Enter the mysterious mirror world of Black Sabbath’s Sabotage in this this mini online escape room game where your mission is to recover a copy of the coveted Sabotage: Super Deluxe Edition!
Rating: Fun! Completion Time: 6 minutes Date Played: 21st June 2021 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: Fans of Black Sabbath, or for a short n’ sweet escape
In collaboration with Black Sabbath, Bewilder Box have once again turned their hand to creating a fantastically interactive play at home escape room: Sabotage. To celebrate the launch of Black Sabbath’s “Super Deluxe Edition” box set, fans of the band may step into the band’s 1970s dressing room and put their knowledge to the test in a series of highly themed puzzles.
Team Escaping the Closet and I teamed up with our regular digital escape room team to take on Sabotage on a Monday afternoon. I say we played ‘in a team of 4’, but as the game doesn’t require a login or any multiplayer puzzles, it’s probably best played solo.
The puzzles require equal parts black Sabbath knowledge and general puzzle solving-know how. There’s a locked 4 digit padlock, a 6 letter number code, and plenty (oh yes plenty) of memorabilia players can digitally pick up and manipulate to crack the codes. Recognising songs (or being able to Google) is helpful in this experience as the band’s music does play a large part of the experience… And I should hope so too!
Overall, it’s a brilliant tribute to many people’s favourite band. Heading into the experience, none of us were overly familiar with the music – but you bet I added a tune or two from the game to my Spotify after! If you’re a fan of the band you mustn’t miss this! But if you’re not so much a fan, treat it as a light hearted short puzzle game perfect for scratching the escape room itch in lockdown.
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh! A one to six player co-operative online puzzle adventure starring the voice of Peter Parker and Spider-man, Yuri Lowenthal! Do you have what it takes to stop the Mad Mummy’s ne-Pharaoh-ous plan? You find clues and solve puzzles in this amazing multi-player online escape room designed for co-operative play. Based on the award winning game in Seattle.
Rating: Impressive! Completion Time: 40:41 Date Played: 21st June 2021 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: A ‘play anytime’ digital game for 6 players
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is the latest play at home escape room from Seattle based escape room company Hourglass Escapes! Last time, we blasted into space in The Navigators and the Call from Beyond. This time, Hourglass Escapes have done something a little different… The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is a real life escape room converted into a point-and-click experience with a few very creative differences!
…In fact, dare I say it, I believe this might just be the best example of a room-into-digital game I’ve ever seen?
But let’s get into why that is:
The Story, and the Original Room
You and a team of 6 intrepid explorers find yourself in a mysterious room in the Seattle Archaeological Antiquities division. In the centre of the room a sarcophagus… Locked! Of course.
By bringing the sarcophagus here, Dr. Carter, a professor at the museum, paid the greatest penalty – death! But not before the spirit of the mummy possessed him and turned his office into a ne-pharaoh-ous den of puzzles. With no other hope, it was left up to us to solve all the puzzles and put the Pharaoh to rest. Thereby saving humanity, of course.
This is where the original room and the online version deviate a little. From what I can tell, in the original escape room your goal is to save the archaeologist Dr. Carter. Unfortunately for us digital-players, Carter is long dead. Oh no.
But, for this reason, even if you’ve played the real life room, I reckon you could still play this digital version and experience something brand new! There are many puzzles in Rise of the Mad Pharaoh that simply couldn’t work in a real life setting, so it’s clear the team have gone to great lengths to personalise it for a digital audience.
But in order to save the world, we first had to…
This was one of the things I loved the most about Rise of the Mad Pharaoh! Everyone needed to choose a character. Practically speaking, this meant that each player could see a portion of the information available and could work together to solve the bigger puzzle. Impractically speaking, it meant we got to dress up and talk in character the whole time!
Here are the characters you may choose from:
The cartographer is obsessed with paper maps and perhaps just a little bit bitter and twisted that the world doesn’t love them as much as they do. This was the role I chose, immediately grabbing a hat and a stack of books about maps. Wait… Doesn’t everyone have a bunch of map books?
Dressed in tweed with a pipe in hand, the Egyptologist is convinced everything is cursed. You know what? I think they’re probably right in this room!
They LOVE CATS. Okay so this role immediately went to our in-house cat fanatics Al & Ash 😉
The CIA Codebreaker
Every escape room team has gotta have a codebreaker. This role was to be played by someone confident in cracking codes quickly, and equally confident in shouting “Eureka!” each time.
Just an Antiques Roadshow enthusiast looking for their big break. I don’t blame them.
Exactly why a poet is joining us on this expedition I don’t know, but heck they were useful to have on the team! For this player everything begins with “An Ode To…” and they definitely have the best costume!
Just like being in the same room…
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is played in Telescape, and each player is given a view of their character’s ‘desk’, and a 360 degree view of the escape room. If you play with any less than 6 players, as we did, this meant that a few players were able to take on more than one role, or the whole team could share the workload and click between each other’s desks.
If you chose the Cartographer, the tools you’ll have on your desk revolve around maps – a compass, a ruler, a letter, and a space to examine maps. The same goes for all other characters – the CIA Codebreaker is able to see the cipher key, the Cultist has tools that let her examine certain cult-related objects closer.
Compared to all other escape room experiences I’ve played, this is a super creative setup! For starters, you video and chat is within the web app itself. No need to wrangle Zoom or Facebook Video Chat – just hop right into your link and go. Secondly, anything found by any character in the main room gets placed on the desk of the relevant puzzler for them to pick up (click and drag) and use to solve puzzles.
