REVIEW: BLACKBEARD'S TREASURE - ESCAPE HUNT. BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS


We visited Birmingham’s Escape Hunt to be one of the first teams to play their brand new room Blackbeard’s Treasure.  Despite playing a fair few pirate themed games at other venues, having recently survived Escape Hunt’s superbly executed Samurai room we returned with high hopes to play their take on the escape genres popular theme. 

The detailed plot reveals we were to be transported onto a pirate galleon in the middle of a battle for control of the High Seas. Our captain Blackbeard has just been killed with his ship shot to pieces and sinking fast. Us shipmates have decided to jump ship, but not before helping ourselves to the contents of Blackbeard’s legendary treasure chest. We’ve just 60 minutes to escape; any longer and we’ll drown… that’s if the sharks don’t get to us first!

Our games master for the hour was the mildly unassuming Richard, whom transformed effortlessly from his welcoming and charismatic customer service role to portray an impressively believable swashbuckling pirate. His inclusion in our game with his character depiction and sense of occasion only served to positively add to our overall experience here.

On first impressions we were dazzled by the attention to detail in this room. No easy installation cheap wallpaper was to be found upon this ships walls! From the authentic wood panelling, to the intricacy of the purpose-built props and the subtle auditory inclusion of sea chanty all added to it's believability and immersion. A reoccurring theme amongst the stronger escape games we’ve played. 
The game took place in a generous sized space that comfortably accommodates the advertised maximum six players. In contrast it does well to also cater for smaller sized groups without it ever feeling overwhelming or unachievable. 

Liner puzzles often run the risk of leaving some players without much to do, but this room provided us with the generous ability to separate and inspect the space individually, before coming together to share our finds - our favourite type of escape game to play. 

The puzzles here were a pleasant mix of styles offering varying degrees of complexity. The game also offered a variety of interesting purpose built props which not only served to strengthen its theming further, but resulted in us completing novel, challenging tasks that we’d yet to experience elsewhere. 

Our only minor niggle was the use of one particular puzzle which we found somewhat frustrating. Without giving too much away we learned recently that this puzzle type is only used in approximately 6% of escape rooms worldwide - with good reason. This is the second time we’ve come across it over the many games we’ve played and consistent to our previous experience, had difficulties executing it without much needed guidance. 

To Escape Hunt's credit they appeared to be genuinely interested in asking for feedback at the end of our session. Richard informed us that he had also recognised the difficulties this puzzle imposes and the need to perhaps make adjustments in order to bring it up to to same seamless standard as the rest of the puzzles in this otherwise excellent room. 

The clue system here was faultless, with cryptic subtle suggestions rather than out-and-out resolves which helped to maintain our sense of achievement upon finally cracking a riddle. Richard’s vigilant attention to detail also helped us maintain a steady pace throughout the room, with his subtle encouragement and well-timed intervention when necessary. 

One of our favourite overall aspects of this room was its climatic ending. Often rooms can tail off a little towards the end with no big fanfare upon completing the final puzzle to escape, but the urgency and time pressure stayed with us throughout the game and right to its very last second. 

Despite its popular pirate premise, the water-tight combination of its many first-rate individual elements fused together to mark the spot for an excellent, all-round escape game. Comfortably anchoring the admirably executed Blackbeard’s Treasure straight into our favourite pirate themed room to date. 


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REVIEW: EXTINCTION - REAL LIFE GAMES. RAMSGATE, KENT


Having already played two escapes over in Margate that day, we were poised to crack this independent company’s room Extinction. Set in a multi-purpose building on a quiet street in Ramsgate, we were welcomed by Real Life Games co-owner and game master Alistair, who after escorting us to the waiting area where we all exchanged some friendly chat, briefed us on the games rules before inviting us to watch a video which detailed the games plot. 

The planet is in the grip of an epidemic that has already killed 1.7 billion people. 
Lithuanian based Dr Nojus Zareckis has successfully developed an antidote (NV31) but after producing around 100,000 doses of the medicine, Dr Zareckis along with his entire team were slaughtered by rebels who broke in to steal the antivirus. During this vile attack the encrypted research performed to find the cure was also destroyed.

The only hope now is UK (Ramsgate) based Dr Ruoff Nevesorezenin, who was able to acquire a few of the vials containing ingredients before Dr Zareckis' untimely death.

