Good news for mid-December 2015

Cartoon of people reading newspapers and a bookToday feels like a day where three cheerful news stories would not go amiss.

The Room of Glasgow are distinctive for reasons including the sizes of the largest games that they offer; their Mansion Room game is designed for teams of 8 to 16 (though there may be some wiggle room) and their Party Room for teams of 10 to 16. Throughout December, there are a number of promotions being launched “by the resident elves”, notably a discount code available for those playing up to December 20th. The most delightful initiative is this one; as discussed on Facebook: “On the 16th of December, we will be hosting a Charity Day. We are offering 3 Party Room games for free for groups of disadvantaged children (from an orphanage, care home, or from poor families). We would like to give the gift of fun to these kids for Christmas, the way we can. We want to give back to the community, and thought it would be great to surprise kids with some caring and fun.” How kind! Exit Games UK commends the site on this thoughtful – and original! – gesture.

Breakout Manchester have launched a second site within the city centre, on the High Street near the Arndale shopping complex. (It’s about eight minutes’ walk from their first location, which remains open.) The new location will feature another John Monroe’s Detective Office, with a new room entitled Vacancy opening tomorrow – “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…” – and a horror-themed Facility X room for players aged 16+ opening soon. “You arrive at an unknown location for a once in a lifetime opportunity; a conference held by the critically acclaimed, Dr. Andrews. His work is widely known throughout the research circles, but he has remained hidden in the shadows for years. What you don’t know, is that Dr. Andrews has gone mad, creating a string of tests that have gone disastrously wrong. He has brought you here for his final experiment.” A fourth room on the site is promised for January, and that’s not all; this new location is a big old space and there may very well be more to come.

Jackie from Locked In Edinburgh got in touch to enthuse about their second room. “Our theme has stemmed from having Pickering’s Gin Distillery sited directly below our escape rooms.” Exit Games UK loves games with local flavour, no pun intended, so the localism here is hard to beat. “The distillery reported a breakin which is thought to be an inside job. Which employee is plotting the distillery downfall and to where are Pickerings planning to move their gin stock for safe keeping? ((…)) A tour of the distillery can be incorporated, although probably best after players escape as the tour includes gin samples which may cloud people’s thinking heads!

Here’s a bonus cheerful news item, not related to exit games: while the shortest day of the year doesn’t happen for nearly another week, we’ve already reached the point in the year where the sun is starting to set later and later. Indeed, the UK is at a point in the year where both sunrise and sunset are getting later in the day, and which one is moving more quickly determines whether the day is lengthening or shortening. Take it as a sign that we’re already making it through the winter!

Now open in Glasgow: EVAC

EVAC logoSome new exit games are easy to write about. Some… aren’t. EVAC of Glasgow plays its cards close to its chest. Very close to its chest. It makes a virtue of it. This is going to be quite a short post, as they go.

Evac is a site with a single one-hour exit game for teams of two to five players. It’s underneath railway arches in Glasgow, just south of the Clyde, and the location is as austere as the web site: no toilets on-site, no wheelchair access. More notably, no clue as to what sort of game it is, and “no introduction. The door shuts behind you and the game begins“. Seasoned exit game tourists have compared the abrupt nature of the start of the game to Claustrophilia, one of the most famous exit games of Budapest.

The site opens on Fridays to Sundays. Games cost £59 per team, though there is a social buying deal at itison that knocks the price down to £29. The deal is apparently on its last day, though it has said that for at least the last two days, so who knows how long it will really last? Either way, probably best not to hang around. Terms and conditions apply.

What else is there to say? Er… the EVAC site hints at further sites coming soon in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with rather an aggressive image. Um… EVAC is cave backwards, if that’s relevant.

*drums fingers* *twiddles thumbs*

That is all.

Coming soon to Glasgow: Escape Rooms Scotland

Escape Rooms Scotland logoAnother large site, with some unusual-looking twists, is coming to Glasgow and opening for business on Thursday. Escape Rooms Scotland will be a javelin’s throw away from the Clyde, near the St. Enoch shopping centre and associated station on the city’s subway.

The site will be opening with two games, both with sixty-minute time limits, designed for teams of two to six and charging a flat £60 per team. That said, a third room is under construction, which will host teams of four to ten; this bigger game will attract a bigger price tag of a flat £100. The descriptions of the rooms are rather concise but easily sufficient to let you know which game you’ll want to play first. Hints will be provided when the teams appear to be stuck; teams taking three of them or fewer will be eligible for monthly and all-time leaderboards for each room.

The stakes in the Jail Break game are a little higher than in most, for A crime you did not commit has landed you on Death Row. Are you smart enough to escape before the guards return? The Zombie Quarantine room strictly applies a lower age limit of 16 and asks if you can survive the quarantine, warning that there is a real live (or, at least, undedad!) zombie in the room. If you have a group of over six and all want to play together, the room under construction for the larger groups will be the Bank Heist room, which suggests You have 60 minutes to steal the diamonds locked away in the managers office. Can you rob the bank before the manager returns?

