Introducing Badges, New Ratings, and a Fresh Coat of Paint!

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been hard at work making a few behind the scenes changes here at The Escape Roomer! Since expanding the team to include Ash & Al of Escaping the Closet, Rebecca of Borderline Puzzler and Russ of RussBuilds, we wanted to make The Escape Roomer easier for our readers to navigate and find the content they need, and more representative of the whole team!

Beginning with… A brand new logo!

The Escape Roomer Logo, August 2021

The Escape Roomer – New Logo

The Escape Roomer has moved away from the pink-blue colour scheme of our previous website towards dark green, a gold accent, and a prominent rainbow flag. The new logo is anchored by the outline of a door – I mean, aren’t we always trying to escape through doors?! And the rainbow flag reflects how proud we are of our LGBTQA+ foundations. Furthermore, the six stars represent our current official and unofficial contributors that bring the special sauce to The Escape Roomer. Finally the whole site rebrand is topped off with vintage, risograph print style – a cheeky nod to our original 80s style website! 💃

This rebrand was greatly needed as we grow and find our identity within the wiser escape room and video game community! We’re a collaborative project created to celebrate this wonderful industry and every day we’re amazed by the support we receive in return. As such we hope the rebrand is the start of something even more amazing, and we can’t wait to fly our colourful new logo high!

Standardised Escape Room Ratings

The second biggest change we’re bringing to The Escape Roomer is a standardised rating system. Historically, we’ve not used stars to rate our rooms, but in 2021 this is changing.

There’s a lot of talk in the escape room enthusiasts community about whether 5 star ratings work or not – but generally there seems to be a consensus that they are helpful for quickly finding good rooms and games to play! We hope this change makes The Escape Roomer more easier to navigate!

At the head of every review, we’ll indicate the following:

Date Played
Number of Players
Console *if applicable
Difficulty
Time Taken

And at the bottom of every review, you’ll be able to find more detailed ratings out of 5 stars on each aspect of the game, including:

Escape Rooms At Home Games Video Games

Theming
Decor
Puzzles
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

Theming
Quality
Puzzles
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

Theming
Puzzles
Visuals
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

The Escape Roomer Special Badges

Finally… From time to time we come across truly amazing games and want to award them with a special badge on The Escape Roomer. If you’ve spotted a badge on a review, find out what it means on our Awards Page.

In fact… We’ve already awarded our very first Badge of Honour!

Don’t forget, if you ever want to get in touch with questions, concerns, or Morse Code… You can email us on hello@theescaperoomer.com

Until next time, happy escaping!

Diorama: The Vandermist Dossier | Review

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The Vandermist Dossier Review | The Vandermist Dossier is a treasure trove of beautiful, touch-real evidence from an old missing person’s case in a tiny Dutch village. Untouched since the 1970’s, will you follow the clues and figure out what happened to 19-year-old amateur sleuth Abigail Vandermist?

Date Played: 28th August 2021
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Comfortably Challenging!
Time Taken: 1 hour 15 minutes

The Vandermist Dossier is a brand new mystery box by the creative duo behind Diorama, Ruud and Tristan. It follows a missing persons case in a small Dutch town that quickly unfolds into Cold War secrets that could tear the titular family apart. This game officially launches on Kickstarter in September, but we were very lucky to get our hands on an early copy and WOW! Just wow!

Could this be one of the most exciting Kickstarter games launching this year? It might just be.

But let’s get into why…

Het Boekanier Dossier

What makes The Vandermist Dossier special is that it is based on an earlier, Dutch-language game by the same creators: Het Boekanier Dossier (“The Buccaneer Dossier”). Wildly popular in the Netherlands and around the world, the creators have since been hard at work with the help of Manda Whitney translating it into English and have even added several brand new puzzles to the rich world of Het Boekanier Dossier.

This gets a double thumbs up from us, as these tweaks and changes evidently introduce huge improvements on the already popular original game. Where the original averages a neat 8.5 on Board Game Geek, with the wealth of content, brilliant puzzles and engaging story, perhaps this version will push 9 or even 10.

