The Escapologist Castleford: Secret Service & Frozen in Time

At the weekend, we made a trip to The Escapologist’s recently opened new branch in Castleford. We’d never made it to their original location in Selby, which quite uniquely has it’s own restaurant, but we decided to give the new location a try.

First things first, it’s located at the Xscape section, which is absolutely huge! If you don’t fancy an escape game, there’s about 15 restuarants, wall climbing, skiing, indoor skydiving and more in there. We managed to locate The Escapologist’s unit toward the back, and headed into our first game, Secret Service: Winter Fall.

Secret Service: Winter Fall

“Can you stop the bomb before it goes off?!?! Will you be the ultimate Bomb Squad?

60 mintues to break free!”

Secret Service at The Escapologist Castleford

This room looks absolutely lovely. It’s merged the spy theme nicely with the Winter touch, with the environment definitely screaming “Secret Agent’s Alpine lodge”. It was very well furnished, with some nice props, and great decor.

The game play wasn’t bad either, with a mix of your traditional puzzles, and a few unique touches. In fact, there was one thing in here which we’d never seen before, but it’s quite tricky, and it would be interesting to see if anyone has actually managed to do it! With clearer instructions, it might have been doable, but thankfully they were prepared for failure, and had a work-around ready.

There was one puzzle in here that I’m still not entirely sure about. As far as I know, we had the method worked out, but whether there was something we were missing, or there were red herrings, it just didn’t work out. If it wasn’t for a couple of digits to the code being given to us by the host, we’d never have progressed! We moved on to that puzzle to another, and after 10 minutes of saying it didn’t make sense, we’ll hold our hands up and admit we had a major thick moment…

Overall, this isn’t a bad game to play. It’s very nicely themed, and the gameplay wasn’t bad at all.

Host: Quite a few different members of staff seemed to be hosting this game, but overall, we got well timed clues that made sense.
Clue System: Clues were delivered via a screen.
Success? We got out, but went over by a minute.

After this, we headed across the hallway, directly into our next room, Frozen in Time…

Frozen in Time

“Can you help stop the freeze? 60 minutes to complete your challange!”

Frozen in Time at The Escapologist Castleford

Again, the theming here is of high quality. The first part of the game takes place in a bright white ice room that almost had a magical feel to it, thanks to the numerous, lit-up items in there. As you progress further, the theme develops into more of a prehistoric jungle area, with again, great theming and props giving it an immersive feel.

Sadly, that’s where my praise ends for this game. The whole experience felt like a bit of a disaster, as after the first couple of minutes, the clue screen switched itself off (it was on a power saving timer), and we spent a long time gesturing to the camera and shouting about it. After nearly five minutes, it took one of us leaving the game to find a member of staff to get it back on again.

The gameplay wasn’t bad, with some decent puzzles, but the clues we received are what caused some problems. Several times, we received clues that assumed we’d found things we hadn’t, while other times, they were telling us to do something we’d already done. It got to the point that I’d had enough, and just sat down, dejected, waiting for time to run out.

Eventually, we managed to guess a few numbers to progress further, and finally, we were back on track. A plus point is that the mechanism that ends the game is great, perfectly in theme and something unique we’ve not seen before.

Overall, this game could be a lot better, but we hit too many flaws along the way to enjoy it, including a UV puzzle with a very unclear symbol, and a host throwing us off. If you’re in the area and fancy an escape, the spy game isn’t bad, but we’d recommend avoiding this one.

Host: We didn’t catch our hosts named, but the poor clue giving is detailed above. We did discuss this with her further after the game, and she heavily defended it, saying it’s not always clear on camera what’s going on. This isn’t a problem that tends to happen elsewhere, and even if it does, you get one incorrect clue before getting back on track, but here, we spent around 20 minutes getting absolutely nothing useful, or relevant from the host.
Clue System: Clues were delivered via a screen (when it’s switched on).
Success? Yes, I’m not sure of the time, but I’d estimate around five minutes remaining.

Facilities: There’s no waiting area here, which is a bit of a loss. Instead, there’s a reception desk right in the entrance, on which there’s a customer facing screen showing the games currently taking place. There’s plenty on the doorstep though, with a ton of activities and restaurants in the same venue.

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  1. Well, where to start?!

    OK, we were interested in going to The Escapologist in Selby a while back now but we were advised by a few people, not just one, not to bother. A good looking steampunk café but that was the only attraction. However, on seeing they’d opened a new branch in Castleford we decided to make our own minds up and bargained that the rooms would be better as they were so new.

