Horror + Live Actor
When we first open a time portal we send one of our scientists back to make sure everything is ok and it is all safe and stable – we sent Edith, but unfortunately she hasn’t returned… We’ve now lost communication with her, but we do know that she was trying to shut the portal down when something stopped her. We need your team to finish the job – we would go ourselves but we’re too scared.
Although Derby has a number of escape room companies, there are two that we hear about time, and time again. We had already made the trip to Derby to play at one of these venues on Day Six of our Epic Escape Room Road Trip, but rather than cramming in two venues and burning out on eight games in a day, we opted to reserve Day Eight for the second venue: Unescapable.
I’ll be honest, I giggle a little at the names of the games at Unescapable – particularly Alan. It just seems so silly that they have proper name names. Granted, the games are named for a very specific reason that does make sense eventually, but prior to arrival, I was enjoying the hilarity of it all. Of course, since I don’t actually read the descriptions of the games that we book, these games gave no indication as to what we might encounter inside. I suppose it’s lucky we decided to just book all four.
We arrived at Unescapable and were warmly welcomed by Stephen and Marcus, who would be overseeing our time traveling adventures. With the Covid-related health and safety info, and NHS Track and Trace check in out of the way, we ascended the stairs to the main reception area. I’m at a loss for how to describe this, but it is impressive to say the least. But after a few minutes of ogling, it was time to begin testing the time portals the games – starting with Edith. And what could possibly be a better time to tackle a haunted time portal than at 9:00am on a Friday morning?
Covid-19 Procedures: At the time of our visit in May 2021, Unescapable were enforcing the use of masks, for both players and staff. NHS Track and Trace was in use, and there were plenty of hand sanitiser stations available throughout the venue. Start times had been staggered to ensure teams do not cross over in public spaces, and the games go through an enhanced cleaning procedure. Lockers were also out of use to reduce touch points, but there is an alternative safe location for storing belongings while playing.
Outside the entrance to the portal, we could already hear strange and disquieting noises as Stephen briefed us on what he knew of his colleague, “Edith” (ah, see, the name of the game makes sense now!) and explained what he needed us to do. The start of the game was disconcerting, off putting, and while it was surprisingly fun, it also heightened the already present feelings of discomfort and caution. These feelings weren’t eased at all once we finally made our way through the portal and found ourselves in the dress maker’s shop on the other side.
The shop was eerie, with darkened corners, creepy shadows, and very dim lighting forcing us to squint at everything. Then there were the noises… The game felt quite slow to start, but as we uncovered Edith’s story, we grew more and more anxious. The anxiety peaked (at least for me, Gord isn’t as easily disturbed) as we hit the climax of the game. From there is was a race to get the portal back up and running and escape the past that Edith had travelled to before we met the same fate.
Player beware, it’s not all jump scares and creepy noises. While Edith isn’t gory or gross, the game sits firmly in the horror genre, and players will find themselves in the game with someone… or perhaps I should say something, else. We never did get any clarity on exactly what that thing was, but that actually made it all the more frightening. Fun fact: Gord and I were very taken with the lovely building next door to Unescapable, Jacobean House, which dates from the 1670’s. Being the inquisitive souls that we are, we did a little bit of research and discovered that this building is reputed to be one of the most haunted in the city of Derby. Perhaps that explains why Edith ran into some trouble with the otherworldly entity we encountered.
Here’s the thing about horror escape games, and particularly those that incorporate a live actor: The puzzles can’t be overly taxing, because otherwise they will be impossible for those that are caught in the grips of terror. Edith stuck to this mantra with relatively simple puzzles that were made only more difficult due to the atmosphere. (And okay, yes, there was some difficulty by darkness for those of us with poor lowlight vision trying to input numbers into a padlock without the aid of a torch.) The linear puzzle path also helped to keep things simple, allowing the team to stick together… well, so to speak.
Edith used a variety of both keyed and coded padlocks as well as some more physical elements to bar the way through to repairing the time portal. While the numbered padlocks relied on simple observation, pattern recognition and some logic to arrive at the code, one of the more physical elements required quite a bit of dexterity that I imagine could infuriate a few teams, and there is no way to bypass this. In fact, it was this task that slowed us down so much at the start that Gord and I thought that we might not escape at one point. Instead, due to me being perfectly happy where I was in the dark and logicing the pants off of another task, we ended up creating a totally different sort of puzzle than the one that was intended. But this hack saw us escaping in what was possibly a record time (or very close to it), as we managed to bypass at least ten minutes of the game and a good number of jump scares by completing it in the manner that we did.
Although technology can’t go through the time portals, the team at Unescapable have discovered that one device survives the trip: the standard walkie talkie. Stephen and trainee Time Travel Technician Marcus were never far off if we needed assistance, although I am having trouble deciding if I liked Stephen’s approach or not. On the one hand, I hate feeling like I need to ask for a clue – and we certainly never needed to do that. On the other, I also felt like we were rarely given the opportunity to puzzle things out for ourselves, and instead were nudged along rather swiftly. Perhaps this was in part due to going through things rather slowly at the start, and our hosts wanting to ensure that we did get back on track and progress according to schedule, or perhaps it was just the Unescapable style to chime in with a tip whenever something new is found. Despite feeling like we were often over-clued, I will say that it was done in a very conversational manner that allowed Stephen to feel more like a member of the team than a guide, and we did get a little bit of a banter going.
But where our hosts truly excelled themselves was with their portrayal of whatever it was that was in there with us. Very often I find that at a certain point with a live actor experience something is lost, and I no longer feel the terror that I am meant to. It’s the creep factor, and the threat that makes the experience scary, and once the actor crosses a certain barrier, that is lost. That never happened in Edith, with Stephen and Marcus treading the line perfectly to keep the atmosphere threatening and terrifying to the very end.
Edith has a reputation amongst UK enthusiasts that’s not undeserved. Your tolerance for terror will ultimately determine if this is one that you’ll love or leave, but it is without a doubt one of the best horror experiences we have played in the UK (so far), and struck a nice balance between horrifying and humorous.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 28:30 minutes
Address: 25 The Wardwick, Derby, DE1 1HA