Old Man’s Journey | Review

Image

Old Man’s Journey, a soul-searching puzzle adventure, tells a story of life, loss, and hope. Interacting with the world around you, you’ll shape the landscape to create the old man’s path forward. Experience heartache and hope as you embark on a heartfelt journey through a sunkissed world.

Time Played: 108 minutes
Console: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox
Recommended For: A relaxing puzzle game with beautiful mechanics

An old man, living alone atop a hill, receives a letter in the post and immediately packs up his bags and ventures out on an epic journey across wild terrain, the sea, by train, and perched on the back of a truck. Through the trials on his old bones we learn about his life, his hopes and his dreams through a series of flashbacks. The puzzle mechanics are a simple yet tool to tell this heartbreaking story without a single word. I’m not crying… YOU’RE CRYING!

In the Steam Summer Sale I picked up 30 new titles I’d never heard of before, and Old Man’s Journey was one of them. I didn’t really know what to expect – it was one of my ‘wildcard’ purchases from the “Puzzle” category, and looking at the multitude of excellent reviews I knew I’d found a hidden gem.

I’d move mountains for this old man

…No seriously, that’s how you play this game. Have you ever been in a long car drive daydreaming out the window as the hills rise and fall over the landscape? It’s easy to imagine a figure running along the top of them, leaping from hill to hill as the perspective shifts. This is how the puzzles work in Old Man’s Journey. He’s a lone figure moving across the beautiful landscape alone, on a journey that you’ll not understand until the game’s climax. The side scroller gameplay makes it easy to pick up and master quickly.

It’s a puzzle mechanic I’ve never seen before, making Old Man’s Journey an instant classic in my eyes. Totally original and executed to perfection! Sure, there are other games where moving parts of the landscape is a central mechanic, but pulling and pushing hills out of the way in this whimsical side scroller felt altogether fresh.

Just as the puzzles start to feel repetitive, the game does mix it up a little. Each new area brings with it new challenges – such as encountering sheep which must be safely moved out of the way to let you pass, or fences which must be knocked down. Some of my favourite parts of Old Man’s Story were the ‘travel sequences’, where our old man character hops on a train or the back of a pickup truck and speeds through the landscape gracefully.

I’m not crying… You’re crying!

What I loved most about Old Man’s Journey, no surprise, was the story. It’s equal parts heart warming and heart breaking. As a player, besides shifting the landscape to make the old man’s journey possible, you’re largely left in the dark about the who, what and why, making it feel like you’re going on the journey of discovery with the characters.

At points, the titular characters takes breaks in his walk and reflects on life through a series of flashbacks, each recalling a moment in his life. We see his life as a young man, meeting his first love, starting a family, building his own home and, at points in our own story, the landscape changes to match the mood. There’s a sense of spring youthfulness at the start, and stormy trouble at the old man reflects on sadder moments in his life.

The developers have also added a language-less touch to the whole experience too, making the game powerful for every audience, regardless of language. What I mean by this is there are no words. No written dialogue, no conversation, heck even the buttons aren’t labelled – it’s all intuitive.

It’s excellent environmental storytelling: expressions, weather, colours, and painterly landscapes of the past. Just like this old man is, all are solitary, sad and quiet.

Who should play this?

You should play this if you, like me, keep forgetting to ring your grandparents, or elderly parents. It’s a really straightforward puzzle game and easy to get the hang of – so a great one for puzzle enthusiasts and beginners alike. Old Man’s Journey has also now been released for mobile too, so there’s no excuse not to check it out.

Personally, I played this on PC. I felt a little bit under the weather and wanted to sit back, enjoy some Art (with a capital A!) and solve some simple puzzles. At around 60 minutes long, it’s on the shorter side. You could complete this game in the same length of time it takes to complete an escape room, or more likely wait in line at the doctors.

This makes it a great game to check out if you’ve only an hour or two to spare, want simple mechanics and beautiful graphics. Play Old Man’s Story for a sense of peace and a meaningful message. This game is undemanding, moving and utterly brilliant.

Purchase Old Man’s Journey on the website.

Enchambered: Together at Heart | Review

Image

Your puzzle solving and communication skills will be put to the test. Control mysterious gadgets and work your way through a two-player online escape experience. Collect items and share them with your teammate using the new items transfer feature. Help each other discover the truth of an enigmatic device and find out how the many items and controls you find can assist you. Use your new found skills to finally fix what was broken and escape the machine! Using two separate devices, play with a friend on the couch, or even across the globe on the phone or video chat!

Rating: Excellent!
Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 13th July 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a great 2 player browser escape room game

…And we’re back! After a successful time solving part one and part two in the Enchambered series, Borderline Puzzler and I got together again over Zoom to sit down and take on the third game: Together at Heart. This game originally launched for Valentines Day 2021 and after reading all the rave reviews it took us a little while to get round to it, but absolutely worth the wait!

The Tinkerer or the Controller

As with each of the games in the series before them, Together at Heart is a game designed for two players to play apart. In short, perfect for lockdown and with a slightly romantic twist even better played if you’re in a long distance relationship.

