Sometimes when reviewing an escape room you struggle to say anything beyond the obvious; the presentation was nice, the host was pleasant, the puzzles were easy, yadda yadda yadda… That isn’t the case with Classified. I’m not saying the host wasn’t pleasant! I mean it gave me lots of other things to talk about.
First of all this is the North West area’s first race room. That is there are two identical rooms side by side meaning you can split into two teams and race to see who breaks out first (or gets closest to breaking out). ExitGames did a blog about it here. This new room(s) is in Breakout Manchester’s new overflow site at the Great Northern Complex, seven minutes walk away from their HQ. We had to make a quick call to clarify where the place is, but it’s easy enough when you know. Though we originally booked for eight (two teams of four) due to drop outs we ended up as a six.
In the room the race element doesn’t make much difference. You have two hosts, who sit side-by-side, who monitor your game whilst comparing notes on where you’re up to. They can interact with you individually (like reminding you not to move the furniture that they’d very clearly told you not to move #sorry) but for the most part you get the same hints at the same time. I worried this might get confusing if a hint wasn’t specifically for you, but it actually worked really well; both giving an indication of where the other team were up to, and keeping things pretty close.
The biggest difference comes in the pub afterwards. We always like to go for a post-escape pint to reflect on the experience but it’s so much more fun when you’re asking how they worked out that bit, or learning about the silly mistakes that each other made (“the projector killed us”). Now I want every escape to be a race!
The next thing of note; this room embraces not one but two of the ideas I had jotted down for future Theme Thursdays. One, you’re not locked in! The object of the game is to open a strongbox and press the button inside, which stops the clock and declares you the winner (if you’re the quickest). Obviously that last box could have held a code or a key to enable your escape through a door, but it totally wasn’t necessary. The theme made sense as it was, and the open space between you and your ‘opponents’ (one of you is upstairs and the other down) made for a fun dynamic when you could vaguely make out them laughing, cheering or responding to the clues. I’m not sure having an open exit would work for many themes, but moving the goal away from just opening a door was refreshing.
Two, the theme fully embraces the idea of puzzles. As I’ve said before, no matter how good a theme is there’s usually an element of jarring when you say “why would there be a puzzle here?” But when the brief is:
The classified room see’s players sitting their final entrance exam to become a secret agent. You must escape from the room to pass the exam. This is Breakout’s most explosive and technologically advanced room yet!
…it makes sense for there to be puzzles. People’s problem-solving and investigative skills need to be tested, and what better way? It reminded me a lot of the recent film Kingsman: The Secret Service (which I thought was really good by the way) and made absolute sense. Both ideas are well implemented and work very well.
On a more usual note, the puzzles were a great mix of ‘find the clue’, ‘use the technology’ and ‘work it out’, and covered a range of difficulty from ‘seems too obvious’ to ‘pretty damn tough’. The styling of the room wasn’t particularly sophisticated but still makes sense within context. The hosting and hints was very well done.
I really enjoyed this room. My only small qualm was the deliberate use of red herrings, which I’m not a big fan of, but I don’t like to end on a downer, so I’ll save that for a separate blog some other time.
I’d recommend this room to anyone for a fun and reasonably stern challenge (two experienced teams escaped with nine and six minutes left respectively). And I’d definitely recommend racing when possible. Don’t let this room be top secret for long.