M4 ESCAPES – The Bunker

I happened to be in Swindon for the day, so thought I’d take advantage of being in the area to have a go at a local room. The room we were hoping to do was fully booked, but a quick google showed up this newly opened room. Having never heard of it before, we were a little dubious so turned to that ever trusted source of knowledge – Facebook!

I ask the Facebook group about the room, and got mixed responses. I had one person send me a message to tell me how much they disliked the room, and how easy it was. However, the owner of the rooms we had been wanting to book also messaged me, and told me how brilliant the room was and that I should give it a try. Buoyed by such a glowing review from a potential rival, we went ahead and booked…and I’m so glad we did!

The victorious team (and our mascot)!

The Set

The theme of this room is “The Bunker”, but rather than some sort of nuclear fall out shelter, you are transported back to WWII. The immersion doesn’t just start inside the room though – even the outside is perfectly decorated, sandbags and all!

Once inside the room we felt fully immersed in the environment, and there was certainly one moment where I stopped to take in the set. The guys behind this room have done an outstanding job with such a limited space, and it is one of the finest pieces of set design I’ve seen!

Not only was the set very immersive, but it also played a role in the game. We found ourselves paying attention to the set as well as the props, and had one of the best uses of red herrings we’ve seen.

The Game

As mentioned, the game really throws you into the action and back to WWII. The initial puzzle was quite tricky – no easing you in here! However, it does really get you thinking and into the swing of things.

All the puzzles fit perfectly into the era – no high-tech number pads here! I loved the authenticity of the puzzles too – usually there is some contrived reason for solving each puzzle, but here the story perfectly fit around each one, adding that layer of authenticity.

The puzzles themselves were also clever in their subversion of the usual tropes – it’s clear the designers are enthusiasts themselves, and have put a lot of though, love and expertise into the design. For us as players, it was a breath of fresh air to not be doing the usual things.

In particular I enjoyed the more manual aspect of things – this isn’t to say the puzzles were ‘physical puzzles’, but rather it felt nice to be untethered from technology and instead have to use different methods to input solutions.

The room had a nice flow to it – we naturally broke into two pairs (and a fluffy companion) and found ourselves easily getting on with it. We would cross over occasionally, but for the most part didn’t feel like we were hampered or missing out.

This multi-linear aspect is really important for me in a room, so great stuff! We didn’t actually use any hints, but I believe they would’ve come up on a monitor, which is also a big favourite of mine!

All in all, a great room – and we even set a new record (27 minutes!). Although this is quite quick, we didn’t feel too short changed, as we usually do if we complete a room in less than half an hour. The set design and puzzles were enough to counterbalance the ease/low number of puzzles. At this point we appreciate that we are no longer the target audience for most rooms (I’m nearing 100 now!), so we will get through rooms quicker than most. I think the difficulty of the room is perfectly pitched, and wouldn’t be fair on newer players to increase it just for the likes of us, particularly as this is their first room, and so need to install that confidence in their potential return customers!

Accessbility

The room was completely flat, and I believe could accommodate a wheelchair. However, there is no where to sit in the room. As mentioned earlier, you will need some manual dexterity, as well as the ability to reach both high and low.

It was quite a small space, and I can imagine could get quite cold in winter (we left our coats on), and potentially quite stuffy in summer! There was also some soundtracks going on, although we asked the GM to turn these down so as not to scare our mascot!

Colours play a large role in this room, but the lightening is nice and bright and they are easy to distinguish. There is also the requirement to hear.

Outside the room

One of my few quibbles about this room; it was bloody hard to find. Most rooms are hard, but the directions we received at the time weren’t too helpful. We drove in a few loops around the country road before spotting the other half of our team and seeing what they were doing. Essentially, it is around the back of a Go Karting place (M4 Karting), but there are no signs advertising this. However, once you reach the carpark, you can’t miss it!

The GM, Tom, was extremely nice – he recognised me from my Facebook post, and I think was quite pleased I had decided to book regardless of the comments! We had a really nice chat both before and after the game, and we could tell he had enjoyed watching us and was keen to hear our feedback (not that we had much!). GMs like him are the cherry on top of the cake!

(If anyone is worried – I amended my Facebook post to praise the room, should anyone else want to know!)

Being able to take the dog in was also great, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for M4 Escapes!

TL; DR

Pros; Set, immersion, puzzles, GM

Cons; Limited number of puzzles, cold room, hard to find

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