Present, in December 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant
It is quite traditional for Escape Room enthusiasts to be wary of franchise rooms. Previous collective experience has shown that big chains seem to have diluted quality, with a meat-processing approach to players and both eyes firmly on the financials. The absolute minimum number of GMs, recycled puzzles, neglected narrative logic, and only replacing a game prop if it was actually on fire seem to be live policies for a couple of the major brands. However, our recent franchise experiences have been a long way from that type of nightmare and our trip to Enigma was one that gives real hope for this side of the industry.
Enigma Rooms Watford is more or less the first venture down south for this largely Yorkshire-based company, and the first Escape Room venue for Nikki and Benn, our lovely hosts. Gold Rush is the first room of a planned four or five and they are off to an excellent start. A unique game for the franchise (as seems to be policy, no duplicates across their venues), with an appealing Wild West mine theme, we were excited to try it out as our introductory Enigma visit.
Immediate impressions are an absolute wow. The set is genuinely great all the way through. Benn’s background is in joinery and it shows, with a really tactile, immersive environment. Everything feels solidly of its time in here, with clearly so much thought and love being put into ensuring an authentic (in Escape Room terms) experience. Props are great and the whole journey through the mine feels like a real adventure.
We enjoyed the puzzles too – nicely in-keeping with the theme and using the props really well. Some are more physical tasks, still requiring a bit of nous and embracing of the theme; others needed a decent amount of brain power. There are padlocks of various kinds, but not an excess. A couple of the set-ups were recognised by Aunty Ant as being reused from this venue’s previous incarnation as Breakout Watford, but this struck us as excellent efficiency. The props perfectly suited their new environment and were used to make better puzzles this time round. Some other ideas were very fresh and new to us, which is always nice to see.
For those concerned about the claustrophobia of a mine, I wouldn’t worry. Yes, it is quite dark, but this didn’t cause us major issues (venue is looking at extra light sources). And although the mine atmosphere is effective, it is still roomy (over a decent space) and didn’t feel oppressive. There is one small area of crawling (with a padded floor, praise be) which carries a warning on their website booking page – in theory, this should be done by the whole team, but in practical terms it only required one player. Generally, the whole game is very family-friendly and the venue very welcoming.
Having said that, their next planned room is a horror theme, designed with input from Enigma headquarters. Given that across their ten locations and current 25 games Enigma Rooms have maybe a dozen titles that look absolutely terrifying (including the very intense and highly regarded Seance), I’m guessing that new game might not be as family-friendly! However, that’s not going to put us off returning to Watford. Nikki and Benn are a credit to the brand and playing their game has also encouraged us to make the trip up north to check out more offerings from this very exciting company.
- Storyline: Find the long-lost treasure trapped in the mine. Well thought out and followed through.
- Theming and Set: Immersive and effective. Shout out to the whisky barrel!
- Searching: Observation rather than searching. Plenty to explore for younger ones.
- Puzzles: Good flow, elements of mystery and logic as well as some practical tasks.
- Physicality: Mostly exploring the large area, but the crawling section would be the main point to note.
- Scare factor: Super-sensitive types might not like the low-light levels, and there is a touch of the macabre as you delve deeper into the mine, so bear that in mind for younger ones, but no active scares.
- Company Age Guidance: “This room is great for families with kids. Please be aware that players under the age of 16 must have an adult playing with them”.
- Age suitability: A proper rollocking adventure for the whole family. I’d suggest 8+ could be actively involved.