Dave Escape Rooms: Rita’s Cult Following


A missing actress, a deserted theatre and whispers of a secret conspiracy dating back centuries. Renowned actress Rita Vasconcellos is missing, vanished in the middle of an acclaimed run of performances at the Palm Street Theatre in London’s West End. Where has she gone? What does she know? Will the understudy finally get a chance to perform?

Rating: Creepy Fun!
Completion Time: 51 minutes
Date Played: 28th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Teams of 3+ missing escape rooms in lockdown

This game requires a minimum of 3 players… Oooh! I know just the team! Living in London and being in lockdown for over a year is difficult because this city is usually so vibrant and packed with theatres, restaurants and fun things to do! Rita’s Cult Following is set at the Palm Street Theatre – a fictional theatre in the West End of London where I used to live… Ahh, good memories! So it was a no brainer to play this with two of my best friends here in London and relive a time when we were allowed to leave our flats and walk around vibrant places like this.

The game starts, “Obviously, we’d have to ask some of the smartest, most cunning and adventurous people to try and crack a mystery like this . . . unfortunately they were all busy, but we’re so grateful you were able to make it!” HAH! Okay, okay.

The Story

A renowned actor, Rita Vasconcellos is due to play at the Palm Street Theatre when suddenly she goes mysteriously missing from her dresser room. Thankfully, she’s left behind some clues hidden in locked cases, boxes, and compartments around her room. You, the players, have two goals:

  • Find out where Rita has disappeared to
  • Escape the dressing room before your time runs out!

The Experience

Rita’s Cult Following is all played in browser and it’s a classic point and click escape room. By now, you probably know the drill: everyone can see everyone else’s cursor on the screen, you can click on objects to interact with them, and there’s a pretty cool inventory system to boot. With two starting locations to explore in Rita’s dressing room, there’s also plenty to get stuck into. Oh! And don’t forget about that collaboration – at several points in the game more than one player will be required to work on a puzzle and in some cases three of you at once.

One of the real stand outs for me with this game though is the look and feel of it. I couldn’t tell if I were interacting with photographs, CGI or some clever artwork but wow this game is so pretty. Exploring the environment was a genuine joy and at each point in the game I couldn’t wait to see what was behind the next door.

The Puzzles

Overall, the puzzles in this game were great! A lot of them require you to physically manipulate things in the room which is a stand out for me in the escape room world. To balance there are also plenty of red herrings- and not the annoying kind the “oh that’s so funny!” sort.

Players can expect to do a lot of working together, but you’ll also be faced with listening puzzles, UV light puzzles, cipher/runic puzzles and simple maths puzzles. In short – a really good mix and plenty for a team of 3/4 or more to keep busy with. We used Google (which is allowed… Encouraged even!) to solve one puzzle, and the history buff on our team solved another with a bit of memory too!

Throughout the game there was only one puzzle gave us problems, but boy where they problems!! Early at the start of our experience we got very stuck. Watching the clock slide down from 60 minutes to about 35 minutes and worrying if we’d finish in time was a little nerve-wracking, but it turned out we’d been overthinking the puzzle and it was a lot simpler than we thought! Typical!


Overall, a fun game and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The game was beautiful and had delightful moments of humour, with great puzzles too. Almost like doing a real life escape room… Whatever those are! It’s been so long I’ve forgotten! But until the day we can enjoy them again, this is a great play at home alternative.

Rita’s Cult Following can be booked for £29.99 on Dave Escape Room’s website here.

SCRAP: Escape from the Two Base Stations | Review


The two of you have infiltrated a secret organization’s communication base stations, one located in the North Pole and the other in the South Pole. Your mission is to stop the completion of a terrifying weapon being developed at these base stations. Using a smartphone to communicate with each other, the both of you finally make it to the deepest level of the facility…

Rating: Really Different!
Completion Time: ~1hr 15m
Date Played: 24th March 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: People who want puzzles… But not how you normally know them!

