Escape Hunt preview

The exterior of Escape Hunt at George YardThis site had a thrilling opportunity today to speak with Daniela Streng, proprietor of the London branch of Escape Hunt, one day before the site’s opening! Daniela kindly gave up 20 minutes of her time, on a day when she had been putting a 36-hour shift in at the site, on an extremely busy day for an interview… and the recording equipment in use completely blew it. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, so with great apologies, there can be no preview interview to share. However, there is an impression piece instead, delivered in the spirit of excitement that tomorrow’s launch deserves.

The photo above is of the exterior of the Escape Hunt site at one corner of George Yard. (Nobody gets photos of the interior before opening.) The sturdy door has two locks; within, there is a lift or two sets of stairs down to the basement where all the action takes place. A great deal of work was still happening, right down to the wire, though much had been finished already and looked great; it’s clear that it’s going to be a fantastic site, once it’s finished. You might think of looking around an exit game site as being like looking behind the scenes of The Crystal Maze; with one day to go, it felt much more like Challenge Anneka. But, hey, Anneka Rice always got a great job done!

The site will indeed have ten rooms: four identical Murder in the Bedroom games, four identical Kidnapping in the Living Room games and two identical Theft from the Laboratory games. A quick look in – without revealing any spoilers – suggests that they will have the hidden depths that you would hope to find in an exit game, and a remarkable density of challenge. These games will be different from all the others found at other Escape Hunt branches from around the world, so if you’ve played any of the games in the Asia Pacific region, or even in the Netherlands (Amsterdam already open, Groningen opening soon!) then you can enjoy these as well. However, the London branch will have the same high standards as the others in the chain; the training was provided, last week, by chain founder Paul Bart himself.

However, only the London branch can have the local advantage of authenticity when it comes to evoking the spirit of the most famous Victorian detective; the site is set to recreate Holmes’ living room. After playing the game, as with other branches in the chain, there is a photo booth (a selfie pod!) in which to enjoy a costuming activity. The site is also set to rotate games relatively frequently, so that once you have enjoyed the first three games there will be good reason to visit again before long. Daniela Streng recommended that people try the Murder in the Bedroom and Kidnapping in the Living Room rooms first, for the Theft from the Laboratory room requires slightly more advanced skills.

Most intriguing of all was the suggestion that Paul Bart’s experience in psychometric test design and much more may well be used for the benefit of corporate parties booking the London branch. One specific suggestion is that exit games have yet-untold value in a recruitment process; roleplaying scenarios where assessors take notes are artificial, but seeing someone at play may reveal their true, unguarded self. Under the pressure of an exit game, who completely reveals themselves to be an extrovert, an introvert, a creative thinker, a calm head, a team worker, a follower, a leader? All that, and whether it’s part of a recruitment process or not, it’s just plain great fun!

Many thanks to Daniela for her time. This site has the highest of hopes for Escape Hunt, set to practically double the size of the London exit game market at a stroke; bookings are coming in rapidly, with several days sold out already. It may even be the site with the single largest number of rooms in the world. (Unless you know otherwise!) Tomorrow’s launch should be spectacular; more news as it becomes available.

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