Escape Salisbury – Murder at the Museum

If you’re in Salisbury, you should have played this already. If not, you should book and go there. Quite soon. This room has just about all the things that make an escape room fun, none of the annoying things that wind players up, and it’s a well thought-out room which receives our Generally Awesome award.

Salisbury is the smallest city in the UK, and many visitors come to visit a certain church and piece of paper. Not so for us: Emmy and Nintendomad joined me on this Team Ninty outing to visit temporary South Wiltshire resident Hipsterdashie and take on the challenge at Escape Salisbury.

This room is rather like your typical murder mystery but with additional twists in terms of collecting certain items, on your way through a set of challenges set by the “Wessex Police”, from whom a briefing document accompanied our email confirmation. We were met in character by our host who was very much up to speed with everything and gave us enough explanation of the room and process, and no more. The customary explanation of how to identify items not to be touched (police tape!) aside, it was time to begin.
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Escape Land – Professor Oxford’s Experiment

Relatively basic and straightforward room with a Steampunk theme. A few complex puzzles but something for everyone. Pleasingly non-linear. High level of combination locks.

Team Ninety joined me for this challenge with a couple of players new to the format. The venue is in the basement of a nondescript building on Oxford Street, near the Tottenham Court Road end.

We arrived a little early and were invited to take a seat on the couch with a few metal puzzles to play about with whilst we waited. And waited. The reception area was comfortable with a very soft couch. Eventually our host came to introduce himself and take us through the process.
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Escape Room Manchester – Slaughter House

Quite samey, this dark room depended a lot on searching for items. Not enough torches provided. Puzzles quite pedestrian. And did we say dark?

This was the second room Team Judge played on the same day. Dropping from a difficulty rating of 5 to 4, we expected a bit of a step down in difficulty. In practice, it was similarly challenging but in a different way.

Our host Alice was very pleasant and practiced and she explained the room’s procedure in very brief for us. The room’s back story is the slightly hackneyed “you wake up in ____ with no real clue of why you’re here and you’d better get out in an hour”, and that was good for what it was. Alice was also obliging in turning down the background sound for a team member with a hearing issue.
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Escape Room Manchester – Secret Lab

A small number of tough puzzles rather than a large number of straightforward puzzles or a mixture in difficulty awaits you at Secret Lab. Can you rise to the challenge?

A bit of bumbling at the start of this, with the hosts unable to open up the front door because it was a bank holiday and apparently someone from the nightclub that’s colocated with them had padlocked a door which was usually left open. We eventually crowded in through an emergency exit after a host came around to the main door to see us looking nonplussed.

As venues go, The Escape Room Manchester is well-equipped and very pleasant. The waiting area was one of the best I’ve found, and they were also happy to store several members’ large items of luggage whilst we went off to the city centre afterwards for a couple of hours.
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Omescape – The Penitentiary

A Generally Awesome award winner, The Penitentiary is a challenging game that you need to bring your A-game for. Technically excellent, well-themed, and a genuinely difficult one to get through. New to escape games? ClueQuest is up the road…

Having knocked out Escape Plan a couple of weeks ago, Team Amaze was looking for a step up, and Omescape looked like just the ticket. With two sites in California and a shoal across China, this new arrival to the UK had plonked down a stone’s throw from ClueQuest and has brought across two of its popular scenarios as well as adding a third.

Arriving in good time, some wood puzzles were available to play about with at reception. With black walls and simple theming, we were put in the mood for the game pretty quickly.
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Top tips for a great escape experience

When I try to get people into playing escape games, a lot of the time the first question is “what is it like?” And I tell them, usually involving a discussion about the Crystal Maze.

Another popular question from my friends and a topic I try to discuss before starting off is what tips and ideas I suggest to make an escape experience fun. Here are my top tips to make your play experience amazing.
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Mystery Cube

The host really pulls this experience together and makes a good room great. Lots to do with no linearity in a very small space.

To get the minor grumble out of the way first, this place is pretty out of the way in London terms. It’s about 15 minutes on foot from South Wimbledon station. You can also walk from Morden, but you shouldn’t. Especially in winter. Nevertheless, Team Ninty trekked out to the outer limits of Zone 3 on a bright Sunday afternoon.

Professor QB met us at the entrance and we were asked to wait just inside the door for him; he asked us to wait and came back about 10 minutes later. (I suspect he was resetting the room.) He took us upstairs to a briefing room and explained the premise of the Mystery Cube, and our goal.

We were asked to lock up all our possessions and put on white lab coats and name badges before proceeding. (I was given the key to the lock to take with me.)
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Escape Plan Ltd. – The Adventure Begins

A WW2-themed escape with a range of deduction, search, and mechanical puzzles – many of which were on theme. Low-tech but they have made a lot of a limiting premises. Pretty high reliance on padlocks.

Iliffe Yard is a curious little cobbled location near Elephant & Castle. We were a bit early but not early enough to wait in the recommended café so stood around outside the venue for a little while. Team Amaze was on duty for this one. We’d been warned there was no room for early arrivals or for waiting and this is no joke: the control room cum waiting area is a small corridor about 3 feet by 15 and it is literally impossible for a team that’s just finished to occupy the space as well as an arriving team.

The goal of the room is to escape a POW camp in wartime Germany. One unique aspect is that before starting we were handed a booklet of the diary of Bob Hails, which contained a range of clues and material to be used once in. This was slick and well-prepared, and we had the chance to peruse it before we were on the clock.
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clueQuest – Revenge of the Sheep

A challenging room that’s not for newbies, builds on the previous two rooms in terms of story and style. The goal is in the style of a specific task rather than simply escaping. Style and build quality top notch. The inaugural winner of the London Escapists “Generally Awesome” award.

Some rooms have got one or two unique puzzles or features that make you go “Wow”. Revenge of the Sheep doesn’t. It is one constant wow from start to finish. Right away when entering the room one of the earliest puzzles is so amazingly intelligent and precisely designed that I don’t know how someone conceived of it. This theme continues throughout, with beautiful design style, tricky but eminently solvable puzzles, plenty for everyone to do and little linearity, a great story, and even a couple of puzzle answers that were in-jokes.

Team Amaze returned for its second and my third visit to clueQuest. We had three rooms booked, one of Revenge of the Sheep and two of Plan52, with the returning players primarily on the former. Our four-person team was pretty early for our slot — the start time for Plan52 being 20 minutes earlier, but we all travelled and arrived together – but this didn’t cause any issues and we were able to get going promptly. And so it was that Mig, Vicky, Agent P and I got ready to prevent the Revenge of the Sheep.
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clueQuest – Operation Black Sheep

A step up in difficulty from Plan52, with plenty to do in parallel. Technology used well. Variety of locks and easy to progress quickly for a skilled team. Possible for new players but preferably with some more experienced folks in the same room.

Operation Black Sheep was the first outing of Team Amaze, and nine of us split into two teams. I was joined by four colleagues including the inestimable Vicky and Mig to make for one room of five, with the remaining four in the other. A few of us had played one or two rooms before, mostly Plan52 at the same venue, but the majority were new to the format.

We were a bit early arriving but our two hosts welcomed us warmly. There’s a nice collection of chairs of different shapes and sizes as well as a water cooler (really good idea when the venue is a bit of a walk from the station). We got a quick tutorial on the padlocks that the room uses, as well as an explanation of the (very good) back story. Acting as secret agents, we were to foil Professor BlackSheep’s mission to take over the world.
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