Out of this world
Following reports of strange lights in the skies over Derbyshire, your team intercepts a distress signal, which leads you to an abandoned military bunker.
Once the door closes behind you, you quickly realise the signal was not all that it seemed, the bunker was not abandoned and you are not alone.
Work together as a team to solve the puzzles and escape.
The truth is in there…
Day Six of our escape room roadtrip dawned, and this time we were making our way to Derby, bright and early for a 9:00am start. Derby has a surprising number of escape rooms on offer, and would be an ideal city for a UK escape room binge weekend, but there are two companies that appear time and time again when the city is mentioned: Unescapable, and our destination for the day – Make Your Escape. (We opted for a leisurely day of only four games at the one venue for Day Six; afterall, this trip was supposed to be a holiday…)
Make Your Escape is perhaps best known for the double bill of Dystopia and Utopia, although Spellbound is certain to be one that is highly thought of for years to come too. But despite how often we hear about Make Your Escape, we knew surprisingly little about the company’s first game: The Signal. Fortunately, this was to be our first game of the day, so that problem was soon to be rectified.
When we arrived at Make Your Escape, we were buzzed into the building, and once we ascended the stairs and following a warm greeting from our hosts and the obligatory hand sanitisation/NHS Track and Trace check in routine, we were offered water and led to a comfortable sofa for a short chat with our hosts, Helena and Harry.
But as much as we love a good escape room discussion, it was soon time to get to the serious business of actually playing. With the health and safety brief out of the way, Helena led us to a nondescript door, and told us all about The Signal that we had arrived to investigate.
Covid-19 Procedures: At the time of our visit in May 2021, Make Your Escape required the use of face coverings, for both customers and staff. Hand sanitiser stations are readily available throughout reception and in the games. The games are also staggered to allow for enhanced cleaning between teams. We were the only team present in the venue for the duration of our mid-week visit and the venue require teams to check in using NHS Track and Trace. The Signal has one task that requires teams to wear disposable gloves which are provided in-game.
Through the door we found ourselves in a rather dimly lit office space, and started off at what felt like a rather leisurely pace. The Signal followed a very linear progression, which makes it an ideal choice for either first time escapers, or perhaps for enthusiasts that are interested in trying out their first game as a team of two. With each puzzle we completed, the narrative became clearer, and our sedate and relaxed pace began to build. As we progressed through the game, the office theming took a twist as we found ourselves going on quite the journey, until we were presented with a choice that would determine the course of the game, at which point we experienced a much more dramatic shift to an adrenaline fuelled race against the clock to escape the room in a clear and satisfying finale.
As the sense of urgency built, I found we became more and more immersed in the world of The Signal, particularly as the puzzles shifted from those that might result in a code for a padlock, to tasks that had us physically doing certain things. Make Your Escape have utilised technology within this game to keep things interesting. Let’s just say, things are not as they first appear, and there were some really wonderful little surprises throughout the game that all tied into the story quite well.
The puzzles in The Signal were a blend of types and styles, ranging from the usual searching one expects in an escape room (albeit with a cool twist I was not expecting), pattern recognition, maths (I have rarely been so thankful for a calculator in a game), observation, logic, and also incorporated some tasks that were a bit more tactile and required a bit of manual dexterity.
The Signal utilised a blend of padlocks and more sophisticated tech, although the padlocks were typically confined to things that would ordinarily be secured with one. But it was the clever and fun use of technology and the variety of puzzles that kept things fresh throughout the game. The excellent sign posting ensured that we had all of the information needed to solve every puzzle without taking any leaps of logic. Not only that, but the tasks and puzzles all fit in well with the theme, and served to further the narrative.
Thanks to the alternate endings, there are a few things throughout The Signal that were available to us quite early on that felt a bit like red herrings, simply because they were not a part of the ending we chose. Thanks to the added pressure once we made our choice however, these things were quickly forgotten and faded into the background. They were remembered again once we finished as we realised we hadn’t done anything with particular items, so the final walkthrough of what could have happened had we decided differently provided a nice sense of closure to the game.
Helena was the perfect host: warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic. I can’t recall if we ever found ourselves so much at a loss as to need to ask for a clue, but I’m certain we had a few nudges, which were perfectly timed to avoid any frustration, and just enough to get us back on track for where we needed to be.
Make Your Escape have chosen to deliver clues using a screen in game, that also displayed the timer. While I would have loved a more immersive clue system, that’s just me being picky, as written clues on a screen are effective. After all, there’s a reason why they’re one of the most prevalent clue delivery systems, and really, I can’t think of a system that would have been a better fit for The Signal.
Dystopia/Utopia seem to get all the love at Make Your Escape, but The Signal is certainly worth a play, and ideal for those new to escaping. The Signal was also the first (I think) game in the country to present players with an existential dilemma that will directly impact the outcome of the game. What choice will you make?
Team: 2 players – escaped in 46 minutes
Address: 1st Floor, 4 Osmaston Rd, Derby DE1 2HR