Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles!
A German U-Boat named UI-55 was found in the River Thames, Have you and your team got what it takes to sneak aboard and retrieve all of Britain’s wealth.
Have you got what it takes to collect all the Loot in this puzzle crazy room?
Day Five of our Epic Escape Room Roadtrip was originally intended to be tied with Day Three for the most games played in a day at seven total, but after an unexpected addition of an extra game earlier in the morning, Day Five took the lead with a grand total of eight.
Earlier in the day we had received a call from Alex at Compendium to let us know that a key part of UI-55 had been damaged by an overzealous customer the previous evening. Alex did offer us the opportunity to reschedule, but also mentioned that there was a work around, although it might break the immersion somewhat. As we weren’t sure when we might next make it to Compendium, we opted to play with the work around, particularly as the phone call piqued our interest and sparked quite a bit of speculation about what the game would entail.
UI-55 was to be the final game of the day. We tackled Wrong Turn, Laboratory, and Bedlam together as just a team of two and enjoyed every minute of it. Following a brief break for some proper food, however, we met up with Amy, of Brit of an Escape Habit, to add some much needed additional brain power for our attempt at UI-55. After a quick health and safety refresh with Alex and Jen, our GMs and owners of Compendium, we made our way back down to the first floor of the venue and stepped through the hatch onto submarine UI-55.
Covid-19 Procedures: At the time of our visit (May 2021), Compendium required masks to be worn at all times by both customers and staff. Hand sanitiser was plentiful and available throughout reception and the games. Lockers were still in use, unlike at other venues, but gaps between games are longer to allow games and reception were thoroughly cleaned between teams, and game times were staggered to avoid cross-over between teams. All teams are required to check in using NHS Track and Trace, and we were the only team present in the building for the duration of our visit.
UI-55 isn’t quite like any other escape room I’ve played. For one thing, it’s not really an “escape” room. Yes, you need to find a code to escape, but every team is given everything they need to decipher this code at about halfway through the game, and teams can escape at any point after this. But you wouldn’t really want to do this, as you’ll need the entire hour to collect as much loot as you possibly can. That makes it more what I would class as a puzzle room. And it is quite the puzzle room.
UI-55 occupies pretty much the entire first floor of Compendium’s venue. The space is long and sprawling, and ideal for larger teams, particularly as the set, thankfully, doesn’t accurately reflect how tight the quarters would be on a real submarine. But with the atmospheric sonar beeps, water sounds, and the beautiful set design, it becomes very easy to lose yourself in the world Compendium have created. There is an incredible sense of exploration as you move further and further through the sub. As you move through, more and more puzzles reveal themselves.
The structure of the game is entirely open and non-linear. There are some minor search elements, but the goal isn’t to unlock padlock after padlock, uncovering more clues along the way, leading to a final escape. Instead, everything is (pretty much) in plain sight, and it’s up to you to decipher it. With each code that is uncovered, teams are given the opportunity to “fish” for a key to a locker that will provide some of that all important loot they’re looking for. This was the key component that was out of action for our game, and it’s a bit of fun, so it’s a shame that it was out of action, but it also freed up more time for puzzle solving, so it didn’t affect our enjoyment at all, and possibly alleviated potential frustrations. (Thanks to the stealth of Alex, it didn’t really break the immersion.)
The pace of UI-55 was almost frantic, as we tried to solve as many puzzles as possible, but at the midpoint of the game the pressure was ramped up again with a Crystal Maze inspired moment of brilliance. From there the pace went from frantic to frenzied as the game was kicked up into a new gear, finally culminating in our escape from UI-55 with only 30 seconds to spare (and a whole lotta loot.)
UI-55 was designed with the intent to accommodate large groups, or smaller groups of serious puzzle enthusiasts, and keep them locked up for the full hour. Although the narrative is lacking, the puzzles all fit well into the theme of being on board a submarine, whether they’re related to the food in the mess hall, navigation, or just how the sailors would occupy themselves.
So how many puzzles can you fit into one escape room? Well, when you’re actually a puzzle room that occupies the entire floor space of a building, the answer is sh*toads. (Okay, slight exaggeration; it’s actually 44.) Just about every conceivable puzzle type we have seen in an escape game, both in the physical and digital worlds, made an appearance in UI-55. There was literally something for everyone, and if you come across something that isn’t to your liking, just move on! There were some “easy” wins throughout the game, mixed with more complex, multi step puzzles. There were more thought provoking tasks requiring some lateral thinking sitting next to more physical challenges. Games of skill, set against pure logic problems. Teamwork and communication, plus puzzles that are best solved solo. Most impressively however, each and every one of these puzzles was well thought out, fair, and resulted in some awesome “Ah-ha!” moments when finally solved.
First things first, the sheer volume of content in this game means that if something isn’t making sense to you at first, just move on. There are literally 100 other things you could be working on. But eventually, you will get to the point where you’ll want to tackle those puzzles that stumped you at the beginning (assuming a teammate hasn’t managed to solve it while you weren’t looking!), and when that happens, help is available to players via a screen in the game.
As I said, if it isn’t making sense, just move on. We stuck to that mantra, and thus never actually took any clues. Sure, there were a few puzzles we didn’t complete, but let’s face it, this isn’t that type of game, and aside from the satisfaction of solving everything, it didn’t make one bit of difference to our enjoyment. Besides, missing out on some puzzles was more likely down to playing as a team of three and running out of time, and no amount of clues would have helped that!
Never have I ever seen this many puzzles crammed into a room. UI-55 isn’t your traditional escape room, but if you’re in the mood for puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles, mixed with an insane amount of fun, you can’t go wrong with this game.
Team: 3 players – escaped in 59 minutes with 50 bags
Address: 1a Crompton Street, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0AD