Scarlet Envelope: Distress Call from Outer Space | Review


The year is 2220, a century into human colonization of Mars. Times are different but Humans remain the same: two planets are in constant political conflict. Unexpectedly, your space ship picks up a distress call from a Martian spy. The spy has discovered the secret that could stop the upcoming war! Now, encrypted Martian files are in your hands, together with the future of Earth and Mars.

Rating: Outstanding!
Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 29th April 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting post through their letterbox, and especially fans of sci-fi!


You can win a copy of Distress Call from Outer Space from now until May 5th by heading to our competition page. Good luck!!

I LOVE SCI-FI! And… If there’s one particular genre of sci-fi I love the most, it’s the very specific sub-genre where we’ve colonised Mars but then Mars splits from Earth in a dramatic war of independence. Yeahh… It’s kinda The Expanse vibes, but you know what else fits into this genre? Scarlet Envelope: Distress Call from Outer Space! And I LOVE IT. They don’t call me mairispaceship for no reason!*

Actually that’s a whole other story- when I was a young kid I was gutted everyone else in my class had a middle name and I didn’t, so I told my teachers it was Spaceship. Mairi Spaceship. Someone must have believed me because until I reached high school all my official documents said “Mairi Spaceship” on them, my parents just rolled with it and I hang onto it even today.

So onto the game! I played Distress Call over my lunch break at work and then again finished off the grand finale before dinner that same evening. It’s equal parts an exciting escape room in an envelope, and a whodunnit mystery that must be unravelled carefully.

The Story

You are an employee of SHD&CO on a routine trip through space, when you suddenly intercept a distress call from the great beyond! If you remember SHD&CO from Scarlet Envelope’s first experience, this is where we found out the organisation is employed in the repair of used spaceships and parts for sale. Basically, normal space stuff. But, as an obligation to the interplanetary laws of space, you must answer the distress signal and do what you can to help.

What follows is a twisty space opera that puts you in the crosshairs of an intergalactic war on the verge of going nuclear. It’s your job to figure out who is behind the deadly threat and more importantly figure out who you can trust!

The Experience

So far, this is my favourite Scarlet Envelope experience for sure, but what I love most about is how intuitive it feels. First, you log into your work portal – after solving a quick puzzle to remember your password, of course! From here you intercept the distress call and the game takes a very non-linear format. From here, you can ‘solve’ anything in any order to reach the end goal.

The game is around 40% what you see in your envelope and 60% what you can find online. Put simply, the items in your possession are objects you’d have in your ship – your ID card, star maps of the local area. But the year is 2220 after all! To crack this case you’ll need to scour the alternate reality through the medium of the internet – read articles, hack communications, learn the Martian language, and contact the authorities for help.

The other thing to mention is that this game has one of the slickest online interfaces I’ve ever seen- genuinely! It feels like you’re stepping into the future and everything is just so shiny and responsive! Wow! Yes, yes… I think playing “at home games” in lockdown has made me a web-layout snob. That or I grow tired of a simple “puzzle then password box” interface. This takes it up so many notches you’re no longer sure what is real and what isn’t. I’m impressed!

At the very end, in order to ‘win’, you must answer a series of questions to see how well you’ve been paying attention. It helps therefore to take notes as you go- a piece of advice I DID NOT follow, and so got one question incorrect. However even with one wrong, the game still lets you proceed.

The Puzzles

I find Scarlet Envelope to be on the harder side, and Distress Call from Outer Space is no exception. I think I used around 3 or 4 clues and needed to check my answer once. But I did find this game a huge step up in terms of signposting from their previous two, which makes all the difference!

Players can expect to encounter a fun mix of puzzles – some I’d never seen before and some familiar faces, such as ciphers, sudokus, and map puzzles! But overall, plenty to do! I didn’t formally time myself but with a half an hour lunch break and a bit of extra time at the end of the day I came in at around 1 hour but that hour was packed. I was cutting, folding, measuring, and holding things up to the light a-plenty.

My favourite puzzle revolved around trying to disprove something, towards the end. When presented with information you’ve been collecting throughout the game, there’s an instance where you need to make a decision. But first you must figure out what is possible and disprove the impossible. It was fun seeing parts come together, being like “ohh thats why the game made me figure this fact out”.

Other Cool Things

  • This game comes with a suitably space-y playlist. That is, if you can find it in the game!
  • Each chapter in the Scarlet Envelope universe is connected – there’s a bonus hidden puzzle in each game that when solved will give you a letter. Combine all letters once you’re finished to unlock something extra special!


This was a stand out experience and I’m really stoked to have played. In fact, just as soon as I finished it I turned to my partner (occasional player 2 on this blog) and practically forced him to play it too. “You LOVE space, cmon!”. I think this game worked fine in a team of 1 but would be even better in a team of 2, 3, or even 4 if you have enough people with you.

Don’t forget, I’m hosting a contest with Scarlet Envelope right now where you can win a game of your choice! Enter here! But if you can’t wait that long, you can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope for $20 CAD (~£12) per month on their website.

realMyst | Review


Welcome to Myst: the starkly beautiful island, eerily tinged with mystery and shrouded in intrigue. Explore the deeper connections and uncover a story of ruthless family betrayal.

