This one really went down to the wire!
Back in 1636, half of Newcastle’s population had succumbed to the Black Death.
Enter our plague room, which overlooks a real plague pit. Can you outwit the crazed plague doctor and escape before the horror of the Black Death gets you?
What else would we do when visiting a new city for the first time, other than an escape room? Being the massive history nerd that I am, the premise behind Plague was appealing, particularly as The Escape Key’s website indicates that rooms are inspired by the history of Newcastle, and one description of the room says you will actually learn about some of that history within the room.
First impressions were good. We were warmly welcomed and led to a spacious waiting area, with plenty of little brain teasers to keep us occupied while we waited for our room to begin. Once it was time, we were led to a secondary waiting area. Here, the decor was on the creepier side, as it was right outside the eerie looking door that would lead to Plague. It was in this area that we viewed the standard briefing video, with a slight twist: alongside the standard “don’t stick your fingers in plug sockets” warning, a history of the Black Plague in Newcastle was presented, with a more detailed history of the plague pit that could be viewed through the window, plus a bit of the story behind the room.
We entered the plague room, and we were off! Perhaps we should have expected this from a room that the company has rated 9/10 difficulty, but we found this room far more difficult than were were expecting. At first, it seemed as though everything was going well, perhaps too well, and we felt like we were on a roll. Sadly, our roll came to a grinding halt, and we required help. Lots of help. I think it didn’t help that our maths specialist decided to forget how to add at one point, but c’est la vie.
I was expecting something that was more of an escape room combined with a history lesson. This was not that, but it was still good fun, although we did definitely start to feel the pressure towards the end!
There were a nice variety of puzzles though, that seemed to be pretty evenly split between combination padlocks and and automation. One particular puzzle involving a strobe light was frustrating, but unique to us, and I quite liked it – Just make sure no one in your party will have trouble with flashing lights.
While some were rather difficult, the puzzles in general did make sense, once we were pointed in the right direction. Occasionally, our difficulty stemmed from a failure to search properly, and once we had all required materials, we were able to figure these out quite quickly.
Design of the room wasn’t really what I was expecting. I was expecting creepy decor, along with perhaps a bit of a history lesson, and generally things that one would not consider to be out of place in the 17th century, since we were trying to escape a room before the plague doctor arrived, but perhaps with the escape room classic: combination padlocks. However, the history lesson was delivered with the briefing, and the puzzles within, all bar one, generally had very little to do with the theme. The room did succeed in being creepy, with dim lighting, red on the walls, slightly eerie set dressing, and the first portion of the room had the sort of decor and feel I was expecting, but this all changed about half way through, and it definitely didn’t make me feel as though I was really in the story.
I’ve seen a number of other reviews around the internet where people chose Armageddon over Plague as they thought this one would be too scary. (Although these seem to be relative newbies to escape rooms). This room was more eerie than scary, though there were a few moments where we did jump a little, so I wouldn’t let the scare factor put you off, unless you really don’t like that sort of thing.
We certainly kept our GM busy, as we struggled quite a bit with this room. However, she knew just when to chime in with a nudge in the right direction, or to ask us if we needed a bit more help. The clues she delivered made sense, and were just enough to help us to get where we needed to be.
We were very nearly victims of the dreaded Plague, escaping with only thirty seconds to spare! While we were at Escape Key, they were nearing completion of their third room, entitled Witch. Perhaps we’ll brave a trip up North again, and take on another room based on Newcastle’s history.
Team: 4 players – escaped in 59:30 (phew!)
Address: 60-62 St. Andrew’s Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5SF