It’s amazing how life changes so quickly. Seven years ago two of us were struggling to adapt to life as new parents and over the last few years I think it’s fair to say all three of our team have experienced ups and downs in life. Two years ago none of us had ever done an escape room and had only just begun hearing about them. Now go back a year and we’d caught the bug and absolutely loved them. We had yet to experience @escapologic @EscapeQuestUK @StanleyHallFarm but had done @lucardoER and held them in high esteem. In fact, we were just beginning to see how good rooms can actually be, extending beyond the good rooms to the truly phenomenal.
Now to the present day, where after years of struggling to enjoy his job, Simon has left the career of teaching to open an escape room. It’s a great loss to the profession, which is already in a recruitment crisis (especially for maths), but for our family it’s a dream that’s been a long time coming, and would have happened sooner if he’d found something like escape rooms which he is truly passionate about. It’s taken longer than imagined but on Monday 28th May 2018 Simon opened the first franchise of @lucardoER in Rawtenstall (just north of Manchester) with his partner and friend Dave. To say he’s a changed man would be an understatement. It’s not easy to open your own rooms but when you are truly passionate about something every bump in the road is worth it.
This post is to clarify a few things about this blog moving forward as we wouldn’t want to be seen as biased towards any rooms or companies. We will no longer review @lucardoER as we are now linked to them. However, our current reviews of their games still stand and will remain on our site. Simon will still play as part of our team but won’t write any reviews as he is now an owner. I will write all future reviews with the aim of always being objective and fair (which has always been my aim and hopefully I’ve always managed to do). The thing that has amazed us most about the escape room industry is how friendly owners are and the support there is amongst the owners and enthusiasts out there. In all honesty, they aren’t in competition, the more people we can get to experience and love the escape room industry, the more business there is for everyone!
Finally, I just want to say thank you to the directors of @lucardoER for presenting Simon and Dave with the opportunity to become part of the team and the support they’ve provided to help them set up. We’re all so proud (wives, kids, parents, friends) of what Simon and Dave have achieved with the new venue and it’s a pleasure to see them come home having genuinely enjoyed their day at work. Who knows where the next two years will take us, but the future is most definitely bright!
ROOM: Your uncle developed state of the art nuclear technology but was imprisoned after one of the experimental reactors was activated and went into meltdown causing a catastrophic disaster. You believe he was framed and break into his abandoned power plant. If you can successfully activate the second identical reactor you can prove the original one was not faulty, prove that he was framed and prove his innocence!
THEME: The theming was out of this world. It was just what we’d imagine a nuclear reactor to look like and the immersion within this room was just phenomenal. We immediately got started on the puzzles and the gameplay was lovely, our favourite room at the Leicester venue. There are some unexpected twists to this room which we really enjoyed but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything! It’s pretty much linear although there was enough for each of us to be doing, no one was stood doing nothing at any point. The host was fantastic and I don’t think we needed many clues for this one. The puzzles made great use of the props and were challenging but doable – you had all the information you needed but really had to think about the puzzle while you solved it (my favourite type of puzzle!). You have to communicate and work well as a team in this room. Another great room by a fantastic company!
ESCAPE TIME: Yep – I didn’t write this one down either (I’ve learnt my lesson!). We were in the top 3 fastest times to escape and I’m pretty sure it was forty something minutes. We were told some leaderboards will be put up soon so look out for us on there!
BEST BIT: It’s difficult to choose but the unexpected twist was good and the way the props linked to the puzzles helped to keep the level of immersion high throughout the game.
THEME: You are an elite spy undercover during World War 2. Your aim is to gather intel on a new super weapon developed by the mysterious Magnus, an aerospace engineer. The weapon could change the tides of the war and the world’s fate rests on your shoulders.
ROOM: The theming in the room was brilliant, even the clues were delivered on theme via a telephone conversation with a fellow agent. The use of space in the venue was brilliant and there were some lovely, unique puzzles. Our host was fantastic and got us back on track on a couple of occasions where our search and find skills had not effectively searched and found. There were a good variety of puzzles which suited each of our teams strengths with our definite weakness being our observational skills! The final sequence of events ended the game nicely – another great room from Escapologic!
ESCAPE TIME: I forgot to write this one down too but I think we were within the top 3 times at around 45 minutes.
BEST BIT: The ending of the game was brilliant
Theme: The deadly virus Chronos, which lay dormant for years, has mutated and thrust the world into chaos as it kills anyone who comes into contact with it. Your job is to travel back in time and retrieve the research conducted on patient zero, in order to find a cure for the present day pandemic that has hit the world.
The theming in this room is amazing, just as we’ve come to expect from Escapologic rooms. Attention to detail is phenomenal and the props really are a strength of this room. The room consists of a range of puzzles that require quite a lot of thinking to complete. We got stuck into the puzzles we could see quite quickly and between us managed to make some progress. There are some really well designed puzzles within the room and a great use of props. The only thing we struggled with slightly was that some of the props which you interact with don’t immediately activate so we gave up when we should have keep going. If you do this room and see something that looks like it does something pay close attention and be patient, it probably does do something! Investigating the props in the room is vital, if they move, move them and look at them really carefully. The puzzles in this room were all fantastic, we just got a bit stuck linking them together at times. Our host was fantastic and helped us when we needed a push in the right direction.
Escape time: I forgot to write it down! It was around 35 minutes and I’m sure we wrote it on the card we left!
Best bit: If I tell you it might spoil it! One of the puzzles used something really clever and we loved it.
