20 Things for Escape Room Fans to do During Lockdown

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So we’re back here again! From the 5th of November, most of the United Kingdom will go back into lockdown. This means all non-essential businesses must close, yup even escape rooms.

But not all is lost – we’ve done it once and we can do this again! That’s why this time around, I’ve come up with a list of 20 things to do during lockdown that will scratch that escape room itch.

Whilst this list is most definitely catered towards the escape room fan, why not pick an activity and rope your non-escape room friends in too?

We could all do with a little more fun in their lives!

20 Escape Room Alternatives in Lockdown

1. Play an Online Escape Room

Yep, of course this was always going to be at the top of the list! Head over to Escape the Review to see a list of every play at home game on the market! Or check our my favourites here. I won’t go into too much detail, but there’s something out there for team. Whether you enjoy printable escape games (such as ClueQuest or Escape Hunt), hosted by a live avatar (such as Agent Venture), or something completely digital (such as Clue Cracker or Deadlocked)!

2. Puzzle Trails = Exercise Routine

Just because we’re in lockdown doesn’t mean you can’t keep fit and explore your city safely. Outdoor puzzle trails are a great way to get the brain in gear and discover something new. Here in London, I love Locked City and Operation Mindfall. You can find some fun ones in a city near you with Treasure Trails or Secret City Trails.

3. Hunt for Treasure with Geocaching

A treasure hunt, spanning the entire globe with treasure hidden quite literally everywhere? Yep, that’s Geocaching! Self-guided and safe, in fact there’s probably a secret Geocache located very, very near you. Check out my guide here.

4. Explore a New Location with Randonautica

If Geocaching isn’t your thing, but you still want to get outside and go for a walk – you can make your own adventure with the free app, Randonautica. Read my guide on what it is and how to play here.

5. Write a Novel – Yes, Really!

Escape rooms are all about the adventure. Being immersed in your own story is one thing – but why not use this lockdown month to write your own? November is National Novel Writing Month. By signing up and writing 1,667 words a day by November 30th you’ll have written your own novel. Give it a go here.

6. Start a New Tradition: Board Game Night

Start a new tradition! Why not make Wednesdays the new Board Games Night in your household? Whether it’s Monopoly or Civilisation, there’s a board game out there to suit you. You can pick up a new favourite and support a local shop that has had to close for lockdown by buying a game online. My local shop is Orcs Nest!

7. Learn to Play Dungeons and Dragons

This one’s a little personal to me – I’ve LOVED D&D during lockdown. If you’ve ever wondered how to play, now you’ve got all the free time in the world. I recommend finding a group and playing online via Roll20.

8. Solve a Murder

Okay so this one is a little bit of a joke, but by all means if there’s a murder out there you can solve – go for it! I’m actually referring to online murder mystery games. From those led by actors, to cosy killer games you can play at home, it’s a pretty worthwhile way to spend an afternoon! Oh, and if you’d like somewhere to write notes, you can buy one of my ‘Evidence’ notebooks on Etsy here.

9. Escape… On Your Mobile!

I have to admit, earlier in 2020 I became absolutely enthralled with escape rooms on my mobile. In particular Cube Escape by Rusty Lake are excellent. They’re free and can be played from your phone, absolutely anywhere.

10. Set your friends some Taskmaster Challenges

So this one might be a uniquely British reference, but here in the UK we have a TV show called “Taskmaster” in which contestants take on increasingly ridiculous tasks, such as “Throw a tea bag into a mug from the furthest distance away.”, “Do the most impressive thing when played in reverse”, or “Make a meal using ingredients that begin with all 26 letters of the alphabet”. These work surprisingly well over a Zoom call with your friends! So why not write a list, get your mates together, and have a tournament!

11. Teach Your Talents

Everyone has that special talent, something only YOU can do really well. Why not start a workshop for your friends and family? Repotting pot plants, making cocktails, carving a pumpkin, puzzle writing? Share the skills! If hosting isn’t your thing, you can always book one online.

12. Live Out Lockdown Virtually in a Video Game

It’s its all a bit much *gestures vaguely*, a month is a perfect length of time to really get stuck into a good video game. If you want something a bit more chill, Animal Crossing (hmu for my Switch code if you want to hang out) or Stardew Valley are just the ticket. If you prefer to scratch that puzzle itch, I highly recommend the Professor Layton series, L.A. Noire, The Witness, or Sherlock Holmes.