But if you’re familiar with Enchambered’s other play at home games, you’ll know the drill by this point! On loading up the browser-based game, your first choice is to ‘pick a side’. This time, you’re choosing between the following two roles:

  • The Tinkerer
  • The Controller

Whichever you pick, you’ll be able to see half of all the puzzles. The aim of the game is to work together without viewing the other player’s screen and collectively repair a broken heart and put it back inside the little robot on your desk. Awwww!

One Broken Hearted Robot

Once again we were faced with the same top-down desk style view packed with unusual contraptions and strange devices that won’t make a lot of sense alone. There’s a lot to take in and it seems quite random at first, but this is a game of communication. The trick is to describe everything you can see in as much detail as possible until something clicks… A moment of “OK I can see this symbol” and then the other played pauses, “Oh wait – me too!” That’s when you know you’re onto something.

But for all the similarities, one of the major ways in which Together at Heart differs from the first two in the series is the addition of a shiny new inventory system. This gives players the ability to pick up objects and use them in other locations. It also allowed us to seamlessly send items between each other – doubly impressive when you consider that the two instances of the game are not connected in any way whatsoever!

It makes sense in the context of Together at Heart though as we quickly realised we both had the tools to find and repair the little robot’s broken heart and passing items between each other was vital.

Communication is Key

In terms of puzzle difficulty, it’s about on-par with the other games in this series. Not too hard if you’re comfortable over-communicating with your partner but could become very difficult if a small detail is missed and neither of you are sure what you’re looking for!

One of my favourite parts involved a porthole which when looked through took you into a rather spooky looking house. The addition of another tool revealed things which couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. Being able to ‘explore’ a new location felt refreshing compared to the top-down desk view I’ve become used to and it was a lovely bit of artwork to boot.

Normally at this part of the review I’d mention other types of puzzles for players to look out for. However, the puzzles we encountered are hard to describe in full because as mentioned, you only ever individually see a small portion of them.

Thankfully, if you do ever get stuck there’s a very detailed walkthrough available!

The Verdict

We successfully saved the day and repaired the little robot’s heart, so I consider this a job well done! Together at Heart is another stand out game in an unmissable series of play at home escape rooms. I can’t recommend it enough!

Together at Heart can be purchased for $10 USD on Enchambered’s website here.

Epic Escapes: Escape Room In a Box (Crime) | Review

Image

You have just 60 minutes to escape. The clock is ticking. Teamwork, creativity, logic, and attention to detail will be needed to race against the clock.

Rating: Immersive!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 16th July 2021
Party Size: 2 (+1)
Recommended For: For a party

Mairi’s Review

Get in lads, we’re gonna do some crime.

Sitting in pride of place on my board game shelf is Epic Escape’s Escape Room in a Box. It’s a huge box packed with not just one but three play at home escape rooms designed to turn any room into an escape room experience. Any room…? I muse to myself, wondering if I could feasibly host this in my bathroom.

Locked in a Panic Room

The first of the three games in Epic Escape’s mega box of epic proportions is called “CRIME”. If there were any doubt as to which one this it, the envelope is indicated by a rather shady individual on the front cover!

The story goes that you’re house-sitting for a friend who has gone away to Italy. You know, just watering plants and ruining their Netflix “For You” suggestions by watching trash TV… When suddenly armed aggressors! Arghhh! Your apartment is surrounded and they’re demanding the money they’re owed by your friend. Thankfully, you quickly discover that your friend has a panic room you can hide out in. The only problem is – you’ve accidentally locked yourself inside and you’re running out of air!

It’s up to you to figure out why there are so many angry people after your friend and figure out a way to escape and save yourselves… No problem. Right?

How to Set Up an Escape Room at Home

Epic Escapes are quite adamant that the host cannot play along. This is one of the main reasons we took so long to play – I love escape rooms, my partner not so much. He didn’t want to ‘host’ and spend the 30 – 60 minutes required to set it up, and I didn’t want to ‘host’ for a lukewarm audience of one. So we waited, and waited for lockdown to end so we could invite an unsuspecting friend round for board game night on one sunny Friday evening mid-July.

Welcome to board game night- SIKE! You should this was Monopoly? Surprise! We’re all trapped in a panic room and you’ve got one hour to escape before you run out of air.

But this is where it gets interesting:

Even though I set up the game Crime, at no point did it tell me how to solve any of the puzzles. Sure, I had to reset number locks to specific codes, and I decided where things were hidden, but all this was so easily forgettable! In short: I also got to play this game!

As a host, you’re in charge of the following:

  • Resetting locks for particular codes
  • Hiding certain items inside the locked boxes they provide
  • Hiding all items for your teammates to find around your room

Here’s how I set up Crime:

Spoiler Warning for contents

@theescaperoomer

Unboxing EPIC ESCAPES triple escape room in a Box (it’s it’s heavy 🥵) Part 2 coming soon! #escaperoom #boardgame #boardgames #boardgametok #epic #fyp

♬ original sound – The Escape Roomer

To help you set up there’s a really handy checklist provided in the Instructions leaflet. This tells the host what to do and in what order, such as “hide this on a windowsill” or “reset this lock to XYZ”. The whole setup takes around 30 minutes, 60 if you’re being very thorough. I didn’t personally want to overcomplicate anything, so I ‘hid’ things in very obvious places such as poking out from behind plant pots or on tables.

