Unstoppable – Hourglass Escapes – Peterborough

Present, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Avenger crew Jammy and Belle

Escapes on a train, part four. I do have a weakness for a train-set game; the runaway locomotive and a confined space are a good fit for Escape Room drama. Our journey this time was back to Peterborough (one of my most frequent railway stops over the years) to Hourglass Escapes (nowhere near the station). This visit was about training in more ways than one, as we were ostensibly there to help co-owner Della train up new GM Holly. I’m not sure we taught Holly much, other than quite how terrible four people can be at searching for objects that are directly under their noses…

Our Unstoppable team on this occasion was inexperienced, but more that made up for that in enthusiasm. One teenager had done six rooms, with only a 50% escape rate; the other was on their second room ever and was rapidly developing that familiar ER addiction, so I wanted this to be a positive experience for them. Although they were all slightly traumatised by the giant Paw Patrol mascots attending a kid’s birthday party in the community hall downstairs, the friendly and reassuring welcome at Hourglass got them back on track.

The Unstoppable train set-up is very cool, even from the outside and, unlike most other “indeterminate retro” train games, it is grounded in a fairly specific era, which brings a nice immersion. Bert, the train driver, has become “indisposed” at the wheel, so the team have to follow the rather cryptic manual, working through the carriages to the engine room, to stop the train and prevent a big smash at poor Peterborough station. There are fun transitions through the distinct spaces with appropriate puzzles in each section.

Some of the puzzles are fiendish, but all are entertaining. Searching and observation are very valuable skills in this game, even if just for spotting elements that could make the puzzles easier – being very unobservant, we seemed to do things the hard way! Trying to solve a puzzle in the gloom without even attempting to turn the lights on was a classic example for us… There was plenty for the teenagers to get their teeth into, with a little gentle guidance, and by the time of the final carriage I stepped back and let them have the glory of saving the day on their own.

There isn’t a huge amount of space here and we were tripping over ourselves a bit (but, you know, teenagers, it is inevitable). But there is plenty to do, so a team of three or four is fine – you’re not going to be standing around idly. This game for us had the perfect balance of puzzling and achievement, searching and a little bit of silliness, that really appealed to the teenagers. We felt like we worked for our solutions without becoming frustrated. We stopped the Unstoppable train, and they were buzzing about it all the way home. We’re really excited to see what Hourglass are going to do next, with their Downham Market expansion opening more new rooms in the Spring.

  • Storyline: Very solid, following the cryptic emergency protocol put in place by the train’s designer.
  • Theming and Set: Nice, with an excellent use of props in places. Look out for Bert, he’s clearly not well.
  • Searching: Yes. We actually managed to escape without finding everything, but that was more by luck than judgement.
  • Puzzles: A good variety, with a bit of hands-on logic.
  • Physicality: None really, but the teenagers were doing a bit of scrabbling at low levels, so I didn’t have to.
  • Scare factor: A little bit of low light, but no scares.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Our escape room is perfect for all ages”
  • Age suitability: Kids could get very involved in this room, but would certainly need a bit of adult help with some of the puzzles.

Hourglass Escapes website (don’t get mixed up with the US company of the same name!)