Star Wars Unlock!: Escape From Hoth

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Echo Base, an important Rebel stronghold, has managed to remain hidden on the ice planet Hoth for some time. The hostile climate provides excellent cover and protection from the Empire- but you must always remain vigilant! You head out on a routine patrol with your trusty tauntaun mount, a hearty creature native to Hoth. After an uneventful morning, you take a brief break to rest your tauntaun while you contact Echo Base with an update. However, due to heavy atmospheric disturbance, you can‘t reach them. Your mission: Continue your patrol, explore the ice planet, and contact Echo Base!

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 36:07
Date Played: 17th January 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Star Wars Fans, people who love an adventure

Ever since Christmas, where I bought Player 2 the Star Wars Unlock! set I’ve been nagging him. “Hey, wanna play this? Wanna play now?” until FINALLY, it was time. Snacks at the ready, Star Wars soundtrack playing in the background, we took an adventure into the ice planet Hoth.

Now, full disclaimer, I’m not really a Star Wars fan. But I AM an escape room fan *glances around at this blog*, clearly. Unlock! manages to perfectly straddle the two ‘genres’ by positioning itself as a Star Wars adventure with more than a few puzzles to solve along the way. Sure, there’s some cool lore for the Star Wars enthusiast to be excited about, and something for the puzzler in all of us to enjoy. Even if you don’t know what a Tauntaun is, you’ll pick it up along the way!

The story in Escape From Hoth is quite self explanatory if the title is anything to go by. You play one of the ‘good guys’ (I think they’re called rebels but I’m sure it’s more complicated than that), out on a routine trip with your horned woolly camel (oh sorry wait, it’s a tauntaun). Suddenly the weather worsens and your comms go down – what’s more you’ve spotted some imperial (bad guy) droids and you urgently need to relay your message before there’s an attack.

As with all Unlock! games what unfolds is essentially a card based game where you must search the area, solve puzzles and fix broken machines in order to draw new numbered cards from the deck. Each card does a certain thing, for example a blue and a red card go together (for example, a gun and a tauntaun WAIT NO DON’T DO THAT!!). The numbers are added together and if it’s a correct combo, you draw that new card. Yellow refers to a code, and green refers to a machine. The latter two require the use of a mobile app where you can pop codes in and interact with your environment.

One thing about Unlock! games is that unlike a real escape room you don’t have the luxury of trying everything. For the majority of the game our character carried a gun and yep, you bet we tried (or at least considered – there’s a penalty you know!) firing it at everything. It encourages players to think really hard about what they’re doing and why. I enjoy this aspect a lot, even if I am the typical button masher in the group.

The coolest thing about Escape From Hoth was just that, the interactivity. At one point, you use your phone as binoculars looking around the landscape trying to spot things. In another moment, your phone becomes a control panel and you must flick switches, move dials and attach wires. It’s really quite fun, and in some ways a technological step-up from the other Unlock! games I’ve played so far.

Another really cool addition was the hints system. At the start of the game you can select three power-ups that will help you succeed. Essentially, they’re clue cards, and they each say things like “when you reach a certain location, draw X card” and so on. Of course, if you find yourself really stuck there is a walkthrough in the box itself. You’ll never be too far away from the next step.

That said, what Escape From Hoth excelled at in technology and cool new features, I did find it slightly lacking in puzzles. True, it’s the easiest of the three Star Wars Unlock! games in the box! I’ve no doubt the other two will be a lot harder, but this was definitely our fastest escape time. If not for snack breaks, taking photos, and pausing to grab another beer from the fridge, I reckon we’d have finished the whole thing in under 30 minutes. Maybe even 20.

Although if that sounds like a negative, please don’t take it that way! It just meant it was the perfect light game for a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’ve been having a lot of puzzle/escape room fatigue lately (wait what?! yes! I’m sorry!), but something short and sweet and embedded in a fun fantasy world was just the ticket. You could pair this game with one of the films, or just play it whilst hanging out with friends and family.

Star Wars Unlock! can be purchased from most major online retailers for around £35 GBP

CU Adventures: Floor 13 | Review

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You’re trapped in your office building after-hours, and you stumble into a place that shouldn’t exist. Discover the secrets of Floor 13 and escape the building…if you can! Discover clues, piece together login codes, and go face to face with a haunted computer. Solve the challenges of this slightly spooky escape room from the comfort of home!

