We’d be useless prisoners
Trapped in a Prison Van takes place in a real, refurbished prison van which has been turned into an immersive escape room.
See what it feels like to be locked in a real prison van! Can you escape within 60 minutes?
We were headed to Wales for a long weekend and decided we needed to find a few escape rooms along the way to break up our journey. Fortunately Escape Game Swansea were just off the motorway and had a few games we could play – perfect.
We were the first team of the day to play but fortunately our GM, Georgia, was there nice and early to let us in and welcome us to the venue. Escape Game Swansea is right next to a gym who seemed to be playing Trance music very loudly which I must admit I rather enjoyed while we were sitting in the very comfortable waiting area.
After a short chat, Georgia went off to make sure our first game of the day was ready. We remained in the waiting area to watch their slick ‘how to play’ intro video (fortunately we only had to watch it once). This video covered the usual health and safety stuff and explained their clue system (more on that later).
When Georgia returned, she escorted us down the corridor and outside into the back parking area where our prison van awaited. We seem to have a bad history with Prison Van escape rooms but we hoped this one would be better. Either way, we were playing it first to get it out of the way.
Once we were in the van, Georgia proceeded to give us our mission briefing. Credit to Escape Game Swansea, this wasn’t your usual prison van story where you simply need to escape before going back to jail, no, this game was all about escaping a zombie pandemic that was swiftly catching up to you. So, aware that we were escaping a zombie horde, we were locked in our cells and Georgia left us to try and make our escape.
It’s hard to get much more immersive for a prison van escape room than actually being in an ex-prison van. Like the other couple of prison van escape rooms we’ve played, this game took place in a decommissioned prison van that once genuinely used to cart around prisoners. Apparently it can get toasty in there so Georgia did kindly leave the back door open, which perhaps broke the immersion a little, but it was a small price to pay for not melting in the heat.
The most notable feature of prison vans is that they are essentially prison cells on wheels. This means the game has a split start and you are very much locked in a small cell at the start of the game – how long you spend in it is down to you (we spent far too long in ours).
To help us believe that we were indeed trying to escape a zombie plague, there were the usual ‘zombie horde’ noises being played over a speaker, and the occasional update to remind us how close we were to being the meal of the day.
Of course one problem with using a genuine ex-prison van is that it is likely going to have some graffiti in it. At times, when we didn’t know what to do, we found ourselves getting a bit distracted by some of it which was a bit frustrating – although really we should have known to discount it immediately.
We played this game as a team of two, but I believe it can be played with up to six players, and each player starts the game in their own cell. Obviously being trapped in your own cell means that this game heavily relies on communication for at least the start. Other than that, you will find: searching, observation, decoding, maths and logic.
I can honestly say that we didn’t click with these puzzles at all. We found signposting to be a bit lacking and what there was, we found to be a bit too ambiguous. I know we needed quite a bit of help to get out of here but I can’t recall exactly how much. Unfortunately we didn’t break our curse of Prison Van escape rooms and this was another one that we will try and forget.
The game had minimal tech so most of what we did resulted in codes for padlocks, and there were quite a few of those. I’ve not got a problem with padlocks, but as the puzzles were frustrating us to no end, we really couldn’t wait to just get out.
The saving grace for this game was Georgia, our host. She was lovely, full of enthusiasm, conversation, and seemed to genuinely enjoy her job – she was also decent at providing clues when we needed them.
The way Escape Game Swansea operate their clues is that you get three free clues, and any additional over that will add two minutes to your escape time. Apparently hints that are received without asking for them are not counted as clues.
If you need clues in The Prison Van, you simply need to press a button on the walkie-talkie that one team member is given at the start. The clue then pops up on the screen in the van. Of course, this was our first problem, the only person who could see the screen also had a large pole in the way so it meant part of the clue wasn’t actually visible which made it tricky to know what was actually written.
The clue screen also displayed a timer so we knew how long we had before the zombie horde caught up with us.
Generally we found the clues were decent enough to get us back on track, although at one point, we were given the solution much quicker than we would have liked. This was one of the early puzzles and one that felt poorly signposted and kinda set the tone of frustration in this game for us.
Our dislike of Prison Van escape rooms was not changed with this game. It felt like signposting was limited, some poor choices were made on puzzle design, and generally we just felt frustrated at our time in the van.
We’ve played a lot of games as a team of two, and quite a few in bigger teams. Often we find we’re quicker as a two, but this is one game where having the maximum number of people, although making it cosier, would actually speed up your game play immensely.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 56 minutes
Address: Unit 2B, Samlet shopping centre, Samlet Rd, Llansamlet, Swansea SA7 9AG