The Crystal Maze – Manchester – a preview

crystal maze pic

Way back on the night of February 2nd, a message popped up on my Twitter feed, and intrigued, had a look to see what it said… A PM from Escape Quest’s Mike, unusual and yet not so, we do chat occasionally about football, escape rooms et al, yet this one was slightly different. I got as far as reading would you like to play a preview of the Crystal Maze with us, the answer naturally being hell yes!! After a few minutes of hyperventilating with excitement, as the Crystal Maze was one of the few non sport TV shows I watched as a kid, I looked at the rest of the team. As well as Mike and Elaine, Mike’s brother Phil, Amy and Ian from Brit of an Escape Habit fame, and 2 people I didn’t know, Sera and Sharon. I soon found out that these 2 had taken the escape game scene by storm, and were well into the 200+ games played ( and on the way to play in the Red Bull Championships the following day). Not a bad team if I say so myself!! I’ve played over 50 escape games, and as such, was the least experienced member of the team!!

botanist pic

Over the course of 6 weeks, the excitement grew, and we decided to meet up in advance for food and to meet as a team, where we ended up at the very good the Botanist on Deansgate, where we spent a good 90 minutes turning up at random and eating not a lot.. I think we were all hungry but not wanting to eat too much for what was to come!!

A nice stroll along a now raining Deansgate and before long, we approached the Crystal Maze!! As this was a preview, I had in my head that this wasn’t going to be anywhere near the finished article, so I was telling myself not to be disappointed in any way. In truth, I was pretty much blown away from start to finish. From being greeted at the front gates to the end, every member of staff we talked to were extremely welcoming and positive, interested in us and going out of their way to ensure we had a good time. There were smooth handovers ensuring we got to the right place at the right time, and after the waiver sign offs, we were putting on the magical bomber jackets ( just for photos), and getting ready for the final health and safety talk, and most importantly of all, our team name…. which ended up being S2BritofanEscapeQuestAddict(+Phil&Ian) – seriously, don’t ask!! Lockers were provided for anything you bring with you, as obviously, no cameras etc are allowed inside! We also had to choose our captain and vice captain, and we basically made Elaine and Mike perform this duty 😉

crystal maze preview pic
Just had to choose this one, sorry Elaine!

I knew we were in the final briefing area, as they had a 2 sided mirror, seats for us all to sit, and a screen showing off clips of the TV show, and then BANG out of nowhere, our game host arrived, known as a “MAZE MASTER”, who stays with you on your trip through the game. We had the wonderfully named Billy Brooklyn, who as the name suggests, played an old school New Yorker, and he was basically perfect, the accent was amazing, he played his character to perfection and was precisely the right amount of insanity and madness that one remembers from the TV show.

crystal maze map pic

Then, after the whole of us cracking up laughing with just how good Billy was, we were off into the game!! We hit 4 zones in order, Medieval, Industrial, Aztec and Futuristic. Out of the 4, Aztec hit me hardest with how faithfully it had been replicated, as well as the actual entrance to it. Medieval was also very well replicated, Industrial had probably the most impressive game mechanics, and Futuristic was definitely that, although perhaps necessarily different to the TV show.

crystal dome pic

We played approx 18 rooms in all, and managed to get 12 crystals. I was fortunate to get 2 rooms I was extremely comfortable with, the first being an extremely famous puzzle in a film ( no mentions obviously), the second, a maths based one which is my strength. Therefore 2 crystals 🙂 For each zone, we had approx 15-20 mins and then we were into the famous Crystal Dome!! Our hard work and teamwork paid off, where we ended up with a smashing score of 280 tickets collected, which in the previews, was joint 3rd ( only 5 behind the joint 1st)… we did also more or less break the scoring screen with our ridiculously long team name!! After the game, there’s an opportunity to buy merchandise   (which on my NEXT visit will be explored when I have more time).

crystal maze leaderboard pic

Were there any negatives? Naturally, as one would expect in a preview. The final game we played in Futuristic didn’t work, there was very little music playing ( ie the theme tune, until the very end), the first transitions were just going upstairs ( could be themed maybe?), and the game re-setters ( which with the timescales they have need to be about we know will be time pressured) needed to be a little less obvious and continue adding to the experience ( some were a little grumpy).

All in all, considering it was a preview, it was simply fabulous. Naturally, you don’t see all the games in one visit, and with differing maze masters,  there’s a damn good replayability factor! I, for one, will definitely be back!!

Prices are £45pp off peak and £55pp peak.

A massive thanks to Elaine and Mike for asking me to join them, the members of the team as we all got along well and had a great laugh, and for the Crystal Maze people, especially our Maze Master for providing an epic experience.