Rating: Mysterious
Completion Time: ~1hr
Date Played: 21st January 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: People who want an escape room fix in lockdown!

Ages ago- and I mean AGES AGO I won a competition from the fabulous Escape Room Escapades folks to play Floor 13 by CU Adventures. I then promptly forgot all about it until the new year. But you know what they say about new years? New year, new me, new escape rooms? Sure. They say that!

CU Adventures comes super highly recommended, so I suggested it to a new group of friends to try out at once. The concept is refreshing, and it’s about as close as it’s possible to be to a real life escape room in a browser based game and for that I’m impressed! Each player logs in remotely, there’s a “Leader” and a number of “Companions”. Each can play at their own pace, exploring new areas, finding new things, and solving puzzles alone (or in many cases, collaboratively).

Which by the way, works really nicely with the setting. If the title of the game weren’t a giveaway, this escape game takes place on “Floor 13”, a mysterious office floor with plenty of secret rooms and nooks and crannies to discover.

If I had to highlight one aspect of the gameplay which was a little tricky, it’s the leader-companion dynamic. Put simply, only the leader can interact with things. So even if a companion finds something, the leader must stop what they’re doing and go to where the companion is in order to complete the challenge. Fine if it’s a major puzzle that lets us advance, and mildly annoying if it’s just picking up a key.

That said, any ‘mildly annoying’ quirk was quickly put to one side by how fun the game is to play. There’s a printed element to keep your hands busy, and the story is one part mysterious and one part “oh that’s pretty cool!” I’m a fan of the 90s – the decor, the pop culture references, the strange mortal fear of Y2K. So this one ticked a lot of boxes. I mean, I’m still not exactly sure how I ended up on Floor 13. It’s kinda like this time in my real life office where our smart lift suddenly malfunctioned and showed floors all the way up to 16 (it was a 6 floor building). But unlike that time in real life, Floor 13 actually lets you press those buttons and you emerge into a nostalgic, dystopian time of technological simplicity.

Finally – you didn’t think I’d finish a review without mentioning this, did you? – the puzzles! Well, the puzzles in Floor 13 were brilliant. Now, full disclosure: before this game I’d been having major puzzle fatigue. My last couple of games I couldn’t seem to figure anything out. *dramatic sigh* I thought my puzzling days were over. But something about Floor 13 made everything click again. Perhaps it was my fantastic team (seriously, these two ladies are escape room queens and I’m honoured to have buddied up with them for this game), or perhaps it was the well rounded strength of the puzzles in the game? Why not both?

There’s a good mix of slightly videogame-esque puzzles, puzzles that make you cut and assemble dials to line up, puzzles that have you turning things upside down, puzzles that think outside the box… In fact, I felt all the puzzles to be fabulously unique to Floor 13. I really praise a game where I’ve not seen a puzzle before, and CU Adventures ticks every box here.

In fact, we’ve decided to award it the Wow Award for innovation!

Overall, we completed the game respectably under an hour. I didn’t time exactly how long we took – but I’m pleased with the result nonetheless!

Floor 13 can be played for $10 USD on CU Adventure’s website.

Ratings

Night in the Woods

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College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades.

Time Played: 10 hours
Console: Nintendo Switch
Recommended For: Everyone! No really, go play it!

Okay, so I really toyed with whether or not to write up a review for Night in the Woods on The Escape Roomer. This blog is, well, about escape room and *escape room adjacent* games, experiences etc. That includes a lot of puzzle games too! But Night in the Woods doesn’t have any puzzles in it, it’s a game about story and exploration. But it’s also a story about being at the heart of a mystery and solving it too. Think of it like an escape room video game but you’re a passive observer wondering what is real and what isn’t real, whilst also trying to live your life. I think that’s a fairly accurate explanation that stays true to this website.

So with that, let’s get into it!

