Now open in Blackpool: Escape

Escape Blackpool logoThe Escape chain has been expanding steadily southwards, Edinburgh and Glasgow to Newcastle and now Blackpool. (They have good business in other countries too, notably the Dublin site in Ireland, among others.) The site will be opening on Leap Year’s Day; by tradition, of course, this is the single day every four years on which the site gets to escape the players, rather than the other way around. Exit Games UK has always thought that Blackpool was a market with excellent potential and Clue HQ seem to have done well already. The Escape location is central to the town, very close to Blackpool South train station and opposite a branch of KFC.

Escape Blackpool is launching with three games, each of which takes two to five players and has a 60-minute time limit. Exit Games Scotland point out that the games represent the best of both the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches of the Escape chain.

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.

In Contagion, “You and your team of fellow scientists have been working tirelessly to create a vaccine for the fatal CYE disease. Unfortunately you have all managed to contract the virus. Either sit around and let it take you or you redouble your efforts and create a vaccine. This is not your only problem. After creating the vaccine you must find a way to beat the lock down on the laboratory. The timer is set to 60 minutes, after which the room and all traces of your work, will be incinerated. Create the vaccine and escape the room if the rest of humanity is to benefit from your work!

There’s also the Taken room, which (aside from being a good excuse to link to this post by Really Fun) tells the tale of “A rogue policeman, Brian Miller, has been obsessed for some time with finding the killer of John Doe and in his eyes the evidence points to you and your friends. Part of your group will be Taken and locked away, meaning you will have two tasks to complete: rescue your friend(s) and escape the room. Although separated, the full group will still be able to work together to complete the game. Officer Miller has been cunning in the way he has hidden clues around his somewhat dilapidated room with some impressive gadgetry used along the way. You will need to do some searching and finding in the room as well as the puzzles if you want to Escape. This room is no normal room – let’s just say it’s lacking in some of the comforts of our other rooms – but it’s just as much fun!

Games start on the half-hour between 9:30am and 10:30pm seven days a week: nine games of Taken, nine of Contagion and eight of The Da Vinci Room. (There’s probably wiggle room in the schedule, by arrangement, if two teams want to race against each other and start at the same time.) The tariff matches the Escape UK standard: £66 for a team of 3-5, though couples can apply a code to play for just £48. The site’s Twitter account has posted a code for a 25% discount for a limited time and a quick search reveals no social buying deals yet, so this might be the best time to get involved.

Mid-September news round-up

News round-upToo many news items for a single post, so let’s leave news of new rooms and a new site until a second news post, hopefully within the next two or three days. Eyes down and let’s go go go…

  • Canadian exit game blogs Escape Room Addict, Escape Games Review and Escape Games Toronto have teamed up with a crew of their very talented friends to put on three performances of one-night theatrical live exit game Canadian Caper tonight. In the theatrical tradition, this site wishes them all broken legs and hopes to read more about the event’s glorious success soon.
  • Exit Games UK thoroughly recommends the talk given at VideoBrains by Mink Ette on exit games, one of the team behind Spark of Resistance in Portland (and any excuse to plug the masterclass that is their talk about its design principles is welcome). The end of the talk hints at Mink teaming with Gareth Briggs of last year’s MOLE game on a project to be announced later; enter the Oubliette on Twitter if you want to be among the first to learn more in time.
  • Escapism of Nuneaton have announced on Facebook that they’ll be running a one-off game at midnight on Hallowe’en, and are auctioning the spot for the team of eight to play it. This site gets the impression that Escapism might be marginally more… aggressive? than most, based on its disclaimer, and no holds would surely be barred if you give your informed consent to a Hallowe’en witching hour game. A few sites are ramping up for that time of the year, but it’s not clear if any of them will be able to do so quite so magically.
  • A very interesting-looking business undergoing the crowdfunding process is Legend Quests, which aims to put on theatrical fantasy adventure experiences for teams of thirty, or immersive costumed experiences for teams of ten. The person behind it has an unimpeachable record in fantasy photography and videography, as well as a popular fantasy podcast, and the project has absolutely the right people involved – from voiceover by Tom Baker down to design by experienced fantasy gamebook designers. There have been LARP-for-the-masses efforts before, often taking the tricky role-playing parts out. Rules-light, acting-and-emotion-heavy freeform role-playing is doing at least as well now in the UK as it ever has done, but that’s another matter. Consider contributing to the crowdfunding campaign if that’s your cup of tea.
  • Finally, and most on-topic, the Escape exit game chain (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Dublin and licensees elsewhere) have announced that they have been shortlisted for the Scottish Business Awards in the Emerging Business of the Year category. Congratulations on the nomination; judging by the line-up of presenters at the award ceremony, it’s clearly a big deal!

