NO SPOILER ALERTS! Everything in this article has been written vaguely enough to ensure you are not given any clues before heading to Chelmsford Escape Rooms!*
Escape rooms are a relatively new pursuit and are gaining traction since their creation – which interestingly enough seems to be a contended topic; some say the idea originates from a Japanese gentleman named Takao Kato who saw a friend playing an App of a similar ilk in 2007, whilst some say a company called Parapark created the first ever real-life escape room in 2011.
Either way, it's an immensely enjoyable experience – the concept is that you and your teammates are locked in a room which is themed to a brief storyline. This is normally a video which explains why you happen to find yourself incarcerated, and perhaps more importantly - why you must escape! Rooms differ greatly but the essential gist is that you are given a short amount of time (normally an hour) to link together a series of clues to find the final door or object that leads to your escape.
Escape games can and do offer a great variety of puzzles which will delight, confuse and sometimes downright frustrate you!
Chelmsford Escape Rooms is situated at the Interface Moulsham Mill Project in Chelmsford city centre. It's worth noting that at the time of writing (20 March, 2018), the building has an incorrect postcode on Google maps. Despite an initial palaver with directions to this place, my teammates and I came to the conclusion that the setting works rather well.
We arrived at a big, white unused Mill in which the games are situated. You have to head right to the centre front of the building and go down the tiny alleyway in the middle – then ring the intercom to get let in (to get let out)!
There's a choice of two games to be played, but you must always book in advance so that the team have time to prepare the rooms. The options available are The Last Will Testament and The Governor, and I'm proud to say I've escaped both, with time - although not necessary plenty of time – to spare. (As a bit of background, I'm relatively new to escape rooms after having recently been recommend the past time by a friend, so these two stories make up the 3rd and 4th escape rooms I've undertaken.)
The Last Testament finds you in your dead, rich Uncle's favourite B&B, where he lived out the last of his days, being miserly and counting his pennies whilst hoping you can die just so he can deprive you of your inheritance package. What a guy! Your mission is to find his computer, work out the clues and transfer his millions to their rightful keeper (you!).
The gameplay of this escape room is generally really good, with some madly baffling parts. It has a wide selection of different types of puzzles, which use a great array of requirements, including, but not limited to, maths, observational skills and visual skill as well as with some really inspired puzzles that I've never seen in any other escape rooms. The theming was a pretty cool take on the theme of escaping, in as much as it had more of a "Mission Impossible" vibe rather than the normal, literal, physical, this-is-an-escape-room-so-get-out-of-this-door element.
The retro theming of the room itself was really well done and the space had been really well used to portray the atmosphere of your Dead' Uncle's B&B. The clues and puzzles were also varied enough to not make it feel like you were repeating a very similar action or thought process lots of times in a row, so it really kept you on your feet. The only downsides for this room are that there needs to be clearer signage on the elements that are not part of the game - although these are limited we pondered over one item for quite some time before noticing it had a tiny sticker asking us not to touch it. All in all, though, it was an excellent experience.
The Governor story, however – was absolutely superb! Despite my limited escape room experiences mentioned earlier, this is by far the best escape room I have been to.
The story goes like this – you are an intrepid ghost hunter exploring HM Greenslade Prison when you find yourself held against your will in a cell. It's your job to find your way out.
Everything about this escape room was extremely well thought out – from the theming to the decor, to the interactive elements to the props, everything seemed to show that little bit more thought given and care taken to get the atmosphere just right. Each and every puzzle was linked in a really clever way to the next elements, and there was really nothing that didn't quite work or jarred with the theming. It also had the perfect amount of red herrings!
The introduction was a voiceover, which was a really cool variant on an introductory video and really put you in the zone for what was to come. The staff were really brilliant throughout the whole experience and the storage at the venue is an obvious but often missed addition to an escape room (you don't want to be in your coat with your bag whilst trying to escape!)
I thought the space was used well in the last room - the layout of this one was awesome and really made you feel like you are actually in HM Greenslade, escaping from your rather inconvenient entrapment. The atmosphere was just the right level of creepy, but certainly wouldn't fully scare anyone without a really nervous disposition. It is worth noting that those not comfortable in the dark (although it is only for a few seconds) should avoid this room.
I would absolutely recommend this escape room and am very excited to see there are two more games at the same site coming soon.
The only issue with either of my experiences at Chelmsford Escape Rooms was finding the place in the first instance. With the staff fully aware of their Google postcode mismatch, it won't be long before I can't fault this escape room at all. A great way to spend an hour (unless you get stuck forever, of course!)
Chelmsford Escape Rooms, Interface Moulsham Mill Project, Parkway, Chelmsford CM2 7PX. The Escape Rooms seemed really busy when I booked so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.