HMP Newport – surprisingly fun
You are imprisoned within the confines of HMP Newport. There is a rumour circulating that a fellow inmate has hatched a devious escape plan. Can you unravel the secrets within 60 minutes and make your escape to freedom?
Exit 60 are a new company that have recently opened in Newport, just along the M4 from Cardiff. I believe there used to be escape rooms in Newport but they closed, so it’s nice to see another company step up to fill the gap. Although Exit 60 are a new venue, the team behind it are very experienced and are behind some quality UK venues, so we certainly went in with high hopes.
Before we arrived at the venue, we were given a recommendation to check out ‘Burger Boyz’ in Newport Market, so that’s where we went for our pre-game food. We’d definitely recommend checking out Newport Market in general, it’s a lovely space and many different eateries are located there (Oh, and the burgers were great!).
With our bellies suitably full of food, we strolled across the street and entered Exit60. We knew when we were visiting that they hadn’t been opening long, but we weren’t expecting to find a cosy waiting area, toilets, and slick reception, containing comfortable seats, water and some sweets!
We were greeted by Tom, the owner (and our GM) and we had a nice chat about all things escape rooms and their plans for the venue. After our game he actually gave us a tour of the building, and we were blown away. The space is massive and when you couple it with their plans this is very much a venue to keep an eye on.
Anyway, after a lovely chat with Tom, it was time to get down to business. Tom covered the usual health and safety talk and then gave us our room briefing in reception. Any valuables we had (or coats) were to be put in a box in the room with us. With that out of the way, it was time to do our time so Tom led us to our cell where we were to be Banged Up.
First impressions, yes, this felt like a jail cell as it had the usual things one would expect to find – toilet, bars and grey walls. I’ve fortunately never done any time so I can’t comment on how authentic it felt, but I always imagine that prison would be a noisy place to be so it would have been nice if there was a bit of ambient noise playing just to help with the immersion.
If I was a prison designer then I think this layout would likely be pretty flawed – well obviously it was as we escaped in not much time at all. But there was a good flow as we progressed through the game, encountering new spaces that fitted into the narrative. Often where games can fall down is the ending, but I’m pleased to say that wasn’t the case here, as the ending was spot on and ensured we finished on a high.
Think about all the ‘prison break’ escape rooms you’ve played and you’ll probably notice a pattern with a number of the puzzles or hiding places – well think again. Banged Up has steered away from the path well trodden and have created a delightfully different range of puzzles.
Being quite non-linear in a number of places, Banged Up enabled us to split up and work on things independently of each other while then reuniting us at the inevitable choke points. We played as a team of two and enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn’t want to play this game in a team any bigger than four players as it would be a bit cosy.
Puzzles were varied and we found one or two that we hadn’t seen before. Signposting was extremely well done and it was always quite simple to know what went where and where we needed to go next. The puzzles themselves generally could fit into the following categories; searching, observation, logic, and one puzzle that took some finesse and exertion (not a lot though). There was one more puzzle that I’m not sure I can really explain without spoiling it, but you’ll need to think on your feet for this one!
The final puzzle was a true delight, was it overly complex or hard? No, not really. But it was a joy to solve and incredibly cute. Kudos to the owners for managing to name drop a number of personalities in the escape room industry – and don’t worry we did get a mention too.
As far as prison breaks go, we completed this one perfectly and without assistance. We’ve had Tom as a GM at other venues so we know what he’s like as a GM and he’s always been good and attentive. If clues are needed he gives just the right amount of information to get you back on track.
If we had needed clues they would have come through the TV in the room. I think the TV also showed a countdown timer but I’m not 100% sure on that as we were just focussed on breaking out of the prison.
Despite being a very much ‘done’ theme, Banged Up managed to avoid a lot of the clichés and provided just the right level of whimsy for some good light-hearted fun. We weren’t in this game for a long time (completed it in less than 25 minutes), but we will remember our time fondly. Banged Up is great for new players, but also fun for those with experience.
Exit60 are a venue with some very ambitious plans and we’ll be the first over the bridge to Wales when they get their next game open!
Team: Team of 2 – broke out in 24:31 (no hints)
Address: 5 Market St, Newport NP20 1FU
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review