Time Played: 10+ Hours
Console: PC
Recommended For: Retro gamers, people not easily frustrated!

Yo, listen here. I genuinely suck at Myst. I’ve decided to tap out at the ~10 hour mark (possibly even more) and call it a day on Myst forever… Maybe… I mean, I might get it in VR to be honest.

But anyway, I’m getting side tracked. I still wanted to write this review because Myst is such a breathtaking game and years ahead of it’s time! The first version of Myst came out in 1994, before I was even born. Just because I don’t ‘get it’ and find it super tricky, doesn’t mean it’s not an incredible game and worth all your time in the world. Maybe just err, use a walkthrough for good measure! No judgement here.

Here’s a screengrab of me streaming Myst over on my escape room Twitch channel, shortly before I descended into “oh my god it’s been an hour and I’m still in the first area“.

If you’re comparing realMyst with another version you may have played, then here’s a breakdown of every version:

  • Myst – original 1994 game, point and click, fixed viewpoints
  • Myst: Masterpiece Edition – same as above but improved graphics
  • RealMyst – 3D version of original game
  • RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition – as above, but improved graphics
  • Myst VR – as above but VR
  • An unknown remake – who knows!

The story starts with you, docked on a shoreline with a sunken ship behind you. The island is home to a medley of unusual structures and mechanical contraptions from another world. At one end of the island a rocket ship is parked ready to take you away. Solve the puzzles and find the clues, and you’ll travel to incredible new worlds.

To start Myst, or realMyst, or Myst VR (whichever version you’re playing – it’s the same), you’ll want to grab a notebook. This game is all about making notes as you go along, and trying a bunch of different things until you get it right. It’s not a simple “okay this puzzle is this, then leads to this”, it’s about tiny subtle clues in the environment that might help, or might not.

There’s no inventory system, no health bar – absolutely nothing you’d normally expect from a video game. It’s just you and the environment, eerily deserted. No way out until you solve the puzzles. Like taking an escape room to it’s logical conclusion – a chilling island in the middle of nowhere you can never escape *shudders*.

For all it’s difficulty, the game does provide some wonderful ‘aha!’ moments. With a game so tricky as this, with a lot of trial and error in some puzzles, finally cracking something is an absolute joy. It’s easier today in 2021 than it was back in the early 90s when we didn’t have a ready internet walkthrough available to us, and it shows in the puzzles that are MEANT to be laboured over for hours to finally have that “oh wow, I’ve solved it” moment like burst of light.

I’m keeping this review really short for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve not finished the game, and I don’t think I ever will. As such, I can’t really comment on the ending (I hear there’s alternate endings). Secondly, because Myst isn’t really to be judged by it’s puzzles and I’m not in a place to judge it. It’s an experience – relaxing and frustrating but more importantly ICONIC. I don’t think anyone reading this website is a Myst newbie. This game has been around forever, again, longer than my whole life. So I instead wanted to use this space for my thoughts and reflections.

It was a lot of fun in the Twitch stream hearing other people talk about playing Myst in the 90s and reminisce over puzzles long forgotten, and enjoy the new graphics. Good luck to those of you playing the game and if you, like me, don’t want to finish it that’s okay too!

RealMYST: Masterpiece Edition can be purchased for £12.99 on Steam.

Top Escape Rooms: The Dentist (Online) | Review


Neville has gone missing he was last seen at the dentist. Many rumours are going around about this new Dentist and none of them good. Can you help Elise find Neville? Time to make a visit at the dentist.

Rating: Unsettling!
Completion Time: 45:36
Date Played: 14th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Anyone who wants to play this IRL room, but online!

In the marketing / advertising world (also known as my ‘real life’ day job), they say you need to be served an ad approximately 7 times before you make the purchase. The Dentist is a great example of this, because I’ve seen this room recommended by AT LEAST 7 people in various blogs, Facebook groups, and so on… So what did I do? I made the purchase! Teamed up with Escaping the Closet, we sat down to tackle the *shudders* Dentist online, playing along via Telescape from different corners of the UK.

I usually avoid the dentist like the plague. Seriously – kinda glad that they were shut here in the UK during lockdown as it gave me an excuse not to go. But from April 12th they’re back open. A moment’s silence for my teeth please. Thankfully, The Dentist is nothing like going to the actual dentists. For starters, there’s puzzles, and for seconds there’s blood everywhere… Wait what? You heard that right. Creepy!

The Story

You receive a mysterious phone call from a friend called Elise. A mutual friend – Neville – went off that morning for a dentist appointment and *gasp* never came back. Elise pleadingly asks you if you can go and check in on the dentist surgery. Did Neville make it? Can you find any clues as to what happened?

So, off you pop to the dentists to discover a very normal looking waiting area where there’s nobody to be found. The only thing you can find are many adverts for Invisaline (was this room SPONSORED by Invisaline?! Just kidding, these aren’t part of the experience but wow there were a lot!). Perhaps if you check the computer records to see if Neville checked in… But you’ll have to hurry! Even though there’s nobody here now, someone could return at any moment.

From here, it’s classic escape room – find clues to unlock computers, find keys to unlock doors, and slowly unravel the ‘truth’ as to what happened.

