Nurse Wilkes will see you now.

Being locked in with an obsessive fan who has a penchant for murder sounds like a great way to spend an hour. But like all serial killers, your captor can’t help but keep trophies. These insights into her twisted mind are the clues you’ll use to escape. Otherwise she’ll make your life a Misery.

Misery: The room

If you’ve read Stephen King’s Misery or seen the film adaptation, you’ll feel right at home. I say that lightly, because “home” is a psychopath’s stomping ground.

The room is well-decorated with enough extras to add to the immersion without throwing up red herrings (although I did get a creepy surprise at one point…).

Closeup of the keys of a typewriter
Typrewriter by Mike McKay is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Misery is the smallest room in Escape Reality Cardiff, and I think that plays to its strengths. What better way to enhance the sense of claustrophobia than to have a team scramble about in a small space?

Escape Reality do multi-room escape experiences well, and Misery is no exception. Aesthetically, it’s tense, creepy and immersive.

I should also note that Escape Reality are the only venue in Cardiff to have an on-site bar, which was great for our post-escape victory drink. Also, the staff here are some of the friendliest and most helpful of all the venues I’ve played.

 Misery: The puzzles

Many escape rooms rely on the tried-and-tested four-digit combination lock as their bread and butter.

Escape Reality do no such thing. I think there was only one combination lock in the entire room – the rest of the game was made up of physical keys, keypads and one or two innovative surprises that I won’t spoil here.

What I like most about these puzzles is that they rely on different kinds of lateral thinking. In one case we figured out the solution by looking into the personalities of both the captor and her victim.

This innovative approach to both the puzzle mechanics and the puzzles themselves sometimes threw us.

There was one puzzle in particular that we couldn’t figure out without the use of a hint and solution. We’d come across it before when playing another room, but even then it didn’t twig.

Syringe with green fluid
Syringe by Adrian Clark is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

This particular puzzle seemed to require a leap of logic that we wouldn’t have gotten to had we not asked for the solution. This is a shame, as I think the puzzle mechanic itself is quite cool. I think that it just needs a little more signposting as to how to arrive at that solution.

That being said, it might just be that our team just wasn’t quite attuned to this particular puzzle. Depending on your escape squad, you may find the same, or you’ll have someone who’ll just “get it”.

Misery: The hints

I really like the concept of how Escape Reality’s hint system works. You get an iPad with your countdown timer, but it doubles up as a QR reader. Around the room are QR codes that you scan, giving you the option of a hint or solution (that you pay for by adding a minute or so to your overall time).

The issue we had was that often these QR codes wouldn’t scan. This means we’d spend more than a minute trying to scan it in order to get the hint. Given the varying levels of light in an escape room, they were difficult to use anyway.

The staff are aware of the issue and have said that they’re looking into improving the system, though.

Escaped with eight minutes to spare

Spurred on by our failures at the Fibonacci and Enigmista rooms, we defeated the Misery room with eight minutes on the clock.

Our MVP of the night was Rob, who tackled the most fiendish puzzles with ease.

We can now take our place on the victory wall with our epic, albeit blurry, photo.

Geeks in Wales victory photo at Misery, Escape Reality Cardiff

Misery was a fun and challenging room. I also stand by my statement that Escape Reality are the most difficult venue in Cardiff. If you’re after a challenge, I highly recommend you pay this room a visit. If you’re a complete newbie, I’d suggest you either get a few other rooms under your belt first, or team up with folks who have more experience.

Misery suits teams between two and five, and booking starts at £22 per person. At the time of writing, you can get 20% off by using the code IAMCARDIFF20.

Disclaimer: Escape Reality Cardiff allowed me and my team to play this room for free for the purposes of this review. This does not impact on my opinion of the game.

Have you played any of the escape rooms in Wales? Let me know what you thought!