Now open in Birmingham: Clue HQ

Clue HQ logoThe Clue HQ chain today opened their fifth branch, this one in Birmingham. It is situated underneath a railway arch, barely a Virgin West Coast Pendolino’s length from Birmingham Snow Hill station. (A station which, of course, Virgin West Coast does not serve, but saying a London Midland Desiro would be neither poetic nor accurate.) It’s effectively a couple of streets away from Escape Live, in an area that absolutely nobody apart from this site refers to as Birmingham’s Exit Game Quarter.

Clue HQ has already picked up coverage in the Birmingham Mail. Owner Stuart Rowlands is quoted as saying “Although we’ll open with 2 games, we’ll soon have nine different scenarios available all inside one unit. This means that not only will it be Clue HQ’s biggest location, but it’ll also be the biggest escape game centre in the UK.” The two games that the site is opening with are identical copies of the popular Bunker 38 seen in other Clue HQ locations, for head-to-head play right from the start; a nose through the planning application suggests that early plans for the other rooms included some other games from the Clue HQ range (with the implication that at least one of them will be reinterpreted in a very interesting and unusual way…) and some game titles that were completely unfamiliar and thus particularly exciting. It may well be the case that due to fire regulations, it may not be possible to fill all nine games completely to the brim at the same time.

Bunker 38 is a one-hour game for a team of 2-6. “You’ve been living in an underground bunker for years due to a radiation leak. Now you’ve been given the all clear, but you’re locked in and oxygen levels are running low! With only 60 minutes of breathable air left, will you be able to escape in time?” The tariff is the same as at other Clue HQ branches, starting at £44 for a team of two and going up to £90 for a team of six, though if you get in quick you might be able to take advantage of a Groupon for an opening discount, taking the price (regardless of team size) down to £39 on Mondays to Thursdays. The three-day opening weekend has already sold out completely, so time is of the essence… and would you really want it any other way?

Definitely pots of potential here; Exit Games UK looks forward to revisiting this site as it adds room after room after room!

Laser games and exit games: part one of possibly many

Clue HQ Sunderland lobby photoSome exit game owners in the UK remember the laser game bubble of the early 1990s; perhaps a couple of hundred or so laser game centres opened up and down the country, with the vast majority closing within a matter of perhaps two or three years. (Maybe longer, maybe shorter.) Some wonder – and some fear – whether exit games might do the same thing.

Exit Games UK notes major differences between the two in the number of games played per day per centre and the contribution made to a centre’s daily turnover by people who play one game and never play again. (The replayability of the two types of game is rather different, too.) The laser game industry is probably doing better now than even at the height of the bubble then, with many more game equipment manufacturers and with the barrier to entry to getting into the business being much lower now than once it was. While marginal centres come and go, the best laser game centres existed for five, ten or fifteen years, and the best exit game centres should last at least as long as well. Exit games have greater potential for reinventing themselves over time, too, which should only add to their longevity.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see some degree of convergence between the two game types. This started in this country when Clue HQ opened a branch at the (itself relatively new) Laser Quest in Sunderland, pictured above; its second game is due to launch soon. A second step is that there is another branch of Laser Quest due to open in Glasgow in March and its own web site suggests that Clue HQ Glasgow is coming soon, too. (This is no secret; it’s acknowledged on, for instance, the Clue HQ Facebook page.) It’s interesting also to note that it doesn’t necessarily have to work this way around; Laser Quest Preston opened very recently, practically sharing space with – and certainly co-promoting with – the branch of The Escape Room in Preston. It’ll be interesting to follow the trend as it develops.. and to see whether the other laser game manufacturers get involved.

Months ago, Ken pointed to this story from Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is very strongly linked with (and practically part of, de facto if not de jure) neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent. The regenerated Lymelight Boulevard shopping centre launched Laser Quest Stoke (told you!) last year, and the aforementioned newspaper article suggested “The laser light gaming centre is due to open next month with Key Quest, an escape room game, expected to follow later in the year.” Accordingly, this site has been looking out for further developments in the area, the Escape Artist Stoke-on-Trent initiative notwithstanding.

