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!

Double treasure hunt weekend in London

Thinking Bob logoThis little chap is the logo of thinking bob, an organisation in London that organises social events that vary from the cerebral to the celebratory. They send groups to exit games on a regular basis and take advantage of the sheer number of them to very seldom repeat. They also have sent a lot of members to Puzzled Pint over the months, further affirmation that the members are probably your sort of people. You can join for £1 for the first month; continued subscription costs £15/month and covers attendance at many events, though some cost extra.

One such event is the “Game of Phones” treasure hunt coming up at 2pm this Saturday, starting from the Crystal Palace railway station. We’ll head to Crystal Palace park for our latest treasure hunt style game inspired by Game of Thrones. Teams will become houses, dinosaurs to dragons and a simple game could turn into a full blown war. You can expect an awesome clue solving team game taking elements from the show we love and mixing it with the great things Crystal Palace park has to offer – including life-size dinosaurs and maze. You will of course be using your phones for this one but you can expect an array of bonus challenges and suspect characters that make the perfect setting to discover a new part of the city and get to know some new people. Will you be nominated the king or queen of your house? Will you volunteer yourself for the ‘Dayswatch’ and go to the wall? And most importantly can you get the to Iron Phone first?

Although the game will be packed full of game of thrones references you don’t actually need to know the show to play – as long as you enjoy solving puzzles and riddles then this is still for you. The hunt will be followed by a drinking bob social giving you chance to get to know the other teams and see how you did. A few places still remain; tickets cost £8. There are other imaginative, intriguing-sounding thinking bob events coming up, not least a one-night tribute to The Krypton Factor as well.

Starting the fans

A pentakis dodecahedronThat’s not just any old picture of a pentakis dodecahedron inside two concentric circles; it’s a picture with a meaning. It’s a picture that arises from a rumour that, as they say, “escalated quickly”, over about the course of a 250-mile train journey and a dinner. Most of the information comes from work performed by Bother’s Bar‘s proprietor and his friends on Twitter, though grateful thanks to Gareth for also posting a link.

People have found a very interesting-looking web site at www.the-crystal-maze.com suggesting a “live immersive experience”; the @CrystalMazeHQ Twitter account, which started following this site recently, made its first Tweet today and has already attracted considerable interest.

Not much more is known about it yet. An “invitation to invest” document has been found online, with the name Little Lion Entertainment at the top. It’s not clear whether the people involved would prefer the link to this document to be made public, or whether the figures in it are at all current. It does suggest that the people involved have very considerable pedigree, notably on Heist in London last year and Secret Cinema, and also that the people from the show that you would hope to be involved may well be getting involved. There has been no indication of timescale; a very early indication of price might be more like that of Secret Cinema, Punchdrunk or a full-price West End seat (though not a premium seat!) rather than that of an exit game – even the newer, higher-end generation that are starting to come out.

Be very sure that this site will be paying close attention. If you can’t wait to get your hands on a crystal, you can already get your own 3D printed 60-sided die, about an inch and a half high; depending on the material, the cost varies from £15.35 to £145.71.

The League Table: end of May 2015

Three-dimensional blue bar chartThis is the fourteenth instalment of an occasional feature to act as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland. On its own it means little, but by now hopefully it can be part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was at the end of May 31st, before the opening of three sites on June 1st and another on June 5th. (So it’s already out of date…!)

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 64 7
Exit game locations known to be open 60 6
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 2 1
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 2 0
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 6 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 5 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games.

There are more changes than might at first appear in this month’s numbers:

  • Dr. Knox’s Enigma is now considered to have opened in late April;
  • Jailbreak! is open for a second season, probably since late April, with no clear indication when this might end.
  • On the other hand, Make A Break is now regarded as temporarily closed – possibly as closed as Cipher, which has now been “between its first and second seasons” for over a year – because its Facebook and bookings pages seem to be down for now.
  • Time Run has a scheduled closing date, which might well be extended;
  • Panic! has a scheduled closing date, where a second run would appear not to be likely to follow immediately afterwards by virtue of apparent plans for other attractions to follow in the same building – but, perhaps, some sort of Panic! 2 might occur at some point in 2016.
  • As ever, there might well be other sites open that haven’t made it onto this site’s radar.