Ideally you want a totally empty room, but I think that’s impossible for most people. So just be sure that when you hide things you don’t mind your players rummaging around in your personal belongings:

“Hey, is this sock a clue?”

Since finding all the items took just a few minutes, everything that came after I was able to join in with and the three of us spent most of our hour sat around a table examining clues, cracking codes, and solving puzzles.

Overall, I completely understand why Epic Escapes do not suggest the host plays, but secretly I think it’s totally fine. If you have any concern about buying an Escape Room in a Box and then not being able to play it yourself, don’t be! If you’re still worried about it, you can always set up the escape room, as they recommend, 1+ day in advance and try and forget everything you know.

Solve the Crime, Escape the Room

Crime is the easiest in difficulty of the three escape rooms in Epic Escape’s Escape Room in a Box and it’s a great introduction to the series. It definitely sets the vibe of what to expect in the series, without being overly difficult! In our team of three we managed to breeze through most of the puzzles. There were a few I recognised, and a few more which were delightfully original. The only time our team struggled was right at the end with the final puzzle. It could have been signposted better, but that’s what the hints are for.

Here’s a video of how we got on:

With any game like this, you’ll get out what you put into it. For us, we put on some Italian music, cracked open some beers, and aimed to have a laugh. For one of our party, it was his first ever escape room experience and I think it did it justice! It’s about as close to a real life escape room as you can get from the comfort of your own home. I reckon we’ve done a good job converting him to the hobby!

It’s £99 for the whole box. At first, this feels a little pricy, but in hindsight I don’t think it is when you consider the quality of the materials you get. This box is HUGE for starters, and packed with all manner of delightful locks (even one hidden inside a dictionary) and high quality clues to hide around your house. Many components are reusable, and you’ll get at least three hour-long escape room experiences. Just be sure to clear a lot of space on your board game shelf to make way for this one!

Mairi’s Verdict

We had a lot of fun playing Crime! Easy to set up, visually impressive, and fun puzzles to boot. I absolutely can’t wait to get stuck in to the second and the third games inside this box. My only regret? Waiting so long before playing this one! But it’s definitely a game best played in a big group – so invite all your friends round and get stuck in.

Nick’s Review

The prospect of an “Escape Room in a Box”, really got the juices flowing, and it is safe to say the guys at Epic Escapes did not disappoint. This game type is certainly an emerging market in the escape room world, and with this being the first time of playing a proper “at home” room, I didn’t really know what to expect. 

Opening the box, the first thing to say is that I was blown away with the quality of the product. Without any spoilers, much of the hardware contained within the box is of great build quality and it is evident that a great amount of effort has been put into perfecting the contents. The box also contains a volume of consumable items and a large number of clear to follow, fool-proof instructions. 

The box contains three different at home escape room experiences; Crime, Piracy and Hijack. Each differing slightly in difficulty level. To get us off to a steady start, we opted for the easiest of the three, Crime, as our first. 

So, the story… You are house sitting for a friend who has gone away to Italy. All seemed to be going well until people started angrily banging on the door in the middle of the night. It turns out the friend you are house-sitting for owes these people money. You have found your way into his panic room and your mission is to escape and find why he owes these people money. 

A nice simple story to follow, which actually fits very well with the “at home” theme. I decided to be the game master for this occasion so hid the clues and locks etc for my family to locate and find answers to. We all agreed that the puzzles for this are very well put together, they flowed particularly well, and it was evident that a clear path needed to be followed in order to escape. 

The panic set in with a few members of the team when they couldn’t find some answers, however the box also includes some hint cards. These came in very useful on the final challenge, when they simply couldn’t fathom the answer – a subtle hint in the right direction proved essential and the team escaped with around 20 minutes to spare. 

Nick’s Verdict

A really well designed, high quality, at home product, with a clear story and flow. Brilliant for first time escape roomers as the puzzles were well structured and understandable. Likewise, experienced gamers would also find this a great starting point. Really looking forward to playing Piracy and Hijack shortly – watch this space…

Escape Room in a Box (3 in 1) can be purchased on Epic Escapes’ website here.

Indie Detective Game Hides a Bitcoin Prize for Players to Discover | News

Image

Your beard has been stolen! You and your loyal dog Leo must investigate the people and places of Beardsville to solve the crime. Uncover conspiracies, find new beards, and don’t forget to pick up the groceries in this charming town of bearded intrigue.

Launching on August 2nd, Who Stole My Beard is a brand new detective video game packed with puzzles and inspired by the retro point-and-click adventure games of the 80s and 90s.

Set in the town of Beardsville, this lighthearted puzzle adventure follows you and your dog, Leo as you awake one morning to find your beard stolen! This wouldn’t normally be a problem, except that this is a town where going beardless is very illegal. Your task is to explore the town, look for clues, uncover conspiracies, and crack the case of who stole your beard.

The puzzles you solve will grant you fake beards (to help dodge the authorities) and unlock new areas and characters to explore. At the game’s core, it’s a story of social conformity told through dad joke style humour – which makes sense: The game’s creator is a solo indie game developer, Neil Collier, who explained that he was inspired by his young daughter who used to endlessly laugh at his “I want my beard back” jokes. Add a dash of heartwarming homage to their family pet Leo, and you’ve got the beginnings of this wacky detective adventure story.

