Published on May 31st, 2018 | by Dean Love1
Alcohol + Escaping = The Grid?
Escape rooms have an odd interaction with alcohol. Most games in the UK will insist in their terms that you can’t play if you’re under the influence of anything, at the same time as advertising themselves as the ideal stag or hen party activity.
Meanwhile in eastern Europe, things are a little different. In Budapest we found many games literally inside ruin bars, and one notable game in Prague started with the GM asking “Would like a bottle of water to take in with you? Or a beer?”
So it’s interesting to see a UK company finally alcohol-positive view of escaping as Lollipop plan to open their first full-on escape room experience. If you’ve heard that name before, it’s probably as they’re the group behind The Bletchley, a London cocktail bar which offers a World War II bunker theme and some light code cracking. (I guess you might also know them from The Bunyadi, London’s naked restaurant – though I feel comfortable in saying that’s not an escape room taboo that will be broken with their latest project!)
The Grid bills itself as a “an immersive Black Mirror/Dystopia inspired escape experience”. So it’s aiming for a more hi-tech aesthetic, though the promo images suggest it’ll be a more 90s Hackers, motherboards-on-walls feel than Star Trek.
It’s a 90 minute experience across multiple rooms that also includes two cocktails (“futurists tonics”). You play in a team of eight with a public booking system (so if you don’t buy all 8 slots at £30-£40 a head you may be grouped with strangers). It’s wryly interesting that I know of two other games in London that did public booking at one point, one of which was alcohol themed and one of which was themed around a dystopia! While not a regular business model for escape games in Europe, the public ticketing does make some sense here as the experience is sold as much on the cocktails as on the game itself. And generally there are other people in bars.
The Bletchley had pretty positive reviews in terms of the entire experience – but while I’ve not tried it myself I’ve heard from others that the puzzles themselves weren’t at escape game level, and a minor part of the experience. That’s not a dig – The Bletchley never advertised itself as an escape room, it’s a cocktail event with some light puzzling.
What it does do is demonstrate the big challenge for The Grid – I have no doubt from their past work that the theming, set design and cocktails will be terrific based on past results, but will they be able to create a puzzle experience to match? And will that puzzle experience consist entirely of liquid resistant props? And will they be able to create a game that gradually ramps down in difficulty to cater with people becoming somewhat tipsy, rather than the usual design getting harder towards the end!
Oh and the website suggests it might also involve a big slide. Which, y’know, cocktails, puzzles and a big slide? Sounds like a fun night out!