Escape rooms AND a zoo!
The year is 1895. Cornelius Cogworthy has invented a most marvellous machine for travelling through time. Now dastardly foreign spies are after his secrets and, to save them, he has hidden the plans somewhere in the past.
Your team’s task is to locate the missing blueprints and make your escape. . . back to the future!
Earlier in the day we had taken on all three games at Tenby’s Great Escape, and we weren’t quite ready for our adventures to be over, so although we only had time for one game at Mansion of Mystery, we decided just to go for it. I suppose we could have squeezed in both of their games, but then we would definitely have missed out on the garden full of grumpy owls, and that would have been a tragedy.
There are very few things I like better than an escape room, but an escape room in a fantastic setting, where the cost of the game also includes admission to the grounds and gardens of a castle, plus the Owl Garden and Zoo is definitely one of those things. Mansion of Mystery is located in Picton Castle, in one of the towers no less, and yes, booking a game there will indeed grant the team access to the grounds for the entire day (tours of the castle itself can be booked for an additional charge), making it an ideal choice for a great day out.
Picton Castle is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But it’s well signposted, and with the sat nav guiding us, we had no trouble finding the car park. We approached the ticket booth at the entrance to the castle grounds to check in, and we were through. Stretching our legs on the walk to the castle was lovely, and finding Mansion of Mystery itself was no puzzle at all thanks to the excellent signage.
At our allotted time, we rang the bell at the base of the tower to await the arrival of our GM, Jen. And arrive she did, looking like she stepped straight out of a Steampunk novel – perfect for time travel, motioning for us to follow her up the spiral staircase of the tower.
The reception of Mansion of Mystery was a delight all on its own. Themed like a Victorian Curiosity Shope, it was brimming with oddities and curiosities, and the styling fit Jen’s Steampunk attire to a T. I could quite easily have spent quite some time investigating everything, but that wouldn’t have left much time for escaping. But I did have a few minutes to explore while we chatted with Jen, before it was time to stash our belongings, take a seat, and learn more about our time travelling mission from none other than the Queen herself.
First impressions of The Time Machine were good. It appeared to be a simple study from the late 19th Century. But appearances can be deceiving and we quickly found ourselves on quite the epic journey through time. The spaces we encountered were lovingly crafted and a delight to explore.
But even better than our surroundings was the gameplay. The game flowed perfectly from one task to the next. The narrative was clear, though not the driving force behind the game. Even so, as we revealed more of the room’s secrets, there was a fantastic sense of adventure and discovery. The game was somewhat linear in structure, so it felt perfect for our little team of two, but you could quite easily play with four and never feel left out of anything.
The Time Machine maintained a steady pace throughout, slowly building our anticipation with reveals that surprised and delighted us, culminating in finally succeeding in our mission to retrieve those missing blueprints.
Difficulty is so incredibly subjective, but for an experienced team of escape artists, The Time Machine fell closer to the side of easy on the scale. This is far from a bad thing, considering their market is very much families and first time escapees, who may find things to be more of a challenge, whereas enthusiasts are likely to be pleased by a game that is perfect in its logic, that flows well from task to task, with challenges that are immensely satisfying to solve.
Puzzles had a very classic escape room style feel to them, but were widely varied in style and put many of our skills to the test. Maths, logic, pattern recognition, wordplay, and of course, a bit of searching and observation all came into play in one way or another throughout the game. Whatever the challenge though, we found the puzzles to be fair, and well signposted, even one that was a bit of a clever little red fish.
Jen was a fantastic host and GM. She even went out of her way to supply us with a most excellent recommendation for local cheeses (the greatest of the food groups) following our game, so her customer service is really second to none. Her briefing was entertaining and engaging, and she was friendly and personable.
We absolutely flew through The Time Machine and managed to do so without any clues. Had we needed any, they would have displayed on a screen within the game. While I can’t say for certain what they would have been like, based on Jen’s willingness to research cheese for us, I am positive they would have been delivered swiftly and been exactly right to get us on track.
Mansion of Mystery’s Time Machine was a highlight of our recent break in the south west of Wales, and it wasn’t just because of the Owl Garden and Zoo located within the grouds of Picton Castle. The Time Machine was a joy to play, and well worth including on your itinerary if you happen to find yourself in Pembrokeshire.
Team: 2 players – escaped in ??? (we didn’t record it, but it was around 35mins perhaps)
Address: Picton Castle, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA62 4AS