It’s been so long since my last review I’m not even sure I can call myself a reviewer any more. But recent events, that I’ll come on to later (don’t hold your breath, it’s not that exciting), brought memories of this game flooding back and inspired me to pick up my virtual pen. So much later than planned, this is a review of my visit back in June 2015.
Appropriately enough for a review this long coming, our playing of The Vault was also thought about for a long time. As Clue HQ is one of our favourite operators we’re excited about anything new they have to offer (their newest offering at least part inspired by a post on this very site!), but were particularly intrigued by their new room announcement at the start of the year:
You and your friends recently visited a casino owned by The National Bank of Money. Accusations have been made that their machines are fixed to give the house a higher advantage. They stole your money, and you’re going to get it back!
All of the casino’s chips are stored in the vault at The National Bank of Money. Your heist appears to be going smoothly until the security system comes back on! You’ve got 60 minutes to grab as much cash (in casino chips) as you can and escape!
To get all the chips, you need to do some research at
In case it’s not clear from the above, not only do you have the challenge of escaping, but also seeing how much money (casino chips) you can collect along the way, effectively applying a grade to your escape. I’ve never been one for record times and the like but this seemed like more of a genuine test to your escapability, rather than just how quickly you can race something. Challenge accepted, but we wanted to make sure we were good and ready, hence the nearly six months that passed before we played it.
During that time Clue HQ regularly posted updates on the biggest hauls. The scores crept up steadily and seemed to stall around £6.5m, until a new high came in at £7.3m with the added stipulation that they had found every chip apart from ‘the jackpot’. We really wanted to be the team that got the jackpot which focused our minds even more.
Along with the grading, another unique part of this room is the need to do homework in advance. The National Bank of Money website (link above) hides a number of clues that you will need to discover and take in with you. I was adamant that number was three, as I’m sure that’s what the website said before being made more vague, but that didn’t stop me getting drawn into all kinds of crazy discussions and theories on what else might count as a code, “and that might be the one we need!!!”. At the risk of spoilers, I was right, and I would encourage Clue HQ and anyone else thinking of going down this route to make it clear what people are looking for. It’s a fun little hors-d’oeuvre to get people in the mood for escaping, but it could put people off their dinner if they’re scared of missing something that’s going to bite them later.
I’ve written a lot already and we’re not even there yet! To save space, you can read some of my earlier reviews for my general thoughts on Clue HQ Warrington. For this room, as always, Clue HQ have gone to a lot of effort on the set design, including a couple of places where it would have much, much easier to go with a simple option but instead they’ve stuck with their vision. Having said that, I think it’s probably the weakest of their rooms in terms of immersion. I felt a bit more like I was breaking into a high security prison cell than a bank vault. But then I haven’t done either in real life so they could be very similar!
Puzzle-wise it was again predictably strong. There were some nice touches that tied into the financial theme. But, and this is a pretty big but, that theme extended into a lot of number-crunching. I have no problem with maths; Countdown appearances aside (that’s a story for another time) I’m usually pretty good at it. But I don’t find it particularly fun. And in an escape room setting where time is of the essence; in this escape room where a mistake could ruin your months of preparation; I found it very stressful indeed. In fact at one point I had to step back and leave some of the calculating to the others as my head was spinning, and that’s not something I’ve experienced in a ‘fun game’ before.
Luckily the others pulled through and with about eight minutes remaining we opened the exit door. We still had two closed padlocks in the room though, so our game wasn’t over. Sitting here now I think we, and me in particular, didn’t make the most of those eight minutes and would love to have them over. We frantically searched for anything we might have missed. We found one of the things, that boosted our final score to £7m (our host said it should have been £7.3m as we’d accessed everything the then record holders had, and everyone was pretty sure nothing was left behind) but there were so many other things we didn’t try because we were so panicked.
It may be obvious from my writing, but four months later my strongest memories of this room are of stress and panic. Subsequently it’s my least favourite of my Clue HQ experiences. But that’s certainly not a damning indictment and I still would encourage any enthusiasts to make the journey and
test yourselves ignore the whole grading thing and just enjoy yourselves.
Oh, that recent event I mentioned. Two days ago the jackpot was finally found, by a team on their fourth play through of the room! And I thought I was obsessed with it. If you’re an operator reading this you may be thinking that the fabled grail of replayability has finally been cracked. But I can tell you that I had no desire to pay to play it again, so please keep looking elsewhere for that.