It didn’t bode well. The last time Northern Soul attempted a time trial in an enclosed space, we failed to cover ourselves in glory. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Northern Soul is still the lowest scoring team at Manchester’s Crystal Maze. We were so rubbish that the Maze Master took pity and gave us an extra crystal to expand our time in the dome. It made little difference to the final score.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from The Library of Enchantment at Z-arts in Hulme. Billed as “a fun-filled thrilling family-friendly escape room, full of seafaring adventures, time-travelling tricks and a pesky old bookworm who’s always up to meddlesome mischief”, I’d only signed up because my 11-year-old niece was desperate to try an escape room. Scout brought her pal Emma and I cajoled my sister Rachael into making up the numbers.
My lethargy evaporated within the first few minutes. This was clever stuff. As I came to realise, Z-arts had constructed a complex and compelling 60-minute challenge, played out in a variety of exquisitively decorated rooms, each containing an intricate series of puzzles. Needless to say, the two adults were cotton-headed ninny-muggins, faffing about and fumbling most of the tasks, while the two 11-year-olds got on with it, took the tasks seriously, and came out on top.
There were comedy elements, too, most notably a Del Boy moment when I nearly came a cropper leaning on what I mistakenly took to be a static bookshelf. Oh, how we laughed. In one of the rooms, a slide was a bit hit with the girls who, despite the clock counting down, wanted multiple goes.
To my surprise, as we edged closer to the deadline, I became increasingly committed to winning. When my sister urged the girls to take their time finding the final clue, it was all I could do not to scream “for the love of god, hurry up, hurry up!” Incredibly, we escaped with just one minute to go. Wiping the sweat off my brow, Northern Soul emerged triumphant thanks to two girls who didn’t lose their cool.
The Library of Enchantment’s Escape Room is at Z-arts in Hulme, Manchester. For more information and to book tickets, click here.