Escape Quest – unique, and well, we’re the best!!

escape quest 2
So…early on the next morning after we had been to Clue HQ, Adam jumped on Facebook to alert the team after noticing that Escape Quest in Macclesfield had a slot open that same day for 6.30pm. Arrangements were quickly made, albeit once again without Leese unfortunately and Julie still not feeling 100%, and the three of us met in a very wet Macclesfield at 6pm ready and raring to go.
Just one minor problem, we couldn’t find it.
This was through no fault of Escape Quest though. We’d managed to park outside the building they are housed in, and somehow miss the massive sign on the door…and instead walked around the back, the side, and everywhere else whilst getting absolutely drenched. Eventually Adam managed to find the front door and in we trooped, shivering and soaked. Thankfully Escape Quest have a room for players to store valuables/handbags/coats in, and you get to keep the key whilst you play so you can be assured that the room is secured. This came in very handy as we didn’t have to worry about wet coats getting in the way! We thought this was a great innovation and would be an excellent addition to any escape room!
Escape Quest only have one room available at the point of writing, which they called “Curious Encounters”, the narrative being that you have travelled back to 1873 in a mysterious Professor’s time machine in order to explore “Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe”, so it was this room that we played. We’d heard good things about this room from the Clue HQ guys and the Breakout guys – just going to show that really in this area of entertainment, all the competing companies will recommend each other! As it happened, the team from Breakout Manchester held the record for this room, and only 2 teams had escaped, so we were expecting a tough time.
We had a nice chat with our host, Elaine, who explained the room and the H&S details before we were taken to the room (after we’d warmed up a bit and dried off!). Before we could enter the room though we had to undergo a unique briefing…we’ll leave it there to leave some mystery! There is also an addition with this game. You can get out of the room, but not complete the game! There is an additional task to be undertaken which is required to fully complete it! Once the briefing was complete in we went and the clock started ticking!
escape quest 4
We were obviously expecting a circa 1870s room, and we did get that…eventually. The lead up to the main room was completely different to anything we’ve seen before or since. The puzzles in the first room were every bit as unique as Clue HQ’s were, and actually made us use our brains rather than moving from puzzle to puzzle. Just by doing a number of very small things, Escape Quest definitely raised the bar to a height pretty much attained by Clue HQ as well in terms of style, look and feel of the room. And then, we entered the main room…
Without giving spoilers, the room is laid out beautifully. Escape Quest have used genuine antiques in the room which really helped us get completely immersed in the story. This actually caused an issue for us, as in previous blogs, we have noted that we tend to “destroy” rooms, with puzzles and props ending up everywhere whilst we play, so naturally we were a little nervous. The last thing we wanted was to break anything valuable!!
escape quest 1
In the “main” room, there is at one point a decision to be made. We obviously can’t say what this decision is about, but we had to hammer it through between us for quite a while!! It is a decision which directly impacts the game and the gameplay, and will cause consternation between team members ( it did to us for approx 10 mins).
Now, we had absolutely flown through the rooms, and with nearly 20 mins left we had the last lock off the final door… BUT we hadn’t finished. We still had the task to complete. We started absolutely checking and re-checking everything and everywhere until we finally found what we were looking for, and opened the door…..
escape quest VICTORY
In a RECORD time (which we still hold today, albeit jointly but by a bigger team) of 49 minutes 10 seconds!
Obviously we were a tiny bit ecstatic, with Julie coining our new team motto of #BeatTheExperts as she managed to start a bit of a friendly rivalry with the Breakout guys…who immediately promised to send a second team in to try and beat our time. (They escaped, but they didn’t beat our time)
Overall, the experience was brilliant. The story is a good story and the team at Escape Quest have managed to create a genuinely unique room ( which is a difficult task in itself), and the use of antiquities really adds to the feel of the room. They have some ingenius puzzles that we hadn’t seen before and the “side mission” will genuinely make you smile, especially if you are a fan of what these escape games are actually based upon… but for the specifics, you’ll have to go and play yourself and find out!!
A big thanks goes to Elaine and Mike at Escape Quest, for being fantastic hosts, having a lovely long chat afterwards, and for all the pics they have provided us to add to the blog!
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Clue HQ – Bunker 38 – 1 hour later

ClueHQ-Jigsaw

After the agonising failure of the Dungeon of Doom, we had a quick break before we hit Bunker 38. Despite playing the Dungeon of Doom just an hour previously, the host insisted we went through the set up as usual, and to listen to the story…

After being locked in an underground bunker following a radiation leak, it’s now time to leave as you’ve limited oxygen left. Only 60 minutes of breathable air remains – will you escape in time?

