Escape ‘The Rock’
You have been falsely accused of a crime, and imprisoned in Alcatraz for life. But, one of the guards believes your innocence! He’s hidden clues around the room from the other guards that will help you open the main door and escape – if you can decode them, that is. But he can only distract the other guards for one hour…
Like true addicts, whenever Gord and I find ourselves away from home, one of the first things we do is to check out what escape rooms are nearby, or even better, available to break up the journey. The Escape Game Swansea was the perfect stopping-off point between home and Tenby to give us a break from driving. The venue has plenty of parking, and they were even willing to shift their game times a little to help us fit in all four of their games (like I said, we’re addicts.)
When we arrived on-site, we were warmly greeted by Georgia, our GM and host for the day. She sat us down to watch the rather slick health and safety/how-to play video, and then we were off on our adventures for the day. Thankfully, we were only required to watch the video once, but apparently, our successful escape from The Prison Van didn’t really stick, and our second task was to be an escape from prison itself. Georgia led us to the door, locked us away, and then threw away the metaphorical key.
I’ve kind of lost track of the number of times I’ve broken out of “prison,” and I’m almost positive at least half of my prison breaks have been an escape from the infamous “Rock.” Thankfully, I’ve never actually had to swim to safety through the San Francisco Bay after a successful escape from my cell. This time Gord and I found ourselves locked in separate cells, listening to Georgia give us our background information. When she departed, it was time to do a little investigation and make our escape.
While I’ve never been locked in an actual prison, each of our cells contained the sort of detritus one might expect to find in an 8’x8’ room with a bed and a wall of bars. The real Alcatraz operated as a prison from 1934-1963, and in addition to the bars (because no prison set is really complete without them) The Escape Game Swansea have taken measures to give their game a period feel, with era-appropriate music, furniture, lighting, books, etc., to help further immersion. Even so, the set was sparsely decorated, with harsh lighting (I’m not complaining – my eyesight was grateful), giving it a stark feeling much like a real prison (or so I imagine, anyway.)
Alcatraz had a very linear structure as we worked our way through the clues left to aid us in our escape. The game flowed well, from one thing to the next, and we very rarely found ourselves at a loss for what to do next. Linear games work well for smaller teams, and combined with the collaborative nature of some of the puzzles, this is a great choice for teams of two to four. Much more than that and you might find some teammates are fighting to get in on the action. The simple narrative meant that the game never felt like it built in intensity for me, but Alcatraz did keep a fairly brisk pace, right up until the final escape through the door.
Communication is key throughout any escape room, but particularly important for the start of Alcatraz if you ever expect to escape from your cells. There were plenty of locks traditional padlocks to be found, but Alcatraz had a number of hidden secrets, both in terms of some sneaky searching, and hidden tech. Some tasks presented more of a physical challenge, but there were plenty of opportunities to use your brain with logic problems, codes and cyphers, and more. Whatever the task though, the signposting was generally very clear, and the puzzles were equally fair in their logic.
There was one exception to the puzzles being fair and well signposted. We found one to be a bit ambiguous and tried multiple incorrect ways of solving it, before requesting a clue to figure out where we were going wrong. In The Escape Game’s defence, we were massively overcomplicating things, but with the amount of information surrounding this particular puzzle, it was quite easy to go off on a tangent.
While The Escape Game don’t necessarily limit the amount of clues teams can take, or when they can request them, they do limit teams to three “free” clues. Any more than that and you’ll need to take a time penalty. Luckily, GM-initiated nudges don’t actually count as clues. Those are free too. It’s only clues that are actively requested by players. In Alcatraz, this request could be made by pressing a doorbell in the room, at which point our GM would type up a clue and display it on the screen located in the room.
The only real problem with this system (and at least it’s not like the doorbell when we played Escape Reality Cardiff’s Alcatraz which would actually summon the GM into the game), is that Gord doesn’t always pay attention to this part of the briefing and then forgets what the doorbell is for. Luckily, our GM Georgia was paying attention and didn’t count that as one of our clues! But she was also on the ball and ready to give a nudge or two in the right direction, or respond immediately to an actual clue request when required.
The Escape Game’s Alcatraz is a standard prison break. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun though – the puzzles were fair and engaging, with a few unique twists, and perfect for those new to escape rooms.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 38 minutes
Address: Unit 2B, Samlet shopping centre, Samlet Rd, Llansamlet, Swansea SA7 9AG