I was delighted to get an email from my friend Helen saying “my plans have fallen through for Sunday night. Fancy doing something, maybe escaping?” Not delighted that her plans had fallen through of course, but that someone else had initiated a plan to go escaping rather than my constant mither. And in a further stroke of luck, ExitGames had just informed me of a brand new site and operator in Manchester which I was eager to try, Lockin Real Escape.
One problem of impromptu escaping is that you have little time to prepare. Indeed our preparations were far from ideal. On the Saturday Helen had pulled guard duty on Army camp so been up most of the night, I’d won a big rugby match and overindulged in the celebrations, and Connie and had similarly indulged on a work’s do. Jen was the freshest member of the team and she’d been at work all day! Undeterred we headed into town to play Mission 60:
After weeks of intensive investigation, the security forces remain unable to locate the whereabouts of the President’s son, who has been secretly abducted a month ago. As time passed with no word from the kidnappers, the President is becoming increasingly nervous and is losing patience. The President has instructed you and the Hostage Rescue Team to take on this rescue mission and to reveal the plot behind it.
Time is getting tight.
After 60 hours of careful investigation and analysis, you successfully identified the location of the hostage, in Flat 60. You are the President’s only hope. With 60 minutes in hand, you are now ready to storm into the flat…
Lockin Real Escape is based in Chinatown, in Manchester city centre. Obviously as a city centre location there’s no car park, but there are a lot of pay & display spaces in the area, charging £4.30 for 1.5 hours. When walking up the street I saw their sign, but as it was above a general store and Chinese restaurant I wasn’t sure how to get in. Some adventuring later I discovered the entrance was through the restaurant (which I believe they now tell you on your booking confirmation; it’s at least on the email signature I’ve seen when contacting them since).
If not from the sign outside, as soon as you see the entrance way in the restaurant, you can see that aesthetics and finish is important here. This feels like a custom-designed environment, not a generic space with a couple of signs on the wall. At the top of the stairs is the reception desk and waiting area, and lockers to leave any items you don’t wish to take in the room with you (the first time I’ve seen this). There’s also a functioning toilet, which is still worthy of note in escape sites. All the corridors are furnished in their distinctive purple and grey style, up to the doors which take on the theme of their contents. This was a very impressive space.
When the rest of the team arrived we received our briefing. This particular room had a slightly unusual approach to health and safety, with a key to the exit attached to the back of the door, obviously with the proviso that using it ended your game. But this was the only solecism in the room. There was no video screen, just a clock, with hints requestable and provided via walkie-talkie. I know this is pretty common in other geographies but this was my first experience of it in the UK. It may have just been a coincidence, but the way this tied into the theme of a being a SWAT team on a mission was brilliant (even if my skills in operating it weren’t!).
I wasn’t sure if it was our general jadedness or the fact that the style of this room was very different to the only other one that the rest of the team had played, but we made probably our slowest start to an escape ever. After 10 minutes of achieving almost nothing we had to call for help. The bit we were missing was logical but really tough. This set the mood for the room; nothing is given up easily here (and this room is only rated 4/5 difficulty; Treasure Hunter is regarded as their toughest). We continued to make slow progress, in some cases down to our own stupidity, but in others because we couldn’t believe the sophistication of the solution!
This was a very good, very tough room. There was a lot of stuff here that I’d not seen elsewhere (bits I’d love to tell you about but won’t spoil). The styling of the rundown flat was bang on. The plot made almost perfect sense. Definitely one of my favourites escapes so far. My only concern was despite our lacklustre performance we still made it out with 10 minutes to spare. If we were of sharper mind it would probably have been even quicker, which gets close to “too short” territory. I’ll be keen to see reports from subsequent players (please leave a comment on how you got on if you’ve been enticed to visit).
In summary, a very nice facility and a very good room. A great debut from Lockin Real Escape. I’m looking forward to my next mission already.