Portal – Escape For Real – Newport Pagnell

Present, September 2019, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant

Hot on the heels of one high-tech room (VX 2.0) we decided to try out another. Escape For Real in Newport Pagnell had mostly slipped under our radar, until they opened their second room, Beyond Zero, in the Spring. Their USP is again the technological angle (no “predictable padlocks”) and the theme of both their rooms, in an ongoing story, reflect that. Their professor has opened up a Portal into a parallel world and has gone missing. The unstable gateway is now in danger of exploding, so teams need to explore the professor’s lab, get to the parallel world and activate a gizmo to prevent the big boom.

This isn’t a peak intensity disaster scenario though. Right from the start it is clear that Escape For Real has a lightness of touch and gentle humour and their pitch of “We must save Milton Keynes!” shows that this is more of a family-friendly romp than a nerve-shredding catastrophe.

The actual starting room does at first glance feel relatively intense – a bright white lab with cryptic polyhedra and equations written on the walls – but quickly proves to be more of a treat. Literally, with one aspect – groups with sweet-toothed kids may lose a team member for the duration, and Teenage Avenger was well pleased with his haul from that task.

Further into the game are some additional creative touches and the electronics are used to reasonable effect. One particular puzzle with lasers was striking and intriguing, although we did find it difficult. We needed Granny or Groot’s talented ears, so those with hearing problems may struggle even more than we did. Walkie-talkie coms also didn’t help; a more technologically advanced clue system would be more in-keeping with the room. Lighting is also dim in the later stages, which makes for effective, unusual visuals but frustrating searching.

With tech does also come the ever-present possibility of glitches. Gremlins struck with our progress elements from the first room, requiring manual staff assistance. Our lovely GM did a good job of remaining in character and compensated us for the lost time, so despite the frustration caused we were happy they handled it well.

The game kept us busy for the full hour and we needed that GM time intervention for us to escape triumphant. We stabilised the Portal and saved both the parallel and real Milton Keynes from destruction. You’re welcome. And whatever your opinion of MK’s endless roundabouts, give the game a go and you’ll be happy too.

  • Storyline: Clear mission and followed through narrative.
  • Theming and Set: Really fun touches, and a nice wow moment.
  • Searching: Actually quite a bit, some in the dark.
  • Puzzles: Fulfilled their hi-tech promise, with a scientific slant and lots of buttons. We overcomplicated some, but puzzles weren’t easy.
  • Physicality: None.
  • Scare factor: Tension from the countdown clock was the only thing disrupting the cuddly vibe.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Our games are designed to be played by people of all ages above 10.”
  • Age suitability: Ten year olds would be fine, it’s a very welcoming place, but (unless junior Einstein) would definitely need grown-ups to help complete Portal. Non-playing little ones would probably be fine.

Escape For Real