The news spirals out of control

news-spiralMany news stories that have been left untamed for far too long because of DASHmania:

  • This site has never seen quite so many different exit games, up and down the country, excited about the same thing as they have been about the forthcoming The Crystal Maze Live. Look for the crowdfunding campaign to start this weekend, with all the usual caveats about crowdfunding campaigns. This site became even more encouraged when a friend pointed out that @deanjrodgers, key within the critically acclaimed Time Run, will be producing the project.
  • Rather less far away, and also the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign, Enigma Escape of London has announced an opening date of 18th July and a handsome 25% discount if you book by midnight on 17th August. Well worth considering!
  • Some other sites in London are all flourishing: Agent November announced its largest corporate booking yet, with groups enjoying all three of its games in a single day, Mystery Cube has seen its hundredth group play and Mystery Squad has launched a second case, The Ghost of Lord Holland; this isn’t aimed at the usual sizes of groups but is, instead, aimed at groups of 20 to 40 who all want to play together.
  • In Edinburgh, Dr. Knox’s Enigma has three local competitors and all three have been extremely complimentary on Twitter about it; additionally, the game has earned coverage from STV.
  • Also in Edinburgh, an exciting-sounding special offer promotion has been announced between Escape and the local branch of the Hard Rock Cafe; £32/person (except Saturdays) gets you both entrance to one of Escape’s three games and a meal from the Hard Rock Cafe’s Gold Menu. Sounds like two parts of a very good night!

Coming soon to Clonakilty: Escape

Clonakilty: Richard Webb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Clonakilty by Richard Webb, released under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The next escape game to launch – to this site’s knowledge – will be situated in an Irish town with under 5,000 residents. OK then.

However, it’s not just any small town; it’s a resort on a bay that punches well and truly above its weight. The tradition of seaside holidays at small resorts is decades old; for instance, someone might have fond memories of a childhood trip to Tenby in south Wales, of comparable size, or any of dozens of similar locations on most coasts. Could there be enough travelling business to sustain an exit game, though? At the risk of making this more of an article about the town than the game, Clonakilty has as good a shot as any of making it work. It hosts festivals of various sorts most months, and perhaps the exit game in the town will get business from tourists as they come to the town for other reasons.

One relevant example is that in 2014 and 2015, it hosted a games festival with tournaments in classic games of all sorts, plenty of involvement from local games clubs, and students from the games society at the local university bringing chances to play the most modern board and card games as well. The last three years have also seen a Random Acts of Kindness festival, with the 2015 edition set to happen on Saturday 18th July. Even if there’s not a festival on as such, Clonakilty is a red hot music venue, and even notable for its black pudding.

As for the exit game? It’ll be the fifth location overall, and the second Irish location, of the expanding Escape chain. (No longer can it be considered a purely northern business; Clonakilty is further south than Oxford.) Escape Clonakilty will feature two games, both with sixty-minute time limits and capable of holding teams of two to six. The Classic Live Escape and Da Vinci Room games are familiar from other branches in the chain, though they’re always very slightly different in each new location. The charge will be between €48 for teams of two and €72 for teams of six.

