Present, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Jack-Jack
Kicking off our Escape Room road trip down South, we had Jack-Jack, my youngest, in tow, just for the one game. So we needed a gentle, kid-friendly experience, both to ease us into our intense three-day binge, and to avoid traumatising the small child. Perfectly situated along our route, Gatwick Escape Rooms looked ideal, with the Crazy Cat Lady room a no-brainer choice.
This venue seems to be a franchise with Know Escape as the parent company. They have copies of their various games in several locations in the South-East and beyond – versions of Crazy Cat Lady are available in Chelmsford, Bishop’s Stortford, Kingston-upon-Thames and Chesterfield. I gather the same company is also behind the very cool concept of the Escape The Night apartment. The whole franchise thing is sometimes a bit off-putting for enthusiasts, when a bright original game becomes paler and paler as the copies multiply. I didn’t establish where Gatwick is in the franchise food-chain, but straightaway you could tell it is a decent set-up, with a quality lobby and fab decor (based on a quick upstairs trip to the loos). Staff were young, smart and friendly – particularly impressed with our GM Josh (even more so after his involvement in our game) – but I’m getting ahead of myself…
This particular Crazy Cat Lady concept is that you are tasked with looking after the six cats belonging to Aunt Edna – they have gone AWOL and you need to get them back in their little nests ASAP. It is a kooky, cartoony space, not huge but fine for the three of us, full of charming cat-related decor. It might be deliberately kitsch, but a lot of the props are definitely classy. Aunt Edna’s story book is an impressive standout and presumably a benefit of multiple room copies, as it would be a huge amount of work for a one-off game. The art and theming is all very cohesive and really helps to create it’s own little world.
The emphasis of the puzzles is on fun, there is nothing really taxing. We only search-failed a little, so that aspect isn’t too overwhelmingly important, but there are still plenty of elements where kids could get involved. Jack-Jack is usually happy to just sit and watch while we play, but he was intrigued enough to begin engaging with areas of this room, not always to our benefit! Him temporarily locking us out of Edna’s kitchen was an unfortunate setback! Fortunately, good room design meant we could remedy this easily enough…
A few sections are more like interactive tasks than actual puzzles, which does add to the variety in an otherwise quite padlocky room. Don’t make the mistake I did by assuming that all these sections are pre-set and pre-recorded – my snarky backchat was hit by some smart, improvised, in-character banter from Josh. A genuinely funny moment, definitely not the only one in an overall entertaining room, and it really personalised the game for us.
We retrieved all the admittedly very cute kitties with eight minutes to spare, just missing out on the Top Ten leaderboard (mostly thanks to Jack-Jack’s antics). So there was enough to do to keep a family group sweetly amused for most of the hour. It isn’t entirely “mild peril”-free as one moment in the game is maybe a little startling, but as Jack-Jack was fine with it, I imagine it wouldn’t trouble most kids. As such, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this as a slightly bonkers, sugar-rush of a treat for all the family.
- Storyline: Edna’s puzzle set-up is mostly Escape Room Logic, but the “find the cats” narrative is sound.
- Theming and Set: Cosy, kooky, homely. Best kitchen I’ve seen in an Escape Room.
- Searching: Not as much as I expected from the first glance of the room.
- Puzzles: A good mix, maybe more riddle-based than anything else.
- Physicality: A small amount of crawling is required by one team member (or more, if you have a Jack-Jack).
- Scare factor: The customer service advised us in advance of a “loud” moment, but this would only affect more sensitive kiddies. Otherwise a very cuddly room (unless you have a terror of stuffed toys).
- Company Age Guidance: “6+”.
- Age suitability: Spot on, very-kid friendly, while still providing plenty of fun for adults.