CSI: Panic Room – Clue HQ – Harrogate

Present, in December 2019, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger

I’ve always liked the idea of playing detective. Too much 80s pop American crime drama and reading Harriet The Spy, I suppose. Role-playing generally is NOT my thing (I would make a terrible actress) and some of the interactive elements of Escape Rooms can be too close to my cringe tolerance threshold. I love to be immersed, but as me, not as some character I have to play. But there is something about crime investigation games that does bring out my inner Inspector Morse. Our lovely GM Emily enthused over how CSI is her new favourite and I was really excited to try it out. Unfortunately, Teenage Avenger was less enthusiastic that day. No real reason (just teenagerdom), but imagine Eeyore as Morse’s sidekick rather than Lewis and you might be there…

We got off to a bright start. CSI is Clue HQ Harrogate’s latest offering and although the format is available in other Clue HQ venues, this space looked like a labour of love (and pain, bossman Steve damaged himself during the build and was in plaster last time we visited). Set in an invaded Panic Room, we have to examine the corpse (respectfully! no touching!) to identify and track down the murder suspect. We have the full set of forensic kit (not exactly realistic, but clever) to help us, so we had to work our way through finger and footprints, blood spatters, DNA and video evidence in the hour to succeed.

TA’s grumps were under control (we had plenty to do) and spirits were boosted by a super-silly task, which could have been really incongruous but was neatly slotted into the story. It was the switch to the second phase of the game that threw him out. Aware that time was ticking, we split the jobs and he got frustratingly stuck, ironically on a puzzle he had completed effortlessly solo at Poachers’ Compound earlier in the week.

We ended up slowing our progress to a crawl, until I completed my section (not one we could swap halfway through) and was able to help him out – one of the perils of playing as a parent/child pair – and his mood plummeted. I knew things were bad when the pun-tastic supplies in the mini-bar (Clucazade, Mountain Clew) raised a scowl rather than a smile. Was considering leaving two corpses in the room by about the 50 minute mark.

We didn’t get out, but Emily kindly talked us through the remaining puzzles. Wasn’t sure how well we would have done anyway, our brains clearing weren’t firing and part of the finale seemed open to interpretation, but maybe it would have made more sense in the playing. Either way, we finished about 85% and I thoroughly enjoyed what of the room we played with the strong mix of tech, science and creative humour. Recommended for all fans of police procedurals, even if I left feeling more like Inspector Clouseau than Morse. Don’t like beer and Jaguars anyway.

  • Storyline: A little bit forced – why have you only an hour to catch the suspect? Interesting to play a full-on Investigation room though, where the escape element isn’t important.
  • Theming and Set: Good use of space, if a little cramped.
  • Searching: Not much.
  • Puzzles: Strong scientific feel, even if sometimes tenuous.
  • Physicality: None really, although need to solve problems at all levels.
  • Scare factor: Don’t Panic! Nothing scary here.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Those over 7 years old are welcome, though we feel under 10s may find it too difficult. Those under 16 must have a paying & participating adult over 18 year old as part of their team.”
  • Age suitability: Under 10s wouldn’t have much to do here. But family-friendly enough for tweens and teens, despite the murder.

At the same venue, see also: Cell Block C; Betrayal of Cluetankhamun

Clue HQ Harrogate website