13. Grow a Beard

Right now it’s Movember, and it’s not too late to get your beard game on. This year, they’re also running a “Make a Move” campaign. It’s all for charity, so why not get involved?

14. Choose Your Own Adventure… On Netflix

Anyone remember that Black Mirror episode where you got to choose your own actions and therefore the ending? It’s called Bandersnatch and you can play it any time on Netflix. There are 5 possible endings – how many can you find?

15. Give Your Home a Makeover

Why not turn it into an escape room for those you live with to solve? Heck, it’s lockdown. You’ve got the time on your hand to live out your best at-home escape room themes. I definitely want to see photos!

16. Host a Pub Quiz

Yep, this one HAD to be on the list somewhere. I know we’ve almost exhausted pub quizzes in Lockdown 1.0, but they’re still good fun. Why not host a round based on escape room trivia, or questions that feature puzzles?

17. Start a New Podcast

Whatever you’re into, someone has made a podcast of it. Here in the escape room industry, you might enjoy The Infinite Escape Room or Escape This Podcast. Or if you want something little different, my favourite of 2020 has been Oblivity Podcast (did you know they have a tie-in escape game too?)

18. Make a List of all the Escape Rooms You’ll Play When They’re Open

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of wishful thinking! One day, the world will be back to normal. Escape rooms will open again, and you’ll be able to go to the pub with your friends again. So get a ahead of the game and make a lost of all the rooms you’d like to play as soon as you can!

19. Make your own escape game

You’ve played the rest… Now make your own! There are so many authentic, brilliant homemade escape rooms on the market. I wrote one for my friend’s birthday this year. All you need is some pen, paper and imagination!

20. Write Your Own List!

Inspired? Why not write your own list of 50 things to do during lockdown. Please tag me @theescaperoomer in it – I’ll want to try everything on your list myself!

Unlock!: The House on the Hill

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For the past three days, paranormal activities have increased: apparitions, flying objects, possessed children… After investigation, it has been uncovered that a group of youngsters who came to have fun in the abandoned house on top of the hill read an excerpt from The Book of the Dead, thus unleashing these phenomena. The mayor relies on your group of experts to get into this house, find the book, and put a stop to the curse!

Rating: Spooky
Completion Time: 27 minutes
Date Played: 7th November 2020
Party Size: 2

Ahhh, lockdown 2.0… It’s back and it’s gloomier than ever. So I find myself once again at my board game shelf, rummaging around for fun things to do with Player 2 at home. Enter “The House on the Hill!”

Oops – this one has actually been on my list for MONTHS. I’d put it aside as a perfect Halloween game to play. Halloween came and went. So better to play this one late than never! Even if we did choose to play this on a sunny Saturday morning instead of a candlelit Halloween evening it’s designed for.

If you’re new to my site and haven’t read my previous reviews for The Tonipal’s Treasure, The Nautilus Traps, or The Island or Doctor Goorse, then I’ll explain how Unlock! games work from the top! The whole escape room lasts around 1 hour (though you are allowed to overrun on your countdown) and the game is self contained within one deck of cards and guided by the Unlock! companion app.

You start in a room. Every time you see a number on the card, you can find this card in the deck and add it to your playing area. Some cards must be combined, for example a match and an unlit candle. You’d combine these by adding the number of the cards together, and you can then draw the card of that value. Throughout the game you’ll also come across ‘Machine’ cards and ‘Code’ cards (that might not be the official names, I’ve lost my instruction manual). For these cards, you must use the application to input a code or perform an action before you can proceed.

Simple? Ehh, maybe. But you get the hang of it pretty quickly! The House on the Hill is an EXCELLENT first game to start with if you’ve never played an Unlock! game before. It’s definitely one of the easiest I’ve played, and also the most logical and straightforward. You should also play it because it’s quite good too! I LOVE games with a spooky vibe and it doesn’t get any spookier than wandering around a haunted house looking for the Book of the Dead.

The story in this game sets you on an adventure avoiding ghosts, uncovering hidden secrets and attempting to close the Book of the Dead for once and for all. I said it’s one of their easier games, but it won’t be that easy! You’ll have to keep all your wits about you as you explore the house on the hill.

Compared to other Unlock! games, I enjoyed this one a lot. Mainly because it made very good use of hidden things. There’s a mechanic in these games whereby if you discover a hidden number on a card, you may turn it over. There are a lot of them in this, causing added delight! The puzzles too aren’t too challenging, but are engaging enough they really give you pause for thought.

