Our verdict on Escape Hunt's outdoor games in Basingstoke – Basingstoke Gazette

MANY businesses have had to adapt their offerings over the last year, coming up with creative ways to carry on.
From theatres putting on outdoor shows, restaurants offering takeaways and fitness instructors hosting online classes, there are many examples.
However, sometimes alternatives which meet Covid restrictions can feel like second-best.
There are some businesses which have tried their hardest to adapt, but for whatever reason their alternative does not work, and customers are left feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.
I was worried that Escape Hunt’s outdoor games might be one of these unfortunate examples.
The immersive entertainment company opened in Basingstoke last year in Festival Place.
I was lucky enough to try one of their indoor escape rooms when lockdown restrictions had relaxed, and it was thrilling.
Being locked in a room for an hour solving cleverly created clues as time ran out captured my imagination and challenged my mind.
How could Escape Hunt possibly recreate this experience outside, I wondered? The whole point of an escape room is that you are trapped inside.
However, my fears that it would be a disappointment were unfounded.
On arrival a friendly games master greeted us and explained the rules.
We had two hours to solve the clues and return to base, collecting points along the way.
With us, we had to carry a box with equipment which may, or may not, assist us.
After watching a brief introduction on an iPad, we discovered our challenge was to save the world from a deadly virus which caused people to lose control of their mind. 
The line between reality and fiction was beginning to feel a little blurred.
Our job was to step into an undercover spy operation and, as a team of secret agents, find the anti-virus to save humanity. No pressure, then.
Using an iPad, the game took us on a tour of the town centre, with clues encouraging us to explore an area I thought I knew extremely well.
It was fascinating finding out things about the town I had never noticed, having walked past them before and never taken the time to properly look.
The game uses a combination of augmented reality and geolocation technology. After a few technical hitches, we soon got the hang of what to do and before long were flying through some clues while others left us stumped and in need of a helpful tip (which cost us points).
It felt brilliant to work as part of a team with my friends and we had a giggle trying to solve the clues as we strolled outside on what was a particularly chilly evening, thinking we had plenty of time to amble and chat. But as the timer counted down, my competitive streak crept out and I suddenly felt the pressure to solve the mystery in time.
Our pace quickened, we focused, worked together using our different strengths and before we knew it, we were on the second to last clue with less than 30 minutes to spare.
Pausing in the restaurant area to solve a clue, it could have been tempting to stop for a drink and join the bustle of alfresco diners huddled outside.
But we were on a mission, we had a job to do. The clue took longer than anticipated, and we rushed back to Escape Hunt to solve the last clue, with minutes left.
As the timer ticked down, the thrill and excitement increased and my heart raced as I frantically searched for the answer.
We had just two minutes left on the clock when we finally completed the mission, feeling accomplished and buzzing from the excitement.
Coming second on the leader-board was extremely satisfying.
I really hope that Escape Hunt continues to offer its outdoor games once it can re-open its indoor escape rooms come May 17.
They would be a brilliant team-building experience for those still working remotely, or a great exercise for older school children, combining exercise, learning, and teamwork.
While many businesses will be keen to abandon their alternative Covid-safe offerings implemented this last year, Escape Hunt’s outdoor games should not be one of them. The company has triumphed in offering an alternative which does not feel like a second-best compromise.
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