There's no escape from the Bury St Edmunds Evidence Room's Future Room for SuffolkNews team
The storm clouds had gathered and rain was lashing down as we walked down Risbygate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, to the Evidence Room.
I was one of a four-strong team of Suffolk News sleuths – or the Newshounds, as we called ourselves – who were about to test out the town's newest escape room, where you solve problems against the clock to 'escape'.
Only one of us had ever tried a real-life escape room before, with another having experienced a virtual room and the final two members of the team being escape room 'virgins'.
As one of those completely new to the experience I had scant idea of what to expect, but I was excited.
The Evidence Room opened in 2018 with two rooms – the Gedding and Aztec – before introducing its third this month.
Called the Future Room, it is based on a 1980s vision of how the future might look, according to Evidence Room owner Ben Cunningham.
On our escape from the rain into the Evidence Room building, Ben gave us a safety briefing, showed us where we could securely store our belongings and then prepared us for what lay ahead in the Future Room.
"In 1987, a mission left Earth and never returned, until the spacecraft was spotted orbiting our planet in 2022," said Ben.
"No crew were on board but the ship contains a highly-toxic substance called 'energenium'. If exposed to energenium for more than 60 minutes, you can never return to Earth.
"Your task is to crack the clues and discover what happened before your time runs out."
And so we ventured down the corridor and stepped into the Future Room...
With walls clad in metallic sheeting and colour-changing lighting, the room certainly has the feel of a retro-futuristic spacecraft.
Inside the room (without giving away too much) is a table, exposed pipework, various laminated cards and plenty of locked cupboards and safes.
We were flummoxed. Where to start?
Like headless chickens, we started frantically exploring the room not really knowing what we were doing or what we were looking for.
I pressed something and a light came on elsewhere in the room – later on all would become clear but for a while I merely enjoyed the light show.
Fellow newshound Sam exclaimed from elsewhere in the room that if you stood at a certain angle you could see a code.
News editor Paul started collecting what looked like the pieces of a puzzle, while senior reporter Mariam kept saying 'But what do we do?'.
We were clueless and a little overwhelmed, but eventually we did make a start and cracked one code.
That one code opened a cupboard which (after some appallingly-amateur sleuthing) led to another code, and so on.
Some codes came easier than others, while others tested our mettle. Some puzzles were visual, others tested our dexterity while others forced us into mental arithmetic (not a strength of many journalists).
Sometimes – when we were completely stumped – a robotic (but very helpful) voice would crackle over the tannoy, providing a little direction or focus to our activities.
"Thank you, helper person," we chirped on more than one occasion.
There was dry ice, a robotic grabber hand and a hologram – while in the background a screen charting our 'energenium exposure' (or time in the room) ticked away.
As our time limit rapidly approached we knew we must be close to escaping before succumbing to energenium poisoning, but our best efforts were not good enough. As I aimed a laser to activate what could have been our escape route (but we will never know) the last seconds counted down and we were trapped in the Future Room forever.
In reality all was well, Ben appeared to open the escape hatch and we ventured back into the real world: blinking; a little sweaty (I blame the humidity) and laughing at some of the hilariously stupid moments we had all displayed over the previous 60 minutes.
Then it was time for a team photo before returning to our desks for what was left of Friday afternoon.
On booking, we imagined it as a team-building experience and it was certainly that – I have now seen my colleagues' brains working in a completely different environment to the newsroom and discovered that we all have very different strengths.
Equally, it would be a fantastic activity to enjoy with loved ones or friends.
I left the building saying 'I loved it' and mentally planning a return visit to one of the Evidence Room's other challenges in the near future. I think I might now be hooked on escape rooms.
Tickets are from £20 – book at www.evidenceroom.co.uk
The Future Room has a recommended minimum group size of three and a maximum of six.