 

A totally different review from usual

As it’s not about an escape game!!

Way back at the start of this blog, one of my mentions is that I’m a HUUUUUGGGEEEE Man City fan, but due to work and spending my cash on many other things, I don’t tend to be able to go more than a couple of times a season, and since I’ve never seen City lose since moving to the Etihad, I should really go more often!

city-stadium

At approx 4pm I saw the following…

We have a table for four in Legends for tonight’s game. All you have to do is Follow and RT! Winners picked at 5pm!

Thought what the hell…. and….

Congratulations your day has just got a little bit better!

So totally not expecting that! Left as soon as I could to get to the ground asap, as well as trying as quickly as I could to get friends to come, unfortunately, at short notice, I couldn’t manage to grab anyone available 😦 I also got stuck in some horrendous traffic into Manchester, therefore only managed to get in the ground, thoroughly shattered, for half 7. Was very quickly seated with Nicola, the winner of the 2 seat table @Only1NicolaMCFC, and she very quickly wolfing down what looked an awesome main course, I just had a quick coke to try and recover from the ridiculous speed walk from Manchester!

img_0646

On to the game, seats obviously fantastic and a cracking view, dodgy start to the game, was always confident though, as KdB looked on fire, and he helped orchestrate more or less all the attacks. Managed to get a decent video of the penalty ( which won’t upload), half time was so so different, going back inside to sit down with a pre-ordered drink at the table. Stunning service. Nicola helped herself to a couple of desserts as I just chilled. Second half, barring the early scare, was pretty straightforward and a comfortable win.

Unfortunately, as I was up this morning at 5:30am, I couldn’t stick around afterwards. I had a bloody good time, and really really REALLY want to experience it all again. Just a couple of regrets, the short notice ( even though completely understandable), the damn traffic and missing most of the hospitality + legends. 40th next year so I think that’s what I’ll be doing!!

A massive thanks to all those involved at Cityzens and Man City for providing such an awesome experience!!

Manchester and Warrington – 2 locations, both inescapably Clue HQ

clue-hq-sign

So the addicts finally managed to put some games in. Hampered by money, time and injury, we finally got back into the swing of things with 2 visits to Clue HQ, firstly to hit Manchester and Cell Block C.

cell-block-c

The brief: You’ve been framed for a crime you didn’t commit, and you’re about to be sentenced to a lifetime in prison. You know that notorious criminal Danny Badd is responsible but with only 60 minutes before you face the barrister, you don’t have the resources to prove your innocence. Can you escape top security CELL BLOCK C and buy yourself some time or will you be locked away forever?

It’s one of those lovely rooms where you are blindfolded before entry, which for some reason throws you off. As usual with Clue HQ, the decoration and theme of the room is spot on, the puzzles are relevant and in typical fashion, tough yet easy, difficult to see but oh so obvious. The puzzles were also varied and used technology in a fantastic way. There was one puzzle, however, even with 2 ridiculously good maths people in the room, couldn’t solve. We did basically have to brute force it, and that didn’t even work, took a massive hint to help solve it. One of the early puzzles we managed to solve in completely the wrong way (completely outside the box thinking), and with that and the maths puzzle, with 15 minutes left we didn’t have a prayer of escaping, however, as usual we pulled together and got out with 2 minutes remaining.

cell-block-c-escape-pic

All in all, Cell Block C is an excellent addition to the Clue HQ rooms ( barring that one annoying as hell puzzle)

sacrifice

When I got home from Cell Block C, I noticed that Amy, from the excellent BritofanEH twitter page and fellow escape game reviewer, had booked to play Sacrifice at Warrington with her other half  the week after. Sacrifice is meant to be played as team vs team, so a couple of messages and a few phone calls, and the battle was arranged!

sacrifice-door

The brief: You wake up, blindfolded and disorientated, with no recollection of how you came to be here. You quickly learn that in order to escape you must compete for your life. Every human must face this test at some point in their lifetime, to seek out the survivors and eliminate the unworthy. In this race against time and your friends, will you be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your own survival? You have one hour to prove yourself; it’s them… or you.

So it was Team Red (them) vs Team Blue (us). There’s several interesting aspects to the game, obviously being a race where you can lose even if you can manage to escape within the 60 minutes being one of them. The rest, unfortunately, would give away a lot about the room, so keeping quiet. The rooms are obviously pretty much identical and you kind of know how far you are from escaping the room as part of the game. If both teams get stuck, you can receive a neutral clue, and you can request up to 3 personal clues as well. We know that at about half way we were just ahead, however Amy and Ian managed to steam ahead in the second half to beat us ( would have been about 5 minutes behind I believe). We were hampered, completely our own fault by the way, by, ahem, not turning the light on….. as well as just completely missing locks that we had the solutions for!! All in all, a well designed game that sets the battle between teams pretty much perfectly!!

sacrifice-loss

 

 

 

Clue HQ Blackpool – Detonation and Quarantined =exhausted delirium!