Now the initial room for Bunker 38 was, at this point, the trickiest first room we had come across. Again there was the usual variety of puzzles we had come to expect, but the actual use of the entire room was excellent.  We actually managed to put our coats/bags etc right in the way of one of the clues, which definitely didn’t help, but didn’t actually stop us solving that specific puzzle, just slowed us down. (maybe there should be somewhere specific in the room where they would not get in the way? – just a side thought)

The cracking thing we did find about Clue HQ with both rooms is the uniqueness of both the puzzles and the solutions. On the main they were amazing, but in Bunker 38, we did get one that didn’t actually work, even when we had everything working right. We obviously aren’t going to say which puzzle as we know the team at Clue HQ have sorted it since, and it didn’t hold us up as the host quickly buzzed us with the result of that puzzle, once they could see that we’d done all we could!!

ClueHQ-Safe

As with the Dungeon of Doom, we again entered the last 10 minutes with it going to be very close… and it was at this stage we truly realised how evil the thought process behind some of the puzzles, clues and solutions actually were. I will simply say this. During the briefing, listen carefully and pay lots of attention, even, like we are, quite comfortable with the ins and outs of escape games. Long term, it will definitely help matters!!

This time, we did manage to escape, with only a couple of minutes (if that), left on the clock. Those last 10 minutes of rooms, especially if you know it’s going to be close, definitely gets the blood pumping!

ClueHQ-KeyPadlock

Overall Clue HQ is definitely a pretty tough couple of rooms ( and we really are looking forward to the 3rd!). The puzzles are definitely different to any we had seen ( or have seen since), and there are plenty of them to keep even the largest group occupied! The hosts that we dealt with were extremely friendly, very knowledgeable and can help judge the quality of the players, and if necessary, adapt the game. We had a nice long chat with them afterwards, as we are getting into the thought processes behind the games, and the thoughts for designs of games. We did mention a game, where escape wasn’t too difficult, but the idea being to take as much out ( ie like a bank robbery), and the 2 guys looked at each other and kept fairly quiet. Obviously, we have similar thoughts, and we are trying their new room, The Vault, next week which has a similar process!! Great minds think alike???

Clue HQ is very easy to find, very easy to book, and very tough to play. The surrounds, atmosphere, hosts, puzzles ( barring the one that didn’t work, and even that was an awesome puzzle), were all absolutely spot on. They have great experience in a similar background to escape games, and the hosts that we talked to obviously love what they do, and it shows with their enthusiasm and dedication to an excellent venue. We are looking forward to crossing swords with them very soon!!

Clue HQ & the infamous Dungeon of Doom

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After we had completed all 4 of the rooms at Breakout Manchester, we needed a new challenge. We had a good discussion, and we ended up deciding on Clue HQ. There were several reasons for this. Firstly is the location, in Warrington, which is basically right between Manchester and Chester, which for a Saturday night game, which we had decided on, is pretty important. The other main reason is that we wanted a step up in challenge and difficulty. Clue HQ are known well for having tough games, and they actually post their escaped/failed statistics. We also had word from Breakout Manchester that one of the 2 rooms, the Dungeon of Doom, was the toughest room they had actually played.

Clue HQ is actually based directly under Warrington Central train station, and the staff at Clue HQ have used this look and feel to help decide on their rooms and it all adds up to a wonderful look and a “spot on” atmosphere.

Current stats as of 15/02/15:

Bunker 38: 106 escaped/670 failed

Dungeon of Doom: 10 escaped/123 failed

The ideal situation would have been for us to play Bunker 38 first, but due to availability, we had to play Dungeon of Doom first. We also had 2 immediate issues. Firstly, Leese was unavailable so we were down to 3. Just as bad is that on the Friday night, Julie had a Xmas party, and even for the start of our game on the Saturday night, at 7pm, was still severely hungover.

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Your friend has been sentenced (wrongly) to death. It’s up to you and your team to break in, break them out and then all get out together before the guard patrols the area again. 1 person is chosen at the start of the game to be ‘locked up’. This person will need to crawl (5 meters) at the start of the game. This person is still an integral part of the game.

We had the usual briefing at the start of the game, and then the locked up person is chosen. Now, we had decided who was to go in if we were to choose who it was going to be, but it’s a random process. Julie drew the short straw, so off she crawled to her fate….

The format is quite simple. The friend sentenced to death is the one who crawls through to their “prison”. The cracking thing is that all members of the group, even the one locked up, all need to work together. It certainly enhances the need for clear ( and loud) communication.

We again had issues. Mainly as Julie either couldn’t see straight, or she was seeing double. Which made things a tad difficult! We did take quite a bit of time getting through to Julie and helping her get out of her cell. Then we had the enormous challenge of actually breaking out. I don’t think I even imagined how much there would be to solve or how locks we’d have to get rid of! Added to that, the sheer variety of the puzzles all added to the difficulty.With the Dungeon of Doom, you really do need your thinking caps on.

With 10 minutes remaining, we were still quite a way off, and had missed a fairly vital clue. We then absolutely clicked into gear.We went at such a rapid rate from that point on that I think even the Clue HQ staff were surprised! With 2 minutes remaining it was going to be close… oh so close… If we say anything else from here, we will actually give away the ending of the room.. but we ended up on the final clue as time ran out, with all 3 of us sprinting from clue to clue in an effort to get to the end.

