A couple of weeks ago, we headed to Escape Reality’s new flagship venue, based inside Manchester’s The Printworks. It’s the first time we’ve gone back to a branch of Escape Reality since trying out a couple of games at their Leeds venue last year, where we didn’t have the best of experiences.
However, we headed off to the new venue nearby to take on two games, starting with Tortuga Pirates…
“Port Royal, 1718. Piracy in the Caribbean is spreading more than ever. You are the Captain of the famous Mariposa ship. Your crew has formed a mutiny and locked you and some of your friends in the prison of your ship. But you can’t stay there, you need to complete the mission you were undertaking: to find Derdrake’s treasure buried somewhere in Tortuga Island. You need the treasure to get rid of a terrible curse that will transform you into a spectre. You need to hurry, the prophecy will come true with the First Moon.”
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Any escape room enthusiast who has played games at Escape Reality has a problem with the supplied clue system. It’s a bit of a sticking point for a lot of experienced players, and when we played at the Leeds venue, we discovered why. You’re provided with an iPad, with which you scan numbered QR codes around the room, that essentially tell you the solution to the relevant puzzle, while adding a five minute penalty on to your final time. Alternatively, you can go penalty-free and press a button to summon your host into the room.
In Manchester, the system was mostly the same, but they’d made some vast improvements. The QR codes are no longer numbered, so there’s no signs of working on things in a certain order. They’ve also eliminated the time penalties, and made the hints less obvious. They still tell you what you need to do, but only the method – you still have to actually do the work yourself. They’re minor improvements, but they made the clue system a lot more workable for us, and it wasn’t as much of a bugbear as we found it in Leeds.
Onto the actual game – Tortuga Pirates is at first set on board a pirate ship, which is very well decorated to look like you’re below deck. Later on, you found yourself above deck, in a very interestingly themed space that we weren’t expecting – it looked great though.
The puzzles in the game were all very solidly on-theme, leaving us with an hour of pirate fun. The difficulty was well-balanced, with some of the puzzles being a breeze, and a few looking at first quite complicated, but eventually crackable.
Overall, this is a decent game from Escape Reality, and a very good step up from their other branches’ offerings. We enjoyed it, and without a time penalty were happy to use the clue system a couple of times along the way.
“An elite team of highly skilled and experienced bank robbers has been assembled. Assigned with the task of infiltrating the security at one of world’s most protected bank vaults, you must steal the world’s most valuable diamond. You are the chosen few who must accept this challenge. Other members of your notorious organisation have entered earlier that night, but their efforts proved to be unsuccessful. Working with the clues they have left behind, and your extensive plan to gain access to the high security areas, your team is ready. All security cameras have been disabled for the next hour. You have 60 minutes to locate and steal the diamond before the cameras turn back on and you are caught!”
The bank robbery theme is quite common in escape rooms, but only a couple we’ve played have stood out in terms of making a unique, immersive environment. The Million Pound Heist at Enigma Quests in London had an incredible part of the game dedicated to deactivating all of the high-tech security measures, while Gem Runner at Lucardo is a room we’ll always remember for the authentic looking bank they’d built.
The Bank Job at Escape Reality combines both of the things we liked at those two games, with the hour beginning in the entrance area of a very old-style American looking bank. It looked like a very authentic set, which got more and more interesting as you started to break into the vault area.
There was plenty of game space dedicated to getting through the security measures before you could begin your robbery, and the theming continued late into the hour with a unique escape route out of the building.
The game had a good mix of puzzles, including a logic puzzle that wasn’t too headache inducing, and some decent tech based ideas. It was a fun hour with some good ideas.
Escape Reality has four other escape rooms at their Printworks location, as well as a new VR offering. We had a quick look at the set-up for this, and they’ve got a good space with some excellent hardware, offering sessions on non-escape related games at decent prices. We’ll be back soon!
Host: Our host for both games was Jamie, an easy name to remember for me. He was an enthusiastic host who knew what he was talking about, and on the one occasion we had to call him in, he was helpful and attentive.
Success? We escaped both rooms, but we’re not 100% sure on the times. We did Tortuga in around 41 minutes, and had approximately 5 minutes left in Bank Job.