How to describe Escape from the Two Base Stations? SO DIFFICULT… And yet SO FUNNY!

Just like The Demon Fortress and The Strange Village, SCRAP have taken the concept of an escape room and completely turned it on it’s head: defying all expectations and delighting me along the way. Whereas the other two I celebrated for their excellent plots, this one’s “special magic” is in the puzzle design!

The Story

You and your other player, whoever you choose that to be, are stuck at opposite sides of the world! One at the North Pole and one at the South Pole (oh hey, that’s me). As such, you’re meant to play this from two different locations- but more on that later.

There’s a terrible weapon being created that threatens the whole world and of course the two keys to stop it are as far away from each other as they could possibly be. But, just when you grab hold of the manuals, an “Intruder Alert” siren sounds and you’re locked in. Oops!

The Experience

In this whole game you have 50% of what you need to succeed. Your partner has the other half and they’re a long long way away, so you’re going to have to work together as best you can to crack the case! I took on this with my partner, and regular Player 2 on this blog but, as we live together, we had to go into separate rooms and close the door. That works too, just as long as we weren’t tempted to open the door or shout through the wall.

Each ’round’ starts with a short script to read back and forth – we went massively off script, hurling cheeky insults at one another at every opportunity. From there, you’ve got a couple of collaborative puzzles to solve and then clues to where to go next. For example, within your pack are a number of other envelopes with small images on them and big letters saying not to open until prompted. But- that’s not all, you also have a helpful chatbot guiding you through the experience and telling you what to do and when which is- helpful! Especially helpful considering you’ll get no answers from the hints page. Only hints!

The Puzzles

So here’s the really juicy bit! Escape from the Two Base Stations essentially takes the idea of the party game ‘charades’ and turns it into a packed puzzle game. What I mean is, at different points in the game whilst communicating with your Player 2, you’ll either lose access to:

  • Your video feed, meaning you can’t see one another
  • Your audio feed, meaning you can’t talk to one another
  • Your keyboard, meaning you can’t type to one another

The real panic starts when you lose access to more than one of those at the same time. Or *gasp* all three! Yep, the final puzzle will have you screaming (into the void, as your partner won’t hear you) as you lose access to almost everything. Reckon you can communicate information by using ONE SINGLE CHARACTER? Yeah, no. It’s not easy.

But by and large the puzzles are really light hearted and funny! As an example, one player will have something on their screen they need to describe to the other player. Through your descriptions, or hand gestures, you’ve got to figure out what on Earth the other person is trying to say! It only gets funnier from here. We found ourselves standing up and jumping around on camera trying to act out animals without being able to talk. In another mission, I enthusiastically sent “ES ES ES” 24 times in the chat box to which my partner said next time our mics were allowed to be turned on “If you type ES one more time I swear to God..”

Overall, just SO FUNNY. For this reason I’m going to go out on a limb and say that even though this game is recommended for 2 players (1 in each location), I think you could go further and do it with 4, or even 6 (2/3 in each location) for added hilarity. I only wish I’d caught some of the madness on camera.

It makes sense the game would be so funny though, one of the directors is comedian duo Savanna’s Shigeo Takahashi. He, and the whole team, really capture the absurdity of malfunctioning technology and how hard it is to communicate. So if you’ve ever played charades, you’re probably going to love this. It’s like that but with more puzzles.

The English language version of Escape from the Two Base Stations can be purchased for $37 USD on Amazon.


ClueHQ: The Warp Core Part Two


Come back aboard The Warp Core and head even further back in time on your hunt for more historical items to add to your collection. This time, visit the Dungeons of Camelock as you try to track down King Arthur’s legendary sword: Exkeylibur. You’ll need to breakout of your cell before battling your way back to the portal for a safe return.

Rating: Awesome!
Completion Time: 31:54
Date Played: 21st March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Everyone!

Stop the press! This is my inaugural entry into what’ll hopefully be a weekly thing for me – The Escape Game Olympics! Seriously, how am I THIS FAR into lockdown and I’m only just doing this now? It was brilliant.

