Peterborough, Feb 2018
My experience of Escape is that their games are reliably decent, but that the decor and atmosphere are rarely a particular strength – typically a nice enough set of props and themed puzzle components but usually starting from generic office space that is difficult to imbue with much atmosphere. So it caught my eye that in Peterborough their second location is in the Priestgate Vaults beneath Peterborough Museum.
The Vaults are a set of underground chambers that have a five hundred year history, having been used at various times as a wine cellar, morgue and air raid shelter. The three games available at the Vaults only run Thursday to Sunday, with the space used on other days and at other times for ghost tours, educational visits, and other purposes. Each game is based on a different part of the location’s history, and The Hunt is set in the English Civil War, casting players as a Parliamentarian group searching for the location of the defeated King Charles I.
The impressive location is matched by some lovely old furniture that may not date back to the era in question but certainly evokes the theme. It’s a small room and a shorter than usual game time (45 minutes not 60), so I’d suggest a team of two or three.
Most of the games I’ve played from the Escape chain have used a mostly linear structure with a sequence of independent puzzles, each of which typically resolves to a code that opens a padlock and releases clues for the next puzzle. The Hunt follows exactly that style. Since the game takes place in a historic space subject to preservation laws, which needs to be returned to its prior state whenever it’s being used for other purposes, it also relies a lot on small padlocked chests and other easily removed components.
I’d have preferred it to lean less heavily on laminated clues and sometimes anachronistic padlocks. It’s also quite a slight game, which many enthusiast groups are likely to finish in under half an hour. Since it’s priced at the same level as their other games despite being 15 minutes shorter, you might find it less good value for money. But as with most games from Escape, the puzzles are well designed without needless ambiguities or frustration points. It’s fairly lightweight and feels halfway to being a temporary popup game, but what’s there is fun, and the location plus some quality decor give it a boost.
It’s the English Civil War, and you as a trusted Parliamentarian are hunting the secret location of the King in a Royalist’s house before they return in exactly 1 hour.
Unusually this company briefs you inside the room rather than outside, which takes away some of the initial excitement, but does eliminate some needless searching. A further feature is that they try to create a “period” atmosphere by having a message projected on the wall (rather than a TV), and no cameras (an operator can look in through an open window).
The decor is time appropriate, although it still lacks the period feel as the result of setting up what appears to be a series of props you’d find in a study, in what nonetheless is obviously still a crypt. In addition, whilst they use a number of older padlocks, the room is still far too reliant on a large number of 3,4 and 5 digit modern padlocks. There are a number of times where we had to try codes on multiple padlocks where it wasn’t clear where to go next. This was compounded by having multiple locked boxes, which just felt repetitive after a while.
This room is relatively search heavy, and to their credit they do at least tell you where not to look (as a crypt, the walls and some of the pipework are dusty and in use by the church above). However providing one rather weak torch between two people (rather than say two strong lanterns) adds to frustration in a dimly lit room that also requires quite a bit of reading.
Some of the puzzles were quite nice if not particularly original, and there are a couple of nice features towards the end that meant I left the room with a greater sense of enjoyment than I otherwise might have done.