    I’ll start with the unit The Escapologist is based in. You do just basically walk up to the reception desk at a unit. There is no door, no waiting area, the tiny reception desk is right at the front and you can see all the doors of the actual escape rooms. Behind the reception desk is a screen showing the actual footage of the players in the rooms – so no surprises for you when you enter the actual rooms yourself! Any Joe Public walking through the centre can stand and watch you whilst enquiring about what an escape room is (we heard it described as Crystal Maze to one passer by, if only!). Whilst waiting for our room to become available we chatted to a lovely lad who worked there and in the background heard one of the other members of staff say “shall I get them out now? (referring to players in the room) and the response, “yeah, they’ve had about an hour now”). 😮 Sad to say I really wasn’t impressed right from the moment we arrived at the unit and only hoped that things would improve once we were playing.

    As Jamie says, the Secret Service room looked very good, they had got the theming right here definitely, however that for me was kind of where the positives ended. What Jamie hasn’t mentioned is that there was a puzzle involving a laser that wasn’t working – we didn’t know of this, just found a button on a wall that made a siren noise but nothing else – we wasted time pressing this and trying to figure it out. It was only at the end when we asked what it was that were told it was a broken puzzle, no mention of it during the actual game. When we first entered the rooms, a clue from the previous game was left on the screen. Clues were also made on Powerpoint slides and sometimes you’d see the other clues being scrolled through to find the right one. Our host was a new starter so I don’t want to be too hard on her but the pre-game brief and story were quite poor with jumbled sentences not making sense. This is something that will improve though! Well it turns out the powerpoint clues were maybe a blessing because when we got clues typed through they didn’t always make sense. Many times we read a clue and went “eh??”. The one puzzle that we had a totally thick moment on that we wasted so long on, and was admittedly our fault for being stupid, could have been helped along by a well written clue, not one that just caused more confusion. One puzzle we were told to use the UV light on, but we didn’t have a UV torch yet. This puzzle we still don’t understand how it works – 5 digits required – we figured out how you got the digits – but only got 3 digits, as the other 2 ways of finding a digit didn’t exist! We meant to ask at the end but forgot. The task Jamie mentioned you have to do early on that is quite unique would/could be a nice touch but the very poor instructions let it down. A sheet with a couple of pictures and written instructions but it still wasn’t really clear. But at least they did have a work around it. The final puzzle involved a painstaking search for some digits on documents that weren’t the clearest.

    On the whole the Secret Service room isn’t too bad, it could be a good room with some tweaks. There was no soundtrack but they did say they were working on this, until then you’ll have to put up with listening to the staff members having a chat at reception outside your room.

    Onto Frozen in Time. Oh dear. This is the first room I have ever actually asked Jamie if we could leave halfway through, even Escape Stockport’s shit shower room didn’t make me feel like this (though to be fair that was only down the company we were with). The room started off promising with good theming (although why there were brightly coloured lit up objects in the ice cave I’ve no idea). It looked clean and crisp. Again sadly, this was the highlight. One puzzle was simply to count objects of colour and open a colour lock – except the markings on the lock weren’t clear! Could see R for red and B for blue but the Y and G were rubbed out slightly and we just had to try both ways. Another counting puzzle had one item that had fallen from it’s stand – so do you count it or not? Again, we had to try both combinations. The screen for the clues went off early on and despite mentioning it and motioning to the cameras over several minutes I eventually had to open the door and leave the room to tell them! Again the staff were chatting and laughing at “reception” and you could hear every word as again there was no soundtrack. When clues were given on the screen we would receive a knock on the door, well, actually, sometimes we would receive a knock, other times we wouldn’t and found a couple of times we’d wondered back to the screen to see a clue sitting there. Also we could hear the staff discussing our game and at one point only knew we were off track on something because we heard them say “they haven’t found the such a thing yet”. Again, typed clues made no sense (punctuation?) and had spelling mistakes (aminal?), there were spelling mistakes in some written props and clues were given at the wrong time. When we were stuck at about 45 minutes in we received a clue for something we’d done in the first 5 minutes of playing. The golden rule of only using something once is broken in this room too, although to be fair to them they never declared this rule at the start so our experience let us down there. One of the UV symbols was totally unclear – 3 numbers to find – 2 were perfectly clear but one was written on something with a pattern and you could only see parts of the UV pen. I pointed this out at the end and was told they’d take it on board but that 4 other teams had played that morning and not had an issue. We actually spent a lot of the time guessing numbers and spinning locks. On the positive side there was one puzzle/prop that you had to add to and this was done very well, we were quite impressed with that but sadly that’s about it. As I say, at one point we just sat down and gave up and I wanted to leave. It’s a shame because again this could be an OK room. A lot of our displeasure was down to the hosting skills. Funnily enough the more experienced host at the end, who was I must say, very well suited to her role and charming and friendly etc, made a comment that a good host can really affect a room – I agreed and said a host can make or break a game – but the irony wasn’t picked up on. We did discuss what we didn’t and did like about the room and didn’t just leave saying it was great etc etc. We still enjoyed parts of it and I’d like to think that things will be a lot more settled after they’ve bedded in a bit, giving a better experience with trained hosts and music in the room to drown out the chatter outside. Our experience unfortunately was quite poor right from the minute we arrived.

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