An Online Bitcoin Treasure Hunt

Unlike most self-contained detective stories, Where is my Beard has a major twist: there’s a real life bitcoin treasure hunt hidden in the game!

In a recent post on Reddit, Neil explained,

“I got converted to Bitcoin about a year ago and love it. So, in the game you can find 12 scraps of paper each of which has 1 word on it…which together comprise the seed phrase to an Electrum Wallet with real Bitcoin in it for the lucky first person to open it.”

As if the Steam tag of “escape room” weren’t already exciting enough, players can take part in the meta bitcoin hunt and win a real life monetary prize themselves. Each new clue to the treasure hunt will be released weekly in the game and provide some guidance as to the order. It’s a challenge, within a challenge – and one that sounds extremely intriguing for escape roomers and bitcoin enthusiasts alike!

So, whether you’re playing for the puzzles or just here to support an interesting new game… One thing for sure is that this is a curious hidden gem worth checking out.

Oh… Did we mention it’s got time travel in it too?

Who Stole My Beard can be purchased on Steam for 10% off during it’s launch sale from the 2nd of August.

Enigmailed: Undeliverable | Review

Image

Have you ever felt your delivery company are playing a puzzle game with you, holding your parcels and packages hostage? Well, now you can play this game in real life!

Undeliverable is another first of it’s kind from the UK-based puzzle makers Enigmailed. The best way to describe Enigmailed is probably ‘purveyors of puzzle gifts’, or perhaps ‘creators of puzzle games that absolutely defy categorisation’. I didn’t think it were possible to be as impressed as I was with Chocolateral but here I am again, sitting on the floor next to my letterbox with Undeliverable in my hand thinking “woah this is cool!”

How does Undeliverable work?

Remember back to the last time you were expecting an important parcel… You were so excited you checked your letterbox every day, and when you knew the postal worker would be on their route perhaps you even waited by the window. Until one day you turn your back to pour a cup of tea and hear the disappointing noise of a card through your letterbox:

“Sorry, we just missed you!”

Undeliverable is like this. Except rather than disappointing it’s a little more “Oh, I didn’t order anything… how exciting!”. It’s a series of cards through your letterbox that you weren’t expecting from a company you’ve never heard of. The most exciting part? It’s a puzzle game!

You are getting a delivery!

The first card I received was an inconspicuous looking card through my letterbox from Atraso letting my know they had my parcel at the Main Depot. Great! Except… I don’t remember ordering anything. Come to think of it, the closer I look the more peculiar this delivery notice seems. Not wo worry, I’m sure it’s legit.

A week or so later, another arrives. Hooray! My parcel is now at the Sorting Office. Plus there’s now a handy guide on the front showing the logistics of this mysterious Atraso shipping company, just in case I needed some more information. Very curious indeed.

A week later, it’s in the area hub! Oh so exciting – I can see the depot on a little map provided. My mysterious package must be close now, right?

Finally, the dreaded “Argh! We just missed you!” Typical!

Peculiar Parcel Puzzles

Each of the four cards in Undeliverable comes with a link to track your parcel – but it’s not as simple as this. To track your parcel the shipping company Atraso require your reference number, an additional digit, and three further (increasingly bizarre) pieces of information such as “A distressing call” or “An animal”.

To find this information, you need to look closely at the cards. Sometimes a puzzle jumps out immediately, other times it takes a little longer to realise that something isn’t quite right.

If you’re reading this review looking for answers, my best piece of advice is to say that everything is on the cards is there for a reason. Not a single bit of space is wasted and it helps to look really, really closely! If something feels out of place, it is.

On my first playthrough as part of an early play test I scored 69% (ayyy, no jokes). But the funny part is, I’m quite proud of that that score. Undeliverable is difficult! With no answers available (only a few clues), if you’re truly stuck your option is to submit your best guess and keep your fingers crossed.

The Verdict

Honestly? I had such a love / hate relationship with this little game when I played it. When I saw my friend Nick at Kent Escape Room Reviews playing it I was immensely jealous. He sent me a message one morning asking for a second opinion on how to solve a particular puzzle. Neither of us could crack it and then – a few days later – I received my own first card in the post and discovered that this one puzzle I’d been mulling over was just the tip of the difficult ice berg.

But difficult does not equal bad. Actually, Undeliverable is far from it. It’s brilliant and anyone playing it will immediately see how much love and effort has gone into making this a truly unique experience. There’s nothing quite like it on the market and whether you purchase it as a gift or just a treat for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Undeliverable can be purchased for £11 on Enigmailed’s website here and for a limited time you can also use the promocode MAIL10 for 10% off.

Ratings

Rogue Immersive: The Perfect Crime | Review

Image

In 1990, Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They have remained missing to this day. With the FBI offering a reward of $1 million, and an estimated black market value of $100 million they are the most valuable stolen paintings in the world. And we know where they are.

Rating: Enjoyable
Completion Time: ~60 minutes
Date Played: 18th July 2021
Party Size: 6
Recommended For: Aspiring Art Thieves, fans of the Netflix Show ‘This is a Robbery’

Everybody loves a good heist documentary… Right? OK maybe just me.

