People to meet, places to be

Meetup logoAs the previous post was about an exciting Meetup group in Manchester, it doesn’t take the greatest leap of imagination to try to find out what other exciting Meetup groups there might be out there. There are a couple of other interesting links at the end as well.

I mentioned the Escape Rooms and Puzzle Rooms in and around London meetup in a post about a year and a half ago, but it doesn’t seem to have been the most active group, having organised two escapes in the middle of last year and one in February. There’s more activity in the Escape Roomers London meetup group, whose members went to The Crystal Maze earlier in the month and have two escape rooms planned for May. London’s Secrets Society meetup takes a slightly wider purview, including escape rooms but also treasure hunts, “theme parks, pop-ups and the occasional unusual bar“.

We’ve covered the activities of the Treasure Hunts in London group quite a few times and probably the best way to keep up with them is to join their Meetup group; as well as the titular treasure hunts, they have a plan to play The Million Pound Heist at Enigma Quests on Saturday. However, they aren’t the only treasure hunt group in London; the Cultural Treasure Hunt Meetup of London has events every two or three months. The group has an impressive 800+ members so the hunts may well be popular. They’re free to play, though donations to the museums in which they take place are welcome. The group begat a sister group based around Cambridge.

Indeed, there’s no reason why London should have all the fun. As well as the Manchester group mentioned last time, Bristol is in on it; it has its own local escape room addicts group, which does not yet seem to have attracted a critical mass despite the efforts of the organiser, and also an exciting-sounding Rare Duck Club whose focus is more generally on live games – often of considerable, impressive scope.

A couple of other links unrelated to the Meetup site: Dean from Escape Review mentions Secret London Runs in passing; they have a variety of running tours, many of which involve several legs of running to interesting locations punctuated by encounters that go together to create a puzzle to solve. Many of their events are centred around 10 km runs, including breaks, so you’ll know whether that’s a surmountable barrier to entry or not. Lastly, Play Exit Games is currently running a giveaway competition with the prize being free tickets to Modern Fables.

Now open in Bristol: the Bristol Maze

The Bristol Maze logoThe Bristol Maze clearly has one of the best names in the land for an exit game. The location in an abandoned warehouse located below the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, about five minutes’ drive from the centre of the city. The site features two rooms, each of which offers a 60-minute game for a team of two to eight players. The site is open daily during the evenings (possibly earlier by arrangement?) and all day at weekends.

The Abandoned Office is a game in which “You and some friends discover an old abandoned office. After you enter, the door locks behind you and you find you are trapped with no obvious way to escape. You have 60 minutes to find way out.” In The Hostage Hostel, you don’t have much more luck; “After a long road trip you and friends are desperate to find somewhere to stay. You come across an old, creepy looking hostel and decide to enter. What a mistake that was – you’ve now been taken hostage! You now find yourself locked in, and have 60 minutes to escape.

Pricing is £20 per player, but a Wowcher deal, surely not available for long though the precise expiry date does seem to be something of a movable feast, lets you have four players for £39, six for £49 or eight for £59 (or even book both rooms out and let up to sixteen play for £114). The four-player deal is a 51% discount as claimed, but the bigger deals offer even larger percentage discounts still – up to 64% or so!

The company behind it has an interesting background, being responsible for It’s A Knockout inflatable-game sports days and stag and hen party entertainment. There are a few corporate entertainment / team-building companies who have taken that route into the exit game market, as (slightly) distinct from people who have set up exit games and later marketed it as corporate team-building entertainment. This site has been looking for an excuse to post this link about KDM Events’ exit-game-derived contest for a while; in the schools’ market, the Robinwood activity centres’ Dungeon of Dooooooooooooooooooom looks like it has similarities as well. It may be the case that any corporate entertainment company worth its salt has its own sort-of-entry into the market by now!

Now open in Bristol: Hell in a Cell

Hell in a Cell logoTWENTY FEET HIGH AND FIVE TONS OF STEE… …wait, not that; this is about a different sort of cage altogether. Thanks very much to Ken for pointing out the highly positive review on ScareTOUR for Hell in a Cell, a brand new exit game in Bristol that only took its first paying customers last Thursday, which is set “underground into the dark, eerie depths of the Old Crown Court Prison Cells“. Indeed, the review suggests that the titular hell is not restricted to a single cell, but uses much of the “abandoned underground Victorian prison“.

