Breakin’: Sherlock’s Despair


21st of October 1891, London. A dark silence hangs over 221B Baker Street. The great detective Sherlock Holmes has been discovered dead, washed up in the gutters outside a seedy East End opium den. Without his nemesis, the wicked Professor James Moriarty plots world domination from the shadows. You – Sherlock’s oldest friends and faithful assistants – are now the only hope of stopping him.

Rating: Good Fun!
Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: October 2018
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Budding sleuths and Sherlock enthusiasts!

** PLEASE NOTE the time between visiting and writing this review was more than 1 year. **

Sherlock’s Despair was my very first escape room with Breakin’ and it was also the escape room I used to introduce a whole new team to the genre! For this reason, it has a special place in my heart.

If you ever browse Breakin’s website, or ask them which is the hardest – they’ll say this one. For that reason when we arrived we were given the choice of swapping to another room if we wanted … Even with that tiny doubt in my mind that we might not make it out in time, I’m so glad we didn’t swap. Instead, this group of motley beginners, absolutely nailed it. Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out!

Sherlock’s Despair as a game has really cool theming. It really feels on brand (to the Sherlock Holmes vibe, I should say) and like you’re stepping into the detective’s own study. I find it hard not to compare to the last escape room I reviewed (Sherlock: The Time is Now – I do a lot of Sherlock rooms huh?), but where that one was modern and based on the TV show, Breakin’s was vintage and Victorian in all the right ways. Magnifying glasses? They got em! Dusty tomes, cool looking lamps? Check and check! Gimme a deerstalker hat immediately!

And the puzzles? A good mix. There are mathematical puzzles, word puzzles and logic puzzles a plenty – I actually LOVE a logic puzzle, and what better for a Sherlock Holmes room? The room is quite padlock heavy, if that’s you’re thing – so there’s quite a bit of hunting, searching and solving to find a key, or suss out a code. Not only this, but with the most number of puzzles compared to all other Breakin’ rooms – there’s more than enough for the whole team to do.

I’ll admit, this room isn’t as fresh in my memory as my other recent reviews, but I’ve a crazy huge backlog of rooms I’ve been needing to put up on my blog and I might as well start with this. Why? Because I just remember it being so much fun. Smiles all round and a good time to become an escape room fanatic.

Sherlock’s Despair can be played at Breakin’ Escape Rooms in Holloway, London. Prices are currently between £23 – £35 pp. All photos in this review are (c) Breakin’ except the final one.

Unlock!: The Tonipal’s Treasure


The Tonipal’s Treasure, sets you at the start of a hunt for the treasure of Captain Smith, hidden somewhere on Tonipal Island. As your adventure begins, you’ve been arrested by the Governor and thrown into prison from where you’ll need to escape quickly, especially since Johnson, a famous treasure hunter, is also on his way to Tonipal in search of the very treasure that you seek.

Rating: Yarrghhh’mazing
Completion Time: 61 minutes
Date Played: 9th August 2020
Party Size: 2

The Tonipal’s Treasure is one of the Mystery Adventures set by play at home game company, Unlock! As with their other games, the whole experience fits in your pocket. It’s just a deck of cards and the Unlock! App. Compared to all the other’s I’ve played so far (The Island of Doctor Goorse & The Nautilus’ Traps plus the others I haven’t quite got round to writing up yet), The Tonipal’s Treasure is my easy favourite! I LOVED IT!

Yes okay, it’s not listed in my bio but I am quite partial to pirate games. Literally, there’s nothing more enjoyable than putting on the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and searching for treasure. Pirates are … Cool!

So stepping into the world of Tonipal in search of treasure was an absolute joy. There’s such a fun narrative in this game. First, you’re locked up in a prison cell. Step one is to break out (but don’t worry, you later come back for your cellmates!), then what follows is an exciting trip from location to location. You meet good guys, bad guys, and voodoo priestesses. You’ll have opportunities to make a choice (whether you want to fight or flight, for example) which gives the game an impression of a ‘choose your own adventure’.

The puzzles too were enjoyable. In the past, we’ve found some of the Unlock! games are a little harder to follow but this one was great fun and just the right kind of challenging. The game relies a lot on ‘Machine’ cards, which are green. These give you a code to input into the app and there you can interact with your environment. One such puzzle has you create a recipe, another sticking pins in a doll. As well as Machine Cards, there are lots of items to collect, the meaning for which may not even become clear until right at the end of the game which again – brilliant!

In particular, I loved the ending puzzle. If, whilst playing (and from my photographs) you couldn’t tell that the backs of the cards have a particularly suspicious treasure map design … Well then you’re in for a treat because yes, the final puzzle involves an epicly large treasure map that didn’t quite fit on our table.

