Locked In The Distillery

I last visited Locked in Edinburgh just about a year ago when they’d first opened and had a great time escaping from the offices of Dr. C. Lion. I just loved the concept of the room theme being exactly what the building was used for, and having so many of the original features still in place from the old vet school gave an added atmosphere that you just can’t re-create.

So just before the festival comes round again we headed back to do the Gin Room, another room that is very site specific as the Pickering Gin distillery is just downstairs from the escape rooms. I do love that both historic and current uses of the Summerhall complex are featured so well in Locked in Edinburgh.

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After marvelling at the new light-up sign for Locked in Edinburgh just above the Royal Dick Bar (which has Pickerings Gin on draught!) and popping in for a quick drink (well it would be rude not to!) We waited at the designated point by the lifts.

 

After a warm welcome by Jackie, our host and gamesmaster for the evening, and some woofy cuddles from Dexter the resident canine employee (and we bribed him to be kind with several Jumbones!) we headed up in the lift to the walkway. It has changed a little in the last year, as there is now neon lights but this doesn’t detract from that slightly ominous feeling you get when walking down to the rooms. I don’t know what it is, perhaps years of veterinary students agonising over exams, or years of animals being housed in there, but there is a ‘feeling’. This is what I mean about the specialness of the venue, you can’t manufacture a feeling.

We also passed the leaderboard, got to love the use of the original features left over from academia, and of course we did ponder on what happened to the ‘Y’ in Veterinary.  The use of the in/out feature made us laugh too.

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The Briefing

Your mission here is to uncover the identity of the disgruntled employee plotting against the Distillery, find out what they’re up to, save yourself and save the gin! Some of our team were much more interested in saving the gin than escaping the room!

We were then given more details on the mission and the health and safety requirements for being in a gin distillery (two of our team were most gutted that they weren’t getting samples during the escape) and of course dressed in the site uniform of Pickerings bar aprons and we were off.

The Room

First off I have to compliment the Locked in Edinburgh team at such a well researched and fun room, I’d recommend coming a little earlier for this room and doing the Pickerings Gin Distillery tour beforehand as you will see many in-jokes within the room. If you haven’t done the distillery tour then one or two of the puzzles may seem a little odd, but there are stories behind them and knowing the in-joke makes it all the more special.

So we were off to a cracking start, splitting the team into the usual couple of searchers and the couple of information handlers and me just doing a little of everything. I stumbled on one puzzle purely because of lack of attention to detail (I thought the answer was a 3 digit lock code and it was a 4, I’d missed one) and that was one of our only two nudges throughout the game. The other was also an attention to detail issue as we hadn’t read something properly. Dunno why this was our problem in here as the room is well-lit and the locks aren’t tiny or fiddly, and nothing is in a dark corner, they’re all well situated and easy to reach and see. Just us being too hasty I suppose.

We didn’t get a whiteboard or paper to write on here… instead you use the side of the gin still or a metal workbench, which is a nice touch and far easier to write on than some of those cheap poundshop mini whiteboards. The puzzles and locks within the room are well spaced, so we didn’t have the problem of everyone trying to crowd into one corner to group solve a mystery. Being a group of 5 I find that having to excuse myself constantly to move around the room; “Can I use squeeze past?” and “Sorry, can I just grab that from behind you” does detract from the gameplay.

The other thing we didn’t get in the room was a countdown clock, this was a revelation to me as I can’t think of a room where I’ve not had some sort of time device before, even if it’s an hourglass. At the start I thought this would make things more frantic, but for us it actually helped, we kept a more even pace and had significantly less ‘panic moments’.

Some clever visual and audio tasks and of course enough searching to allow everyone to find something, but not so much that the searching becomes a chore or overtakes the solving, and you have a room that flows very well. Add to this a varied mixture of puzzles and locks to open and also a couple of really well designed and executed set pieces of engineering, one of which is the final puzzle which two of our team were much more interested in working out how it works than to actually solving the final challenge and getting out of the room.   Despite that we managed to get out in 45:0 and made it to 5th on the leaderboard.

