An afternoon Escaping Reality in Manchester

Games Date: 10th October 2019
Game Numbers: 38,39,40
Price for Two: £44 each game
Website: https://www.escapereality.com/escape-rooms-uk/manchester/

Games Played: Auron/ Legend of the Mummy/Tortuga Pirates

We had heard lots of things on the grapevine about this particular company – mostly negative things but also that their Manchester branch was amongst their best. We had some time free and many of our other top choices were booked up so we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and book in for three of the games that most appealed to us. The venue can be found inside the Printworks in Manchester and a deceptively small entrance way give sway to a much larger and more welcoming reception area upstairs. Plenty of spaces to sit down and a bar for your pre- or post-game drinks filled us with optimism of the day ahead.

One of the major talking points about this particular venue is its clue system. You are given a tablet and use this to scan codes within the room to give you a hint (well from our experience it actually just tells you how to get the answer) and if that fails there is a call button within the room and the GM comes in to help. The tablet also doubles up as your timer and you have to scan a code on the exterior of the room to stop the clock. Each room begins with a saftey brief on the outside before the game story is delivered once you our inside, the GM starts the timer on your tablet and away you go.

Game One – Auron
Auron is a space themed game with the loose premise of fixing a ship that has crashed. There are two identical rooms so you can play against your friends and there is a mechanic within the game that not only keeps track of your progress, but also the other teams. We had booked from the first slot of the day and we were asked to take a seat whilst they set up the room for the day – not the end of the world as we were a little early but I did not enjoy seeing the door open to the game we would be playing and there goes all the mystery of what we would be playing. This was potentially the smallest escape room we have ever played and with a maximum team size of 3 I should not have been surprised. The themeing was ok with lots of screens and ship decals on the walls. It was pretty sparse so searching did not take very long! Puzzles in this room were almost entirely observation with a bit of code breaking thrown in for good measure and definitely on the easy side of things. As there was no one booked in for the same time slot, we did not have the added pressure of another team so the flow felt very pedestrian and there just simply was not enough to do in the room. We escape with 36.08 left on the clock which was a minute or so slower than 1st place on the leaderboard but bagged us 2nd. The puzzles were very straight forward so we did not need to try out the hint system in this room. Despite the room being directly off the reception area, our GM was still behind the desk and top a few moments to realise we had actually escaped and our photo was taken by a completely different member of staff with no explanation or farewell from our first GM.

Customer Experience – 2 out of 5
Theming – 2.5 out of 5
Gameplay – 2 .5 out of 5
Enjoyment – 3 out of 5

Overall – 2.5 out of 5

Game Two – Legend of the Mummy
We went straight into our next game and were this time led away from the main reception area by the same GM who took over at the end of our first game. Again, the themeing in this room was ok but nothing spectacular and improved as the game developed and you explored further into the game with a nice centre piece in the final room. We came across a few puzzles in this room that we had come across in the last room and overall the standard of puzzles was again lacking somewhat for any teams that have played any more than a couple of games. We got stuck on one puzzle and had to use the hint system and were instead of it giving a nudge, explicitly told us how to work it out – turns out we had actually made a mistake in one part of the puzzle. Annoyingly there were a couple of errors in the resetting of this room. We found one door hiding the button to unlock the next area had been left unlocked, a tablet from a previous team had been left in the middle of the final room and we think we may have bypassed one puzzle entirely as it seem to bigger part of the room to be there for decoration. On exit our GM asked how we found it and seemed even asked us at what point we needed the clue – clearly he was not paying a huge amount of attention to our game. When we enquired whether we could play our next game straight away rather than waiting for two hours, we we told we needed to come back at the start of the next slot just in case it got booked. To me, it would have been a prime time for them to offer if we wanted a drink in their on site bar, but instead we were told that there were plenty of places to pass the time nearby – curious sales technique to me. Escaped with just under 27 minutes left on the clock.

Customer Experience – 2 out of 5
Theming – 3 out of 5
Gameplay – 2 out of 5
Enjoyment – 2.5 out of 5

Overall – 2.5 out of 5

Game Three – Tortuga Pirates
After refuelling in the Wetherspoons nearby, we went back for our third and final game. Whilst heading upstairs we got a glimpse inside another room that was just starting and were impressed with the creepy cabin vibes that we saw and which raised our hopes a bit of our game. Thankfully in this case we were not disappointed because the themeing was definitely a step up from the other rooms we had played. Lighting and sound was certainly used to a better effect this room and which increased immersion in the theme. The last room especially was the most visual impressive space that we had come across that day complete with wheel, sail and sky. Given the vast improvement of themeing, it is a shame that there was not such an improvement in the puzzles. We again came across puzzles that were almost exactly the same as previous rooms and the new ones we had come across in escape rooms before. That said, the puzzles that were present are tried and tested escape room fare so were enjoyable to solve and would appeal more to players that perhaps were newer to escape rooms. We escaped with minutes left on the clock and taking one clue on a puzzle that we overthought. Our biggest disappointment came on exit when we were just faced with an empty corridor. We stood there for what felt like 5 minutes before we just decided to get our things from the locker and make our way back to reception. We were further surprised when our GM exited from a room next door with another team and looked shocked that we had already managed to escaped! There was no apology or conversation as to why there was no one around when we escaped and we were simply ushered back to the reception along with the other team. A quick photo and we were shown the exit.

Customer Experince – 1.5 out of 5
Theming – 3.5 out of 5
Gameplay – 3 out of 5
Enjoyment – 2.5 out of 5

Overall – 2.5 out of 5 (Definitely the best game that we play during the day but marred by some really poor customer service skills)

Overall
Your experience in an Escape Room really can be made by the experience you have as a paying customer and unfortunately any potential that Escape Reality had for good games was lost because of the poor customer service we experienced. I doubt any escape room enthusiast will tell you that they like the clue system that ER employs (but at least you do not get a time penalty like you do at other ER venues) but that could at least be offset by enthusiastic staff members who invest in your escape rather than just trying to get you in and out as quickly as possible. At no point was I sure that our GM was paying any attention to our game, and whilst I could forgive this if they were busy or have only one member of staff for multiple rooms but for our first two games we were the only people in the building and we saw at least 4 members of staff and at various points they were just sat talking or on their phones at reception. Manchester is not short on Escape Room venues and its clear that other venues put alot more emphasis on their customer experience than Escape Reality does.

In short, the games that Escape Reality have are a good grounding on what escape rooms are with puzzles that are logical and fit within the theme of the game. Any one who has played more than a couple of games are likely to find them a little basic, but nevertheless an enjoyable game. Perhaps only play them once you have exhausted the other options in the area however. I hope you have a better customer experience than we did.

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