The Vandermist Family and the Backwards Town

The story of The Vandermist Dossier picks up with a mysterious letter and box labelled ‘Vandermist Dossier’ arriving in the post to you. The letter is from a lady named Helena Vandermist who would like to enlist your help in a missing persons case. The missing person: Her sister Abigail.

Though the case is nearly 40 years old and definitely cold by now, Helena never gave up hope of finding her long lost sister and you might just be her last option. In the box, Ms Vandermist has sent you everything she’s found out about the case over the years, including letters from her sister Abigail, newspaper clippings, old passports and some rather curious coded messages.

No detail is spared and everything in the box felt genuine and handmade. What follows is a deep dive into the 1970s tracking down the movements of the young girl as she uncovered secrets of her own family intertwined with the fate of the town. It’s hard not to give anything away, but this game will take you into the heart of the Cold War with some surprising twists of fate.

Crack the Codes, Crack the Case

In terms of puzzles, The Vandermist Dossier has enough content to last between 1 – 2 hours and felt really well balanced the whole way through. The game is clear on where to start and each subsequent piece of evidence has breadcrumbs to lead to the next, and the next, and so on.

It’s also fairly clear which existed in the original game, with a few translations to make them flow more easily in English, and a fair few more which felt fresh. There were two in particular which I couldn’t believe would work… But they did! All in all this game is full of surprises to delight players: A few things I’d never seen before, a few moments of hunting through documents and squinting really hard and a few ciphers I thought I recognised but still managed to say “wow” at.

Overall, in terms of difficulty I’d rate this one as comfortably challenging. As a team of just one, I used a few hints here and there to keep me on track and confirm what I thought I knew already… But better yet if you have any additional players you can bring into the mystery and help bounce ideas and puzzle solutions around!

If you want to make the most out of your copy of The Vandermist Dossier, wait until an overcast evening, brew a strong cup of tea (or a tipple of your choice), and invite a close knit team of your best investigator friends. Since the story centres around two sisters, it would also make a lovely collaborative story to unfold with a close sibling of your own. But since mine is 11 and far more interested in Minecraft, solo play works fantastically too!

The Verdict

“Alexa, what are some synonyms for incredible?”

But seriously, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed The Vandermist Dossier. It ticks a lot of boxes for me personally: The Cold War… And even colder cases! Espionage, Missing Persons, European Small Towns… All packaged in a really neat and high quality box you could complete in an afternoon. The best part? There are two more boxes in this trilogy to come!

What I love the most is how much passion the creators have brought to the project. It’s a labour of love and the culmination of many people who love what they do! Many times when playing “boxed escape rooms” I’m delighted to find one or two keepsakes, such as a cute cipher wheel or a lovely coin. Every single item in The Vandermist Dossier I’d like to take out and frame… Beginning with the hand drawn map and the vintage feeling newspaper.

Back The Vandermist Dossier on Kickstarter

If you want to support Ruud and Tristan to bring The Vandermist Dossier to life further, you can back them on Kickstarter from last September. At the time of writing, a whole month before the launch of the Kickstarter, I have a beautifully high quality copy of the game in my hand. Whilst there may be a few production tweaks between now and fulfilment, this game is gorgeous and it’s ready to go. With such an enthusiastic creator team, it’s sure to be a fun Kickstarter.

The Vandermist Dossier can currently only be purchased by backing the project on Kickstarter. Check out the creator’s website here for more behind the scenes content.

Ratings

Discolored | Review

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Discolored Game Review | A lonely roadside diner in the middle of the desert. The locals say it’s lost all its colour. You are sent to investigate. Discoloured is a strange and surreal puzzle adventure, taking place over two-or-so hours in a single desolate location. Your mission: restore the colour to this once-vibrant world. What caused the colours to disappear? How can they be brought back? 

Developer: Godbey Games 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: No 

Do you like abstract and surreal surroundings? Check ✅

Do you enjoy the primary colours of light? Check ✅

Are you a fan of Tolkien’s Eye of Sauron? Check ✅

Well if so, this escape game might just be for you. 

Pink Floyd might want a word…

One For The Road 

You play through the eyes of an unnamed detective tasked to find the missing colours of a roadside diner… and that’s about all I can tell you. 

