My Top 6 Escape Rooms So Far

My Top 6 Escape Rooms So Far

A little over a year ago, while on a friend's Birthday, I attempted my first-ever escape room here in Portsmouth. It's an experience which has somewhat become an addiction but also somewhat a hobby. So, in this blog post, I wanted to break down my favourites based on the one's I've visited so far with spoiler-free reviews and comments on each while considering: theming, technical and gaming mechanics as well as overall enjoyment.

For those not so familiar with the experience of an escape room, here's the basic breakdown of what one is.

A team of you locked in a room, which may lead to other rooms, while you try and escape by solving hidden puzzles around the room you are locked in. You generally have one hour to get and out you can be scored based on how quickly you make it out, or by how many materials you escape with (depending on the theming). These are a lot of fun but do come with a price tag which individually works out fine, but in larger groups, being fronted by one person, could be seen to be an expensive activity for the time a group of people are actively participating.

They're a real test of team work while problem-solving under the stress of a timed environment, you generally win as a team so every second counts. But, here's the worst thing about it. Once you do the first one, you ALWAYS want to do another. Unless of course you and your friends all fell out within the hour and never want to talk again because Patricia did tell anyone about a map which she left in the first room. Damn you Patricia*. 

Anyway, because of how much I have loved the rooms, here's my list in reverse order of how much I have loved the rooms I have escaped from.

NO.6 - Outbreak Zombie Escape, Portsmouth

Theming: 5/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 1/5
Overall enjoyment: 0/5

This honestly felt like the biggest waste of time out of all of the Escape Rooms we have visited. I think I was so annoyed, I even went on a small tiny rant on Trip Advisor as to how much I didn't enjoy this escape room. Since visiting, the company behind this experience have moved venues with the intention to reopen with a better experience.

The positives of this experience was the theming. The dark rooms, the sound effects, visual effects and costuming by the actors dressed to be zombies were brilliant. There were some fun elements as well, like having to crawl through a tunnel which expanded in on itself while you were in it, made for a memorable treat. There was also a real scare factor the entire time we were going around, it was tense from start to finish, it's just a shame about the rest of it.

The idea of an escape room, is to solve puzzles and escape from it. The creator of this room had decided that you only had 10 minutes in each room before being forced to move onto the next one, which in my opinion defeated the point of an "escape room". This was more like a horror maze you would find at the likes of Thorpe Park, or Halloween Horror Nights. It essentially wasn't an escape room experience, even the aspects of an escape room, such as the puzzles were poorly conceptualised. Because it acted like a maze, the actors stationed in each room, did a poor job at quickly resetting the room prior to the next set of guests entering. It was just really bad, overall.

NO.5 - Alcatraz @ Houdini's Escape Rooms, Southampton

Theming: 4/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 3/5

The best and most memorable thing about Houdini's Escape Rooms was the incredible host. While I can't remember his name, he immediately built the story and the atmosphere from minute we arrived. It set the scene for what was going to come and I thought the theming of the waiting area was brilliant on its own.

It's also worth mentioning that when you arrive, Houdini's offers free hot beverages, a real winner in my books.

Anyway, as advertised on their website, all rooms offered start in a cinema room. There's also free popcorn as well as skittles offered in here for you to choose from. It's flipping brilliant. However, the movie you watch are of the rules of the escape room as expected.

Without spoiling this room, there are some fantastic little quirks to it to solving the various different puzzles to making it out. There is however, an extremely challenging part that I would be surprised if anyone solved without the use of a clue from the games master. We took so long trying to solve this one part and I'm sure if you've previously done this room, you would have suffered the same issue.

It's the only part of the room I didn't like. The staff were friends, the puzzles were challenging and the theming is perfect. Also if you do this room, there is a discount in immediately booking your next room, which I would highly recommend taking advantage of! You'll also get a small prize for escaping and a free photo too of you and your team.

NO.4 - The Chamber of the Deep @ The Real Escape Rooms, Portsmouth

Theming: 5/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 1/5
Overall enjoyment: 1/5

This was my first ever escape room, and those interested in giving them ago, should find one just like this. It's packed with puzzles, but those which are easy enough to work out how to solve. There are some fantastic tiny details that are so satisfying when they are solved, it really sells the escape room experience. Even exiting the room filled my with intense excitement, it truly is a great room.

Based on it's name along, I'm sure you can tell that this escape room is swashbuckling-themed. You need to find the treasure to leave and it's kind of as simple as that. It uses almost every puzzle element you can think of and combines that with a limited narrative as you move on.

I truly loved this room, but it made number 4 because the following just stood out that bit better 

NO.3 - Secret Studio, London

Theming: 5/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5

With by far the best theming out of any of the escape rooms we completed, the Secret Studio which even provides a puzzle to find the place on Brick Lane in London and so I've listed it as my number 3. 

Set in an old movie set, this escape room has some of the best props and puzzles available. This was recommended to us by the guys at clueQuest (see NO.2 below) and was a worthy recommendation as it delivered a great experience. I won't give it away but it used a puzzle technique that I really don't think you'll find anywhere else plus, there is a real surprise at the end, that is so well orchestrated, it will give you a great surprise on top of the elation of completing the escape room. 

The draw back of this one was the price, I think it was more expensive than most however, if they were to open new rooms, I wouldn't think twice about booking this experience. 

Operation Black Sheep @ clueQuest, London

Theming: 3/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Lending a brilliant storyline and also in my opinion, technically the best, using computer systems and incredible puzzles that can only be solved by team work, clueQuest's Operation Black Sheep is my NO.2.

This place felt like it had the experience of running many rooms all at the same time and so it was almost like it was part of a chain. However, with a well thought out colour scheme, design and narrative, combined with the brilliant puzzles to solving how to exit the room before a rocket launches made for a great experience. 

There was something about the different use of every day puzzles that I just really enjoyed! There was also a strange sense of rush to getting out early which made the experience all the more dramatic. I particularly enjoyed the use of computers which at first are hidden.

If you're in London, I highly recommend this escape room and facility. 

The Pandora Heist @ Elusion Escape Rooms, Southampton

Theming: 4/5
Technical and gaming mechanics: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5

With one of the best ways to enter an escape room experience, the Southampton based Elusion Escape Rooms proved to be my NO.1.

Not only is it different, dark and that your team is up against the clock, the Pandora Heists offers an alternative way to winning, by stealing as many valuables as you can which at the end are worth certain cash bonuses which are added to your score. This presented two reasons to do well, as you search for clue and work out how to complete some of the tasks, hidden messages send you on the path to stealing the best objects with the highest values.

The room also leads to another through a hidden door. Not to give it away but I was absolutely blown away by the technical aspect and theming the following room presented. It was so unbelievably cool, much like being in a film and I'll never forget this experience and in honesty, it's why it's my NO.1. 

The other things to note with this escape room is that you do it in the dark, while presented with torches. There is a brilliant optional fancy dress, if you want to do it while dressed as robbers and as I said, you're marked based on the items you steal. It was a truly 5/5 experience and I'd love to at some point, try the other room located blow the one we did, which was more of a zombie experience.

Conclusion

So that concludes my list of Escape Rooms I have been to. I'm now planning to return to The Real Escape Room, The Titanic Room at Houdini's Escape Room and checking out the new experiences coming to Portsmouth this year which the rooms being hosted by Exciting Escapes, Portsmouth.

Please do leave a comment below and tell me which one's you've either been to, or plan to visit! Also, recommendations as to where I should visit next would be very welcomed!

 

*Patricia is a fiction character made up as an example of something that can go wrong.

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