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Another major bonus point for Locked in Edinburgh is that after a successful escape Jackie spent quite some time asking us about what areas we found difficult, or if anything wasn’t easy to see/reach/use. I’ve been in other rooms who get very defensive if you point out something is made unnecessarily difficult by the location of the puzzle, or if something doesn’t work well, but not here at Locked in Edinburgh as they are actively asking for feedback on your room experience.

Accessibility

It is one of the more accessible rooms I’ve seen if mobility is an issue as there is a lift and flat walkway to the room. Inside the room may be a little tight if a larger team includes a member with mobility issues, but it is very workable. I can only think of one area where there may be a small step to negotiate. The puzzles are also at differing heights, so there are locks and tasks that a player can accomplish from a sitting height, but nothing requires climbing or reaching high (a couple of things you need to be standing for though)

Summary

As always I can’t go into detail about the room as that’s spoilers, and no one wants advance notice of the “WOW” moments in the room, they’re far too good to give you even a hint. But I will heartily recommend this room to one and all, even with its distillery theme its suitable for families as well as groups of adults. Even if gin is not your thing, it’s a unique room theme and is immense fun.

The gin room is an excellently themed and well laid out room, with lots of distillery related items and props (and even some bottles of gin!) and a mix of puzzle types so there is something that everyone will be able to solve. Add in the very welcoming and helpful staff and the original location and you’ve a real reason to head out of the centre of Edinburgh.

Book online at http://www.lockedinedinburgh.com

Getting to the Heart of the Matter…

Since I heard that  Escape Rooms Scotland were branching out to the east coast I’ve been waiting for months for the new Escape Rooms Scotland – Dundee to open, so as soon as the opening date was announced I bagged the first game of the opening weekend for both the rooms at Dundee, Black Pearl and CARA.

You can tell how keen we were to visit, we’d driven up from West Lothian and our third team member had traveled over from Ayrshire.

The Venue

The new venue is at Balgray Works on Balgray Place, which is tucked up a side street just to the south of the Kingsway ring road in Dundee, but putting DD3 8SH in the satnav took me straight to it and there is a lovely big sign to point you to the front door. There was plenty on on-street parking out front when we arrived too.

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Inside and up a few steps and you’re into the reception area, which is a bright and spacious area with plenty of seating and a warm welcome from the staff.

Once the team was assembled (we were just a team of three today) and we had a welcome chat with the staff (who are very friendly and chatty) we were briefed with the Escape Rooms Scotland briefing video that explains the safety aspects of the room. If you haven’t watched this briefing at one of their rooms before then click on the link below to watch it’s a great intro to the room and much more user-friendly than being given text to read.

The Room

Then it was onto the briefing, we were to enter the Black Pearl and find Davy Jones’s locker and retrieve his heart…. and we were taken back down the corridor to a wooden door and then into the room.

Now I could wax lyrical about the attention to detail in this room, but I’m terrified of accidentally giving you spoilers. This is a room you really want to do with no prior knowledge at all, its one of those rooms with those “aahh!” moments in and someone had tipped me off to what they are then I think I’d have made them walk the plank for ruining the surprise. But we are the second team to play this room so we were safe from spoilers.

The decor is very, well, piratey, right down to the hats for you to wear as you solve the puzzles (and also wear in the photo later too) and the puzzles are nicely themed to be nautical/piratey. We soon found the first puzzle and got cracking.

As there is no electronic timer in the room, you get a room appropriate time-piece, it does feel like you’re using far more time than you actually are (well it did for me) but that just added to the room as it focused you more on the puzzles and less on the clock watching.

A couple of puzzles stumped us, and we got a clue, mainly to point us in the right direction as we’d missed spotting the vital bit of information, but we progressed well until we got to one of those “aahh!” moments and then all sense of urgency went out of the window while we marveled at what had just happened, before we dived back into the task at hand.

The heart of the matter was soon in hand, and we rushed for the exit door without a backwards glance at the timepiece, and almost fell onto the gamesmaster who got three voices shouting “what was our time?”.  Despite convincing myself that we must have been in there well over the hour we actually escaped in 56:10 and I was very pleased with that as we were only a team of 3 and we didn’t rush as we all wanted to see and solve each puzzle and challenge.