A final note on this review of The Tonipal’s Treasure, a post-game Google told me that apparently when you finish, there’s in fact a bonus extra mission that takes you on a real life immersive treasure hunt! I’ll try not to give any spoilers here – although since what I’m about to describe has now ended it’s a very low stakes spoiler – but effectively when you finish this game you have a card or two left over and a secret code that points you towards a URL. The URL offers more clues, which reference completely different games in the series. Any players lucky enough to solve the whole thing (and it looked hard!) would be rewarded well. The puzzles are absolutely still there, but you’ll not find a prize at the end anymore.

The Tonipal’s Treasure can be purchased for approximately £15 on Amazon, or local retailers.

A Brief Guide to Geocaching


Join the world’s largest treasure hunt. Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a real world GPS based treasure hunt. In fact, the largest and most widely used treasure hunt in the world! All over this planet are hidden little boxes called Geocaches. They might be as tiny as a bottle cap, or as large as a treasure chest. Some are obvious, others are disguised as rocks, or tucked inside bricks in the landscape where nobody would think to look. By solving a series of clues, or following the co-ordinates, anyone can find and log these Geocaches, wherever they are in the world.

How does the app work?

Prospective Geocachers create an account on the website and download the app. Then, by enabling GPS co-ordinates, players can see all nearby Geocaches (or caches, as they’re refered) labelled by a different icon for each type. Players then navigate to the geocache by GPS and, when close, must search their environment or make use of the clues to find the location. Once found, players can log the cache on their account in the app.

Players may also find a logbook to sign, and items hidden within the cache. Trackables are a certain type of item that enjoys travelling between geocaches. Players are encouraged to collect these items and drop them at the next geocache they find, to help the Trackable travel the greatest distance.

Types of Geocache

Traditional Cache (Green)These Geocaches are straightforward and may be any size, and any difficulty to find.
Puzzle Cache (Blue)These Geocaches involve puzzles to find – your initial location may take you to a place in which a puzzle must be solved to find the correct location of the cache.
Multi Cache (Orange)Multi-caches are Geocaches where more than one location is involved. The co-ordinates may take you to a start point, but a series of puzzles must be solved to take you to the next location. At the next stage, you receive a clue for the following, and so on.
Earth Cache (Earth Symbol)Earth Caches are places of unique geological significance, or places of great natural beauty. There are no physical caches here – you log it by being present!

In the past, other caches including Virtual Cache and Webcam Caches were great fun, but are sadly retired today! Trophies and awards can be collected for claiming certain caches, or a certain number of caches on specific days.

The Escape Roomer’s Favourite Geocaches

Mostly in London, here are my favourites:

  • The British Library | London | Multi-cache
    • A fabulously puzzling experience that takes you all the way around the British Library, finding clues and solving puzzles. It ends in the largest Geocache I’ve ever seen.
  • 16th Century Pub | London | Virtual
    • A brilliant trip through history with a few great puzzles to boot!
  • InglenookBrew’s Caches | Auchencrow | Traditional
    • The most charming and surprising hides I’ve ever seen. Expect quirky mechanisms and brilliant reveals!
  • The Smoothe Field Mystery | London | Multi-Cache
    • A step back in time with an excellent series of puzzles around Smithfields, London.

(Please note: This list is NOT exhaustive. Have I missed a brilliant one? Let me know and I’ll add it!)

Is Geocaching safe?

Quite safe! Although some Geocaches will encourage you to row a boat, or even deep dive to find them, the average Geocacher will find all Geocaches accessible and within reach unless otherwise marked. As usual, have some common sense when it comes to any unregulated outdoor experience – please don’t tresspass, or Geocache after dark! If it feels unsafe, it probably is.

A Brief Guide to Randonauting


The Randonautica app puts the user in the Director’s Chair of an adventure story yet to be written. By using the app, the user can break from their mundane day-to-day and take a journey of randomness into the world around them. Your mind is your guide as you observe and view the world differently.

What is Randonauting?

Randonauting is pretty simple. It’s using the app Randonautica to travel to a random place nearby. More specifically, it’s your very own choose-your-own-adventure game. You set the rules, the distance, the objective, and what happens next.

The most common use of the app and term “Randonauting” is to first set an ‘intention’ (for example, to find something new, something surprising, or something yellow), generate a location based on the app’s algorithm, head to the location and, well, find that thing.

The idea is to have an adventure and look out for your intention not just at the end goal but along the way too. You, the player, are encouraged to interrogate your surroundings. Perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for, or find the answer to a question that’s been on your mind.

How does Randonautica work?

It’s a quantum number generator that translates to a co-ordinate. When you open the app you choose between an attractor (an area the app considers significant), a void (an area the app considers insignificant), or an anomaly (either of the two, it’s random).