The name Key Quest reveals something very interesting, though. The Key Quest Escape Room in North America is an interesting chain where a common thread of the locations’ addresses runs located within Laser Quest. From the web site, “Key Quest is a live action escape room, presented by Laser Quest. Players must use observation and critical thinking skills to find clues, solve a series of puzzles, and ultimately, discover the “key” to escape the room within a set time limit.” Could the branch of Laser Quest at Lymelight Boulevard eventually host the first branch of Key Quest in the UK, analogous to branches of Laser Quest in North America? Might it be that the journalist, or the communication between site owner and journalist, simply misconstrued or misinterpreted the link?

This site doesn’t yet know, but will be keeping an eye on this fascinating development. Watch this space!

(*creeps behind you and zaps you in the back while you're watching that space*)

Exit games in the media

Newspaper graphicHere’s a collection of stories of exit games making their impression on the public.

News round-up for mid-January 2016

News round-upThis site is off to the unconference called The Great Escape UK today, so here are some news stories that have been queued up for a little while. There may be live coverage on Twitter with #EscGamesUK, but no guarantees.

  • Congratulations to Kelly and Alyson who became engaged to each other before Christmas at Escape Rooms Scotland! A report on Facebook suggests that Kelly had no idea, making the surprise proposal even sweeter. The best of health and happiness all round!
  • Clue HQ have already revealed that their next branch to open will be in Birmingham; even before launch, the Birmingham Post have a big piece on the forthcoming site. The suggestion that it might hold 36 guests gives a clear hint as to the ambition behind the location, suggesting it’s clearly one to watch.
  • Puzzlair of Bristol are also in the news as the Bristol Post visited the attraction and had “a great night out“. The reporter also noted that they had played Locked In A Room a few weeks earlier, so this site now has a favourite Bristol local newspaper. Some day the national press will start reviewing rooms and games…
  • Escape Asylum of Leicester are planning to launch in March but are already being covered in a piece in the Leicester Mercury that gives good detail about the founders’ backgrounds and starting-points and – along with the video – will give you a clear idea whether it’s the game for you. The site is set to launch whether or not its crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal; East Midlanders who like darker games should get in early and perhaps quickly pick up a discount.
  • Thanks to Ken for that one and for this: speaking of Kickstarter, there’s a campaign for a site in Preston called Timed Trap. While the campaign hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it’s far from unknown for an exit game to struggle with crowdfunding and then thrive in the fullness of time, so it’s definitely one to keep on the radar.
  • Further afield, the Brantford Expositor of Canada – and compare Expositor to Post and Mercury! – featured a piece on the BreakoutEDU Game Jam this weekend. Looks like an excellent time was had by all; it’s also exciting to read that there are more to come.
  • Even further afield still, Intervirals points to a panel on exit games at the PAX Australia convention in Melbourne. It takes a little listening, but fun to hear how they do it down under!

December 2015 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play exit games for less

Price tag suggesting deal, sale or bargainDealwatch is an occasional feature which, as the name suggests, looks out for special offers that exit games are promoting. (Very occasional; the last time it happened was January.) Some ground rules apply:

  • Do check voucher companies’ terms, conditions and guarantees and this site takes no responsibility for deals that fall through for whatever reason, which sadly has happened at least once and probably twice;
  • Many of these deals only permit a limited number of vouchers to be purchased and then the deal will expire. It’s quite possible that deals may have expired between being published below and your attempt to use them;
  • This non-commercial site does not attract any commission for promoting these deals, or for you using them;
  • These deals are not exclusive in any manner.
  • Ken found almost all of these; many thanks to him, as ever, for sharing them.

