Real Escape Game Japan (SCRAP): Escape From the Lockdown: The Demon Fortress


In the world you live in, humanity lives in fear of the demons. 9 heroes headed to the Demon Fortress in order to defeat the Demon King. The heroes have not been heard from since. The world will be swallowed by darkness if nothing is done. One day, your ‘Communication Crystal’ rings. In the crystal ball, you see… the heroes who were thought to be dead!

Rating: Outstanding!
Completion Time: 120 minutes
Date Played: 28th February 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: An evening of brilliant entertainment, people who want an exciting, rich story with their puzzles.

POV: You are me and you freakin’ love The Demon Fortress so much and you’re trying to think of a way to make this review really stand out so that people know they need to stop they’re doing and book this game (or tbh, The Strange Village by the same company which was also fantastic).

The thing about the Real Escape Game (SCRAP) is that the games they produce are incredible, theatre-quality stories which draw you in and keep you hooked for a full 120 minutes with twists and turns and surprise endings, and opportunities to incorrectly guess answers and have the game react accordingly. Think of it like watching an interactive Netflix TV show where you have to solve puzzles before you can watch the next part of the story.

This might give you the impression that the puzzles are a ‘second thought’ but not at all, each puzzle builds in difficulty and intrigue making the ending truly quite difficult but rewarding once you solve it. Not only that but every piece of dialogue is important too – just like a real live murder mystery event, you have to listen to what the characters say and when. Blink and you’ll miss it. There’s a lot of layers to it!

So what exactly is The Demon Fortress?

Well, the premise is fairly simple. If you did play The Strange Village, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the format. You are an active participant in an ‘adventure’, alongside 9 other heroes. There’s the Merchant Hero, the Music Hero, the Witch Hero and so on and so on… You’re the “Puzzle Solving Hero”. It’s got a certain ring to it.

The game begins by setting up the premise. In this story, your village has been destroyed by demons and the 9 heroes of the land are locked up without their powers in the demon fortress by the fearsome Demon King. In order to save them you must help them defeat 4 monsters, recover their powers, before taking on the Demon King himself.

The game follows a format of:

  • ~10 minutes of dialogue with the 9 heroes
  • A series of puzzles which unlock a treasure chest
  • A battle with a monster

Like a Movie?

To best enjoy this game, we plugged my laptop into the TV via a HDMI cable and sat back to enjoy the show. Quite literally, we never had to leave the comfort of our sofa to enjoy this experience which honestly was a perfect replacement for our ‘movie night’. Same bottle of wine, same bowl of popcorn, but I got to play an escape room in the 2 hours instead? Genius! But we both enjoyed it, A LOT. In fact, in a first for this blog, my Player 2 enjoyed this so much he wanted to share his thoughts on the game here:

  • The world building in The Demon Fortress was the best in any escape room we’ve ever done together.
  • I didn’t have to cut anything out, fold anything, or faff around, which made the game genuinely enjoyable.

It’s slightly weird writing this review for an escape room that felt more like watching a film, but that at least gives me a chance to give a huge huge shout out to two aspects of the game that deserve a lot of praise.

Firstly, the acting! I loved the acting and really enjoyed the characters! In particular, throughout the game I couldn’t keep my eyes off the Priest Healio (played by Ryo Morishita) and Martial Artist Bruce (played by Hiroyuki Oda). Whilst the drama was happening elsewhere in the game, those two provided such comic relief out of the corner of my eye we couldn’t stop giggling.

Secondly, the music! The intro and outro music is by a band called FAKE TYPE. and it just came out a couple of weeks back. It’s so happy and upbeat and really encapsulates the slapstick, manic adventure game that The Demon Fortress is.

I’m running out of ways to describe how much I enjoyed this game, so instead I’ll wind this review to a close. The Demon Fortress for me is a standout experience and if you like adventure, fantasy, comedy, and great story writing – you’ll love it. Honestly.

A round of applause for Real Escape Game Japan (SCRAP) 👏

The Demon Fortress can be booked for 3,000 yen per player (about £20) from the Official Event Page here.

