_REVIEW.   it’s about _LIVE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.   at _ESCAPE HUNT (BIRMINGHAM CENTRAL).   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until _DAILY.

_07 February 2022.
images © Escape Hunt Group Ltd.

There’s a consistency and immersion to visiting Escape Hunt Birmingham that others in its growing sub-sector of the entertainment world would perhaps do well to take note from. From ominous warnings of ‘Way In. No Way Out’ festooned beneath awnings upon approach, through to the transportive, immersive charm of a waiting foyer that oozes with Conan Doyle-esque character and finishings, there’s a definite and palpable sense that your experience is going to be just that. It feels purposeful, with production value and style to spare.

It’s little surprise then, to learn that the growing, international franchise has not only spawned a multitude of venues across the UK, but has also attracted licensees including the BBC and their Doctor Who brand.

The Fourth Samurai is one of Birmingham Central’s several indoor escape room offerings, and whilst it may not offer the immediate recognition of Who or any such brand familiarity, the high standard and consistency of experience, taxing yet approachable challenge and full immersion into its Japanese Dojo stylings makes for a highly memorable and entertaining escape room outing.

“It’s impressed upon teams at the outset that this is more a mental than physical exercise, but that doesn’t mean you will forego physicality entirely.”

As ever, there is a limit on how much can be divulged in terms of the specific challenges, puzzles and player expectations in Samurai; having played a bounty of escape rooms over the years, none of them were ever enriched by someone having spoiled it beforehand.

Indeed, Escape Hunt go out of their way to mitigate you inadvertently spoiling your own experience too prematurely, led as you are into the room in single file, looking squarely down at the floor until your host (shout out to an affable, helpful and fully engaged Luke who was our Brum MC). And, naturally, mobile phones are secured away safely in lockers to prevent any snapping of the puzzling goods.

What follows is an hour, or just shy (our team of three managing to escape with less than four minutes to spare), of riddles, puzzles and challenges that will test all manner of cognitive skills, deduction and logic. It’s impressed upon teams at the outset that this is more a mental than physical exercise, but that doesn’t mean you will forego physicality entirely. Quite the opposite; you’ll routinely be required to be moving objects around, manipulate the environment in a multitude of ways, and one particular bout of physicality that is a masterful mix of combining observation with more physical execution. And who knows, you may even need to start thinking outside the box to get past a couple of the game’s obstacles…

Testimony to the quality of experience on offer, Escape Hunt have attracted licenses such as the BBC‘s Doctor Who, whose ‘Worlds Collide‘ escape room can be experienced at a number of their UK and international venues.

As mentioned, there’s a polish and attainment to Fourth Samurai that pitches Escape Hunt comfortably up there with the best in the business. It looks great, and whilst Samurai itself isn’t the most enormous or even technically ambitious of its kind, it’s still a great time, packed with details and surprises, with enough audiovisual flourish for it to feel top-drawer, and the oriental theming making for a very welcome and enjoyable change of tone and aesthetic from the more nautical or horror-themed conventional escape room offerings. You are tasked with locating a mythical sword that has corrupted feudal warlord Tanaka Masamune, and return the blade’s evil spirit back to the darkness. There had to be some evil in there somewhere, one supposes.

For those contemplating a visit, Samurai is just one of several experiences Escape Hunt offers, which also branches out into virtual reality experiences and outdoor adventures. Even in Birmingham, its ‘Central’ location – nestled a stone’s throw from Snow Hill station – is joined by its sister venue slightly further afield out at the Resorts World Arena, where escape rooms themed on elements as ranging as the Wild West to Alice in Wonderland, can be found. As well as Samurai and the aforementioned Doctor Who experience (‘Worlds Collide’), Central can send you on escape room adventures on the high seas in Blackbeard’s Treasure or even full Tinker Tailor, Solider Spy mode with the MI6-themed Our Finest Hour.

Whilst most of Escape Hunt’s rooms are capped at a fairly industry-standard six players, in reality it’s the maximum number you’d want for such an experience, anyway. Corporate bookings can easily be sub-divided (and what a superb icebreaker and team building exercise they make for), and whilst three or four players seems, from personal experience at least, to be the optimal number with little crossover, easier communication and less risk of anyone left with little to do, full player counts can make for gloriously hectic affairs.

As a mission statement, The Fourth Samurai is a clever, well-themed and thoroughly engaging escape room experience pulled off to a high standard of finish, a mark of quality that bleeds through the entire Escape Hunt experience. It will tax you in all the right ways, delicately balances visual and physical conundrums, and all the time with a friendly, nigh-omniscient games master overseeing proceedings and willing to lend a helping vocal hand (complete with mythical, imperious accent) with tips and suggestions should you become really stumped. Even as escape game veterans, we hit a couple of roadblocks in Samurai, including one very early on… though admittedly these were namely through our own stupidity or oversight, and not from any internal flaws in the room’s design.

If you’re contemplating stepping into the growing world of escape rooms, or have that post-pandemic itch for a social (or professional) experience with a difference, Escape Hunt’s offerings are comfortably up there with the best. With a friendly welcome, consistency to the experience on offer and, in The Fourth Samurai an indicator that they know exactly what they’re doing, it already has us reaching for our trilby hats and sonic screwdrivers in the hopes of another top time exploring the endless limits of our own stupidity…

With focus and flair, Samurai is a sophisticatedly-themed and keenly-judged hour of entertainment that makes for a perfect introduction to escape games, or a top-drawer, suitably cerebral offering for veterans.


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