You are Mae Borowski and you’ve returned to your home town of Possum Springs after dropping out of college. The town you grew up in is both upsettingly different and at the same time just as agonisingly the same. Your friends, family, neighbours – they’re just waking up and going through the routine of life. Wake, eat, work, sleep. But something isn’t right, first a few missing posters of a kid you used to know, then a severed arm shows up outside the diner… There’s mystery afoot! But you’re just a kid, right? You have your own problems. But slowly, slowly as the autumn turns to winter, your path and the mysteries of Possum Springs begin to converge.

Despite the game never once giving you any instructions or goals, the aim of Night in the Woods is really simple. It’s a coming of age story told through the lens of American urban decay. The mining the industry sector has all buy dried up and small businesses close to make way for chains and sprawling malls. Your father, once a miner now works at a deli counter. And you? You don’t have a job, or any meaning, or direction. You just explore, you exist. Oh and OF COURSE you solve the mystery.

I’m being deliberately cagey about the mystery as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But you’ll be presented with evidence in drips and drabs throughout the game, have to make choices and face real consequences for your choices. It touches on the supernatural, the criminal and the down right “wow that’s creepy and unexpected”.

So the main reason I’m even writing about Night in the Woods is because I loved it. I picked it up in the Switch winter sale and I’m glad I did, as it easily pips it for me as one of my favourite games of 2020. What a note to end on!

Night in the Woods is by Infinite Fall and it can be played for $19.99 USD on Windows, PS4, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Support them by heading to their website here.

Escape Hunt: Blackbeard’s Treasure

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Step onto a pirate galleon in the middle of a battle for control of the High Seas. Your captain, the terrifying Blackbeard, has just been killed and his ship is shot to pieces and sinking fast.

Rating: Swashbuckling
Completion Time: 41:40
Date Played: October 2019
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Everybody

Another edition in my “I played this ~1 year ago but only got around to writing it up now” series. Well, it’s been a long year. Better late than never, eh? Plus, since October 2019 I have actually played Blackbeard’s Treasure at another site so *hair swish* I guess I’m an expert on this room? Just kidding!

The tale of Blackbeard’s Treasure goes – you and your team find yourself stranded on a sinking pirate ship. Sure, you could immediately jump ship and row your way across the ocean to safety but where would be the fun in that? Plus, rumour has it there is treasure aboard. The legendary Blackbeard’s Treasure. It’s hidden somewhere inside his personal quarters and its your job to find it and get to safety before the ship sinks.

Our escapade onto Blackbeard’s pirate ship was run by the enigmatic Games Master at their Reading branch: Hamish who provided a yarrghh-larious accent over the speaker to keep us moving along when we asked for clues. Blackbeard’s Treasure is available at quite a few other locations across the UK with minor variations, but we played at the closest branch to London: Reading!

In terms of gameplay, Blackbeard’s Treasure is fairly linear. You start in one room, unlocking the next, and finally unlocking the treasure. Although, I say “unlocking” very loosely, as there aren’t actually any locks in this game! The puzzles instead rely on less usual solutions and most surprisingly – rely on 4 of your 5 senses. See, I actually enjoy lock puzzles and think locks work very well in a pirate universe, but Escape Hunt manages to pull it off without breaking the immersion.

However, one puzzle in particular is absolutely fiendish. If “Polly the Parrot” rings terror into the hearts of anyone reading this who have already played the game, you’ll know what I mean! Haha! I don’t wish to give any spoilers, but if I never hear Polly the Parrot’s song again, I’ll be happy. We got there in the end and finished the room in a respectable 41 minutes!

Overall, Blackbeard’s Treasure is good fun! It’s one of my favourite from Escape Hunt and has buckets of charm. If any of my previous reviews are to go on, I’m also a sucker for a good pirate theme. With this one, I reckon it would be a good room to bring someone who has never played an escape room before. The puzzles are intuitive, exciting, but not too tricky as to put anyone off.

Blackbeard’s Treasure can be booked for £25 + per person on Escape Hunt’s website.

Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise | Review

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Your mission (should you choose to accept) is to infiltrate enemy spy Ruby La Rouge’s secret hideaway and put a stop to her evil plans! You play as Agent A in this stylish secret agent world full of retro futuristic contraptions, hidden gizmos, gadgets and clever logic based puzzles. But do be warned… Ruby La Rouge is no spy to be taken lightly! Explore a labyrinth of perplexing puzzles in this quirky game of cat and mouse that’ll have you wondering whether you’re the cat… or the mouse!!