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All of the efforts were therefore in vain. After a quick chat, we found out that we had been by far the closest group of 3 to escaping.. which was obviously nice to hear but still didn’t take away from the disappointment of failure.

The Dungeon of Doom was simply fantastic. There’s no other word for it. The set up, lay out and premise of the game are all spot on. Even the so called easier clues and puzzles were food for thought and the harder clues, well, were bloody tough!! I urge everyone to play this room!!

The Bunker 38 review ( as we played it an hour later), will be coming along in the next few days, as well as the overall thoughts of Clue HQ themselves.

contact email address

Hi readers

Just a quick thank you to you all, I’m getting quite a lot of positive feedback, as well as opportunities to get in touch with other bloggers in the community around the world.

If anyone would like to get in touch with me, my email address is asaclarksonfan@googlemail.com

I will endeavour to get back to any emails as soon as possible, however I do work full time as well as many other interests, so I can’t always get back rapidly.

However, if you are in the UK and would like our team to test a new room, or you’d like to invite us to your room, I’ll probably reply a tad quicker 😉

That’s it for now, we’re in the process of writing up the fabulous place that is Clue HQ, and I should have that all finished and posted midweek.

Breakout Manchester – visit 2

After visiting Breakout, we immediately set plans to play their other 2 rooms that were available, Sabotage and Madchester. In the immediate aftermath of the first games, Julie had booked the first available slot for Sabotage as a treat for her mum, therefore she wouldn’t be playing that one with us.

The date we chose was the 28th November, which was part of a very busy weekend for Adam and myself. On the Saturday and Sunday, we were both playing in the APAT poker team championships that were being held in Manchester, and with 250+ people coming for that, we thought it would be a good tie in         ( especially on the Friday night for a “few” drinks).

We chose to play Madchester first, with Sabotage a couple of hours later. Leese was unable to make this one, so we played Madchester with just the 3, then for Sabotage, Julie obviously wasn’t going to play again. She was tasked with “helping”, and in her place we drafted in a good friend in Tom Clark, a complete virgin to escape games, but all 3 of us know him from the poker world ( one of the many who had come down to Manchester). In addition, another group of friends had also booked 2 rooms for earlier in the day, and they were playing Sabotage and John Monroe, solely from our recommendations ( more on that later).

MADCHESTER

Madchester

Manchester is famous for many things: football, relentless rain, musicians and bands such as the Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis, Coronation Street, incredible night clubs such as the Hacienda, The Warehouse Project and Sankeys and artists such as LS Lowry. What would you do if you were stuck in a time warp of Manchester? You are about to find out. Madchester is our hardest escape room game.

Madchester is a different style of game than pretty much all others we have played. The room and artistry are both designed specifically for Manchester, and they’ve managed to add in some sound as well from the area to add to the impact. Pretty much every live escape game is to solve puzzles to find an answer. Madchester is different in that you have to eliminate answers. One part of this means there are many more clues to find and solve, which all adds to the difficulty, then the game itself wasn’t particularly linear, and as the above mentions, Breakout believes it is their toughest room.

With this in mind, we set off ripping the room apart. I will be honest and say we didn’t seem to find this one too tricky overall. Of course, we got stuck a couple of times as we do tend to destroy rather than look, and that in this instance cost us some time, but a bit of thinking plus the odd hint here or there and we finished with over 10 minutes to spare.

Again we popped out for a quick bite to eat, and of course, to meet up with Tom, who had travelled down from Scotland… and was greeted with Hi Tom, ready to be locked in a room? Just the thing he needed after several hours of travelling!! We did manage to grab a quick bite to eat then we were on to….

sabotage

Sabotage

Can you go deep behind enemy territory and stop a missile strike which endangers the safety of the entire world? There is 60 minutes before launch, you need to break into the control centre and stop the launch or the consequence will be catastrophic.

As mentioned, Julie, who is probably our strongest player having grown up being infatuated with the likes of Broken Sword, had already played and escaped Sabotage. She had therefore arranged to do something slightly different, and had been allowed to help Breakout’s host run the game, as she had at that point completed all available rooms.

I’ve got to say that the hardest actual puzzle I’ve done was part of this room, as it was absolutely unique, and nothing we have seen similar before or since. It took us in excess of 15 minutes just to solve this one clue. There were also some multi-room clues which we particularly enjoyed, and some completely ingenious hidden solutuions to puzzles.

This was also the closest result in terms of time we have still ever had. We had solved the final puzzle and on the way to the exit when the time went. Which was completely gutting to get so close!! Julie in her escape was half out of the door as time elapsed, which was counted as an escape.

Afterwards, we had no time to mess about. Julie and Adam were off to Liverpool to go and watch Lee Mack ( unsurprisingly she got a stalker picture to go with it), and Tom and myself off to the casino to play poker and generally get absolutely hammered!!

And the friends… well we had an interesting briefing to Sabotage. They mentioned don’t go climbing up into the roof… and we found out that the friends we had recommended ended up trying to check in the roof! Obviously gave us something to laugh with the guys the next day when we all met up!!