It was coming to the end of the half term holidays, so Ed and I decided to ask the kids what activities they’d most like to do before going back to school, and we’d all have a vote. Rosie suggested an escape room and it was the hands down winner, so we were delighted to be invited to review the Merlin’s Magic Academy escape room at MoviESCAPE in Stockport – just a couple of miles up the road from where we live!
MoviESCAPE is in part of an old mill and, after you’ve parked up outside, you have to walk through what feels a bit like abandoned corridors to get to it. The extremely friendly and professional host that greeted us (in fact, she came outside to find us after we took a wrong turn and got lost!) explained that the entrance area was in the process of being ‘done up’. We were then led to a small briefing room to watch a short video about MoviESCAPE and what we could expect in the room we’d chosen. As well as Merlin’s Magic Academy, there are rooms based around a Haunted House, Sawtopsy, a Meth Lab and Sherlock Holmes. Sawtopsy and Meth Lab are suitable for age 12 and over (at parental discretion), while the others are suitable for all ages. There is a games host watching you as you try to escape the room, and they can offer more or less help in the way of clues and prompts depending on the players’ ages and abilities.
After the briefing, we were given our wizarding robes and led into the escape room. The first room we we entered was set up like a great hall (although it was fairly small), was lit by candlelight (well, battery tealights in candle holders), and was decorated with leather books and old portraits. Various wizarding paraphernalia was scattered about. Our mission was to find a dragon and release it, which would let us escape the room. There was no dragon to be seen – obviously this wasn’t going to be easy!! We were told not to move the furniture and that if we needed some help from the warlock on the wall above the door, we were to ring a bell and chant a spell (written for us on some old parchment). We then turned over the giant egg timer and were locked in.
We immediately noticed that various chests and drawers were padlocked, and all the portraits on the walls had padlocks attached. Some were combination padlocks, and some had keyholes. Cue some wild scrambling around the room, running fingers above doorframes and on top of shelves and peering under furniture in the candlelight for any kind of key or clue to a combination. After 5 or so minutes of this, we resorted to the ‘bell and spell’, and were given a hint as to how to find a key. It seemed so obvious when it was pointed out!!! We were off! I can’t give any details of how we solved the various puzzles along the way, or exactly what we did in the room, for fear of ruining the game for other players. But we had great fun working together to make progress, and the excitement when we found a key or another clue was feverish!! One of the best parts was when we had to make a potion with various creepy crawlies in jars, to be able to get our next clue. It’s a really good game for kids as they tend to think laterally anyway, which is really what you need for these kind of games.
We had to ask for help a few times along the way, but I was really impressed how well the kids did once they’d got into the mindset of the game. Every time we asked for a pointer, it was delivered in a fun, clear and very non-patronising way. Noticing suddenly how little sand was left in the timer, we had a tense and frenzied ten minutes at the end, racing against the clock to try and find the dragon. We eventually managed to free it and escape the room with 9 seconds to spare!!! Our host was full of praise and was absolutely brilliant with the kids, listening to them telling her all about how we’d got out (even though she’d clearly seen the whole thing on the cctv!). Photos aren’t allowed while you’re playing the game, in case you inadvertently give clues away, so our host took a fab picture of us with various props from the room as a memento.
MoviESCAPE rooms hold a maximum of 8 people, but if you book as a family or a group of less than 8, you have the room to yourself. At £78 for a family of 5, it’s not a cheap way to spend an hour, but for a treat I’d say it’s definitely worth it for the amount of fun and sense of achievement we all had. And it would be a great place to take kids for a birthday celebration.
We had a brilliant time and can’t wait to go back to try the other rooms (although we’ll probably do the Meth Lab with some adult friends!!).
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