Blackpool, Apr 2018
With a current total of six rooms, Escape Room Centre is Blackpool’s largest venue. While their first four games are designs selected and imported from TRAP in Budapest, their newest two are original designs. Both of those have a minimum team size of three players, but the venue was happy to let us attempt Grimoire as a pair.
Your mission is to recover a stolen spellbook, before the thieves use it to unleash all kinds of nasty on the world. The other half of the game’s name is strictly appropriate too: you have an attic to search. It’s a large and thoroughly authentic-feeling space, helped greatly by being an actual attic that the company decided to put to use. There’s plenty that’s creepy and atmospheric, and nothing that sets out to terrify – most nervous players should have little to worry about with this game.
Perhaps because it uses a larger area than most games, I found it a surprisingly pleasant space for a horror game, helped by the unsettling but skilful art and decorations. It used low lighting when we played, and would be even darker for anyone playing after sunset. However, the briefing told us there were torches to find, and these turned out to be both plentiful and refreshingly good quality – although it took a hint to get us to stop blundering around in the dimness and point us to the perfectly obvious place to find them! Basic search and observation is never my strong point, which should have been a problem for this game, which is highly search intensive. I don’t mean that so much in the sense of tiny keys hidden in obscure corners, but careful, thorough exploration of the space is pretty critical to completing the game. (That we did in fact get out in time with a few minutes left is something my teammate gets most of the credit for!)
A couple of small quibbles: there were a few red herring items, though any seasoned escape team will no doubt quickly discard them (we didn’t…). A technical glitch interrupted one puzzle, though it’s an unavoidably temperamental type of mechanism and one that seems to fail with me much more than with anyone else. But the game was consistently inventive and fun with plenty of rewarding moments, such as the point I heard myself saying, ‘but it says to [redacted] and it’s obviously impossible to [redacted]’, in the very same instant I realised that [redacted] was in fact possible.
I particularly admired a couple of steps where something was triggered using chunky, thematic components. Both times were at key moments of the game, and executed in such a way as to heighten the drama and deliver a bigger payoff for completing the puzzles. The design suggests that the owners have paid careful attention to what works well in their TRAP games, and have applied those lessons to excellent effect when building their own game; the result provides a good tough challenge for small teams of enthusiasts, and would be equally well suited for a larger less experienced team.