*Before I continue my ramblings, this post contains NO spoilers so please feel free to indulge further…*
Sherlock Holmes was one of my favourite fictional characters as a child. Finding the clues, putting the pieces together then ultimately, solving the crime. Being a British child of the 80s/90s, I also discovered the wonder that was The Crystal Maze. I remember the excitement and anticipation clearly. Would the contestants ever make it out in time? Which room would they pick? Would they be locked in forever?! The sheer excitement was almost too much for the 9 year old me to handle some Saturdays.
When I was approached by the guys from Breakout Manchester and invited along for a game, I genuinely squealed a bit. BRING IT ON! I rounded up a few like-minded friends and decided to book the John Monroes Detective Office. With a 3/5 difficulty rating, I figured it would be a good place to start for Breakout virgins such as ourselves.
If you haven’t heard of the ever-growing concept of escape rooms yet, where have you been for the past couple of years?! Beneath a rock? I jest of course. The idea of Breakout is this: In teams of 2 – 5, you have 60 minutes to escape a locked room using only the power of your brain. Along with cryptic clues and puzzles, each room is uniquely themed and has a back story for you to follow.
Seems easy right? Hmmm, you’ll see…
On Monday evening, we headed over to the Brazennose Street location, next to the Town Hall (they also have rooms on High Street, Manchester so do be sure to check when you book) The 4 of us then waited in the Breakout reception area, which was filled with puzzles and locks for you to get your brain in action with beforehand.
John Monroe was a famous detective. Sadly he was murdered in his office and you are being framed as his killer. You are on the run and have gained access to his office, the crime scene, for one hour. Can you save yourself by finding out who killed him, why someone killed him and how they killed him?
We entered the game room with Breakout team member Adil. He gave us a brief run through of the health and safety policies and rules. We were asked not to dismantle any plug sockets, electrical equipment nor try and climb through the ceiling panels. I scoffed and giggled at this statement until Adil told us that these things had actually been attempted in previous games. I guess us Manchester folk are thoroughly determined after all eh?
Next came the fictional tale behind this particular room. John Monroe was a famous detective. He was murdered in his office and we were being pinned as his killers. Whilst on the run, we miraculously managed to gain access to the crime scene for just one hour. Here we had the chance to clear our names by finding out who killed him, why John Monroe met his fateful end and how this ghastly crime was carried out.
Adil appointed me team leader and handed me a satchel with a padlock attached. He wished us luck, locked the door behind him and the countdown began. We had just 60 minutes to try and figure this out! The Breakout team monitor your progress through the game via CCTV and use a TV screen in the game room to give you a countdown clock. This can also be used to give players a few subtle hints if they (or you – you can give them a signal) think you may be struggling.
We quickly figured out the combination code for the locked satchel and inside was our next clue. I can’t divulge too much after this as I would hate to spoil any future games for you guys! The next hour involved the four of us frantically scouring the room, trying to figure out the array of puzzles and codes.
During our game, we were completely focused on the task ahead. I think we made the perfect little dream team as some clues that I had no idea with, Adam solved immediately and places that he would never have looked for codes, I managed to uncover whilst the others worked on different challenges around the room. We left nothing unexplored, searching underneath chairs, tables, drawers, pictures and pretty much anything else we could think of!
As the time flew by, the panic and frustration built. There were a few occasions when we pleaded with the camera and gratefully received a tip via the screen, which helped moved our game along. We finally put together the last piece of this gruesome puzzle…AND ESCAPED!! There was a genuine sense of achievement when we realised that we had solved the crime and had OVER 10 MINUTES left to go. Hurrah!
Adil came back into the room and congratulated us – we had escaped (fake) prison, justice was served and peace had been restored. We were practically god-damn superheroes here! Ok so he may not have said those exact words but that’s what I heard in my glorious bubble of victory, along with a few imaginary fireworks for good measure. Just call me Sherlock…
We were asked if there was anything we had liked/disliked, how easy we found it, any changes that would have helped etc. It transpired that a few of the ‘red herring’ clues in the room had actually been solved by Adam which was pretty impressive! Also, we were informed that we had initially disregarded some pretty big clues which would have made our game somewhat easier.
All in all, we had an awesome evening. I would highly recommend Breakout for a variety of occasions. A birthday, team building, first date (how cool would that be?) family afternoon out – you name it. If I get the opportunity to visit again, would love to up the ante and try the notoriously difficult ‘Madchester‘ room. Maybe even bringing the kids along for some good old family fun/heated arguments…
Ironically, as I wrote this piece, an exciting email from Breakout pinged into my inbox, informing me of a brand new room in the making – Most Wanted: Dead Or Alive.
‘Think of yourselves as bounty hunters of the Wild West breaking in to a saloon in search of loot! It’s another race to escape although this time the bigger reward you collect, the higher up on the leaderboard you will go! Your escape time is important…but the reward means more to your team! Make sure you’re out by the time the sheriff returns; even if it means leaving some of your riches behind or you’ll end up spending the night in a cell as Breakout Manchester’s Most Wanted!’
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Growing up watching Westerns with my dad, I simply have to give this one a go at some point. Have you ever tried any of the rooms at Breakout? If not, please do give it a go and I’ll happily answer any questions you may have You can book online, via email or give the team a call on 0161 839 8012.
*Our game was provided FOC however all opinions are my own