Code Bakers: Code Bake


A delicious treat locked up. A set of clues and puzzles to solve. A code to crack to stop the clock and release the treat.

Rating: Deliciously Puzzling!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 28th February 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A gift to send a friend!

When I first saw Code Bakers I may just have let out a little scream. My two favourite things: Escape room games AND sweet treats?! Yes, yes, everyone ‘loves’ food, but I take sugary and baked variety very, very seriously. Sadly I’m not much of a baker myself, but I make up for it by being my friend’s go-to cake and cookie tester, lockdown allowing!

The premise behind Code Bake is absolutely magical. A mysterious package arrives in the post from a baker who trusts you well. Their secret recipe is on the verge of being stolen by a nefarious gang of rival bakers, and with nobody to turn to they send their last sample to you to eat it *cough cough* I mean PROTECT the sample at all cost. The baker has also sent it to two of their other close friends: Violet and Basil, but one of them is not to be trusted either, which is why each sample sent is different.

From here, the plot does get a little vague, but I’m not fussed. I came here to kick ass and eat cake. In any case, you’ve a number of steps to follow. Although slightly daunting at first, once you’ve got your head around what you need to do and why it’s fairly straightforward. Your goal is twofold:

  1. Figure out the 3 digit code to unlock your wrapped treat
  2. Figure out who can be trusted and who cannot

Lots of the puzzles give you a number, but there’s a little extra stretch at the end (admittedly one I used clues for) to find out what to do with the numbers, for example what order. Then, you’re golden! There’s no huge reveal at the end of the game in terms of plot, but you DO unlock your treat and immediately get to gobble it up… “Wait, what’s that? I was supposed to keep this safe? Oops”

Overall, the idea is super charming. At the time of writing I believe it’s the only thing like it on the market and honestly, it’s the perfect gift for these *gestures at world* troubled times. I’ve mail ordered my fair share of brownies to friends during lockdown but this gift goes the extra mile and it really brightened up an overcast Sunday morning after the postal worker visited. Plus, mine came in the most beautiful bright blue box adorned with yellow washi tape. Exciting, to say the least!

One thing I would highlight is that the puzzles are definitely on the harder side. For me, this is to do with a lack of signposting – it’s not always super clear what you’re supposed to do next. Even after checking the helpful online clues, there was a little bit of “oh! I had no idea we had to do this next” but nothing felt too frustrating or insurmountable.

My favourite puzzle came towards the end, an origami-come-childhood game that was tricky but brought a lot of delight once we finally got it correct! Other puzzles you can expect to tackle include logic puzzles (where’s my pen and paper at?!), ‘say what you see’ puzzles, algebra puzzles. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there’s an enjoyable mix of things to get stuck into.

Oh, and how was the treat? DELICIOUS! Player 2 and me had to fight over who got the biggest piece. He argued that as ‘hand model’ for my photos, he did the most work. But I solved all the puzzles sooo….

When all is said and done Code Bake is a LOVELY idea. I’m quietly hoping they make a sequel, building on what worked best from the first one! …Not that I need an excuse to order more cake! …But in the mean time if that puzzler in your life has a birthday coming up, or if you fancy just bringing a smile to someone’s face, you know where to look! Plus, you’d be supporting a local UK business too which now more than ever is super important.

Code Bake can be purchased for £20 on Code Bakers’ website.

Escape Rooms Durham: Mr X | Review


“Agent, our HQ is shut down, and we are all having to work from home! Despite this, we are still being taunted by Mr X. We need to track this dangerous individual, firstly we need to find out his Surname. Can you take on the job? 

Rating: Original!
Completion Time: ~40 minutes
Date Played: 5th of April 2020 AND 26th February 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Solo players, especially fans of riddles

Okay so I’m genuinely cross with myself that it took me A WHOLE YEAR to review Mr. X because, if you look at the timestamp, it’s literally one of the first play at home escape room games I ever played. I’d even go so far as to say it pioneered the whole play-at-home genre!