Overall, just what the doctor ordered to blow away those lockdown blues! Give this one a go for a fun night in (or morning, if you’re me, haha)!

The House on the Hill can be purchased for approximately £15 on Amazon or in quite a few independent retailers – check your local escape rooms!

HiddenCity: Moriarty’s Game – A Killer in the Hive | Review

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You’re invited to join the British government’s Hive programme, a decentralised network of private detectives, harnessing the power of citizens in solving crimes. Team up with your partner – Private Investigator Kayla Watson – as you attempt to track down a dangerous criminal, and uncover the truth about her mysterious informant.

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 28th June 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Small Groups, Immersive Experience Fans

Please note, this review is based on an early access copy of Moriarty’s Game: A Killer in the Hive played in June 2020. As such, there may be inconsistencies between my experience and the current, live experience.

Moriarty’s Game – A Killer in the Hive is an adaptation of the real life walking experience of the same name by HiddenCity for the post-lockdown world, as such it exists in the same universe and has a few similar puzzles and characters you’ll recognise if you give it a go! But the best part, you can play from home? So a double thumbs up from me – even if I do miss running around my city!

All you need to get started with the game is a mobile phone – from this point your phone becomes your direct line of contact with Kayla Watson, an investigator on the British government’s HIVE programme. Does this make me Sherlock? Mairi Holmes? I like it! I’ll take that.

Whoever your persona is, your job is to solve the case assigned to you and Watson, guide her round the city, and keep her safe. It’s pre-recorded / text based, so no live actors I should add – but immersive enough you’ll forget that within 5 minutes of starting the game.

I found it to be realistic, immersive and thought provoking – definitely a bit special! Have you ever fancied yourself a super spy, or an ‘eyes in the sky’ detective? Well this is about as close to the experience as you can possibly get (and believe me, I did a 6 month internship with a team of detectives at the MET once!). You’ll find yourself scouring live maps of London in order to figure out appropriate meeting places, diligently watching ‘real-time’ CCTV footage, making decisions that affect the outcome of your case, and preparing elaborate scripts as you make phone calls to characters on your journey.

At one point, my regular ‘Player 2’ came running into the room to ask “Who are you on the phone to?” “Shh! This is urgent spy business!” I reply, anxiously.

Whilst the game isn’t on a timer (that I can remember), you’ll have a distinct sense of adrenaline to finish. There really feels like another, live agent on the end of the line and if you don’t play your cards right their life could be in danger… But no spoilers here! You’ll just have to give it a go for yourself!

Unfortunately, as I played this game almost 5 months ago – I have no photos or screenshots from the game, but HiddenCity have kindly provided me the press shots to use in this review.

Moriarty’s Game can be booked for £11 per ticket on HiddenCity’s website here.

Agent Venture: Cyborg Island

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Bozo has disappeared, but secret documents have revealed that B.A.D operates some sort of cybernetics facility underneath a casino on a private island. If this is allowed to continue, B.A.D could create a cyborg army to take over the world!

Rating: Great!
Completion Time: 60+ (DNF)
Date Played: 30th October 2020
Party Size: 5
Recommended For: Everyone / Party

…And we’re back! Back at it for Mission II with Agent Venture. But this time we’re off to Cyborg Island. Following on from Mission I, the evil CEO Bozo has gone missing! All clues point towards the mysterious Cyborg Island equipped with a casino and… A secret cybernetics lab? Yep, looks like we’re on the right track agents, lets go!

If you haven’t read my review for Mission I: The Heist, I’ll bring you up to speed on Agent Venture games. All players take on a different role in these live avatar-led experiences. You play the ‘eyes in the sky’ directing your secret agent to success – there’s a Hacker, a Researcher, the Navigator, the Communicator and finally (if you’re playing in a group of 5), the Co-Ordinator.

Each player only sees the information relevant to them and communication is key! But, rather than make the mission more difficult, this means everyone can specialise and become an expert in their field!

This time round, I abandoned my previous post of “Researcher” and instead took on the “Hacker” role for this mission.

HACKER | ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS:


1. Speedy typing hands
2. Not horrified by numbers
3. Good “serious hacking” face


Seeking tech-savvy hacker to stop upstart secret agents from getting themselves killed. When Agent inevitably sets off an alarm, gets trapped behind a magnetically locked door (again), or winds up in a room with the walls slowly closing in we’ll need someone who can work computer magic and press the right clever buttons to make it all stop. Big, chunky glasses desired but not essential.