Time Played: 4 hours
Console: Computer / Nintendo Switch
Recommended For: Undercover Secret Agents

Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise could not be highly recommended enough by friends in the escape room world! After seeing no less than 4 threads on my social media talking about how much fun this point and click adventure is, then spotting it on sale over Christmas – I had to indulge!

Considering the sale price was under £5 (reduced from £15 on Steam), it’s worth every penny and more. You get at least 4 hours worth of gameplay, beautiful graphics, excellent puzzles and solid comedy to boot. Even at full price, it’s a very accessible and enjoyable game that deserves all the awards it has one (and it has won quite a few, let me tell you!).

As the title suggests, you play the role of Agent A of the C- I mean, MIA. Your arch nemesis, the dastardly super-criminal Ruby La Rouge has devised a series of traps and obstacles to slow you down as she makes (yet another) escape from your clutches. Starting with… Locking you inside her home! Let me begin by saying, no building in the entire history of architecture is as fortified as this mountaintop apartment and no security system as complex. But why not, the evil organisation HAVOC are a cut above the rest in the criminal underworld.

Your role is essentially to find and capture Ruby La Rouge. She won’t make it easy for you, no way.

Over the 5 chapters of Agent A, you’ll find yourself playing cat and mouse with Ruby across various interior and exterior locations around the secret lair. The keys (mind you, they aren’t always ‘keys’) to cracking open new doors or safes are scattered and each hidden behind even more intricate layers of security. Buttons will transform rooms from relaxed living spaces into high tech command centres. Plant pots and vases will hide secrets when interacted with in the correct way. Don’t get me started on the pets either. If I have to run up and down stairs feeding any more fish to that bird I’ll scream… But I diverge!

Agent A is overall so much fun. For sure, in a lot of the point-and-click genre there is a bit of back and forth. Agent A is no different – you’ll have access to the whole house at all times and sometimes you’ll find yourself clicking back and forth between rooms looking for things you missed. But any temporary frustration is outweighed by the joy of puzzles.

I congratulate any game which features puzzles I’ve not seen before, and Agent A is packed with them. There’s nothing too difficult mind, which is why I’m sure I whizzed through this game in 4 hours (so a little under an hour per chapter). Most of the puzzles require you to find an item and then use that item in a logical way. For example, a magnet might be useful to access a metal item you can’t reach behind glass, a crowbar to shift a heavy object and so on. Scattered throughout the game are what I’ll describe as “mini-games” too: puzzles where you have to move, slide, or otherwise interact with a puzzle in an exciting way! A lot of these are hacking based (hey! It’s a secret agent game, what do you expect), but some really fun mechanics that make it an overall stand out experience.

The final thing worth mentioning, and full stars to the artists on this game, is how beautiful it looks and feels. In particular, each location in the game has such a gorgeous colour scheme and lighting effect. If Ruby thinks being locked in this house is a punishment, she’s got it wrong. It’s such a pleasant virtual world to be in, I think I’ll just stay!

Overall, a joy to play and I can’t recommend it enough for a fantastic intro to how wonderful the world of videogame escape rooms can be. Agents, good luck!

Agent A can be played on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox or Mobile Devices. You can find more on their website here.

Mad Genius Escapes: The Truth About Edith

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You may recognize Edith Humphreys, your sweet neighbor with 24 cats. You may have even helped her out, snooped around her apartment. But there’s something about Edith that doesn’t quite add up… she looks way younger than she is, she says she was born in 1902 but that she’s 97 years young… and she lives at a business called Mad Genius Escapes?! What is going on here…

Rating: Absurd!
Completion Time: 53:39
Date Played: 2nd January 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: 4 Players, Cat Fans

The Truth About Edith is one of those games which I’ve heard so much about in 2020. It not only won an award at TERPECA, but also won at other reviewer-awards such as the Golden Lock and The Bullseye Awards. So when one of my real life escape room teams suggested a digital game, I jumped at suggesting this one.

Having now played it I’m not entirely sure it lives up to all the hype (just my opinion haha!) however we did enjoy it A LOT, and for that I’m very glad to have finally got round to booking it.

