Present, December 2019, were The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant
Franchise Escape Rooms are funny things. Not held in terribly high regard by many enthusiasts, yet they are often an entry point and an easy fix for our addiction. Our experiences with the big chains – Escape Reality, Clue HQ, Locked In A Room and escape – have been mixed, but none have been crushingly awful or gob-smackingly brilliant. Reliably ok isn’t a resounding recommendation, yet seems to be the one we would most use about franchises.
It was a bit unusual then on our free weekend for us to seek out an escape branch, as we did have several independent alternatives in the area. Our reasons were, firstly, that Sabotage in Milton Keynes seemed to be a unique game for the company and I quite fancied the train idea. And secondly, a trusted judge assured us that escape Milton Keynes was run by proper enthusiasts who really cared about their games.
So off we popped, not to Milton Keynes exactly, to Wolverton, a Victorian-era new town on the outskirts. Wolverton is described as one of the first railway towns; built to house locomotive works; home of the Royal Train; and the history of the railways is prominent on street frontages all the way up to the frankly quirky escape venue. Don’t try to park at the site itself (they do say this on the website); you can park in the nearby supermarket or in the Agora shops car park for free. Would also make sense to take the train and walk from the station – with the added bonus of getting you in the mood for this game.
Being trapped on a runaway train is a cool room concept, and understandably tricky to execute. Sabotage has some cute effects to give the impression of speed, and while it is not the most immersive, it is different and well thought out. Based in some indeterminate golden era of rail travel (steam train, art from the 1930s, magazines from the sixties, digital till receipts and a first class carriage featuring a chaisse longue and a cocktail bar) realism and historical accuracy maybe aren’t forefront, but it is a fun space to spend an hour.
escape leans towards the padlock-heavy and this isn’t really an exception, with plenty of 3 and 4-digit codes needed. Signposting of puzzles to locks isn’t the best, either. However, the game utilises the surroundings nicely and includes one very smart progression element that should delight everyone. Puzzles themselves were mostly straightforward with enough going on to keep it interesting. One puzzle required a little logic leap and we needed a clue, but the rest we all worked on quite happily. I imagine relatively young train-mad kids could really love the second half of this game, where ‘playing trains’ takes on more of a practical edge.
Sabotage is by far our favourite room of this brand so far. Maybe because of the history of the town or maybe because it is such a small venue (only two rooms) escape MK seems to have taken an extra layer of care to ensure a smooth and fun railway experience. Witchcraft & Wizardry is available in many of the franchise branches, but I’m pretty sure this is where we will be returning to play it.
- Storyline: Once you accept that everyone on the train has mysteriously vanished, it’s fine. Just don’t think about it too much.
- Theming and Set: Nice contrast between different sections. Not quite British Rail but that’s a good thing.
- Searching: Not very search heavy, but some required.
- Puzzles: Quite traditional codes with flashes of originality.
- Physicality: None. And a swanky sofa.
- Scare factor: Prospect of sabotaged train crashing in a terrifying fireball is kept at arm’s length. No peril here.
- Company Age Guidance: “While there is no restriction on age the puzzles may be too demanding for those under 10. Children under 16 must usually be accompanied by an adult. We do recognise that all children are different so please feel free to ask.”.
- Age suitability: Nine or ten year olds might well enjoy it. Suitable to take in a non-playing tot or babe-in-arms.