Area 51.5 Review | Well known alien hunter and conspiracy theorist, Professor Ross Well lives at 51½ George Street. After years spent collecting, and hunting evidence of extra-terrestrial life, he got his lucky break and came across a crash site up on the moors, complete with a live alien! He brought the alien back to his house with the intention of keeping him, but the mothership has tracked their friend down and arrived to collect him! You begin your mission outside Professor Ross Well’s house – what you will find in there is anyone’s guess! But what you do know is that you only have one hour to return the alien back to the mothership, or our planet will be destroyed!
Date Played: October 2023
Time Taken: ~40 minutes
Number of Players: 4
Hidden away in the entirely unhidden town of Halifax, is Escaporium. Now, my entire family since the beginning of time is from Yorkshire, so how the heck have I never been to Halifax before?! It’s so incredibly lovely. Even posting random Instagram stories from around the city resulted in many replies from friends along the lines of “wow Halifax! You have to go to this place” or “you must visit here”. Halifax is a popular place. But now I have an even more compelling reason to come back – and that reason is Escaporium.
A couple of weeks ago I spend a weekend in Sheffield with my co-writers Al and Ash, and our friend Tasha. For us, this meant a weekend of board games, delicious food, and of course… Escape rooms. Newly opened just a short drive away was the sci-fi room “Area 51.5”. The Escaporium is also fairly close to a few other standout companies and rooms in the area – notably Project Breakout, and although Al and Ash have played all of their rooms multiple times, we made the detour just so I could play there too. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to The Escaporium.
Welcome to The Escaporium
We were greeted on arrival by our enthusiastic host in the warm and well decorated lobby area. There are actually two Escaporium locations in Halifax, both just a minutes walk from each other. At the same location as Area 51.5, you can also play Operation Moonshine, and their seasonal Christmas game. On arrival, we were given the usual pre-game briefing – here at the locks, here are the keys, nothing is too high up, and so on. We were then led into the room, directed to a short video, and before long we were off!
The story goes that Professor Ross Well, a man whose house you need to break into, has been hunting evidence of aliens. It’s rumoured he’s keeping one such alien under life support within his very home, and with the mothership about to obliterate planet Earth in search of this missing alien, it’s up to you to get in there and rescue it before it’s too late. So we had three missions:
- Break into Professor Wells house
- Find the alien and rescue it
Though I suppose ‘escaping’ wouldn’t really be one of those missions only, the goal of every escape room is to technically escape, so I’m putting it there too.
Aliens and Anagrams
…Though not actually anagrams, I just wanted to use the word for ✨alliteration✨
Area 51.5 is a multi-room experience. Put shortly, there’s a huge amount of stuff to do in every new area you discover. I don’t think there was a single moment in the whole experience where we weren’t doing anything. Between working together and splitting up to cover more ground, it was all hands on deck from the first second to the last – and I love that.
Of those many, many puzzles, I genuinely enjoyed them all. That’s saying a lot. Even the best escape rooms often have duds. But of all the puzzles I took part in and watched my co-escapees tackle, everything just made sense and above all – was fun to complete. There was a good mix of logic, maths, visual puzzles, as well as a few brilliantly tactile ones as well. Tactile puzzles aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when they work, they just work.
In our particular run-through the team were testing a new item in the room. I don’t want to give too many spoilers because mainly – I don’t know if they’ll keep the item in the exact iteration we discovered it in. But essentially it’s a printed version of something which was previously delivered via audio. For us, this was a huge help – and I mean that in the best possible way. It gave us an anchor point to return to every time we needed to move onto the next puzzle. Probably part of the reason the room felt like it had this big, overall cohesion to it.
Easter Alien Eggs
One of my absolute favourite thing about this room was it’s decor. Seriously, if anything there could have been fewer puzzles – if only to give me the time to really appreciate the environment we were in. This room is packed with references from pop culture, and all integrated seamlessly into the environment in subtle and delightful ways. It’s a feast for the eyes – and in some cases, other senses too- oh god no wait don’t lick the alien eggs I didn’t mean that!
At the end of our experience, our Games Master stuck their head in and talked us through the experience pointing out little bits and bobs we might have missed the first time. I really enjoyed the recap, not least of all because it gave me a chance to experience anything I might have missed.
The only downside to the room, and it’s really very small, is that we had to wait upwards of two weeks to receive our team photo. Only a downside because I really just wanted to post about the room immediately, and tell the whole world how great the game was right there and then. I also wanted to write this review whilst the experience was fresh in my mind… But perhaps a little time between playing and receiving your photo only makes the heart grow fonder? Perhaps.
Either way, in a day and age where photos are usually taken on the customer’s phone, or sent immediately based on the email we give during the waiver signing process, it was an unusual experience. I was reminded of this meme.
Overall, I loved Area 51.5. In fact, in my whole trip down to Yorkshire to visit Al, Ash & Tasha, this was my very favourite room I did – and I’d be surprised if it didn’t make a regular appearance on all the enthusiast lists in the future.
I’m also choosing to award it a special badge:
For that reason, I’m awarding this one a “Best in Genre” badge for being just a really fantastically stand-out sci-fi room. I mean, I’m a sci-fi super fan, so that also had to count for more, right? The whole room was just packed with little sci-fi Easter Eggs from video games, films, and TV series. My nerdy brain was in overdrive.
If you want to book Area 51.5 at Escaporium in Halifax, you can head to their website here.