Escape room

Locked In!

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Managing safety in Escape Rooms 

TIC Insurance recently wrote an article on “How To Manage Escape Room Risks Without Spoiling The Fun”. While it notes that every business must comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the legislation requires businesses to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent accidents or injuries.

So what are ‘reasonable steps’ as far as an escape room goes? And when does an escape room switch from being a play of amusement to a place of incarceration? Do escape rooms really lock you in?

For a start, a lot of escape room website state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked, so players can escape the way they entered or there are panic buttons that release the doors should players want/need to leave. So no panic there.

Escape rooms offer an immersive adventure. That immersion can be lost if escape rooms add “mind the step” and “mind your head” signs around the place. You don’t want to spoil the illusion and reveal the existence of a hidden room by signage.  Games Masters can include general safety instruction during their briefing, including notes to mind your heads and mind where you step instead. 

Fire alarm sensors and electrical wiring can be camouflaged to fit into the theme of the room. And things that must not be touched for safety reasons can be marked.

Most Games Masters stress that their games involve logic and problem-solving skills not physical strength and that players are not to destroy the props. 

Amusement or incarceration?

Verisk insurance published an article about escaping ‘escape room’ risk in 2017. It explored how escape rooms should be classified.

One school of thought is that escape rooms can be rooms used for assembly and may be considered as special amusement buildings. However, another school of thought is that escape rooms more closely fit the definition of a true lockup.

The NFPA defines a lockup as “an incidental use area in other than a detention and correctional occupancy where occupants are restrained and such occupants are mostly incapable of self-preservation because of security measures not under the occupants’ control.”

So while all escape rooms are meant to be fun, some also restrain the players. Does this also restrict the players ability for self-preservation?

The safety implications are obvious. If someone is locked in a room without an easy means of escape, what happens in the event of a fire or other disaster? What if someone becomes ill or is injured?

Well, as noted above most escape room websites state that players are not actually locked in the room. Either the entrance door remains unlocked or there are panic button door releases.

Great, so this covers rooms without restraints, but what if the room includes players being chained up or locked in cells? In this case Verisk insurance recommend that:

  • Within two minutes, staff must be able to release doors and other physical restraints that compromise participants’ free egress.
  • Staff should be in sufficient proximity to the lockup to enable the two-minute release.
  • The facility must have staff authorized, trained, and practiced to facilitate the release.
  • Participants cannot be restrained from evacuating without the assistance of others.
woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Personal observations

I’ve raised the point before that most games tell you not to destroy the props. This is so ingrained that we’ve sometimes played games where we’ve been unclear if we can write on things or not.

On the other hand, we have also come across a game that require you to actively destroy a prop. While we were warned in advance that there were potential dangerous props in the room, we were surprised that the game required physical strength and the ability to use such tools safely.

At another game a wall socket needed to be dismantled. Again, this was a surprise as normally fiddling with the electrics is forbidden.  

However, my major concern with escape rooms is the use of restraints. 

We have played a room where team members were handcuffed on separate sides of the room. The first puzzle was to release one of the players, who released the rest. It took less than 5 minutes for all players to be free. No panic was involved.

However, we played another game where where team members were handcuffed in a line and attached to a wall. The first series of puzzles released one player, who had to “break into” a cell and solve other puzzles before they could release the rest of us. This took over 15 minutes. We considered this a health hazard, especially as we were in a basement and the Games Master was located on another floor. What if there was a fire and they couldn’t come down and release us?

At another game we were chained up and locked in a cell and had to call the Games Master to release us after 15 minutes. It was an agonising wait to see if they were coming to release us and a feeling of panic over what if they didn’t. 

Escape rooms should consider the implications of incarcerating their players. Do they want their players to have fun or to be terrified for their own safety?

Let me know what your thoughts are.

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Santa’s Sleigh is Stuck!

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Averting A Christmas Eve Disaster!

Our friend, Savio, told us that Santa had just loaded all the presents on his sleigh ready to deliver to all the boys and girls around the world, when he discovered a problem. Santa’s sleigh was stuck! If he didn’t release it soon Christmas will be a disaster and no gifts would be delivered.

So this Christmas Eve we leapt into action and headed to Hornchurch. (Yes, I know that’s not the north pole, but that’s where the portal to the barn was located.) Braving the traffic and the last minute Christmas shoppers we arrived at ROOM LOCKDOWN where we were met by Games Master Ben.

He explained our team’s mission. We were to enter the barn and find a way to release Santa’s sleigh. And we only had an hour to complete the mission.

First we were shown into a Christmas themed room. A large decorated tree stood in the corner of the room. Tinsel and decorations were all around.

So where was the barn?