It’s almost as if we were a real team of Ancient Egyptologists working together on six desks side by side. The level of immersivity is second to none.
Global pandemic, eat your heart out! I’m here with my friends studying sarcophagi.
But how difficult was it?
In terms of puzzles, I’d rate this around ‘medium’ level of difficulty. That is to say, we didn’t use any clues nor get too stuck at any point – but it is definitely a game best played with a full house of 6 and whatever part of your brain that controls puzzle solving switched on.
In particular, the game rewards you for fully exploring your environment and thinking intuitively about how to solve each puzzle. I really enjoy this in an escape room, after doing so many often you get into a cycle of “Well I’ve never seen a puzzle solved this way so it can’t be right.” But heck, in Rise of the Mad Pharaoh the trick is to do the thing!
Players can expect to encounter a lot of puzzles. All characters get to search around the room, and click objects to interact with them. Depending on which character you choose, you’ll encounter different styles of puzzles – so play to your strengths! As Cartographer, I had to read maps. A lot of them. But I also dipped into the CIA Codebreaker role frequently to help translate a thing or two, or watched in envy as my team mates had more spatial awareness or physical manipulation puzzles.
It’s no understatement to say that there is something in this room for everyone though!
Really impressive stuff from Hourglass Escapes. Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is an excellent example of converting a real life escape room into the digital format and it’s just as exciting and immersive no matter how you play it. They’ve once again used the talent of Yuri Lowenthal to add some magic to the game and once again I was hooked from the start!
This is one for the “DO NOT MISS” list!
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh (Point & Click) can be purchased for $15 USD from Hourglass Escape’s website here.
After finding one of his childhood drawings, Alex is suddenly plagued bynightmares of the “Sleepyman”. Seeking to rid himself of these nightmares,Alex turns to a hypnotherapist. Playing the role of his subconscious, you willneed to help Alex figure out what is causing his nightmares… before it’s too late.
So, it’s one of the HOTTEST Sunday afternoons we have had in the UK for a while. Outside is bright, sunny and warm. But inside, we are just beginning our 5 hour escape room adventure with Mystery Mansion Regina, an escape room company based in Regina, Canada. Night Terrors is the first part of the ‘Sleepyman’ trilogy (click here for our review of D’Viles Curio Shoppe and Sleepy Man). Players are introduced to Alex, a boy plagued by mysterious nightmares, and your mission is to find out what is causing these strange disturbances.
You are tasked with playing Alex’s subconscious, guiding him through the room to solve puzzles and riddles, each taking you a step closer to discovering what is going on, and finding out who is the mysterious figure plaguing Alex’s dreams. This works particularly well on the online platform, with the first-person view of the gamesmaster tying in nicely with the idea that you are in Alex’s mind. Mystery Mansion Regina have cleverly set up the game to really play on this idea, with special catchphrases and an ingenious clue system: it’s definitely unique!
The room is pitched at a solid ‘creepy’; there are unsettling stories of children disappearing, and allusions to a slenderman-style villain tip-toeing behind every locked door. We really enjoyed the atmosphere created in the room – the background music supplied in the Telescape software worked really well alongside the live zoom call (this is definitely a game to play in headphones!). The puzzles themselves are spread across the live call and the Telescape software, with parts that players can manipulate and other parts that you rely on Alex putting together for you. We liked this – the combination of the two platforms is quite seamless, it certainly didn’t feel clunky switching between the two.
The puzzles themselves were the right level of challenging and there were plenty of them! We love a room with variety, and we were not disappointed with what Night Terrors had to offer. We are particular fans of puzzles that appear to players at the start of a room (almost teasing you to solve them!), but do not become clear until later in your gameplay. This leads you to some proper A-HA moments, as you finally realise what it is you’ve been looking at for so long!
There was one particular puzzle at the end of the game that really stood out to us all. The interaction between Telescape and the Zoom call is used wonderfully, to create an intense and extremely immersive atmosphere, which can be difficult in a virtual room. It certainly had us looking over our shoulders to double check that no-one was creeping up behind us.
The storytelling across the trilogy is immense, we got thoroughly pulled into the ‘Sleepyman’ saga. Night Terrors does a good job at introducing you to the Sleepyman universe, channeling some strong Buffy vibes. One of our party ,Tasha, noticed a niche reference to ‘Sabrina’ during our gameplay, which the host informed us was the first time anyone had noticed the link! We think this says more about Tasha than it does about the room (haha!) – although it did make it it feel more ‘real’. Always good fun in a horror themed room.
The end of Night Terrors leads very nicely onto the second and third games. As a side note, we strongly recommend that you play all of these in order as it makes it SO much better. In fact, doing them all back-to-back, as we did, is definitely the optimal way to experience the trilogy.
Of the four of us, two of us had nightmares after this game, which I think says a lot about the experience that we had!
The horror, the decoration, the technology… It all clicked together so well! Night Terrors does a brilliant job of sucking you in, and leaves you eager to find out what happens next. When we think back to this Sunday, it’s been one of our favourite online experiences and definitely scratched the escape room itch: we were thoroughly immersed! If you get the chance, it is so worth giving these a go.
After all, it’s only a dream, right?