It’s got cats (lots of them!), strange old ladies, and a sinister undercurrent of ‘what is this secret shadowy organisation and are they going to take over the world?’. But the real stand out about The Truth About Edith is how you play. It’s actually quite unlike any other play at home escape room I’ve ever experienced and, as such, I really struggled to put it in a ‘category’ for this review. Is it a Zoom / avatar game? Is it a digital online game? Heck it might even be considered a video/audio escape room.

You start out in a mysterious Zoom call where a hurried secret agent tells you your code names and that he needs you to find out all you can about Edith Humphreys. Without much instruction, you must then take to the internet and research in an online treasure hunt across multiple websites. Within those websites are multiplayer activities – which is where your code name comes in, giving everyone something to do at the same time. For example when looking at CCTV footage, one player may be able to pause and play, whilst the other can only rewind and fast forward, while another can zoom in and so on.

At some points in the game we weren’t entirely sure what to do, but there is a helpful Games Master on hand if you get too stuck. At one point in the game there is also an interactive video element, which was a nice touch to feel connected with the Mad Genius Escapes team. Our Edith was funny, helpful and a joy to talk to with lots of laughter all around.

We finished with a respectable 06:21 left on the clock, which is about average compared to other teams. However, the current record stands at 25:00 minutes left on the clock – why not book this game and see if you can beat it?

The Truth About Edith can be purchased for $100 USD (~£73) for a team of 4 on Mad Genius Escape’s website.

Fireproof Games: The Room

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A mysterious invitation leads to the attic of an abandoned house. In the room is a cast-iron safe laced with strange carvings and on top, a note from your distant companion. It promises something ancient and astonishing concealed in the iron chamber – you need only find a way in.

Time Played: 3.4 hours
Console: PC, Switch, Mobile.
Recommended For: Escape Room Fans

Ask any escape room player with a passing interest in videogames for the quintessential ‘escape room but it’s a videogame’ experience and the chances are you’ll hear the name “The Room” by Fireproof Games tossed around! (No, not YOU Tommy Wiseau!) In fact, I only picked it up (8 years late, yes it came out in 2012!) after seeing it recommended so often on various escape room forums.

Having now clocked the game at 3.4 hours (given some breaks, some conferring, and only a little bit of button mashing), I can happily say it’s about as close to an escape room experience as is possible in a video game and worth all the praise it’s given! That said, the style of escape room is a ‘box on the table’ one. Essentially, whilst you are in a room, you’re actually interacting with a box in front of you. Sure, you can spin it around, move things, push buttons, slide panels and generally interact with everything you possibly like. But if you were hoping of more room to explore, perhaps a traditional escape room might be more appropriate.

With gameplay as absolutely mysterious and atmospheric as the title suggests, The Room will leave you with more questions than answers (in a good way – I’m already itching to get my hands on the sequel!). It’s a steampunk fantasy with just a dash of hieroglyphics and astrology ‘vibes’ woven throughout.

There’s very little in the way of introduction, no. The story instead is told through fragmented slips of paper of an inventor slipping into madness (or towards enlightenment? You decide!). Occasionally, reality bends. That is to say throughout the game you’re given an eyepiece which you can look through to see things which are not visible with the naked eye. The further into the murky depths of this universe you go, the more peculiar the things you’ll see through the eyepiece get. It begs the question – what is real? What isn’t real? Argh! I’m trapped!

The puzzles too are delightfully magical and border on the “impossible to recreate in real life”. But they’re also really clever – there’s almost no repetition and plenty I’d never, ever seen before in any real life experience. Regular readers on this blog will know I give high praise when I come across puzzles I’ve not seen before. The Room is PACKED with them.

There’s a lot of looking and searching (with or without that magic eyepiece). Often you’re hunting for keys, but more often than not the puzzles force you to think drastically outside of the box. If you thought a key was simple – try forging your own key to fit locks with hundreds of combinations, or carefully positioning beams of light to create special effects. There’s even a Rubix cube style puzzle to be solved with a charming solution! I love it!

