One Magazine’s Jake Tucker takes on the role of supersleuth to solve the mystery of what makes Exeter’s Escape Rooms so popular

Escape rooms are the latest puzzle solving adventure activity to spike in popularity in the UK, and with more and more people looking for a type of experience that is unique, immersive and that can’t quite be repeated in the same way, it’s clear to see why they’re becoming so popular.

The concept is said to originate from Japan, where the puzzle solving stories of Zelda and Crimson Room were then replicated in the real world to create intricate scenes with narrative driven stories that you as a player become fully immersed in. Think of each game as a play or a movie where you and your friends are the main characters.

We selected the Scarlet Shadow escape room, one of the two very different themed rooms available at Red House Mysteries – although the second room is currently being refurbished and due to open this month. Suitable for team sizes of 2-6 people and with a game lengthy of 60 minutes, players take the rule of 1940’s detectives and are informed that Private Investigator Jack Armstrong is in trouble. His latest adventure has seen him spanning the globe on the hunt for a mysterious artefact where he is met with a number of shady characters along the way, and this time things haven’t gone quite his way. This game is a classic ‘whodunnit’ plot-driven detective story, where solving the clues is only half of the task, and players are reminded that keeping track of the story gives just as many clues as puzzles you solve.

With only an hour on the clock, the door of P.I. Jack Armstrong’s office was closed behind us, the sound of the lock clicking into place serving as a gentle reminder that we weren’t getting out until the case was solved.

The immersion was immediate. The lights were dim, gently lighting the period styled office and props, the sound of 40’s music crackled through the speakers and a fan on the desk span noisily to create a tense atmosphere. We stood there as we absorbed the surroundings. Where do we begin?!

We compose ourselves and make our way to a letter left on the desk, the first part of the story to help us establish what is happening and where to begin. From here it was a case of finding clues and following them from puzzle to puzzle, finding more pieces of the story as we go to help us work out who the culprit was. The ticking of the clock and the pace of the music feels like it intensifies the longer you’re in there and it’s a real test of ability to compose yourself under time constraints to keep a clear head. As we found out, you can make some very questionable links when you’re feeling flustered.

You are allowed to call through for hints using the phone on the desk if you are really struggling, as ultimately the fun aspect is hindered if you’re stuck for an hour with no idea what to do. The rule of thumb was, if you’re stuck for more than ten minutes call for a hint so that you’re able to continue onto the next part of the puzzle.

With only a minute remaining we had all of our clues found but as time got tighter, we started to neglect the story which proved to bite back at us at the end. We frantically read back through and with 30 seconds to spare called the police with who we believed was the suspect. Fortunately, we were right!
The door opened and we were brought back out into the waiting area. We sat down, hearts beating, feeling relieved as we congratulated each other on solving the mystery and with just seconds to spare! We were given period costumes to dress up in for a photo opportunity at the end to mark our success, and a badge to take home to prove it.

Prices start at £50 for a team of two, but the cost per person gets cheaper the bigger the team size. We had a team of four which worked out at £17.50 per person – great value for such an immersive experience.

Whether you think you’re a modern day Sherlock Holmes or just enjoy team-building activities with friends or family to test your logic and puzzle solving skills, Escape Rooms make for an immensely enjoyable all-weather experience for everyone!

Book your escape room experience online at:

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8 Woodbury Business Park, Woodbury, Exeter, Devon, EX5 1AY
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