You can play Night Terrors with Mystery Mansion Regina for a cost of $25.00/person (plus tax). They recommend 2+ players, aged 14+. You’ve got 75 minutes to find out who is haunting Alex’s nightmares…
Local paranormal Youtuber, Estelle Jacobs, was searching for her missing boyfriend, Alex. Shortly after visiting D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe, Estelle vanished without a trace. It’s time to venture inside the Curio Shoppe through a live video feed and find out the truth about Estelle’s disappearance…
Rating: Creepy! Completion Time: 67 minutes Date Played: 13th June 2021 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: Horror fans! (14+)
Things are getting creepier and creepier in the Sleepy Man trilogy at Mystery Mansion Regina…
In what was one epic sugar-fuelled horror game marathon, team Escaping the Closet and I took on the Sleepy Man trilogy – a series of remote avatar games centred around their fictional nightmare, the Sleepy Man. The games in this series in order are:
In Night Terrors, the first in the series, we played as Alex’s subconscious – one of the victims who mysterious vanished after complaining of nightly Sleepy Man visits. In D’Viles Curio Shoppe we continued the story alongside streamer Livestreamer1337 (Sam) after hearing the mysterious rumours of Alex’s disappearance. Alex’s girlfriend Estelle was last seen at the mysterious Curio Shoppe and in a jovial ‘Buzzfeed Unsolved’ kinda way we came along for the ride with one goal in mind: capture some ghosts on camera!
…Wait, wait, sorry. Seems like I missed the brief. Our goal was to of course bring the missing people home.
But I wouldn’t say no to helping Livestreamer1337 go viral on Twitch either.
D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is played via a combination of:
Controlling a live avatar on Zoom, and
Your inventory system and 360 degree view of the room on Telescape
You’ll need your sound turned on (and up!) for this game, as both the live avatar and the Telescape work together to create a creepy, almost surround-sound experience. For the large part, Telescape played a supporting role allowing multiple players to be looking at different things at once. Personally, playing over two devices anyway, I spent more time on the Zoom call than rummaging through my inventory, but it was very helpful to have both handy.
Occasionally the Zoom call broke into an almost seamless video transition using Telescape and every single time I had to half close my eyes expecting a massive jump scare but thankfully this remote avatar room’s currency is creepy-scare, not necessarily jump scare. Unless you count– oh wait, I won’t spoil that! You’ll know it when you see it 😉
D’Viles Curio Shoppe is the only game in the trilogy that exists in the real world too. What I mean is, it’s a live escape room at Mystery Mansion Regina which can be played at their physical location.
This is worth mentioning as the other two games in the trilogy are actually at a different, remote-avatar only location located at another site. There’s a few noticeable differences between D’Viles Curio Shoppe due to the fact this room has to cater to both audiences, but nothing suffers for it! It’s more of an interesting detail, and very cool that the company have adapted the existing and new experiences to work seamlessly together.
In terms of theming of this room, your host Sam takes you into a very curious looking shop – Estelle’s last known location. It becomes quickly very clear that this is no ordinary shop. Or should I say… Shoppe! From the mysterious tarot cards plastered on the wall to the decidedly creepy fortune teller box in one corner. On the shelves I spotted nothing less than a real monkey’s paw, some cursed trinkets, skulls, and other absolutely horrifying things that I definitely want to purchase for Halloween.
The whole room is also bathed in a rather mysterious purplish light that sets a very creepy shadow on otherwise innocuous items. There’s real tension in the air. Anything could happen. It also doesn’t help that everywhere are warning signs not to touch anything, and yet touch everything we did!
Definitely cursed now. Yep.
We were delighted and surprised to discover that this is not just a one-room experience. But the less I say about how the second space is discovered, the better. This room is packed with surprises and it’s best to go in with an open mind!
In terms of puzzle difficulty, D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is slightly more difficult than Night Terrors. That said, we didn’t need to ask for any clues, but our host Sam (real name Owen) was helpful enough to gently nudge us in the right direction when we needed it.
Players can expect to encounter puzzles involving ciphers, keys, number locks, and some very interesting use of tarot cards too! None of the puzzles were stand-out brilliant and I did get the impression that a lot of them would be best experienced in the live room, but I think the true enjoyment of the room is the narrative storytelling and hosting, rather than interrogating the puzzles. We weren’t playing it to be dazzled by mechanical puzzles, we were playing to be spooked- and it succeeded!
D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is a brilliantly spooky game that has near-mastered the art of creating tension and a sense of unease in all the players! I (Mairi) am not a horror game fan typically, but D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe was a perfect balance that left me feeling like:
…Without actually making me scream or cry. Bravo!
Of the three in the trilogy, it’s not my favourite, but it NOT to be missed if you want the full experience, start to finish. Oh, and good luck getting to sleep after this one!
D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe (virtual) can be booked for $25 CAD pp on Mystery Mansion Regina’s website here.
The British Institute of Archaeology, London, 1908: The disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist prompts a Police investigation into the unknown. Explore cryptic locations, examine fantastic gadgets and uncover an otherworldly discovery which blurs the line between reality and illusion.
Time Played: 4 hours Console: PSVR / Oculus Quest Recommended For: An exceptional VR escape room game, and fans of The Room series
If you ask anyone in the escape room industry to recommend you a video game, chances are you’ll hear the name “The Room” thrown around a lot. It’s the quintessential escape room video game, transporting you into a series of steampunk-come-Victoriana spaces to solve a series of escape room puzzles transposed into the video game world. The premise is deceptively simple, yet Fireproof Games does it so well.
When I finally got my hands on a VR headset (the PSVR if anyone is interested), The Room was my very first download. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I only bought the PSVR in order to play The Room VR. It did not disappoint.
Victorian London & A Curious Case
The Room VR: A Dark Matter begins with you, a Victorian detective working a rather curious case. An Egyptologist has gone missing and your team of bobbies have rounded up and collected the evidence at your station in Bloomsbury. But late one night something starts whispering to you.