Well, to stop anyone realising that this was a portal to Santa, we had to prove ourselves worthy by solving puzzles and revealing the secret door. then we still had to solve puzzles to free the sleigh and send Santa on his way.

As you probably know by now ( as you open your presents) we succeeded.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Santa's Sleigh is Stuck at Room Lockdown
Santa’s Sleigh is Stuck at Room Lockdown

Room Lockdown run a number of escape rooms. They change the themes on a regular basis, so there is always something new to discover. Games Master Ben tells me they also run seasonal games. This Christmas themed one runs until 6th January 2019 and they run an annual Halloween themed room.

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Illusional Mind

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One minute you are hunting for a restaurant to round off your Christmas shopping and the next you are saving mankind again!

Mission HQ found in a shopping mall

As our hotel was near the Tiergarten it was only a short walk to the Europa Center near Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Located right next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the basement of the shopping mall holds the escape room complex called Mission Accepted. This venue houses a number of escape room challenges.

We had been hunting for a restaurant one evening when we spotted the Escape Room. We called in and booked our slot for the next day. As there were only two of us playing we had a choice from three room set ups. (There are five escapes currently available but the other two require more players.) We chose Illusional Mind as we were told it was more hands on (old school?) than the space adventure.

The plot of Illusional Mind

Eight months ago an ingenious scientist become completely mad before falling into a coma. He remains in hospital where all attempts to wake him have failed. Within his  mind lurks the answers to some of humanities greatest problems. It is important to retrieve these and wake him up.

There is a new experimental method that the hospital would like you and your team to try.  It will require you plugging into his synapses and “searching” his confused mind. But will you accept the mission?

The game can be played in German or English.

It does not require you to escape the room as such. Instead you are on a mission to wake the scientist. On the wall is an outline of the brain with areas that light up when you have solved a particular set of puzzles.

There is a screen to receive hints from  the Games Master. The room was imaginatively designed and reminded me of Lucardo, but without the padlocks and not as colourful.

There were some imaginative puzzles throughout the room. This was definitely a room that relied on logic and reasoning, not  opening locks. Some things were obvious but some had us scratching our heads trying to work them out.

Yes, we succeeded in waking the scientist. Saving mankind once again, with only 7 seconds to spare!

Mission Accepted Berlin - Team Invitation To Events

Mission Accepted Berlin

Mission Accepted Berlin – Recommended

Gangsters Treasure Found In Leyton

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This year, we got invited to a Christmas Party at the newly refurbished Coach and Horses in Leyton. As well as a chance to listen to Christmas Blues over the meal we also got the chance to travel through a time portal back to New York in 1935 to solve a murder and hunt for Gangsters  Treasure.

Well who could resist such an offer?

Gangsters Treasure Escape Room

Gangsters Treasure Escape Room

As you can see, some of us were more into the Christmas Party theme than others as we were shown upstairs for our time machine trip.

Stepping through the door into The Chop Palace Bar in 1935 New York we immediately noticed the blood stained floor where the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz had been killed. The bar tender informed us that the police are due to arrive in one hour. That gave us just enough time to find out who killed Dutch, find his will and locate his hidden treasure.

We split up and started to search the room. When we needed a clue the barman, in return for a small bribe, would point us in the right direction.

The puzzles are intriguing and we spent a lot of time showing each other what we’d solved. So much so that although we solved the murder and found the stash, we did it with only 14 seconds to spare.

14 seconds to evade the cops and head back to 2018 and a delicious Christmas meal.

Gangsters Treasure – A murder mystery and an escape room in one – recommended.

Want to book your adventure or meal out? Just use the links below:

http://www.clueadventures.com/gangster/

https://thecoachleyton.com/

 

Alien Grill, Nevada

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That’s what happens when you build a reputation as International Savers of the World. One minute you are enjoying a trip visiting German Christmas Markets and the next your assistance is required to investigate strange goings on at a diner in Nevada……

We raced to help the Illuminati Escape Team with their latest discovery.

Illuminati Escape in Berlin

Illuminati Escape have created their own escape room world. It is populated with  missions to stop the secret organization called The Illuminati, which is intent on world domination.

Current Plots

The Illuminati have learned about the development of a quantum computer that will enable them to reach their ultimate goal. All Illuminati Escape missions are designed to stop that by sending agents across the globe to investigate.

Cyber Attack takes place in Omsk, Russia

For this mission Illuminati Escape sends agents to find the prototype quantum computer and crack the codes to stop it working.

For Jackpot the action moves to Macau in China

A NASA researcher, with an addiction for gambling, has been blackmailed by the dark Illuminati. Just before his untimely death, he handed over the blueprints for a top secret quantum computer. Your team must recover the plans before the Illuminati can move them out of the casino.