International Online Escape Game Tournament

The tournament, sometimes known as the Escape Game Olympics and other times known as the International Online Escape Game Tournament is a weekly event every Sunday from 7pm hosted by escaperoomers.de. Each week at least 40 teams from around the world take on the escape play at home escape game in a race to get on top of the leader board and win a coveted medal for your country.

Team Escaping the Closet

I joined the fantastic Escaping the Closet team comprised of Alice, Ash, and Tasha who have regularly competed in the EGO since week 1, and this week’s escape room challenge was The Warp Core Part 2!

The Warp Core Part 2

The Warp Core Part 2 is… You guessed it, the second part in The Warp Core series. Since I haven’t played Part 1, I’m a little bit ‘behind’ in the overarching plot, but no worries – it was very easy to pick up as a standalone mission too! What was most interesting about this game though was it’s seamless mix of sci-fi and history.

Essentially, you start in a time machine and spend the first part of the experience powering it up. Then a portal opens up transporting you all the back to ancient Camelot- sorry, CameLOCK to retrieve the legendary ExKEYlibur sword. This game gets away with a lot: sci-fi puzzles perfectly segmented between old timey puzzles. At one point we piloted a drone around the room scanning areas. At another point, we shot arrows around a medieval dungeon and engaged in some casual sword play with the guardian of the sword. It’s eclectic but it WORKS.

As well as the setting being unusual, the technology was also particularly noteworthy! The whole experience takes place in Telescape – if you’re new to the escape room industry, this means it’s a point and click 3D model of the room, with question marks over items of interest. You can see where each other player is ‘in the room’ and what they’re looking at, and helpfully you also have an inventory system.

The Warp Core is built in telescape, but the creators take this further with some really unique extras in the game. Unlike 99% of digital Telescape escape rooms, which are just normal rooms converted to online, this one has been BUILT FOR Telescape. It makes excellent use of the technology in surprising ways that simply wouldn’t work in real life. For example, fighting a person (would an actor just jump into a room and start attacking you with a sword – how would this work in real life?), piloting a drone (which would probably break irl), or using a knife to hack through something in a room (knives, yeah thats a no from me).

Cool tech aside, the puzzles overall were really fun! Zero hints were used throughout the game, and nothing stumped us for too long. The team of 4 we had was also about the ‘right’ amount of people so that we all kept busy. I generally prefer games that err on the side of non-linear, meaning puzzles can be solved simultaneously.

Due to the competitive nature of the EGO, we raced through this game in a record 31 minutes. Okay maybe not quite a record, but our team came 7th out of 41 teams, so I’m pretty damn chuffed about this! Both the The Warp Core and the Escape Game Olympics were an absolute joy and I’m looking forward to seeing what next week’s tournament game will be!

The Warp Core Part 2 can be booked for £15 on ClueHQ’s website here.

Breakout Unboxed: The Wizard’s Apprentice


Do you posses Magic within you? Are you ready to go on an epic magical journey to find out. Maybe you are the next Wizard’s Apprentice!

Rating: Magical
Completion Time: 1hr 45 mins
Date Played: 20th March 2021 – 22nd March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Families, Enthusiasts and real life Wizards.

The Wizard’s Apprentice is a simply MAGICAL play at home game perfect for families, aspiring witches and wizards, or pretty much everyone growing bored with lockdown and looking for something more interesting to do *cough cough* it’s me. Despite the fact I massively messed up the order of the puzzles (more on this later), the game still managed to be a complete delight, packed with “aha!” puzzles and, dare I say it, real magic?

The Story

Your story begins with a mysterious letter from your great, great, great (more greats) grandmother, a powerful witch of her own right who needs your help. As a descendent, you hold the potential for great power yourself – but first, with the help of this box, you must learn to use it. By harnessing your own magical abilities, it’s your job to find the long lost Power Spell.