You discover this Egyptologist had on their possession an artefact that allows one to travel in time and space. This artefact you stumble upon is a piece in a far greater mystery than the one assigned to you. Following in the footsteps of three treasure seekers, you’ll explore an old museum, a peculiar church, and a witch’s cottage.
Your goal ultimately is to solve the case of the missing Egyptologist but in doing so you may just uncover more than your wildest imagination ever suspected.
An Eyepiece for Every Puzzle
The gameplay is based on a nodal system, meaning you can point and teleport to various locations around the room. On the one hand, it’s great for keeping you focused on the task and hand and not missing important details. On the other, the world’s Fireproof Games have created are beautiful, and I’d have loved to explore some more. At each location you can move the camera angle left and right, to avoid craning your neck around to see something behind you, or flailing your arms in the wrong direction.
A moment’s silence for all the cups I’ve knocked off my table whilst playing other VR games.
At each location, you’ve the option to interact with your surroundings as-is, or don a mysterious eyepiece. Fans of the Room will recognise this from earlier games. The idea is simple – the eyepiece reveals the unseen. Another dimension the ability to become very small, or mysterious floating orbs that must be dragged into place to proceed. You know, just typical other-worldly interdimensional stuff.
The eyepiece also adds a supernatural element which I really enjoyed. At times, activating the eyepiece reveals a memory of an action that occurred. The action often sets the scene, but in other cases merely hints at where players should look first.
The only problem? It wasn’t long enough! Excluding the intro and the outro, there are really only three spaces to explore. In a haze of excitement at finishing, I’m not entirely sure how this compares with it’s non-VR counterparts, but the whole experience did fall rather short. I found myself artificially waiting before picking up the headset again just to be able to say “oh, it took me a week”. But the truth is most players will complete this in under 4 hours. So one, to two sittings at most.
That said, if you’re a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed. The Room VR: A Dark Matter is every bit exciting, and twenty times more immersive than any in the series before it.
The Room VR: Dark Matter can be played on PSVR or Oculus. Find out more on Fireproof Games’ website here.
The Steam Summer Sale is one of the largest annual PC Gaming events and this year it takes place from the 24th June to the 8th July! As well as hugely popular titles such as Destiny, Borderlands and Tabletop Simulator receiving discounts – it’s also the perfect time to bag yourself that puzzle or escape room game you’ve had on your list for years.
Yeah… You know the one!
Steam Sale discounts typically range anywhere from 30% off to 95% off. So… Without further adieu, here is a round up of my top picks and best discounts on escape room style games I’ve found this Steam Summer Sale.
Prices are listed in GBP £ but the discounts are usually the same internationally – so be sure to check your local currency!
I want to do an escape room, but make it digital…
You enjoy escape rooms and maybe you’re new to PC gaming but you want to see what they’d be like in a video game setting? No gimmicks, no tricky controls, these are some classic escape room style games!
THE ROOM | 75% OFF
A mysterious invitation leads to the attic of an abandoned house. In the room is a cast-iron safe laced with strange carvings and on top, a note from your distant companion. It promises something ancient and astonishing concealed in the iron chamber – you need only find a way in.
You wake up in a spaceship with no memories. In this escape room with a sci-fi setting you will have to investigate your past solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover what happened to you and how did you get there?
Kidnapped and taken to an unfamiliar location, nine people find themselves forced to participate in a diabolical Nonary Game by an enigmatic mastermind called Zero. Why were they there? Why were they chosen to put their lives on the line? And more importantly, who can be trusted?
You are the test subject. In this dark environment escape room, you have to solve various puzzles to escape from the research center where you are trapped. Can you find out how you got there and escape???
Are you ready to serve the guests in the Rusty Lake Hotel? Solve all mysteries in this dark and eerie puzzle game. Rusty Lake Hotel is a point-and-click adventure by the creators of the Rusty Lake & Cube Escape series.
You’ve barely managed to escape your exploding spaceship. Now in an old escape pod, you hurtle through space at the mercy of the cosmos. With no knowledge of the pod’s complex systems, your life depends on a technical manual and your own wits. How long can you survive?
Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden objects, escape from rooms and dive into the authentic atmosphere of the Renaissance. Use all your wits to find out what’s behind your master’s disappearance.
Are there 2 of you? These 2 player escape room games are also available in the Steam Summer Sale – check it out!
TICK TOCK A TALE FOR TWO | 50% OFF
You and your friend are trapped in a mystical world. As time ebbs away you must solve increasingly complex puzzles to escape. Cooperation is key as neither of you have the full picture! Play on two devices, local or remotely, all you need is a voice connection.
As we explore these frozen wastes, misfortune strikes once again. Through the fierce blizzard, a flare lights the sky, followed by a cry for help over the radio – broken, dying… No one else can come to their rescue. Can we make it back – together?
You like the classics! You’ve PROBABLY already played one of these – or at least heard countless people talking about them. Well heck! There no better time than the present to invest in them on PC!
THE WITNESS | 75% OFF
You wake up, alone, on a strange island full of puzzles that will challenge and surprise you. You don’t remember who you are, and you don’t remember how you got here, but there’s one thing you can do: explore the island in hope of discovering clues, regaining your memory, and somehow finding your way home.
It’s been 20 years since Myst became your world, and there’s never been a better time to revisit the Ages. This newly refreshed and rebuilt version of realMyst is all-things Myst, but amazingly more real. You can explore anywhere, unfettered, and in realtime! Pick your own path through the forest on Myst Island. Listen to the crickets as the sun sets in the Channelwood Age. Relax in the falling leaves in the Selenitic Age. Spin around for a full panoramic tour of Sirrus’ throne room. Seek shelter from the thunderstorm in Stoneship Age.
