Alice in Puzzleland (Escape Hunt Manchester)

Game Date: 23rd April 2019
Game Number: 26
Price for Two: £50
Website: https://escapehunt.com/uk/manchester/

Game Overview
The Mad Hatter is in trouble. Save him from the Queen of Hearts without losing your heads. Step into Wonderland, where the Hatter has been accused of stealing the Queen’s Tarts. With Alice nowhere to be seen, it’s time for you to fill her shoes. You find yourself at the Hatter’s cottage. The table is set but no one is around. A sign on the lawn reads ‘Tea Party Cancelled by Royal Decree’. Curiouser and curiouser… Find and return the Queen’s Tarts in 60 minutes, or it’s off with the Hatter’s head. Chop chop.

Arrival and Introduction
After a couple weeks we began to get some serious escape room withdrawal symptoms and chose to notch off a few more games back to back in Manchester. Our first game was back at Escape Hunt and this time we went for their newest room – Alice in Puzzleland. When we were here for our last visit this was being built and every member of staff that we had spoken to said how excited they were for it to finally open and so it was a pretty easy choice for us this time around. We booked for a midday game on a weekday so pretty unsurprised when we walked into a very empty reception area but we were warmly greeted by the lady on reception and then introduced to Courtney who was going to be our GM. We arrived 20 minutes early and didn’t actually get around to the room brief until 5 minutes after our game time as we spent that much time talking all things escape rooms. I feel like we could have easily been there for hours talking about our experience. Just before we left the reception, Courtney asked us about the dreaded “C” word – clues! We had the option to be left alone for the whole hour, only get clues when we asked for them, or to be given clues when Courtney thought it would be necessary. We went for the last option as Courtney would obviously have a better idea of when a clue was needed to keep us on track. We probably would have failed without the clues we were given so we picked the right option. After the brief we were onto the game!

Gameplay
It was immediately obvious that we had left dreary old Manchester behind and entered into wonderland – the themeing was great and there was enough recognisable paraphernalia to make you believe you had fallen down that rabbit hole! A mid to small sized opening room with a clear direction as to where you had to go next. We began our usual tactic of spreading out and searching the room but quickly got sidetracked as we found things we knew were going to be important and so focused on completing the obvious puzzle leading from this information. The room had a linear leaning and so before long we had run into a brick wall – victims of not searching the room well enough before diving into the puzzles. Eventually we twigged what we needed to do and moved forward in the game. This was a repeating pattern during the rest of the game – we would make good progress through puzzles and then hit a dead end and usually needed a nudge from Courtney to send us in the right direction. The puzzles that we got stuck on were not particular difficult but suffered from a slight lack of signposting and so we were not always sure what the puzzle was asking us to do. Most of the puzzles were grounded in observation in one way or another and had good use of technology such that there was only two keys in the entire game and not a single code lock in sight! Each completed puzzle was accompanied by a fan fare putting to rest the age old problem of not knowing if you had successfully completed a puzzle or not. The final puzzle had me frantically searching for the final three items not realising we actually had over 10 minutes left on the clock – I must had looked like a right idiot scrabbling around worrying that we were going to run out of time (Escape Hunt do not have timers in their rooms)!

Outcome
We returned the tarts to the Queen with 12.44 left on the clock and received 3 clues, delivered via voice over, in the process. These were minor clues that just nudged us in right direction and as soon as we were given them we had that “of course thats what we need to do” moment, on another day we may have sailed through this room without any hints. Afterwards we sat for another good length of time chatting about the room with Courtney and again felt like we could have stayed there for ages.

Overall
A very well themed room with solid puzzles and will definitely appeal to those players that dislike the use of padlocks just for the sake of padlocks. As you would expect from a room themed around Alice in Wonderland, logic sometimes takes a back seat when completing puzzles which can either be a good or a bad thing depending on how quick you work out what you need to be doing! The customer experience, as we have come to expect from Escape Hunt was spot on and more than made up for the few frustrations we had within the room. The linear leanings of this room means that its best for smaller teams, though very new players may struggle with some of the puzzles. Two experienced players will not have an issue finishing this room.

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

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