Please note this review is based on a visit from October 2014.
I first came across escaping back in September when I saw a mention of Breakout Manchester on facebook. I was instantly interested in it and shared the link with my friends to see if I could find anyone geeky enough to come with me. To my surprise many people from my various circles of friends responded, which in the long term has been excellent, but at the time actually made it difficult to plan out. It was late October before the pilot group (later to be known as Team Watch) had been selected and booked in to the Madchester room.
When I made the booking there were no difficulty ratings on the site so it was a mainly random selection. In the build up to our visit we noticed that the site had been updated, and that I’d inadvertently selected the toughest they had to offer. It turns out this isn’t the way to inspire confidence in your teammates.
Unperturbed we ventured forth. This isn’t a restaurant review column, but we met in Red’s True BBQ which is located just around the corner. They offer a wider range of bourbon and bacon milkshakes than anywhere I’ve ever been before, and the food isn’t bad either. But it is one of those annoying places that won’t let you book in advance.
Back to the scheduled programme. Madchester is a weird room in the sense that it doesn’t have a story. Instead it has a theme to the decoration and some of the puzzles. The website describes it thusly:
Manchester is famous for many things: football, relentless rain, musicians and bands such as the Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis, Coronation Street, incredible night clubs such as the Hacienda, The Warehouse Project and Sankeys and artists such as LS Lowry. What would you do if you were stuck in a time warp of Manchester? You are about to find out. Madchester is our hardest escape room game. Please note: You do not need any prior knowledge of Manchester to play this room.
Without a story the set up is brief. We were given the standard health and safety stuff, then told that the code to unlock the door was concealed within [REDACTED] the room. Good luck, clunk, and we were off. Because there’s no story there’s no obvious place to start. And, unusually, but good for a first time team, there is a variety of things open to you immediately. We spread around the room and had a good look around before solving anything.
Once we started solving we didn’t stop for much. We escaped with a then-record 21:57 remaining. The number of individual puzzles/challenges was high, but I found a lot of them on the easy side. On the few occasions we paused hints were automatically given via the video screen, which was a little too helpful, and contributed to our quick escape. There’s not much in terms of fanciness or innovation, but the way that some of the puzzles work in with the theme is very clever.
I would say that an experienced escape team would get through the room quite quickly, but it could be of interest for the story-less and non-linear approach. I would definitely recommend the room to beginners if they can overlook the alleged 5/5 difficulty.