Norfolk, Dec 2018
This game is no longer available.
Escape rooms have become wildly popular in a a very short time, but team-solving a themed room full of puzzles in 60 minutes is far from the only quirky leisure activity available, and Axes & Escapes is notable for offering both a set of escape rooms and another recent craze, axe-throwing. We tried both, on separate visits – the latter is fortunately kept well away from the former. Visitors should note that Axes & Escapes is a few miles outside Fakenham, in a desolate bit of countryside that was at one time an airbase. Since it was December, we picked the venue’s temporary Christmas game.
With so many gorgeous, exquisitely decorated escape rooms out there, standards are ferociously high. Santa’s Workshop has a collection of appropriately Christmas-y objects and decorations in an otherwise quite plain room, and in comparison felt a bit flat.
We found the gameplay quite stop-start as well. The beginning gave a lot to look at with little opportunity to progress until we found the correct starting point, though thereafter was largely non-linear in a way that ought to work well for larger groups. Small details of the design felt unintuitive, and I wrong-footed myself a couple of times by incorrectly predicting how particular puzzles would work. For example, one item looked like it was the clue to solve a second, but in fact the second item needed to be solved without reference to anything else, by a process of informed guesswork. Another time a set of items closely matched another component, but turned out to be unrelated to it; other times we had a key or code that didn’t work on any of the locks available at the time, leaving us unsure whether to search more, save it for later or go back and re-check our solution.
The game had nothing I strongly disliked, but my impression was of a fairly basic escape room. It had a few quite nice ideas implemented unevenly, along with some filler, with decor that was at best okay. I should point out that Santa’s Workshop was only on for the festive season, and it may not be representative of the company’s permanent games. But with this one at least, despite all my rampant addiction to escape rooms, I ended up having more fun with their other offering, throwing axes at wooden targets.