The Exciting Stuff

So this game is really special in one particular way… Unlike every other magic-themed play at home game I’ve ever done, this one actually IS magical. No seriously, let me explain. There are a couple of really, really clever puzzles in this that feel just like you’ve just done a pretty cool spell. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but with a wave of a wand and the touch of my hand this game let me reveal unseen things and read the minds of others.

Another fun part about the game is the overarching puzzle. It’s *whispers* a logic puzzle! The game works in this wonderful way where each individual puzzle you solve adds up to one larger, logic based puzzle and if you know me you know I love drawing logic grids. This ticked all the boxes!

I also loved the modern touches. It’s 2021 people, of course wizards have websites! Did you know you can mail order your wands and broomsticks online? Well, this game also introduces you to that side of the wizarding world. A great touch!

In fact, I loved it so much I actually wish I hadn’t done this solo. I’ve got an 11 year old brother on the other side of the city who would ADORE this, but thanks to lockdown I had to settle for sharing the “wow moments” with the ‘big kids’ people I live with instead. Even though I say it would be great for families – aren’t we all just big kids inside?

My ‘Oops’ Part

Okay so here goes… How I royally messed up! And please, take this with a pinch of salt, because your experience probably won’t be quite like this:

Within the box there are two envelopes locked with a padlock. Somehow, I got into the second one first, did all of those puzzles first, and then hit a massive roadblock. To this moment I can’t say if it was my mistake or not, but I’m giving the game the benefit of the doubt. I have a track record of rushing into puzzles in the wrong order.

After contacting Breakout Unboxed for help, they got back to me fairly quickly and from here I realised my error, oops! Even after fixing it, I HAD messed up the flow of the game a bit – I mean no major disaster but it’s worth mentioning.

One example of this was a puzzle involving shields and maths. With only 4 shields and 4 possible mathematical symbols I deduced the answer before finding the actual key (hidden in the envelope I should already have opened) to solve the puzzle.

Another example was a potions puzzle. I didn’t have the recipe yet (you guessed it, it’s in the envelope), but as only some ingredients were able to be mixed with others, there was a finite amount of solutions and I guessed it correctly. Emphasis on ‘guessed’.

The best part about the game though? Despite my major mistake I still had such a good time solving everything! All it meant was that I overthought a couple of puzzles more than they should have done. So here’s a golden nugget of advice playing The Wizard’s Apprentice: You can also mess up and still have a great time. That’s testament to it being a great experience.


So overall, a good time was had by all! A delightful game, despite my oopsie! I had a nice time completing the puzzles spread out across a Saturday morning and a Monday afternoon. Plus, it comes packaged in a really nice and robust box AND now I have a gorgeous wand to keep as well? Despite being a Harry Potter fan I’ve never owned a wand before, eek!

In a rare one for The Escape Roomer, I realised I don’t feature my own face in this blog enough, so here’s a snap of yours truly, enjoying the game:

The Wizard’s Apprentice can be purchased for £27 on Breakout Unboxed’s website here.

Scarlet Envelope: Cabaret in Lapin Blanc



I’m currently hosting a competition where you can win your own copy of Newspaper Introduction to Mysteries! Simply click on the envelope to your right hand side.

Paris, 1899, Gala Night at the Cabaret Club. Colett, a gorgeous diva and the star of Lapin Blanc, disappears with no trace. Her dressing room is full of confusing leads: among jewelry and love notes from her fans you find a threatening letter and mysterious things from the past. Who is she? And is she in danger?

Rating: Mysterious
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 16th March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Fans of mystery, intrigue, secret societies and rich storylines

This is the second play at home game from Canadian company Scarlet Envelope, and the first proper look into the wonderful world they have created. I say this because their first, Newspaper: An Introduction to Mysteries was… Well… As the title suggests, just an introduction. Lapin Blanc is where the magic starts and boy do they kick off with an exciting and intriguing mystery!

Cabaret in Lapin Blanc plays like a classic murder mystery. Not only are you solving individual puzzles but you’re also trying to “put the whole case together”. Who IS this mysterious cabaret girl? What has the devastating fire got to do with it? A trail of threatening letters? I love murder mystery.