We are going back a while with this review, but knowing Clue HQ, the games won’t have changed and therefore be completely relevant.

clue-hq-2

Back on the 9th August 2015, Julie was due to run a 10k in Blackpool. As I had the weekend off work after playing cricket on the Saturday, it was therefore always going to end up with a visit to Clue HQ Blackpool, being then the only rooms available in the area, Detonation and Quarantined.

Rather than watch a small portion of the 10k ( as it was NOT a warm day), Adam and myself hit the arcades for an hour, we had a pub lunch, and the set about wasting the time we had remaining until our game in Stanley Park, Julie asleep in the car, Adam and myself a quick game of golf ( well, just the putting greens)… as we’re wandering through the park, I get a call, it’s Clue HQ wondering where we were…. oops I had the time for the second game rather than the first… so obviously we were rapidly on the way after that call ( rather luckily Blackpool was rammed causing traffic jams and that Clue HQ for a change were not fully booked, meaning we could still play).

clue-hq-1

We arrived in pretty much record time, at the very well located Whyndyke Farm( basically the M55 junction for Blackpool), and within a couple of minutes, were ready to play Detonation. The blurb for Detonation is as follows:

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.

As usual, Detonation immediately looks the part, and you’re straight into the action. The puzzles are relevant to the game, and 2 or 3 of them are second level thinking, as in the puzzles or solutions are so so different to usual that you really have to think outside the box, with the last 2 or 3 puzzles exceptional. We were inside the last minute when we escaped to keep the record going! A short rest and 10 minutes outside to enjoy the sun, and were back in playing Quarantined… from the blurb

quarantined-2

With the growing threat of a radiation leak due to the increase in nuclear power, the government seek a solution to radiation poisoning within humans. Deep within a high security facility, a group of scientists work to develop a vaccine to ensure immunity, but to run tests they need subjects. You regain consciousness to find yourself quarantined within the facility. You don’t know who got you here or how you got here but you know you need to escape before everything gets incinerated, including you!

As it is made clear on the website, the team are initially blindfolded and split up. To regroup as a team took us much longer than it should have, thanks to being left in the dark for way way too long.With 20 mins to go, we had not a hope in hell of getting out                   ( according to the game host and his messages to the owner of Clue HQ to find out how we were doing), however, as so often happens with us, we click and absolutely fly through the rest of the game, and somehow, we get out with a couple of minutes to go.

quarantined-1

Both rooms were excellent, with Detonation the slightly better of the 2, thanks to the unique puzzles and solutions. I can’t speak for the other 2, but I know for myself that as both games entered the last 5 minutes, the games slightly changed their appearance, and as they did, I could feel my heart rate climbing and thumping, which shows the quality of the games! A big thanks to the team at Clue HQ Blackpool for their help, and their patience in the lateness of this review!!

Cluefinders – the Tomb

celebratoin

 

Yes we’re back!  The cricket season is over, I’m finally able to get out of bed without dying and I’ve a free day to do some writing. I’m going to start with the most recent of our visits, and move backwards, as the more recent ones, are obviously more relevant! We will still catch up with the missing reviews however.

changes

As mentioned before, there have been team changes. Leese no longer plays them, and unfortunately, Julie and Adam are no longer together ( which makes things a tad awkward seeing as they both love these games), the last time we played as a team was Breakout Manchester – Facility ( a review yet to do), since then, it has been myself, Adam and Ellen Rose.

cluefinders-logo

Now, when we’d played Clue Finders – Remy’s Room, we had one of our better performances, getting out in a then record time with 0 clues, which for the size of the game, was bloody impressive. As we do, this was our second room of a day, so we were well warmed up.

The blurb for The Tomb is as follows:

Avid explorer and archaeologist Ernest Peter Sanderson has made the discovery of his life – uncovering no less than 3 tombs, each full of enough treasure to make him rich beyond measure. But before he reaps his reward he discovers a map containing the location of a secret fourth tomb that was thought to only exist in myths, containing a treasure so precious it has never been seen by any living human. Ernest drops everything to hunt down this fourth tomb and bring this treasure home. Unfortunately this was the last anyone ever heard from him. This was 50 years ago. Now the map has come into your possession – can you track down the tomb, complete Ernest’s life work and take the treasure for your own?

tomb

Our newest game unfortunately, will not be suitable for all guests. There is an element of dark confined spaces within this room, and may involve crawling so we do not recommend this to pregnant women, people who suffer from claustrophobia or anyone over the height of 6 foot (although if you don’t mind a tight squeeze than be our guest!).