The Experience

The Dentist is a real life escape room in Top Escape Room’s site in Worcester that, due to lockdown, they’ve converted into an online experience via a programme called Telescape. I definitely feel like some of the ‘magic’ of playing this room is person is lost in a Telescape experience, but on the flip side this game is suddenly so much more accessible to anyone who wants to play it from anywhere in the world!

The idea is simple, you’ve got a 360 degree view of the room and you can click on anything that looks interesting to get a closet look. Unlike other Telescape games, the inventory system is quite different. For example, all your keys will be stored in one place, all your jars of teeth (don’t ask haha), all your puzzle pieces. To use them you enter the ‘area’ of your inventory, click on it to ‘use’ and must then find that part of the room to actually then drag and drop the items.

For this reason, it takes a little getting used to the controls, and playing with a smaller group (else lots of people will be clicking) is probably preferable too!

To help you out in the experience, there are a few video breaks to set the scene and provide context. At one point in the game the plot takes a dramatic turn *gasp* and presumably where the GM in real life would interrupt, instead you get a video providing a helpful 1v1 with Elise.

Also worth mentioning is that there are sound effects when cool stuff happens, and as with all Telescape games you can see where all other teammates’ mouse are on the screen, making collaboration on puzzles pretty fun too.

The Puzzles

In terms of a puzzling experience, The Dentist is your pretty classic escape room! And it makes sense, it literally is a real life escape room. As such there are a lot of puzzles which revolve around you finding things. There’s also a very high number of locks in this game, I count at least 10 – but they’re all super varied in how you find the codes or keys. Think 3, 4, digit locks, colour locks, directional, date locks, lockers, doors, swipe keys and so on.

Another very cool thing about the puzzles is that they make great use of the setting. As it’s a dentist’s waiting area it’s got all the usual things you’d expect – some magazines and books for kids, plant pots, weird posters up on the walls, a couple of toys too. But unlike a real dentist… *waves magic wand*… All of this is now puzzles!

Take nothing for granted and look at everything twice in this game! If you can click on it, you probably need it.

One of my favourite puzzles was towards the end and involved teeth in jars. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it’s a great example of a multi-step puzzle that unlocked a cool area!


I enjoyed this! The creators have done a good job converting their escape room to Telescape. It’s not my favourite room (*shudders at the theme*) but it was just perfect for a light-hearted escape room get-together with a group of 4 on a Wednesday evening.

We ‘escaped’ in 45 minutes, meaning I’d probably pitch this game on the ‘harder’ level in terms of difficulty. The truth is, there’s a lot to do! A lot of different areas to explore and a lot of individual puzzles to be solved. But the best part of playing it on Telescape means that there is no time limit. Tackle this one at your leisure, and enjoy!

The Dentist Online can be booked for £20 per team on Top Escape Rooms’ website here.

Agent Venture: B.A.D. Side of the Moon | Review


This is it, the grand finale. Confront Bozo on his Moon base, and foil his evil plans once and for all. The fate of the Earth is in your hands.

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 58:20
Date Played: 10th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: A well balanced (in skills) team of 4-5 players!

We’re back, Secret Agents! The dream team is reunited for the grand finale in the Agent Venture online series. After playing the previous Cyborg Island way back when in October 2020, we finally made time to journey to the moon! Just in time by the looks of it, the evil supervillain Bozo has been hiding out all this time just waiting for an intrepid team of secret agents to take him down.

This time round we were joined by our fantastically funny host, Agent Grace who really brought the experience together! So how did we do? Let’s get into it:

The Story

In a dramatic exit from Cyborg Island, Bozo escapes our clutches and goes to hide out… On the moon? That’s right, there’s a super evil base up there and an even eviler mega laser beam primed and ready to destroy the world. Or at least, I think that was the story. It’s important not the sweat the details, we were mainly here to arrest him.

I think at each chapter the plot gets a little more bizarre. We went from a regular, run of the mill heist, to an island that turns out to be a secret cyborg factory to, well, the moon. Kinda like your classic platformer video game from the early ’00s, you’ve gotta have a moon level, right?!

The Experience

You and your team play the ‘eyes in the sky’ guiding a secret agent on the ground (or rather, in space). Each of you will have a specific role:

  • The Hacker – responsible for ‘hacking’ doors open and obstacles in people’s way by solving series of quick fire puzzles on their screen.
  • The Researcher – they’re given the most information and must quickly sort through a lot of red herrings to figure out what information is needed for each level
  • The Navigator – this person is your maps guy, they see the base in all it’s detail and have the main responsibility for guiding Agent Venture around their environment
  • The Communicator – this person’s job is to lie and blag their way through social situations, armed with emails and phone records, they can phone ahead and spin a tale that grants entry
  • The Co-Ordinator – this person oversees everything!

In this game I took on the role of The Researcher. I like reading and I suck at a lot of other things, like making phone calls, reading directions or maths puzzles. So it worked out well!

All play at home Agent Venture games are played in Zoom, but unlike a lot of ‘remote avatar’ games you aren’t controlling an avatar per-se, in fact it’s all done via audio description, like an incredibly intricate and awesome TTRPG. This means there’s a huge element of choose-your-own-adventure and what’s more there’s a good amount of subjectivity with both the environment, and the puzzles that involve interacting with the host. I enjoyed this a lot though! No correct way of doing things, only YOUR way which will be completely unique from every other group who has played the game.