Of course, I’m not sure what an 1890s murder mystery has to do with the story of the Scarlet Envelopes as a whole – but I reckon that’s one of the pulls that keeps players coming back. There’ll be no unsolved mysteries on my watch!

The Game

The game follows a similar pattern as the first envelope. You receive a mysterious letter and, on opening it you’re presented with a lot of stuff. In this case, there’s a missing girl and this stuff is everything that was found on her dresser table before she went missing. Including a jewellery box (that must be unlocked), letters, a tarot card, and a ripped up newspaper. Most intriguing!

From here, it’s a little tricky to know where to begin the game. I definitely used a lot more clues for this one than I did the previous – most likely a result of ordering the ‘Hard’ difficulty version of the game. Oops!

The Puzzles

There’s some really good puzzles in Cabaret in Lapin Blanc! In particular, this game makes good use of word and letter puzzles – by this I mean forming sentences out of scrambled syllables, plenty of ciphers, and manipulating objects to find secret words and letters hidden within. A few of the puzzles are immediately gated off. For example – one of the items in your envelope has a “Do not start until X” note written on it – the reason for which only becomes clear later in the game. Other puzzles too, are found online once you’ve cracked a code on the website.

This was actually my favourite part of the whole game! To unlock an object you head online and input the code. But this isn’t any ordinary code, it doesn’t have digits. Very cool!

One more note on the puzzles here is that this game is also so much more than a “solve the puzzles, get the code” game. In order to win the game you have to pay attention. The game asks a number of questions of you at the end and because of my “not completely paying attention” on one of them, I only got it 90% correct. Does this mean I failed? Ehhh, lets just brush over this part of the review.


Fiendish but fun! This is a really creative game from the Scarlet Envelope people and quite unlike anything else I’ve played. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s totally not insurmountable and the incredible quality of materials more than makes up for it. I was at times absolutely delighted by some of the ‘aha moments’ and other times close to just looking at the answer and giving up. But all worthwhile to finally put the Cabaret Lapin Blanc case to rest!

You can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope for $20 CAD (~£12) per month on their website.

Escape Live: Pirate Plunder | Review


A mysterious Pirate Ship has crashed into the Pier. Rumour has it this is the ship sailed by notorious Pirate Sharkbait Sully but he and his crew are nowhere to be seen. You and your team need to solve the secrets of the ship before the ship sinks and your team become shark bait themselves.

Rating: Yarrghhh-mazing
Completion Time: 36 minutes
Date Played: 16th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Actual pirates

Pirate Plunder is a real life escape room playable at Escape Live Essex *however* if you look at the date we played, yep- you guessed it- we were still in lockdown! Instead of being able to visit in person, we gave the virtual “Telescape” version of the game a go. Essentially Escape Live have fully digitised their physical escape room into a rather cool point-and-click environment, complete with interesting puzzles, exciting ‘aha’ moments, and a pre-recorded live actor to guide us around the room. Almost as good as the real thing!

For this mission, I joined the Escaping the Closet team both as a little warm-up for an upcoming competition and a Tuesday evening hang out, and we aced it! Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better team! We hopped into the game link and barely 30 minutes later ‘yo ho ho’-ed ourselves to victory (wow remind me not to say that phrase ever again please haha).

The Tech

Pirate Plunder is built in Telescape, meaning you have a complete 360 view of your room and a pretty handy inventory system. If anyone in your team finds an item, it goes into the collective inventory for all to see! At all points in the game you can see everyone else’s mouse (mice?) on the screen, which works well for communication.

The Game

The story of Pirate’s Plunder goes… You are invited onboard a mysterious pirate ship only to discover the crew are all missing. But there’s a mysterious rumour about this ship. Hidden somewhere in the captain’s quarters is a cursed *cough* piece of treasure: The Golden Anchor. You must work your way through the ship and get at that treasure. Curse? Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m sure it’s nothing… Right?