As if awakening from a deep sleep, you find yourself in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. Tasked by your creator with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles, you must decide whether to have faith or to ask the difficult questions: Who are you? What is your purpose? And what are you going to do about it?
Winner of Debut Game at the 2018 BAFTA Games Awards, as well as Best Mobile Game and the Innovation Award at the GDC 2018 Choice Awards, Gorogoa is an elegant evolution of the puzzle genre, told through a beautifully hand-drawn story designed and illustrated by Jason Roberts.
For all the armchair detectives and budding sleuths, here are some of my top picks which involve detective puzzles. Actually there are thousands more on Steam, but I personally recommend the following:
HEAVY RAIN | 50% OFF
Experience a gripping psychological thriller filled with innumerable twists and turns. The hunt is on for a murderer known only as the Origami Killer. Four characters, each following their own leads, must take part in a desperate attempt to prevent the killer from claiming a new victim.
Amid the post-war boom of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Cole Phelps is an LAPD detective thrown headfirst into a city drowning in its own success. Corruption is rampant, the drug trade is exploding, and murder rates are at an all-time high. In his fight to climb the ranks and do what’s right, Phelps must unravel the truth behind a string of arson attacks, racketeering conspiracies and brutal murders, battling the L.A. underworld and even members of his own department to uncover a secret that could shake the city to its rotten core.
In Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems. Switch between five playable characters to uncover the surreal secrets of this strange town in a modern mystery adventure game from the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The deeper you go, the weirder it gets.
Welcome to a world of intrigue and suspicion. Where humans and robots contend with escalating tensions and mutual distrust. And where gangster felines scheme their way to the top of the food chain. Welcome to the Tales of the Neon Sea!
The British Institute of Archaeology, London, 1908: The disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist prompts a Police investigation into the unknown. Explore cryptic locations, examine fantastic gadgets and uncover an otherworldly discovery which blurs the line between reality and illusion.
You’ve solved the puzzles, now for a bit of gold old fashioned mystery! Explore these worlds, and uncover secrets at a leisurely pace.
WHAT REMAINDS OF EDITH FINCH | 65% OFF
What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of strange tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, you’ll explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories as she explores her family history and tries to figure out why she’s the last one in her family left alive.
College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades.
June 7th, 1995. 1:15 AM. You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here? Unravel the mystery for yourself in Gone Home, a story exploration game from The Fullbright Company.
That was a bit deep, something more lighthearted please…
Okay, okay. Here are the funnies. Great picks for when you want to take a break from saving the world, solving crime, and escaping from locked rooms:
THE STANLEY PARABLE | 50% OFF
The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end.
Jazzpunk is a comedy adventure set in an alternate reality Cold War World, plagued with corporate espionage, CyberCrime, and sentient martinis. Gameplay is inspired by spoof comedy films and cartoons of yesteryear, with a focus on weird gadgets, exotic locales, and open-world style exploration.
I’ve not played any of these yet, but they seem like really interesting concepts. They’re definitely on my to-buy list this year. Why not give them a go too and let me know what you think?
HYPNOSPACE OUTLAW | 35% OFF
Hypnospace Outlaw is a ’90s internet simulator in which you scour Hypnospace’s wide variety of weird and wonderful websites to hunt down wrongdoers, while also keeping an eye on your inbox, avoiding viruses and adware, and downloading a plethora of apps that may or may not be useful.
Hacknet is an immersive, terminal-based hacking simulator for PC. Dive down a rabbit hoIe as you follow the instructions of a recently deceased hacker, whose death may not have been the accident the media reports.
What if you could hear every word spoken at the scene of a crime? “Acoustic Detectives” wanted for testing our new device! Return aurally to crime scenes and use the voices you hear to identify potential suspects and solve the mysteries. What is it that’s connecting these seemingly unrelated cases?
INFRA puts you into the boots of a structural analyst on a routine mission. Quickly though, your task turns into a fight for survival, all caused by deep-rooted schemes of the past. Your tools are simple: your camera and the wits to navigate a labyrinth of debris.
Well, that’s a wrap! Did I miss any? Are you filled with anger that I didn’t include your favourite game – or worse, included a terrible game? Come fight me (not really) on Twitter or Instagram or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article contains NO affiliate links and is based off the research and opinion of the author, Mairi.
Join Dan Rooney and his team of criminal masterminds and help them pull off the Heist of the Century. When you meet Dan’s team of experts, they will help you gain access to the casino. You will meet: Jack Potts, your man on the inside; Wheels, your getaway driver, and plenty of safe crackers and hackers along the way. Once you blow open the safe you will have 15 minutes to escape with the loot.
Online interface: 5/5
Fun Factor: 5/5
Overall: 3.5/5 ⭐⭐⭐
The UK Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook page is an excellent source of fan reviews, shout outs to great rooms and often companies will post looking for testers for new experiences. One post caught our eye: a new online ‘Escape Experience’ that was looking for groups to sign up to a test play, taking place via Zoom. Always keen for a new challenge, we signed ourselves up and looked forward to an evening of puzzling!
Editor’s Note: This means the version of the game we played was not the final, but given how flawless it ran, we’re confident the final experience will be as brilliant as ours.
The set up began with an introduction from Caroline, telling us a bit about The Big Escape (and their parent company Creative Events) and the experience we were about to take part in. We were then sectioned off into breakout groups in Zoom to race against the clock, and each other, to see who could pull off the grand heist, and avoid the wrath of Big Al (an amusing name for us). We were introduced to a range of savvy criminals who wanted in on our heisting, but we soon learnt they wouldn’t help us without putting us through our paces first.