In this particular game, there’s two distinct parts. The first part you’re doing a series of ‘long’ puzzles to help disable alarm systems and make the end game easier. The second part is where the pressure ramps up by 5,000% – the more you solved earlier the easier this bit will be.

We’d solved about 4 puzzles before the end game, giving us at least 50% left to solve, but it worked! With some speedy collaboration and everyone working as fast as they could – we did it!! We made it out in time.

I rated the first in the series one of my all time favourite games, I didn’t do the same for #2 – likely down to the fact we didn’t escape in time. But I really felt like B.A.D. Side of the moon was the most polished of the three games and that’s why it’s back up to 5* in my books. Oh, escaping in time did help!

The Puzzles

Overall the puzzles rely a lot on collaboration. There’s no one puzzle that just one person can solve, unless of course you count the mini-puzzles the hacker takes care of. What I mean is, you’ll have one part of the information, another player will have another part, and so on. Some puzzles involve ALL team members, whereas the large majority involve only two.

The good thing is, you can choose which puzzles to do and they’re labelled in advance with which role will have to play the biggest part.

As the Researcher, the puzzles I encountered largely revolved around ‘search and find’ e.g. get a large amount of text, split over a few documents, and sift through to find the relevant part, often fragmented. One puzzle in particular that was one of the puzzles labelled as Researcher-heavy, stumped me a little. But then again it involved ratios and maths and a lot of text. But, you’re encouraged to share your screen when stuck so that everyone can weigh in.


Good fun, honestly! Of the three, I think The Heist was still my favourite, but I’d put this down to the format being super novel and us acing it as a team. It’s absolutely true the games have improved over time, so the series is best experienced in it’s totality and I’m super glad we all made it to the end (and saved the day!).

Agent Venture, before lockdown started, did real life immersive experiences and I’m hoping that some day post-lockdown they’ll bring those back. If the online experiences are anything to go by, I reckon they’re one to watch!

Agent Venture can be purchased for £12+ per player on Agent Venture’s website.

Hourglass Escapes: The Navigators and the Call From Beyond | Review


You and your friends have won a tour of the JPL facility in California! As you begin the tour you very quickly realize that something is wrong, and you and your friends must answer the CALL FROM BEYOND!

Rating: Good!
Completion Time: 22:42
Date Played: 11th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: A team of exactly 4, playing via Zoom! Sci-fi fans!

Every review on this website marked with “Escape Game Olympics” you already know I was in a competitive “we’ve gotta race through this” mode, which means I’m aiming for the fastest score (at the expense of pausing to enjoy the game and take it slow). But HECK, worth it for a fantastically speedy score of 22:42 and 7th on the Escape Game Olympics’ leaderboard this week!

But this review isn’t about the EGO, it’s about The Navigators and the Call From the Beyond – a game as mysterious and sci-fi as the name suggests, and with the voice of actor Yuri Lowenthal in it, it’s definitely in the ‘extra special’ list. So here’s everything you need to know 👇

The Story

The story of The Navigators and the Call from Beyond takes you and 3 other friends on an adventure into the great unknown (space). On a tour of a space facility, you’re suddenly pulled into something that is much greater than the four of you… A call from the (literal) beyond. Aliens! Maybe? Well… By working together and solving various puzzles, you’re able to bring the game to a conclusion.

Reading back my own description, I probably have to say that this game isn’t too heavy on plot – it’s not central to what’s going on at all. Instead, it’s a super fast paced game and the reason why you’re there, or why it’s your responsibility to save the day isn’t immediately obvious. There’s an intro video which does give some explanation *cough* Secret NASA, but overall the main mechanic is to get you into the action as quickly as possible, and I know a lot of people will appreciate that!

The Experience

The Navigators and the Call From Beyond is played inside your web browser, so you’ll want to use Zoom or another video messaging service to connect to the other 3 players. Although built in Telescape, the creators have done something very unique that I’ve not seen before! It’s not your typical point-and-click.

Instead, each player can see a different screen. I opted to play as “Player 1”, so every time a new area loaded I had to immediately click on the Player 1 screen and ignore the other screens. This worked well to an extent, but 2 of our team were playing via the same screen, so had to hop between Player 3 and 4. For this reason, you can play with less than a team of 4. Essentially, if they want to, everyone can see everyone else’s screen! So on the occasion I’d finished a puzzle early, I could hop onto Screen 2 and help out my fellow team mate (and vice versa).

At the end of each level a password needs to be inputted to proceed, and then we were presented with a video which set the scene. The video parts of the game were easily my favourite! There’s a strong retro ‘sci-fi’ vibe to this whole game which looks GORGEOUS in the animations and cut scenes. If you know me, you know I love that retro stuff. Hourglass Escapes really smashed it! It’s simply the icing on the cake to also have such a cool actor narrating the game too.

A unique interface combined with some beautiful aesthetics make this an all round great experience in my books. I love a bit of sci-fi on a Sunday afternoon, and I feel like the creators have done something special with the tools available to them.

