Captain Obvious Alert - This blog may contain spoilers.
So on Sunday, I did Containment, the new escape experience at Thorpe. I've never done one of these escape room things, and I've always been a bit sceptical about the idea - so many things can go wrong which can ruin the experience. But nonetheless, I was still excited to try it out...
One thing which is worth noting was our group was made up of only 6 people (4 TPMers and 2 randomers), rather than the full 10. This was at the 4pm slot, so it makes me wonder if not enough are keen to spend the money on another attraction / there's not enough advertising going into it? Anyways, review time...
The pre-show video was nice, and did seem to nod to Experiment 10? The trouble was, it was very difficult to hear (not helped by the nearby leaf blower and Swarm's roar). Whether this was intentional (to draw people in closer to the screen to help with scares) or not is hard to tell, but it does just need to be easier to hear. Big thumbs up need to go to the actor here though; really did a great job at creating a funny, but also slightly eerie, feel.
The first room I assume is meant to play on the fear of darkness. It was a bit disorientating, but not scary or challenging really. I guess it's a nice way to introduce you to the concept and get you rolling.
The second room was a lot more challenging. The actor in here gave us a great jump scare and then started acting very crazy and creepy. Constantly going 'tick tock, tick tock' and 'clock clock clock' to try and give us a hint to the situation. I'm not entirely sure how we cracked the code, but I believe we did just in time? Not really sure.
So we moved onto the third room, where a lovely female actor started to cough all over me. She appeared to be dying and was in desperate need of the much sought-after antidote. Wasn't she taught about 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it'? Anyways, this room was a bit tricky, in that it was relatively easy to figure out what we needed to do, but it was just doing it which was the problem. After a while, and following some general interaction from the actor, we eventually got it done. The final room awaited...
Final room is a weird one. The lights went out very quickly and we were left really unsure what to do. The actor shone a UV light to reveal the hidden message of 'Find antidote' on the wall. After some general walking around in the darkness and trying anything and everything to get closer to figuring out what we needed to do, eventually the actor shone a torch in the general direction of a massive clue to help work out the final code. Once the code was worked out, it was just a case putting it in - in very little light - before we had escaped.
And that's how it ended. We pressed a button and after a few seconds, the actor opened the door to let us out. It had all ended so...confusingly. We had cracked the final code, and got let out. The story has disappeared and it just leaves you feeling so uncertain. I had to ask the actor if we had completed the task because it just felt like the end wasn't there. Being lead outside and asked by an ordinary member of staff if we had completed it (to hence be given our wristband) feels like a missed opportunity too.
Despite the sudden ending, and perhaps my less-than-excited sounding review, I really did enjoy Containment. It's a fun experience and something very different to what the park has ever offered. It needs some more work, but on the whole, it's a neat thing.
So - what could be improved?
1) The preshow. Having the preshow inside would be best, as it would make it far easier to hear. Alternatively, just not have a video and let an actor give it. I appreciate space is the issue here though.
2) The scare rating. This was rated 5/5 stars, and yet was not really scary. Yes, there was a couple of jump scares and a couple of dark scenes, but not enough to warrant a 5 star rating. Arguably, this isn't scarier than Blair Witch, and so isn't even worthy of a 2 star rating. That's not to say it's not a good attraction and not something that doesn't deserve its place at Fright Nights.
Either the park need to make it scarier / more intense. Make you have to work against the actors, with them deliberately trying to sabotage you, rather than have them being generic scary people who eventually point you in the right direction. Or, lower the scare rating. Given what they've tried to do, and that I assume more people will be 'got' by the scenes, a 3 star rating might have been more suitable.
I guess giving it a low scare rating would make it harder to sell tickets though. Speaking of which...
3) The cost. Given the restricted numbers and the popularity of the attractions at Thorpe, I think a charge is a sensible idea. But a £10 charge is a lot. And perhaps too much - if they're not filling out the groups and have already stopped offering timed tickets online (instead giving you a time on collection I believe?), then maybe the demand for such a high-cost attraction isn't there. Lower the cost, reduce the group size or push the experience more.
4) The ending. There needs to be more of an ending. I think scene which shows you which rooms you solved and ones you didn't (say by a green / red light on a screen), along with a corresponding message, actor interaction to give you a wristband, plus a scare to get people out would really help the attraction feel complete.
So - is it worth it?
In a nutshell, yes. It's a steep charge for what they are offering, but I genuinely think it's a neat attraction which can only grow if they continue to offer such an experience. Let's hope it does return next year; though with new / updated puzzles and scenes!