The game platform was really interesting, as users are directed to meet up with a series of characters in a linear format. You have to meet with the characters in a particular order, and once you ‘solve’ one character’s set of puzzles, and receive their ‘item’, you unlock the next character! We enjoyed this, it’s always nice to see how far you have gone and how far you still have to go. The puzzles were solid, and they were always on brand to the character you were currently visiting. Our favourite was named Wheels (the getaway driver!) who wanted you to point out his car parking space… We only experienced one hitch with the platform, and considering this was a testing event, we were really impressed at how smoothly it all ran.
The puzzles themselves were a range of things we have all come across before, but they were delivered with fun and in theme. There was one particular puzzle however that really had us stumped (I am still tempted to go back in to try and solve it – it’s hard to accept defeat on these things!). As the events are geared towards corporate team building sessions, Creative Events have done a great top of pitching the difficulty. Non-enthusiasts would be able to gain the satisfaction of puzzle solving and enjoying navigating through the storyline, whilst puzzle fanatics will enjoy seeing how quickly you can solve under the pressure of Big Al and how many points you can tot up! We would recommend this experience for families who have some puzzling pioneers and some newbies alike – it would be a good introductory event.
One of our fave features was the leader board, which we couldn’t help repeatedly checking of course. This would really add an element of interaction to a virtual company event, if you were playing against colleagues – being able to sneak a glance at where your boss is would be a lot of fun! The variety of puzzles on offer would mean that in bigger groups, people could play to their personal strengths (Note: Speaking from experience ours is NOT anything to do with time or dates…or pyramids).
Overall, this was a really fun evening! It feels like Creative Events have created a unique and fun experience, catered perfectly for their intended audience. If you want to have a crack at Big Al, we would definitely recommend it, just make sure you’ve got your wheels 😉
The Big Escape Virtual can be booked by corporate teams only by enquiring on their website here.
This month in An Interview with an Enthusiast, we’re talking to Keith Dozois. You may know him better as the mastermind behind USB Escape! Keith is a play-at-home puzzle master who has grown his escape business from the ground up during lockdown.
Tell us about yourself!
So first and foremost, my name’s Keith and I live just outside of Toronto, Ontario.
I am, amongst other things, a huge enthusiast of all things ‘puzzle’ and anything mind bending. Of course, that does not mean that I’m always that great at them. In fact I often find myself taking the most difficult puzzle route to get to an easy solution, but I just love discovering everything there is about a puzzle to find the best way to solve it!
I’m in the escape room community as a creator, but I’m still learning and growing constantly. I came in through the backdoor of the escape room industry where most people have played a huge amount of live games and in lockdown have started playing at home games. I did the exact opposite, I started playing at home games and fell further in love with escape rooms from there.
So which was your first ever live escape room?
My first ever escape room was kinda terrible. I went with a group of engineers and I don’t need to tell you I am not an engineer. I’m somewhat smart, but they were next level smart, so we finished the room in record time. I think I only contributed to one puzzle and my genius friends went around and aced the rest.
I forget the name of the room, but there was a guy who was going to come eat us if we didn’t escape the room. That said, the puzzles weren’t anything to do with that, it was a bit of a mish-mash.
It was terrible and… I loved it!
But your escape rooms experiences have improved from there, right?
So this is this is the part where you end the conversation- haha! I’ve only done four or five in person rooms before the lockdown…
So it’s really hard to say! I’ve only done a few Canadian experiences here and there but yes, they’re a step up from my first as they’ve had much more support and love in them.
I hear about other escapes from other enthusiasts all over the world and it just leaves me wanting! Wanting more escape rooms and more travel! Things are beginning to open up in Canada so I already have a few trips planned for when I’m able to travel safely, but for the time being I’m consuming all the play at home escape rooms that I can.
So how many play at home games have you got through this lockdown, and are there any stand-out favourites?
I’m getting close to around 100 – I play everything from the big boxed ones you’d find at your local shops, to indie ones purchased overseas where the shipping is as much as the game itself!
One of the most memorable games I’ve enjoyed in lockdown is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective! It’s just like in the Sherlock Holmes movies where the dots start connecting in the air around you. I remember playing this one mission from the Jack the Ripper Box and everyone was chattering and suddenly it all goes silent for me. It was a real moment of:
“Wait, if this happened, then this happened, it must mean this!”
That was the first time I actually got positive points in the game! If you’ve played it you’ll know you typically get negative points. Everybody loses against Sherlock but the trick is to lose the least.
Speaking of Board Games, do you have any favourites?
Oh absolutely! Some of my favourite games include Stronghold (published by the same people who made Terraforming Mars), and New Bedford, another worker placement game. So I have quite a few board games… I know some people collect board games and have around three or four hundred but I’ve only got around one to two hundred.
Wow, and here’s us still playing Monopoly!
Actually if you like that you should check out the history of Monopoly, it’s an amazingly interesting deep dive! For example, did you know it was invented by a woman and at the time nobody took her seriously so instead it was accredited to a man. It wasn’t even meant to be a game, it was a satire on how Capitalism doesn’t work. So the fact Monopoly takes such a long time and ruins families – it was designed that way!
If I were to give you a blank cheque to create any escape room experience what would you create?
So no surprise at all, I would probably stick to the horror theme!
I would want a mansion out in the countryside. It would be an escape room with as much of a ‘hands-off’ feel as possible for a truly organic horror experience. That said, I would’t want it to be a haunted house either. With haunted houses the principle is to go through it and be scared, or not be scared. With escape rooms your goal is to discover the story within an hour.