*quietly closes Netflix watch history*

During a long lockdown of me sitting at home in my pyjamas watching heist documentaries (such as This is a Robbery – which The Perfect Crime is a loosely based sequel to), Rogue Immersive have been hard at work planning a heist of their own. What they’ve launched this summer is an experience that puts you, the player, at the centre of your very own art heist.

So for each time you’ve watched a thief accidentally leave their fingerprint at the scene of the crime and thought “hah! amateur”, you now have an opportunity to see if you can do any better. It’s a realistic heist simulator in the centre of London and not for the faint of heart.

Stealing Vermeer’s “The Concert”

On the day we arrived bright and early and got chatting with one of the team. Since both rooms were available, despite having booked for The Storm, we got the choice of either:

  • The Concert
  • The Storm

“Which do you recommend?” we asked. After some careful thought, our host recommended we give The Concert a go instead. This suggests there are some differences between the two experiences. Although the puzzles are the same, the rooms you’ll have to navigate through vary in layout which is worth considering before you book.

In both cases you’ll have around 60 minutes to get in and get out. Unlike a traditional escape room where the goal is to escape, The Perfect Crime is more focused around breaking into the room undetected.

Break In, Steal the Painting, Get Out

Our experience started from the moment we entered the Theatre Deli on Broadgate Circus. What seemed like an unassuming bar from the outside was actually the site of several long lost paintings that would fetch millions on the black market. Who knew?

From here, you get your team briefing inside the bar – plenty of time to grab a drink, go to the bathroom, and use the lockers too. We were given a walkie talkie to communicate with our handler – someone on the inside who could act as the eyes and ears, remotely monitoring CCTV to tell us when guards were on their way. We were also given a blueprint of the first room and gloves to wear. Wouldn’t want to get fingerprints on anything, of course.

Once we were kitted out and clues up, we were led to a very small storage cupboard and from there the adventure began!

Including the storage room, it’s a 4-room experience. 5, if you could the bar outside as well! At the risk of giving any spoilers, I’ll just say that each room had it’s own unique flair and personality and felt well suited in the world Rogue Immersive have created. The whole experience felt very real.

Photo (c) The Perfect Crime

Heavily Guarded

One of the unique selling points of The Perfect Crime were the live actors. By this, I mean the guards. If you’re caught on camera or set off too many alarms, a guard will come running. When this happens you have two choices:

  • Hide as fast as you can!
  • Come up with a brilliant cover story

I think, despite the fact you’re trying not to get caught, the game is best played when you have to do both of these things.

In the first case, we had to hide from guards several times. Mainly, I hid under a table, which worked fine until the guard came to sit at a chair, her boots just inches from me. Eek! In the second case, we were caught once towards the end of the game and had to quickly make up a cover story of why we were in this room. Our story definitely wasn’t believable, but acting out a part and looking as nonchalant with fistfuls of cocaine in our hands felt thrilling.

So how DO you steal a painting?

By solving puzzles? Kinda. In terms of getting that ‘escape room fix’, The Perfect Crime is quite light on puzzles. But in hindsight I think that’s okay. Rogue Immersive have leaned more heavily on the ‘immersive theatre’ genre and the fewer the puzzles, the broader an audience they’re able to attract.

In each room the ultimate goal is to get to the next one, but before we could do that there was always one or two things to solve. It might be a safe that needs cracking, or a sneaky “what can we place on this pressure plate as not to trigger the alarm” device that felt right out of a Hollywood film. The only unfortunate part was that this made for a fair amount of standing around watching someone else do all the fun stuff. It’s true, on multiple occasions the ‘security measures’ meant only one person at a time could cross, leaving the rest of us watching from the sidelines.

For this reason The Perfect Crime would be best played with a smaller team. I think 2 or 3 players might be the sweet spot. Plus, it’s easier to explain away just two intruders when the guards come crashing in, right? But the six of us?! Haha. No way.

Concept Art (c) The Perfect Crime

Escape Room with a Bar

My favourite part of the whole experience? The bar. I think the location and the addition of a fully functioning bar with heist themed cocktails really elevates the experience from ‘escape room’ to ‘lets hang out here for half a day’.

The day we booked was a beautiful (and rare) sunny Sunday. Being able to sit down for a celebratory cocktail or two at the end was an wonderful added touch. Why don’t more escape rooms have bars, eh?

The Verdict

I’ll admit I was a little hesitant in the weeks leading up to The Perfect Crime. For us, the booking process was a little rocky (read as: our original booking on opening day was cancelled last minute and getting a response from their customer support team very difficult), but I think an experience can’t be judged on a couple of misplaced emails when the interaction we got from the team on the day was fantastic. Seriously, a huge shout out to our unnamed eyes and ears at the other end of the walkie talkie, the brilliant acting from the guard, and our host!

For the right team of would-be thieves, The Perfect Crime will be a huge hit! For the best experience, bring a smaller team and be sure to leave plenty of time to enjoy a drink or two on the terrace outside after.

I’m just glad that after watching the Netflix documentary I finally know what actually happened to Vermeer’s The Concert!

The Perfect Crime can be booked on their website here.

** Note: Since writing this review, The Perfect Crime has announced that as well as group ticket for up to 6 (what we purchased) players will be able to purchase individual tickets which, depending on availability, will place players in groups with strangers.