This escape room is three rooms deep and makes excellent use of the whole pirate-y vibe. In fact, the theming is one of the best I’ve seen in a while! It looks and feels like a real pirate ship, complete with weathered barrels, ropes hanging here and there, and a very exciting second room which takes you up onto the deck! I can almost smell the sea air and hear the seagulls ‘caw’ up above!

The Puzzles

The main thing to say about the puzzles in Pirate’s Plunder is that they are very pirate-y, again – big compliments on their use of rope puzzles and mysterious chests and fanciful locks hidden around. In each section of the game you’re looking for items which will help unlock the next room. This makes it quite a “search and find” game – but this worked very well in a digital environment, giving everyone something to do right from the offset.

Players can also expect to encounter a sliding puzzle, a find-and-sort puzzle, colour puzzles, hanging rope puzzles and more. There was just one red herring I can think of- and even then, it wasn’t too much of a red herring but we did spend quite some time repeatedly clicking on it hoping for a clue. Haha oops!

Overall, we had a lot of fun! Escape rooms are always bound to be better with good company, but Pirate Plunder was a sweet room with lots of surprises and great set design all the way through. For a digital experience, not bad at all and I’m glad to have the opportunity to play this game without travelling too!

The digital version of Pirate Plunder can be booked for £25 via their website. The live version can be played at the Essex branch from £15 pp here.

Swamp Motel: The Kindling Hour


Beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing. You and your team must use all your skill and guile to evade capture, infiltrate the dark heart of a powerful organisation, and bring it down from the inside. But who is the anonymous source trying to recruit you? How can you identify the true enemy? Who can you trust?

Rating: Dramatic!
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: 16+ people who enjoy ARGs

Okay we might just be the first team to accidentally book the ‘conclusion’ game first. That’s right, The Kindling Hour is the final game in a three part trilogy. Whilst the website says each game is a standalone experience, there’s definitely a narrative flow between the three… Oops! Brb, off to play Plymouth Point and The Mermaid’s Tongue!

There’s a lot of hype around the whole Plymouth Point series, but I’ll only be commenting on my experience with The Kindling Hour for now. That said, for all that hype I expected a little more- whether in length, or content, or exactly “what” more, I’m not sure. But it did seem a little quick and a dash confusing… But let’s get into it!

The Story

The Kindling Hour is your typical “super shady organisation taking over the world” game, in which there’s a mole deep within the structure that you’ve got to help. In an unusual ‘Arthurian Legend’ twist, the aim of this game is to take the sword (which I believe is the central plot of Mermaid’s Tongue – again, this connection was a little lost on us) and put it back into the stone from whence it came.

The game parkour jumps between “ancient legend” and “modern spy stuff” but plays out on the stage that is the ‘real world’. By this I mean you have to go onto the internet to look stuff up – you’ll be scouring Reddit, Instagram, old blog posts, and even real life museum websites. Want to crack someone’s login? You’ll have to hunt down what their ‘memorable information’ is and to do so the whole internet is your oyster.

The Tech

The one really, really cool thing about The Kindling Hour I’d love to mention is the technology. The whole game took place within a web browser, including both our own video communication with each other and interaction with actors. I say ‘interaction’, it’s actually very cleverly pre-recorded footage designed to feel like a live experience. Character drop in and out of your video call seamlessly and despite one technological hiccup, the whole experience feels pretty slick.

In particular, there’s a part in the game where you’re hooked up to CCTV tracking a character live around a location. Whilst of course this is pre-recorded, it was just such a nice addition to heighten the tension of the game! Will they make it in time? Are they being followed? *eek*

It’s encouraged that one user share their screen for everyone to see and yes, I’d agree with that for sure. As most of the ‘puzzles’ take place on the internet it’s very easy to get lost quickly. For example, a link might be offered by an in-game character, but that link contains several more links that different players can fall down rabbit holes into before they figure out the correct route.