Eyes down for a full house with the details:

  • Escap3d of Belfast have a Groupon deal where a team of up to eight players can take part in “Paulina’s Revenge” for just £36.
  • Clue HQ‘s Sunderland branch are sharing a Groupon deal where six players can play for just £39, though a £10 surcharge is applied for those who want to play on Saturday.
  • Miles away from the Wear to the Tyne, Pirate Escape of Whitley Bay let you buy this Groupon deal where up to six can play their exit game for £45 – or a LivingSocial deal at just £35.
  • At almost the other end of England, Red House Mysteries of Exeter have posted their Groupon deal where a team of up to six can play for a flat fee of £39.
  • On the same coast, Cyantist of Bournemouth have a LivingSocial deal, just for a change, where two can play for £29, three for £36 or four for £45.
  • In the north-west, gamEscape of Liverpool let you buy a Groupon deal (or a LivingSocial deal if you prefer their terms and conditions) where their Golden Cage game, only, can be played by four players for £30 or by two players for just £15.
  • In London, Hidden Rooms have several Groupon deals depending on the number of players. See the deal and choose from a single ticket for £21, two for £27 or three for £31; their LivingSocial deal is a pound or two cheaper still.
  • Staying in London, QuestRoom have a Groupon deal where you can buy a three-player game for £34 or a five-player game for £52.
  • The new Sherlock Unlock also of London’s Groupon deal where up to six players can take part for a flat rate of £49.

((Edited to add:)) Exit Games Scotland also point to an offer by Escape Games Scotland of Glasgow: 20% off not only bookings but also gift vouchers until tomorrow. Thank you! Second post in a row with a similar sort of addition… 🙂

Clue HQ and repeat business

clue-cardExciting times at Clue HQ. The photo above is of their new Clue Card, a loyalty scheme running (to begin with) at their Warrington location only. Every time a team plays, one or two players can have their Clue Card stamped; in each game, one player can use their card to obtain a perk. While the graphic above is small, the perks are public knowledge. Collect a single stamp and you can redeem a simple perk: a starting-point the next time you play. A double-stamped card gets you an extra code within-game. A triple-stamped card earns you extra time, and a completed card with four stamps earns you a chunky discount on another play. The Warrington site has five games, so someone can play their way through the site on a single card. Sites have certainly offered discounts for returning customers, but a fully-fledged loyalty card like this is an innovation, at least to the UK. An exciting development!

((Edited to add:)) Apparently, not quite as much of an innovation as this site thought. Many thanks to the excellent Exit Games Scotland who kindly pointed out on Facebook that Escape Rooms Scotland of Glasgow have had their own loyalty card scheme for some time, though they’re keeping it quiet.

It’s fabulous, you get a card from the lovely people at Escape Rooms Scotland, one card per booking.
One stamp = £10 off your next game
Two stamps = £20 off your next game
Three stamps = Free t-shirt (very exclusive t-shirt!)
The great thing is that you can give the card to anyone to get the discount *grin*

That’s not all Clue HQ‘s good news, though. They have recently announced that they will be opening a new site in Birmingham soon. “We’re thrilled to announce that early next year we’ll be adding a massive site, Clue HQ – Birmingham to our fantastic line up. Some games will be coming from our other Clue HQ sites, however there will also be new games added in time too! ” The address has been published. Like the Warrington original site, it’s in a railway arch; more specifically, it’s in a wide old site that forms part of a railway arch, a very short walk away from Snow Hill station in the city centre. It’s not yet clear quite how many games there will be hosted there, but the site is intended to keep people coming back time and time again – and perhaps Birmingham might yet grow to have its own Clue Card some day.

(UPDATED!) Black Friday 2015 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play escape games for less

All-black discount starEven the discount starburst has blacked out completely to celebrate the day! As you might be able to tell, the time at which the articles are published reflects the time at which writing started; this article is being started on Thanksgiving Thursday and completed very early on Black Friday, with the benefit of some new information that became available at midnight. Whether you approve of limited timescale deals or not, or the Black Friday phenomenon in particular, today is an unusually good day to purchase play – and it’s worth checking the social media of wherever you’re buying before you do so. All deals may expire quickly, maybe not even lasting the whole of the day.

Escapism of Nuneaton have posted an offer on weekday bookings at 10am or noon in December or January; any number of players, up to eight, can play for just £50, or alternatively you can get 20% off gift coupons to play outside these specific times.