 We do like a challenge, so the thoughts of crawling + dark confined spaces meant we were well up for this 🙂
cluefinders-funny
The initial thoughts of the room, were, well laid out,  a lot smaller than any of the rooms in Remy, and the exit is errrr…..where? Well, you’ll figure it out, especially if you bother to read the briefing! As with Remy, the room is set out like you’d be in a tomb, so the props, sounds, puzzles and light levels are all relevant, and as well as having specific puzzles that need solving to move on, there’s also a theme and things that are needed continuously throughout the game, which allows the game to flow well, as well as give the team a source of achievement and things to look for. On a couple of occasions, we did get stuck, although this was mainly due to not looking hard enough! From memory, I don’t think we actually got stuck solving a puzzle, more finding the solutions to them, and finding the next puzzle.
The finish tied the whole room together in a very pleasing way, and we managed to escape in more or less bang on 50 minutes, having had 5 clues.
cluefinders-tomb-pic
We stayed for quite a time after, having a great chat with our game host, so much so I almost missed my train home. Another excellent room by ClueFinders, not as big as Remy’s room, but definitely a tough one. Well worth a visit 🙂

The reviews return

After a long period away, the reviews will be starting back next week.

We’ve had changes to the team due to changes in personal circumstances, and I’ve also got a new job role at work, meaning I’m now ridiculously busy, rather than just very busy.

We’re in the double digits in terms of rooms to review, but we will catch up with them. We’re just going through the rooms we need to do, sort out the order we’ll review them, then get to it.

With cricket season nearly over, we’ll be looking to play again, and have already had a couple of nice offers from Trapped in ( Bury), Exit Strategy ( Liverpool) and know I have a fair bit of credit to use at Escape Quest ( Macclesfield) for their next room, 13th Element.

When the reviews are done, the list will be updated yet again 🙂

First ever plug!! -Clockwork Dog presents

As it’s a pop up game in London, I don’t mind doing this one. I won’t be able to play it, and I get nothing for it, but I don’t mind sticking it up. ( That, and I’m a tad busy at the moment to write reviews).

Clockwork Dog presents Langstroth’s Last Riddle

A pop-up adventure game at The Bee’s Sneeze

 

Langstroth’s Last Riddle is a captivating hour long live ‘escape room’ style adventure game for groups of 2-5 players. A pop-up experience and will be running for just three weeks.

 

Step into the world of Alfred Langstroth, an eccentric collector of rare antiques and historical artefacts. After his recent passing, all of the items in his shop will be bequeathed to relatives or are to be sold, all except one very exceptional item… an object, legend has it, of awesome power.

 

Contenders will need to use logic, lateral thinking and have their wits about them in order to solve the riddle he has left within his old antiques shop: The Bee’s Sneeze. Amongst his collection, he has left clues and connived devious puzzles which will eventually lead to the artefact’s location, so you need to look closely, leave no stone unturned and be quick about it – Langstroth specified contenders may only have an hour to complete the challenge.

 

If you have enjoyed other such mysteries such like HintHunt, ClueQuest, Escape Plan and Time Run, then this is the game for you. But you must be fast – this game is for a limited time only running from 23rd May to the 12th June.

 

This is brought to you by Clockwork Dog, a new company specialising in creating pop-up adventure game experiences across the capital.

Tickets/Prices

£20 – £26 pp

Tickets can be booked at http://clockwork.dog/

Dates/Times

Runs from May 23rd to June 12th.

Weekdays – 7pm – 1030pm (2 slots)

Weekends – 10am – 1130pm (7 slots)

Location

The Bee’s Sneeze

12 Green Lanes, London N16 9NB

https://goo.gl/maps/BuuPXvbRhBP2

About Clockwork Dog

Clockwork Dog are a brand new company specialising in short-term ‘Escape Room’ style games based in site-specific locations: existing spaces already full of character and atmosphere.

Inspired by the location, they formulate an immersive adventure game to be played by small groups of two to five. Plunged into another world, participants will need to work as a team to solve a number of riddles and puzzles before the time runs out.


Clockwork Dog was founded by Tom Dixon & Alex Hylands-White:

Tom has designed and built a number of ER style games for corporate events, which have been extremely popular. He is a passionate puzzle solver and creator, and a huge fan of experiential and immersive theatre. He is excited to bring the two together to create the next generation of ER adventures.


Alex is a writer and director working in music video, short film and advertising. Using his knowledge of storytelling on screen, he is now applying it to immersive ER experiences. His film portfolio can be seen here. http://wearehalcyon.co.uk/