Here in the UK there’s a new social activity has begun to spread across the country called “Real-Life Escape Rooms”. For those of you that are unsure of what they are, a real-life escape room is a physical adventure game where a group of people are locked together in a room and have to find their way out by uncovering codes and solving puzzles located throughout the room. Something along the lines of the Crystal Maze, except you’re all in the room at the same time.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the ClueQuest offices over in London to try not one, but both of their missions. I went once as part of a work team building activity, and then again a couple of days later with friends as part of a birthday celebration outing. Now whilst they ask the people who have played their rooms not to spoil any secrets to ruin future player’s enjoyment, I thought I would give you a brief review of my experience (spoiler-free!)
Now let me just say it now to get it off my chest – I absolutely LOVED both visits. Even though I knew roughly what to expect the second time around, I can honestly say it was just as much fun and just as tricky as the first time!
As a work team building exercise this is a brilliant choice. This game forces people to work together to get through the puzzles – not only are there times you will all be running around the room scavenging clues, but there are aspects which require a real group effort to complete.
It’s also completely accessible for everyone. I won’t lie, I am a plus-size lazy bitch who is completely unfit. Originally we were looking to do a kids-esque spy mission which would have involved crawling through air vents and swinging on ropes to different areas, and all I could think of was me looking a total fool with my arse stuck in a vent. Then we switched to the Escape Room plan, and thankfully any fears of exerting any real physical effort were easily quelled. The puzzles are all designed to be mentally challenging only, and require no special knowledge, physical fitness or any kind of flexibility to complete. And you have NO IDEA how rare that is in a team building activity. We had people of multiple ages in my little team alone (I think our youngest member was 22 and our oldest was a man in his 50s), and we all were equally equipped to deal with the puzzles (I say equal – I ended up being unable to use a coded padlock properly, and that was after they had given us a demonstration beforehand).
They also had numerous rooms of the same layout, enough for us all to group up and go into different rooms at the same time and race to get out. This was a brilliant idea – it gave the winning team (which was quite clearly my team) office bragging rights, and you could all talk about it together in the pub or on the train home without spoiling it for anyone.
As an activity to do with friends I would say the experience is no different. For this trip my friend kindly booked the room I hadn’t completed 3 days prior, but he decided to book for himself the original room to try out as well. As a result we temporarily split our gang, with people going into rooms booked for 2 different time slots. Now before I go on I want to note that each room is equipped with mics and CCTV cameras, and each room has a ‘guide’ who will watch your progress and provide you with clues if it looks like your group is getting stuck. What this meant for us though is that we found the CCTV screen showing our friends’ progress, and we managed to amuse ourselves with watching how they were getting on before our own challenge started.
The second room I found to be just as challenging, if not more so, than the first. The clues that came up didn’t necessarily apply to the puzzle that instantly preceded their discovery, and we found we had to remember multiple pieces of information at any one time. Now this would have been made easier if we had a semi-decent team member recording (I stood there shouting abuse at my future-husband for his poor organisation – WE WERE ON A TIMER) , but I digress. We did have a brilliant guide though, who gave us little nudges in the right direction without totally giving the game away. He also did a fantastic job of giving us a breakdown of our little adventure after we escaped (with only 30 seconds left!), and kindly told us how we kept him amused for the whole hour. I am giving you fair warning – that hour just flies by.
Cost-wise I think the average is around £19-£20 per person, which I consider very good value for money for an hour’s activity. It’s only round the corner from Kings Cross Station in London as well, so to be honest for us it wasn’t that much hassle to get their either. Since it was only a couple of hours activity in total, we combined our visit with a trip to the Electric Ballroom for a full night out, and I think that was the best way we could have done it. The activity itself might not be enough to warrant a trek down to London (or wherever) in it’s own right, but as part of a full day it’s a brilliant little add-on.
I highly recommend doing it whatever the occasion. With friends you get to have a laugh and shout at each other, with work you get to build on communication skills and develop a team bond (or some other work-related buzz words that businesses love). Genuinely though, both rooms are incredibly well thought out and put together, with red herrings and clues to keep you on your toes throughout. The staff were incredibly friendly, and at the end they very kindly took our picture and let us sign their book/buy it from them as a magnet (which I totally did, it sits very proudly on my fridge door). If you get the opportunity to go there, or to any escape room for that matter, I really do suggest you try it. If only for the opportunity to shout at your loved ones and get a magnet at the end.
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