Impressive Set Design
You’re locked inside Tenby’s abandoned asylum with only one hour to figure out the secret and escape the doctor’s clutches….
Will you manage to work together to solve the mystery before the clock runs out??
A long weekend away near Tenby found us staying less than 15 minutes from Heatherton World of Activities, home to Tenby’s Great Escape. With such a short journey and only three games (currently The Tenby Asylum, The Wizard’s Lair and Captain’s Treasure Room) to choose from, it seemed like the perfect idea for a day out that wouldn’t be too taxing. Our only hesitation was that we didn’t really know what to expect. Yes, the company have essentially a 5* rating across TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook, but we prefer to hear recommendations from enthusiasts, and the games on Escape the Review were almost totally unknown. As it turns out, the risk was worth it.
Heatherton World of Activities is a totally logical place to play home to an escape room venue, but also a bit strange. We arrived first thing in the morning, and there was plenty of parking, but when we were leaving the car park was totally full – so it may be worth planning ahead to play early. Either that or come early and plan to spend the entire day there. There is certainly no lack of things to do and plenty of options for a quick bite or a coffee. But I digress.
Check-in with the Heatherton staff was a breeze, and we were sent to wait in a section of the lobby that is very clearly for those planning to play at Tenby’s Great Escape. But we didn’t have to wait long for the arrival of Bruce, our host and GM for the day. One quick joke later, and we were off down the hall to another tidy reception area – this one specifically for the escape rooms. Bruce gave us a quick health and safety chat before leaving us to read the history of The Tenby Asylum. When he returned, it was time to follow him down a dimly lit corridor to a rather ominous looking door…
Standing outside the entrance, I had an inkling we would be in for something special, as the theming spilled out into the corridor. But when we stepped through the door, The Tenby Asylum surpassed all of my expectations. This is not a game that has just been slapped together with a gurney and a dodgy looking medical cabinet. I mean, yes, those things are there, and so much more. The set design was impressive, and not just visually striking, but totally atmospheric, complete with creepy noises and flickering lights.
It’s not hard to guess, either from the little blurb on their website or from the name of the game itself, but The Tenby Asylum has lightish horror theming. There are no live actors to torment you, but the game is on the darker side, both literally and figuratively. Particularly nervy players should be prepared for a jump scare or two (I certainly had one), and while the venue haven’t explicitly stated an age limit, parental discretion is advised.
Everything comes together to give the game a very immersive feel, but what makes that feeling even stronger, is the underlying narrative that reveals bits and pieces here and there. The game isn’t overly driven by story, but it is there and it helps to give the game a flow, and never slows the pace. In fact, there were so many hidden secrets and surprises, that the intensity in the Asylum only built, culminating in an unexpected, and slightly frantic ending.
Not only were we starting our day of escapes with the newest game at Tenby’s Great Escape, but we were also starting with what they consider to be their hardest; and if our escape times are anything to go by, that’s probably a fair assessment. While the puzzles were fair and well signposted, they were a challenge, and there were a lot of them. The Tenby Asylum was absolutely brimming with content, and more inexperienced teams could struggle, regardless of size.
I’ll be honest, between the location in the strange sort of theme park and my first impressions of the set, I assumed that The Asylum would be more style over function, i.e. lacking in puzzle design. But I suppose you all know what they say about assuming… The puzzles, while challenging, were invariably fair and logical, with perhaps the exception of one as our GM told us they tend to clue this puzzle for just about everyone. In fact, he sent a nudge regarding where to start on it before we’d really even had a chance to look at it. (This could probably be solved with some less subtle signposting, but I’m grateful for the nudge.)
Utilising a blend of padlocks, tech, and even a few more tactile tasks, the puzzles put our logical and lateral thinking skills to the test, not to mention our powers of observation and searching abilities. Although the lighting was atmospheric, we never encountered the dreaded “difficulty by darkness” and many of the puzzles resulted in a great “Ah Ha!” as we arrived at the solution.
Bruce was an absolute delight throughout our time at Tenby’s Great Escape. His sneaky little intro to break the ice when collecting us from the lobby set the tone for the day: fun. Bruce was friendly, personable, and so easy to have a chat with. He is clearly someone who enjoys both interacting with the public, and his role as a games master. He’s also excellent in his role as GM.
There was a button in the corner or the room explicitly for the use of requesting a clue. Once our timer started, Gordon forgot the part of the briefing where this was explained, and within minutes decided to press it to see what happens. Fortunately, clues are unlimited here, and Bruce was paying enough attention to know that we didn’t actually need a clue at this point. When we did need one though, Bruce’s response over the tannoy was immediate. He even periodically nudged us unprompted, just to avoid frustration, which is my preferred way to be clued.
I probably wouldn’t recommend The Tenby Asylum if you’ve never played an escape room before, but for enthusiasts that are looking for a challenge and don’t mind a jump scare or two, then this is the one. The set was impressive, but even more appealing were the puzzles.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 54 minutes
Address: Heatherton World of Activities, St Florence, Tenby, Pembrokeshire, SA70 8RJ