Welcome aboard the Dinobus!
You’ve discovered a mobile Jurassic research facility bus whilst on a tour of the Jurassic kingdom. Disaster strikes and you have just 60 minutes to escape..
I like when new companies appear and we get to see how they improve between games, M4 Escapes is one of those companies. When we last visited them they had one room, The Bunker, which although being aesthetically pleasing, felt a little weak on puzzles – *The Bunker has been updated since we played so it’s definitely worth giving a go. We’d heard good things about Dino Deadlock (who doesn’t love dinosaurs) so we made a rather large detour on our journey home to check it out.
As we had been to M4 Escapes before we knew where we were going and it was very easy to find, then again even if we hadn’t been before it would have been easy, just head towards the giant WW2 hangers that are very noticeable from the main road. Parking is not a problem as M4 Escapes share their area with mechanics and a go karting track (literally in the hangar).
When we arrived we were greeted by Tom, the owner and our GM for our game. The most noticeable difference from our last visit was that there is now a comfortable indoor waiting/briefing area which also contained lockers for our belongings. The briefing was actually more about health and safety than our mission, we were simply told that our mission would become clear once we got on board.
Even from the outside we had an idea that this game was going to be special, but when Tom led us to the room we could see that this was not your normal room…
Covid Precautions: Hand sanitiser was available in the waiting room and face masks were worn at all times by our GM and us. We didn’t see any other team during our visit.
The first thing that you notice about this room is that it is not just a room, it takes place on a 100% real (but not working) bus! We’ve seen escape room vans but this is the first time we’ve seen a full size bus. Once we got over the excitement of stepping onto the bus, we could see that once again, set design had been at the forefront of this project, this bus would not have looked out of place in Jurassic Park.
Considering this was on a bus, there was a surprising amount of space and we rarely found ourselves tripping over each other, although I’d imagine that if you played as a bigger team there could be times where you get in each other’s way. The bus was also well lit and we had no issues with seeing what we needed to see.
Our biggest gripe when we played The Bunker was the red herrings in the room that both annoyed and slowed us down (these have now been removed), so it was really nice to see that everything in this room served a purpose. Sometimes that purpose was simply to be set decoration but at no point did we get distracted by something that was designed to waste time.
Tom and his team had obviously spent a lot of time working out how to fit everything in the bus while maximising the space, as such there was no area of the room that was wasted and nothing felt shoe-horned in. Looking back on this room, I wonder if they worked backwards designing this room and started with the ending first, as what an ending it was and really the entire game was building up to this ending.
I would happily say that the real achievement for this room is the set design, but the puzzles were decent and flowed well, with a mixture of observation, skill and communication. The game was mostly non-linear and certain things could be tackled whenever we wanted to – good if you’re in a bigger team. The puzzles all fitted the theme and served to push us forward in completing our mission.
Out of all the puzzles I think there were perhaps three that we struggled on, they were good puzzles, we were just not on form. One of the puzzles was a communication one which was designed in a way to make it harder than perhaps it could have been (totally fine). The second was a really clever puzzle and looking back on it, it was actually rather simple. Yet at the time we just couldn’t see it and needed a bit of a nudge (should have been a slap) to make us see what we were missing. The final puzzle we struggled on was a more physical one, it took a while but we got there after a lot of swearing and threatening to smash things!
If we had to be picky, there was one puzzle which was a little annoying and that is because it took a long time to complete. That’s not a long time to solve, just a long time to complete. If you play, you’ll know which one this is, but as things can be solved simultaneously, your best bet is to solve it and then get on with something else while this puzzle completes.
There were really not many padlocks in this room, I’ve been trying to remember how many there were and I think there was perhaps one? Other than that, everything else relied on technology or physical manipulation of puzzles. Decent signposting in the room helped guide us from one puzzle to the next, although there was one thing we never did find, it was probably there and we just missed it.
There was a screen in the room that was used for delivering clues. When these clues came through, a noise sounded to alert us to the fact that there was a clue waiting for us. Tom did a good job of reading our frustrations and delivering the clue at the correct time, sometimes it was just reassurance that we were doing something right and needed to continue doing it.
We didn’t realise at the time but there was actually a timer in the room. I think the fact that we didn’t realise this was a timer is either testament to the room design, or to our stupidity, either way it fitted in well and was a clever way to integrate the story to the timer – something which is not often done this well.
Despite our frustrations on a couple of puzzles, this was a really good room and was staged remarkably well. I would imagine that larger teams may find players get left out at times, but as a smaller team this wasn’t an issue.
If you’re a fan of dinosaurs and escape rooms then this is a room you must try. A beautiful set, decent puzzles, and a really fun ending made our detour 100% worth it!
Team: 2 players (escaped in 50:00 minutes)
Address: Hangar 88, Hullavington, Chippenham SN14 6GU