Unlike many other escape games, Discolored has no beginning or ending narrative; neither through text or voiceover. You are thrown into the game from the off, without any warning. Whilst I like the no-messing-around style, it did feel a little empty to have absolutely nothing to introduce you to the storyline. The end of the game also feels like the rug has been pulled from under your feet, albeit, not in a very exciting way. It’s a shame, as the ending does hint towards a potential sequel; something which I feel the developers could certainly do it justice. 

Contrarily; the middle of the game, where the player is at the diner, does have merit. The music whilst minimalistic, sets the tone very well. The art execution, particularly when progressing through the puzzles, provide a simplistic, yet sharp and engrossing environment. Finally, the antagonistic figure that arrives just before the end section, possesses an impressive sinister aura for its modest physical qualities. 

Show me a 4 digit code pleeeeeease!

Directions For The Diner 

Controls are universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. There are a number of options to adjust sensitivity. There is also a choice to either be free-roaming or stationary point-and-click. I feel that this is a great feature and it provides more comfort in control, based on personal playing preferences. 

There are a few things that I would like considered if an update is in the pipe-line.  

  1. Like Palindrome Syndrome, when focussing upon a puzzle, the cursor on screen is controlled by the right analog stick, with no option to change it to the left.  
    (The pain of being left handed is eternal). 
  2. The choice of sensitivity generally works, however once focussed upon a puzzle, the sensitivity becomes super sensitive and as a result, caused my cursor to fly off screen with the same amount pressure used, when not focussed upon a puzzle. I got used to it eventually, but it did take a mental adjustment. 
  3. There is no quit/return to title button in the pause menu. You have to quit the game from the switch home screen. 

Don’t get me wrong, the controls work on a fundamental basis. Once I got over the initial mental obstacles, it proved for a smooth playing experience. 

Such Pretty Colours… 

I feel that the puzzles and the aesthetics behind them, are certainly the strongest part of Discolored. Puzzle types include; searching, placement, observation and logic. Whilst not overly challenging or varied, they are balanced and thematic. The method of using certain key items (or not) to progress, is a welcome mechanic to the game. 

The hints system works well and is short, sharp and to-the-point. Furthermore, there is an option in the controls to allow a second, visual hint, in certain areas of the game; if you get stuck further. 

Be like the water.

Something Is Always Watching… 

Aside from the mechanic that allows (or prevents) you from viewing or using certain inventory items based on the placement of specific key items; the majority of the puzzles don’t offer much in terms of originality when compared to other escape games on the market. 

The abstract and surreal narrative plot-point however, is certainly a fresh concept. However as mentioned above, it’s unfortunate that it hasn’t been embellished further.  

Desert Dollars 

Discolored is priced at £8.99 on the switch and £5.49 on steam. An experienced puzzler might finish this between 30 minutes and an hour, otherwise between 90 minutes and 2 hours is a fair estimation.

The switch price for some, (especially the more experienced puzzler) may not be enough to warrant value, however the steam price, is on the right side of justification for all to purchase. 

For The Starting Sleuth Or The Daring Detective? 

Discolored would be a great recommendation for any prospective player who has played less than 5 escape rooms (IRL or virtual); it’s a solid entry-level game.

On a completely different note, I’d also recommend it to game designers who are looking for a product that projects strong aesthetics, from a limited palette.  

Rating 

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️ (Good) 
Control – ⭐️ (Good) 
Puzzles – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 
Freshness – ⭐️ (Good) 
Value For Money – ⭐️ (Good) 

Overall – ⭐️ (Good) 

This is a good game. The art design and application of colour in the puzzles are definite highlights. However, for value and control reasons, I strongly recommend that you play this on steam instead of switch.

Conversely, there is buckets of potential for a sequel, that has every opportunity to be even more successful. 

Check out the developer’s page for Discolored here.

Return Of The Obra Dinn | Review

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Return of the Obra Dinn Review | October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn has drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages. 

Developer: Lucas Pope 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: No 

Do you like murder mysteries? Check ✅

Do you like the 19th century? Check ✅

Do you like to pretend that you are gaming from a classic 1980s console? Check ✅

Well if so, this puzzle game might just be for you. 

