Present, in August 2021, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger
Slightly odd phenomena of Escape Rooms is how venues have tended to cluster into hot-spots around the UK. Nottingham, Reading, Brighton, the whole of Kent, have become significant destinations for an “escape-ation”, due to the density of games in those areas. Peterborough is maybe not quite in the same league, but it definitely does have more to offer than most towns of a similar size – six locations with 21 games, including a choice of independent, enthusiast-run options.
We didn’t have time for a multi-game escape-ation (I will make that word work) but in the spirit of a nice break we decided on Hourglass Escapes‘ Summer Holiday for our day out. The team behind the venue, Della and James, are keen to deliver unique, original games*, and Summer Holiday, set in a real caravan with a fun holiday park theme, was certainly a new premise for us.
The great thing with this concept is, of course, the built-in immersion. It’s quite easy to believe you are in an actual caravan, when you are in an actual caravan! And this dinky van is a real nostalgic blast – if they had added the rattle of rain on the roof, a soundtrack of squalling seagulls, the flash of the Flamborough lighthouse and the faint smell of a dodgy gas heater, I would have been totally transported back to every childhood seaside holiday. Not just about the “set” too, as I admired their attention to detail on the props and decor, ramping up the authenticity (and happily allowing me to prank TA with what he thought were real eggs…).
Space is obviously a factor in this room. For two tall people, it wasn’t always the most comfortable experience, but Hourglass have managed to pack a decent amount in to the gameplay, using a good extent of the caravan’s features. It is quite search-heavy, which really did NOT play to our skills – the number of our genuinely abysmal search-fails in one hour was … impressive. Those two factors mean that the game would be ideally suited to a team including younger kids. They would be in their element with the on-theme treasure hunt aspects, and also be far less likely to bump heads on the ceiling.
Summer Holiday has a traditional feel, as a mostly linear, padlock-dependent game, but is none the worse for that, and a few little interesting elements and the cool setting do make it fresh. The frustrations we felt at the search-fails didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, particularly with the bouncy, cheesy soundtrack playing, and we laughed a lot. We had booked a discounted GM-training session, so were fully prepared for there to be a few glitches, but in the event nearly everything ran smoothly, with excellent nudge-work from our lovely hosts where needed.
In many ways, this game encapsulates a British staycation. It doesn’t have the panoramic sweep of an African safari, the intellectual challenge of the museums of Florence, the futuristic pyrotechnics of Tokyo or the adrenaline rush of a Florida theme park. But is does have a jolly, slightly batty, nostalgic charm, with plenty of personality and a side dose of wondering where you left your keys. A little quirky slice of sunshine on a grey day.
- Storyline: Cute premise, disappears into Escape Room Logic, while staying on-theme throughout.
- Theming and Set: Cleverly uses everything you would expect, and sometimes in unexpected ways. And the caravan is the real star of the show.
- Searching: Oh yes.
- Puzzles: Not super-challenging, but a couple I really enjoyed, and again, pretty much all spot on for the theme.
- Physicality: We had to do a bit of ducking.
- Scare factor: None, unless you have a phobia of the Vengaboys.
- Company Age Guidance: “Our escape room is perfect for all ages”
- Age suitability: This is a really great room for getting kids involved. Might be tight for space with a babe-in-arms.
*I’m excited to see what Hourglass do with The Castle’s Secret, their forthcoming pop-up game at Wisbech Castle, available in September and October.