Then we even got to pose for the victory photo with Captain Jack himself!

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The only issues we had during the room were with reading some of the numbers on the lock in the darker corners, and some of the locks were rather stiff to move. Not huge issues on a new room as the locks will be a lot easier to move by now and Escape Rooms Scotland had already ordered some additional lights for the players.

Summary

So to summarise, the Black Pearl room is one that I’d recommend to new players (as well as the more addicted, like me) as the room is a semi-linear design with a variety of puzzles which range from observational, physical, logical and even a little maths too. There is something there for every team member to use their talents enough to do to keep a team of 6 busy. The gamesmasters are very good at helping without giving you the answer outright and even ask you if you’d like clues before you start.

From a room design and immersion point of view alone then The Black Pearl is in my personal top three must do rooms, as you really do forget you’re in Dundee. The look, feel and sound of the room are done to a standard that Richard O’Brien would be happy with.

I will save the CARA review for another day, but if you’re even in Dundee then please seek out  Escape Rooms Scotland – Dundee at Balgray mill, you wont be disappointed.

Escape Livingston – Prison Break

When I heard about Escape  opening in Livingston I was over the moon, as it isn’t based in a city (the fact that its very close to home was an added bonus).

Escape opened in early May 2016 with two brand new rooms, Espionage and Prison Break, with both rooms suitable for teams of 2-5 players. Booking is online, as with all Escape rooms, and is here .

The new venue is located in a courtyard block of offices about a 5min walk from The Centre, Livingston but with the busy road between The Centre and Escape its far easier to drive there as there are lots of parking space. All the doors within the courtyard are identical but they’re all numbered so its only a matter of moments to find the correct door.

Once inside you head up the stairs to a small waiting area with some seating and the gamesmasters console. There you will be briefed on your selected mission and then straight into your room. As we were a team of three we had lots of space in the welcome area, but it will be cosy if two teams are starting at the same time.

Prison break is described on the website as;  “Your team have been wrongly incarcerated, having been paid a large sum of money the warden holds the information that is key to clearing your name.  You’ve been working on escaping for months and now is the time, get out the cells and break into the wardens safe and escape the facility. He’ll be back in an hour though….”

Our team of three were the inaugural team into the room, I’ll admit it I just couldn’t wait, so we took the first available booking. Liam was our games master and despite it being his first briefing of this room he did a great job at making sure we knew everything.

On entering the room we were very impressed by the attention to detail that Escape have gone to, the level of immersion in Prison Break was much higher than I imagined, with very authentic looking cells and even ‘facilities’ in place. **

We were then locked in place, two of us in one cell and one in the other cell, and left to get on with the business of getting out of the cells. This is a great starting concept as it relies on your team communicating and sharing, only with working together do you get out of the cells and on with the rest of the room.

Loved the attention to detail in the room, with some very obvious nods to the Shawshank Redemption film, but we also spotted a couple of other nods to other prison films. The gameplay is well balanced and easy to keep track of where you are so first time escapers won’t be overwhelmed with several puzzles at once.

There is a great mix of puzzles in there, and enough keys and codes so that everyone can get a turn at opening something and solving something. We had a few head scratching moments and used a couple of clues, and a couple more “D’oh!” moments (note to self, don’t assume that all the doors are locked, try them just in case) but the gameplay flowed well and we were escaping before we realised.

The only niggle I have is that the description on the website mentions that the warden holds the key to clearing your name, but we didn’t find or retrieve anything to clear our names, we just escaped.

We left with a fanfare and positively bounced out of the room with just over 15mins left on the clock. Then back in for dressing up and the victory photos (it has to be done, doesn’t it!)

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Out of the two rooms at Livingston this is the one I’d recommend to first time players as it has a fabulous level of immersion (you really do feel like you’re in there for a crime you didn’t commit), its well worth the trip to Livingston.

 

**Although I have to point out that the ‘facilities’ are purely set dressing and are not plumbed in. So please don’t use them.