The Dark Ages (Code to Exit Altincham)

Game Date: 6th April 2019
Game Number: 25
Price for Two: £36

Game Overview
This team game takes you back to the time of the Legend of Camelot. By revealing the secrets of the castle, you will be able to rescue the mystical Excalibur. Once you have the mythical sword you are only a step away from acquiring the Holy Grail. You need team work, skills and excellent powers of observation to complete the mission in time and escape the room.

Arrival and Introduction
Code to Exit is found about 25 minutes away from the centre of Manchester by car and there is plenty of parking in the shopping/leisure park found next to the venue. We were met by the owner Andy, who was very welcoming, chatted to us about the usual things from those that have played multiple games – how many games have you played, have you failed any etc. The entry/reception area is quite small so big /multiple teams might find it a bit cramped but Code To Exit are not exactly blessed with space at this venue. We were given the brief to the room upstairs before we made our way to the basement downstairs.

According to the owner, they were not actually allowed to have a locked door down in the basement due to fire regulations so they had to come up with another way of getting into the room. Its a fairly simple solution with a locked gate blocking your path but one that does sort of add to the idea that you are searching for the holy grail. We were told at the beginning that were 3 main goals to complete this room, one was two retrieve Excalibur from the stone, one that would be quite obvious within the game and then finally one all else was complete the grail would reveal itself. Our initial searching of the room easily revealed the other task and so we made a start on the puzzles. There were two obvious physical puzzles and we made a start with these straight away. They were clearly lovingly handmade by someone who has a real interest in escape rooms and we enjoyed completing them both immensely. We had been warned that one of them in particular normally took about 15 minutes to complete and I can definitely see why. It is a heavily skill based puzzle but one that can be done with enough perseverance. Only one player could attempt this at a time and so whilst one of us was trying it, the other person was searching the room and trying to do other puzzles and then when one of us got frustrated we swapped. Luckily we completed this in what we thought was a very quick time and before either of us had got frustrated on it to much. We could not have done much more without completing this puzzle so I can imagine teams may get quite frustrated if they had completed everything else and we just waiting on this one. Andy did tell us afterwards that they have a method of bypassing the puzzle if people are getting too frustrated and starting to stop enjoying themselves. I really liked this as it meant that their focus was on enjoyment for the players which for me is key.

The rest of the puzzles varied from decoding, observation, searching and number play – we enjoyed the variation and it definitely felt that each of us played an important part in retrieving the grail. We delved into the room so quickly that it wasnt until about half way through that I actually took a step back and look at the theming of the room. It was clear that it was put together by someone who had pride in their work and everything felt like it was part of the theme. With the goal of the room to retrieve the grail it would have been easy to decorate the room in more of a dark, cave like setting but it was actually a bright, well lit, throne room which I certainly preferred. The room doesn’t have the finish of some of the big escape room companies but you cant really expect that from such a small venue. The room still looked good and fitted well within the space of offer.

We retrieved Excalibur and the grail with just over 15.44 left on the clock which put us around 3rd on the leader board in terms of time. We did ask for one clue which meant we not on the official leader board! Clues were written on a screen the room. Afterwards we had a good chat with Andy about his plans for the future and had a sneaky look into one of his other rooms that I am very excited to return to.

Credit: Code to Exit

The physical nature of this game meant it was right up our street and we really enjoyed our time. Andy has a clear passion for escape rooms and made us feel very welcome. The game has changed from originally being a 2 player to a 3 player room (solely because of the difficulty of one puzzle) but we sneaked in as a two anyway. If you really enjoy the crystal maze style physical puzzles then perhaps see if you can go as a two but otherwise maybe stick with the 3 person minimum.

Customer Experience – 4 out of 5
Theming – 3.5 out of 5
Gameplay – 4 out of 5
Enjoyment – 4.5 out of 5
Overall – 4 out of 5

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