There Goes My No Claims Bonus… 

You are an insurance investigator in the 19th century, assigned to find out what happened to the 60 disappeared crew members and passengers of the Obra Dinn. Did some survive? Did some meet a tragic fate? How did they die? That’s for you to investigate.  

To help you deduct what has happened, you have a guide book with useful references (that you write in every time you find new information), alongside a pocket watch that is used to travel back in time, pin-pointing specific events on the ship. The events are a combination of dialogue between Obra Dinn personnel and a freeze-frame diorama (with dramatic music included!); often including the tragic fates quite graphically! There are ten major events in total, which are broken down into multiple parts. 

What I especially like in all of this, is the minimalistic aesthetics that come together to create a fully immersive experience. Lucas Pope proves that you don’t need flashy animations and special effects to make you feel like you are in the game. Even the graphics hark to a time of the 1980s IBM/Zenith/Commodore aesthetics. Furthermore, you can change your monitor output in the options, based on your choice of colour/console preference! I went for the IBM5151 green/black look; really cool feel and easy on the eyes! 

Full Speed Ahead! 

The control in short, is excellent. Player controller movement is universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. What really sticks out however, is the level of descriptive detail in choosing analog stick sensitivity. Instead of a slide bar like most games, Obra Dinn has actual descriptions of sensitivity choices. This made me very confident that I was making the right personal choice in how my character controlled, without the need for trial and error.  

Its Like a Murder Mystery, But If You Invited The Whole Neighbourhood! 

Obra Dinn has one core game loop; you go back in time, you find out what happened, you take notes, you move on to the next event, or go back to fill in gaps, you decide on the fates of each of the 60.  

What is executed, is executed very well. However, for anyone looking for a range of puzzles, they might be disappointed with the lack of variety, alongside finding the core game loop a little repetitive; especially if they are a seasoned escape roomer. If you can look outside of that, there is so much challenging content to get stuck into; mostly from trying to solve the unique combinations of what happened to each of the 60 Obra Dinnites. 

There is no explicit hint system, however the game is smart enough to sense when you might be making a huge error due to inexperience, and chime in with useful tips.

Fresher Than The Deep Blue Sea 

Have you ever come across a game, where you have to solve a murder mystery on a grand scale, on a 19th century ship using time travel as an insurance investigator? No, me neither. Full marks for originality.  

Ship’s Booty Required 

Obra Dinn is priced around the £17.99 mark for all consoles and steam. A well-skilled puzzler might complete this in around 5-7 hours, but for others it may take much longer. Plus the potential replay-ability value to try and get all 60 fates correct, certainly justifies its price tag. Furthermore, independent developer… so show the love! 

For Captains or Cabin Crew? 

Fair warning, this game has a steep learning curve. I would recommend this to experienced puzzlers. There is a lot to remember and reference back to; in order of having a successful game outcome. That being said, if you fancy the challenge, don’t let me stop you. 

Ratings

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing) 
Control – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing) 
Puzzles – ⭐️ (Good) 
Freshness – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing) 
Value For Money – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

Overall – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

This is a great game at a price that is highly reasonable. What it lacks in puzzle variety, it certainly makes up for in other areas such as immersive qualities and originality. Its won a ton of awards too, so go ahead and get investigating! 

Return of the Obra Dinn may be purchased on your preferred platform here.

Escape Entertainment: Bank Heist | Review

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In this adventure, we ask you to rob the crown jewels from the bank. We have hacked their security cameras, providing you a small window of opportunity. Find the clues and solves the puzzles to get one step closer to breaking into the vault! 60 minutes…the clock is ticking.

Completion Time: 39 minutes
Date Played: 7th August 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a fun and (relatively) inexpensive escape room in Central London!

“Hey! At least rainy days are perfect for escape rooms”, I say as Escape Entertainment buzzes Bianca and myself through the door, absolutely soaked to the skin by the uncharacteristically rainy weather!

We found ourselves at Escape Entertainment after seeking out a relatively inexpensive escape room the two of us could play to add a little jazz to the fact we’d a stack of boxed games to trade. After a quick Google, Escape Entertainment popped up as a Central London company situated just a short walk from my apartment – how on earth it had flown under my radar for long is a mystery! It’s tucked down the old Victorian alleys surrounding bank and now occupies the building Escape Hunt’s London branch once was.

