Breakout Manchester: Cursed Carnival review
|You recently visited the cursed carnival that came to Manchester. Since attending the show you have no recollection as to what happened whilst there. Last night, whilst asleep you had a sinister dream. You dreamt that a doll possessed by a little girl, trapped in a cursed carnival was calling to you to set her free. You decide to sneak into the carnival an hour before it opens, whilst everyone is still asleep, to find the doll and rescue the trapped little girl.|
|£16-23 per person depending on time and team size|
|Played by Jenny and Paul|
|Escaped with 10 minutes remaining|
I was really excited about this room as it mentioned the words sinister and carnival. However, I was a little disappointed as it was quite friendly. Nothing felt eerie or spooky like I was expecting. That being said, the room was themed extremely well to the carnival albeit a little sparse in places.
The story was given in the room, which was again directed to the darker side of the tale. But it was hard to see this as the space was warm and friendly. As a side note, I’m never a fan of the bio in the room as I always get distracted looking for early clues. The puzzles were linked well to the carnival theme, with paraphernalia, fun games and the music. I’ve scored high due to the carnival side of the theme, but for me the dark side of the tale was missing throughout the gameplay.
There are multiple rooms to discover, each with their own distinct look and feel. The first area is search based, finding keys and information. The second messes with your brain and hides some secrets. The third space is fun and playful, containing carnival style skill games. There’s quite a lot of detail and the build quality is pretty good considering the room has obviously been around for a while. The creepy story doesn’t really translate into the game though, it just felt like we were in a normal carnival and it didn’t feel at all scary.
This game is quite old so there is a bit of wear and tear on some of the items. The first mission involved a lot of padlocks and I’m not a fan of repetition on how we proceed through the game. I also managed to open two padlocks with the same key which is a no no. The best bit about this challenge is the penultimate room. The games involve skill, logic and some team work. I was told after that I was one of the quickest in one of the challenges!
There’s an awful lot to do in the final stage and after the fun games we were stood around for quite a while with nothing seeming obvious. After quite a few hints, it sadly turned out the room was set up wrong and two padlocks had the same code. As we’d already used the code for the wrong puzzle, we were getting hints for the other one. Knowing a code can’t be reused, we were getting very frustrated and confused. We wasted a lot of time on this, thinking it was unsolvable. Please note this is very rare and it’s unlikely to happen to you! Despite the mishap, I did enjoy most of the puzzles, hence my score.
This is a lock heavy game so you’ll be dealing with a lot of keys and codes. A few too many for my liking, but there is some variety to the progression methods. There’s also a decent number of puzzles on offer, ranging from logic to skill based. There were times when we needed to work together, but others where there were multiple things to work on and we split up and did our own thing.
There were a few issues though. I was wary of touching something with numbers on in case the order was important, which wasted some time. It would be better if the numbers were facing away. We was able to faintly see some information and was struggling to read it when our host told us another puzzle would light it up. This writing should be completely hidden to avoid this. But the biggest issue was they mistakenly used the same code on two locks. This confused us massively and we had to keep asking for clues until eventually our GM joined us in the room and discovered the problem.
The mishap on the puzzles towards the end hindered my enjoyment and I just felt a bit angry. Being an enthusiast, I know mistakes can happen so had to not let it spoil the whole game. We were given a voucher for the error as an apology so that helped diffuse the situation. Ignoring the wrong set up, I did enjoy the game, especially the penultimate room of challenges, so I would recommend the room for that. The theming for the carnival was also strong which added to the experience.
Despite the issues, I still enjoyed my time at the Cursed Carnival. It builds over the hour, getting more and more fun and ending with the hands-on skill games. The carnival setting helped bring out the joy of the experience. Our host was nice and friendly too. Minus the code cock-up, this is a fun and playful 60 minutes.
The price is average compared to other rooms in Manchester. The waiting area is clean and spacious and the staff were friendly. The location is right in the centre of town which made it easy for us as tourists to find. The game was good, although there were a few too many padlocks for my liking. There’s also not much in the way of high tech challenges that some enthusiast would like, but I feel newcomers to escape rooms will like this room.
At £63 for 3 people, the price is decent for what you get – nicely themed spaces filled with fun challenges. The sinister side of the story does vanish, but that doesn’t affect the gameplay. They were apologetic afterwards about their mistake with the locks and offered us a free game in the future to make up for it. This was a nice touch that meant we left feeling better about the unusual situation than we would have done otherwise.
Theming - 7/10
Puzzles - 6.5/10
Enjoyment - 6.5/10
Value - 6.5/10