Our team has contracted the virus and been selected as ideal test cases, but when we arrived at the surgery it became apparent that an unfortunate set of circumstances has occurred…

Upon entry we were handed a briefcase; the objective was to pack it with a few specified items including the all-important vials so we could make our way to a facility where we could use it without suffering catastrophic consequences. This was a novel idea, rather than the conventional method of solving linear puzzles to reach one overall goal. We enjoyed the task of multiple mini challenges offering their own rewards - which did well to further add to our time pressure and heighten awareness of our progression within the game. 


On first impressions the room looked to be a relatively generic escape environment, still decorated to a high standard but missing the pizzazz displayed at other venues we’ve encountered recently. However, we were there to play a game, and impressive surroundings do nothing to hide poorly executed puzzles. Thankfully the strength in this room lies in its array of proficient, mind-boggling riddles to solve. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the rooms ability to let us separate to explore the space, with lots of props to investigate there was plenty to keep all members of our team occupied. As we advanced through the game the puzzles certainly did too, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a few robust technological additions that we’d perhaps not expected upon our earlier scrutiny. 

Our games master was extremely efficient in pumping through on-screen clues when needed, and we felt he monitored our progress attentively with genuine interest in our game. 

We escaped in time, having collected all items for the briefcase to cure us from the epidemic. Completing the final puzzle and obtaining the last object only served to intensify our elation of our eventual escape. A rewarding theme that ran positively throughout this game right to its very end.

The puzzles here were solid and immense fun to complete. They flowed at a gratifying pace and progression here alongside its unique mid-game rewards made for a fun and fulfilling hour in Ramsgate. 

Whilst we’d still class Extinction as a traditional escape room, it’s definitely not to its detriment. The detailed plot and superb strength of puzzles here prove that sometimes even the time-honoured originals can survive the genres burgeoning evolution. 



REVIEW: WORLD FAIR HOTEL - GET LOST ESCAPE ROOMS. DOVER, KENT


We were excited to visit Get Lost Escape Rooms in Dover to play their World Fair Hotel room. 

Based on the true events surrounding H.H. Holmes, the plot detailed that we’d mysteriously received tickets to stay at the infamous Dr H. H. Holmes’ World Fair Hotel. 
There’s just one problem, he’s America’s first serial killer.

Our objectives were clear: Discover who had made the booking; find out why the people that checked in, and rarely check out. And most importantly, who is H.H. Holmes ...and what is he hiding?

The game begun with our convincing transportation into a 1890’s hotel lobby. A smallish space, decorated to a high standard, which featured an array of admirably sourced trinkets to investigate - all of which perfectly befitted the era.

As we progressed throughout the game, the space opened up somewhat giving us a more room to manoeuvre and separate. This served us well given that our progression offered up more props to examine and information to divulge. At no point did any of our team feel redundant, as there was plenty to investigate and keep us busy. The standard of the decor remained high, albeit a little creepy, with a few unsettling objects to strengthen its ominous theme and aid in its effortless immersion.


Another stand out was the utilisation of a non-prefabricated aspect of the space. We felt this was an ingenuous use of the buildings natural environment that complimented the games narrative faultlessly. 

The puzzles here were linear and the game progressed at a satisfying pace with each resolve moving us comfortably onto its next task. The differentiating challenges all seamlessly linked to the rooms sinister plot, which only served to strengthen the game further. Most were logic based, with a few minor physical but fun tasks to complete. 

Help was on hand from our games master Taylor, although due to the rooms clever sequential flow we did well to make headway without the need for any clues, managing to make our escape with over 20 minutes to spare. Whilst we’re usually ecstatic with such a great escape time, we can’t help but wish we had more problems to solve as we thoroughly enjoyed our short stay at the murder hotel. We instead finished with regret that it had ended all too soon!      

Taylor greeted us with congratulations upon our exit and interestingly went on to reveal more about the true story behind the rooms inception. This was a fascinating exchange and we sincerely enjoyed Taylor’s enthusiasm and knowledge on the topic. Her animated account along with her willingness to take the time to chat with us afterwards only added to our positive experience. 

Overall this was a solid, all-round enjoyable escape with an array of gratifying puzzles that kept all members of our team curiously busy. Alongside our attentive games master and the sturdy, immersive set that brought it all to life, the World Fair Hotel makes for a killer of an escape game. 



