Diamond Heist/Mad Medic – New York Thunderbowl – Kettering

Present, Autumn 2016/Spring 2017, were: Granny, The Ant, Panda, Teenage Avenger, Groot

It’s a genius idea, really.  Add an Escape Room to your existing leisure venue, in this case, ten-pin bowling.  Built-in facilities, cross-over marketing, staffing cover, extra trade for your in-house cafes and bars.  So it is a bit of a surprise to me that 1) very few Escape Rooms seem to be in this kind of set-up and 2) that Kettering’s New York Thunderbowl keeps so quiet about it, like their Escape Rooms are an unfortunate ailment or a slightly embarrassing uncle that they’d rather not talk about.  On the mobile site homepage, the lengthy intro to all the charms of the Thunderbowl doesn’t even mention their presence, preferring to eulogise over their free parking (handy, to be fair, if a bit pot-holey).  If you’re lucky, you might catch the Escape Room banner scrolling through, otherwise you have to delve to the depths of the menu before you find it.  As the rooms are bijou and tucked away upstairs behind the pool tables, you could probably even go for a whole evening’s bowling and never even notice. Which would be a shame as they are perfectly entertaining, and would be right up your alley if you want a little starter room ideal for all the family.

Spot the escape room

We’re talking very much gen one here.

Don’t expect any whistles and bells, super hi-tech, dramatic role-play or secret underground chambers (ok, I lied, there might be a bell).  The rooms themselves could well be spare storage cupboards, a disused staff room or possibly converted toilets, with not much in the way of space or artistic theming (a bowling themed room surely must have been achievable?).  Nevertheless – maybe, as it was amongst the earliest games in our Escape Room careers, our expectations were not very high – we all thoroughly enjoyed these.  A bumper pack of fairly standard but satisfying puzzles, consistent theming across the two stories (Diamond Heist and Mad Medic), with a bit of, but not excessive, searching.  

These would be great, confidence-boosting options for newbies, youngsters or nervous players.

No scary touches (if you don’t mind a skeleton), plenty of teamwork, even an actual comfy sofa for actually sitting on when we went.  Experienced players and those looking for an edgier adventure will definitely find NYTB too blah, lacking an adrenaline rush, visual elegance or technical innovation.  But they are not complete turkeys, and at £15pp for 5 or 6, up to a max of £20pp for a 2 it is fractionally one of the cheaper rooms around.  The Scouts (ages 10 to 13, mostly debutantes) that Teenage Avenger attended with, split into two groups, had a satisfying, almost educational, wholesome experience, emerging to declare that there should be an official Scout Escape Room badge.  

On our first visit we thought that NYTB had hit upon an excellent idea, by offering us a free game of bowling for escaping within the time.  Enterprising marketing, a smart way to cross-pollinate customers and great for building goodwill – not many Escape Rooms give prizes, even when we feel we honestly deserve one.  But sadly this seems to have been a one-off on a quiet day; neither we nor the Scouts got offered similar on the subsequent occasions.  A  opportunity missed for them – although I would suggest that it is worth negotiating when booking or on site to wangle a free or discounted bowl (if you fancy it).  You may strike it lucky, and staying longer won’t cost you any extra in parking.  Win-win.

  • Storyline: Perfunctory, but fairly logical.
  • Theming and Set: As first gen as Adam and Eve, but marks for consistency.
  • Searching: Some key and puzzle piece hunting to keep short attention spans busy.
  • Puzzles: Diamond Heist had a fun set-piece; a range of intellectual and logical, nothing nasty.
  • Physicality: Minimal. 
  • Scare factor: Absolutely none.
  • Company Age Guidance: Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Age suitability: Very family friendly, under 10s would be fine. 
  • Over 12s allowed unaccompanied, which is unusual but completely understandable given the low level of jeopardy in these rooms. Not much room for babes-in-arms, which is a shame as they could probably sleep through it quite happily.