Check, check, check and… Okay I forgot a pair of glasses! But nobody got trapped behind a locked door, or worse, fed to cybernetic sharks. Not on my watch!

The Hacker role is definitely the most puzzle-driven of the five roles you can choose from. Put simply, you’ve got to solve puzzles in order to hack various systems!

Whilst I’m not able to compare to Mission I, the puzzles we confronted in Mission II were largely modified Sudoku puzzles. I love a Sudoku as much as the next puzzler – but this was a whole new experience trying to solve them at rapid speed when your Agent’s life is on the line! Haha! A turret poised to fire and I’m trying to find where in the grid to place my number 8.

Unfortunately we did not get our Agent to the end quite in time – merely minutes away, it slipped out of our grasp! Damnit! But rather than put us off, it’s given us even more resolve to get cracking with Mission III: B.A.D. Side of the Moon and put an end to the evil B.A.D. Corporation once and for all!

After all, Agent Venture experiences are genuinely some of the best you can find on the market. Highly, highly recommended way to spend an evening with 4 of your favourite people. And, since England is going back into lockdown for the rest of November – it’s a perfect time to book and give yourself something to look forward to!

Agent Venture: Cyborg Island can be booked for £10 per player on Agent Venture’s website or Design My Night.

Real Escape Game: Escape from the Lockdown – The Strange Village

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A villager by day, and a monster that attacks people by night. A werewolf. In order to minimize the damage, the village took many countermeasures. Outing restrictions. Villagers surveilling each other. Village lockdown. One night, the terrifying howl of a werewolf echoed throughout the village. In the morning, a body covered in blood was discovered.

Rating: Outstanding!
Completion Time: ~120 minutes
Date Played: 1st November 2020
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Accessible to everyone (except young children). In particular Murder Mystery Fans and Board Game Fans

A really, really outstanding escape room experience like this doesn’t come along often. In fact, I’m struggling to remember one I enjoyed more than this?! So there, I’ll say it: The Strange Village is in my opinion, FLAWLESS. I absolutely, unequivocally LOVED IT.

Not only did it combine a lot of elements I particularly enjoy in a good experience (spooky vibes, werewolves, murder mysteries, board game style mechanics, accessible puzzles, yes even small rural Japanese villages…), but the game was supported by such a strong plot, a unique yet easy to understand mechanic and also excellent acting. My only regret is not playing this game sooner! It’s absolutely PERFECT for these stormy dark nights we’ve been having lately.

So how does it work? Well, the game unfolds over five days and five nights in a village with 10 residents – a colourful cast including a baker, the mayor, a nun and a mystical seer). Hidden among them is a werewolf! Dead set on destroying the village, but nobody is quite sure exactly who the werewolf is.

It’s a combination of the classic game “Werewolf” (or Mafia, depending on the version you played) and a live murder mystery experience with actors free to lie and scheme their way through the narrative. Despite having the ‘atmosphere’ is a live game, the whole thing is actually pre-recorded. You can go at your own pace and tackle each day and night cycle as and when it suits you best.

Unlike other pre-recorded games, The Strange Village is far from static. I can’t completely guess at the technology but it felt in part like a “choose your own adventure”. You occasionally reach choices and must make decisions that affect the game. The characters react in almost-real time to what you do and, for the most part, they make you feel like a true and genuine villager in the town, welcome at the village meetings.

“So how is this game an escape room?” I hear you ask. Good question! It’s honestly a bit of everything but at the very core is a puzzle solving mechanic. Not only must you figure out who the werewolf is, but you’re also trying to crack a centuries old code to find the elixir to cure the werewolf.

I played with a beginner player and whilst the puzzles were possibly on the easier side, we both found them very accessible! There’s a mix of number and cipher puzzles, a couple relating to colours, and quite a few that involve retracing your steps for a small detail you likely missed the first time around! It’s a good job I made meticulous notes … Haha!

Without wanting to give too much of the game away, I’m doing to leave you with a top tip!

Top tip if you’re playing this one at home. It contains around an hour’s worth of video footage. I highly recommend cracking out a HDMI cable and hooking this up to your TV for the best, most immersive experience.

This one I DEFINITELY recommend for a night in when you have 2+ hours to spare. Light some candles, make sure you have snacks handy, and bonus points if it’s near Halloween and you’re feeling a bit spooky!

Escape from the Lockdown – The Strange Village can be booked online for 2800 Japanese Yen (around £20 GBP) on their website here.

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