Present, in November 2022, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Jack-Jack £
It’s only November! I hear you cry (well, I suppose it depends on when you are reading this). But right now it is that wonderful time of the year when Escape Room venues start to flex their festive creative muscles with seasonal family-friendly pop-ups. We were lucky enough to get a sneak play of Esc Rushden‘s offering, a few days before the official opening.
Claus’ Christmas Crash is a tried-and-tested theme of helping Santa save Christmas – this time after he has crashed his sleigh (one too many sherries), scattering his stash of presents. A fun take is that he has wiped out into your neighbour’s garden, so it is set “outside”, complete with fake grass, snow showers and snowball fights. Although it is undercover and therefore weather-resistant, it is genuinely chilly (located in one of the venue’s outbuildings) so I recommend embracing the winter vibe and dressing appropriately.
We weren’t feeling particularly festive (Teenage Avenger is traditionally stuck in Halloween mode until the first door opens on the Advent calendar) but the effect of the “garden” kitted out in sparkling lights and the first blast of Shakin’ Stevens on the soundtrack worked some magic and we were quickly giddy with seasonal spirit. No time for messing about though – there is a lot to do. The initial space is relatively tranquil, but don’t be fooled, the game does ramp up the workload in the second half.
This is a big space, and perfect for a marauding team of youngsters. The game is pretty much non-linear, especially in the second half, so larger groups can split up and work on a variety of puzzles. Searching is an important factor, as is observation, which again makes the game suitable for kids (we sucked to high heaven on the searching – unable to spot something that was literally, and I mean completely literally, right in front of our eyes). There are plenty of cute Christmassy touches that will appeal to the whole family and although the first area is a little dark (torches are provided) there is nothing scary.
Puzzle-wise, everything sticks to the setting and theme, one way or another, and keeps everything pretty playful. Not all the puzzles are easy though – a couple I just left to TA to wrestle with and teams will definitely need an adult or two who can logic things out. Smaller teams will have a lot to do and some tasks require a bit of communication. I don’t think there will be many instances where you have team members standing around like spare parts. It is a pop-up, so there are lots of padlocks, more than usual for this particular venue, but they have managed to keep variety in the locks used – it definitely isn’t a 4-digit code snore-fest. The signposting on the puzzles is great, sometimes cleverly subtle, sometimes more Route One, but definitely there if you are paying attention.
This game lacks the sophistication of the venue’s previous Santa’s Stowaway Christmas offering, partly because of the fabric of the different space it occupies and partly because that previous game was unusually well made for a seasonal room. But this one is probably more suited to a larger party vibe and has a real, jolly, everyone-mucks-in type of playability, which does make it ideal for kids (and big kids!). Sadly, it is only real children, not the kidults, that get a discount at this venue. Still well worth a trip, either to shake off couch potato brain-rot, to get the whole family away from screen time or just to kick start the holiday spirit.
- Storyline: Basic premise is there and followed through (keep your mission in mind), but there is a fair amount of Escape Room Logic to get there.
- Theming and Set: Captures the vibe well although, as a pop-up, isn’t as polished as their other games. Fairylights make most things magical though.
- Searching: We don’t talk about our searching. Sharp-eyed kiddies will excel.
- Puzzles: Gentle warm-up in the first half, more challenging in the second, although experienced escapers shouldn’t find anything too strenuous.
- Physicality: Searching high and low involves a bit of scrabbling, but dancing to Mariah Carey is probably the most energetic it gets (that’s entirely optional, I will add!).
- Scare factor: Our playtest involved them experimenting with the clue system (screen and audio), resulting in “I will kill you” booming around the space. It’s safe to say, that won’t happen in your game and any panics will be restricted to remembering that you haven’t ordered the turkey.
- Company Age Guidance: “We recommend 8+, but wouldn’t restrict anyone from having a go. Children under 16 need to be accompanied by an adult”
- Age suitability: Very family friendly with youngish children able to participate in many of the tasks and plenty of room for babe-in-arms.
£ – Granny & The Anthropomorphic Panda Avengers did not pay to play this room, but this in no way affects our review. All opinions remain our own. All photos are stock (Ruth :))