Early 80’s, the peak of the Cold War… a nuclear launch sequence has been started by accident. The whole world is about to end. You are a team of special agents sent to find out who did it and to stop the launch at any cost. You are our last hope, and if you fail, the whole world will end.
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Folks missing escape rooms in lockdown!
Virtual Bunker is Fox in a Box London’s adaptation of their real life escape room of the same name, minus the ‘virtual’ part of course, and they adapt the game for an online audience in a really creative way! For starters, they use both a live actor via Zoom and a digital online interface (Telescape) to collect, log and examine various areas of the room up close.
I played this experience with an absolutely awesome team comprised of Borderline Puzzler and Al & Ash from Escaping the Closet. I could not have asked for a better team… WE ACED IT! Unfortunately 35 minutes didn’t quite get us on the leaderboard, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try again at one of Fox in a Box’s real life escape rooms just as soon as lockdown is over.
The setting for Bunker is your classic Cold War themed escape room. You (or rather, Alex, our enigmatic boots on the ground) awake in a mysterious bunker with a missile poised to launch and countdown blaring in your ears… This whole place is about to go nuclear! That’s right, you guessed it… You’ve got just 60 minutes to guide your host around the room, crack open the puzzles, unlock the locks, and stop the nuclear fallout. It’s a theme I’ve played a lot but it doesn’t make it any less exciting stepping into a room with the fate of the whole country on your hands.
Fox in a Box have also themed the room well for the setting; it’s ruggedly simple, everything you’d expect from an underground nuclear bunker. For example, there’s camo on the ceiling, and a vintage looking desk and set of phones right out of the second world war. Oh, and dotted around the room you’ll also find large crates (locked of course) and some very cool looking ammo boxes – all ready for cracking open with a code or two!
Acting as our host in the room and Games Master we had Alex and Abdullah from the Fox in a Box team. Our mission was simple: To guide Alex around the room, directing them to examine objects and unlock things as each puzzle was solved. Every time we discovered something new, a little *pling* notification would let us know it’s available in our Telescape inventory to examine further.
One of the biggest challenges for escape rooms (in general) this lockdown is how to translate the escape room experience into Zoom. *stares outside forlornly*
With only one host and multiple participants, there’s bound to be a little bit of talking over each other. That said, I think having an online inventory system really mitigates that as it gives each participant the breathing room to look at something closer at their own pace. Which is something Fox in a Box does well! I’ve played games solely on Telescape (no host), and games with a host and no inventory system, but IMO this way works best. Whilst one party is busy asking the host to open every single possible cupboard they can find (*cough cough* me – sorry Alex!), other players can quietly take a closer look at the more important details.
Fox in a Box experiences can be booked for up to 8 participants (wow!), but we were very comfortable with just 4. Plus, as an experienced team of 4 we had almost no problem co-ordinating the host (and ourselves) to success!
Personally, I found Virtual Bunker to be *slightly* on the easier side, despite it’s real life equivalent being listed as “Hard” on the website. If anything, this just means it’s extra accessible to a wide audience! Having not played the real escape room Bunker, I can’t tell how many puzzles are the same and what has been changed for a digital audience. In any case, this’d be a great one to bring your non-escape room friends to.
There’s a lot in the room you can find quite quickly, but the puzzles must be solved in a linear format with 4 distinct ‘stages’ to the room as a whole. There’s definitely a wide range to the types of puzzles we encountered in Virtual Bunker. From the (expected) Cold War style puzzles including Morse Code and vintage maps, there were also some very cool puzzles rooted in technology – can you get the wiring right and adjust the dials to the correct settings? Frequently we were looking for a 3 or 4 digit code to unlock a lock – which felt totally natural in the environment (and hey, I know lock puzzles are going out of fashion but I still really love them, sue me!). In particular, I really enjoyed the visual puzzles anything where a *cough* different light reveals something… As you can tell, trying not to give away any spoilers here – but there’s easily enough of a mix of puzzles I could talk for several more paragraphs!
So at risk of giving way too much detail, I’ll round off the review by talking about whether we enjoyed it? OF COURSE WE DID. I was a little nervous about playing with strangers – only to join the call and realise they’re not strangers at all! Escape room gals gotta stick together *barf I can’t believe I just said that*.
An extra shout out to our two hosts, Abdullah and Alex who both set the scene wonderfully from the first briefing to our every interaction in the room. It’s that special touch from the games masters, and playing with a great team that makes an experience a good one, so if you’re reading this review and thinking about booking this game – do it! But bring your A Team with you when you do!
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.