REVIEW: THE KREVOKAR PROGRAMME - GET LOST ESCAPE ROOMS. DOVER, KENT


We travelled to the edge of England to visit Get Lost Escape Rooms in Dover, to play their newest room The Krevokar Programme. 

Greeted by the welcoming Kym - who also doubled up as our games master. Kym invited us to grab a drink in the airy waiting area whilst we exchanged stories of our previous escape adventures. Conversation soon turned into a briefing of the rooms rules and an animated back story into its plot.

The Krevokar Programme is set within a world-renowned scientific facility, where the threat of a zombie apocalypse was imminent …and we had just one hour to make our escape! Kym led us to an outside space to access our starting point where our game began.

We started on a bit of a slow footing, predominately due to our fatigued ability to locate any initial start point, but with Kyms assistance and our brains eventually kicking-in (we were on our forth room of the day) we were soon on our way, making steady progress. 

The decor was relatively minimal, but this is no critique. Anything other than sterile white walls and cold, uninviting, clinical surfaces would look out of place within the confines of any reputable lab setting. 

What we perceived on initial scrutiny to be a relatively small space impressively opened up to become one of the largest rooms we’ve played. The utilisation of the space complimented the progression of the plot and associated puzzles well.  

The puzzles here were mostly linear, and were a pleasant mix of styles that played well to a cross section of our teams' individual strengths. One particular puzzle on initial inspection looked dauntingly to involve lots of time-consuming information pulling, but actually turned out to be a lot of fun and satisfyingly rewarding to complete.


Some of the technological editions were a little temperamental and we did encounter a couple of problems - One with a specific latch that failed to release and later a fiddly element which slightly damped our spirit as we drew closer towards the end - Due to these hiccups we were generously offered a deduction by a few minutes on our escape time. 

Another minor bugbear was the use of tinny walkie-talkies, although given the rooms vast space we can understand their use as a convenient solution to communicate with teams. However we felt that the use of screens as a form of communication could have been more valuable in a couple of places. There was also no timer countdown to make you aware of your progress (or lack of), an inclusion that we feel positively adds to the time pressure within any escape game. 

Having said all that there was a number of impressive elements that we could appreciate took some clever implementation and hopefully the initial teething problems mentioned have now been ironed out - After all this room had only been open for a week when we arrived.

Despite The Krevokar Programme being marketed as a horror escape, we didn’t find it particularly scary at any point - although one aspect of the set was rather intimidating! 

It's also worth mentioning here that we did play on a generic day. Get Lost Escape Rooms offer regular extreme versions of The Krevokar Programme that promises to amp up its scare factor with the inclusion of live actors. 

Given the unnerving environments that can be found here, in this format we imagine The Krevokar Programme would translate into a truly excellent horror escape to play. This made the relatively passive (non-extreme) game we experienced a somewhat deflated account of the real deal – in other words this was very much a PG version of its fabulous intended 18 rating.

Overall we still enjoyed the room but if we’re honest probably not quite as much as this companies other brilliant escape game: World Fair Hotel

The Krevokar Programme offered a fair assortment of challenging puzzles and if we’d played its extreme version we have no doubt it would have taken this from a three to a five star rating without bating an eyelid.

We’d definitely recommend giving it a go, but perhaps opting for it’s Extreme version if your nerves can take playing alongside the terrifying undead.




REVIEW: FRANKENSCAPE - CTRL ALT ESC. MARGATE, KENT


Situated on Margate's seafront, we arrived at Ctrl, Alt, Esc to play Frankenscape and were welcomed by our games master and her relatives who run this friendly, family business. We exchanged stories about other games we’d played before being invited to watch a short video on the rooms rules and regulations.  

Genius inventor Alec and his assistant Tricity have gone missing and nothing in his workshop is where it should be. The strange force they have invented has the ability to create life itself …but only when lightening strikes! 
A thunderstorm is imminent but has only been forecast to last 90 minutes. With Alec and Tricity nowhere to be found, we as a team needed to finish his work in time or risk forfeiting this groundbreaking discovery.  

Led by our games master to a doorway and directed down some stairs into an outside area, our GM then proceeded to unexpectedly close the door behind us. We were suddenly on our own and hadn’t even made it into the games main space! A daunting prospect that did well to affirm our new found isolation and curiously elevated our excitement for the generous 90 minutes ahead.  

