Oh hai there!
If, based on the title quote, you’re reading this hoping it’ll be about the cult ‘romantic drama’ The Room, where fans pay homage to its awfulness by throwing around plastic cutlery, you’ll be sorely disappointed. There will be no spoon chucking in my posts!
In fact, I’ve not even seen the film, despite S suggesting we watch it on more than one occasion, along with other cult ‘so bad they’re good’ movies, such as Birdemic and Sharknado*. But you might as well carry on reading anyway, because, well you’re here now!
So what is this post about? Well, as it’s Fadtastic Friday, I thought I’d share a new-ish and so far fairly unfulfilled fad of mine. Want to feel under intense pressure to be incredibly intelligent whilst racing against time? Want to pretend you’re Jack Bauer and feel like you’re saving the world? Want to do all this as you’re locked in a room with no visible way out? Then let’s talk about LIVE ESCAPE PUZZLE ROOMS! They’re all kinds of fun 😀
I first heard about these rooms from a friend who had booked one in Prague (they’re huge over there) as an activity with a difference. Essentially, you become locked in a room and must solve puzzles in order to escape, but only have a limited time to achieve this before
being imprisoned forEVER... failure. As someone who loves puzzles and crime dramas, thinks she could give Lara Croft a run for her money and grew up watching The Crystal Maze, this sounded right up my street!
With no plans to visit Prague just yet, I needed to find some closer to home. Luckily, a little research revealed these rooms are everywhere…well at least in most major cities, with more opening all the time (UK and US) – it seems I’m not the only one loving this current fad! However, we still lived quite a distance from any, but a weekend in Manchester for birthday celebrations finally allowed us to test one out.
There are several companies out there running the rooms, but most follow similar themes – these are usually a crime scene, a world terror threat or prevention of a contagious outbreak. There are horror rooms too – such as the film themes developed by the brilliantly titled Farmageddon – but I thought being locked up in an environment based on SAW and perhaps having to chew a key out of S that he’s been forced to swallow was not the best way to spend a birthday!
I booked Breakout Manchester online, with instructions to turn up about ten minutes before our slot. They have 5 rooms to choose from for 2-5 players. Most prices I’ve seen for all companies are approx £40-60 ($60-90), so obviously this is better value the more people that play.
We entered a building with a very basic waiting area, that had several doors leading off it – there was nobody else there. No reception, no other players. ‘Was this part of the game?’ we wondered. We began to get uneasy. I knocked on a nearby door, but got no response. The longer we sat waiting, the more we believed we were being watched, tested – had we let any loved ones know our whereabouts, just in case? (Yes, I have a vivid imagination!)
Eventually, a lovely lady came out to greet us and explain the rules, the concept and some heath and safety regulations – there would be no need to climb through what might look like an enticing hole and we would be penalised if we did. She suddenly began to look less lovely… She also explained that she would be watching us via the security cameras and there would be a TV screen in the room that would show the 60 minute countdown clock and possibly some clues if we were struggling. Pfft! We wouldn’t need clues, we were going to nail this!
She then led us through a door (that did not open from the inside) and that was it. The lock turned, the clock started and we instantly went into heightened panic mode…when were we getting those clues again?!
We had chosen to complete ‘Sabotage’ which is the closest I believed we’d ever get to being a cast member of 24! We had to infiltrate an enemy locker room in order to ultimately prevent a nuclear attack. There were locks all over, some hidden, some visible. There were riddles to solve and codes to break. We basically trashed the place turning over items and rifling through bags, like we were burglars searching for a USB stick holding classified government information. There were Mission Impossible moments requiring practical skills to unhook keys in erstwhile unreachable places and enough red herrings to feed the five thousand!
And we loved it! We bickered and argued about the best course of action, we pushed and shoved each other trying to cover as much ground in as little time as possible, and once we remembered we were not competing against each other, we felt incredibly clever when we solved the next link. I discovered I’m incapable of opening combination locks, even though I’d worked out the correct code and revisited it three times (S did it first attempt of course, with a loud sigh of disappointment over time lost!) but although we seemed to be making great progress, time was running out quickly. We weren’t sure where to turn next.
The TV screen flickered to life, text scrolling across it…
‘GREEN is a nice colour isn’t?’
What did that mean? We were never told it would be vague, cryptic help that was offered! We frantically searched all things green but in a room full of camouflaged material, this was not very specific!
‘Oh, I see you’ve discovered that key already…never mind. 14 minutes left!’
Super, thanks…we know the clock is ticking! Our invisible guide did type up several other clues that did help us however and to be fair, she must have the patience of a saint guiding people from making the same mistake day in, day out. I think my sarcasm would kick in if I was in the same position – ‘Seriously? You’re looking there AGAIN? If it wasn’t there the first time, it won’t be there on the 57th look, will it now?! Shall I just get you a refund? 8 minutes left guys!
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it out in time. We were sooo close – our guide explained what we would have needed to do to get out. Grrr…aggravatingly close! But it was still such a cool way to spend an hour and we couldn’t wait to try more. So I’m super excited to have a room booked next week, this time with two more friends to up the grey matter!
The question I’ve been asked the most about these rooms is whether it’s claustrophobic. Not at all, not from the ones I’ve seen and it does seem to be a FAQ on their websites. If you’re not anxious in a regular sized room, you’ll be fine in one of these.
So why should you book one?
- They’re a great indoor activity for friends, colleagues and families with older kids* (Over 8s in most cases, for age appropriate reading).
- They make you think you’re a cool spy / detective / hero – who doesn’t want to feel awesome?!
- They flex your brain muscle but have enough levels of difficulty to keep non-Mensa candidates happy too.
- They’re something a bit different – whether you’re looking for an unusual hen/stag party outing or you’re a seasoned gamer.
- Quite expensive, unless you book for the full player capacity.
- That said, 5 or 6 people may get in each others’ way and hinder progress.
- Not suitable for people with mobility issues in most cases (check websites for details – just search ‘live escape rooms’).
- Unfortunately, only in major cities, so travelling for a 60 minute experience may seem excessive.
Despite some downsides, I highly recommend everyone who likes a challenge to try one of these but if you’re still confused with what to expect, watch this episode of Felicia Day’s The Flog. Just bare in mind this is a horror themed room. You won’t find any chained up humans in most of them. Well, probably not …
Let me know if you’ve done one / are planning on doing one – where in the world are the best ones so we can book our flights?!
*P.s. Having seen the first Sharknado, I’m ashamed to admit I
loved liked it (…let’s not get carried away!)
Image Credits: Breakout Manchester and Youtube.