Would you pay to get locked in a room for an hour, having to find clues and solve puzzles in order to escape? So-called ‘escape rooms’ have been popping up all over the world for the last decade or so. The earliest escape room originated in 2007 in Japan, when Takao Kato witnessed a classmate playing a video game in which she was locked in a room, and had to find clues and solve puzzles in order to escape. Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported that there were thousands of escape rooms worldwide, with 150 in the UK. Here, the number of escape rooms has doubled every six months for the past three years and London alone has 55, up from just 3 in 2013.The escape room craze has also taken over Cardiff. No less than five escape rooms have opened up in the Welsh capital since last year: Escape Rooms on St. Mary Street, Adventure Rooms on the corner of City Road opposite Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Escape Reality on St. John St, City Mazes on Trade Street, and Breakout Cardiff in the Brewery Quarter.
I popped down to Breakout Cardiff a few weeks ago with some friends to see what all the fuss is about. Tucked away into a corner of the Brewery Quarter, next to Five Guys and Bella Italia, these escape rooms are easy to miss.
Since opening in June, Breakout Cardiff has introduced more escape room scenarios and now offers a choice of three different rooms with their own storylines, riddles and twists. Classified, the easiest room with a 50% breakout rate, sees you you sit your final entrance exam to become a secret agent, by escaping from the room. Meanwhile, in a sequel to Classified, Sabotage sees you embark on your first mission of disabling a rocket launch and has a breakout rate of just 20%.
We preferred the sound of Breakout Cardiff’s newest room (pictured above), the Cursed Carnival. You and your friends win a prize at the carnival, but this is no ordinary prize. Since you took it home, you’ve had terrible nightmares and heard a spooky voice telling you to return your prize within seven days. You go back to the carnival on the seventh day and head to the old repair shed, where you have to break the curse within 60 minutes, or your nightmares will come true.
I’ve been asked not to reveal too much about what went on inside the room, so as not to spoil the surprise for others. However, I can tell you that there are no physical challenges involved in any of Breakout Cardiff’s escape rooms; instead, you have to physically search for clues by turning over objects and looking for anything usual or out of place, use your brain to solve cryptic puzzles and padlock combinations and, above all, work together as a team. If you get really stuck, a clue will appear on a TV screen in the room.
It’s a bit like being on 90s TV show, The Crystal Maze; just without the thrill of collecting crystals as you go along, or that creepy bald guy in the leopard print jacket watching you (at the time of writing, I’ve just discovered that The Crystal Maze now exists as an escape room in London – this fills me with excitement!)
In Cursed Carnival, you can expect creepy clowns, jack-in-the-boxes and playing cards.
So, did we manage to escape within an hour? Well, just… with two minutes and 46 seconds left to spare! Here we are in our team photo for Breakout Cardiff’s ‘Wall of Fame’ (losers, beware – they also have a Wall of Shame – and all photos are posted on Facebook!)
We had a really great time at Breakout Cardiff. Once you’re locked in the room, the time flies by as you have to stay focused on solving clues. The puzzles were challenging and some of them took us a while to figure out, but we enjoyed thinking outside the box and working together.
So, it turns out that being locked in a room for an hour is actually quite an enjoyable experience, and one that I’d happily take on again. After you’ve done your first escape room, you’ll want to do another one. I’m already thinking about which of Cardiff’s escape rooms to visit next – not to mention getting a group together to go to The Crystal Maze in London!
To book an escape room at Breakout Cardiff, visit www.breakoutcardiff.com/book. Breakout also has escape rooms in Liverpool and Manchester, with different games to Breakout Cardiff. The cost depends on how many people are taking part and when you want to visit (weekends and evenings are more expensive), and ranges from £12 to £18 per person.
The Brewery Quarter
(029) 2037 1156
www.breakoutcardiff.com I was invited to Breakout Cardiff as a guest and we received a complimentary game; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review of my experience.