Leicester Escapologic: Reactorvate

Bet ya didn’t know has an abandoned nuclear reactor. Turns out its conveniently located in the building, where we happened to be to play Chronos later that day.

We were told that Matthew’s distant relative was blamed for a terrible nuclear accident in the past, having designed a reactor which exploded. Now, I can’t say I remember this in Matthew’s family history, but I’m willing to accept that something made Stapleford into the deadzone it is today. Since the mysterious relative also designed this reactor, the logical thing is to power it up and hope it doesn’t wipe Leicester off the map as well. Or maybe that it does.

As soon as we opened the door, an alarm was tripped and we realised we only had 60 minutes to look around before Putin himself arrived to politely request we leave, in the usual friendly Russian manner.

From start to finish I thought this room was fantastic. The theme is played very seriously, with just one small mention of a baby with three eyes that felt slightly too humorous compared to the rest of the room. That said, referencing a baby with terminal cancer might be too dark for some customers. Our host later mentioned that many of the props and puzzles are custom made – there’s apparently a workshop hidden away behind the reception area – and as usual they went all out to make the theme flawless. Having never been in a nuclear reactor before, I can’t say for sure that it was accurate, but the atmosphere certainly felt like you were exploring somewhere old and abandoned…. which is to say that I came out absolutely COVERED in dust. Wear a pair of old jeans or something along those lines if possible.

We went in as a team of two – just me and Matthew, as our buddy John the ice hockey star was back home for the summer and saving lives as a lifeguard.  We were worried we might need the extra person, especially after the Heistakes disaster, but this is a room which can comfortably be played with two people. I think three players would be ideal, and we certainly missed John, but we were out at the 45 minute mark, so it was a comfortable win.

The puzzles flow really well, and while two of them weren’t triggered quite at the right moment, immersion was never really broken. Despite appearing relatively linear, we were never hanging around waiting for each other to finish a puzzle. Several puzzles require strong teamwork, and even when we were working separately it was still obvious we were contributing to a shared goal. We later discovered we’d solved the room in the opposite order to most teams, so it may not be as linear as we thought, but the progression makes sense.

Something that really stood out about this room was that almost all the puzzles involved doing something, as opposed to working something out. Escapologic tend towards more physical puzzles anyway, but this was particularly effective and felt fitting given the nature of the task. Much of the game feels less like puzzle solving and more like problem solving, and even if you were to go in with a complete walkthrough of everything that needed to be done, you’d likely come away with the feeling that you’d done your day’s work in the reactor, rather than cheated your way through. You could replay this and view it as roleplaying if you were so inclined, because even knowing all the solutions, there are still switches to press and machines to power up and one big, noteworthy part of the game towards the end which is more a test of teamwork and co-ordination than puzzle solving.

On the flip side, none of the puzzles gave us any real trouble. It still took us 45 minutes, so I think the difficulty is about right for two people, but I could see more skilled teams breezing through. The best time currently stands at 34 minutes and was set by a family on a day out, so I would expect seasoned teams to be able to better this.

Even after the game, and on his break, our host was incredibly friendly and chatted with us for a while about escape rooms both at Escapologic and elsewhere. Escapologic staff are always super welcoming but even by those standards this guy was fantastic, although it does occur to me that in Russia any dissent will get you shot, so perhaps he had no choice. Leicestervostok is apparently a small bastion of Russian authority in the UK, given that they managed to build an entire nuclear reactor here, so it’s a valid fear.

So while Reactorvate (better known to us YouTube-addicted Millennials as “You lose, you Novichok”) isn’t particularly difficult, it is a huge amount of fun. I highly recommend it as one of the best escape rooms I’ve played so far.

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