TCS Editors take on Cambridge’s Escape Room

Sophie Huskisson 20 October 2018

We’ve all heard of these weird escape room adventures that people go on. Quite frankly, the concept is completely bizarre, and I think most of us would actually consider the reality of being locked in a dark room really frightening. Nevertheless, us TCS editors thought it was our duty to try out an escape room and let our fellow Cambridge students know whether they’re really worth all the hype they get.

Firstly, we were given, what I can only describe as a darkly comic health and safety sheet. Thankfully, we were assured that we weren’t going to be really locked in a room, something which, although shattered the illusion of really having to escape, did comfort us somewhat. The precautions then followed on to tell us not to lick or stick our fingers in any electrical sockets, kind of weird, but we figured it was necessary for kids. A weirder turn led to what I might label as my favourite instruction: “There is never any need to stand on furniture. Or to eat celery, or jog. Far too healthy if you ask me.” The sarcastic and comical tones of the safety sheet made it feel like the game had already begun before we’d even entered the escape room. It went on to warn us that there was no need to argue with a relative about something that happened years ago. Luckily, we didn’t get into any arguments in the escape room, and we can therefore confirm that the TCS senior editorial team is stronger than the tests of… Satan.

So, we made our way down to the Egyptian tomb. After being issued with a number of torches, we were then locked in. I immediately ran over to a wall with hieroglyphics written across it, claiming that I knew the last letter was an ‘S’ because I’d learnt ‘S’ for Sophie in primary school. Thankfully, we didn’t actually need anyone to be an expert in hieroglyphics to escape the first room. Saying that, we did need to know some algebra… which I thought personally put me, an English student, at quite the disadvantage. After asking for a fair few clues from the eye of Satan, we managed to figure out the weird puzzles of the first room. Moving multiple blocks through a maze, and assembling segments of a message written in ‘blood’ were only two of the bizarre tasks we had to do. After lots of intelligent code breaking from us, a frighteningly large Tutankhamun figure slid to the side, leading to a new and similarly intriguing room.

The strange thing about these escape rooms is you notice yourself approaching everything with a newfound weird behaviour. You find yourself stroking the walls, shining UV lights at the ceiling, and inspecting everything from the lamp shades for a minimum of 5 minutes at a time, looking for any sign of a clue. After completing this next room, we then had to crawl through tunnels littered with frighteningly realistic snakes and tarantulas, where we found another room (just when you think you’ve escaped one room, you find yourself locked in another!). More code breaking to be done, this time with the help of Saturn’s journal – not unlike Tom Riddle’s diary, if I’m honest. We were frantically running around trying to find weird symbols. And yes, I regretfully admit, we did have to ask for a few more clues. The best part about the escape rooms is the sudden moments of realisation that occur. You’ll have been trying to decipher a symbol for about 10 minutes, and then suddenly you’ll realise you need to shine your torch in a different direction to be able to see what it reveals. Or you’ll suddenly think, wait, if you look through this hole, whilst I turn this wheel, then maybe we’ll find something. I won’t hesitate to admit that it’s a totally bizarre experience, but nevertheless, it’s ultimately really, really fun!

You might notice I’ve not gone into too much detail about how to actually escape the rooms. Nobody likes a spoiler. I can only offer some more general advice to you. Seriously, do make sure you go with people you get on with, because I can totally understand how family feuds can be reignited in those confined walls. When the clock is ticking and pressure is on, who knows what can happen?