Three escape game reviewers walk into a bar… – The Hatch @ Tick Tock Unlock Manchester

…and conveniently that bar was just around the corner from The Hatch, so they did what comes naturally to them and played a game.

The Hatch photo

I really need some better fitting jeans.

The Logic Escapes Me was in town for the weekend and proposed to Asa of the Escape Game Addicts and me that it would be fun to get together and do a reviewers’ escape. I instantly agreed, because I like doing escape games, and this would be interesting for all kinds of reasons (not to mention hopefully being fun). The first challenge was to find a room that none of us had already played, but a short while later we found the recently opened second room at Tick Tock Unlock Manchester, The Hatch:

There isn’t an online brief/description for this game, so moving swiftly along

 

This isn’t unique to The Hatch. None of Tick Tock Unlock’s games come with any guidance beyond the title. I’m not sure why they do this; if I was selecting a room on anything other than convenience it would put me off. But the title may be enough for some people. While it meant nothing to me, it’s a reference to the TV show Lost, on which this room is very (very) loosely based. Your objective is to disable an electromagnetic blast that would erase everyone’s memory (or something) and then escape the room. From what little I understand about Lost perhaps confusion is what they were going for.

I’d been there before but I haven’t got to that review yet (for shame) so let’s first talk about the location. Tick Tock Unlock Manchester is, surprisingly, not in Manchester. It’s in what I call ‘posh Salford’ (as opposed to the definitely not posh part of Salford I live in), on the way into Manchester but not quite there yet, near The Lowry Hotel and Salford Central train station. As with their Liverpool location, unless you were looking for it you wouldn’t know it was there, in an industrial unit slightly off the beaten track. But if you’re driving there is free parking which is pretty rare in the area. Inside it’s nicely presented with a waiting area, toilet and bottles of water for sale (though do mind your footing on the slightly slippery astroturf flooring). We were met by a friendly host and given the usual health and safety brief.

On to the game, and the first thing you’re asked to do is split your group in two. All being experienced escapers this didn’t phase us, but I’m not sure if I’d have been as happy with a newer group. This is another point in favour of having some sort of description available in advance. Anyway, our host ‘randomly’ split us up meaning I would be on my own. We were given a walky-talky for each room which would allow us to communicate, and also receive hints from our host. I was then shown into room 1.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect theme wise yet it still surprised me. Let’s just call it ‘minimal’. I believe the intention was to force you to work closely with the other room to work out how to progress, and from what I could tell this was pretty well designed, however that wasn’t really necessary for me as I recognised enough of the puzzles to solve them on my own. However this would only let me get so far, and I still needed the other room for the final lock (in this section). Unfortunately for me the others were stuck on a puzzle not behaving how they expected, so I was reduced to waiting and offering random speculation on why they couldn’t get it to open. This wasn’t anyone’s definition of fun, but I guess is the risk in this style of split gaming. Luckily it wasn’t too long before a hint from the host got us all moving again.

In the second part of the room you’re reunited with the rest of your team, but still don’t meet much in the way of decoration. However there was plenty of points of intrigue so we got down to some puzzling. The quality of the puzzles varied from one that I didn’t like (needing three hints to get us passed, and not because of complexity) to a couple of different and interesting ones. The final puzzle was a particularly fun one, and one that I can see applying a lot of pressure to people approaching their time limit. That wasn’t the case for us, and we made it out with 17 minutes to spare.

That escape time is a bit of a concern for me. We got pretty stuck twice, and still only got 43 minutes worth. Without those pauses it would probably have been around 30 minutes, which isn’t long enough regardless of how experienced the players are. I also didn’t care for the theme (or lack of). I can perhaps see the appeal of vague and mysterious, but it’s also pretty close to ‘here’s a room with some puzzles in’. If that sounds up your street then there is some good content here but for others, particularly more experienced players, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

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