The Best Escape Room for Team Building

Escape Entertainment is best equipped for corporate team-building days… And yeah! It makes sense. There are in fact 6 identical “Bank Heist” rooms in the building, allowing for up to 36 players to simultaneously go head to head. On the rainy Saturday morning we’d chosen, the site was deserted.

On the one hand, the two enormous lobbies felt eerily empty but on the other hand we had plenty of time to chat to our GM… Oh, and plenty of time taking 16 photos on the selfie machine. Nice.

I’m mentioning the games master so early in this review as honestly, he made it. Absolutely full of life, enthusiastic to be there, and a hardcore escape room fan who we chatted to for a very long time after about the various experiences in and around London. A bad GM will rarely be mentioned in our reviews (unless there’s some kind of endemic issue there). A good GM on the other hand? I’m going to shout his praises from the roof!

Photo (c) Escape Entertainment

Your Mission: Rob the Bank

Bank Heist may just be one of the most over-used themes of escape room out there. Escape Entertainment doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what they lack in ‘wow this is totally new’ they make up for in ‘yeah this was a fun interpretation’.

Hidden deep within the vault of this particular bank are the crown jewels and you’re part of a criminal syndicate whose goal is to steal them! Because… Why not?

What follows is a fairly non-linear, three room experience starting in the security guard’s office, into the main bank, and finally into the high security vaults. For two players this felt like the sweet spot with us both feeling busy and engaged with every part of the game – but I think the slightly non-linear nature of the experience means that there’s something for everyone. If you can get a bigger team together, you may as well give it a go.

The room isn’t the most impressive set design I’ve ever seen, but I suppose it comes with the territory or needing to rapidly spin out 6 identical versions of the same space. Never once did I actually feel like I was inside a high security vault, but I’m happy to suspend disbelief for a game that kept me so occupied with other aspects, such as the puzzles, for so long. Sure, the ceilings were pretty ‘office-y’ but who has time to look at ceilings when you’re cracking open vault doors, eh?

How Difficult is Bank Heist?

Bank Heist, as mentioned, is definitely geared towards the corporate audience, meaning it’s on the slightly easier side. Our team of two completed it at 39 minutes on the clock. Towards the start we got very hung up on one of the earlier puzzles, but once that was out of the way we were on a roll. Players will need to move seamlessly between the three rooms to rapidly solve each puzzle the game throws at them.

Beyond our early hiccup (which we solved in a very unconventional way), the rest of the game felt seamless, even solving a puzzle or two later in the game tat most teams tend to brute force.

Players can expect a large quantity of keys – which fit very well within the room – and some other more delightful logical puzzles. Early in the game you’re also given a calculator, so if you’re planning on taking on Bank Heist player beware – there’s maths involved! I was also impressed to see a pressure plate puzzle and some fun uses of magnets.

Overall, it was a well rounded room in terms of difficulty. No puzzle too insurmountable and no task too great for our little team!

The Verdict

Actually I was really pleasantly surprised by my whole Escape Entertainment experience. I’d gone in with fairly low expectations, after reading a couple of ‘meh’ reviews online, I figured what the heck let’s give it a try. It’s so close and I’ve nothing to lose. Instead I came out with a huge smile on my face, vowing to return and try their other room (for 7 players!) as soon as possible. Bank Heist is fun! Plain and simple.

On completing Bank Heist, we were greeted with not only medals but also a mug each! Double score!!

But in all seriousness, it’s this kind of customer service that left us walking away glowing after an otherwise regular escape room experience. As I write this review, I’m sipping tea from the very same mug, though not wearing the medal.

Overall, Escape Entertainment is a hidden gem in the heart of London. A fun enough room with a brilliant team behind it who genuinely love what they do.

Bank Heist by Escape Entertainment can be booked on Escape Entertainment’s website here.

Ratings

Escapages: Vice Versa | Review

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Escapages Vice Versa Review | Two strangers are meeting, heading for the same destination. One is a murderer; the other a victim. But who is who?