Alien Grill, Nevada – New for December 2018

For years rumours have circulated about a UFO crash and other mysterious things happening in the desert of Nevada. Now Illuminati Escape have discovered that the inventor of the quantum computer often traveled to this area and he has disappeared! Your mission is to find out what is going on in Nevada, starting the small abandoned diner.

Is the diner in the desert just a fake?

Our mission was to find out what is going on in Nevada, starting with the small abandoned diner. Could this be where a UFO crashed? And how did it link to the inventor of the quantum computer?

After briefing us on our mission, the Games Master  gave us a small bag of equipment, including a communication tablet to keep in touch with HQ. We were then “flown” to Nevada, “passing over” China. We arrived outside the diner and were impressed at the set design. It has the look and feel of an abandoned diner.

 

alien-grill - copyright Illuminati Escape
alien-grill – copyright Illuminati Escape

 

Going inside we were enveloped in darkness with only the glow sticks from our equipment pack to help us. Our first task was finding a way to generate light in this abandoned diner. The immersion in the story and level of detail was very impressive.

This is not a lock based game but a puzzle solving one where you have to find things and work out how to use equipment. All the puzzles have been created to fit the mission and enhance the story.

 As you may have guessed the diner holds a secret. As we moved through the game the puzzles became more technical. Probably because the room was new (or maybe due to building work in the office below) some of the later technical puzzles did not work as expected.

We also found the game flow towards the end confusing. We ended up solving things and not knowing why or how the pieces fitted together. So although we had fun, we did not escape the Alien Grill with the all answers.

The Games master came and talked us through what we’d achieved and what we’d missed that should have lead to a logical story-line. He said he could see we’d gone off track but was not sure how to get us back on course, especially as we were solving puzzles that should have been later in the sequence.

Hints, etc

As our trip to Berlin coincided with the opening of the latest Illuminati Escape adventure, we booked to play it on the opening morning. Looking back on it, we probably should have played one of their other rooms first. It would have ironed out the technical issues and have given the games master a better understanding on how to give us hints. After you’ve watched numerous teams attempt a room you get a feel for where they may get stuck and how to help them…….but there are some teams that still surprise you with something no-one has attempted before.

The games and hints are available in English and German. The hint system, with hints given via a keypad in our equipment pack, was good. They are also tailored to the team, rather than preset (unchangeable) prerecorded hints.

While I consider we are enthusiasts – we are enthusiastic about playing escape rooms – we also like hints. We would rather accept hints and get to see all the puzzles than refuse hints and only see half the game. (We’ve found this is not true for other enthusiasts.)

In conclusion, we saw and attempted all the puzzles and had a lot of fun playing this adventure. Recommended.

Illuminati Escape Mission Berlin

Illuminati Escape Mission Berlin

New Assignments

The escape room is in the University area of Berlin, near Ernst-Reuter-Platz underground station. We arrived early and took a brief look at the Landwehr Canal, before heading into a central courtyard and what looked like parking for offices. We found the entrance to  Illuminati Escape and walked up to the second floor where we were greeted and shown into a waiting room with a world map with all the Illuminati Escape adventures marked.

Our games master asked if we had played any of their other missions and explained how the stories linked together. The immersion started as we left the waiting room with the games master handing out equipment and taking us via a decorated corridor to our game.

After the game we were given a printed copy of our team photo.

Mission Report

After we got home we received a digital copy of our team photo and a debriefing letter which gave more details about our mission and the next mission that is currently under construction. A nice way to build excitement for the next adventure in the series.

Coming 2019

Somewhere in the Caribbean, Titanik 2.0 is about to sink!

The brilliant researcher Rupert J. Maddox has been kidnapped by The Illuminati and bundled on board a ship. In the wrong hands his knowledge is extremely dangerous. Your mission is obviously to rescue him. However, the Illuminati have now learned of the rescue attempt and plan to sink the ship in the Caribbean Sea with him on board! Can you save him?

 

The Prisoner

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It had been a while since we’d played an escape room so when one of the team suggested we try out a new company in East London we jumped at it.

A short time later we found ourselves walking down a slope into what looked like a garage. At the end was the entrance to London Escaped.  Inside we found a large space with sofas, games and a TV playing. A great waiting area if you were taking a big group.

When booking, our team mate had been offered a choice of two rooms, although there are more available now, and had elected to play The Prisoner. This is a horror themed room where you have to escape the executioner nicknamed “Bloody Elbow”.

Briefing

During the briefing we were told the room was difficult.

They also said they could make it scarier depending on the team. I asked if they could tone down the scares, and was told they turn them up for wimpy teams. Probably explains why other reviewers say they were screaming.

The Games Master included the usual comments about checking everywhere and not breaking the set. We were also warned that the room contained real props and needed to be careful how we handled things.

Then we were lined up outside the dungeon and hooded before being lead into the room individually.

