404 Escape: Survival Review | You and your friends are going on a hiking trip, suddenly it starts to rain. You have to find a place to shelter as it’s getting dark. There is a small old house not far away from you. It looks creepy and seems like no one is in it. You have no other choice but to open the front door.
Completion Time: 80:00 (90 minute room)
Date Played: 4th September 2021
Party Size: 2
About 404 Escape
Survival is one of two current games available at 404 Escape in Selly Oak, Birmingham and is their horror/scarer room. Getting to 404 Escape is easy enough by car (with ample parking) and the Selly Oak train station is 5 minutes on foot. This was my first ever horror escape room and I was undoubtedly, quite scared. I entered with my buddy Atlas to take on Survival; rated 5 stars in difficulty by the company.
“Just Put This Blindfold On…”
We were greeted instantly by our GM James who gave a succinct, yet informative safety speech as an introduction. All good so far. He then asked us to surrender our phones into a lock box. Again, nothing wrong there, all standard.
“Right then” said James, “just put this blindfold on”.
Come again? I started to get quite nervous now. We put our blindfolds on and are “congered” to the first of Survivals’ rooms. I say room, it was an outdoors scene. First task; get into the small old house as its raining and dark. When I say dark, it’s VERY dark; one poorly lit flashlight between the both of us dark. The immersion sets in very quickly thanks to the blindfold execution. The torch given to us; our only light source, further added to the immersion, but also forced us to work as a solid, coherent unit, which was an additional positive aspect.
No Other Choice But To Open The Front Door…
In terms of story and theming, its your solid horror movie formula of the protagonists going into a building they really shouldn’t be going into; if they had the smallest amount of common sense. I certainly played the part of the cowering, unsure character whilst Atlas was the more self-assured, gung-ho type.
Decor is mostly idiomatic and compliments well with the overall feel of the game. It’s a little derivative in places (I also didn’t fully understand the rationale behind the fruit and veg decor in the outside scene), but is nonetheless effective in contributing towards the unhinged atmosphere of the game.
Rhyming Couplets… Of Death!
As for the puzzles, the overall difficulty was well-balanced, however it wasn’t extremely hard; contrasting to the 5 stars in difficulty given by 404 Escape themselves. Some of the puzzles we fell into the trap of overthinking, however one puzzle in particular involving colour; I felt wasn’t entirely clear how to approach. The conclusion of the puzzle made enough sense (thanks to a hint from the GM), despite the initial confusion. Additionally, I’m not sure that the puzzle aesthetics and types, were consistent to the theme. They felt to be a mixed bag of different influences, which didn’t translate all that well.
The hints were provided by the GM over a walkie-talkie and I very much appreciated them all. Each one was delivered as a rhyming couplet and in another context, would be applauded for its Shakespearean demeanour. In this context however, it proved all the more jarring, which considering the nature of the game; was highly appropriate.
Of course there are many, many scary factors in this game; causing both Atlas and myself to jump out of our skins! Massive tick in the box for that. There is a point in the game too where we were split up in a room each… and one of us had the torch. The other had to wait in pitch black (and pray nothing was going to appear right by us!).
The final part of the game also involved possibly the most stressful event I’ve ever witnessed in an escape room. I’m not going to ruin it for prospective players, but again I very much felt like I was in the final, crucial scene of a horror film.
A Pound Of Flesh…
The cost of Survival is £28-£35 per person for a 90 minute experience, based on how many are in the team (2-7 players allowed). This calculates to a cost/time ratio that is just about right when compared to other escape rooms available in the area. We were also given a free admission voucher each to Meeple Mayhem, their board game café sister company; a 10 minute drive down the road, and a bottle of hand sanitiser, which in this present day, was hugely appreciated.
This is a solid horror escape room if you happen to be in 404 Escape’s vicinity. Buckets of immersion and a solid emphasis on (scary) fun are certainly the highlights. Special mention to the GM for their creative, poetic hints system…amongst other aspects.
Survival can be booked by heading to 404 Escape’s website here.
404 Escape: Survival | Review
RussBuilds is an independent escape game designer. Here, he is writing on video games and escape rooms in the middle of the UK.