So here’s where we get into the “okay but why did you put it on your escape room blog, Mairi?” Well… In terms of it’s comparison to an escape room, I’ve named it “as close as one can get”. But! And it’s a big but(t): the videogame format offers so much more than a simple escape room. It’s the same praise I load onto VR escape room experiences. The world of escape rooms are constrained by health and safety and special effects in a way the video game world is not. Puzzles are activated and solved by adjusting shapes in the sky that are not really there. Enormous contraptions unfold in front of you and vast mechanical systems fall into place. I don’t know about you but most escape rooms are built on a budget. I’m happy with a simple lock and key in a real room, but here, in the video game world – the possibilities are endless!

The graphics too are extremely immersive. Although I’m playing this game lazily from my laptop over the Christmas break, once I’m in the game, I’m in. They are remastered from the original, yes. I should also specify my PC runs the game much more beautifully than the mobile counterpart. But however you choose to play The Room – you’ll be impressed! It’s nothing short of beautiful.

Overall, such a highly recommended videogame for a fantastic escape room experience (whilst the real life games are still shut down here in the UK). It’s moody, mysterious, and immersive for a good 4 hours worth of “wow”.

The Room can be downloaded for £3.99 on Steam, £6.99 on Nintendo Switch, or £0.99 on most mobile devices!

Escape Hunt: Alice in Puzzleland

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The Mad Hatter is in trouble. Save him from the Queen of Hearts without losing your heads. Step into Wonderland, where the Hatter has been accused of stealing the Queen’s Tarts. With Alice nowhere to be seen, it’s time for you to fill her shoes.

Rating: Curious!
Completion Time: 41:46
Date Played: October 2019
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Everybody

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser in Wonderland- I mean, Puzzleland. That’s why my team of 2 and I hopped on over to Escape Hunt Reading to play Alice in Puzzleland back in October 2019 (yes, a late post. I’ll do better in 2021 I promise).

Whilst Alice in Puzzleland is available to play at multiple sites across the UK, we chose the closest to London: Reading. During our experience there, we were led by the Cheshire Cat (played by the awesome Games Master Hamish) through the rabbit hole and into the magical world of Wonderland.

The story goes, you play a kind of “Alice” type character and are summoned to Wonderland by a letter from the Mad Hatter. He is in grave trouble – accused by the Queen of Hearts for stealing the jam tarts, it’s up to you to find out what really happened. Since you’re not trying to escape, it’s a bit of a mystery style escape room. You must instead break into the Hatter’s house, find out what happened, and of course put it right and save the Hatter’s life before the time is up.

The room has two main areas to it, all of which are visible from the moment you walk in. There’s Wonderland – grass on the floor, a mysterious signpost, and a table laid for tea. Then, there’s a house, the door for which is locked. Tantalisingly you may peer through the window, but until you’ve solved the outdoor puzzles there’s no entry. The whole thing is very Alice in Wonderland though! There’s references left right and centre and the outdoorsy, whimsical setting is very well themed for the pre-existing literary universe.

In terms of those puzzles, there’s quite a bit to do in just one hour! The game takes both a linear and non-linear format (if such a thing is possible!), with multiple puzzles people could be working on, but that set largely gatekeeping the next ‘series’ of puzzles. A team of 3 with a mix of experience was about perfect for a room like this! Nothing too hard, but nothing too easy either, and plenty that involved collaboration.

As expected, they’re all ‘on brand’ with the Alice in Wonderland universe. Imagine things growing bigger, smaller, topsy turvy and upside down. There’s “eat me” / “drink me” puzzles, and plenty that involve mixing or even painting to produce the correct result. Absolutely not a lock in site, this particular game relies a little more on paying attention to the narrative and intuition.

Overall, we enjoyed it. Out of the 3 of us, it was 1 of our party’s favourite game at Escape Hunt. It wasn’t mine, but that might be down to not being super engaged by the theme of Alice. I vaguely understood the characters, but having read the book (or watched the film) would have helped a lot. Sure, the puzzles aren’t reliant on it but the context and Easter Eggs are!

I should also mention that this very same day my team played Blackbeard’s Treasure which, in the end, was my favourite of the two! What can I say, I love a good pirate themed escape room! But if your team are Alice in Wonderland fans, I’m certain they’d absolutely adore this room just as much.

Alice in Puzzleland can be booked for £25 + per player on Escape Hunt’s website.

