A couple of weeks ago I was thinking to myself “why isn’t there an escape game operator that combines both luxurious set design and non-linear puzzles?” Then I remembered there was, and their name is Clue HQ.
Detonation is the first game at their new site in Blackpool, or “near Blackpool” as we jokingly call it, as it isn’t in the town centre as you might expect. It’s actually on a farm, which also offers various activities such as paintball, archery and segway riding. As you can imagine with a farm, the outside isn’t going to win any beauty awards. In fact it’s quite stark. But there is lots of free parking and lots of space, which is what I was told they prioritised. And once you get inside it’s as nice as any other facility.
There’s no real reception area as such. Instead you’re greeted by your GameMaster, then asked to take a seat in front of a big screen. When all your team has arrived you receive a health and safety briefing via video. I’m not sure if this is any better or worse than hearing it from the GM, who still needs to be there to answer any questions, but it certainly ensures the message is consistent. After that briefing you’re led into your room and directed towards the monitor on the wall. Here you receive a story briefing from Danny Badd, which picks up from the intro on the website:
You and the rest of your detective team have been on the case of Danny Badd. Badd has been wanted for 7 years and is a known criminal all over Europe. He’s wanted by many different countries for various crimes. After 1 year of gathering information, 24 hour surveillance, and even capturing Badd’s brother, you’ve finally got the best lead that any intelligence unit has ever received with regards to his location. You’re going in, but not without a plan. Badd is notorious for blowing up anyone who attempts to track him down. Watch your step.
You won’t be surprised to know that you’re walking into a trap. The room is rigged with a bomb which will explode within 60 minutes, or if you try to escape before it’s disarmed. Great setup! And the first thing you notice in the room is the bomb. This isn’t a wooden box with the word BOMB on it. This is a realistic looking bomb, with a real timer counting down, connected to some realistic looking explosives, linked to some real oil drums (I don’t actually know what they do for a bomb, but I’ve seen them in enough films to accept it). A lot of effort has gone into making this room feel like a booby trap. And I appreciate it.
The second thing you notice is the amount of locks in the room. I don’t have the sample size yet to tell true averages, but I’d guess that a typical linear room has ~8 and a typical open room ~15. Here the number must be closer to 30. With such a high number there are a couple of things you’ll have seen before, but the majority are original, and some are very clever indeed (two of them in particular would rank highly in a ‘favourite puzzles’ list).
Clue HQ rate Detonation as 3/5 difficulty. Previous ‘easy’ rooms have been escaped in 27 minutes. We got out of here with just four minutes to spare. Easy at Clue HQ means different things to most other places, and so I would gladly recommend this room to anyone from a novice to an expert.
I really like what Clue HQ are doing. As a minimum their games are beautifully presented, challenging and fun. On top of that they’re also prepared to try something a bit different, as evidenced by their two newest rooms. I’m already looking forward to raiding their Vault.