The Game

Overall, we did enjoy it a lot! Definitely not as scary as it’s advertised. Perhaps it’s because we played at 3pm on a really sunny day, or perhaps I’m just hardened. The trailer shows people screaming and there was one “Oh my god what” moment, but overall more dramatic than scary!

I loved the parts where we were able to hack into things and see behind the scenes, and there’s excellent pacing throughout the game to keep the adrenaline high. Countdowns and time sensitive moments combined with having to make phone calls, text mysterious numbers, and rifle through secret email exchanges. As such, it’s also not your typical escape room. You’re not escaping, and the game is built on narrative rather than puzzles. So consider this when booking!

It’s pretty good value for money considering how high the production value is, and especially with a large enough team to split the cost! One of our 4 team members has decided not to return for Part 1 and 2 which means we’ll be paying slightly more per head next time, but really worth it compared to a lot of other experiences out there.

The Kindling Hour can be booked for £65 per team on The Kindling Hour’s website here.

Fox in a Box: Virtual Bunker


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.

Rating: Exciting
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

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!

The Experience

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!

The Puzzles

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!

Virtual Bunker can be booked for £80 – £140 per team, depending on number of players by heading to Fox in a Box’s website here. You can also book their real life game at the London branch here.

Escape Quest Queenstown: Missing Gold Escort


It’s the 1860’s gold rush in the wild frontier of central Otago, New Zealand. Prospectors have flooded into Queenstown and its surrounds from around the world in search of gold. The gold rush has also attracted bandits who roam the pioneer tracks in gangs looking for unsuspecting travellers carrying gold. The biggest prize of all for a bandit would be a gold escort which takes a carriage full of gold from the gold fields to the town banks.

Rating: Adventurous!
Completion Time: 1 hr 20 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People interested in New Zealand history, and who want an adventure whilst in lockdown!

So a long time ago in another lifetime I used to live in New Zealand and I look back on the place with incredibly fond memories! Sure, I lived in Auckland, not Queenstown – but the moment I read the game’s description I was immediately transported to the local history lessons of my school days learning about the gold rush and was reminded of holidays with my family spent gold panning*

*I actually found some gold one time, it’s a tiny speck but damn I’m proud!!

So for me, Missing Gold Escort was a joy to play… And we all know how much I love a good print and play game! History aside, the print + assemble aspect of this game was outstanding.

I’ve tried not to spoil it too much with my photographs but at each stage in this game you’ve got something to cut out and in most cases, something to assemble too. From 3D rooms you have to rotate and examine closely to ‘enter’, to assembling items from within locations only to repair them, from cutting out intricate dials to adjust the speed of water flowing, to extensive 3D map puzzles with obstacles to assemble then overcome. Wow! So much detail!

The Story

The year is 1860 and a gold escort has gone missing whilst travelling to a secret location. With bandits running rife, the worst is feared and it’s up to you to solve the clues and retrace the escort’s steps. First, you locate the route chosen, then you find the driver, then you find the gold, then you deposit it at the bank.

As you can tell from my description, the game doesn’t follow a typical escape room format, it’s much more of an adventure-come-treasure-hunt game, and I love that. The game heavily uses map puzzles, but does so in a creative way where each part feels fresh. At some points in the game, I had to reuse maps I’d already looked it (cue lots of rummaging around in my ‘discarded’ pile), but it all made sense within the larger narrative.

In terms of difficulty, I’d say this was ‘intermediate’, and I’d definitely recommend tackling it in a group (and not as a solo team of 1 like I did!). It’s also just so much more fun to bounce ideas off people (and have an extra pair of hands to help cut things out!)

A little bit more signposting may have helped me in parts, but I know that everyone likes a different level of ‘this is what you have to do’. There was also one section where I breezed past a puzzle using the clues and not fully figuring it out myself, only to realise the next puzzle in the game build directly upon the previous solution. Oops @ me for not paying attention!

But overall, it was good fun! I’d planned to play it on Friday evening but instead did it over lunch in a sunny spot in the corner of my apartment. With the sun on my skin and a light breeze through the window, despite being a million miles away in London, UK, I felt *there*. Escape Quest have absolutely nailed it and I really hope they make more printable escape room games soon!

