Setting the bar very high for outdoor games!
The Captcha Code is the first of its kind. An original game that hybrids treasure hunt and escape room, exploring the quaint seaside town of Broadstairs.
You play the role of undercover agents who must complete an important mission. Report to base for your mission briefing and then figure out how to save the world. Visit hidden locations, interact with local business allies and uncover the town’s vast history.
Solve unique puzzles around the town and watch as your surroundings come to life. We’ll equip you with a custom-built, handheld spy device, a bag of tools and a map. Your adventure is self-guided, with agents on hand if you need any help.
I will admit, I’m a bit of an Escapement fan girl, and have been itching to get to Broadstairs to play their new games from the moment it was announced that they were being made. Of course, pandemics (and a whole host of other complications) meant that I had to wait a bit. But if there was one thing that helped keep my love for The Escapement alive, it was The Network. The Escapement’s first boxed game is one of the true standouts of the over 200 play at home escape games we’ve played.
However, on this trip we had initially planned to skip Captcha Code – we were under a bit of a time pressure and weren’t sure we would be able to fit it in. Thankfully, the stars aligned, and somehow we found ourselves in Broadstairs on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon nearly two hours before we were meant to take on WunderWaffe Operation Quartz. We thought about getting lunch, but honestly, where’s the fun in that? Especially when The Escapement had a slot available for us to tackle Captcha Code, and help to save the world (again). As it turns out, skipping Captcha Code would have been a massive mistake, and only partly because the narrative directly connects to the game we were to be playing next.
The Escapement’s Broadstairs venue is an amazing if slightly imposing, listed building, conveniently located within a relatively large car park – particularly handy in the popular little seaside resort. The building is stunning, but then, so are the games. We were met at the entrance by Lewis, one of the owners of The Escapement. However, with only two hours free, we had to ensure we didn’t chat too long.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before “Agent Smith” joined us outside to tell us all about the very serious mission we would be about to undertake. Fully briefed on our mission, and armed with our code book, a map, and a super-cool, super-secret spy device, we set off on a path that would see us travelling on a 1.7km long adventure around Broadstairs.
The world-building taking place across the Escapement’s games is on a level that we’ve seen with very few other places. The stories of the games here all weave and connect in some manner, even if it is just a little Easter egg here or there. The narrative of Captcha Code follows directly from The Network and the disappearance of Agent Cynthia Binks, and feeds directly into WunderWaffe Operation Quartz. While it’s not totally necessary to have played The Network prior to Captcha Code, nor Captcha Code before Quartz, it will certainly help further your understanding of the narrative, and I highly recommend playing all three games, in that order, for precisely that reason.
Normally, this is where I would talk about a game’s amazing set design, atmosphere, etc., but Captcha Code doesn’t benefit from any of that. After all, this is a “real life” spy mission out and about in the actual town. What Captcha Code does have, however, is the lovely little town of Broadstairs. Your mission is entirely self-guided, so it’s up to you if you take a minute to sit on the beach while you solve, have a drink in the pub while you puzzle over a problem, or race through your mission as quickly as possible.
We have played only one other outdoor escape, which although we didn’t review, we did enjoy. However, Captcha Code was on an entirely different level. It’s expected when doing an outdoor escape game that puzzles will be integrated into the places and sights of the location where they’re based. But The Escapement have taken it one step further and created something that is also interactive. The device handed to us by Agent Smith was not only there for inputting codes and confirming our answers were correct, but it also made magic happen.
I’ve described Broadstairs itself as lovely, but Captcha Code was downright captivating. Now, my love for it may be slightly biased by the fact that the weather was perfect for an outdoor excursion by the seaside, but the town was enchanting, and the game managed to build a lovely sense of anticipation from the moment we set off on a stroll along the seaside to our first location. This anticipation built with each new location, building and building, until finally, we found ourselves back at The Escapement for the epic conclusion to our efforts.
The puzzle path of Captcha Code will lead you throughout the town in an entirely linear manner, although there are multiple routes that teams could be sent on. While difficulty is always subjective, the puzzles in Captcha Code are available on a sliding scale of difficulty to make the game challenging but still achievable for all agents from the totally uninitiated to expert escape artists. We were sent off on our mission with the most challenging puzzle track, but even so, the puzzles we encountered were incredibly fair and logical.
We encountered puzzles that wouldn’t feel out of place in the slightest in a typical escape room, with challenges that were engaging and varied. We encountered everything from logic problems to secret codes, but many of the puzzles required a keen eye and excellent powers of observation. As clever as each challenge was, however, the best word I can use to describe them would be ‘enchanting,” for not only were they a pleasure to solve, but they also incorporated the history of Broadstairs, or were accompanied by a truly magical moment of discovery… and sometimes both.
One would think that I wouldn’t really need to talk about the GM for an entirely self-guided game, but I actually really do. From the moment we met him, Agent Smith was fully immersed in his role as our Special Agent in Charge, and not once did he break character. Our mission briefing was a strange blend of serious and humorous and pitched exactly right for our team. But even more impressive than our mission briefing was our mission debriefing. For Agent Smith was able to tell us exactly what we had done, and how we had achieved it. This is even more impressive when you think that we were unleashed upon the unsuspecting town totally unaccompanied.
After all, once you’re out in the town, you’re on your own… or are you? Teams will be given information on how to log into the website that contains hints and nudges, a bit like the clue system of a play at home escape, just in case they’re having any issues with the challenges. But if that’s not enough, players may find help from unexpected places. After all, the Network is always watching. (And therefore available to help.)
Captcha Code is a brilliant way to spend an hour or two exploring the charming town of Broadstairs, and slots perfectly into the interconnected narratives of The Network and WunderWaffe Operation Quartz. But more than that, it is an exceedingly clever, and exciting game full of delightful surprises and pleasing puzzles.
Team Size: 4 people – completed our mission in 1hr 17min
Address: Unit 2, Retort House, Albion St, Broadstairs CT10 1NE