ClueQuest: Prison of Memories Part 1

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After a sneaky attack from an unknown assailant, Mr Q is trapped in a coma. With time running short it’s up to Mrs Q and Lord Hammerschmidt to dive into Mr Q’s mind and find a way to wake him up. But they can’t do it without your help!

Rating: Tricky!
Completion Time: 59 minutes
Date Played: 30th December 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Fans of ClueQuest, Puzzle Enthusiasts

ClueQuest are back at it again with their brand of cat-and-mouse *cough* I mean, sheep-and-mouse world domination madness. After their first Print + Cut + Escape series of games ended with an exciting bang, October brought the spooky Halloween Survival Training game (and was one of my favourite play at home games of 2020!). I’d been wondering (and stalking their social media, of course) if after all the success, they’d be turning their hands to a new series. Which is where Prison of Memories comes in!

For me, Prison of Memories Part 1 is a step up in difficulty from their other games. Perhaps I’ve been pacified by the recent games aimed at a child audience, but for some reason I found this one HARD. Really, really hard! True, I did play it as a solo player, on a post-Christmas cheese fuelled afternoon in that period between Christmas and New Years where time has no meaning. This might explained why Prison of Memories was the ClueQuest game I took the longest on, asked for the most clues, and *gasp* skipped a couple of puzzles (I’m sorry!).

The game goes as a lot of their other Print + Cut + Escape does: You receive a download pack and an online login. To begin the game, you should print everything out, separate them into the parts, and hit ‘start’ on the website when you’re ready. From here, the production value only gets better each time! I’m a huge fan of the witty and charming animated intro videos and the deep dive into the ClueQuest lore is always so exciting and fun.

In Prison of Memories, an attack by the nefarious Professor Blacksheep leaves our hero Mr. Q trapped in his own mind and unable to break free. So this time, in a change of environment, you play with Mrs. Q and deep dive into the incredible, wonderful mind of Mr. Q in order to rescue him. Think of it along the lines of a 90s episode of “The Magic School Bus”, but with more mice.

After the initial, “ooh this is a cool idea” you jump into gameplay. Overall, the game is quite intuitive rather than signposted. I think it unlikely a brand new player would play this first (and if you ARE a brand new player wondering if this is a good place to start, I’d recommend going back to Stolen IQ first). For this reason, I believe Prison of Memories relies on a certain amount of comfort with ClueQuest games and understanding what the game expects you to do. But of course if you do get stuck, you have hints, answers and a password box to type your answers and proceed at the end of each level.

Despite the hints and answers there are a couple of puzzles I couldn’t quite get my head around. I blame the Christmas cheese and wine. Well, this game IS about mice, isn’t it? But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun! It’s good to be challenged by some really ‘out of the box’ puzzles, and ClueQuest dishes those types of puzzles up like a breakfast buffet.

I don’t want to give any spoilers because the puzzles are really unlike anything else I’ve played in other games, but you’ll have to rely on pretty much all areas of the brain to crack this one. In each level there’s at least one very cool ‘thing’ to assemble out of paper and in more than one case something you thought was just “pretty art” turns out to be integral to the puzzle. Oh! Let’s not forget the maths know-how. How’s your adding up? I’m kidding, this game is packed with ‘fun’ maths, like pattern recognition or spatial awareness of shapes.

For me, I don’t think I can really mark this one as “finished” as I did skip a couple of puzzles, oops. But I’ve got nothing but absolute admiration for ClueQuest and their experiences, so I still wanted to write about the Prison of Memories because I had a good time playing it. This review can serve as advice, OR if nothing else, it gives you (yes you, the reader!) bragging rights over me when you manage to absolutely smash this game without a single clue.

In summary, it’s a challenge! A fun one, inspired, awesome art, packed with “woah I’ve never seen this puzzle before” moments. I’m excited for Part 2 which I’ll take on with a clear head, not under the influence of a week’s worth of camembert and wine *burp*.

Project Avatar: Stalker

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Not an ordinary mission for the AVATAR, but his friend UTYA DUCK is in trouble. He cannot get home because his AIRDUCKTER is broken. He needs artifacts to fix it. But they can only be found in the Magic Pawnshop. This a the problem…because in this reality…the manager of the Magic Pawnshop is CHICKMAN the BIG BOSS CHICKEN!!!!