Elaborately decorated rooms

This escape room appears to be aiming for the immersive experience rather than for the puzzle enthusiast.

The floor is strewn with straw and the lighting kept to a minimum. There are small (battery operated) candles to help you search the dungeon.  And the horror theme is reinforced with the torture instruments, body parts and realistic looking dummies.

The set design for the room was fantastic. Unfortunately I was reminded of another company that had fantastic sets and props but bad puzzles….. Luckily I did not feel as cheated with this game.

Puzzles

Looking back, we decided there had been a lot of searching and finding but not much deducing and solving. However, this was in keeping with the theme. Finding keys to escape rather than codes for combination locks made sense.

There was also one solution that required using a tool to physically destroy something in the room. This went against Standard Escape Room Rules and against the briefing of don’t break the set.

Hints

Again, in keeping with the room, hints came via whispered conversations from other prisoners. We were a small team who all kept quiet when the audio played, so we were able to hear the hints OK, but I’m guessing with a big screaming team this may be a problem.

Panic

There is a fine line between screams that are “fun” and screams that are genuine panic.

I don’t tend to read the reviews until after I’ve played so I hadn’t noticed until later that another reviewer suggested if you are claustrophobic, or can’t stand being hooded, mention it to the Games Master at the beginning. During the briefing, when I’d asked if they could tone down the scares, I was told they turn them up for wimpy teams. So it takes a brave person to admit they are claustrophobic, or can’t stand being hooded, after being warned the GMs will make things harder ………

However, one of our team falls into this category and they had a big discussion about not wearing the hood at the start.

They also dislike being restrained and this game begins with the team being isolated and restrained in the inquisitor’s dungeon. While you could argue the clue is in the title –  The Prisoner –  it should have been fairly easy for all the team to escape into the main room, with access to an exit in case of emergency. This was not the case and resulted in genuine panic.

Escape!

Yes we did complete the room and escape within the hour.

Disclosure: The Games Master had to come and unlock one member after fifteen minutes at the request of the team.

In case of emergency?

This raises the question of what would have happened in an emergency. What if the team could not release all members and the GM could not reach the room with an emergency key in time?

* Both London Escaped  and Nowescape state that escape rooms are simulated experiences and you can leave at any time.

* This room can also be played at Quest Room in Los Angeles as Bloody Elbow. Quest Room state “Yes, the doors will be locked, but we do have, built in, methods of exiting the room……for The Bloody Elbow we require all members to play through, until the end.”

Although all these websites say it is possible to exit the room, they do not indicate how teams release the restraints/cell doors in order to exit the room in an emergency.

This is not a new problem. We once played an escape room where the whole team were chained to a wall in a basement and the GM was on another floor. By solving puzzles were were able to release one member, but the rest had to wait another ten minutes for him to solve more puzzles and release us. It was only later that we began to question the safety of being chained within an escape room. That escape room (Hidden Rooms) has since closed.

The Prisoner photo from nowescape.com

Photo from London Escaped as team photo not available.

What the company say to expect

“The Prisoner known as The Bloody Elbow. It is the time of the Holy Medieval Inquisition around the 14th century. You have all been accused of witchcraft and imprisoned awaiting your death by the hands of a executioner nicknamed “Bloody Elbow”.

He is infamous for his love of using horrifying torture to obtain confession of your crimes, this often lead to a slow and agonising death if you were lucky, “Bloody Elbow” has left you for a rest between the bouts of torture, this is your chance, you have 60 minutes to escape your hideous dungeon and change your fate forever.” – taken from website

 

 

 

Tips for solving puzzles in Escape Rooms

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So you are in an escape room with your team.

What things can trip you up? How do you over come them?

labyrinth-1738043_1920

Not seeing what is in front of you.

Sometimes one of the hardest things in an escape room is seeing what is in plain sight. You are so used to having to open locks and search cupboards that you can miss something that is staring you in the face.

Check your answer.

So you’ve worked out the puzzle and are sure you’ve got the right answer, but the lock isn’t opening?

Time to start double-checking your work. It may be that you have the right answer, but the wrong lock.

Next, ask your team. Maybe you’ve made a simple error in your calculations. Or maybe you’ve gone about solving it the wrong way. It could be as simple as on those game shows where they read who “has” been in rather than who “hasn’t” and loose the jackpot.

I give up!

Unfortunately, you can’t.

Or if you do give up, someone else on your team has to solve the puzzle.

No-one is getting out unless all the puzzles are solved…….unless of course you hack the puzzle. And that’s not why you paid good money and gave up a couple of hours of your time.

So stop complaining, stop procrastinating and ask for help.

Initially ask your team. But ultimately ask your Games Master. They are there to help you get out. Use them.

 

person about to catch four dices
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

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