The Puzzles

Each of the puzzles in The Navigators and the Call from Beyond are centred around the idea that all four team members have 1/4 of the puzzle. Personally, I adore puzzles like this! You have to work together to make sense of the bigger picture – it’s true collaboration!

In some cases, the puzzles were completely self contained and each solution at the end would give us the password to the next phase. In other cases, we could each see a portion of something and had to work together. It reminded me a little bit of Escape from the Two Base Stations (a game like this for 2), or The Pyramid (a game like this for 3) – but the best part about this one? The more players! More the merrier, eh?

Generally speaking, you can expect to encounter a good mix of puzzles! As I played as “Player 1” I did miss out on some of the puzzles my team mates tackled, so I’ll speak for myself only! But players can expect to encounter cipher puzzles, puzzles that involve you searching in a 360 Google Maps style interface, puzzles where you have to navigate through a maze, and puzzles with plenty of anagrams!

The only piece of constructive criticism I’d like to mention is that there’s not enough. Both from a “ooh this game was fun I want more” perspective, and also from a “we finished it in 20 minutes perspective”. Yes, yes, I was playing this competitively so I’m bound to have raced through it, but we all concluded that there could have been 2, maybe 3 more levels to the game to make it feel more full.

I do know that the creators plan to make a Part 2 of this game though, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting this!


Good fun! I’d seen this game advertised a lot, and Escape Game Olympics or not I was going to play it anyway. Being able to tackle it with an ace team of 4 (shout out to Escaping the Closet) made it all the more fun, and I’d definitely recommend this to anybody looking for that retro space vibe, folks who enjoy collaborating, and of course fans of Yuri Lowenthal(‘s voice).

The Navigators and the Call from Beyond can be purchased for $24.99 USD (currently reduced to $19.99) on Hourglass Escape’s website here.

Here Lies John Renie | A Puzzle from Beyond the Grave


TW: This article contains themes of death / graves.

On the 17th of March 1800, John Renie was born. Then, 32 years and a few months later on May 31st 1832, he died. However this isn’t where the story ends. No, his gravesite at St Mary’s Priory Church of Monmouth, Wales is a peculiar spot of interest because of what Renie chose to inscribe on his grave:

A 285-letter acrostic puzzle.

The epitaph is 19 squares across and 15 squares high and should be read from the inside letter H, outwards to one of the letters E at each corner. There are 45,760 ways to read the ‘hidden’ sentence, but each will give you the same: “HERE LIES JOHN RENIE”.

Since the letters “H E R E L I E S J O H N R E N I E” never appear in one unbroken path, readers must snake around the puzzle to find their own pathway. Although commonly called an “Acrostic Puzzle”, the grave is actually an example of the “Staircase Walk” mathematical problem. For each quadrant of the inscription there is a 9 x 7 grid. The number of paths within one quadrant is 16!/(7!9!), giving a grand total of 45,760 possible pathways… Err, I’ve counted about 8, but after that maths I think I’ll stop.

About John Renie

John Renie was a decorative painter and glazier by trade, who married a woman by the name of Sarah Howells. Together they had three children, James, Ann and a boy also called John (I guess that was pretty common back in the day but seems strange to me now).

An interesting fact about the Renie family is that after John’s death at the age of 32, Sarah went on to live until the ripe old age of 72. It’s cited that she lived by ‘independent means’, with another woman in London named Annie Cooper.

In his life, John was active in the community, both local and political, and believed in ‘the equality of mankind’ especially with regards to the local school system. Education after all, was a great equaliser of the disparate social classes that existed back then (and heck, probably still do). In particular, his aim was to ensure the ‘common folk’ were appropriately represented in parliament, but sadly an early death brought his dreams in Monmouth to a close.

But one big thing he did accomplish was through his work with The Order of Odd Fellows (a sort of alternate Freemasons). Renie was hailed as single handedly spreading The Order throughout Wales and, on his death, The Order raised the sum of £80 (about £5,000 in today’s money, or about 2 year’s wages) for his widow.

A Reason Why

I’ve often toyed with the idea of leaving my legacy as a puzzle – one last cryptic message before I exit the world with a big bang! This might be a UV tattoo with a mysterious Morse Code riddle, or an unsolvable cipher in my Will that’ll leave people scratching their heads for months. It’s a nice way to be remembered for what you loved in life.

So a big part of me wants to believe that John Renie is just one of us, a puzzle person who spent time designing his grave with a sly smile on his face. On the other hand, writer and cleric Lionel Fanthrope believes the message has been carved to confuse the devil himself, thus giving Renie safe passage into the afterlife.

As an educated man and a member of The Order of Odd Fellows, it’s also highly likely the grave has deeper significance. Historian Charles Fairley suggests the idea that the grid is part of a larger, infinitely repeating ‘apotropaic demon trap’ filled with numbers that hold special religious significance. The grid has 285 squares but when inserted into a repeating pattern (not duplicating the 19th column and 15th row) a total of 252 letters becomes clear. From here this number can be divided into it’s roots and split out to show significance of God, the Holy Trinity, the Freemasons and more.

With the phrase HERE LIES JOHN RENIE becoming infinite, it loops forever on the word “HE”, which could either be an allusion to the self, or to God. Seems possible- no, likely! And pretty damn cool if it is the case.

