The right kind of creepy
You awake with a start from a horrific dream. A psychotic surgeon…rusty scalpels…blood. Your eyes adjust to the dark. What the… Is that an operating table? Your mission – Escape to safety before the nightmare really begins.
Bournemouth has long been spoken of in Escape Room circles as a destination for quality games. We’ve visited the town a few times now, and found that to be more than true with the few games we’ve played there thus far. But as our previous visits to Bournemouth were quick little stopovers on our way to other destinations rather than a full-on escape room binge, we hadn’t yet had a chance to make it to U-Escape.
This problem, thankfully, was rectified when a family holiday saw us staying less than an hour from Bournemouth. Using any excuse to escape the chaos wrought by four children under the age of seven, Gord and I escaped our family and made our way to the seaside for another type of escape. Making the most of our outing, we made sure to get out early and find a stop for some cake and coffee to fuel our brains for the challenges ahead.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by the U-Escape team: owner, Jodi, and GM, Jamie, our hosts for the day. After the requisite chat, and usual health and safety briefing, we locked our belongings away, and prepared for Jamie to tell us a bit more about this strange clinical trial we had signed up for. Which he did, with great panache, before leading us down to the basement to wait for the doctor…
Covid-19 Precautions: Although the Government has now lifted all restrictions, we still wore masks in common areas, as did the staff on site. We were told we could remove masks once inside the game space. Hand sanitiser was also available in common areas and games.
Stepping through the slightly dodgy looking basement clinic door, we found ourselves in a cell. Really, we should have known – no good things ever happen in basements. But as our eyes adjusted to the dimness of the Surgeon’s Cell, suddenly the disembodied voice of “Sam” could be heard, giving us a bit more insight into just exactly what we had signed up for, making it clear we needed to get out, and post-haste!
Psycho Surgeon is strictly limited to players 16+, and while it is not a live-actor horror escape room, it does have a more sinister edge and some horror theming. As with most games that boast a darker theme, the set was also, as expected, literally quite dark to begin. Our eyes quickly adjusted to this though, and nothing was ever really too dark, with enough light to see everything, even for me, with my absolutely diabolical low-light vision. Although perhaps some will wish that this isn’t the case, as there are plenty of horrors beyond the bars of the cell.
The game follows a relatively linear progression, and the space is quite tight, making it an ideal game for smaller teams. Psycho Surgeon isn’t entirely linear, however, as there were moments where Gord and I found ourselves working in parallel on different challenges at times. But the benefit of linear games is that they provide an excellent outlet for dispensing narrative. And while there wasn’t a great deal of narrative to follow, with each clue we uncovered, we discovered more about the sinister surgeon, until finally, we were able to make our escape.
The puzzles were exactly the sorts of things I want to see in an escape room: a little bit of everything, with a blend of physical locks, tech, and even some more tactile challenges. We found our searching skills put to the test, along with our deductive reasoning. At times teamwork was essential, and of course, what’s an escape room without some sort of code or cypher to, well, decipher.
The puzzles flowed well from one to the next, fit the theming, and fed into the storyline. The signposting was excellent, and the challenges within Psycho Surgeon provided plenty of wonderful “Ah-Ha!” moments throughout the game as we progressed through to the finale of the game and eventually opened the door to release us back into the wild.
The moment Jamie slipped from “All business, health and safety” GM to lab assistant showing us to the surgeon’s lab was clear, and brought a little something extra to the start of our game. But it wasn’t Jamie who was available to pass us little tidbits of information when we needed them. Instead, that was the disembodied voice of “Sam.”
“Sam” was always available to chime in with assistance when needed, although in our case we found the puzzles so intuitive that this assistance was actually only needed when our search efforts were a little too good, and we spotted something before intended in the game.
We’ve heard nothing but good things about U-Escape, and our experience definitely lived up to expectations. Psycho Surgeon is a fun game with plenty of creep factor for those that like a darker game, and plenty of satisfying puzzles for those that care more about the puzzles than the atmosphere.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 24:32
Address: 1 Poole Hill, Bournemouth, BH2 5PW