The location and business model are clearly a little different from that which the world of exit games is used to. This site wishes the new location well and wonders whether it might set an example for small resort towns everywhere to follow.

Coming soon to Edinburgh: some local history

Edinburgh CastleThis site is always a fan of exit games that make themselves distinctive by playing up to their local roots. Some cities are better-suited to this than others. Edinburgh is extremely well-suited, with some particularly grisly tales about the Burke and Hare murders where the titular pair were associated with (and one of them confessed to) something like sixteen nineteenth-century killings, supplying the bodies to anatomy lecturer Dr. Robert Knox. Plenty of source material ripe for adaptation.

Dr. Knox’s Enigma is a site coming soon to Edinburgh which will feature two different games based on the same incidents. The site is in a building on a hill; start at the Royal Mile and take a series of steps down the Castle Rock to a lower street, and the location is half-way down the flight of steps. The first game, Wilson’s Revenge, refers specifically to the 1828 murder of an 18-year-old man with a distinctive limp and pronounced mental health issues; two parallel rooms will be made available. Booking is open now for dates from Monday 9th March onwards. Two more rooms will be made available later, entitled The Barclay Collection, referring to the anatomist John Barclay who offered Knox a partnership in his anatomy school. Possibly not one for the squeamish!

However, launching before then, Escape of Edinburgh will be changing one of their Classic Live Escape rooms into a room that they are entitling The Darker Side of Edinburgh, drawing not only upon Burke and Hare but also, according to their recent Facebook post, upon Deacon Brodie, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There’s surely enough source material to support different interpretations and focuses; this site looks forward to learning how different games interpret different parts of the canon and how the interpretations compare. This game is set to launch on Thursday 26th February.

All of which will make Edinburgh the first city within the UK, outside London, to host four different sites, featuring at least six different games but set to grow to at least nine. It’s an exciting place to be!

Going head-to-head

"Head to head" graphicA part of the exit game experience that some people particularly like is the ability for your team to compete against another team. This survey only considers sites where two teams can play (practically) identical copies of the same room at the same time; there are several other sites with two or more rooms where two teams can start different games at the same time, though the result must always be in doubt as the “our room was harder” excuse can always be in play. In alphabetical order:

  • Agent November of London: the FAQ suggests that two teams of up to seven can play the Rainbow Syndicate game against each other.
  • Breakout Games Aberdeen: this brand new site has two identical units of Lock and Key.
  • Breakout Manchester: two identical Classified rooms have very recently been opened.
  • clueQuest of London: there are currently two Operation Blacksheep rooms and three PLAN52 rooms. One exciting development is that this famous site is moving in early March to a new location near King’s Cross St. Pancras; the new location will open with two of each of the games, but who knows how this might change over time?
  • Escape of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle: each location has two copies of their classic Live Escape Game room. The booking page might suggest that games start with a 15-minute stagger, but the sites are happy to set both teams going at the same time.
  • Escape Hour of Edinburgh: there are two identical Major Plott’s Revenge rooms. The man evidently gets around.
  • The Escape Hunt Experience of London: this site takes this to another level, permitting head-to-head-to-head-to-head play for Kidnapping in the Living Room and Murder in the Artist’s Bedroom, and head-to-head play for Theft from the Lab.
  • ESCAP3D of Dublin: the Dublin location has two identical rooms, though the Belfast location has only a single room.
  • HintHunt of London: here there are John Monroe’s Office games (one of which has a slightly staggered start time) and two Zen Room games for you to compete on.

Errors and omissions excepted, as ever, and corrections and additions are most welcome. It’s tempting to wonder whether rooms might ever be able to customise head-to-head rooms’ contents to something brand new to try to create some sort of elimination tournament, though it’s difficult to be surprised by the contents of the same room more than once!

