Your first mission, if you choose to accept it: round up a team of pals and get yourselves down to one of the UK's many escape rooms.
Requiring every ounce of mental – and occasionally physical – skill, these live events are increasing in popularity. Encouraging teamwork, and playing out like live theatre meets gaming, they're as ideal for team bonding with workmates as they are impressing BFFs on a weekend.
Without further ado, here are the best rooms you’ll ever have the pleasure of fleeing from.
1. The Crystal Maze, London and Manchester
10-14 White Lion Street, N1 9PD; Lower Byrom St, M3 4FP
If there’s one thing Crystal Maze has, it’s a lot of fans. Which explains why you can now play the show for real in two UK locations: split into four teams per 90 minute session, eight people per team enter a sprawling space complete with large air-blasted crystal dome, darting between those four zones – Aztec, Industrial, Future, Medieval, in case you’ve forgotten – as a zany host guides them from challenge to challenge. Choose your team carefully though, as there’s a real mix of physical and mental tasks. Heads up: you will look as stupid as the contestants did on telly, but you will also want to do it all over again immediately after.
2. Lockin, Manchester
19-21 George St, M1 4HE
Designed to merge the gap between real-life and virtual reality, this is an interactive live puzzle game like nothing else before it. Walk down the narrow hallways and choose your mission wisely: save the US President’s son in Mission 60; stick to the classic format with Jail Break; or go all out in Treasure Hunter, which allows you to ape the antics of Sean Connery in Entrapment. ‘Scheriously’ good fun.
3. Escape Rooms, Cardiff
1st & 2nd Floor, 119 St Mary St, CF10 1DY
Why does a faulty TV remote always work when you smack it? How does Adam Sandler still get work? Don't worry, this isn't one of the conundrums you’ll be faced with at Cardiff’s Escape Rooms, we're just curious. But you’ll have some serious head scratching to do here nonetheless. The most popular challenge is The Tomb: search for a missing person inside the booby-trapped tomb of Tutankhamun, trying not to set off the booby traps as the walls come down around you.
4. Mission Breakout, London
141-145 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8PB
Through secret tunnels and the sort, London’s underground has a rich history with makeshift intelligence operations, and you can experience some first-hand at Mission Breakout, an escape room set inside South Kentish Town Underground station, which closed in 1924. Channel your inner Alan Turing with the Codebreakers mission, soaking up the authentic detail as you do so (the staff don costumes of the period). Built for one team from 3 to 6 players, you have 60 minutes to find clues, manipulate machines and plot your escape.
5. clueQuest, London
169-171 Caledonian Rd, N1 0SL
"Disney nor Universal Studios could pack this much fun into 60 minutes". Not our words. Rather those of one happy customer who went along to this North London escape room. Using briefcases and other objects to crack the case, teams of three to five players are dropped into a room they can’t escape until they’ve solved the puzzles and saved the modern world from a villain intent on destruction. it's as immersive as any spy game you’ll have played. Highly inventive, highly recommended.
6. Lost and Escape, Newcastle
Unit 1, Blackfriars Courtyard, NE1 5UG
To come out victorious at these North East escape rooms you’ll need to employ observation, communication and physical flexibility. It may also help if you’re a bit of a nerd: Dungeon, a middle ages-based enigma, pits two warring factions against one another, while Magic Castle, involves a good deal more wizardry and wonder. Both well worth the admission fee.
7. Escape Live, Birmingham
Arch 39, Henrietta Street, B19 3PS
Fan of the Saw series? You'll be wanting to try Escape Live’s Room 13 challenge, where you're tasked with saving a hapless female victim from a blood-splattered cell by piecing together clues and objects in the hope of getting a four digit code to release the door. Or, if old fashioned sleuthing is more your thing, opt for Dr Wilson’s Office: it’s a Sherlockian case where players find themselves in a race against time, raiding a seasoned detective’s office for clues as his life hangs in the balance. Elementary? Anything but.
8. Lucardo, Manchester
Virginia House, 5-7 Great Ancoats St, M4 5AD
Claiming to have the hardest escape rooms in the UK, Manchester’s Lucardo is the place to really test your brain matter under pressure. The most popular challenge here is Virginia House, concerning a serial killer who’s on the loose and has been sending police clues. With the seconds ticking down and the stakes high, keep your wits about you and you may survive intact.
9. Tick Tock Unlock, Leeds
Third Floor, Kings House, 1 King St, LS1 2HH
Another venue sure to separate the sharpest minds from the slowest, Tick Tock Unlock is one of the best reviewed escape rooms in the business. And business is good: there are five games to choose from but who would look past Mineforce: The Rebellion: a VR-powered science-fiction experience that incorporates real live theatre and 4D. James Cameron would approve.
10. Espionage Missions, Nationwide
An escape room with a difference – namely, there is no room – Espionage Missions bring logic puzzles, high-tech tasks and code breaking into the urban environment, making you feel a bit like Jason Bourne. And who can argue with that? Lasting between two and four hours, the missions are tracked online so each of the teams can map their progress with a scoreboard. An added real world edge is all well and good but the real highlight is seeing the true competitive streak emerge among friends.
11. Escape, Edinburgh
Escape Casino, Area 51, Contagion and the Da Vinci room – just a smattering of the mind-bending challenges spread between two locations at Escape. For our money, the most fiendish challenge of them all is "Darker Side of Edinburgh", shining a light on the darker underbelly of the historic city. Available for teams comprised of between two and five members, it would frankly be criminal not to go along.