On Facebook, the site has posted an opening offer for the Zombie Quarantine room; book by the end of September to play in October and November and your team will get to experience the zombie for just £40!

Coming soon to Glasgow: Tick Tock Unlock

Tick Tock Unlock's new Leeds locationThe famous Tick Tock Unlock recently announced on their Facebook that they will be expanding to a third location, this one in Glasgow. It’s a huge metropolis; although it’s long been served by Escape and the brand new The Room, surely it’s big enough to support three different sites. (It does remain to be seen whether four different competitors can all thrive in a city outside London, though.) The Facebook message suggests that it’ll be opening in about a week’s time. (Tick Tock Unlock had a tease where they were inviting people to guess their new location, but you could look at a jobs site and see them recruiting for quite a convincing clue…)

If you’re very observant, you might be aware that the graphic above isn’t actually of the new Glasgow location. Instead, it’s of the Kings House office building in Leeds to which the original Tick Tock Unlock location has originally moved. Inside Media suggest that the location has taken 1,719 ft2 of space, which is a very decent size and promises much for the future. Tick Tock Unlock have already hinted at a “new game coming soon”; for now, they have already opened a second room of their original Blueprint game, enabling always-popular head-to-head competition. This site has long suspected that the original Tick Tock Unlock in Leeds was one of the busiest single-room locations in the country, so opening a second room should help people get to experience the game that has gained such high ratings on TripAdvisor at the time they want to play it. Exciting times!

Unrelatedly, this site has a very strong suspicion that the vast majority of locations up and down the UK and Ireland are doing excellent business this Easter; it’s still cold enough that people are attracted to indoor activities, and the Easter weekend is a traditional time to get together for fun with family and friends. Considering that locations tend to be busier on Saturdays than on any other day of the week, and considering how quickly the market is continuing to grow, this site would bet fairly good money at short odds that more people are playing an exit game in the UK and Ireland today than on any other single day previously. That said, if it is indeed a record, it’s probably one that’s going to get broken again before much longer!

Coming soon to Glasgow: The Room

The Room logoGlasgow has been the biggest urban area in the UK with only one exit game for some time; Escape Glasgow has been top of the Fun Activities & Games list there for some time, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that others see the area as ripe for further development of the genre.

The Room is set to open shortly in Glasgow, taking bookings from their opening weekend of 3rd-5th April onwards. They will be opening with four rooms: the Spy Room, the Identity Room, the Mansion Room and a Party Room. The extremely attractive and modern-looking (though, deliberately, not futuristic-looking) web site suggests that the Spy Room and Identity Room are both 60-minute games for ideal team sizes of 3-6, whereas the Mansion Room is a 75-minute game with a claimed ideal team size of 8-12 and the Party Room‘s 75-minute game is set up to host 10-16 bright sparks, aged ten and up.

The Spy Room sees you as MI6 agents, tasked to sneak into the office of a powerful and rich businessman, who is suspected of financing criminals. The pressure is now on you to find the hard evidence to nail the bad guys. ((…)) find the evidence and the spare key to the office (as it accidentally locked behind you when you entered) to accomplish the mission. National security depends on you!

Perhaps you prefer the Identity Room, where The owner of the apartment has gone missing for a year. Concerned neighbours have alerted the police and they have sent their best team – you – to investigate the case. Searching the apartment makes it clear that there are dark secrets beneath the surface. What do those reoccurring signs mean? Who is the mysterious tenant? Where is he now? This one is aimed at those who like devious plots in films (and who doesn’t?) and those who like to test their logical abilities.

The sheer size and scale of the Mansion Room catches the eye. Sir Riddles, the late lord of Fort Ardreck died in complete solitude, as he had decided to escape society and turn his back to the world decades before. His home castle at the edge of lands stood still forgotten until one day you and your friends sliding slightly off beaten tracks arrived at its once magnificent doors. Inspired by tales of ghosts and treasures, you entered and made your way to the main Hall, closing the heavy door behind you… This tale of plunder sounds particularly exciting if you have a large team who always fancied themselves as Scooby’s meddling kids.

The standard price of the 60-minute games is £65 between the team of probably 3-6, and that of the 75-minute game is £149 between the team of probably 8-12. That said, there are a number of opening discounts available for those who can act quickly. Book before 5th April and those prices are cut by 30% to £46 and £104 respectively. The site’s flyer suggests that if you can book before 20th March, then on top of your discount, each team member will also receive a gift as well. If you book for the opening weekend (3rd-5th April, though the Mansion Room opens a little later) then your team gets another gift on top – and these do stack, so a very early booking for the opening weekend looks like about as big a bargain as it gets.

A generous start and ambitious plans; ambition is to be celebrated and rewarded. Big games might just mean big fun!

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.

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!