Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
Off we went this morning, a mixed crowd of adults and children of all ages, to explore the Escape Hunt in the centre of Bristol. The venue is situated on the third floor in Cabot Circus and was easy to find. We had to buzz the intercom to be let in through a locked door and were instructed to descend to the games area. Full of anticipation and excitement, we entered the lift and arrived at the Reception Area on the floor below, where we were greeted by the Escape Hunt staff. All we knew was that we were there to explore some locked rooms in which we had to use our collective skills and individual aptitudes to solve clues and undertake challenges to change the future.
The rooms, which turned out to be a series of rooms for each team to explore, presented two different scenarios.
The first game, Our Finest Hour is a high-octane World War II themed counter-intelligence mission. Set in the aftermath of the Battle of Britain, we were tasked with taking on the role of Secret Agents who must save their country from Nazi invasion. We had just 60 minutes to find the location of the dangerous ‘V Weapons’ or Britain would suffer catastrophic losses beyond recovery.
The second game was The Fourth Samurai, a mission set in Ancient Japan. We were tasked with taking on the role of Japanese Samurai warriors whose honour and lives were at stake. As the Escape Hunters we had 60 minutes to destroy a mystical sword, or else face a fate worse than death.
We were instructed that all phones and electrical devices, as well as food and drinks, were not allowed in the rooms and we had to leave our bags within locked boxes and enter the games unencumbered by the usual trappings of modern life.
Whilst the initial intention was to make up two teams of six with a mixture of children and adults, it soon became clear that the children, boys and girls, aged between 10-15, wanted to work together and challenge the adult team. The children’s team were allocated The Fourth Samurai by the Escape Hunt staff whilst the adults were sent to “the slightly more challenging”, Our Finest Hour. I think they may have just told us that to build up our competitive edge and make us feel a little more intellectually superior. Either way, it worked.
The kids were led away, into the unknown, smiling and jittery, by a staff member and that was the last we saw of them until we all reconvened in the waiting area an hour later. Each team were given a short instructional talk outside the allocated games room door, to set the scene. It included advice on how to get out if we got a sense of feeling trapped in a locked space. We were also told that help was on hand, should we get stuck in our quest, through an intercom system. Our progress would be closely monitored via cameras. Then in we went, and the clock started ticking.
We were immediately faced with a small space, packed with clues and puzzles which had to be solved in sequence to allow access into further separate chambers, which contained even more challenges as we worked together to succeed in our mission.
We were asked to keep the actual contents of the rooms a secret and not reveal anything specific about the challenges so all newcomers to the venue get to enjoy the full experience and suspense elements to the games. However, I can reveal our thoughts and feedback after both teams had successfully completed our missions, with time to spare.
We all emerged from our rooms, buzzing from a tense and stimulating hour that passed in a flash, with a great sense of triumph. We felt tremendously proud of our individual, and collective, successes.
The children were all delighted with their game and rated it a “10/10”, without hesitation. They revelled in the numerous tasks which they found really tricky but achievable. They quickly realised that they had to read the clues carefully and work together as a team. They loved all the creepy noises and spooky atmosphere that kept them on their toes and focused. The youngest member (just 10) enjoyed it as much as the oldest (15) and they all liked solving the riddles and working things out by trial and error. Nothing was straightforward, they remarked, but they had great fun solving the clues. The word “amazing” was used a LOT as they excitedly feedback to us. One boy (aged 12) told us “it made your think, it made you nervous… it made you feel like you were going to die!!” This comment was met by a fit of eager nodding and peels of laughter by the rest of his team. Interestingly they felt that, whilst the game could be completed by two people, there were some great advantages from having a full complement of six teammates. They were quick to point out that there was no sense of needing one leader as they felt they all had the opportunity to shine and steer the group during different parts of the game. This made them want to communicate well together and gave them a strong sense of teamwork.
The adult team were equally enamoured by our experience. We all loved the thrill of being faced with so many varied challenges within a perfectly-paced activity which was both immersive and great fun. We spent our time busily figuring out various puzzles, solving clues and seeking out keys. We even got to do a spot of code breaking. Again, we all reflected on how we had had to swiftly learn how our team best operated. We naturally gave individuals, and micro groups, the room to excel to take the whole team forward at various points. There is so much to do/find/figure out, coupled with some great red herrings and numerous distractions that the hour flew past and we were thoroughly tested to a really high level. More than anything, we enjoyed the opportunity to simply play for an hour. We agreed that the game exposes a lot of interesting aspects about ourselves and about team dynamics whilst giving us a real sense of accomplishment.
Collectively, we felt that this unique experience was extremely well organised and presented. The venue was great and well laid out and the staff were warm, extremely professional and wonderful at swiftly absorbing us into our new roles. The introductory talks were short, informative and clearly expressed. The emergency escape route gave us comfort. We felt secure, yet totally secluded to be able to concentrate, in our game spaces without a sense of confinement. The camera interaction with our host was perfectly managed. Help was only offered when absolutely necessary and even then, we were given the choice on whether we wanted to accept the extra clues or not. Otherwise, we were left to own devices.
From talking with the staff afterwards, we were delighted to hear that the scenarios were likely to change every six months should you wish to come back and try something different. And also that each of the Escape Hunt venues (one currently based in Bristol and another in Leeds) would have location-specific elements to some of the games in future. We were also told that there were currently two vacant areas within the Bristol site which were already being prepared for the introduction of two new scenarios. The kids were interested to hear that one of rooms may have a pirate theme. The new rooms are expected to be ready by the end of the summer.
Without exception, all the feedback was glowing, and I can confidently say that the experience was equally, and thoroughly, enjoyed by everyone. Before we even left the site, I overheard plans were already being hatched to return by several members of the group. Whilst fairly expensive for a large group, the general feeling was this was great value for money if you wanted a treat for a special occasion. It was also thought to be an excellent and fun professional team-building opportunity. It is a great way for people to get to know each other better and recognise each other’s values and strengths.
Safe to say, we had the best time. Thank you Escape Hunt for a thrilling and memorable experience.
Price: £20 per person for 4-6 players / £25 per person for 2-3 players
For more information or to make a booking visit escapehunt.com.
Escape Hunt, Cabot Circus, Bristol, BS1 3BX