Ticket Price: £30 Address: Roots Hall, Victoria Ave, Southend-on-Sea SS2 6NQ Website: http://www.roomescapesouthend.com/
Ticket Price: £30
Address: Roots Hall, Victoria Ave, Southend-on-Sea SS2 6NQ
When we learned where Room Escape Southend were planning their Halloween event, we were totally sold! Their regular location is inches away from Southend United F.C.’s stadium, Roots Hall, so learning that this is where their zombie run event would be taking place, it made some sense! Organising such a show must’ve been a huge undertaking and we have total respect for the guys for taking on the challenge!
Interestingly, Zombie Outbreak popped up just under two months after Hide and Shriek’s Dead Centre. We were intrigued to see how the two would compare given that they were both held in unique (and currently operating) venues – as well as being a brisk walk away from eachother. We’ll get into the details later but the two events ended up being pretty dissimilar with only a few obvious things connecting them (zombies for starters!).
Our mission began with a rendezvous, we needed to retrieve the cure for the mestasising zombie virus from a nearby scientist. Unfortunately, he’d been bitten and was soon to turn so it fell on us to collect the parts of a safe’s combination code that were scattered around the stadium in the hopes of procuring the serum from said safe.
This opening scene came accompanied by three zombies who were at the less threatening end of the scale (we were warned that there’d be different types but it was on us to identify the different variants and how best to deal with each mutation). It broke us into the game nicely – there was an almost slapstick element to this section as simply retrieving a box proved to be much more difficult than it had any right to be with three zombies stumbling around! It was a fun way to begin the event and things certainly took a more serious turn once we were inside – the zombies that we encountered from this point on were way more imposing – they certainly provided the motivation to move to the next location as fast as we possibly could!
Rather than give a blow by blow account of what the next ninety or so minutes entailed, it can basically be summed up by saying that the event was divided into four ‘escape the room’ style areas with the zombie encounters strictly happening between these spaces with the exception of one game. Our mission in each room was the same, retrieve further parts of the code to unlock the safe that held the antidote.
So, without giving away details, it very much felt like an escape room broken up into four bite-sized chunks. One section was pure searching, another was a solely physical challenge with the other two being more puzzle-based. The difficulty curve was very uneven – reading other comments online, it seems to be the case that the majority of players failed the physical task and we’re sad to report that so did we. It wasn’t that we failed this that was jarring but more the fact that the two games prior to it seemed incredibly easy. The search-based mission didn’t have a time limit to it, or at least we weren’t made aware of one if there was. Consequently, we can’t see how anyone could fail this task. It was similar with the following one where the hosts pretty much handed us the answer – we’re not sure whether that was because they needed to move us on (but again, no time limit was stated) or that the guys in this section were just being overly generous with delivering clues. Either way, we left this part of the experience thinking that there isn’t really any way that someone could have failed it. So then we arrived at the physical game, which was timed, and we were a bit taken aback by how difficult the game suddenly became! Our suggestion here would be that this section probably does need to be made a scratch easier but also that the difficulty should be a gradual thing. If the last two games were swapped around, this sharp upswing would’ve been less noticeable.
Now, whilst we were playing, one game-breaking thing did happen – there was no-one present to meet us for the final puzzle area. There was one actor hosting this puzzle as well as the overall debrief as he escorted the players to the finale area. Clearly he had been held up somewhere and we spent close to ten minutes wondering what we should be doing. We started poking around to see if there was someone waiting for us just out of sight but we didn’t encounter a single soul! This was a bit unfortunate as it took us right out of the game – the momentum that had built nicely throughout the experience dissipated in that one moment. Eventually the actor caught up with us and we were able to undertake the final mission.
What should have been obvious to us was that failing one game throughout the whole event meant that you weren’t able to come away with the full safe combination. This meant that we ‘lost’. We’re fine with that – we’ve failed our fair share of escape rooms but think that with this experience, there shouldn’t be a binary win condition. Looking at games that force your progression like Time Run’s The Celestial Chain and the Resident Evil 7 Experience, they apply a scoring system. This works because you don’t want a single mistake to basically ‘sudden death’ you. In standard escape rooms, the win/lose standard suffices because you know where you’re going wrong at the time. You’re under no illusion that you’re winning or will win when the timer reaches zero. But in a game where everyone reaches the finale regardless of performance, you need a clearer and fairer way of assessing how well people did as it’s a bit demoralising to discover that something you did wrong at the midway point decimated your chances at succeeding even though you were still moving on to the next area.
Whilst this all sounds fairly negative, we actually had a lot of fun at the event and can see that, with a number of tweaks, this would be a brilliant experience. We appreciated the interaction that was afforded to us and that location is unbeatable. The final comment that we’d make is that maybe the generic outbreak/meet doctors storyline should be ditched next time for something more relevant to the venue. Maybe we’re new employees at the stadium and the virus has broken out during a training session – that could be fun, decking out all the zombies in football kit! Because sometimes what was going on wasn’t particularly relevant to the space that we were occupying.
More participation than we expected
Difficulty curve – some games too basic, others too difficult
Story could have been tied to the location better
We were left alone for near 10 minutes as actor wasn’t ready
Could have used a more thrilling finale
Though we had a few issues with the event, the immense potential is evident and the team are on the right track, keep an eye out for this returning!
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