Back in 1636, half of Newcastle’s population had succumbed to the Black Death. Enter our plague escape room, which overlooks a real plague pit. Can you outwit the crazed plague doctor and escape before the horror of the Black Death gets you?
Date Played: August 2023
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 23 minutes
Since moving up North, I’ve realised the UK is more than just London… I kid, I kid. But in all honesty, fun escape room destinations like Newcastle are so much closer now. Which is why on a sunny Sunday morning we took a trip down to Newcastle to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The best way to celebrate a birthday? 4 escape rooms, of course. First up, Escape Key’s well-recommended “Plague” room.
Escape Key is one of Newcastle’s most loved escape rooms, and it’s located just a 10-15 minute walk from the station past a few cute coffee shops and overlooks a rather spooky looking graveyard. The graveyard would only feel spookier and spookier as, when we watched the briefing video, we realised the very escape room we were about to enter into was based on the rather large plague pit located just a stone’s throw away out the window. We all glanced at each other as we wondered- wait a minute, is this a horror room? Well, yes it is. But also no it’s not. It strikes a comfortable balance between “spookiness” and “this is real history so we’ll be respectful”, and I liked that a lot.
The story of “Plague” takes players back to the 17th century when plague was rife in the city of Newcastle. We had to get in, find a mysterious urn of ashes, and get out before the plague doctor returned. I’ll be honest, there was definitely more to the story than that, but it being our first room of the day had us in fits of excitement, eager to get into the experience. So, I’ll admit, we didn’t pay quite as much attention as we should have done – but thankfully, the story wasn’t too central to the puzzle solving. So long as you understood it was “find an urn and get out in under 60 minutes”, then you’d be fine in this room.
A really nice touch about Plague was the incense burner in the corner. Partially marking the time it takes us to complete the room, and partially just adding some historically specific ambiance to the room, it was a pretty cool touch. After so many rooms, it’s nice to be able to say “I’ve never had incense in the room with me before”. Besides the incense, the room was also very well decorated, just as a plague doctor’s creepy house should be. Complete with a jail cell, locked doors, and one or two jump scares. In a rarity for an escape room, the owners have uploaded a 360 degree ‘view’ of the room on Google Maps which you can go and explore here. Super useful for remembering all the little details, and of course for grabbing a photo or two for this review!
As well as the décor, for me the room really shined with it’s puzzles too. Okay I could be biased because we managed to escape with an all-time leader board score, but either way: The puzzles just really, really clicked for us. Maybe it was that it was so early in the day (believe me, the later rooms we did we didn’t escape quite as quickly), or maybe it was just that the style worked particularly well for our team, but we were off to a flying start. The room has a mix of locks and more outside-the-box thinking and some manual puzzles mixed in. Nothing overly challenging, but just enough to really get the braincells working. The room as a whole was also non-linear, meaning dividing and conquering was key. Most puzzles could be solved by one person, and a few perfect for a smaller ‘solving team’ of two.
Last but by no means least, I have to offer a shout out to our GM – Luna. Luna was absolutely excellent in every way!
We really enjoyed Plague. It was the most fun of the rooms we played during our trip to Newcastle, and at Escape Key, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. For folks afraid of jumps scares – there are a few small ones, but it isn’t by any means a ‘scary room’, just more on the side of eerie. In terms of difficulty, despite the website saying it’s hard, we found it a comfortable ‘medium’. If you’re in Newcastle and only have time to play one room, this should be very high up on your list!
When I play with this specific group, we call ourselves Chicken Nuggets. A spin off team from the Chicken Nugget Choir, who you may occasionally see on leader boards around the world.
Plague can be booked by heading to Escape Key’s website here.