Escapologic Nottingham has escaped me for far too long and it was finally time to make the trip to what is regarded as one of the best escape room companies in the UK. We were off to play two games, Butcher and Curio. We decided to get the heart pumping first and took on The Butcher in his lair.
Anna and Max have the kind of relationship everyone pretends to find annoying. But really, their friends are just a little bit jealous. Because you can see how much these two people are meant to be together. They just-fit. Anna is daring and inquisitive, Max is sensible. She encourages him to try new things. He stops her from doing stupid stuff.
But not today. Maybe it’s the sunshine. Maybe it’s the wine. Because today, when Anna finds a randomly-unlocked shutter on a random side street, Max isn’t quick enough to persuade her not to go inside. His mind is on the picnic they’ve just had, the kisses they’ve shared. So what if Anna is intent on seeking out some new dark and gloomy pace to scare him with. It’s just Anna being Anna, right? This is why he loves her. It’s just an adventure. A dare. It’ll be OK.
And then the shutter bangs down, and everything is very far from OK.
It’s fair to say that Butcher is designed to be a scare attraction first and escape room second. There are a number of puzzles in the game and these are in a very linear format. Searching is key here but the game makes good use of atmosphere to make it a little harder to make progress. If you are playing this game for the gameplay alone then you may leave a little disappointed as it’s the combination of atmosphere and puzzles that create the overall experience. The game has some great puzzle moments to get your teeth into but the appearance of the Butcher will hinder your progress. How many times he comes in and for how long seems to differ from group to group, I think it’s dependant on the speed you progress and how your team reacts to the Butcher. Because of this, the puzzles in this room aren’t overly complex and many are physical in nature, something that I particularly enjoyed. It was nice to find a room that contains no padlock combinations and really makes you interact with the environment in a way that feels in keeping with the rooms theme.
Now, I’m a big fan of horror. I love the idea of being scared and I look forward to Halloween every year. Having heard so much about Butcher’s scare, people wetting themselves and the need for a safe word, I was definitely expecting the worst. I was prepared to be reduced to a small puddle of mess in the corner of the room. The truth was, sadly, I didn’t find it scary. Sure, there were a few things that startled me and some of the darker areas of the room looked ominous but for much of the time I felt too safe. I didn’t fear the arrival of the Butcher. Part of this, I felt, was because we knew when the Butcher was coming. It’s clear from the GM briefing at the beginning (that did a great job of setting the scene by the way), that the Butcher would make his presence known. He did and when he entered the room, several of us felt no sense of peril or dread. Don’t get me wrong, three of our group cowered in a cupboard and refused to come out until he left but for the other two of us, we felt it was a distraction from solving the puzzles. In fact, we felt so little peril we actually came out to say hello to the Butcher and one member of the team continued the solve puzzles while he was in there. Now, this may have been because we didn’t approach the game in the right way and were too concentrated on escaping but I hoped that I was going to fear him and I didn’t. Having said all of this, the gameplay was still good and it was just as much fun watching others in the group hide in fear as it was to play.
Escapologic have lucked out. The venue couldn’t have been more perfect even if they custom built it themselves. Housed in a building across from their main base, this place is creepy. Like really creepy! Any horror brand would give their right arm to have such a perfect location. The set design and decor is perfect. Every part of it is meticulously designed and this means that you do feel like you are in the lair of the Butcher. There are some really nice, unique way of interacting with some props. Some, that people will feel uncomfortable with doing, which adds to the fun. There are some nice little jump scares in the room too and these fit in nicely with the theme of the room. Not one item in their feels out of place. It all works so well and gives a real feel of a serial killer’s lair. If you want to see the perfect example of theming and decor then this is the room you need to visit.
This caused much discussion between our group. Did we feel that the room had enough of a fear factor to offset the fewer puzzles? For some of our group it was clear that the balance was right but I felt it light on content because the scares weren’t as much as I hoped.
I want to re-iterate that this wasn’t a bad experience in the slightest and I’d recommend that anyone do it but, if you are a more hardcore horror fan who may have been to a number of scare attractions in the past, you may find the level of scare a little disappointing. Nevertheless, it has certainly made me want to get back to Escapologic and try out everything else they have to offer.
Escaped: 43 minutes