This review of Bad Clown is based on a visit from February 2016.
Two of us were warmly welcomed to the reception area of Escape Quest but it did little to quell my unease. What will the live actors do? What are “panic inducing scenarios”? Do I really want to subject myself to this for 90 minutes? Is it too late to swap to the more family-friendly Funhouse version? I daren’t utter these questions for revealing how nervous I am, so they remain unanswered as the rest of the team arrive. Their smell of fear (and chips) implies they have been fretting as well. Our hosts are so lovely but maybe they’ve just become jaded by witnessing it all before. Our briefing is full of smiles and laughter but it’s all superficial; something completely different is coming and we can feel it.
We’re led down a darkened corridor. Before we can begin our trial we must make a choice. We’ve seen this before, but it doesn’t make it any easier. We choose the least obvious, the proverbial rubber chicken, hoping that isn’t our first mistake (or our last?!). The door is opened and we’re ushered inside, warned not to touch anything before our timer starts or there will be consequences. They needn’t worry; the way we’re cowering near the centre of the room with our backs to the wall would make investigation quite impossible. The chill voice of Mr. Chuckles; such a viciously ironic name; rings through the icy air. He tells us to hurry out if we want to survive. He doesn’t have to tell us twice.
The timer has started and the others have set to work. They ask for my opinion but all I can hear is the beating of my heart. Two padlocks bang together and I have to be helped down from the ceiling. I’m the most experienced escaper, unofficial leader of the group, but right now I’d be burying survivors. My stilted performance is rubbing off on the others. A simple problem puzzles us an age. 15 minutes have passed and we’ve gone nowhere. Are we ever getting out? Is this part of the game? WHAT WAS THAT?!
Luckily it was a padlock opening. Something stirred inside; a familiar feeling; a sense of clarity. Oh yes, this is an escape game, I remember these. The darkness began to lift (metaphorically – it was still pretty ‘atmospheric’) and I regained the use of my faculties.
And putting all that aside is absolutely critical otherwise you might miss a very good game. Bad Clown has a lot going on. The set is beautifully decorated. There are a lot of things to investigate and interact with, very few of which are red herrings. There are golden tickets to collect for some reason (more on this some other time). There are live actors – Not as many as I feared, but I think that’s a good thing. There is a good variety of puzzles. And on top of all that, there are still more things that I hadn’t experienced in an escape game before that I won’t spoil here. They didn’t all ‘work’ for me (I don’t mean they were broken) but they were different and interesting and exciting, and exhausting. We emerged just under the 90 minute limit and rather than shredded nerves it was fried brain I was suffering from. This is a fantastic sensory and fun experience. Please don’t waste as much time and energy as I did being unnecessarily scared; there are much better ways to spend your time in this excellent game. Hats off to Escape Quest once again.