Rating: Wacky!
Completion Time: 60 minutes (2,300 pts)
Date Played: 26th December 2020
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: 

If you live in the UK, you’ll probably know that Christmas in 2020 was… A little different. With almost no notice, many major cities suddenly went into extra lockdown and those with plans to see their family had to stay home instead. “No worries” I said to my parents, “Let’s just do an escape room for our big Boxing Day activity! I know just the one!

That ‘just the one’ was the FANTASTIC “Stalker” by Project Avatar. Their first experience called, relevantly, “First Mission” was voted 9th best play at home escape room in the world on TERPECA 2020 – I had to check it out! Compared to all the other horror-adjacent titles (*shudders in scaredy-pants*) on the leader board this year, Project Avatar sounded just the bonkers, slap-stick ticket for a remote family ranging from 11 – 80 years of age. Besides, it’s not even really an escape room. It’s so much more!

In the end, grandad respectfully chose not to take part (I think he fancied peace and quiet for an hour instead!). Which left the four of us to fend for ourselves, avoid the dastardly Chickman, collect brightly coloured objects, navigate a labyrinth of mysterious rooms, and save Utya Duck. Simple? Right?!

Your goal in Stalker is essentially to solve puzzles, collect objects, to craft artefacts, to help repair your friend Utya Duck’s airplane. If you go into the game only knowing that, you’ll be alright – but of course, it’s also not quite as simple as that! This first-person comedy adventure is like nothing else I’ve ever played before and I think possibly the first in it’s genre of what I’d describe a “live videogame”.

As well as searching for objects, you have a UV light to help find hidden objects. Doing or interacting with certain environments often triggers cut scenes which either give you a helpful clue, or just make you laugh! Throughout the game, you have 3 lives. It’s imperative not to be ‘caught’ by the proprietor of this wacky workshop: Chickman. Do so and he’ll spring from the shadows and beat you up, *cough* I mean you’ll lose a life and go back to your last area. You may also lose a life by gambling on any mysterious box or door labelled with a white question mark. This may give you extra items, or cause you to lose a life.

Towards the end of the game, you’ll gain access to the crafting room. Here you use everything you’ve collected to craft those artefacts which will help Utya Duck repair his plane. Each crafted item is worth points, and these points determine how well you did overall.

Our team scored a very respectable 2,300 points which I’m pretty chuffed with. Especially considering the absolute maximum you can earn is 5,000 (and this is impossible given the time constraints). We also only accessed around 2/3 of the map. Apparently there was a whole extra floor we hadn’t yet discovered!

Having finished (and already itching to play it a second time – yes, it’s replayable!) I sit back now and I try to make sense of the whole game. Set in an alternate reality, all characters (except for yourself – I assume! I haven’t seen the Avatar up close) are anthropomorphic birds. It’s dystopian and otherworldly too. But if I had to describe it as one genre and one only it would be COMEDY in capital letters with flashing lights around it.

Gosh, is this game hilarious. It’s just my type of humour and quite often I couldn’t even concentrate for giggling so much. It’s exactly what I wanted to feel on Boxing Day and I’m so glad I picked this game to play with my family.

For sure, there is a lot to get your head around. But if anyone is reading this and wondering if it’s too complex – I wouldn’t let that put you off. For starters, you get a lot of help. Not only is the Avatar themselves (although silent) extremely helpful in pointing you in the right direction, but you also have a very friendly Games Master on hand too.

The second thing I would advise about this game is absolutely not to take it too seriously. If you go in determined to complete everything, you’ll be disappointed. There is too much to do, too many puzzles, too many cut scenes – each as brilliant as the last. Think instead of this game as a gift that keeps on giving. You can play any way you like, as many times as you like, and if you don’t even find a single object you’ll still come out with a big smile on your face. It’s light hearted fun! If you want to play competitively, by all means! But Project Avatar: Stalker is only what you make of it.

Overall, without a doubt one of the best experiences I’ve done in 2020! Worth every penny and I cannot thank Project Avatar enough for such a fun Boxing Day afternoon with my family.

Project Avatar: Stalker can be booked for 100 EUR for a team of 4 by heading to Project Avatar’s website.