This review of Pirate Ship is based on a visit in March 2016.
It’s entirely appropriate (you might think even ‘planned’, but you’d be wrong) that I’m writing this review today, the day after this piece from Room Escape Artist. If you don’t fancy reading it (but you really should) David is suggesting that the best rooms come from small operators that put all their thoughts and efforts into making one or two rooms, rather than some of the big chains and ‘cheap cash ins’ that hastily throw a bit of tat together to get in on the escape room craze (and goes on to say how these people are potentially damaging to the industry). Extremescape is very much in the former category; it’s run by a couple, Graham and Jess, in a barn conversion on a farm in the middle of nowhere. That isn’t the way to get rich (at least not quickly) but it does lend itself to making the game you want to make.
And the game they want to make isn’t going to be bound by normal conventions. Indeed the hosts claimed only to have played a handful of other rooms; they liked the idea enough from that experience to go away and put their own spin on it. So begone the 60 minute time limit, this is a 90 minute game. In fact begone the idea of time limits – if your team is getting a little overwhelmed/tired at any point in the game you can step outside for a break and the game clock will pause! And if you still don’t manage to finish within the 90 minutes you’ll just receive more hints until you do, up to a maximum of three hours! That isn’t the way to get rich either, but it is the way to make sure people have an as enjoyable time as possible, as well as getting their ‘money’s worth’ from a trip to Disley.
It’s also entirely appropriate that I’ve called this review Disleyland (a name I’m sure they only avoided to not get in trouble with Mickey), as the aesthetics and effects you’ll find in this room wouldn’t look out of place in a theme park. I never thought I’d find another game that looked and felt like Time Run but this is comparable, and in some mechanical ways possibly even better. There are a few combination locks but they also prove that there are many other ways to open something or make something happen.
The puzzles are nice and varied both in type and difficulty. We needed all three of our hints (that you have to pay for by finding coins in the room, another novel twist) in order to escape in 75 minutes. That could have been quicker had I not committed the cardinal sin of putting my coat over something important (for shame) but I don’t think it would have made a massive difference. My one critique, and it’s very nitpicky, is that it is a very open design. You can access almost every puzzle in the game as soon as you enter, which can make it a bit confusing over which puzzle you should be working on and whether or not you have all the information you need to answer. But it’s not too difficult to sort out with some perseverance, and believe me when I say it’s worth it.
This is the best looking, nicely finished, mechanically advanced room I’ve played for some time. I’ll happily recommend it to newbies and veterans alike. Set sail for Disley whenever you get chance.