So this would be an escape room way out in the countryside and you have a whole weekend to figure it out. Half Airbnb, half escape room where you might get a call at 2am on the Friday night, and perhaps somebody would serve you breakfast in the morning and there would be something to discover.
It’s all about surviving the weekend!
Sounds like it would be a great setting for a murder mystery! Players must avoid getting killed off…
Haha! You know what? If I get that blank cheque I’ll have you onboard. The murder mystery aspect sounds like it would be really easy to add.
I did a murder mystery one time, I was an ‘audience member’ and each character came round and would talk to you and let you in on little bits of gossip here and there. It was extremely fun! So I love the idea. Immersive theatre – especially horror themed – is brilliant. Despite the fact I’m a huge chicken of course. I can dish it out but I can’t take it.
That’s so funny you make terrifying games but don’t love horror yourself?
It falls into a similar category of not trusting a skinny chef, or bringing your car to a mechanic who cycles to work. I’m scared of everything, so I know better than the average person of what is scary and how to create fear. I try to immerse myself in a lot of horror content especially during the creative process. I live in a scary old house and get scared pretty easily, so it’s easy to start from there.
What’s your greatest fear?
Oh man! My greatest fear?
Honestly it’s not a very exciting answer but it’s reptiles!
I especially don’t like frogs. I don’t want to hold a frog, I don’t want to touch a frog.
So if you could be any animal, what would you be?
It’s a great question! Everybody typically goes for a lion or an eagle, but I think you don’t get to choose. I’d probably end up being something like a mole rat. Life just rolls the dice and whatever animal comes up I’ll deal with it. Just not a reptile.
Thanks so much Keith for chatting to us at The Escape Roomer! If you want to keep up with Keith’s latest creative endeavours you can follow USB Escape on Instagram or TikTok.
Finally, A Puzzle to Solve!
At this point in these interviews we typically ask if the interviewee has a puzzle to share, but Keith has ALREADY created a brilliant puzzle for me to solve a few months back. So I’d like to share that, and how I solved it, below:
In 2001, eccentric scientists Nethel and Malbert Birman began working on a formula to turn people into cats. Shunned by the scientific community for years, their work went largely unnoticed, but more of an interest was taken in recent years when some of their top detractors started going missing.
Since 2015, countless people known to the couple have disappeared and – around the same time – several cats and kittens have been sighted in or near their home. Help Dr Woofred Barker (VGB) find and destroy the secret turning-people-into-cats microchip… to save us all from being turned into cats!
A few weeks ago, on a less than sunny day during lockdown, we decided on spontaneous afternoon escape plans with our good friend Mairi. The first challenge? Well as this was a spur of the moment plan, the key question was which game to choose. We took some time browsing through top new online digital escape games (and saw SO MANY we wanted to try in the process!), but one especially caught our eye from its title alone- Escape from Catland.
Now, we know we very much play ourselves into some stereotypes here, but we can’t help it. We. Love. Cats. I mean, we are big animal lovers, so a dog or bunny theme would certainly be a great way to catch our eye too, but yes the cat theme drew us gay ladies straight in!
We have experienced an IRL cat lady themed room before and it was BRILLIANT (Feline Fiasco at Real Life Games in Ramsgate), so we are speaking from experience- cat themed games are fun! But for any cynics out there, just to reassure you, the theme isn’t ‘twee’- much like with our previous experience, there is a darker side to this kitty story.
In Escape from Catland, Bethel and Malbert Birman, a pair of eccentric scientists, have been working on developing a formula for years which turns people into cats, and it seems they have now been successful! Apparently their plan is to turn everyone in the world into cats. Now, we didn’t think that sounded so bad- in fact, a life of lounging around and sleeping for 16 hours a day sounds ideal! But, Dr Woofred Barker explains that it is not known how long a human can survive in this form, but the transition is almost certainly a long and painful process! We’re not sure how much we trust WOOFred BARKer’s motivations, but it’s probably not worth the risk… better get saving the world then, hey!
The platform for this game is a simple digital one, using point and click and password protection to move you through the story- we’d recommend having a Zoom call set up with any players in separate locations as you’ll need to do a lot of chatting to bounce solution ideas off one another.
The game’s graphics are nice and bright, which we really enjoyed, and it was very easy to get into this game as all the puzzles fit in with the storyline. As a sci-fi room, not only were we dealing with the cat formula, but also TIME TRAVEL! We had to flit between the past, the present and the future to track down what we needed to know to be able to prevent the formula being set out into the world. In the future, we came across human-cat hybrids who were just as sassy as you would expect cat-people to be in giving us cryptic messages to puzzle out. (We think our cat, Tilly, must have come with us to visit this strange future- look at her all dressed up!)
The storyline and password protection format meant that this game was quite linear- while there were a couple of puzzles we could work on at a time in places, we generally had to follow through the full story together. There were some really challenging puzzles that took us a while to figure out, and some really original stuff in there. A real favourite of ours required us to use books how we’ve never used books before!
To say that this game is free to play, there is a LOT to it. It is advertised as a longer game that can take from 90 mins to 3 hours, and there is a suggested breakpoint halfway through the game in case you would rather come back to it at another time. However, you can save where you’re up to at any point (just save the URL and password for the page you’re on). Also to note, there is no in-game clock so if you do want to keep an eye on how long it takes you, don’t forget to set a timer on your phone when you start to play.
We powered through and impressed ourselves by getting through the full game in 82 minutes! That was a lot down to some great teamwork as three experienced escape roomers, but it is a challenging game so don’t be surprised if it does take any time within the suggested 90 mins – 3 hours window.
