I’m not sure whether it’s the part of the 90’s revival (who didn’t love the Crystal Maze?) or a genius invention to get us all away from our screens for a while but the recent craze of escape room games has swept the nation and given new life to old empty building in cities across the country, including several here in Geordieland.
I recently took James, a couple of our best mates and their son (who also happens to be our Godson) along to Never Give Up on Scotswood Road in Newcastle (across the road from Life Science Centre) for a Wednesday night out with a difference.
Well I’ve already given you a little clue with a mention of the Crystal Maze; the essence of the these type of venues is that they give you and your team around an hour to crack codes, solve puzzles, find treasures and basically work your way out of a themed room or series of rooms.
I’ve tried out a few venues in both Manchester and Newcastle and they have varied from a Wild West themed bar that led to a secret jail and a scientist’s lab with three different rooms where my team and I had to use walkie talkies to communicate.
Usually there’s a minimum age, it’s 8 at Never Give Up and you need at least two players. It’s a perfect activity for groups of friends, students and work mates. It could also make an interesting date night, I’d say it’s also a great way to entertain hard to please teens. The staff at Never Give Up were telling me that the groups they get in are really varied but at weekends it’s particularly popular with stag and hen parties.
Despite my initial scepticism about being locked up with my mates with cryptic puzzles to solve, I soon found myself fully immersed in to the games and pleasantly surprised at how much fun you can have when you throw yourself in to the mission of escaping!
I don’t want to give too much away as the element of surprise is half the fun with these things. However, I will say that of all the escape rooms I have visited, Never Give Up was by far my favourite!
On arrival we were led to a library themed waiting room where we signed the necessary forms and were given a quick safety briefing. We were asked to choose a team leader (all eyes on me!) and then we were introduced to our mega enthusiastic and friendly host Molly.
Molly explained that we were about to enter King Tut’s Tomb and would need to collect ‘clue spheres’ by completing various mental, skill and physical challenges against the clock. Each challenge would require one or two players while the rest of us watched on and shouted advice and encouragement from the viewing area.
I really liked this format, it meant that everyone on the team got the chance to get involved and it also kept our interest and energy levels up. This worked much better from a teamwork point of view than other venues I’ve been to where you are literally locked in one room without a host and left to get on with it. It was also much more fun as Molly got to know us throughout the challenges and joined in with the banter.
Each room/challenge had its surprises and there were definitely moments where we wanted to kick ourselves afterwards for not spotting the clues earlier or working out the puzzles quicker, you definitely have to think outside the box to beat the clock!
After several fun and exciting challenges in the Egyptian inspired rooms, Molly led us to our final adventure which was a game we all played together. We really had to work as a team for this one and it was a toughie, but thankfully we had won quite a few ‘clue spheres’ in the other rooms so we could use these to get hints and tips which were typed out for us on a screen in the room.
We made it out by the skin of our teeth (and LOTS of help from Molly) and there were smiles and high fives all round!
No, I’m sorry, I’m not going to give you any tips to help you complete the challenges, you’ll have to work those out for yourselves. However, it is worth noting that there’s a bit of scrambling around on the floor required so wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting a bit dusty and if you have mobility issues you may want to ring ahead and enquire about accessibility.
I’d also suggest that you allow time after the game for food and drinks nearby. There are a loads of great places for groups near Central Station, like Zapatista and Laundrette, perfect for a debrief! Also, keep an eye out on the Never Give Up Facebook page for special offers.
To book… www.nevergiveupnewcastle.co.uk
*Big thanks to Molly and the team at Never Give Up for providing our experience free of charge in return for an honest review. Although they supplied some photos for this post, all words and opinions are my own.