Clue HQ have four locations from Sunderland to Brentwood, but it’s not immediately clear whether or not all of them are participating in today’s special offer. The posted deal suggests that they’ll sell a hundred games at £49 each for up to six players, to be played between the 1st and 2nd of December if you use the code BLACKFRIDAY when you book.

The same BLACKFRIDAY promo code also works at Escape Rooms Scotland of Glasgow. This deal runs from Friday 27th November to Monday 30th November and there’s no time restriction on when your booked game must be played; the code will give you a £10 discount, reducing the 2-6 player Jail Break and Zombie Quarantine rooms to £50 each and the brand new 4-10 player Bank Heist room to £90, from its opening on 9th December.

Escape Live of Birmingham posted their offer on Twitter. That BLACKFRIDAY code will give you 15% off any games for four or five players that you book today. At this point, it might be worth trying the code BLACKFRIDAY pretty much everywhere, just to see what happens!

No codes required in Belfast, where The Gr8 Escape now offer four rooms and are offering gift vouchers valid for the first half of 2016; any room, up to six players for £45. Buy ’em today via PayPal.

((UPDATED, 2:30pm!)) Over to Bristol where Puzzlair (including their new second location, a short walk away from the original) used Twitter to post their Black Friday deal, which offers a handsome 30% discount on weekday bookings.

In north-west London, QuestRoom also tweeted their offer; there’s 20% off the two spaces available this evening but also 20% off games played this weekend.

Ken kindly pointed in the comments to an offer by Trapped In of Bury in Greater Manchester. It was posted on Facebook, which is as ever charmingly intermittent about which stories it shows to people, unless you pay it cold hard cash. The BLACKFRIDAY code used today will get you 20% off your booking. If you know any other deals posted to Facebook that haven’t made it to Exit Games UK, please speak up.

From the north of Greater Manchester to the south; down to Altrincham for Code to Exit. The Tweeted offer is for a discount of 30% on bookings using promo code BLACK. That said, there has been a suggestion that the code is no longer available – maybe a temporary glitch, maybe a limited offer. It applies to the Blueprint game only, not their new game, “The Test”.

This site knows of at least one other place offering a Black Friday discount for hunt participation, but it’s restricted to members of a mailing list, so the details won’t be shared here. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible that other sites might mail one-day discounts out to their own lists so check your mailboxes carefully.

As ever, if you know of other coupons, deals, vouchers or competitions, please send them through. If your site has a offer not listed above, please don’t assume the worst; get in touch and this site will happily spread the good news. (Alternatively, if you would prefer that this site does not list your coupon, or if the details of the offer are mangled, that’s fine too; again, please get in touch.)

More good news

good newsI’ve had some very bad news. It’s not relevant what it is, for those of you lucky enough not to know it, and it doesn’t affect my ability to continue keeping this going. Instead, time to share some good news.

  • Congratulations to Clue HQ Sunderland for opening their first game! The planned opening was discussed two months ago yesterday and has – very unusually – come ahead of schedule. Bunker 38 is now open, with The Vault set to follow soon. Tyneside has proved a popular location – more news to come on this soon – so hopefully Wearside works just as well. All the very warmest of wishes to them!
  • Also the very warmest of wishes to a couple whose proposal took place at Cryptic Escape of Norwich. This might be the seventh UK couple to propose at an exit game of which this site is aware; let’s hope they all remain locked tightly – no, unbreakably, together.
  • The Escape Room have been welcoming the stars: both stars on two wheels at their Manchester location and stars of the screen at their Preston branch. Their third location, planned for Birmingham, is close to announcing a launch date; who knows what stars they might be able to attract there?
  • Lastly, and further afield, this site very much enjoyed reading about the latest SCRAP Real Escape Game event in Tokyo, this one “a puzzle-solving game played while walking through the streets of Tokyo. To find your next destination, you will need to solve the mysteries you find along the way.” In other words, a self-paced puzzle hunt, running at your convenience until December 27th. Cutely, there’s a tie-up with the Tokyo Metro, and the game kit comes with a one-day travel pass to get you from location to location. “English and Traditional Chinese versions are available for this game so non-Japanese speakers who can understand English or Traditional Chinese are welcome to play the game as well!” To give this claim a try, Escape Room Directory’s Dan Egnor posted his review to Google Plus and was rather impressed. Certainly it’s among the most mainstream puzzle hunts yet!

