BREAKOUT MANCHESTER – Madchester

I often travel for work, although I don’t tend to travel too far. However, when I was handed a meeting in Manchester I knew I wanted to fit in an escape room.

I’ve heard good things about the Manchester Escape Room scene. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to the fabled Lucardo this time, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised to see the other rooms Manchester had on offer.

Unfortunately, due to train times and that pesky meeting, I was only able to fit in one room, so I knew I wanted to make the most of it. I opted to play it safe and go for a familiar company – Breakout. I’ve done all bar one of their Cardiff rooms (reviews coming soon), so I know the level of quality to expect (very good), and also the high level of customer service. I am pleased to report Breakout Manchester didn’t let the side down on either of these!

I chose ‘Madchester’ partly due to availability, but also because I wanted to do one I couldn’t do elsewhere. My next challenge was finding a team mate to do it with. I posted on the Facebook group I am a part of, looking for willing volunteers, before getting in touch with someone I believed worked close by. Thus I persuaded a lovely Northern man called Alan to accompany me. Fortunately he wasn’t too put off by my eagerness, and I’m sure I’ll be calling upon his services if I find myself in Manchester again in the future!

The unlikely duo

The Set

The theme of this room was a Mancunian psychopath’s bedroom. Immediately on entering you get that sense – it is a large bedroom, with Manchester references everywhere. If anything, it was a little too large to be believable, but I loved all the references (even if I didn’t understand them). Most of the puzzles blended in seamlessly too.

Our GM, Adil, actually came into the room with us to give us the briefing. I actually really like this touch, as it meant we could fully look around and appreciate the room and set before the frenzied gameplay began. After playing the game, I also appreciated the red herrings dotted about – they blended perfectly with the room and were apparent enough to make us think they were something, whilst not purposefully misleading us.

The Game

Although there is a clear timer counting down in the form of a monitor, on which you also receive your hints (yay!), there was also a vague progress meter. Without spoiling too much, there was a clear goal you were trying to achieve as you went through the room, an overarching, mega puzzle, which would reveal the code to escape once solved. I haven’t seen a mechanic used to this extent in any of my other 69 rooms, and I really liked it. I felt it tied the room together, gave us a clear purpose, and also meant we knew how far away we were from completing the room/escaping. There have been quite a few rooms when I’ve been unsure about if we’ve finished, or the escape has been quite sudden, so I felt this really allowed me to appreciate the room and puzzles more, and also added that extra pressure as the clock ticked down.

There was quite a bit of searching required in this room, and I wasn’t completely convinced by some of the puzzles, or how we would have figured it out. There was also a little too much repetitiveness regarding some of the puzzles, which I think would have really frustrated some teams (particularly if you didn’t like this kind of puzzles).

However, other puzzles were very enjoyable, and most puzzles were varied. After receiving a nudge, we were able to figure out what to do, for the most part. There wasn’t really anything here that stood out to me as unique, but that’s ok. Although it wasn’t necessarily ‘unique’, it also wasn’t boring.

In fact, we escaped with only 4 minutes remaining. Let me tell you, it’s been a while since I had that sort of rush! There was a lot going on in this room, and you need those minutes. That being said, I didn’t feel unreasonably stressed doing this either – instead, I felt able to comfortably and methodically work my way through. I think a larger team would definitely enjoy this room, and probably escape a lot quicker!

Accessability

The venue had stairs leading up, and there is a step inside the room. There are plenty of places to sit, but I would say there is one puzzle requiring you to reach above shoulder height.

The room is a wide, flat area, which didn’t feel hot or stuffy. It is well lit and there are no loud noises (or any noise really). There is a puzzle requiring you to not be colour blind, but there are no puzzles requiring dexterity.

Outside the room

The waiting room is a really nice, spacious room, with water available and comfy sofas. The doors to each escape room are wonderfully decorated too, which definitely adds to the feel. The room is also located right in the heart of the city centre, so no awkward industrial state here!

Our GM, Adil, was an absolutely fantastic GM – an example of what a GM should be really! He was very warm and welcoming and gave us a great pitch. He ran us through the usual safety stuff first, before taking us into the room for the room specific brief, which was masterfully delivered.

His hints were also fabulous. He had asked us how we would like hints, and we asked for him to send us nudges whenever he felt we needed them, but not to give us an explicit hint unless we asked, or else let him offer us one and then choose to accept. He followed this perfectly in the room – giving us little nudges here and there, which were enough to get us on track, but not sending us any ‘big’ hints apart from the one time we asked.

He showed so much personality with these hints that I really felt like we were building a relationship with him, and get A* customer service! It’s surprising how much effect a wink face ( 😉 ), a “Yessssss Georgie!” or a #proud can have on your experience, but believe me it was the cherry on top of an already great game.

In fact, I would say the hints were the whipped cream and the debrief was the cherry. After the game Adil was super excited for us, and really did make us feel accomplished, and that he had been invested in our experience. We got the opportunity to walk through the room with him, discussing things we’d done and laugh over things he’d enjoyed seeing. I love geeking out about rooms, so this is always a nice bonus for me. We even got to discuss other rooms that we had done, and I genuinely left the place with a bounce in my step.

Thank you Adil!

Was it worth the money?

Yes, yes, yes.

We paid around £32 for this (£16 each). It was worth more than this – I would have happily paid £25 for the room, and then perhaps even £30 for the added customer service.

TL ; DR

Pros; Ideal hint system, interesting set, AMAZING customer service, cheaper than it deserves

Cons; Slightly repetitive puzzles, not the most accessible location

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