Latest news and views

"Daily News" newspaperA quick round-up of recent points of interest:

  • Congratulations to Logiclock of Nottingham, as discussed a week and a half ago, who opened their booking site a couple of days ago and were taking bookings from today onwards. The piratical theme of their first room is a rarity for the UK; perhaps there might be the scope for them to get some authentically local flavour for a later game by adapting one of the UK’s best-loved legends, though perhaps it might be difficult to hint at the flavour of a forest inside a room.
  • Scotland are hosting New Zealand’s rugby team tomorrow and some of the All Blacks have been playing Escape at Edinburgh today. The site has a fantastic photo and comment about one team’s visit and another one on Twitter.
  • Escape Rooms of London, always well-regarded within the comments section here and thought of as one of the more challenging sites in the country, have a 10% discount code available for slots before 5pm on weekdays until the end of the year.
  • This site enjoyed Room 505, a stop-motion video on an escape game theme that evokes the conventions and atmosphere of modern video games, with the best sort of silly conclusion.
  • One idle reflection that recently occurred: it’s relatively uncommon to see photos of teams made up entirely of older players. Family groups spanning the generations are frequent and delightful, but many in the third age community have considerable time and disposable income. Some games are more kinetic than others, and issues of mobility and sensory acuity are more likely to be relevant here, but when at least one site is considering deliberately targeting a younger audience, might there be the scope to attract an entirely new audience to the industry as well?

Interview with Daniel Hill, proprietor of Escape

Scottish flag graphicThere are two new red pins, representing exit games set to open soon, in the Exit Games UK map. One is for Escape Rooms of London, which opens on Friday as discussed yesterday. The other relates to this Facebook post with the exciting news that the very popular Escape site of Edinburgh is set to open a second location, this time in Glasgow. Exit Games UK had the pleasure of an interview with Daniel Hill, the man behind the Escape business. The questions asked by Exit Games are tagged with EG and Daniel’s responses with DH below.