The Legacy

The stone has since been moved from it’s original place, so the actual body of Renie now lies elsewhere. I hope he made it to wherever he was going before the stone was moved, but now it’s Grade II listed so it won’t be moving again any time soon.

As a standalone curiosity, Renie’s grave is delightful to the passer-by on a walk through Monmouth, wondering what it all means. To the historian, you might draw parallels between this tombstone and a SATOR square. To the average escape room blogger (*cough cough* me), you might spend an afternoon researching it and putting it through Photoshop to ‘mess around’ and try and divine some hidden meaning.

Maybe after all that, it’s nothing more than a prank from beyond the grave? Perhaps we’ll never know!

Header Image by Leo Reynolds on Flickr. Close up image by Robert Cutts. Infinite Word Matrix by Charles Fairley. I also thank Hermit Jim, Wales Online, and Charles Fairey whose publications helped me research the site!

Queen City Escape: An Office ESC Room Misadventure | Review


You’re the new Temp at an office, and what a first day! The office supplies have gone missing. One of your co-workers has locked everyone in their offices. He thinks everyone is a suspect. It’s up to you to work together with your new co-workers to solve puzzles and get to the bottom of this alleged mystery.

Rating: Light-Hearted!
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 18th March 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Playing together in the same room, and fans of The Office (US)!!

An Office ESC Room Misadventure (herein known as Office ESC Room to save on typing, haha!) was SO MUCH FUN! A really, super light hearted story with puzzles ranging from the “I solved it before the video was finished” all the way to the other end of the scale with “How do I solve this?!”. I also think it would absolutely delight fans of a particular US TV show… *cough cough The Office cough*

I ended up playing Office ESC Room as a solo puzzler. I did plan to play this one in a team of 2 with a friend from another household, but actually I think it actually worked really well in a ‘team’ of 1! Or at least, that is to say I’d recommend playing An Office ESC room with people in the same household, as there’s a fair amount of video content to watch which gets hard to co-ordinate online with a large team!

So how did I get on? Let’s get into it:

The Story

It’s your first day of the job as an office temp worker and the whole team have been nothing but warm and welcoming. The best part? It’s also SNACK DAY *screams*. But wait, what was that? An alarm suddenly blares and Wyatt steps forward- he has locked you in!

There’s a scandal afoot and he’s determined to get to the bottom of it through the medium of… Escape rooms! It’s up to you to prove yourself and assist each of the team members in unlocking their office and escaping as quickly as possible. You’ve also got to help Wyatt get to the bottom of the mystery by helping him solve puzzles and rummaging through receipts (yep you heard that correctly). But hey, everyone loves a good team building activity, don’t they?

The Experience

Office ESC Room is played completely in-browser and follows a very straightforward format that can be summarised with the following bullet points:

  • You’re presented with a puzzle in the form of a video, which you need to watch carefully!
  • In most cases there’s also an additional image, helping with the puzzle.
  • At the bottom of each page is a password box to proceed, oh and hints too if you get stuck!
  • Once a correct password has been entered, a short 30 second video appears before you click to the next puzzle.

The real stand-out about this experience is the video content for sure! The whole thing is done in an 8-bit video game style complete with poppy electronic music and bright colours.

I’ve mentioned already but fans of the US TV show The Office will enjoy this game as it takes a lot of inspiration from it, as well as in-jokes and references which… Unfortunately went a little over my head as a Brit (we have our own version of The Office and it’s quite different, haha!). But of course, cultural references such as Bears, Beets and Battlestar Galactica, or staplers being inside jelly (I had to Google that one actually) will still resonate with an international audience. I’m sure everyone recognises the memes! Haha.

Again, I’m not sure how easy this would be to play with friends in another location. My own experience with video content via Zoom is that everyone either needs to mute themselves at the same time and hit play at the same time, or one person should share their screen. Both ways have pros and cons, but to avoid any technical issue I’d just recommend this be played in the same location. Bonus if you can HDMI your laptop into the TV and watch the videos on the big screen too!

The Puzzles

Just like a previous game I’ve played by the same creator, Office ESC Room starts off with straightforward puzzles to get you into the game. The kind of puzzles you’ll probably solve whilst the introduction video is still playing and telling you what to do.

Is this a false sense of security? MAYBE! Haha. Towards the end it gets really hard! And then the intro video says to take notes in a notebook – they mean it. You’ll have to draw things out, make notes of things that come back later in the game, and just generally have your wits about you.

Furthermore, with more than 15 distinct puzzles to solve, this game is meaty and could take the average up to 2 hours! A lot of puzzles for your buck! There’s also a very clear part 1 and part 2, so just when you think you’re coming to the end the game goes “Aha! Not so fast” and in you go for even more puzzles. I kinda love this?!

In terms of what those puzzles are, players can expect to encounter a wide range! There are puzzles with substitution ciphers, number puzzles, logical and lateral thinking puzzles… Like, there’s a lot! Throughout the game I used around 4 hints on 3 different puzzles, and one puzzle I’m still not 100% sure how I solved it but heck, I got the answer right so I’m not complaining. The takeaway is that there’s something for everyone to get stuck into, no matter how your brain works.