I was so excited when I discovered it, and promptly shared the link with almost everyone I knew in my phone contacts. Having finished gushing about it to my friends, I opened WordPress, clicked “New Post”, wrote the title and then forgot to come back to it… Oops!

In order to write this review one year on, I’ve done a rare thing… I’ve gone back and played Mr. X again! I mention this only so you consider this when you read my review – it’s based partly on my hazy memory of playing it a year ago, and the fresh memory of playing it, well, just this morning.

I don’t recall if the game changed at all between my two play-throughs, I only know that a lot happens in a year. Specifically, I’VE changed. Hey! Playing over 100 “at home” escape rooms does funny things to your brain. We’ve all changed this year. Still, I’d like to do my best to try and capture the wonder I experienced the first time round. So here goes!

Mr. X is what I’ll refer to as a ‘first gen’ play at home escape room. I don’t know if that’s the correct terminology, but by this I mean it relies on the relatively low-tech password box on the website. It also relies on the internet to solve each clue – one of the best thing’s about play at home games – your phone isn’t locked in a locker just outside the room. *Gasp* you can Google it!

In particular, Mr. X is location based. Kinda like a MASSIVE online treasure hunt that’ll take you literally to all corners of the globe as you search for landmarks, restaurants, escape rooms and more. The best thing about online treasure hunts? Riddles! Yes, okay I loved this about Mr. X! The story didn’t completely make sense, but heck it made me feel like I was running round the city with cryptic riddles in my hand looking for literal buried treasure and that’s worth a double thumbs up. *stares out the window at the national lockdown*

There are six clues in total. Each clue could take you around 10 minutes to solve, making it an hour game. In reality, it took me a little less time, most likely because I was expecting the style of puzzle the second time round. The riddles aren’t super hard, but without Google you’d be relying on a lot of pop culture and general knowledge such as country’s national icons, musical artists and rough geographical distances from cities to cities. Nothing you can’t Google, of course!

Overall, this game was impressive back in 2020 and it still lives up to expectations in 2021 which is a huge testament. It’s completely free to play, short and sweet and activates all sorts of puzzling parts of your brain. I would (and did!) recommend this to pretty much anyone, but especially if you want something a little different and riddle-heavy to help you escape from the lockdown.

You can play Mr X for free on Escape Room Durham’s website for free, though if you enjoy playing, donations are encouraged.

The House of Da Vinci


You are Da Vinci’s most promising apprentice. Your master, Leonardo, has disappeared. You have no idea where he’s gone or what has happened. So you begin your quest, your search for the truth. However, Leonardo’s workshop is full of puzzles, inventions, escape mechanisms and objects hidden in all corners of beautifully decorated rooms. You’ll need to use all of your brain cells to find out what’s really going on!

Time Played: 7+ Hours
Console: PC / Nintendo Switch / Mobile
Recommended For: Folks looking for a good challenge, history boffins, appreciators of good games.

The House of Da Vinci by Blue Brain Games was the first game I picked to play as part of my Stream the Escape series over on Twitch… And OF COURSE I forgot to actually hit “record”, so it’ll forever go down in history as my “secret lost stream” that only the 30 or so folks who watched it will remember. Except of course for a 30 second clip the fabulous Armchair Escapist accidentally recorded for me!

Click here to hear me talk about the “gauntlet-y fingernail” for 20 seconds.

Lost but not forgotten – that’s what this article is for. A space to reflect on how I found the game, who I recommend it for, and some (maybe) helpful tips for folks playing it.

The House of Da Vinci takes between 5 – 10 hours to complete – maybe a little more, or less, I’m not shaming anyone for taking longer to explore the beautiful environments here. I may have left the game running on my computer, but I’ve currently clocked in 7 hours and being the completionist I am there’s still so much left to explore I reckon I’ll still be at it a fair few more.

So the story goes, you are Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentice and the great man himself has gone MISSING. Thankfully, not before leaving you behind a series of clues. Clues on how to enter his secret workshop, clues on what the odd assortment of machines are, clues about your pretty cool magic abilities… So it’s up to you to do your best, track Leo down, and hopefully save him! But that’s not all! At every step of the way you spot someone (or something) shadowy on your trail. You’re being watched, and it doesn’t look good for you!