  • EG: What’s your background and how did that lead you up to the opening of Escape?
  • DH: One of my friends visited an Exit Game in Europe and mailed me the link. We decided we would visit one when he got back, it turned out there was nothing nearby. I was studying to be a Maths teacher but when we got the idea it certainly seemed a lot more fun and it just snowballed from there!
  • EG: How has Edinburgh taken to its first exit game?
  • DH: We’ve had an absolutely superb response. We’ve met so many fantastic people, not just from Edinburgh but from all around the world. It’s really interesting to get perspectives and feedback on how to improve from places such as the States, Norway, Australia etc….
  • EG: Your excellent progress is all the more remarkable given that the site has only been open for just over two months. What techniques have worked well for you at getting the word out around Edinburgh?
  • DH: We did a couple of promotional offers initially through sites such as Groupon. In addition to having an article in the local paper and we were pretty active on social media. This helped us get people in and thankfully the feedback has been incredibly positive. Word of mouth and sites such as TripAdvisor have really driven the business.
  • EG: What are your favourite sorts of puzzles, regardless of whether they fit into an exit game or not?
  • DH: I really like optical illusions, the idea that there is something right in front of you yet you cannot see it frustrates the life out of me.
  • EG: Which puzzles, games and other artworks have influenced you most over the years in your designs?
  • DH: That’s a really hard one to answer as there are so many things that I have played/read/watched over the years. I used to love the books where you would have to make choices as you progressed, the first real “interactive” games I suppose. Then you have games such as Broken Sword all the way up to the apps that are around now. TV shows are an absolute gold mine, I always watch thinking how can I turn that into something I can use.
  • EG: Your Edinburgh Evening News article describes you as a game show junkie. Which shows have most inspired you in Escape and of which other shows do you have fond memories?
  • DH: Yeah it’s true I like a game show! From classics such as The Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor and kids shows such as Knightmare. I’ve started watching a couple of series from the 80’s recently that have given me some interesting ideas so I’ll keep them to myself!
  • EG: Your site might be one of the most intensively used of them all; few, if any, other sites have as many as nine teams through each room in a single day. What does a typical day for you look like?
  • DH: To be honest at the moment there is no typical day. Switching between working in Edinburgh, setting up Glasgow, writing “The Da Vinci Room”, organising corporate bookings and having potentially 18 bookings a day in our two rooms it is all a bit chaotic. Thankfully we have a great team who are prepared to work a lot of hours as we try and get everything done to the right standard.
  • EG: What makes an ideal exit game employee?
  • DH: After having recruited a couple of more members to the team we have primarily been looking for people from a service background with an inquisitive mind. The ability to put the customer at ease very quickly is really important as the majority of the time they are participating in a new experience.
  • EG: Do you have any particularly funny stories from the time you’ve been open?
  • DH: There have been several moments that would have made Youtube gold! We had a team of 3 girls who got stuck and decided to dance until they got another clue! A couple who sang the alphabet song to each other to try and break a code, and one team that pretty much lifted the entire carpet in an effort to Escape…they failed!
  • EG: August is Festival season in Edinburgh. Do you have anything particular planned for this month?
  • DH: We have extended our hours and been building “The Da Vinci Room” for the last few weeks. I’m really excited by this as we have turned a much bigger room into an old study with some really interesting puzzles. Getting the piano up the stairs better have been worth it!
  • EG: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you are planning to open a second location, but situated in Glasgow. What lessons that you have learnt from Edinburgh will you be applying to your Glasgow location?
  • DH: We have gone for a similar format to how we currently operate. The main changes being that we are on the ground floor with windows facing Glasgow city centre and having a bigger site. We have also amended the booking times to make it easier to manage.
  • EG: If you could predict the future for exit games, how do you think it would look?
  • DH: I think we are at the tip of an iceberg. Games are going to get more and more ambitious and I imagine there will be a number of sites opening over the next 12-18 months. I’m really excited about seeing what the other sites have got coming up in the future!
  • EG: If you could give the readers, exit game players and puzzle fans reading this one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • DH: Take your time and be organised, noone is going to present you a puzzle that cannot be completed in the time limit.

Thanks so much for that, Daniel! Glasgow poses a massive opportunity, with the conurbation holding literally millions of potential players. The very strong reviews that the first Escape site earned speak for themselves; anything that gives so many more Scots the chance to join the fun has got to be a big step in the right direction.

July 2014 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play exit games for less

"Sale" graphicSome exit games offer opening discounts, to help fill their rooms early before the word gets far and wide. Some offer opening discounts organically; others offer discounts through social buying schemes. Here’s a quick run-through of the deals that this site could find that are still valid. (Ground rules: terms and conditions doubtless apply and this site takes no responsibility for deals that fall through for whatever reason. These are not exclusive in any shape or form.) This month, there’s one new, one change and a couple of deletions.

  • Keyhunter of Birmingham have a Groupon deal active. £15 for two players, £19 for three, £24 for four or £29 for six. Codes are activated 48 hours after purchase and are valid for 90 days after purchase.
  • NEW! Escape of Edinburgh have a Groupon deal active. £24 for a team of up to five, restricted to new customers only. Codes are valid for 60 days after purchase.
  • Tick Tock Unlock of Leeds have a Groupon deal active. £22.50 for three players, £30 for four or £35 for five, restricted to new customers only. You must book by e-mail, including a contact phone number. Codes expire 90 days after purchase.
  • Cipher Entertainment of Leicester remain closed in preparation for their second season, but they have a Groupon deal active all the same. Deals are only available for the one-hour version of the game. £19 for four players, £24 for six or £29 for eight. You must book by phone and arrive 10 minutes early. Codes expire 90 days after purchase and exclude public holidays.
  • Ex(c)iting Game of Oxford have a Groupon deal active. £24 for five people or £47 for six to nine people, restricted to new customers only. You must book by phone. Coupons listed as valid until 8pm, so presumably are not valid for the 8pm-10pm game available daily, and expire 90 days after purchase.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington officially open a week today, but already have a Groupon deal active already. £29 for three or four people, £32.50 for five or £36 for six. You must book online. Coupons are valid from 28 June-28 September 2014. There’s also a similar deal at Wowcher, though this charges £29 for up to four, £39 for up to six, is valid until 15 October, and terms and conditions are presumably slightly different.