That said, this site is going to make a dangerous claim: it knows no reason why the map, the list, the Timeline and the reviews aggregator should now not be up-to-date. If you know otherwise, please get in touch.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews Quantity Quality
Adventure Rooms 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
AK Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor) No Early reviews
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Breakout Games Aberdeen 3 2 TripAdvisor Some Excellent reviews
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Breakout Liverpool 4 4 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Breakout Manchester 7 6 TripAdvisor Loads of Brilliant reviews
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Cipher 1 1 TripAdvisor No Early reviews
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Clue HQ Blackpool 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Clue HQ Warrington 3 3 TripAdvisor Loads of Brilliant reviews
clueQuest 4 2 TripAdvisor Tonnes of Brilliant reviews
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Cryptopia 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Cyantist 2 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor Many Excellent reviews
ESCAP3D Dublin 2 1 TripAdvisor Few Superior reviews
Escape Clonakilty 2 2 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Escape Dublin 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor Loads of Brilliant reviews
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Escape Hour 2 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Escape Hunt 10 3 TripAdvisor Many Excellent reviews
Escape Land 1 1 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Escape Plan Live 4 4 (TripAdvisor) No Early reviews
Escape Quest 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor Many Excellent reviews
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Escapologic 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Excellent reviews
Exit Newcastle 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
gamEscape 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Excellent reviews
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Guess House 3 3 (TripAdvisor) No Early reviews
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor Tonnes of Brilliant reviews
iLocked 1 1 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor) Very few Specific reviews
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor Some Superior reviews
Lady Chastity’s Reserve 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Make A Break 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Excellent reviews
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Mystery Squad 1 1 (TripAdvisor) No Early reviews
Puzzlair 2 2 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor) No Early reviews
Quests Factory 2 2 TripAdvisor Very Few Early reviews
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
The Gr8 Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
The Great Escape Game 3 3 TripAdvisor Many Brilliant reviews
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor Very few Early reviews
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor Few Brilliant reviews
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 2 1 TripAdvisor Loads of Brilliant reviews
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
Time Run 1 1 TripAdvisor Some Brilliant reviews
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor Few Excellent reviews

This needs to be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. However, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield. If those aren’t enough for you, or if you’re interested in comparisons for exit games in cities where they’re the only one, this site also has a page with the details for every site.

Additionally, just to put this out there, TripAdvisor now has a page entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom. Evidence suggests that it lists the thirteen escape games that are both #1 in “Fun and Games” in their town and listed as an escape game first, in some order, then the escape games that are #2, then the escape games that are #3 and so on. The “listed as an escape game” criterion is a bigger one than you might think; at least three very highly-regarded exit games spring to mind that don’t appear on that list, for one is listed as an outdoor activity when it isn’t, a second is listed as a scavenger hunt (arguable) and a third is listed as “other fun and games”. (It’s also arguable whether you would choose to rank – say – “#1 of a very small number” ahead of “#2 of a very large number”, that sort of thing.) The interesting question is which order the games are listed in, within their category of “#1 in town”… and whether that order will change over time. Hard to know if there’s anything to be read into this, other that there are at least 13 (and, in practice, at least 15) towns with exit games listed as their local number one for fun.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers (for instance, thinking bob‘s comparisons, the QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions). If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months.

It’s not actually very difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though it does take a fair bit of work and there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t.

So with this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of May 2015, is 230,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 5,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 85,000 and 650,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and this site keeps discovering new locations that it might have found out about earlier!

Competition season’s coming

Grid of squares, with a "TEST" buttonIf you’re a competitive sort then there are a few interesting opportunities coming up.

The biggest regular cash prize in the world of puzzles – at least, in this country – is that of the annual Sudoku championship held by The Times. Next week is qualification week, with a puzzle printed in the newspaper every weekday. Solve it and send your time in. You don’t need to be a subscriber to see the competition’s terms and conditions. Incidentally, the regular qualifier is because the world of armchair treasure hunts occasionally pays out bigger purses, as do related prize puzzles; notably, Eternity paid out a cool million pounds back in 2000.

The 20 fastest solvers of each of the five puzzles, plus the eight best solvers from the previous year’s event, qualify to attend the finals. (The 100 qualifiers have to pay £25 per head for the privilege of taking up their place; last year’s top eight get in for free.) Whoever turns up on the day will take part in one of two one-hour, four-puzzle semi-finals; the fastest four from each make this year’s elite eight who shoot it out in one further round to win a top prize of a greasy grand in the hand, with second and third paying £200 and £100 respectively. You can find descriptions of finals day from 2013 and 2014, by Mark Goodliffe, who won the second of the two.

That’s not the only way to win a thousand pounds with your puzzle-solving ability; Twisted Attractions have launched an exit game called Panic! in Birmingham with a thousand pounds being paid to the fastest team of 6-8 players to complete the game over the course of the four months or so that it’s open. More on this to follow.