In this unique and ground-breaking book, 46 puzzles have been placed alongside a gripping narrative. The only way to solve the puzzles is to have a companion work through the puzzles, using the other edition of this book. Whether sitting next to each other, or on the other side of the world, you will need to work together to discover the truth.

Ratings

Theming: 4/5

Puzzles: 3/5

Format: 5/5

Fun Factor: 5/5

Overall: 3.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

An Escape Game… In a book?

YES! Aptly named company EscaPAGES creates escape room style puzzle content in BOOK format.

We’d previously got our hands on Journal 29 and were enjoying playing these puzzles as a great way to pass time on long train journeys (well, before COVID anyway…) or as a rainy afternoon activity. Journal 29 completed, we now wanted to find a new puzzle book adventure to enjoy during lockdown!

Escapages have a whole host of puzzle books on offer, but we decided to opt for a concept that stood out to us the most: a set of two books which contain clues and keys to ‘unlock’ the overall answer to each puzzle. This seemed perfect to us as here at Escaping the Closet we come as a pair!

There are two different adventures of this two-player ilk: Escape the Compound and Vice Versa. Although Escape the Compound sounds brilliant (each puzzle’s answer forms a compound word, from the clues provided in each version of the book), one of the editions is easier than the other, making it accessible for parents to play with children, or an avid puzzler with a newbie. As both avid puzzling fans, we figured we would not be able to decide who got the easier copy, so this helped swing it for us to opt to try Vice Versa!

Heads, or Tails?

As a cooperative puzzle escape book, you need to buy both editions of Vice Versa. Escapages distinguish between these by calling them Heads Edition and Tails Edition. In other words, if you have the Heads Edition, in order to successfully solve any of the puzzles, you will need a partner playing with the companion: Tails Edition.

We (fittingly) flipped a coin to work out who would get which edition and got stuck straight into Vice Versa. The beauty of puzzle books like this is that they can be played at any time. There’s no need to set aside a full hour for escaping, even if you’ve only got a spare 15 mins, you could probably fit in a puzzle or two!

There are 46 puzzles to complete in Vice Versa, meaning you can chip away at it however you fancy… One puzzle a day, a marathon puzzle sesh, or anything in between! We found a happy medium of fitting in a stint of about 5-10 puzzles each time we picked up the books, so we could thoroughly immerse ourselves back into the story and feel like we’d had our puzzling fix!

How does Vice Versa Work?

Well, in the words of Escapages themselves:

‘Sometimes you’ll have half a puzzle, and they’ll have the other half. You’ll have a code, and they’ll have the key to that code. Using your wits and the occasional internet search, you will work to uncover the buried third story, hidden within puzzles, codes and ciphers.’

In essence, it’s really important to communicate clearly between the both of you, to see how your unique parts of the puzzle align to give you a solution. No sneaky glances at the other person’s book!

More than just pieces of the puzzle

But, Vice Versa is more than just a puzzle book- within the pages a gripping narrative has been created, making this a story-driven puzzle book, providing that nod to a more escape room feel than a standard puzzle book. In Vice Versa, each edition tells the story of two people whose lives are linked in a curious way- both are on a journey towards one another, but one is a killer and the other a victim. But which is which? The parallel storyline provides twists and turns leaving you guessing right to the end, who is the murderer and who is innocent. 

You have co-operative puzzles set alongside an immersive storyline. But that’s not all; each section of the story provides subtle hints linked to its associated puzzle – everything is relevant!

Sometimes we found it could be really helpful to take a step back and look at everything related to the puzzle on a macro level…  What links are there between each of our sections of the story, and between the story and the puzzle? We found that key words in the text could literally be the key to unlocking how to approach the puzzle. Remember those parallels between the two storylines? While they throw each character’s intentions and motives into question, make sure you pay attention to them!

The A-ha Moment!

When you have pulled together all the relevant pieces for a puzzle, you can check whether you are right! Each puzzle is fully supported with a QR code linking to the Escapages website, so you can check as you go. Getting a solution correct unlocks for you a ‘key’ word. This is a word shared across both books, and make sure you hang on to all of these solutions!