I kinda quietly kept shouting in my head “close the door behind you!” every time I moved from one area to the other. It’s not a horror game AT ALL, but there’s something really creepy about being followed by someone who is catching up with you.

The puzzles start easy enough with a leisurely pace through the first third. For sure, I tripped up a couple of times and used one or two hints I probably didn’t need to early on. Clocking the end of my stream at 1hr30 I’d almost completed the second ‘room’ of the game. Respectable enough!

Helping you out you first have the use of the Oculi Infinitum, allowing you to see things with xray vision – perfect for looking behind curious mechanical contraptions to see just how the dials are turning as you interact with them. Later, you can update this Oculi to add new powers, such as the ability to rewind time.

The longer you play, the more difficult and complex the game becomes. Bordering on the “throw my laptop out the window” level at some parts, yes… But who doesn’t love a good puzzle and the “aha!” moment it brings when you finally do solve it? In all cases however, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and turned your Oculi on and off so many times you’re fingers start to feel sore, you can get a “Hint”. When the game sees you stalling too long on one particular puzzle you’ll hear a little ringing noise and a hint will be offered in the top left of your screen.

From around Room Three onwards there was definitely exponential curve upwards as to how many hints I asked for and received. If you’re new to The Escape Roomer though, I’ll always say there’s zero shame in asking for a hint. No use frustrating yourself when you can get a helpful nudge in the right direction!

One of the really nice things about The House of Da Vinci was how history was woven in at every stage. There are some very fun nods towards the actual works of the inventor, with a really impressive ‘achievement’ system that lets you collect his inventions and review them in a special courtyard from the main menu. Very cool! I’ve kinda always wanted to see his flying machine up close.

Probably the only thing I didn’t love were the controls. They’re a little tricky in parts, but I reckon that’s either the game trying to simulate the weight of an object or handle by making it near-impossible to move. That or the difficulty with porting controls across multiple platforms – you can play The House of Da Vinci in almost all consoles, and mobile devices too.

But overall, I feel proud to have played the game, solved the puzzles, and ‘saved the day’ so to speak. The game perfectly sets up for the sequel and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and give it a go.

Until next time, please consider checking out The Escape Roomer Twitch channel, where I stream an escape room game every Thursday at 7pm GMT.

You can purchase the House of Da Vinci for ~£18 on PC, Switch or Mobile. Support the creators, Blue Brain Games on their website here.

ClueQuest: Mechanics of the Heart


Mr. and Mrs. Q’s helpful and reliable reconnaissance droid, MM7, is starting to ask questions all robots inevitably ask, “What is Love?” and “How do you know you’re loved?” You’ll be tasked to help MM7 decipher the complex and puzzling ways of love in our world in order to help focus him on our daily mission to save the world from the villainous network of the Evil Professor.

Rating: Romantic!
Completion Time: 33 minutes + 25 minutes
Date Played: 21st – 22nd February 2021
Party Size: 2 (1)
Recommended For: A Valentine’s activity

I did Mechanics of the Heart in two sittings – complicated? Yeah! Maybe. But hey, it makes for an interesting perspective and hopefully an interesting review. So here goes…

Valentine’s Day unfortunately got away from us this year inbetween playing the Civilisation board game (sorry babe for giving you the plague and sacking your city if you’re reading this!), baking brownies, and watching films. So we tackled Mechanics of the Heart 7 days after the big red day – as if I need an excuse to have a second Valentine’s Day!

But, puzzles aren’t really my Player 2’s thing, so we tapped out at 33 minutes after getting a bit stuck (and a little bit prosecco-and-cheese-lazy too). But not before secretly making a note of answers so I could come back to this in my own time at a later date. Which I did the following day!

So how did I find this Valentine’s themed game for two as a solo adventure? It still worked! That said, the main selling point of Mechanics of the Heart that are that it IS really a game for two to share together perhaps sipping red wine beneath a gorgeous sunset. For example, there’s personalisation. You can input your partner’s nicknames, ideas for cute dates, and funny stories from your relationship. I put a couple of jokes in mine and only misspelled my partner’s pet name once (with hilarious consequences).

