A HARDY team of hacks from The Bolton News, locked in a room in the heart of Manchester, had just 60 minutes to crack the code and stop a deadly zombie virus threatening to destroy the human race. Elaine O'Flynn reports on how they got on.

GRAPPLING with a padlock to a locked medicine cupboard, the numbers on the countdown clock flashed blood red. Fifteen minutes left to save the world.

As me and my comrades, usually a cool bunch of cynical hacks, frantically threw test-tubes around the room, argued over chemical formulas and juggled our competing egos, you’ll be pleased to hear the fate of civilisation was not actually in our hands.

We’d travelled from Bolton to test out Manchester’s latest attraction, Breakout, a real-life escape room game in the heart of the city centre.

Participants are locked in a room for an hour with the task of cracking a code and stopping a deadly zombie virus, which threatens to destroy the human race.

The experience has rocketed up the ranks of TripAdvisor’s top attractions in Manchester, despite opening just three months ago, and it’s quickly expanding to meet demand, with new rooms and challenges planned for the near future.

Organisers say only half of people escape their rooms in the time allowed, with common sense and quick thinking the only tools you need. 

Prior knowledge and mobile phones are useless. Each room is rigged up with security cameras so organisers track your every move, and provide hints when you’ve lost your way. 

As we walked into our room, an abandoned laboratory littered with textbooks, white coats and strange scientific apparatus, we quickly set about investigating everything, determined not to miss a detail.

Panic sets in, with seemingly everyday item coming under close scrutiny for any hidden hints, as our group of have-a-go detectives slowly picked through the puzzle and tried to join the dots.

It’s an exhilarating, fast and fun experience, testing your memory, lateral thinking skills and patience with friends and colleagues.

With minutes to spare, we managed to crack the code and us newshounds were released back into the wild.

For a day out with a difference, it’s well worth a visit if you dare. 

The world may depend on it.

* Breakout Manchester is open to groups between two and five for the ‘Virus’ or ‘John Monroe’s Detective Office’ rooms, at 14A Brazenose Street, Manchester M2 6LW.

Costs are on a sliding scale, varying between £36 for two people and £60 for five people. For more information and to book visit www.breakoutmanchester.com