeks away.
  • Not much obviously happening around Escape Live in Birmingham, but the team may well be hard at work on the physical site and they may well hit their June target.
  • Likewise, our coverage of Clue HQ in Warrington was only very recent. The web site continues to be updated and suggests an opening date of late June.
  • The Escape Hunt London site has nothing obviously new – most notably, still no location yet, which points to the previous estimate of “June or July” remaining active. A little searching through Facebook and LinkedIn reveals the addition of the London branch’s Facebook page. Seven five-star reviews before the site has opened is a little cheeky.
  • The Can You Escape? Indiegogo for a site in Edinburgh has gone a little quiet, but this site remains on the case and the campaign mentions plans in case the Indiegogo does not reach its target, so nothing too worrying there.
  • Moving towards the back burner, the silence from QuestRoom of London is possibly bigger cause for concern; still nothing from the long-term hope at Live Escape Game of Brighton and Puzzlescape is now getting quite cold.

Checking in on work in progress

"Under construction" road signAfter yesterday’s post about Tick Tock Unlock, a quick round-up on other projects under construction.

A search suggests that Birmingham is set to become the third city after London and Bristol to get a second exit game, courtesy of a project called Escape Live. The web site doesn’t yet have anything other than a very fancy splash screen, but there’s a little more information available on Facebook and on Twitter. An opening date of June 2014 is expected; a behind-the-scenes construction photo posted suggests that the site may well be in an intriguing, semi-cylindrical location. (Underneath an arch or in a tunnel, perhaps?) The use of social media is strong and suggests that this site, too, may well be able to hit the ground running.

Looking a little further, the Twitter bio of John Dalziel claims he is a director of Escape Live UK; he is also involved with the Free Radio radio stations of the West Midlands. Keyhunter, the longer-standing Birmingham exit game, has long advertised the visit of Free Radio breakfast DJs Jo and Sparky on its web site. I’m looking forward to reading more about Escape Live; more news about the site as I get it.

In other Birmingham news, the upcoming UK Games Expo convention (May 30th to June 1st), will feature an “Alien Laser Tag” live event. “Alien Laser Tag sets the players in an interactive Live event where they must escape from a stricken space ship crawling with lethal alien life forms. Using lighting, fog effects, sound track and live alien monsters this living event requires players to solve problems, work as a team and generally kick ass if they want to get out alive.” Sounds sort of like a pop-up exit game, distinctive for additional shooting and dodging of laser guns, and hopefully a good dose of problem-solving along the way.

Another site I’ve been following from time to time, though it has not yet launched, is Puzzlescape in Manchester; their web site has recently been removed. I don’t know whether it will be shortly replaced by something reflecting more process, or whether the project will turn out not to make it. In any case, Make A Break has beaten them to being the first site to open in Manchester and has been attracting a string of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.

The longest-running in-progress mystery of them all is the Live Escape Game site “coming soon” in Brighton. Still no information, and even enquiring with the person listed in the site’s WHOIS listing has not yet borne fruit. (To be fair, they may be linked with the hosting company used by the web site, rather than with the exit game physical site itself.) Brighton could well be an extremely strong market; perhaps Puzzlescape might well end up not being the only long in-progress site beaten to the market by another local competitor.

More news on this, and every in-progress site, as it becomes available. If you want to help your information along, please e-mail it through!