Being locked in an upstairs room, above a wine bar for an hour is honestly one of the most exciting things you can do with your mates in Manchester, right now.
Breakout Manchester are a two-site entertainment venue straight out of the ordinary, where you and select mates can test the very fabric of your friendship in an immersive experience akin to Crystal Maze. But, 10 times more amazing, because you’re not watching it on TV, you’re living it.
Breakout is made up of eight rooms, in their sites on Brazennose Street off Albert Square and High Street in the Northern Quarter, each with their own story and puzzle(s) to solve. They range from hard to the near impossible in difficulty and each room gives you one hour to breakout before you’re (locked in forever) declared the loser and have to take a humiliating mug-shot to tell all your friends on Facebook.
To celebrate our wonderful friend’s birthday (which was actually in October…) the boyf and I took him and his hubby with us to play the Madchester room. Together, the four of us have broken out before, we played the Sabotage room last year – a then 4/5 difficulty rating that’s since been raised to 5/5 – which tells a Cold War meets 007 Golden Eye story that was absolutely hilarious and saw us break out with less than a minute to spare.
This time, however, we were playing Madchester (5/5) and were subsequently locked in some sweaty teenager’s room, a teenager with an unhealthy obsession with all things Manchester. A bit like the room from that girl in My Mad Fat Diary.
Now, I’m not giving anything away – because that’s mean and I think Breakout Manchester would come round and lock me in a Chinese Puzzle Box and then paint it like a rubik’s cube and throw me into the canal. But, what I will say is – you don’t need to be an expert on Manchester for this specific room, just in the way you don’t have to be a war veteran to play Sabotage. It’s just the theme, not the nuts and bolts. What you do have to be good at, however, is screaming across the room at your best friends about how shit they are.
In the room, everything is a clue (unless, y’know it’s just the light switch…) and you can’t overlook a thing. You run around piecing pieces of the puzzle together and you have to keep each other in the loop so you can connect the dots on the things you’ve seen and done.
There’s a big screen on the wall too, that counts down from 60 minutes to 0, with increasingly hostile music being played to, y’know, make you feel right at home and positive you’ve got this under control. You can shout into the screen (or, actually, the camera above) and the game master person who runs your game can communicate with you on screen if you’re desperate for a clue, or to tell you go get down off the wardrobe because their liability insurance won’t cover them.
So, there’s us, running around like headless chickens thinking we were doomed with too many puzzles to solve and only 5 minutes left when we have a windfall and we’re all of a sudden, back in the game. We still had a bit too much to do, so started guessing the remaining answers to our puzzles to unlock the exit door, with two of us operating the door locking system. We guessed right and the door unlocked, but in our sheer excitement, the stupid thing locked itself again, I turned around and clocked the screen as the code was being thumped back into the door and we had 3, 2, 1 seconds remaining when the door flung open and we fell out.
I’ve never come closer to murder.