Webscapade: Welcome to Argenia | Review

Image

You receive a strange letter from your Uncle Rory asking for your help. But what starts out as a simple task for a quick payday suddenly turns into a mission filled with danger and intrigue. Can you foil the plot and save the day before it’s too late? Will you be the hero that Argenia longs for? Can this be yet another rhetorical question?

Rating: Immersive!
Completion Time: 01:13:41
Date Played: 17th July 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Experienced teams who want a realistic immersive adventure

It all started with an email that probably should have gone into my spam folder- I’m kidding! Unless…

“I’m your Uncle Rory, son of your grandma’s cousin… I met an Argenian prince-“

If it weren’t part of a digital escape room experience, I definitely wouldn’t have believed it. But there we were, all logged in to play Welcome to Argenia, and our team of 4 players were super excited to receive such an email. Argenian princes… Scandal in a far off land… A long lost uncle? Exciting!

The Country of Argenia

Welcome to Argenia is Webscapade’s first play at home adventure in what looks to be a very interesting series. It is set in the fictional country of Argenia- and yes, about halfway through we were so convinced by the game we had to question whether Argenia was in fact a real place. But Argenia is not a particularly happy place – there’s a storm brewing. With Argenian Independence Day just around the corner the masses are mobilising for another revolution, this time against the royal family!

As an International Relations (w/ a Major in Law) graduate, I’m not sure how I feel about trying to put down a revolution, but since my uncle is in danger we can put morals to one side and hop to the rescue.

The first port of call is finding the prince.

An Alternate Reality adventure through the web

What follows is a fun game of cat-and-mouse through the internet as Webscapade have set up a digital trail of breadcrumbs for players to follow that’ll take them onto Facebook, into the admin of hotel websites, and into some very shady parts of the Argenian dark web.

Personally I love this style of alternate reality game. It’s always fun to see fact and fiction blend into one as you scour Google wondering what is real and what isn’t. Webscapade do this really well and, with a feature I appreciated a lot, they even let you know which browser tabs you can close at the end of each puzzle. As a chronic 50-tabs-open person, I appreciate this in a puzzle game!

37 Incorrect Guesses!

In terms of game difficulty, I’d rate this on the hard side. As a team of 4 we used a couple of clues and made 37 incorrect guesses (oops!). Clues and wrong guesses were fairly exclusively concentrated on one puzzle in the game however, and even then largely due to us going off on an incorrect tangent and using something we wouldn’t need until later in the game.

It’s very possible that the reason I felt this on the hard side though is because each puzzle was quite unique. Genuinely! We encountered a lot of puzzles I’d never seen before in a play at home escape room game. Some excellent logical deduction, some searching and finding, and some very curious grid shifting puzzles which will probably haunt my nightmares for a few more weeks.

But that said, even the puzzles we did ‘breeze’ through felt like a good challenge. I think if I’d played this alone I’d have given up early – so a word of warning this game is definitely best played in a team! Not just that more heads are better than one, but Welcome to Argenia is just quite a fun game you’d want to share with friends!

The Verdict

For a brand new company launching a game quite late into lockdown (as many countries are starting to reopen) is a bold move, but Webscapade have pulled it off with an incredibly immersive and genuinely exciting alternate reality! Needless to say, they’ve nailed it and Welcome to Argenia is a brilliant game packed with intrigue. It definitely goes into my category of ‘hidden gems’ and if you’re looking for an immersive 1-2 hour long experience to play any time with friends, you’ll not be disappointed with this!

Welcome to Argenia can be booked for $25 per team over on Webscapade’s website here.

Modern Fables: Hypersomnia | Review

Image

Your dreams have been getting stranger and more vivid lately. In your dreams, you play yourself but there’s something different about you in some way. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. More recent dreams have also featured a strange symbol that keeps appearing in the strangest of places. One night it might appear as a tattoo, another night it might be the pattern on some wallpaper. One afternoon, a card with the very same symbol was slipped into your pocket. You didn’t see who left it but you have a strong feeling enticing you to investigate…

Rating: Narrative
Completion Time: 50:00
Date Played: 10th July 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Folks who want a puzzle-light, theatrical 80s experience

*cue rad 80s music*

London’s only 80s themed escape room? Don’t mind if I do! Well… I suppose now I’ve played it I’d actually have to classify it as a sci-fi escape room. Think interdimensional space travel but with tape cassettes and VHS thingy-me-bobs that I’m too young to remember. Actually, between us, we weren’t sure HOW to load a cassette into the cassette player, but not to worry that’s just a bonus extra puzzle!

Actually, I think Hypersomnia is a game that exists within the We Still Fax universe. The parallels are uncanny! With the escape room plot centering with you hopping between an infinite number of parallel universes where tiny changes spin out whole new worlds – then it’s impossible that We Still Fax doesn’t exist in this world, right?

Photo (c) Modern Fables

An Escape Room Birthday… A Month Late!

I love the 80s so much that I initially booked Hypersomnia for my birthday way back at the start of June. Unfortunately on the day I felt sick, and you can’t take any chances in *gestures vaguely* the global panini, so I emailed the team very late to cancel myself and my partner from the booking.

The rest of my team played on without me and I sat at home feeling sorry for myself… But it’s testament to the excellent customer service that even though I was prepared to eat my booking fee, the owner Jay was absolutely wonderful in getting us rebooked! Which is how a whole month later I finally got my chance to step across the threshold into an incredible new world and take on Hypersomnia.