On the second step of the app, you choose your RNG (Random Number Generator). ANU (Australian National University), or Temporal. This is just choosing between which number generator you want to use. I’ve found no real difference between the two.

How to set an ‘Intention’

Setting an intention is simply deciding what you want out of your Randonauting experience! I’ve had great success with the following intentions:

  • To find something that sparks joy
  • To find something unexpected
  • “Life finding a way”

As your experience will be entirely personal, it’s important to pick something meaningful for you. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • The answer to a question that is on your mind
  • Something unexplainable
  • Proof of ghosts / aliens
  • A puzzle waiting to be solved

Is this just confirmation bias?

Oh yes, absolutely! If you set out on a walk looking to find something particular (unless it’s TOO particular, like a “winning lottery ticket”), you’ll probably find it. Some people experience incredible co-incidences, and likely some people return home with no luck on their walk.

Why is Randonauting so popular?

The rise in Randonauting can be attributed mainly to TikTok. Users finding incredible things like stacks of cash, or horrifying things like literal crime scenes have been posted online and traffic to the app has increased massively. In particular, TikTok users have claimed to have found a suitcase filled with remains, unattached limbs, people on the brink of death, and supernatural experiences [Citation]. The experience is what you make of it, and you can read other’s experiences here or here.

The other contributing factor to Randonautica’s success is it’s launch in summer 2020. This was at the height of the lockdown in places like the USA and Europe. What better socially distant activity than a solo walk with just you and your thoughts?

Is Randonauting safe?

The app is as safe as you make it. You’ll be fine so long as you have some common sense about you. For example, no tresspassing, don’t Randonaut after dark, don’t enter a dangerous area, bring people with you if you’re unsure. You know the drill. Stay safe!

Control the Escape: Astronomical Oxygen Disaster


After orbiting space for three months, you and your team of astronauts have found yourselves in a tricky situation – oxygen supplies are rapidly depleting! Somewhat fortunately, you are aware of a back up supply held elsewhere on the spaceship. Find the oxygen tanks and make sure it’s quick!

Rating: A Real Treat!
Completion Time: 30 minutes
Date Played: 1st September 2020
Party Size: 1

I get a little nervous whenever I’m told I’m playing a game for the first time … Astronomical Oxygen Disaster JUST came out and I’m all a flurry of excitement getting my hands on it first after reading such fantastic things about their first game: Villainous Vaccine Ventures.

Having finished (and saved my crew along the way!), I can safely say it is the opposite of it’s title: As in, it was not a disaster – it was brilliant! (Bear with me, trying to make a joke! Haha). Seriously, jokes aside I was genuinely really, really impressed with this game. It has done something … Dare I say it … I’ve never seen before in an online escape room? I honestly loved it!

With a very simple interface and introduction, Astronomical Oxygen Disaster wastes no time before putting you in the driving seat of a space station orbiting Earth. In a massively overlooked mistake, your vessel is about to run out of oxygen and it’s up to you to find the backup tanks and activate them. Whilst not technically on a timer, you must still complete the task as quickly as you can. Your crew’s lives’ are at stake here!

What follows is a really, really cool hands on navigation around a series of real life spaces as you point and click your way through the puzzle. It reminded me a lot of old point and click games (I’m currently playing the Sherlock Holmes series for example) but this felt a lot cooler because its real! Click left, right, up down, or zoom in closely to read the details of what you’ve found. There are audio elements to the game, as well as an interface were you can input the codes and passwords you find along the way.

Effectively, if Google Maps was an interactive escape room, it would look a little something like this! I just love the idea that the clever creators of Control the Escape have physically built an escape room in their office space but only need to set it up the one time because it lives on forever online. Whats more, for the price it’s an absolute steal! It makes sense though, without the overhead costs of a traditional escape room, Control the Escape manages to be completely affordable but still include exciting puzzles.

Plus, did I mention there’s fun references and little hidden details in this game that will give you a laugh? Why yes, that’s a picture of Boris Johnson – don’t forget to look out for your own country’s overlord hidden in the game for a quick giggle.

In terms of puzzles, they’re very escape room-ey. By that I mean you find something, to use it in another place, to use that in another place and so on. I might be the only escape room player in the world that literally carries all the clues I can find around with me, but this game gives me a similar vibe. My notebook open has 2 full pages of notes from solving this one! But yes, in terms of puzzles there’s a computer to hack, a simple morse code to decipher and a very cool puzzle with a periodic table. Nothing too tricky though!

Before I sign off the review, I would probably categorise this as an amateur escape room, but if you’ve read my previous reviews (for example, Endgame by Russell Tolley), I kinda love these ones best? So much love and effort. What they lack in expensive marketing campaigns and flashy equipment they make up for with enthusiasm to get a good product onto the market!

Astronomical Oxygen Disaster can be purchased for £6.50 from Control the Escape’s website.