November 2015 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play exit games for less

"Special Price" stickerDealwatch is an occasional feature which, as the name suggests, looks out for special offers that exit games are promoting. (Very occasional; the last time it happened was January.) Some ground rules apply:

  • Do check voucher companies’ terms, conditions and guarantees and this site takes no responsibility for deals that fall through for whatever reason, which sadly has happened at least once and probably twice;
  • Many of these deals only permit a limited number of vouchers to be purchased and then the deal will expire. It’s quite possible that deals may have expired between being published below and your attempt to use them;
  • This non-commercial site does not attract any commission for promoting these deals, or for you using them;
  • These deals are not exclusive in any manner.
  • Ken found about half of these and many thanks to him, as ever, for sharing them.

Groupon seems to be the de facto brand leader, or at least the site that more exit games use than any others. There’s no telling when these might expire, but currently it has social buying deals for Code to Exit of Altrincham, ESCAP3D of Belfast, Escape Game Brighton, Hidden Rooms London, Mission Escape of Exeter and Zombie in a Room of Chesterfield. It’s far from the only game in town, though, no pun intended; Dealmonster (to which this site says “monster, monster”) has a deal for Clue HQ in Blackpool with about a week left on the clock. That said, if you want to play Clue HQ in Brentwood, there’s a discount code of uncertain lifespan that was shared on its Facebook group.

Sometimes you can find the existence of a site that you didn’t know even existed when you spot a deal for it. The rather wonderfully-named The Bristol Maze, more of which soon, has a deal on Wowcher that expires when Tuesday turns into Wednesday; Lock Down Zone of Rotherham, more of which even sooner, has posted a half-off code, LDZ50Off, that applies in November.

Last, but far from least, EVAC of Glasgow has a LivingSocial deal with two or three days left to go on it. This has been saved for last because EVAC’s manager Graeme writes with a sad tale but sees the funny side:

Evac was full on Saturday ((7th November)), but when I turned up, it had been broken into and trashed which was sad. Made it back open today ((Monday 9th November)) though after extensive work yesterday.

They didn’t nick much however I wish I was there when the thieves opened up their lockboxes to find puzzles :)!

Quite upset they never tried to solve the puzzles and just crowbarred open every lock… ah well.

Nous sommes tous Français

&heart; FranceThis site sends its love and warmest thoughts to the www.escapegame.paris and www.escapegamefrance.fr blogs – and, indeed, everyone in France, whether they’re part of the exit game industry or not.

While there’s no pretending that this is in any way, shape or form any sort of compensation for the horrid developments of the last 24 hours, this site needs to share some good news for its own benefit.

  • Congratulations on their opening to Clue HQ’s new location in Brentwood and to Extremescape of Disley in rural Cheshire. The latter is a particularly pleasant surprise as prior suggestions were that it would open in 2016, but its Pirate Ship room is already open and taking bookings. Two rooms are open in Brentwood; The Logic Escapes Me has reviewed them and raved about the location.
  • Congratulations also to Escape Live of Birmingham for winning the “Business Start Up and Enterpreneur” category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards. (Other sites have also recently made it to the final shortlists in regional business awards and also deserve their own congratulations.) Escape Live have also recently been featured in The Guardian, in an article about the genre; news of their expansion, both at their original location and at a forthcoming Essex branch, has also made the press.
  • Escape Quest of Macclesfield are celebrating their first birthday today, with three celebrated games and more on the way. Hooray!
  • Much younger, Code to Exit of Altrincham are opening their second room, The Test, today. No locks! No furniture! No other games quite like it, by the sound of things! Definitely one where this site is looking forward to the reviews.

All of this is, at best, distraction from the real issues of the day. Sometimes a little distraction isn’t so bad, though.