@theescaperoomer

my reaction when I found out there’s an 80s escape room in London 🤩🎉 #escaperoom #london #80s #escapegame #puzzle

♬ Bizarre Love Triangle (2015 Remaster) – New Order

It Began With Extreme Memory Loss…

We arrived at the venue and entered a very dark and very strange room. Actually, it was so immersive we initially thought that this WAS the escape room, prompting one of our member to start lifting things up and looking behind doors. The whole setting was bathed in an eerie red glow and I definitely heard the sound of what I can only describe as intergalactic space travel coming from the next room.

After a few minutes, our host arrived!

“Ahh, welcome back! What are your names… No, not your fake Earth names, your REAL names? Oh wait… You don’t remember them? Hmm, that’s a problem.”

Oh no, it seemed our whole group had suffered a very serious bout of amnesia and couldn’t remember why we were here on Earth. In fact, our whole memory was filled with useless Earth stuff, like the name of my so called pet from my so called childhood. But not to worry, that can sometimes happen with inter-dimensional travel, and our host was quite sure our memories would return once we got into the room.

Photo (c) Modern Fables

Puzzle-Light, Story Heavy

If anyone were to ask me for a recommendation for a game to play in London, I’d ask them whether they prefer puzzle solving or a rich story first. For anyone who prefers a rich story, Hypersomnia is perfect! At it’s core it’s a really unique story with some puzzles aiding the plot along – more like jigsaw pieces where solving something merely reveals more of the narrative.

This wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but it does make for a really refreshing game. There was no rummaging around for 4 digit codes, or looking for keys, or lifting plant pots up to find cipher wheels. No, instead your goal was to remember who you were. Each player had their own identity with skills and weaknesses. As I learned more about mine I really fell into her character and, as the game reaches it’s climax and gives you a difficult decision to make at the end, I felt like my role influenced the decision I made too.

The puzzles that were in there fit wonderfully with the setting and delightfully, included things I’d never seen before. The less said about them the better, as I don’t want to spoil anything!

I did get the impression that most of the puzzles in Hypersomnia were triggered by ‘hand of God’ (aka, a very attentive games master in the next room). It was clear they were paying great attention as we tripped up early with a technical error in the room and the GM immediately appeared to put it right.

Photo (c) Modern Fables

An Unusual, Inter-Dimensional Experience

I really want to be able to say that I had a great time playing Hypersomnia, but the truth is days later I’m still wondering if I made the right choice with how I payed the game. It wasn’t your typical escape room – no, it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. ‘The rules’ of escape rooms I’ve come to expect with every experience I play were broken and remade in this room, and you know what? I kinda wanna go back and give it another try!

You enter into an unusual lobby where the event is in character from the moment you start, then after re-learning your whole identity and making monumental decisions that affect many universes, you suddenly emerge into daylight, have a quick photo (in a completely different themed room) and then disappear off into the day. I don’t know what our final time was – I don’t know how well we did, all I know is that I’m not really from Earth and probably my life is a lie.

The Verdict?

My two absolute favourite genres of escape room in the world are sci-fi and 80s. It ticks all the boxes for me and I’ll be the first to recommend it to my friends, but man it was a really, really strange day.

You can book Hypersomnia at Modern Fables by heading to their website here.

The Panic Room Gravesend: The Wizard of Oz | Review

Image

Are you ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime? It’s time to visit the incredible land of OZ. Follow the yellow brick road and make your way into the beautiful Emerald City, perhaps even meet the wizard himself!

Rating: Magical!
Completion Time: 28 minutes
Date Played: 14th July 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: For a theatrical and brilliant escape room, and fans of the Wizard of Oz

If there’s no place like home… And home is where the heart is… Or so the phrase goes? I think?

Point being, Wizard of Oz was the first physical room we (all three writers at The Escape Roomer) played together, and my heart is bursting with love for my fellow teammates and with pride at how well we did! If home is where the heart is, my heart is sitting in a hot air balloon basket in Gravese- I mean, Oz.

We came to play Wizard of Oz on this sunny Wednesday afternoon after work as the three of us found ourselves conveniently near Gravesend. Mairi in London, and Al & Ash visiting Margate. In the middle lies Gravesend: the home of The Panic Room, one of the most well-loved escape room companies in the country.

With a few hours to spare, we used their handy ‘last minute booker’ to see what was available and booked in to play The Wizard of Oz! Score!

Photo (c) The Panic Room

Here’s how we got on:

Once Upon a Time in the Land of Oz…

Fans of the original book or film will be absolutely delighted by this escape room as both the decor and the story are very true to the original! Or at least, I think they are. It’s been a good 15 years since I’ve watched the film and *gasp* I’ve never read the book.

This room puts you, and your band of adventurers, into the heart of Oz as you land your hot air balloon slap bang in the centre of the yellow brick road. Up ahead, majestic green gates, and what follows is a journey through all the famous locations of Oz up to the terrible Wizard’s inner sanctum.