Another way in which it’s best played with two players are the style of puzzles. Many of the puzzles actually benefit from having two pairs of eyes, for example comparing lots of information quite quickly. There’s a cool bit of “divide and conquer” which worked well in a play at home setting. I’d look at one half of a puzzle, or one half of a folded paper divider and try to describe what I saw and my partner would do the same and opposite.

What this tells me is that ClueQuest (as usual!) put SO MUCH thought and effort into making this game perfect for ‘the season’ and with a lovely plot and beautiful illustrations to boot, it makes Mechanics of the Heart an exceptional game in the printable escape room genre!

So what is that plot you speak of?” I hear you ask. The story goes, MM7, one of the ClueQuest droids has their heart (no pun intended) set on becoming a secret agent! But Mr. Q has his doubts, arguing that secret agents must be able to understand EE-MO-SHUN. So this is your quest, to help MM7 understand the most powerful emotion of them all: Love.

It was a surprise not to meet Mr. Q in this game (I suspect he’s still in peril after Prison of Memories), but I’ll never say no to learning more about the ClueQuest world lore, and this game’s got buckets of it.

I’d recommend this game for a date night, for any level of puzzler. This game is all about affection, compatibility and like NY Times’ 36 Questions to Lead to Love, it might just make you fall in love.

Mechanics of the Heart can be purchased for £15 via the ClueQuest website.

Fast Familiar: Bad Altitude


A puzzle game with a sense of humour, set aboard the world’s most underprepared airline. Help flight attendant Rhys as he wrangles over-demanding VIP passengers, escaped anxiety pets and his own luckless love life. Can you be his wingman? Work with your friends to solve puzzles, crack codes and avert death by discount airline.

Rating: Hilarious!
Completion Time:  1hr 15min
Date Played: 20th February 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Anyone who wants a light-hearted laugh.

Fast Familiar make “Interactive Story Puzzle Games”, in short – they’re not really escape rooms! They’re so much better. A combination of audio-drama with puzzles to solve, and a fully interactive environment that looks exactly like the high tech mission control you’d expect from A. I. Airlines (FML Forever! Woohoo). It’s a cut above the rest and needs to be played to be believed!

I had to quickly go back and double check all my other 2021 games but… Dare I say it… This might just be my favourite escape room game of 2021 so far? I didn’t play a lot in January, sure. I had a new job and knowing this, I’d lined up all my posts and reviews from December. But now it’s February and we’re back with a bang 💥

What better a game than this light hearted, funny challenge brought to us by the creators of (again one of my favourite Christmas games) the National Elf Service. It’s the perfect remedy for these troubling times: it jets us off into the sky on an airline headed somewhere no doubt hot and sunny, and it’s comedy gold.

The story goes: you’ve joined the flight control team for A. I. Airlines and have a direct line to Rhys, one of the air stewards. It’s your job to help the flight go smoothly, keep the passengers happy and of course, ensure the plane lands without a hitch. Without a hitch? Oh there are a LOT of hitches, and they make for hilarious puzzles. But as Bad Altitude reminds you at the start… Not all heroes wear capes, some of them push the drinks trolley.

I don’t want to spoil any of the puzzles, because they were all unique and brilliant fun. Each time we came up against a new one there was a real “wow! That’s awesome!” moment. So I’ll just suggest a few questions for thought. For starters, how’s your skill at moving passengers around to ensure that all their needs are met? Are you okay with Goats? How about Karen, demanding to talk to the manager? Could you land a plane in an emergency? The puzzles are all FUN, very fun! A good mix too.

I liked the ciphers best, of course. I love a good cipher sorry/not sorry. But there’s some chunky maths, logic, search-and-find too.

Oh and yeah, I said goats. There are more goats on this plane than you’d expect… That is if you’re expecting zero goats to be on a flight, like normal. There’s also an uncomfortable amount of prohibited items stored in the luggage, seriously who was doing the security for this flight?!

