CLUEHQ SWINDON – A-I-9

As we were making the journey to Swindon to do an escape room, we thought we may as well do a second whilst we were there. We picked A-I-9 as the concept was intriguing (attempting to shut down a highly intelligent AI system), but I believe a team mate also like the look of their ‘sneak peak’ photos. After such a great game in the morning (The Betrayal of Cluetankhamun), we were raring to go for this room.

The Set

This set felt pretty sci-fi esc, with nice little added touches to the design that weren’t necessary, but appreciated. The room wasn’t particularly large, but the props were robust and fit the theme perfectly. The room had 8 main goals to achieve, and it was clear what each puzzle was working towards. It felt very immersive, with some unique props I hadn’t come across before. It also came equipped with a step ladder, which I appreciated (although I didn’t need it)! Finally, the room also gave me that ‘wow’ value when we first walked in, which is a rarity!

The Game

The aim of the game was to shut down this AI System by first shutting down 8 main sub-systems before passing an IQ test. I really enjoyed having a clear goal to the room, with multiple different paths going on (8 in total!). The puzzles themselves weren’t numerous, but complex and time consuming. They were pretty unique though, and I appreciated the requirement to put time into each puzzle rather than rush through them (as we are apt to do). As an added bonus, every single one of these puzzles was unique to me, and in fact had one of my favourite puzzles I’ve done (a twist on Einstein’s logic problem).

As per the theme, the puzzles were all pretty mentally focused, which suited our group perfectly. There were a limited amount of padlocks (pretty much concentrated around this central goal), and instead the completed puzzles gave you the solutions to these locks.

Being such a small room, there were points when we weren’t all occupied, and there wasn’t much else to do. However, I admit it can be hard to balance quantity and quality, and I enjoyed the quality here. Even the final IQ/logic puzzles were enjoyable for us (although not sure how enjoyable they would be for those who weren’t familar).

Hints were delivered via a monitor, and were perfectly balanced nudges at the right points. Similar to the other room, this monitor is where we received the initial back story, as well as a couple of other videos. I’m never been much of a fan of backstories on screens, or videos throughout, and these were no exception – lots of writing, and breaking the flow of the game.

Overall, I think this was a wonderfully challenging room, with high quality puzzles. The only downsides were common elements to the company, rather than the room itself, and shouldn’t put anyone off visiting.

Outside the room

The most obvious thing to discuss first is the fact that this room is actually situated within a Laser Quest (in the same building, rather than inside the maze)! This means there are a lot of children around, and it doesn’t appear the most salubrious. However, this also means there are plenty of places to sit, refreshments to be had and even additional entertainment on hand! This is also in an area that boasts a cinema, bowling lanes and a few other food outlets – fun for a whole day!

We were greeted by the same GM we had met earlier after our first game, James. He was excellent – very enthusiastic and didn’t submit us to the entire briefing video again – instead taking us straight to the room. We really appreciated this, and shows how they are willing and able to adept to team requirements.

After the game, we spent a while talking to James and his manager Alex – discussing rooms we had each done and opinions about rooms. They also recommended some other rooms for us to do in the area, which I always appreciate. I really love it when companies are supportive of each other, as they understand they have nothing to gain from being competitive. I also enjoyed their enthusiasm and willingness to talk.

Accessiblity

The room wasn’t particularly large, and got quite warm. It also contained quite a bit of smoke and some flashing lights, but I believe these can be omitted from the game. As mentioned, there is a step ladder if needed, but I didn’t find it necessary and there are no physical puzzles. There are quite a few puzzles which require you to see, or reach, things on the walls, but these can all be done as teams. In fact, we found they worked best with one person stood back and directing/looking, and another doing the task.

The room was reasonably well lit, bar the smoke and red hue, but there was a lot of reading required. There were also some screens which could be distracting, particularly if you are sensitive to these things. There was also quite a bit of noise, which was distracting at times.

Was it worth the money?

We paid £20pp for a team of 4, and it was definitely worth it.

TL;DR

Pros; Quality of puzzles, theming

Cons; Some linearity, fake suspense/drama at the end

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