Having eventually accessed the main space we began to investigate our surroundings, initially with just a few props to examine which did well to determine the games starting point. 

Cltl, Alt, Esc pride themselves on their rooms technological elements and as we are mostly lock-and-key traditionalist - at least preferring a mixture of the two, we were a little dubious of how reliable we'd find the new-age puzzles here. 

We need not have worried though, as after breaking the seal upon completing the first round of riddles, the stream of robust and dependable technological elements flowed faultlessly without any hiccups. 


Malfunctioning tech props have been an issue in rooms previously, but the sturdy, well-maintained technology here all worked flawlessly with some rather impressive additions we’d not seen elsewhere. The puzzles themselves varied in their difficulty and as the space opened up the continuation of goodies to scrutinise only increased, keeping all team members busy with various tasks to undertake. 

Our only minor niggle would be that some elements appeared to be timed releases, rather than offered in line with the teams pacing. So no matter how fast your progress, you could be found wasting time attempting a puzzle that could not be resolved due to required elements not yet being available. As the game is non-linear, it could become confusing as to what tasks you or other players had already completed. Soundbites signalling the completion of tasks did often result in a frantic hunt around the room to locate what had been achieved or unlocked.

There were a few welcomingly unexpected and mildly sinister moments and we particularly enjoyed the original, non-strenious physical tasks which broke up the familiarity of the cognitive puzzles. Frankenscape offers a favourable balance of the two keeping the space entertaining as well as a mentally stimulating. 

Despite a couple of moments of confusion, overall we thoroughly enjoyed Frankenscape for its reliable props, abundance of engrossing puzzles and the clever fanfare of its big, impressive finale. 

It’s definitely Putting On The Ritz by setting a new escape room standard with its quirky mechanical additions and has awoken a new division away from the traditions of an original escape game. Even with its minor faults Ctrl, Alt, Esc have succeeded in creating a monster of a room with their very own next-gen escape experiment. 



REVIEW: ESCAPE IN THE TOWERS - CRIME & PUNISHMENT LAB. CANTERBURY, KENT


Having previously played at historical sites where escape games have failed to reflect the grandeur of the listed buildings surrounding them, we entered Escape In The Towers in Canterbury somewhat dubiously.

We met with our welcoming games master who led us up a stairwell and into a cosy former gaol cell, where he retold a fascinating account of the buildings history and its former use as the city police station. After a run through of the rules of the game before becoming acquainted with its plot, we were marched off to our starting point blindfolded to an equally intimidating adjoining cell where our escape began.   

Whilst it would be easy to lazily construct a simple “jail escape” game here, we were impressed that the plot was a little more padded. Instead of setting the game play in 1883, we were to stumble across Dr Wellington’s controversial former crime and punishment laboratories in 1994 almost an entire century later. We had just 60 minutes to escape before suffering the same fate of Dr Wellington's many experiment victims!

As the synopsis suggests the space lay abandoned for 80 years so it’s easy to conclude that the likelihood of fancy tech to be found here would be minimal or appear uncharacteristically out of place, but Escape The Towers excelled in incorporating reliable and robust technological elements that somehow managed to befit its period. ...But fear not if traditional lock-and-keys are more your loot, there’s plenty of those to be had here too. 


The puzzles were a welcomed variation of styles, with plenty of sinister props to investigate which further complimented the history of the building and kept all team members curiously busy. The inclusion of theme appropriate background sound along with its increasing intensity assisted further in its immersion, although we occasionally found it intrusive whilst attempting to relay information to other team members across the space.

Talking of space, at times it was a little snug so groups larger than four may struggle to navigate the space without treading on one another's toes. 

Alongside the games masters attentive live guidance; another great addition was the use of novel sound bites for clues that assisted in subtly directing you on the right path without giving any out-and-out resolves. 

We managed to escape the clutches of Dr Wellington in time; relieved that any previous apprehension this game would be all style over substance returned us with a non-guilty verdict. 

Alongside it's impressive location and history, Escape The Towers offers a standout game full of excellent challenging puzzles that combine both impressive tech and the traditional. All which flowed effortlessly under the watchful warden of our astute games master who enforced his role with perfect jurisdiction.  

It was a real slammer, and we really cant recommend highly enough that you go and get banged up for a hour next time you happen to be in the Canterbury area!



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