Derby, Jul 2017
A hot, muggy day to combat and an overnight stay beforehand was needed to make this double-header at Make Your Escape – Derby a possibility. Keen to branch these reviews out into the uncharted territories of the Midlands, we made the trek to Derby to play Spellbound, and The Signal.
The venue itself is right in the centre of Derby, close to the central shopping centre – Intu. Parking is convenient, and there’s a plethora of food and pub options around the area. There’s even a 20% discount at a local bar for customers of the escape room too.
Situated above a forthcoming dessert restaurant (the concept of those is beyond me, but that’s a different article) the venue is nicely decorated in the foyer and suggests to the arriving players they are in for a thematic treat.
It was stifling up there, however – one of the perils of first floor venues. However, help was at hand with free flowing ice cold bottles of water for customers – a massive positive tick.
We were warmly met by the owners Tim and Sharon, and given the briefing for Spellbound, our first game.
Based on a Derbyshire legend, the story goes that two witches were found guilty of witchcraft, but the cabin remained untouched. The task (I think) was to retrieve a crystal, and figure out the mystery. We were also reminded that this is not a room designed for two people — in fact they won’t even take bookings for less than FOUR people. Well, I say two people but Mrs Chris is pregnant and quite rightly preferred a sit down and a snooze to running around solving puzzles. Let’s say 1.5 person team. *awaits divorce papers* They can accommodate up to ten players, too which is quite unusual. The start section could be quite cosy with ten, but probably somewhat amusing, nonetheless.
Unconcerned, we carried on, and entered the room with a little bit of theatre and wearing blindfolds. Immediately we were forced to work together on the initial task, which was both technical in nature and perfectly in theme (given the time period). It was a great puzzle, and the addition of some chalk helped us get through that relatively quickly.
Then onto the main event, a smorgasbord of puzzles, mostly in parallel. As we were told in the briefing, all of these resulted in the reveal of a spell word. Tucked away in the room was a board of spells to write down, and progress shown by small LEDs once the right answer was provided.
At this stage, we had a chance to look around the room in more detail – a wonderfully crafted space, genuinely decked out like a 17th Century cabin. Everything feels right – no corners cut, no expense spared. It was as good a set dressing as I’d seen since the rooms in Los Angeles.
The puzzles themselves all made complete sense, some coded messages, audio based puzzles, some maths homework (I jest), and a couple of skill puzzles create the feeling of a very finely tuned experience aimed at satisfying a mixed group of escapees. Bring someone with wordplay ability with you for the best times, I’d suggest. The start section could be quite cosy with ten, but probably somewhat amusing, nonetheless.
Clues are provided on-screen, and careful use of automation means relatively few padlocks. The immersion is only part of the success of their room design — of equal importance is that puzzle mix. Literally anyone could contribute to solving this room. And given that, this would be the ideal room to take someone who isn’t interested in escape rooms to. A top 10 room in the UK, in my view.
The finale is theatrical, and without spoiling it, one of the best I’ve seen.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Make Your Escape’s next room, which is on the 2nd floor, although I think I will bring more people next time 🙂
I’ll be mostly echoing Chris here, but Spellbound is a lovely room that I’d enthusiastically recommend to pretty much anyone. It’s a classic of a well-designed puzzle-driven game which benefits from a beautiful set, a fun start, and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
It’s one of the least linear games I’ve played. I played with a team of four, and that was a good number to divide and conquer without feeling that I’d missed out on too much due to my teammates solving things while I was looking at something else. Particularly confident enthusiasts could certainly attempt the game with two or three people; beginner groups would be fine with six or eight.
With this quantity of clues and tasks simultaneously accessible it ought to be difficult and confusing to keep track of what goes with what, but there is a very clear structure to the content including a symbol to identify each of the main puzzles. The result just works, and the mix of different types of puzzle includes something for everyone, with some easy wins and some trickier sections.
It’d be a great introduction to escape rooms for new players, though with the risk of setting their expectations high for subsequent games! But this is one you’ll enjoy however experienced you are, a rock-solid escape room that’s excellent quality from start to finish.