Published on January 23rd, 2017 | by Dean Love0
The Escape Room Barrow, Barrow-in-Furness – Ascension
This is the first of a couple of reviews of rooms played from a somewhat different perspective from normal. On visiting my parents up in Grange-Over-Sands they were curious as to what this whole escape game thing that I spend so much time talking about was. As anyone who has ever tried to answer the question “what’s an escape game?” will attest, it’s fair easier to show than tell, and so we head off to The Escape Room Barrow to play Ascension, their only game without a horror theme.
There’s a decent-sized reception for the game, mostly as the building is shared with a laser quest game (and also seems to share staff too). Which does mean said waiting area is quite dingy. Or “atmospheric” if you’re feeling more generous. Not a bad fit for the three horror-themed games on site but somewhat out of place for a game that is “loosely” based on the film Up and seemed quite family friendly.
Now credit where credit is due, when I read in the description “[the room] is strangely filled to the brim with balloons of various shapes, colors, and sizes,” my immediate thought was “bollocks it will be”. But, to their credit, the ceiling of the room was indeed covered in balloons, which must take considerable effort to maintain.
Unfortunately, that’s where I stopped being impressed by the decor. The first room was otherwise quite bare – a couple of child’s toys were dotted around, and there was a deflating, anemic-looking, ball pool containing all of around twenty coloured balls. I might speculated that at some point it contained a lot more until the staff got fed up of collecting up 100s of balls after every game. It just came across as a bit weird – like the toy room of a badly neglected child. Certainly not the ideal first impression I’d want anyone to have of an escape game.
Meanwhile the lighting was also remarkably dim. For a game involving lots of primary colours and based on source material that could be described as “bright” the room was remarkably dingy. They were using coloured filters on the lights, which worked, but the lights just weren’t bright enough. I’ve read criticism of other games in the Escape Room franchise for being badly lit, but with their horror games it’s at least done on purpose. Here it just seemed odd.
So that first room was pretty straight-forward and I moved through it a bit more slowly than usual, taking time to explain to my team-mates how everything worked, how a given puzzle was solved and so on. Just trying to explain the concept of what an escape room was! Because the room was so sparse it meant there was very little searching and instead we were just discussing how the puzzles fitted together. In the main the puzzles were fine, though didn’t require doing anything particularly interesting, or getting to play with anything fun.
The second half of the game was a little bit busier with some searching to be done, and was also the first time we got stumped, with a puzzle involving laying transparent acetates on top of each other. The clue system is “ring the bell and the GM comes in to help you”, which is actually the first time I’ve used such a system. It was obvious that the GM hadn’t been observing the game, though given there appeared to be two members of staff running four games and laser quest, that’s a failure of staffing levels rather than the GM himself, who was great, friendly and encouraging. Unfortunately we failed to communicate what we were stuck with, so we told we were doing the right thing and we must have just got the implementation wrong. When in fact we were missing a crucial element of the puzzle. I say “element of the puzzle” though that’s the generous view. “Reluctance to spend cash on A3 acetates” might be a different way of putting it – essentially we hadn’t realised some had to go side-by-side rather than on top of each other.
Still, we did eventually spot it, and made it through the final stages of the game, but were very short on time. And the final puzzle was hard. Not unfairly so, all the clues were there and it could be figured out but it required both a number of logical leaps, and having faith that all those leaps were correct. We did finally solve it, but only with the GM basically coming in and explaining what to do, and even then we ended up a few minutes over time. That’s not necessarily a criticism, hard puzzles are generally something I enjoy, but it was a surprise to see something that tough in a room based on a kid’s film with their lowest-rating for difficulty.
There’s a decent game in there somewhere, though a considerable amount of missteps mean it’s hard to recommend as is. As you can probably imagine, it didn’t convert my parents into escape game fans (though I’d imagine few rooms would) but at least they now understand a bit of why I spend a considerable amount of my life writing reviews like this…
Result – we didn’t escape in the time limit, but did a few minutes later with considerable help from the GM
Date played: 17 July 2016
Team: Dean, Mom, Dad
Summary: An okay room that fails to do anything special, and makes a few major mis-steps.