No points for guessing that your goal in Wizard of Oz is to find three rather valuable items:

  • A heart
  • A brain (eww squishy!)
  • Courage

Along the way you’ll meet a cast of characters and fantastic puzzles that exist perfectly in the fictional universe The Panic Room have built upon. But will you be able to find your own way home, back across the rainbow? That’s the question!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City

I think after mentioning that the story follows the plot of the film it’s not so much of a spoiler to say that Wizard of Oz is a multi-room experience. So now that it’s out of the way, a note on the theming of this escape room:

10/10 FOR THE THEMING!

That’s it, that’s the note! I’m kidding. But really, this game is beautiful for fans of the original Wizard of Oz and complete newbies alike. With the exception of one slightly cheesy pantomime video sequence, The Panic room have really nailed that whimsical, fantastical feeling of being whisked away to a faraway world. This room has so much love and attention poured into it.

My favourite of the spaces where the curious shops and alleyways of Emerald City itself, being able to hunt around and interact with what felt like a real street with it’s own shop windows was magical.

Our host Sam was involved in the escape room at the start, doing a brilliant job to setting the scene in character before we stepped out into the big unknown by ourselves. It’s the little touches, such as ‘arriving’ into the room in a hot air balloon’s basket (rather than just walking through a door) with an enthusiastic balloon pilot by our side. A round of applause for Sam!

Recommended For?

Wizard of Oz seems to pitch itself at a family audience… Or does it? Kids these days largely haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz. I mean, the film did come out almost 100 years ago.

It was also, for all intents and purposes, a slightly dark (story-wise) room with complex puzzles that be bound to frustrate younger players. On the flip side, there are some search-and-find puzzles and more than a few fun places to put codes into, but never once did I get the impression it was a ‘family’ room in the slightest. Just a really brilliant fantasy room.

An (Almost) Record Breaking Attempt

I didn’t want to write a review for Wizard of Oz and not mention the fact that we managed to escape in the second fastest time the company has ever seen… 28 minutes!

Beaten only by the current Red Bull Champions. For a first time team comprised of Al, Ash and myself (we’d never even met in person before let alone played a real life escape room), I’m impressed! I say bring on the Red Bull Escape Room Championship 2022!

Sometimes you play an ‘easy’ room and the puzzles don’t click. The Wizard of Oz was the opposite – everything clicked seamlessly for us, and the teamwork was infallible, making the whole thing an absolute breeze with zero hints… Well, one nudge, and one clarification.

The Wizard of Oz: The Verdict?

Loved it. It’s set the bar for other rooms at The Panic Room Gravesend really high, but I’m already counting the days till I can go back and play another. Highlighted in my memory by fantastic teammates, a great host, and an all round unexpectedly lovely Wednesday afternoon out.

The Wizard of Oz can be booked at The Panic Room Gravesend.

Will Die Alone | Review

Image

Some memories aren’t meant to stay. We are our memories and our experiences. What happens if you delete some of them? If you change your past and, thus, your future?

I discovered the indie video game Will Die Alone by pure chance one day zoom-scrolling Twitter: A brand new game from Arianna Ravioli, a Game Design Masters student at IULM Italy. I was immediately pulled in by the trailer – call it morbid fascination at the title or just a sense of “wow this is different”, and couldn’t hit the download button fast enough.

Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders…

Will Die Alone is a little bit like stepping into the sci-fi world of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a world where people can choose to erase certain memories from their lives – harmful ones, such as after a breakup, or forgetting a particularly rough childhood. This time you’re playing as the corporation that performs these procedures, but with riots at your doorstep things aren’t as peachy as the marketing would have it.

You play a lowly employee logging into their computer each day to perform the tiring task of erasing your customer’s memories. In this way, the experience was a little bit like Routes (a performance from Bath Theatre that premiered last month). You play via a computer screen, with the following:

  • The Daily News Bulletin
  • Memos from your boss (ugh leave me alone!)
  • A calendar counting down the days until you can quit (haha nice!)
  • Each day’s case file

Right or Wrong Choice?

With just a few days of ‘work’ to tell the story, Arianna does a wonderful job. Each day a new news bulletin sets the scene of the world, and periodic messages from your boss in increasing levels of emotion tell a counterpart story of the company itself. You’re trying to keep your head down and finish your work, but your character cannot shy from the truth that with each memory deleted a life is irreversibly changed forever.

Whilst you can see a projection into your client’s futures to find out if you made the right choice, often there is no right choice. A client is doomed from the start and no amount of deleted memories will change that. Forcing you to question the procedure entirely! What good does it do?

On my first playthrough, I’m confident I chose the ‘correct’ choices, but the ending was no less painful, in a different way, than on my second where I decided to make all the wrong choices and see what difference it made.

Powerful Storytelling Through Simple Graphics

One of the best things about Will Die Alone is it’s storytelling with such a simple user interface. You don’t need the flashiest of graphics, and this game does wonders with simple illustrations and a computer screen.

From start to finish Will Die Alone was a joy to play. A powerful short story from an extremely creative and talented game designer. The game also had a special magic for me, it’s no secret I’ve got a large tattoo from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on my right arm, and logging into my Dewitt Corp console to erase memories felt like being at the centre of a similar story.

Whilst not the typical ‘escape room’ style of video game we typically cover on this website, Will Die Alone is a game full of surprises and choices that will stay in your mind for a very long time after.

You can play Will Die Alone for free (*donations appreciated) on itch.io