I’d been keen to visit Breakout since my friend April got a job there as the Saw-style narrator dropping hints on how to escape. I pre-booked the Facility room for our group, based purely on the eerie photo. I hadn’t paid attention to the difficulty rating, and the Facility turned out to be the second-hardest. PAY ATTENTION TO THE DIFFICULTY RATING.
“You arrive at an unknown location for a once in a lifetime opportunity; a conference held by the critically acclaimed, Dr. Andrews. His work is widely known throughout the research circles, but he has remained hidden in the shadows for years. What you don’t know, is that Dr. Andrews has gone mad, creating a string of tests that have gone disastrously wrong. He has brought you here for his final experiment. You have one hour to escape his maze of tricks and games, before a deadly virus kills you all.”
First, one member of the group was locked in a cupboard. Group puzzles included combination, directional and even digital padlocks, switchboards, electric safes, puzzle boxes and recorded clues on dicta-phones. The staff member responsible for the group (April had the night off so couldn’t give us the answers, bah) watched via CCTV, posting clues on a screen at the centre of the room.
Puzzles are entirely logic based and quite number heavy – people who enjoy puzzles like Sudoku will likely enjoy themselves, whereas those whose parents spent £2000 on maths tuition so they could get a B at GCSE level because numbers give them a breakdown may feel quite lost and lose interest and want to take a walk to the toilet to waste time. Puzzles require more common sense than intelligence, according to the website, so it makes sense that I was hopeless (Huh?Why can’t cutlery go in the microwave?)
Although I should have thought a little harder about which game to book, the boys became totally absorbed. My other chum Alex found the puzzles quite inaccessible – not because girls are slow, obviously – this was just an unfortunate coincidence. Even with the team reduced to only three useful members, the boys got us out with a couple of minutes to spare, making ours one of around 4% of groups to succeed.
A lot of thought has gone into creating these games, and puzzles featuring fancy padlocks and safes don’t come cheap. So it was a little jarring to see other, cheaper props; a critically acclaimed scientist would not keep a tiny microscope on a dentist’s chair next to a budget Halloween sawn-off hand. It made the whole thing feel like Fort Boyard.
Likewise, the speaker system emitting ambient music was simply left on the floor – presumably so groups were able to turn the sound down if necessary but which made the place feel less like a facility and more like student digs.
Our group of five had the maximum amount of players, but we found that everybody was scattered about with minimal interaction. If I were to book another game, I would take a maximum of four people.
At around £60 a game, the price of Breakout is hefty. However, I would still give it another go, maybe choosing an easier option like the Shipwrecked room. Split between five people, the cost works out around £12 each, and is cheaper between Monday 10am and Friday 5pm.
Breakout is a unique experience and would be particularly memorable as a birthday celebration or hen/stag party. Students would also enjoy it a lot, and it would be an interesting team building corporate event. Kids are welcome, though under 16s must be accompanied by an adult; the website advises that ages 10+ can play, and I can’t speak for the easier Shipwrecked room, but I would imagine children struggling.