I aced it! I think 45 minutes it a super respectable time, given how tricky it got towards the end, and I’m glad to be accepted by the office team as not only a valuable temp but *gasp* Employee of the Year too?! The honour!

I enjoyed this game a lot and I think the right team would also absolutely love it! There’s also nothing quite like this experience on the market. If you like US sitcoms from the mid-00s and escape rooms, funny insider jokes and office humour… You’ll love it! I know I did, and I’ve never even seen The Office (US).

The charming 8-bit animation, catchy music, and upbeat vibes make this game a wholesome gem, and definitely one to check out yourself!

An Office ESC Room Misadventure can be purchased for $9.99 USD on Queen City Escape’s website here! Though I also recommend checking out their Twitter where they often post ✨ secret sales ✨

Swamp Motel: Plymouth Point | Review


Ivy has gone missing. The residents of Plymouth Point are concerned. Gather your team, and get your ticket to join the Residents Watch emergency meeting.

Rating: Dramatic!
Completion Time: 43 minutes
Date Played: 27th March 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Folks who enjoy ARGs

If you’ve been following my progress with the Swamp Motel series, you’ll know that whilst this is the first game in the series, it’s the second one I’m playing! Yep, we (shout out to Shiny Life and Me) kinda-accidentally booked ourselves in for The Kindling Hour two weekends ago and whilst it worked fine as a standalone experience, the series makes a lot more sense now I’ve played Plymouth Point. Oops!

As such, you’ll probably hear a lot of comparisons between this game and The Kindling Hour. Confusing, but it makes sense in my head!

So to start, unlike The Kindling Hour, Plymouth Point is set in Zoom. It makes sense, in a kind of proto-Handforth Parish Council Meeting, you join your neighbourhood’s local watch. The Plymouth Point Residents Watch, where the chair raises concern for a missing girl: Ivy. Up until now, Ivy had been diligently checking in with her every day then suddenly *poof* vanished. You’re set the task of finding out what happened to her.

From here, it’s very self driven. You aren’t actually given a lot of direction (unless you need it of course – there is someone on hand for hints). Your goal is simply to ‘find out what happened’. Just keep digging, just keep digging *la la la*. If you were going to look for an actual missing person, where would you start? Her Facebook page of course! Who do they talk to, where do they live, where might they have gone? Second place to look – their email account. And, with a cheeky password ‘hint’ on her Facebook, the game is afoot.

From a typical missing person case to a large and unfurling conspiracy centred around the London Stone Consortium – a shadowy organisation tasked with protecting the mystical London Stone. It seems as if Ivy has somehow become trapped within it’s web, and that’s where the real thriller unfolds. But, that’s not all! It also dips fairly interestingly into history. I now know a lot of local history of this small town in England and more about witchfinders than I ever knew possible! Woah, pretty neat!

There aren’t puzzles per se. The whole game is much more of an ARG (alternate reality game) that takes place on the internet. Your stage is Youtube, Facebook, email clients, password protected pages and more. In fact, the only time we really needed a hint was when we mis-Googled, rather than been unable to solve a specific puzzle.

The game recommends that one person share their screen and everyone follow along either on screen or by clicking through the various steps of the game in the background on their own devices. We played as a team of 3 and this was a pretty optimal number to make sure everyone had something to do, I think any more and it would be a case of a lot of folks watching along.

We did have some minor technical hiccups – not as many as the Mermaid’s Tongue (I’ll add a link here once I write that review!), but nothing that was game breaking. At some points in the story the actors and characters drop in and out of your Zoom call – but I’ll chalk up any difficulties to the *gestures vaguely* new digital world we find ourselves in, post-pandemic.

Overall, a fun and exciting experience with just enough of a dash of drama to keep us all excited from start to finish. If you’ve ever wanted to take centre stage in a digital mystery, this will be right up your street. But be careful… Somebody’s watching you!

Plymouth Point can be booked for £55 per team on Plymouth Point’s website.

Star Wars Unlock!: An Unforseen Delay | Review


You are smugglers in the Outer Rim, facing danger and the unexpected every day. Today, while transporting expensive cargo belonging to Jabba the Hutt, you are intercepted by an Imperial Star Destroyer! Imperial operatives impound your ship and confiscate everything in your cargo bay. You know it is only a matter of time before they take a close look and discover Jabba‘s hidden illegal goods. There‘s no time to waste. You need to break out of your cell, rescue your astromech and get hold off the cargo. Then all you need to do is recover your ship and escape!

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 35:36
Date Played: 26th February 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Star Wars Fans, people who love an adventure

An Unforseen Delay is the second boxed game in the Star Wars Unlock! series, after Escape from Hoth and part two in my effort to find a play at home escape game my Player 2 loves as much as I do. This time round we’re playing ‘grey area’ smugglers, arrested and locked away by the bad guys (the Imperials – see, I’m learning). In all sense of the word, it’s a true escape room. You must escape!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not really a Star Wars fan, so consider this review a bit of an ‘outsider’ perspective, with more of a focus on whether the game is fun for non-Star Wars folks. I reckon the vast majority of people picking up this game will be into Star Wars but just in case you’re not – you can still have fun! There’s one or two moments in which context is important. For example, if you recognise R2D2 as an astromech droid you’ll know what they can (and can’t) fix. But if you didn’t have the context, you’d probably trip up and make a couple of mistakes before getting it correct.

