Published on August 8th, 2017 | by Dean Love


An Escape Game Fan’s Guide To… Edinburgh Fringe 2017

The 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs from 4th to the 28th of August this year (2017). If you don’t know it, it’s a huge open access arts festival that, along with theatre, music and such, also sees the entire UK comedy industry decamp up to Scotland for a month, lest they enjoy the summer weather too much by staying in London.

A few of Edinburgh’s escape rooms are doing something special for the Fringe, a mobile game is taking up residency there, and there are a bunch of comedy shows that might appeal to escape room fans. So let’s take a look!

Escape Rooms

Locked In Edinburgh have their usual three games open, but have taken the interesting step of having two of them booked and sold as official Fringe shows for the month. What that means is you book your tickets via the Fringe website, and they appear in the listings there and in the big Fringe programme. It’s a huge boost to their publicity for the month, as that programme is where most people visiting the city are going to start looking for things to do. But more than that, it makes sense. I’ve always felt that escape games are somewhat analogous to live theatrical events. Sure, much of the time you’re just exploring a set – so it’s a very different type of performance – but it’s still a live, one-off happening. You’ll make different choices and your game will not be identical to anyone elses’, even if it hits the same core elements. It’s reflected in our reviews too: we review the experience we had and how the game played out for us, not how it could theoretically play out on a different day. Note that their booking policy hasn’t changed: you still book a private room in its entirety, rather than booking tickets and being grouped in with others.

Their newest game, The Secret Lab, still has to be booked through their own website though, and this site has heard some very complementary things about this game from fellow bloggers over the past few months, with it being strong contender for many people’s “best game in the UK”.

Escape Rooms Scotland have a discount code offering £20 off all their Edinburgh games during August – just enter “SummerSizzler” in the promo code box when purchasing.

Other Games

Agent November have been offering three games in London for a while, two outdoor games and one taking place in a pub. They’re bringing cut-down versions of those games up to the Fringe as shows at New Town theatre. It’s a 55 minute time slot that includes briefing and debrief along with a thirty minute game. We played the cut down version of The Murder of Mr. E at the UK Games Expo and it worked pretty well. Because you’re essentially sat at a table for most of it, it feels a bit like a very high budget “escape room in a box” but then there are certain theatrical flourishes that make it more than that. Worth trying though with two caveats: first playing either of these will essentially “spoil” half the 60 minute London game, so if you’re intending to play that at some point you may want to steer clear. It’s also a public booking system, so you might be grouped in with strangers who book for the same time slot – though this also makes it a lot more affordable for solo or duo visitors.

GooseChase: The Fringe Game is a citywide scavenger hunt taking place across the city which you can play for free with a phone app. From the website it looks to be more on the bar-crawl end of scavenger hunting rather than the puzzle hunt side but there might still be something to see here: “Missions range from completing (or at least attempting, yes there are points for trying!) physical activities like handstands or interpretative dance to answering a question or puzzle with an answer found at the location the mission is based in or online.

Detecticity offer a number of app driven treasure hunts around the city. Once you buy one you can start whenever you like and have up to 48 hours to finish, though it should only take 2. They currently have a Groupon offering 41% off, making it a much more palatable £29.

Funny Stuff

You awake to find yourself in a dark room. You have three objectives: find the light switch, find your family and escape the dark room. It might sound like the set-up for a low budget escape game, but actually it’s a very good comedy show called The Dark Room, where randomly chosen audience members will take it in turns to play through what’s essentially a digital choose your own adventure book. If you beat it, you get £1000. No-one has ever beaten this incarnation of the show. And if you lose? YOU DIE YOU DIE YOU DIE YOU DIE. You can try out the original YouTube version but the live show is far better. (Underbelly, Cowgate, Aug 8-27, 20:00, £11)

Birmingham comedian James Cook is bringing two shows to the Fringe that might be of interest. Board Game Smackdown sees a bunch of comedians play board games with each other for an hour. Games played include Monikers, Scattegories and The Resistance, so it they can vary quite a bit in complexity but are always funny. (Laughing Horse @ Bar50,  Aug 8-15, 17-22, 24-27, 14:15, Free/Pay-What-You-Want). James is also bringing Always Be Rolling, his show that takes a look at the growing phenomenon of board gaming in a very funny way. Both shows feature both in-jokes for nerds and remain totally accessible to someone who hasn’t played anything other than Monopoly. (Laughing Horse @ Bar50,  Aug 8-15, 17-22, 24-27, 14:15, Free/Pay-What-You-Want)

The MMORPG Show returns to the Fringe for a second year, this time subtitled “No Rolls Bard” which is a damn good pun. Three audience members make their way through an improvised adventure laid out for them by dungeon master Paul Flannery. Don’t expect anything too serious, to set the tone here’s a Twitter quote from someone who played the other night: “Broke the plot in 5 mins #sorry and ended up with a wank powered wizard”. (Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Aug 8-13, 15-17, 21:15, Free/Pay-What-You-Want)

While The Crystal Maze is undoubtedly the major TV touchstone for escape rooms in the UK, many of us fondly remember 90s ITV kids show Knightmare. It featured three children guiding another, blindfolded child through a blue-screen dungeon and almost inevitably seeing them die in the process. Knightmare Live brings the concept to the stage, where three comedians guide volunteer dungeoneers from the audience through hastily created stage sets, including a corridor of blades, to their inevitable demise. Again, it plays up the comedy element which makes it accessible to anyone, whether they’ve seen the show or not. (Underbelly, George Square, Aug 13,21, £15)

And finally…

Stuart Goldsmith is a terrific comic who is bringing a great hour of stand-up to the Fringe, and I’d always recommend him heartily. But this year that hour has a small routine about playing an escape room in it, which means I have an excuse for recommending it on this website. It’s also interesting to see that escape rooms are becoming mainstream enough that they can be a subject for comedy.  (Liquid Room Annexe / Warehouse, Aug 8-27, 15.45, Free/Pay-What-You-Want)

And lastly, a semi-regular member of our escape room team, Kat Sadler, is doing stand-up in a three-hander show: Gig Together, Die Alone.  She’s very funny, and you can check out her blog and sitcom pilot if you want proof. The other guys on with her are good too. (Black Market Room 5, Aug 8-14,16-20,23-26, Free/Pay-What-You-Want)

About the Author

Dean is a professional writer who has worked for The Mail On Sunday, The Digital Fix, MicroMart and others.

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