I assume most escape teams live in reasonably close vicinity to each other. Not so with The Animals. While Richard1 and Paul live in the same street in Liverpool, that’s 28 miles from my house. James lives somewhere in the middle in Widnes. And Richard2 lives all the way down in Birmingham, travelling up on the train to get his escape fix. But now he’s convinced some of his fellow midlanders to give escaping a try, so here he is with this blog’s first guest review!
As a veteran of five escapes in the North West, I’ve often found myself returning to my West Midlands home having to explain my new hobby to confused looking friends. “Ah, so it’s like the Crystal Maze?” seems to be a stock response. That or “Oh, right. Anyway…” So when a voucher to try out a relatively new room in Birmingham appeared online, I took the opportunity to introduce my housemates to escaping. The reviews online looked excellent (nothing less than a 5/5 on TripAdvisor at the time of writing), and a room that didn’t sound like one I’d done before.
Following a briefing session I gave the team at a nearby pub (for the record I had a D*Face burger, and I’d recommend it if you ever find yourself at the Lord Clifden in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter), we wandered five minutes down the road to Escape Live, where we discovered a railway arch based facility. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Birmingham New Street station, and very easy to spot.
Walking in we were greeted with a very minimalist entrance room, all white, but with a brightly coloured sofa and a small area with tea and coffee making facilities. So far, so normal. Around the room there looked to be five doors, four of which related to the two games. We were playing Room 13:
“Amy is locked in a room and is relying on your team’s wit and skill to get her out alive. You are her only hope. You must piece together clues, solve puzzles and find objects to get the four digit number you need to release her. With just 60 minutes to rescue Amy, will you manage to save her life?”
Our GamesMaster delivered the briefing above, and gave the usual instructions about not needing to move any items with stickers on, and handed over a walkie talkie to keep in contact. We were then shown into the room, and the game began with a further, ‘in character’ briefing, delivered by video, that gives a bit more information about how Amy ended up in this situation. There seemed to be just enough logic in the setup, although perhaps it shouldn’t be questioned too much for fear of ending up wondering how these events had taken place.
The room itself seemed fairly standard, although the hint system was slightly different from anything I’d experienced previously, requiring us to request help via the walkie talkie. This did seem to break the atmosphere slightly, as we were simply asking the GamesMaster for a clue, rather than engaging with an aspect of the story that could give us a nudge in the right direction. The countdown was displayed on a TV on the wall, which also gave us a view of poor Amy herself, locked in a room and bound to a chair.
The room itself was well designed, with coherent theming that kept you immersed, never seeming to drop out of character at any point. I wouldn’t say it was scary as such, but there was at least one part that was a little macabre.
There were a good amount of things to look at, although perhaps not as many puzzles as I’d have liked. The individual puzzles were of a nature that made the room appropriate for a group where four out of the five players were beginners, as there was a lot of scavenging style tasks. Although not wildly original or different from things I had seen before, they were interesting enough to keep me immersed in the game for the time we spent locked in.
Overall I’d recommend Room 13, certainly to anybody in the West Midlands who’s interested in giving escaping a go. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t get much wrong and offers a solid experience that will get you started on your path to being locked in rooms on a regular basis. My housemates are keen to sort out a date to play Escape Live’s other room, Dr Wilson’s Office, which I’m more than happy to go along with, especially if that burger’s still on the menu at the Clifden.