Alternatively, a contest that you can play against worldwide competition from the comfort of your own – but just for fun! – is the current (sixth of eight) round of the WPF Puzzle Grand Prix. This has been running all weekend, but you have until 11pm UK time on Monday night to complete the 90-minute paper, starting at a point in time of your choice. There are 24 puzzles: six different styles, four examples of varying difficulties in each. This round is produced by German authors; the Instruction Booklet reveals the six styles this time, and there are some corkers. You can practice Spiral Galaxies as part of the essential freeware Simon Tatham’s Portable Puzzle Collection, you can practice Skyscrapers, Snake, Japanese Sums (without zeroes) and ABC-Box at the wonderful Croco-Puzzle and Battleships has several sites devoted to it alone. Looks sure to be a lot of fun; if you can carve out 90 minutes, give it a try!

Now open in Nuneaton: Escapism

Escapism logoWhile this site has firmly been DASHing all around in mind and body, new exit games have been springing up all around and this site is firmly in catch-up mode.

Escapism is an exit game business with an interesting and unusual background. It was always designed to be portable and their first game made appearances at corporate venues and events in 2014. However, according to an article in the Nuneaton News, from Monday June 1st, that first game has settled down with a long-term lease above a bar in Nuneaton, in the West Midlands.

Escape the Curlew Study is this first game, and in it, “you will be trapped in the study of the eccentric Lord Curlew. Our mobile replica of the study in his manor house is exact, and when the clock starts ticking, you better start solving! ((…)) This room is interactive though and Lord Curlew will let you know if you are upsetting him. Beware, there are time loss penalties, and even complete room lock downs. Oh and this one has a forfeit if you fail the room. I do hope you’re not scared of the dark…?” That page has a 3½-minute teaser video with strong positive reactions from players. The planned second game is Locked in the Vault, with some twists on the usual dexterity format.

Discussion of having a forfeit for teams who fail is novel. Participants must read and sign a waiver, with an unusual – but entirely sensible – acceptance that “this is not a form of kidnap against my will“. Does this mean all legitimately locked exit games are forms of consensual kidnap? That would be stretching semantics some distance. Clause six of the waiver reads “I acknowledge that I may fail the game resulting in unpleasant consequences which may cause me to become fearful, uncomfortable or wet“, hinting at possible forms of forfeit, so you have at least some sort of idea what you’re getting yourself into – or whether this game might not be the one for you.

The really unique twist is that the founder is an illusion designer and performing magician, Caspian. If you catch this site in a fanciful mood, it has a theory that exit games are not so very far away from magic tricks, but magic tricks that the game teaches you how to do yourself. At the start, you’re posed with a situation that looks impossible; by the end, you’ve (hopefully!) made the magic happen and cracked whatever was required – and you’ve amazed yourself by what you were able to make happen.

It will be fascinating to see how Escapism implements the steps in the middle; it may well bring some brand new thinking and artistry that the country hasn’t seen before!

A DASH 7 podcast

A microphone by a computerThis will be this site’s last piece of DASH 7 coverage for now, though not forever. Well, you wouldn’t want infinite incantatem, would you?

On Monday night, while the event was still strongly in our minds, four close friends got together electronically to share their experiences of playing the Experienced track at DASH 7 in London, sharing their mishaps and reliving their misadventures. The conversation has been edited down to something a little over an hour long, to fit all the laughs along the way in. Bear in mind that the teams of solvers discussed might politely be described as “mid-table”, so you’re not going to get insight about how people crushed the puzzles in ten minutes flat. Anyway, you can listen by clicking on the traditionally-styled “play” button below; if you’d prefer to download the podcast to treat it how you would any other, there’s also an obvious little “download” button in the top-right.

This podcast references this site’s recap of DASH 7 in London along with QMSM’s recap of playing the Novice track at the same event. The world would love to read – or hear, or even see! – more of people’s experiences at the various legs of DASH 7 around the world. Please share them with us!

If you want more to listen to – from people who really know what they’re doing with their podcasting – then this year’s London city lead, Iain, recorded a brilliant podcast about his experiences as a player at DASH 6 last year; download it from this page and Iain starts about 1:54 through. Very highly recommended, not least to get a sense of Iain’s inspirations and motivations for this year.

If that‘s not enough, or if there are some references in the DASH 7 podcast that still mystify, you can listen to 213 episodes of the wonderful Snoutcast, of which something like 85% discuss puzzle hunts. 100% of them are delightful, whether they discuss puzzle hunts or not, and there’s more than a little of the sincerest form of flattery in the DASH 7 podcast above.

The panellists were:

Right; back to exit games now!