Beyond Zero – Escape For Real – Newport Pagnell

Present, in September 2019, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant

A throwback review today, inspired by some other members of the GATAPAE collective visiting a venue that I played nearly three years ago. They enjoyed their visit – we had too – so I thought Escape For Real needed another shout out. I’d reviewed Portal more or less at the time, but had never got around to a Beyond Zero write-up.

Escape For Real have taken the shared universe approach to their two games, which I love. Beyond Zero is theoretically the sequel to Portal, and we played them in that order, but it doesn’t really matter in terms of essential narrative. As far as the sets are concerned, Portal is the visually more impactful game, so it may actually be worth playing Beyond Zero first if you are doing a double header.

For both games, you are attempting to solve the mess left behind by the Escape For Real Professor, an experimental scientist who has been building portals into parallel worlds. As such, both rooms have a futuristic slant and a science-feel, although Beyond Zero is less overt. Both are also framed as hi-tech, no-padlock games, which isn’t necessarily a plus or a minus in my book, but is a bonus if you are bored of some of the more standard 4-digit padlock code offerings in the area (I’m looking at you, Locked In A Room).

Beyond Zero also has a fun extra concept – not only are you trying to activate a generator to save the world, you also have to keep yourselves safe from the inter-portal agents that are pursuing the Professor. You are warned that these beings may turn up at any time, which certainly adds an edge of tension to the first stage of puzzling! This isn’t a horror-live-actor-trying-to-kill-you scenario though, fans of serious scares would definitely be disappointed with this. But as an entertaining little extra challenge it works well, while keeping the game family-friendly. Don’t be put off if your team includes a wimp or two, you will be fine!

This particular set isn’t actually that impressive – the briefing and entrance area to the space is much cooler, but you don’t get to play with that bit. However, the puzzles (and the tech behind them) are quality, with some creative ways around traditional progress elements. This room will forever be enshrined in GATAPAE legend for the following conversation…

  • Us, stumped at how to open a door: “We’re stuck!”
  • GM: “Do you not have something you can use?”
  • Aunty Ant, confused: “I don’t think so, we’ve used everything.”
  • Me: “I don’t have anything else.”
  • Teenage Avenger: “Me neither. I’ve only got this key…”

We will NEVER let him forget it.

(TBF to him, he didn’t realise the door had a keyhole. But mentioning when you have found a key? Quite helpful for the rest of your team-mates… Follow me for more escaping tips and how to not fall out with your family.)

I’d love if Escape For Real created further updates to the Professor’s adventures. Despite their sizable-looking location, I’m not sure if they have space, but they certainly have plenty of creativity and enthusiasm. Beyond Zero might not be quite as whizzy a game as Portal, but is a strong alternative to some of the more formulaic chain offerings in the Milton Keynes area.

  • Storyline: I think it was all sensible enough.
  • Theming and Set: Fairly standard office set but with some nice touches. Not ideal for large teams, 6 would be a squeeze.
  • Searching: Only in TA’s pockets.
  • Puzzles: Less memorable than Portal, but solid.
  • Physicality: None.
  • Scare factor: A bit of adrenaline rush but not a real scare.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Our games are designed to be played by people of all ages above 10.”
  • Age suitability: Ten year olds would be fine on a mixed age team, it’s a very welcoming place. Non-playing younger ones wouldn’t be traumatized, but there’s not a huge amount of space for passengers.

Escape For Real website