THEME: Following some mysterious disappearances and supernatural sightings you are sent to investigate. You find yourself locked in a cabin in the woods and all is not as it first seems…
A video from Dr Alan Harris delivers the background story for this game. Dr Harris is also the person who supplied us with clues via an iPod throughout the game. The cabin is really well themed and on initial inspection looks innocent but once you start searching all sorts of puzzles can be found. As with the other room we did at this venue, the puzzles came thick and fast and were very varied (logic, physical, maths and observational). For us, this was the best part of these games, that there was always something each of us could do that led to quick successes and progression to the next problem, which really made you feel like you were getting somewhere. It was amazing how much we got done in the time we were in the room. It is also amazing that Nathen can design a room with so many puzzles in it. There is a linear aspect to the room but plenty to keep everyone busy. Some of the puzzles were particularly unique with a clever use pf props. This was another great room that we really enjoyed. We did the 60 minute option but would have loved to do the 90 minute game if we had enough time and didn’t have our young children with us. The 90 minute game would be ideal for enthusiasts, but the 60 minute game was challenging enough for any ability.
ESCAPE TIME: 47 minutes
BEST BIT: The cleve use of props and unique puzzles.
LEVEL: Any (enthusiasts in particular will enjoy the 90 minute game)
THEME: Milly mysteriously died following years living as a recluse. Something is stopping Milly’s soul from resting in peace. Find the clues and unravel the mystery that will ultimately set you free.
Dr Alan Harris introduced us to the scenario through a video which fit well with the theme. The back story led us to a room in Old Maid Milly’s house to investigate the mysterious circumstances around her death. The game was slightly linear as some things had to be done before others but there was plenty of searching to do and some puzzles could be done at the same time so we were all kept busy throughout the game. There were loads of puzzles to do, some straight forward, some more tricky but with every puzzle you knew exactly what you were supposed to do and what you could use to help you. Nathen (the owner) was our host and he gave us clues as soon as we started to get stuck so the flow of the game was really good and there were lots of moments of success throughout. This room would appeal to all abilities as there are some simple puzzles as well as some very clever, slightly different ones. Even though it’s a small room a large group would be fine as there is so much to do. The puzzles were a mixture of observation, logic and maths, the variety was a real strength as it kept us busy but each puzzle was different to the last. Nathen is a great gamemaker and we massively enjoyed this game. The story behind the room is really good and there are some bonus puzzles to complete to find out the exact reasons for Old Maid Milly’s death and the circumstances she lived in.
Escape Time: 45 minutes
Best bits: The variety of puzzles and the logical, clear way they were all presented.
Level: Any (enthusiasts would be fine with 2 or 3 players).
So we haven’t managed to play an escape room for a while and it got me thinking about why we love them so much. As you may know our team consists of three maths teachers – is it a coincidence that we all love escape rooms? I don’t think so. Now, you may be reading thinking ‘I hated maths at school but I love escape rooms’ and all I can say to that is that you weren’t taught by one of us ;-). I loved maths because I could work through a problem, sometimes having to approach it in different ways before finding a successful strategy, and I felt a sense of satisfaction when I reached a solution. It’s the same in an escape room. You work through a problem (word/number/observation based), having to consider different approaches and feel a sense of satisfaction when you find the solution and as a result you progress through the room. If I’m in a room and haven’t felt success within the first 15 minutes, it’s likely I’ll start getting frustrated and following this, I nearly always struggle to fully engage with or truly enjoy the room. I think it’s the same in a maths lesson. If the students haven’t felt success in the first 15 minutes, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve switched off, their resilience has lowered and it would take a lot to re-engage them in the lesson. Amy from https://britofanescapehabit.wordpress.com/ often talks about logic leaps in her reviews and it’s the same in our lessons – structured variation is so important so that we don’t have any big logic leaps in the questions we present where the students could potentially ‘get lost’ or ‘can’t keep up’, what they’re doing shouldn’t be too abstract but should always ‘make sense’. I stumbled upon a competition last week for Year 7 – 9 students (11 to 14 years old) to develop some maths based escape room puzzles for a national competition https://mathsmission.challenges.org/. I was gutted (and very surprised) that being a teacher on twitter but also being heavily involved in the escape room community that I hadn’t heard about it since its launch in November. It made me feel like we’ve missed something as when I read the details on the website there was no mention of anyone from the escape room community being involved (I really hope I’m mistaken about this). The escape room community is such a friendly community and some of the people working within it are just fantastic. Owning or working in an escape room needs a variety of skills including hands on DIY skills, the ability to solve any problem presented as quickly as possible as well as being great with customers. This is one of those jobs that 10 years ago didn’t exist, but now it does, what are we doing to promote it within schools? Could an apprenticeship be created? Where is the future of escape rooms headed and how can the creativity of our young people be harnessed to help bring it to the next level?
The world of maths teaching has never been more exciting with the likes of LaSalle, Craig Barton and Jo Morgan enhancing our pedagogy and resources more than ever before. So is the world of escape rooms, an upcoming industry that is very much in its infancy and will probably look a lot different in 10 years time. https://www.breakouteducation.co.uk/ are the only company at the moment to combine Maths and escape rooms but I’m saying why just maths? Can we move this industry forward to involve all sorts of subjects? And how can we get our young people excited about escape rooms. Owners, if you like the idea see if you can get involved in local schools – can you offer work experience? An apprenticeship? Maths teachers (or any teachers!) – if you haven’t played an escape room, go and play one, it’s not just about creating maths puzzles but so much more and if we all get together and get involved we have the potential to spark the interest of some young people and give them something to aim for which will help them develop so many skills that will be useful for them whatever career they go into. I really hope the cracking the code competition runs next year too. I know I will be entering a team and will try to pass on the love I have for escape rooms to some of the students I teach.