We Escaped In
Blackbeard is dead, his loot lies unguarded. Sink or swim? It’s up to you.
Step onto a pirate galleon in the middle of a battle for control of the High Seas. Your captain, the terrifying Blackbeard, has just been killed and his ship is shot to pieces and sinking fast.
With no chance of victory, you and your scurvy shipmates decide to jump ship – after helping yourself to the contents of Blackbeard’s legendary treasure chest.
You’ve broken into his cabin to grab all you can, but now the door has jammed shut and you’ve just 60 minutes to escape; any longer and you’ll drown – if the sharks don’t get you first.
Escape Hunt are one of the bigger players in the escape game industry and operate multiple sites around the country, with the same rooms playable at each site. In Oxford these guys occupy a top floor unit within the Westgate Shopping centre in the heart of the city. It’s clearly a very smart operation. The large unit boasts an impressive waiting area, photo wall, beverages and multiple rooms. It’s clear that this is part of a larger operation and not an independent room operator.
Our brief promised to take us to Queen Anne’s Revenge. Blackbeard’s infamous ship which was now sinking after the pirates death. It’s a theme that we have played before but never seen executed very well (Irate Pirate comes to mind). Thankfully where other rooms have fallen short, Escape Hunt have successfully delivered an authentic feeling ship. The walls and floor in this game were covered in wooden panels as we expected, but we observed additional details such as beams, ornate light fixings and metal wall fixtures for ropes which went a long way to convince us of the scenario and add a level of detail that some rooms would probably not think to add. In addition to the obligatory Jolly Roger, we saw more subtle nods to the pirate theme dotted around the room such as cards, nautical insignia and of course rum.
When we were able to venture into Blackbeard’s actual cabin, we were presented with an altogether more lavish setting. Damask wallpaper, wooden furniture and even a nice rug are used to distinguish the captains quarters from the rest of the room. We saw enough nods to the nautical theme that it wasn’t lost at all, and the sense of being in the pirate captains office was definitely achieved. We felt the whole thing had a “theme park queue” type feel to it, its obvious a lot of money has been invested in what has been achieved.
The only thing that didn’t come across was the sinking element. The ship looked pretty intact considering it had just been attacked!
Puzzles & Challenges
Our mission here, was to get into Blackbeard’s cabin, locate his treasure and make our escape before the ship sank! As escape rooms go, Escape Hunt have a bit of a reputation for applying a relatively modern twist on their games. They tend to rely a little less on padlocks and instead use riddles, logic and physical placement of items which triggers a reaction within the room. What we enjoyed about Blackbeard’s Treasure was it didn’t rely too heavily on this modern approach and there were some nods to the traditional escape room which fans will appreciate.
The first half of the game was centred around securing access to Blackbeard’s cabin (don’t worry we’re not giving much away here as the chained door at the back of the room makes this pretty obvious when you play)! In order to do this we had to solve a series of puzzles in the first room. This part of the game has a very “Crystal Maze” type feel to it and we were scavenging as well as trying to physically manipulate parts of the room to trigger the response we needed. Pleasingly, we found that every puzzle was totally in keeping with the theme and made sense when we thought back to the scenario we were given. There were also some really clever uses of objects that made for more interesting events than opening a box with a key! We actually struggled most with this half of the game. It took us 20 minutes to advance into blackbeards cabin and when you think we completed the game in 36 minutes this was the bulk of our time. This wasn’t because we found these puzzles particularly difficult. In most instances we had the theory right but it was how to execute the necessary action. In one particular puzzle there are two clues pointing to the the single solution but presented slightly differently which threw us for a while. We could have discarded something a bit sooner. Having completed the room we still don’t understand the relevance of one of the clues here which we didn’t use.
Once into Blackbeard’s cabin we really found our pace. We blasted through this room in 16 minutes and it features more puzzles than the first part of the game. We felt this room was more similar to the traditional rooms we have played but still with a nice modern spin. There were still elements of physical placement but a few more logical puzzles and a couple more locks. We loved the inclusion of the Piano featured in the trailer, we won’t say how but its a nice addition. This was the last puzzle we completed before finding the treasure and what we needed to escape. As with the first room, there are a few instances where the solution could be signposted a little better and we struggled to determine if some puzzles were completed as there was no obvious feedback. The treasure led to a final challenge which opened the door to the real world!
We were 3 minutes away from making the leaderboard in this room which was incredibly frustrating!
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the operation here is very slick and rehearsed. There is a bit of a cabin crew type feel to the introduction. We were not actually greeted by our games master, or at least, we don’t think we were. A young lad came to greet us before walking us to the door of the game. At this point he started speaking like a pirate which, we cant lie, was a little unnerving. He did a great job of outlining the scenario and setting the scene, but the transition from one person to the other came as a surprise! Our actual games master was behind the scenes, we imagine in a control room surrounded by buttons! His role was triggering the responses in the room based on our actions and providing us with clues when we requested them.
Clues in Blackbeard’s treasure were requested by ringing the ship’s bell, which then signalled the games master to play, what we believe was, a pre-recorded audible clue that came through speakers in the room. If we needed a little bit more guidance, or were skirting around the solution, a more specific clue was given which we think may have been our game master talking to us instead. Overall, this works quite well, everyone heard the clues and they were both clear and in character.
Value for Money
In the centre of Oxford, on the top floor of a nice new modern shopping centre and in what we can only imagine is a very expensive retail unit and yet still only £25. Obviously the scale of the Escape Hunt operation gives them an advantage here! Regardless though, it’s a very fair price for an enjoyable experience. Booking a second room on the same day triggers a 10% discount too. Having already played Alice in Puzzleland that morning, we paid just £22 per person.
We had a lot of fun playing Blackbeard’s treasure overall. The puzzles are well thought through and there is a clear storyline which is consistent through the room aesthetics and the challenges themselves. We’re used to playing escape rooms with smaller companies and where Escape Hunt did fall a little short for us was the charm. The guys here are very good at what they do and as mentioned before it is very polished, but there wasn’t that passion for the games that we see when we play in a room that has been thought up by the games master. That being said, there wasn’t too much of that corporate, office day out, kind of vibe here. Scale shouldn’t be held against these guys though and they managed to deliver an experience that was both challenging and enjoyable.