You get to view (and interact) with all of this via your portal. It’s a really slick piece of tech and a joy to interact with each time. There’s a chat function at the side of the screen where all players can not only chat to each other, but also with Rhys himself. Super helpful if you’re like me and have a memory like a sieve! (“What did Rhys just say? Oh wait, he’s sent us a text!”) There’s a control panel at the bottom to input passwords, a keepsake of all documents and important things you may need to open again, and of course a big screen to actually see what’s going on in the game!

One of the coolest things about the game is that there’s an element of choose your own adventure in there too. I couldn’t remember whether National Elf Service featured anything like this, so I wanted to give this a shout out as a big step up in the game development! It left me really wondering what would have happened if I’d clicked the other option.

But the biggest absolute gem for me is the diversity of cast and the normalisation of same-sex relationships. Anybody (and yes I mean ANYBODY) who creates any kind of media has a huge responsibility to champion representation. Its important to see yourself reflected in a positive light within the characters, accents and dialogue you’re consuming. So a huge 10/10 to Fast Familiar for once again being a shining light in the industry.

I played with a team of 3 remotely via Zoom and we were absolutely on fire. All the puzzles I typically struggle with *cough* maths, there was someone on my team able to ace. But solving a cipher quickly? I’m all over it. So my recommendation to anyone reading this review looking to purchase Bad Altitude is to have a well balanced team. But hey, it’s the kind of game you can play with pretty much any team. The creators suggest this for a team of 13+ and whilst there is no swearing or adult content, I’d agree that’s a good minimum age. Truly, the best team is anyone who is up for a laugh. If you’re missing your mates in lockdown (which I am *sniffles*), this is just the ticket.

Bad Altitude can be purchased for £20 on Fast Familiar’s website.

Escape Stations: Humbug Hijinx


Rating: Delicious!
Completion Time:  ~45 minutes
Date Played: 15th February 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Puzzlers of all ages, but not if you’re hungry because wow it looks tasty!

Okay SO in a whirlwind of completing this game and drooling over the sweets I… Kind of forgot most of the plot. But woah, woah, before you say anything, it’s okay! Instead I’m going to tell you what I *think* the plot was, and if it’s wrong you’ll still have a great time playing the game, because the real joy is in the illustrations, environment, and puzzles.

So there’s a mysterious confectioner who has designed her whole house to be pretty wacky- in particular, the chocolate print rug is very cool. The house is surrounded by a (probably) never-ending forest you could easily get lost in. It’s 10/10 spooky, but the house is warm and inviting at least. Locked deep inside the house is a secret stack of recipes, very important ones too… It’s imperative you find them! I don’t think it’s a B&E, I think it’s more the case that if you find the recipes you get to inherit the confectionary empire.

So with the all important plot out of the way, how did I get on? I played Humbug Hijinx in a team of two with Armchair Escapist and we completed the whole experience in a respectable 45 or so minutes. The game system is good for multiple players logging on with different devices, as each other player using the same link can see what each other clicks and the same prompts appear on the screens. So be careful if you start button mashing!

We had a minor technical hiccup at the start, but after picking ourselves up got quickly into the game. It’s a pretty classic point and click mechanic from herein. At the start, you’re presented with a map of the mansion you need to explore. This becomes your anchor point throughout the game, each time you find a new code you should return to the map and use it to unlock the next room. Although, player be warned – don’t forget to make a note of which code gets you into which room! You’ll need those codes again!

In terms of puzzles, there’s a good mix. You’ll need to do a bit of searching, for sure, but there are a lot of fun mechanics to get you there. Like clicking things in certain orders to reveal new parts of the environment. Or memorising routes through complex mazes. In this game too, are a few puzzles which rely on sound, and a further few more which rely on colour and spotting patterns too… So I’m trying not to give any spoilers, but as you see, there’s a fun mix. Each room hides something new to uncover and each a delight to click through.