Those are all the active deals, discounts and coupons this site could find; if you know of others, please send them through – and if your site has a offer not listed above, please don’t take it as a deliberate attempt to disrespect and this site will happily spread the good news. (Alternatively, if you would prefer that this site does not list your coupon, that’s fine too and please get in touch.)

In other news, thanks to everyone who filled in our survey a fortnight ago. There weren’t loads of responses, but the ones supplied were appreciated, especially when people left comments as well. Posts on exit games were most popular, then posts on puzzle hunts, then general-interest articles, then ones on puzzle competitions least popular. Good to know!

Remember that there are some good ways to follow articles posted to the blog: subscribing to the syndicated feed in the reader of your choice is probably easiest, but we also post links to new articles to our Twitter account and our Facebook account.

Looking a long way ahead to more exit games

Enigma Escape bannerNormally this site can announce concrete details of an exit game reasonably shortly before, or reasonably soon after, it opens. This time, this site doesn’t have so much to go on, or knows that this is a longer-range preview. Nevertheless, these titbits are far too interesting not to share.

As previously hinted at, this site recently learned of another exit game planned for London, but whose operators have made it clear that they’re not in a rush to hit a deadline and will work long and hard rather than push out something before it’s ready. Nevertheless, with early social media campaigns under way and some gorgeous graphic design, here’s the story behind the team behind Enigma Escape.

We are two young cousins with a passion for video games, and in particular room escape games.
After playing some live room escape games in Hong Kong, Budapest and London, we felt that we could do a better job in creating the ultimate live room escape experiences.
It didn’t take too long to decide that we would quit our jobs and set up Enigma Escape.
Our mission statement is to be the best in room escape entertainment, by introducing well designed and innovative escape rooms, backed up with our outstanding attentive customer service values.
The perfect room escape experience is a blend of an intriguing storyline, innovative theme, challenging team-building oriented puzzles, and attentive customer service.
We have analysed many room escape businesses and far too many lack in at least one of these areas.
Our first location will be in London. We are in negotiations in securing a lease on a premises and hope to open by the end of the year.

This site applauds their lofty ambition and looks forward to the long haul of following their progress.

Three months ago, this site touched upon the crowdfunding campaign for QuestRoom, also planning to launch in London. While the crowdfunding was not a complete success, the campaign announced “Our goal is to reach £15,000 which would cover the start up the game and the first couple of months’ essential costs. The plan is flexible; we’ll find a bank loan for the missing amount if we need to.” The continued development of their web site suggests that they are making good on that part of the plan and this site also looks forward to seeing their plans come to fruition. More news as it becomes available.

The next story is from further afield. Very little to go on at the moment, but there’s a very early web site up for Logiclock, which intends to establish itself in Nottingham. Sounds wise; the East Midlands may well have a gap in the market, especially with the continued hiatus of Cipher Entertainment of Leicester. One noteworthy piece of cunning from Logiclock is that there also seems to be a web site pointing to their work, arguably an allusion to, the web site of the US subsidiary of SCRAP Entertainment, who started things off.

In late-breaking news, the proprietor of the very successful Escape of Edinburgh has announced on Facebook that they plan to establish a second venue in Glasgow, with a target opening date of August 15th. This site has been looking for someone to open within Glasgow for a while; it’s surely fertile territory and the proprietor’s track record is well-established, so the prospects are about as strong as they come.

These have all been added to the “Announced but not yet open” list; when there are definite addresses and web presences, this site will very much enjoy adding more dots to the map!