Missing Gold Escort can be purchased for $30 NZD (~£15) per team by heading to Escape Quest Queenstown’s website here.

Scarlet Envelope: Newspaper Introduction to Mysteries



I’m currently hosting a competition where you can win your own copy of Newspaper Introduction to Mysteries! Simply click on the envelope to your right hand side.

Something confusing was delivered to your mailbox. The items in an envelope seem to be from different times…and worlds! Slowly you realize that a mysterious Secret Society is watching you as you try to pass this unusual test. Will you accept a challenge?

Rating: Intriguing!
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 11th March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Fans of mystery, intrigue, secret societies and rich storylines.

Scarlet Envelope is one of those games I’ve seen everywhere. It had a super successful Kickstarter run in 2020 and since then the game has only grown bigger and better. For me, it was only a matter of time before I had a little free time and ordered my first envelope. That ‘free time’ was in March 2021 and a few days later HECK, I AM HOOKED. I literally need to know what happens in the rest of the mystery.

In the present day, you can purchase Scarlet Envelope as a monthly subscription via their website. It ships out on the 15th of the month worldwide from Canada, obviously due to COVID-19 delays if you’re in the UK like me it could take a couple of weeks. Worth it though! The all-female team Lisa and Anna put so much love and care into each Scarlet Envelope, it’s one to watch for the future!

So let’s get into it…

Newspaper: Introduction to the Mysteries is exactly what it says on the packet. It introduces you to the mysteries and therefore is a little bit ‘special’ in comparison to the rest of the series. Each item in the pack represents a different world you’ll explore in another chapter: for example there’s a cabaret leaflet from Chapter 2: Cabaret in Lapin Blanc… There’s a spaceship repair leaflet from Chapter 3: Distress Call from Outer Space. In short, a taster for what to expect from the full series no doubt.

Everything about this game is mysterious and… I love it! The game arrives and at first it seems like an odd assortment of ‘stuff’. Now, normally I’d want more signposting from a game like this. But actually I felt like Scarlet Envelope nailed it, it’s not super tricky to get started and once you get into the flow of this game the whole thing falls into place quickly.

If you’re reading this review and hoping for a signpost, you should read the newspaper first. The clue is essentially in the game’s title! There’s a charming little “say what you see” puzzle to get started. From there, the game picks up at an exciting pace.

I will admit I used quite a few hints. Scarlet Envelope does let you choose your difficulty level at check out and, if I remember correctly, I chose “Hard”… And yeah… It was hard! Not insurmountable, but definitely a “I need a little nudge in the right direction”. Thankfully the clue system was great – broken into “Hint”, “Help” and “Answer” in case you’re really stuck.

Each puzzle is quite unique, giving a flavour of what that chapter will look like. I spotted a couple of word puzzles, a creative folding puzzle, and a very exciting one where you have to cut something out (if you know, you know). Most are tricky to get started with, but each delightful and fitting into the universe they’re set in perfectly.

The object of the gain is also simple: you must find out what the heck is going on! Each separate piece of evidence, each from a far flung location in space and time, will give you a single word when correctly solved. In turn, the words will then reveal another final word, a password to ‘complete’ the game and prompt a fantastical outro video which really kick starts the whole Scarlet Envelope experience.

It’s like one of those videogames where you play through 4+ hours and THEN out of the blue the opening credits role and you’re like “woah okay THIS is where the game begins”. In short, it’s an introductory prologue.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. I had intended on waiting until the weekend but Thursday night arrived and curled up in bed with a cup of hot cocoa I grabbed the first envelope, carefully opened it and got stuck in. Honestly? It was wonderful. Scarlet Envelope recommend their games for 1 – 6 players, but I reckon unless you’re happy to divide and conquer the puzzles, 1-2 players is ideal.

You can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope for $20 CAD (~£12) per month on their website.