Fun in the future
Well, it looks like our time travelling days might be coming to an end; we’re down to the last crystal that powers our time engine! We’re usually in touch with some space-age time travellers from the future that will send a couple of crystals back now and then (nice of them right?), but we’ve not heard from them in a while… Luckily we have just enough power left to send you to the future to find out what’s going on for us and hopefully snag a couple of crystals on the way!
Derby has long been on our list of places to visit for escape rooms after hearing constant praise for both Make Your Escape and Unescapable. We had already made one journey to Derby on Day Six of our Epic Escape Room Roadtrip, but Day Eight was reserved specifically for Unescapable and a second trip to the city.
Our day at Unescapable began with Edith, which was followed swiftly by the slightly more lighthearted Alan (Not gonna lie, I laugh every time I think about a game named “Alan”). Then it was time for a quick comfort break to grab a sip of water, wash our hands, and of course, take another moment to admire the impressive reception space at Unescapable, before we moved on to tackle Mary.
Stephen and Marcus led us to the entrance to Mary, where we learned that unlike Edith and Alan (and later, Tommy) we would not be travelling to the past, but rather the future. And our mission would be of critical importance, for without the crystals to power the time portals, there would be no more time travelling. And so, with a last minute warning to avoid a killer robot (Say what now?) and a few other tidbits of advice, we stepped through to the future.
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 have 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.
By the time we played Mary, we had become accustomed to the time portals being named for the pioneering employees that first went through them, but in the case of Mary, Mary was not a “who,” but rather, a “what,” and we found ourselves on board a futuristic-looking spacecraft on the other side of the portal, the MARY (Ah, the name makes sense now!) Of course, something had gone very wrong and it was up to us to discover what happened to the crew and recover the crystals. We knew something had gone very wrong due to the darkness we found ourselves in, leaving plenty of creepy corners to investigate. Mary had a very eerie feeling to it at first, perhaps in part due to jumping at every noise, wondering if it would be the Sentinel Robot, intent on destroying us. But as the game progressed, and my eyes adjusted to the lighting, I found that I was a little more at ease. Of course, that all changed as the narrative took a turn, providing what felt like an adrenaline fuelled race towards the finish.
I mentioned a creepy feeling that pervaded Mary, but it was actually a very light creep factor, and certainly not anything even remotely approaching a horror game, despite the threat of a killer robot around every corner. The creepiness came from the lighting, eerie sounds, a few tight spaces (be warned, there is a bit of crawling involved) and perhaps a jump scare or two (that’s probably just me though – I will jump at a mouse fart). But there were elements of Mary that off set the feelings of unease, particularly the humorous interactions with the integrated clue system, and lots of just fun, silly moments that lighten the atmosphere, and make Mary both immersive and incredibly good fun.
I enjoyed the puzzles in Mary. Using a blend of padlocks and tech, the puzzles were varied and we had quite a few satisfying “Ah-ha!” moments throughout the game. In terms of style, many of the tasks were variations on the standard types of puzzles one tends to come across in an escape room (logic, observation, pattern recognition, memory, teamwork and communication, etc.) but they were also very thematic, and fit in with the ship.
Mary also benefited from a number of my physical/tactile tasks that allowed us to play around with some more tangible things. Some of these tasks have the potential to be frustrating if you’re not the best with manual dexterity, but don’t worry too much, it’s nothing like one of those horrible “steady hand” games. Mary was a pretty linear game, but despite one puzzle flowing smoothly on to the next, there was so much to explore in each area that it was still possible for us to split up, making the game great for both larger and smaller groups. For example, by the time Gord had solved Puzzle A, and received the remaining information needed for Puzzle B, I already had a theory on how to solve Puzzle B and just needed that final bit of information to complete it.
As with all of the games we played on this day, Stephen and Marcus were our GMs for Mary, but unlike the other games at Unescapable, we were not presented with a Walkie Talkie for communication (something about old technology not working in the future?). Fortunately, the AI of the ship we found ourselves on was able to help us out occasionally when we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. I say occasionally, as the poor thing reminded me very much of Marvin the Paranoid Android of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. What was particularly lovely about this though was that the interactions with the system added some additional humour and fun interactions to the game, as well as nudges for puzzles.
Stephen and Marcus did manage to hack into a radio onboard the ship a bit later however, and we did revert to Walkie Talkie communication for the rest of our mission; presumably because they wanted to be kept apprised of the status of our mission to retrieve the crystals we needed. Once we were back in touch directly, we did feel as though we were often nudged far more frequently, and less subtly than we would have liked. We’re not sure if this is the Unescapable style, and wanting to integrate the GM’s as part of the team, or if it was a GM-specific choice, but we often felt as though whenever we came across something new, we were told how to solve a puzzle without ever being given the chance to actually think about how to solve it on our own.
As always, these reviews are own personal opinions, but if I were pressed to name the best game at Unescapable, Mary would be my selection (although my favourite was Tommy). With pleasing puzzles, a great atmosphere, and a whole lot of fun, if you’re having trouble deciding which game to play at Unescapable, you can’t go wrong with Mary. (Well, really, you wouldn’t go wrong with any of them.)
Team: 2 players – escaped in 33:58 minutes
Address: 25 The Wardwick, Derby, DE1 1HA