Science can be fun!
Welcome to the Tenovus Cancer Care Research Labs. Dr Alan Parker has been conducting ground-breaking research in the field of fighting cancer. He’s managed to change the DNA of specific viruses and train them to attack cancer cells instead of healthy cells.
Dr Parker is away at a conference. You arrive in the lab and realise the electricity had failed in the cleanroom and the backup battery, which powers the incubator, has been running all weekend. It now has just 60 minutes of energy left, if it runs out of fuel the retrained viruses will deteriorate and fail.
It’s down to you to gain access to the cleanroom and change the backup battery to the incubator before Dr Parker returns from the conference.
Last time we were in Cardiff, Exitus Escape Rooms didn’t exist and I must admit we still knew little about them. It was only thanks to our friend Jamie over at Armchair Escapist that we decided to give them a try – incidentally, if you’re looking for reviews on Welsh escape rooms then make sure you check out his site!
Exitus Escape Rooms are easy to find as they’re on one of the main shopping streets in Cardiff, just down from the Capitol Shopping Centre and nestled between a Specsavers and Card Factory. When we arrived, we rang the bell and were buzzed into the building. Exitus occupy the first floor so there are some stairs to climb, but once you’re up there, it seems like everything is on one level.
First impressions of Exitus were very good, it was like walking into a trendy hipster bar with nice sofas and a cool looking bar where they sold alcohol and soft drinks. It’s great when you find a venue where they actually want you to hang around rather than just get you in and out as quickly as possible. Clean and modern toilets and a safe space for belongings completed the great setup, so after a quick chat with our host, Ceri, and the health and safety briefing done, we were ready to begin our mission!
It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t just an escape room, but it was designed to help raise funds for Tenovus Cancer Care as 5% of all bookings are donated to Tenovus. Not only that, the room was designed with Tenovus and some of their scientists were actually consulted for the scientific aspects of the game – some of the scientist’s names also appear in the game.
Covid-19 Procedures: Rooms are ‘fogged’ between teams and masks are mandatory in the public areas (unless drinking). The sofas were spaced out so social distancing is still possible. There was plenty of hand sanitiser to use.
Once we were in the room, Ceri gave us the room specific briefing and then once she left, we were on our own and our time began. There is nothing that will ‘wow’ you in terms of set design here, this isn’t designed to be a super high-tech science lab, more your run of the mill science lab. Saying that, it had an authentic feel and nothing felt out of place (well other than the obvious puzzles of course). Everything in the game was on show from the start which is always an interesting way to go as you then start questioning what is needed now and what will come later.
I’m not a huge fan of rooms that are deathly silent, so I was quite pleased to see hear that there was some ambient noise playing throughout our time in the lab.
What this game perhaps lacked in excitement for its set design, it more than made up for it in it’s puzzle design. The puzzles all fit the theme perfectly and, coupled with good strong signposting, we rarely had any issue knowing what combination went with which lock. If you’re not a fan of locks, don’t worry there was also a good use of technology.
Other than fitting in with the scientific world in which we had entered, the puzzles were all fun and very satisfying to solve. Generally they involved maths, searching, observation, logic, and lateral thinking. The searching aspect was fun, although at times it was sneaky so make sure you look everywhere – high and low!
We really seemed to click with the puzzles in Virus Tinkerers, so much so, that we’re now thinking of becoming scientists – ok, maybe not, but they really did click. One puzzle has minor colour use but it shouldn’t really affect any colourblind team members too much.
Because this game flowed so well for us we didn’t actually need any hints, but I gather that if we did need hints then they would have been displayed on the screen in the room. This screen also displayed our timer and some funky science-related imagery.
After our game we spent a bit of time in their lovely bar area while the Exitus team were gm’ing other games, and seeing how clued up and on the ball they were with these other teams, I have no doubt that if we needed a clue, it would have been provided quickly.
We had one minor issue with our game, but actually we see this as a positive. Reset errors happen (we’re all human), but it’s how they’re dealt with that really makes the difference. As soon as our GM realised something wasn’t right, she came in and fixed it immediately. Ok this was a slight distraction, but there was no time wasted, nothing ruined, and it actually showed that she was paying attention – top marks.
Virus Tinkerers was a game where everything fell into place for us and we loved our time in the lab. Fun puzzles, solid design, and nice touches as a nod to the scientists involved in the Tenovus charity – this is a must play game in Cardiff.
The other bonus of Exitus Escape Rooms is Watson, their dog! If you’re lucky enough to meet Watson then you’re in for a treat. We actually had a double treat, not only did we meet Watson, but when we escaped the lab, our friend Jamie, from Armchair Escapist was there to greet us – that’s a bonus!
Team: 2 players – escaped in 28 minutes
Address: 1st & 2nd Floor, 90A Queen St, Cardiff CF10 2GR