I’d recommend this game for pretty much everyone – playing in the same house, or online via Zoom. Kids, adults, whatever the heck I am. It’s sweet- pun intended- and Escape Stations could do with the support right now! Having opened their first room *right* when the pandemic hit, I’m quietly raging that I haven’t yet been able to visit them in person. But this is a second best. PLUS I haven’t mentioned the best part. On successful completion of the game you’ll win a code for £15 off your real-life booking. Since the game only costs £15, it’s basically free. *shouting louder for the folks in the back* IT’S FREE.

You can purchase Humbug Hijinx on Escape Station’s website for £15.

Access Escape: Escape the Mailbox: The Loco Love Tester


You spotted a facebook Ad for a love tester. In one of your weaker moments, you click the Ad. The page loads and explains that in order to use the love tester you should email your name to this address. The bit that really catches your interest on the page is that if you score highly enough it will reveal the name of your secret admirer. You should really know better but you email the address with your name and the result comes back, “Cold Fish”!

Rating: Different!
Completion Time:  ~10 minutes
Date Played: 14th February 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting emails

I’ll repeat EXACTLY what I said in my review for January’s game: The feel when the wonderful people at Escape the Mailbox release December, January AND February Escape the Mailbox but you decide to play them all in one day rather than one a month like you’re supposed to…

The Loco Love Tester bursts into February with a shower of pink hearts. Ever remember those retro “Love Tester” machines? Nah. Me neither, I’m too young. But I Googled it and essentially they were arcade machines where you’d press a button, or spin a wheel, and the machine would tell you how attractive you are. I also found out there’s a museum in San Francisco that has over 300, but that’s a story for another time I’m sure.

Access Escape have created a very fun (and modern) twist on the idea of a Love Tester – except the catch is, this one has gone loco. After putting your name through it, you come back as a “Cold Fish”. Assuming that’s not right… Your job is to hack the system and find out your REAL love rating. I asked my Player 2 and he laughed and said of course I’m not a cold fish… But I’m 99% sure he’s just being nice because it’s Valentine’s Day.

Fittingly then, the puzzles in this month’s Escape the Mailbox are themed around two things: love, and hacking computers. In solving them I learned some cool things about Unix timecodes, binary and encryption – very cool! I also learned that I am an absolute Casanova and everyone had better watch out (just as soon as I’m allowed out my apartment again, post-pandemic).

Once again, it’s a really sweet little game. I took around 10 minutes to complete it, but typically Escape the Mailbox can take between 10 – 40 minutes. A fun way to spice up your inbox. Heck, you can even forward The Loco Love Tester to your crush this February for a fun laugh.

The technology used is called Puzzle Panther if you’re thinking about making your own. But if you’re more of the puzzle-solving, than puzzle-making type, you can sign up on Access Escape’s website for free.

Access Escape: Escape the Mailbox: Mayhem at the Museum


You leave your house and enter into a brisk determined walk, partly because of the January cold and partly because you’re running 5 minutes late. You ponder to yourself how after 3 weeks off you still manage to be late for your first day back. John, the night guard will ask the same question when you arrive and give a familiar lecture on how next time you’re late he won’t wait around and will just leave the museum unguarded until you get there and if anything goes wrong, it will be your fault.

Rating: Different!
Completion Time:  ~10 minutes
Date Played: 14th February 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting emails

The feel when the wonderful people at Escape the Mailbox release December, January AND February Escape the Mailbox but you decide to play them all in one day rather than one a month like you’re supposed to…

Well, better late than never! By doing three in one day I get to have all the enjoyment all at once, too.

Mayhem at the Museum kicks off January’s Escape the Mailbox with a charming and mysterious story of an overnight museum security guard who, after spotting some unusual green orbs floating around an exhibit accidentally triggers centuries old magic. Oh dear! That magic is back with a vengeance and the only way to stop it? Solve the riddles of course!

So the museum security guard is deep within the museum somewhere and your only line of contact with him is via your email inbox. He needs your help navigating the 5 puzzles he’s been presented with… Damnit! This never would have happened if you’d showed up to work on time.