So how did we get on?

In this team of 2, I think we smashed it at 35 minutes! Maybe one of the fastest Unlock! game times I’ve managed – but don’t quote me on that. We used 4 hints, which in hindsight we probably didn’t need to use – but I’m very much a “just ask for a hint” person, no shame.

Unlock! games have pretty cool gameplay mechanics, and as part of the Star Wars franchise this one was delightfully high tech. The game is essentially composed of a deck of cards and a mobile app. Each card has a number on it and only when you ‘discover’ the number (for example by spotting it hidden in an image, by adding two cards together, or by being told to) can you draw it from the deck. When you come across code or machine cards (yellow and green) you must head to the app and do something there. This ranges from entering a simple 4 digit code, to super cool augmented reality graphics and complex manoeuvres to perform on the screen.

An added bonus in Unlock! Star Wars is that you get “help”. At the start of the game you get to draw a number of helper cards which give you hints to use at particular moments in the game, for example a clue to solving a puzzle or a reminder to do something *cough* which despite the warning I actually failed to do during the game.

An Unforseen Delay is the 2nd hardest in the Star Wars series (or 2nd easiest, depending how you look at it). Ironically though, we found it about the same as Escape from Hoth, if not possibly slightly easier. But this massively depends on what you want in a game. I’ve played a lot of Unlock! and so expected certain puzzles not present in Escape from Hoth but that were present in An Unforseen Delay. So take that however you like!

However, just like Escape from Hoth, this game makes excellent use of the app! In particular, the ‘end game’ puzzle once you finally do break out of your prison cell, rescue your cargo and go to fly out of the base. All at once the game became like an actual video game and despite a few mistakes made early on, we managed to ace it in true Disney / Star Wars “woohoo we saved the day” style.

Overall, we really enjoyed it. Honestly, I tend to enjoy a game a lot more if my Player 2 enjoys it and as a Star Wars fan, all the boxes were ticked. It wasn’t the hardest game, nor the easiest, and I’m still not sure who is who in the Star Wars universe. But there’s something extra fun about being able to geek out, put on the music, make a themed cocktail, and immerse yourself in a sci-fi world.

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

Experios: Ben’s Big Heist | Review


For many years Ben has been working as an underpaid cleaner at a small bank. He needs the help of you and your team to finally take his well-deserved money.

Rating: Enjoyable!
Completion Time: 49:38 (with $6,089,000.00)
Date Played: 5th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Aspiring Bank Robbers (I’m kidding, don’t do that). All audiences.

It’s week three in my Escape Game Olympics journey, and up this week was Ben’s Big Heist!

The Story

Ben’s Big Heist is a fairly classic ‘bank heist’ themed online escape game – I’ve actually got a whole category for ‘heist’ themed games here on The Escape Roomer that’s slowly filling up and if you like the genre, you’ll enjoy this one too! It’s got everything you want: blueprints, remote hacking, vaults.

The story of this heist follows the disgruntled and underpaid employee titular character Ben as he plans an epic heist to kick back at his employers and take what he feels is rightfully his. I mean, I do pause at the phrase “small bank” – you probably shouldn’t be robbing small businesses, but hey a bank is a bank. *shouts something anti-capitalist*

The Experience

From here, you’re acting as the eyes in the sky with Ben as boots on the ground. As each stage, Ben progresses through areas in the building and you must assist him at each step – sometimes with a passcode, sometimes by hacking into a computer, sometimes by scouring the map and figuring out the best way to progress.

There’s two things in this game I found pretty cool:

First, the element of multiple choice! At a few key junctures you can choose to do one thing over another and this changes the outcome of the game. Some choices may lead to harder puzzles but a larger pay-off, and others may give you a faster exit out the bank and thus a better time score.

The second cool thing about this game is it’s scoring system. You’re not just judged on time. In fact, I’d argue that time isn’t even the most important thing here (well, okay I’m doing this as part of the Escape Game Olympics and I care a LOT about time). What you’re really trying to do is steal the most money, and this is where the ‘multiple choice’ becomes important. Do you go for the more valuable vault that’s harder to crack at the risk of remaining too long and being arrested? Choices! Choices!

The Puzzles

The puzzles weren’t wholly tricky but it was hard to get the answer right. What I mean is there’s some subjectivity which felt a little iffy here. I can’t specifically explain without giving away a spoiler for a puzzle, so I’ll give a simpler example. Let’s say the password is “diaper” but here in the UK we say “nappy”. At one juncture, we put the word we knew for an item in and *bzzt* incorrect. So we tried 6 different options (and took penalties for each) before going back to our correct answer and realising they were just looking for us to type “diaper”.

This popped up twice in the game, so it’s a small piece of advice I’d give to prospective players looking to give this one a go. Otherwise, the puzzles were fairly straightforward – a couple of maths puzzles, a couple of sorting, a few search and find, and plenty of looking at the map.


In the end, we finished with a very respectable time – not enough to crown us champions of anything any time soon, but it was a good fun little game to play on a bank holiday Monday afternoon with team Escaping the Closet!

Ben’s Big Heist can be played for $45 AUD per team by booking it on Virtual Escape’s website here.