Crazy – Cabin Fever @ Trapped Up North Manchester

This review of Cabin Fever was based on a visit from September 2015.

Cabin Fever photo

We never saw the photo that was taken of us, but we didn’t want to remember anyway.

As a reviewer (nee critic) I feel that sometimes you have to give a negative account of an experience to give your positive comments more credence, not to mention the importance of being honest. But I always feel somewhat uncomfortable saying ‘bad’ things about something that someone(s) has invested their time and money in. However in this case the tardiness of my review has worked in my favour; the site has now closed (I don’t know whether permanently or temporarily; they’re certainly not accepting bookings) so I can speak quite openly about the worst escape game experience I’ve ever had; Cabin Fever at Trapped Up North:

After attending the most awesome music festival of your lives, you, along with a group of your closest friends arrange another camping trip, this time hundreds of miles from civilisation, out in an old forest surrounded by miles of swampland.

On your first night, after setting up camp and bedding down for the night, you are attacked by a group of crazies. Bloodthirsty, sub-human locals who are not at all welcoming to out-of-towners. At first you believe that everyone is safe but it soon became apparent that one of your group has been taken hostage. The crazies have taken your friend!

It’s a no-brainer, you must save your friend, they’ve been taken and you must get them back. They are the only way that you can get home. Your friend is the only driver and has the key to your survival, the car keys.

Determined to find your friend and after walking for almost a full day you come across a dilapidated cabin buried deep within the swamp. Is this where your friend is being held captive? You watch the cabin for a while and it appears that there is no one there.

You must enter the cabin and find out what has happened to your friend and retrieve the car keys to escape. It’s getting dark and you know that the crazies will be hunting soon! So, be quick and you and your friends might just make it out alive!

 

Let’s start with a simple one. The brief above doesn’t match the game we played. We weren’t sneaking into a cabin to rescue someone. We had been captured by the ‘crazies’ and locked up in makeshift cells. Our captors had now gone out for a 60 minute walk (conveniently) and we had to break out of their cabin whilst working out where we were, so we knew which way back to civilization. This last bit sounded quite intriguing (more on that later) but once again I’m baffled by how little importance is placed on accurate scene-setting/storytelling.

Secondly the game was advertised as for 3-6 players. We went as a six, which meant that three of us were placed in each cell. These cells were obviously intended for no more than two people, so the first portion of the game was spent in closer quarters than any of us had anticipated. This problem persisted throughout the game as there wasn’t in anyway enough for six people to do.

So far, so minor annoyances, but trust me it gets worse. The whole place was ‘atmospherically lit’ aka trying to make things more difficult by being dark (another of my pet peeves). As you’d expect we found a torch. What you wouldn’t expect is for that torch to be part of an electric screwdriver. Now, that’s not a bad thing. It’s actually quite exciting. Filled with that enthusiasm and ‘guided’ by the easily accessible screws on the lock to the next room, we began to remove it from the door. A short time later we found how the door was intended to be opened, via a switch in another area. Oops. The screwdriver must be for something else. We journeyed on and made our way into another room. We conducted a thorough search and found nothing, apart from some more exposed screw heads. This must be what the screwdriver’s for!

We removed a couple of barriers and crawled through past the hanging bodies. At the back of the room we found a loose panel. The excitement cranked up another level. We removed yet more screws to find… the crawl space of the building. That’s right, we had escaped the room, but not in the way intended. And the host never thought of stopping us doing what potentially could have been dangerous. We went back into the room and replaced the screws we’d removed and looked for an alternative route. So what was this seemingly empty room for? Nothing. They must have just had some space leftover so decided to extend the set, without extending the story to have a reason to go in it. And what was the screwdriver for? I bet you’ve guessed. Nothing! It was just to be used as a torch. I can only guess… Actually I can’t guess. I have no idea why you would give someone a screwdriver as a torch in any scenario, least of all in an escape game.

A short while later we completed a couple more puzzles (actually some quite interesting ciphers), opened some locks and what appeared to be the final door. We exited, expecting to be met by our host, but found nobody. Maybe it wasn’t over? After all we hadn’t really found out where we were yet, as instructed earlier, so maybe there was another area to explore? We walked around for a bit but after finding laptops and desks decided, no, this is definitely not part of the room any more. Finally our host appeared and said he hadn’t expected us to get through the room this quick. In other words he wasn’t watching us, and hadn’t realised we were out. He asked us if we’d worked out where we were. We said no, so we were instructed to go back into the room.

By this point I was thoroughly bewildered. We’d been outside of the room, twice, but were now back to complete a task that hadn’t been brought about by the puzzles we’d played so far. The task was to use place names from around the room to pinpoint your location on a tiny map. Remember the atmospheric lighting? Well six people in a dark room trying to find place names on a tiny map using a screwdriver as a torch is not a fun experience, not to mention one of the most ridiculous situations I’ve ever tried to describe.

And here comes the cherry on this particularly stale cake: Much eye strain later we came up with an answer for our host and his response was “Oh, I’m not sure. I’ll have to go and check. Nobody’s ever got this far before.” I was speechless.

I still am (and in case you have any hint of sympathy left, bear in mind this wasn’t opening night; the place had been open over a month).

The most positive thing I can say about Cabin Fever is that it was ‘a good idea badly implemented’. I think I’ve already said enough negatives. You’ll probably never have the chance to play this game, and for that you can be thankful.

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