Price Range: £13 – £23 Per Person
Duration: 60 Minutes
Historical Accuracy: 10/10
The City Historian of Norwich is having a pretty awful day. On a routine trip into the secure archives he has somehow managed to imprison himself within the vault. If someone doesn’t let him out fairly soon he could be stuck there overnight without so much as a snack to keep him going (although there is, at least, plenty for him to read). The task of releasing him from captivity has fallen to you and your team. Although the absent-minded historian can’t quite remember the code for the vault, he does know that he wrote it down somewhere. You’re just going to have to find it…
Archived Alive represents a rather delightful inversion of the standard escape room. You’re not locked in at all, but someone else will be if you don’t move fast. It’s also noteworthy for the fact that it takes place within the actual Guildhall of the city of Norwich, and makes use of real-world history in the majority of its fiendish puzzles.
The room allows up to eight participants. Although it’s generously-sized, any teams of seven or more will have to be pretty hot on their co-ordination to avoid treading on one another’s toes. More brains are definitely a plus in this room, though. Indeed, teams of two might struggle a little – unless, of course, they’re both significantly smarter than me. Unlikely, sure, but not impossible.
The game takes place in what seems like an ordinary office, and so while the props and theming might feel rather mundane, they’re actually thoroughly on point. In terms of immersion it’s perfect. You’ll have no trouble believing that you are indeed hanging around a genuine historian’s place of work. It comes complete with real books, real newspaper clippings, and an assortment of other authentic props that only add to this sense of immersion.
The room does harbour some… unusual secrets, but they’re very cleverly hidden – a fact that only magnifies the delight you’ll feel on their discovery. It’s also one of very few escape rooms I’ve been in that actually had a window. Some natural light and the ability to peer out at the real world beyond the room is surprisingly pleasant.
The game starts out with plenty of things to do, and coheres into something more linear as it gathers momentum. The puzzles all flow pretty well, with one leading to the next in an entirely logical fashion. They are, however, somewhat more technical puzzles than many escapers might be used to. You’re provided with a pen and paper at the very start of the game, and you will absolutely need to use them.
Over the course of your sixty minute game you might find yourself skimming through local history books, poring over ancient maps or paging through piles of newspaper clippings. That may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it certainly worked for me. Because these puzzles require you to pay close attention, to read and remember, and to make genuine logical leaps, the feeling of triumph when you do find a solution is all the more significant. Archived Alive may require more patience than the average escape room, but it is also consequently more rewarding.
You might think, given the historical focus of the room, that a certain amount of local knowledge will be required in order to prevail. This isn’t the case. Everything you need to complete the room can be found within the room itself, and even someone who has never set foot in Norwich before (what have you been doing with your life?) should be able to manage. That said, knowing a few local famous faces and a couple of historical facts about the city is useful here and there. If you’re a competitive bear and want to up your chances of success, a quick skim of Norwich’s Wikipedia page should set you in good stead.
This room doesn’t use any particular special effects – a decision in keeping with the fact that it’s based more or less in the real world, in an ordinary office belonging to a historian. The video intro, featuring the incarcerated academic himself, is pretty neat though.
Archived Alive handles hints particularly well. The moderators have clearly spent some time observing the normal sticking points for players, and have pre-written clues that are clear enough to be useful, but cryptic enough not to hand you the solution on a plate. They’re also pretty hot on their history, so if you do have any burning questions of that nature they’ll likely be able to answer them for you once your game is complete.
It would be hard to find a venue in Norwich more central than the Guildhall. It stands on the edge of the city market, an easy walk from food, drink or anything else you might require. During the day there’s even a café which operates within the building. Parking is a little tricky if you’re arriving by car, but try Chapelfield if you can’t find anywhere else. You won’t, by the way, need to stash your stuff before entering the room – there’s actually a cupboard provided for that purpose in the office itself. Brilliant.
This is a room that requires a little more focus and attention than most. It’s low-tech and straightforward, but still presents an interesting and unique challenge to new and experienced escapers alike. Plus, if you pay attention, you might just learn something.