But it’s not over once you’ve solved all 46 puzzles (is it ever really over?!) Oh no, you are in for a TREAT, because there is still one final piece to unlock- a third, shared story! Could this be to do with those key words we told you to keep a hold of? Maybe, just maybe… 😉 (Yes, yes it is).

Do these two individuals know one another? Who is the killer? What is their motive? You’ll have to pick up a copy of Vice Versa with your best puzzling companion to find out! (And hope to not turn out to be the killer…although thinking about it, it doesn’t seem so great to be the victim either…. Maybe it’s best to just flip a coin for it!)

Peek a boo(k) – Am I the killer, or are you?

You can buy Vice Versa from Amazon for approximately £7 per book (don’t forget you need both Heads and Tails editions!), or go to Escapages’ website to find out more about the other great puzzle books they have on offer!

How long could someone ACTUALLY survive in a sealed escape room?

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I’ve lost track of the number of escape rooms I’ve played that follow the following premise:

You have 60 minutes to escape before you run out of air!

Whether that’s escaping from a submarine… Or locked inside a safe room without any windows… Or a crew on a space ship with the oxygen rapidly depleting…

It’s a familiar premise and escape room enthusiasts know the drill by now. But let’s rewind for a second and ask the big question:

How long could you survive in a sealed room?

Let’s consider a couple of variables:

How many people are trapped inside the room?

Rarely, if at all, are you escaping from a room alone. Who you choose to bring with you into this death-trap escape room is entirely up to you… But let’s assume you do have to bring at least one other person. Is it your 5 year old kid? Your elderly grandma? Different people consume oxygen at different rates.

But let’s say you want to absolutely maximise your chances of escape, so you invite all your friends to play. You have 9 friends. There are 10 people trapped in this room.

How big is the escape room?

I’ve never measured an escape room, but let’s assume all 10 players want to be comfortable. Our hypothetical escape room is:

3m x 4m x 2.5m

Our escape room has a volume of 30 meters cubed. But don’t forget! An average person has a volume of 0.1 meters cubed, so we want to minus 1 meter cubed. We’ve only got 29 meters cubed left once everyone has crowded in.

Photo (c) Kdwk Leung

How much oxygen is there in the room?

Depending on where you are in the world, air can be made up of different gases and therefore have different quantities of oxygen. The global average percentage of oxygen is around 21%.

We’ve got 29,000 litres of air in our escape room, 6,090 of which is oxygen.

In an average 24 hours, a relaxed person consumes around 550 litres of oxygen a day.

Show me the numbers!

B. Geerts has a formula you can use for this: (total oxygen consumption rate) = (volume of oxygen consumed) / (total time lapsed)

Or to get more technical…

nC = {Vr – nVp}{Li – Lf}/t

Where:

t = time lapsed from initial time to time of loss of consciousness (s)

Vr = volume of enclosure (m3)

Vp = volume of a person (about 0.1 m3)

Li = initial oxygen concentration (21% or 0.21)

Lf = final oxygen concentration (12% or 0.12)

n = number of people in enclosure

C = per capita rate of oxygen consumption (3.33 10-6 m3 s-1)

Less numbers please!

The TLDR is that things look great for our 10 escape room players. They have over 24 hours until they run out of oxygen. However, people pass out at around 10% of oxygen, so in reality they have 21 hours and 47 min to solve the room. Phew.

Except there’s one thing we haven’t thought about…

The Carbon Dioxide Problem

In reality, the carbon dioxide levels will kill our ten players before low oxygen levels will. With each breath our escape room players breathe in 0.04% carbon dioxide and exhale 4% carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is poisonous. I’ll repeat this for those in the back: It’s poisonous!!

When the air in the room reaches 4% carbon dioxide, our players are in big trouble.

With ten players in the room, the carbon dioxide levels will reach 4% at around 2.5 hours.

Oh no.

The Most Important Rule: Don’t Panic!

One more problem. one tiny, itty bitty problem. These calculations are based on a group of 10 people relaxed and standing perfectly still. Why is this a problem? People in escape rooms don’t stand still.

You have to rush around, solve puzzles, talk to each other, and yeah… I’d probably panic too if I only had 2 and a half hours to escape before I suffocated.

