We’ve visited Wheelgate and Twinlakes many times with our children and saw UK Escape Games looming in the distance but until now had never had the chance to play. So, it was time to dip our toe into one of their games and we started with a good old murder mystery.
It’s a classic murder scene. Steve Davies has been killed in his favourite pub. Police have found the body but have been unable to locate the killer. Intelligence have told us the killer will strike again in 60 minutes.
Time is ticking… Can you STOP THE KILLER becoming a serial murderer?!
The premise of the game was very simple, discover who murdered Steve Davis and escape. Simple right? For the first 15 minute or so of the game we thought so. In fact, we made fairly rapid progress in the downstairs of the Molly O Grady pub, finding keys and padlocks, codes and interactions to good effect. We’d like to report that the following 45 minutes were exactly the same but unfortunately, the remaining 45 minutes became one frustration after another. There were some clever puzzles in the game and some that we really enjoyed. They gave us some aha moments and these brought a smile to our faces. Some were a real pleasure but unfortunately they were outweighed by the not so pleasurable. The game had a mix of physical, visual, logic and word puzzles and a LARGE amount of maths puzzles too. One particular puzzle required you to add up so many numbers that it was very easy to make a mistake and was overly excessive.
The frustrations began later in the game. For us it was the sheer lack of signposting and the ambiguity of some of the puzzles. Imagine finding a UV torch and then having three floors of walls, cupboards and props to investigate to work out where on earth the code might be. There was no signposting to give any suggestion and finding it was purely guess work. It seemed that the room broke several escape room conventions . The first, unless your told, keys are single use. This is a fairly common escape room rule. We found a key and we had a few locks to try. Low and behold, the key unlocks a draw, we pull it out and find nothing in or on it. We spend a good 5 minutes working out what it is needed for. It seems, unbeknown to the GM that the key works on that lock as well as the one it’s supposed to work on. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any suggestion that we were wasting our time on a useless drawer.
Secondly, ambiguous riddles that could result in multiple solutions. We found a written clue that gave suggestion to the location of something. We searched where the suggestion was and found a very useful item. Thing is, it became apparent that the riddle wasn’t actually for that item, it was for something else. There was no suggestion from the GM that we had misinterpreted it and it threw us off the scent which really hampered our progress as the correct interpretation was important to the escape. Unclear signposting was a huge issue with this game and ultimately severely hampered our progress.
Finally, reusing similar ideas on multiple occasions. The very first part of the game relies heavily on references for snooker, the coloured balls and their values. No problems here but later in the games, similar looking symbols and colours reappear. Rather than following the same theme, you are expected to realise this is unrelated and links to something totally different. This doesn’t happen just once but twice during the game. This was potentially the most frustrating part for us and wasted a huge amount of time.
Due to all these issues it meant the flow of the gameplay was stilted and didn’t give you a real sense of achievement or progress. As you can imagine, standing around with no real clue where to go next in a linear room isn’t that much fun. There are other flaws within the game which I could go into detail for but I think you already get the picture.
The clue system comes in the form of a computer screen that contains a countdown clock and text based clues. There should be two screens available in the game, each on a different floor. The issue we had was that only one screen worked, this meant that every time we received a clue, we had to go downstairs to read it and come back upstairs to relay it and this wasted value time in the process.
There has been some real effort and thought with regards to the look and feel of the game. It really does look like a pub albeit a very small one. The game takes place over multiple levels which is a really nice change and gives a real feeling of exploration. On the whole, the puzzles fit in with the theme and the contents of each room you explore give you a feeling of immersion. The is one puzzle built into the decor that is described as a “wine stain” which is a bit of a stretch. There were some moments in the game where some of the props did let it down. At one point we un-earthered some clues that were simply pieces of A4 paper that had been printed on and laminated. Although feasible, the finish was a little poor.
This is potentially the most frustrated we have ever been in an escape room. Puzzles rarely led onto another without some leaps of logic and at times those leaps were so big they were almost impossible. The game itself isn’t difficult and could easily be completed by many groups if signposted better. Doing these simple things could make it a fairly decent game. At the moment it comes across as a game that creates more barriers than it unlocks. On the night we visited, the board told us it had a 44% escape rate, a number that UK Escape Games seemed proud of. I’d suggest this number is low because of the frustration it causes rather than because it’s a genuinely difficult game. It has such potential but for us missed the mark. We’d be really interested to see if this was a common theme across all UK Escape Game rooms or if this was an exception to the rule.
Escaped: On this occasion we failed to escape!
Note: we didn’t not pay to play this game but it did not alter our review.