Other highlights from the review include “((…)) we explored some of the darkest and most frightening tunnels we have ever experienced. Throughout the show, we had some genuinely terrifying jump scares and some real moments of tension as we struggled to get out of certain locations. The puzzles were pretty difficult ((…)) We have experienced a lot of room escape adventures in the past but Hell in a Cell is categorically the scariest one we have ever done. ((…)) Add in the puzzles and games, the scare elements, and actors etc, then it all adds up to one of the most exhilarating, terrifying things we have ever experienced!

That’s probably sufficient for you to know whether the game’s going to tickle your toes or not; the video on the web site is quite enough for Exit Games UK. It’s a one-hour game, though allow 90 minutes for the overall experience; it’s to be played by teams of three to eight and is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This is far from a Hallowe’en pop-up; it’s currently booking until the end of January 2016. As is typical, expect to pay something of a surcharge for games involving actors, but particularly when you consider the size of the environment that you get to play in (and when you consider that you’ll be the only team playing, even though you won’t be there alone…) then the price is far from the top of the market for scare attractions at £30 per head. Er, per player.

Now open in Bristol: Locked in a Room

Locked in a Room logoWhile trials have been going on for a few weeks, Locked in a Room only opened in Bristol a few days ago. It correctly bills itself as “The UK’s Newest Live Escape Experience”, but this is a self-destructing title that has a lifespan that might be expected to be another seven days or so.

The site is launching with a single game, with a 60-minute time limit, called Timelock. In it, teams of 2-5 of You are respected scientists individually working on secret government funded projects in laboratories located in an abandoned warehouse around the Docklands of Bristol. One of the scientists, Professor Samuel Pottenger, has just been dragged kicking and screaming along the corridor by unknown armed assailants. Pottenger is known to you as a very level headed man of immense intelligence and absolutely not one prone to an emotional outburst… Discover his secret. It’s not clear from the graphic whether the mood is sci-fi or fantasy, or what the pictured character has in his mouth; photos of the site look rather steampunk, and impressively, unusually tall. A second game, Invisibility Gene, is under construction.

The site has been distributing keys around the city; a cunning plan, as people are loathe to throw away found keys. If you encounter one (and they’re often not too far from the venue itself, between College Green – next to the Cathedral – and the O2 Academy) then you can pay for three players and bring a team of four. The charge is £20 per player so it’s a saving worth making if you can!

((Edited to add, 8/9/15:)) This description missed one of the site’s key features; it has four exact copies of the Timelock room, to enable head-to-head-to-head-to-head competition on a level playing field. This isn’t quite unique, but it’s certainly unusual and distinctive; getting together with a big group like that would certainly make for intense competition with no room for excuses!

Now open in Bristol: Fathom Escape

Fathom Escape logoGoing the whole nine yards – or, at least, two yards – is Fathom Escape of Bristol, which opened at the start of the month. The site offers a single game with a one-hour time limit, designed to be played by a team of up to ten. Smaller groups are welcome and will be merged together as far as possible – though do note that Escape Game Addicts recently had a fantastic story about a solo player taking on a game intended for up to ten, and winning with time to spare.

The theme and storyline are not stated explicitly, though the title, graphics and the image of a diving helmet might suggest a nautical flavour, as do references to sinking of swimming. There’s also demonstrated use of rather an old-fashioned lamp and ancient-looking books; all this points to a game coming out of the Ocean Zone. Games are charged at a regular price of £17.99 per player, but the first hundred tickets are being sold at half price: just £8.99 a head. Games are available between 10:30am and 10:30pm, every day except Mondays.

Happy sailing!

Puzzlair in Bristol

puzzlair-logoPart of the reason for this web site to exist is that it’s difficult to find all the exit games that are available right now. It took me a couple of months to find out about Puzzlair, an exit game lair of puzzles that opened for business in central Bristol at the start of the year.

The site currently has two games, John Monroe’s Room and the Laboratory of Dr. Lev Pasted. (Rumour found elsewhere suggests that the site will have two more rooms soon; it is not clear whether these will host other games.) Subject to confirmation, it seems likely that the John Monroe’s Room game is the same as one of the games that has proved so popular at HintHunt in London, but the Lev Pasted game is, so far, unique within the UK and Ireland.

Early reviews are extremely positive for both rooms, so the John Monroe room experience is likely to match the one available in London. Bristol is already served by Cryptopia, which is also getting very strong reviews; if the times and availability work out, why not try them both while you’re there? No reason why London should be the only city with two exit games!

Psst! I suspect this won’t hang around forever, but I’ve found a social purchasing web site deal for preferential rates at Puzzlair while the site is new.