There are some really paw-some jokes and Easter eggs throughout the game, which we found a lot of fun, and the conclusion to the game is just brilliant!
As we mentioned, this game is free to play, but the creator at Quarantini Boredom Escapes requests that if you enjoy the game and can afford to, to consider making a donation to one of their recommended charities or to your local foodbank. The UK charities they have suggested are:
Blueprint for all (UK) – The new name for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, this excellent charity aims to improve fairness and equity in UK society and offers programmes and tangible opportunities for talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities.
The Black Curriculum (UK) – A fantastic social enterprise aiming to improve awareness and understanding of Black British history for children in the UK by improving the UK curriculum and offering programmes to improve social cohesion between young people and to promote a sense of identity and belonging.
We think it’s wonderful that Quarantini are encouraging donations to support such an important cause and we have gladly donated to both charities after playing the game. We love that a passion for escape room games could contribute to help raise awareness and support of a society based on fairness and equality for all- two things that we are very passionate about are escape rooms and social justice!
We really enjoyed this game- what a great one to stumble across on a whim! It is a nice chunky challenge to get your paws into and it’s free to play- what more could you want?
Set in the barracks of a P.O.W camp, you and your comrades quickly discover the legend of Bob Hails – the only prisoner to have successfully escaped the camp. And what’s more he’s left you his journal to help you and your team evade the enemy and make your own great escape. But do you have what it takes to earn your freedom?
Rating: Exciting! Completion Time: 49:48 Date Played: 5th June 2021 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: Adventure Seekers! Larger groups, teambuilding, beginners
After playing Roll out the Barrel (Escape Plan’s brilliantly light hearted ‘steal all the booze from your boss’ game), we travelled back in time to the height of 1941 and into a POW camp for their most cinematic escape room game yet: The Adventure Begins!
Our second game at Escape Plan (this one) was slightly more serious than the first, but no less brilliantly themed with a great (if menacing at times) atmosphere. In fact, my team and I spent the whole walk home arguing about which was our favourite. It just goes to show that the two games on offer at the moment are both consistent and well worth checking out.
Escape Plan is located inside Rich Mix in Shoreditch – an indie theatre venue well known for showcasing media by diverse groups and ironically one of my regular stomping grounds. How on Earth it took me so long to actually book Escape Plan, I’ll never know. But better late than never, eh? And no better time than on a sunny Saturday morning the day before your birthday. I love escape rooms but I love birthday escape rooms even more.
We were hosted by Games Master Django who played both a passive guidance role at some points in the game, nudging us along via a speaker in the room, and other times an active role frightening the living daylights out of us as the base commander coming to inspect the prisoners.
We were told at the start of the game to make sure we “lock the door behind us” but we took that very very literally and actually locked our GM out with a series of barricades. This might have robbed us of one ‘surprise’ towards the end of the game, but even if I played it again I think I’d still do the same thing. Well, better to be safe than sorry eh! Can’t take any chances against the enemy running the POW camp!
What Escape Plan does really well is create an atmosphere inside their escape rooms. Note that I’m calling it atmosphere and not simply theming, because it’s so much more than cool props. Everything is immersive from the waiting space outside the room, to the background noise, to items from the era. It’s easy to believe you’re actually there, in 1941, hiding from the enemy
…Which if it really were my 25th birthday in the year the room is set, would make me in today’s years: 105. Niceeeee! Not looking too bad for my age.
In The Adventure Begins you have two rooms to explore. Better than the sum of both rooms however is what connects the two. When you first walk into the space there’s absolutely no clue that it’ll open up into two – and I’m not going to give any spoilers as to how this happens, only that it’s absolutely delightful!
The first space is themed around a POW bunker complete with a bunk bed, a couple of chests, and some exercise equipment to keep us prisoners fit. I’m not overly familiar with WWII but it seemed perfectly themed to the era. The second space gave us access to the commander’s office where the theming changes once more. Clean, organised and hugely foreboding with a large red, black and white flag on the wall.
There’s a unique aspect to The Adventure Begins which links back to the story. The story goes that only one prisoner has ever made it out of the POW alive – a man named Bob Hails. Bob Hails has left you his notebook which details how he escaped. Too bad it’s quite cryptic, but there in lies your puzzle. What Bob has put in his notebook is vital to solve the the room and make your great escape!
It’s recommended players start with page one and work their way from there, but I’m fairly sure we were quite cavalier about the notebook. There’s plenty to do in the rooms that don’t rely on the notebook to solve, meaning you won’t have 6 players all crowding around one A5 notebook. The rest of our team powered ahead with ancillary puzzles.
Other than the cryptic clues in the notebook, we encountered a range of other delightful puzzles, each one forcing us to interact with our environment and truly understand the greater plot in order to escape the room. In particular, I’d mention the signposting as being particularly good in this room, which greatly helped with the flow of logic and never once did we need to pause and think “ok what next?”
As a fairly non-linear escape room, the whole thing just worked together so well and felt like an absolute joy to play.
A very happy birthday indeed and I’m quietly confident when I say that Escape plan might well be one of the best escape room companies in London. The care and effort that’s gone into not just The Adventure Begins, but also Roll out the Barrel before it is second to none.
If you’re thinking of introducing a skeptical friend to escape rooms, or a group of work colleagues who just want to have fun and forget about the office for an hour – then Escape Plan is PERFECT. Seriously! Go book it now! And let me know what you thought in the comments.
The Adventure Begins can be played in Escape Plan Shoreditch for £79 – £120 per team by heading to Escape Plan’s website here.