Cell Block C – Clue HQ – Harrogate

Present, August 2018, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Papa Ant

Escape Rooms are suitable for all ages, so I thought we’d test that theory out with a three generation team for Cell Block C – a 14yo, a 75yo and, erm, someone in the middle. Papa Ant had only done one room with us before, and that was an unmitigated disaster, but I’m an eternal optimist. Nearly stalled before we began – the new Clue HQ franchise is right at the top of a classical Harrogate building, bang in the pedestrianised centre. I know Harrogate like the back of my hand and almost couldn’t find the entrance (it’s well signed if you approach from the other direction). That, and the stiff climb up narrow stairs to the Clue HQ lounge (great views!) meant we were running late and flustered, but our host Steve was super sweet and patient with our (my) flapping.

This was the first visit to a Clue HQ for us, and although the videos and keyrings are all very slick and nice, it did feel a bit soulless, despite Steve’s best efforts. They only had one room open at the time (was very new), so maybe just need a bit more buzz to spring the place to life.

This wasn’t our first prison room though, and while being locked in a cell is always entertaining for TA, Papa Ant looked slightly taken aback. The space is quite dark and noisy, so maybe not ideal if an older person’s vision and hearing are a bit shaky. Papa Ant coped manfully with being jailed separately to us, but when he muttered ‘should have brought my reading glasses’ I did think we were doomed… Fortunately Teenage Avenger picked up the slack and really drove this room; it seemed to perfectly hit his ability level. The mix of tech, mechanical challenges and maths-type puzzles is maybe a better fit for a younger generation, and the room would be easier with 3 players on-point (bit cramped with a 4), but with careful management of Papa Ant we got through it.

Beyond a couple of physical challenges at the beginning, the puzzles don’t really stick in the memory, but there were some fun touches along the way. We got loads of hints towards the end (it felt that a few logic leaps were needed) and I’m pretty sure we were given a little leeway on the time. According to the clock, we got out with 30 seconds to spare, but my mental stopwatch is fairly good and I reckon we went over. Whether Steve’s sympathy vote went to me for Papa Ant’s hinderance, or to him for all my exasperated nagging, I will never know.

Overall, it was a solid, reliable experience, well themed and dressed, without really inspiring. Puzzles were a good standard for teenagers or robust tweenagers, rather than younger kids, which TA appreciated. And once he’s recovered, Papa Ant would probably say he had a nice time too. Don’t think he was too upset when I didn’t invite him to do our next Yorkshire room though…

  • Storyline:  Clue HQ’s Danny Bad series, fitted the bill for a standard prison breakout.
  • Theming and Set: Pretty good, solid props, atmospheric without being annoyingly dark.
  • Searching: A bit, not too much.
  • Puzzles: Couple of fun talking points, quite mathsy.
  • Physicality: Some hand-eye required; more effort needed to get to the room in the first place.
  • Scare factor: Not scary, but not a sunny afternoon in the park – prison, after all.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Those over 5 years old are welcome, though we feel under 10s might find it too difficult. Those under 16 must have a paying & participating adult over 18 year old as part of their team”.
  • Age suitability: Good for 10 plus. Layout would make it very difficult to have youngsters in, and no chance getting a buggy up the stairs.

At the same venue, see also: Betrayal of Cluetankhamun; CSI: Panic Room