This time round, the puzzles are Ancient Egyptian themed. You can expect some pretty cool ciphers, hieroglyphics, some maths… Of course, this is Access Escape, so everything is fully accessible to visually impaired players. You can play via your Google or Alexa device and may of course make full use the internet to help.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but it’s a really cool idea. Whats more, the games are short and sweet – so perfect for playing on a lunch break from work. That is, if you used your work email address to sign up!

The technology used is called Puzzle Panther if you’re thinking about making your own. But if you’re more of the puzzle-solving, than puzzle-making type, you can sign up on Access Escape’s website for free.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island


You’re a detective, and a frog, and it’s time to solve a mystery. Play as the freshest frog in the pond and find the secret of The Haunted Island. Using your extreme investigation skills, question suspects and find clues to get to the bottom of this spooky and mysterious mystery.

Time Played: 42 minutes
Console: PC
Recommended For: Frogs, Detectives, and everything inbetween

Frog? Detective? FROG DETECTIVE? Haunted Island? What kinda Scooby Doo s**t is this?! I’m kidding. Real talk, this game is… Incredible! A true work of art among video games. Of course, when I first picked it up I wasn’t sure. It’d popped up on my Twitter feed once or twice, and if you know me you know I love a good detective game so I couldn’t resist giving it a cheeky go. On loading up the game, the first page throws back some very unconventional graphics settings. From there in, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Frog Detective series is a labour of love by video game duo Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker, with an original soundtrack by Dan Golding. It launched back in 2018 and my only regret is not picking up a copy sooner.

In this first person detective game, you play the titular character, Frog Detective and are pulled into a mysterious, yet oddly intriguing mystery on a tropical island, way out in the middle of the ocean. You see, the owner of the island, Martin (a sloth wearing a solid gold crown) is convinced it is haunted. He’s been hearing mysterious ghostly noises for about two weeks now and is terrified. It’s really putting him off his dance training for the big competition this weekend. Yeah, that’s the plot. Bear with me on this one.

This sets the scene for your arrival on the island where you’re greeted by a motley crew of “ghost scientists”. You’ll quickly come to realise none of these scientists are qualified, but that’s part of the charm of this game, really.

From herein Frog Detective is less about solving the mystery and more about exploring your environment and talking to as many anthropomorphic animals on the island as possible. Wait, does that mean the game is really about making friends? Sure! I mean, you do also have a magnifying glass and you can look at evidence (or just bugs really), very close up. But really you’re just there to help the plot reach it’s unusual, yet logical conclusion: to compete in a dance competition.

The main thing that drives the game is narrative. Each character you can interact with is quirky and bordering on the ridiculous – there’s a nervous, stammering mouse, a koala bobbing about in the ocean, a dental hygiene obsessed crocodile, and Bernie the bear who is convinced you’re a secret agent- oh, and he loves pasta. It’s important to the plot. No really, it is.

Each character has a jittery, nervous energy. It must be all the ghosts. But, like a true sleuth, Frog Detective picks up on the suspicious behaviour and gently nudges you towards a wholesome interrogation to find out what’s really going on.

What I love most about the game though is it’s absolute unashamed absurdity. There’s a detective noire vibe (and soundtrack!) that butts heads with the bright colours and smiling faces of the characters in the tropical paradise. The characters speak frankly and really your only goal in the game is to run errands between them, finding (and trading for) items in order to get what you want to progress.

The puzzles aren’t really the point … *pause* … So why am I even writing about this game on this escape room blog? Because it’s still a mystery. Just how in many escape rooms I’ve had to do really ‘outside the box’ things to solve a room, in Frog Detective you have to err… Be a frog, walk around, and compete in dance competitions. There’s no right or wrong way to solve a mystery. I don’t discriminate against frog related experiences.

Overall, there’s not much more that can be said about Frog Detective. Frog Detective is something you have to experience for yourself and either you’ll ‘get it’ or you won’t. I don’t know if I’d recommend this to do the ‘hardcore-escape-room’ group of enthusiasts, no. Instead, you have to go into this with a sense of whimsy and not expect any complex puzzles. Frog Detective never once claims to be anything other than it is: A detective story about a frog.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island can be purchased for £3.99 on Steam. Head to their website to find out more and support the game.