By Antonia Merola Jones
The thought of being locked in a room for an hour may not be everyone’s idea of fun but it seems that up and down the country groups of people on stag and hen dos, birthday parties and teambuilding days (and even first dates I am told) are doing it!
By ‘it’ I mean escape rooms, where you’ve got 60 minutes to track down clues, crack codes and solve puzzles to get out – and it’s not only beating the clock, it’s also about how quick you get out if you want to feature in the ‘hall of fame’.
I headed to Chester’s premier live escape room ‘Escapism’ on George Street to experience the ‘thrill’. I have done escape rooms before (there are a few companies out there doing a similar thing) – only managing to ‘escape’ once. With this in mind, and going with a friend who had never experienced an escape room before, the odds of us getting out within the time frame were pretty slim.
Saying that, my friend who is ever the optimist, was determined to escape as well as in good time in order to be featured in the hall of fame … let’s go with it I thought.
At Escapism Chester there are five themed rooms to choose from varying in difficulty. We opted for the ‘Taken’ themed room – the ‘easiest’ of the five, difficulty rating 3/5.
For teams of 2-5, the Taken room is designed around a prison cell. Andy our ‘guide’ for the evening told us at the start that our friends had been taken hostage and the kidnapers have given us 60 minutes to meet their demands but that we knew where they were hiding. He was a great host and built up the suspense before we headed into the room.
Before you enter, you are told that your guide will be watching you at all times (it did feel like Big Brother!) and giving you hints throughout the time if you get stuck – these are broadcast on the TV in the room.
I can’t give anything away for anyone wanting to do this room in future but the puzzles were all varied, crackable – eventually – and good fun! They were well thought out and the clues along the way were helpful but not blatant instructions. The quality of the props in the room were good and added well to the theme of the room.
I am told this room was the ‘lightest’ of the five – apparently one of the rooms you have to solve all the clues in the pitch dark except for torch light – so sometimes reading or working out clues was quite challenging but part of the fun. I should have taken my glasses!
Andy was a great host and did a fantastic job as we struggled with some of the puzzles but with one minute to spare we arrived at our final puzzle. By the time we worked out what we needed to do, the time ran out. Andy came in as disappointed as we were as given another minute we would have escaped! The hour went by so quickly so I am looking forward to returning to do the other four rooms.
The final bit for us to do was to get our pictures taken with ‘I’m with stupid’ and ‘I’m with stupider’ boards behind the Escapism Chester backdrop. I would definitely recommend a trip to the escape rooms, it’s great fun.