The longer our players spend in the room, the more oxygen will deplete from the space and the harder it will become to solve puzzles.

Photo (c) Marten Newhall

After a couple of minutes, the players will feel a headache.

After about an hour players will feel nauseous, clammy, and weak at the knees.

At two hours, players will feel a wave of exhaustion.

At two and a half hours, players will start to pass out.

The Answer

10 players would last 2.5 hours in a small, airtight escape room.

I’m no mathematician so my calculations may not be airtight (no pun intended!), but the verdict is clear: Players will die of carbon dioxide poisoning long before they’ll run out of oxygen.

The moral of the story: Bring a smaller group, maybe some plants to balance the carbon dioxide, and by god try and escape quickly and calmly.

clueQuest: cQ Origenes | Review

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In order to stop the Professor from breaching our firewall, you and your team will have to access Mr Q’s old base. The only way in, however, is to shrink down to the size of a mouse with the help of the Shrink’o’Mat. Word of caution, agents: the technology you’ll be exposed to is…a bit unstable and still experimental. You’ll have only 60 minutes to counteract the cyber attack and secure the mainframe before the Shrink’o’Mat’s effect wears off and things get messy.

Image (c) clueQuest

Battling the storm en route to escape!

We played cQ Origenes back in February 2020, just before the pandemic began, which must have been the last time we were in London (wow that feels like a long time ago!).

Our first mission however was actually getting there, as this was during the ‘Storm Dennis’ weekend… Luckily, escape rooms are literally the PERFECT rainy day activity! Although, they are also ideal on: sunny days, snowy days, windy days too.

This trip was our second time at clueQuest. We had previously taken on Operation Blacksheep with the same team and thoroughly enjoyed it, so were very excited to be back to face the slightly more challenging cQ Origenes room. cQ Origenes is one which is always recommended as a top room in terms of the capital’s offerings, and it’s easy to see why. Even clueQuest’s reception area feels special, bustling full with teams. It makes for a very lively pre-escape atmosphere!

It’s clear clueQuest would be so great to host a big party with lots of people taking on different rooms and all coming back together to discuss times, and inevitably, searching fails!


…Hm, maybe this is something we would do for the big 3-0…?

The Mission Brief

Back to the mission: the briefing for cQ Origenes was consistent with the overarching CQ storyline – our group of ‘spies’ have to break in and retrieve an SD card. However, this is more challenging than it first appears! The first step of the two stage mission requires you to operate the shrink-o-mat to infiltrate the lair – making everything after this point ‘larger than life’!

Beyond this, the room is split really well, with the decoration tying into the storyline allowing for a super smooth puzzle flow. 

Image (c) clueQuest

The cQ Origenes rooms are decorated brilliantly, which is no surprise as the production value on clueQuest’s rooms is SUPER HIGH. This really pays off to create an immersive atmosphere with a humorous twist.

The mission offers great interactivity and clever puzzles to solve: varied, challenging, logical and original… There was plenty to get on with. We were glad that we went in with a strong team of 4, Tilda and Johnny are always super on it for escaping (our favourite kind of friends haha!).

There was even one very special padlock in the room – we’re sure even the biggest padlock-phobe would enjoy opening. 

Good things come in small packages

We absolutely loved the concept of this room, it was so simple but designed incredibly well. We had so much fun exploring all the props and clever, special touches in the space. The props were well designed and pretty much everything really ‘worked’, meaning a great deal of exploring the room pays off, not only for progressing the story, but also for the wow-factor of discovery!

We were particularly blown away by the final puzzle: this really impressed us with its design… But you’ll have to go and play to see what we mean!

Image (c) clueQuest

Alas, we did hit a hiccup at the end and spent around 10 minutes stuck on one (tiny, tiny…) piece… However, our overall escape time came in at just over 56 minutes, successfully returning to full size! That said, looking at the photo it looks like Johnny is full size and the rest of us are still slightly shrunk haha! 

cQ Origenes is great for enthusiasts or large groups of newbies looking for a challenge! We definitely hope to return to help Mr Q face Blacksheep again next time we return to London.

Which room would you recommend we try our hand at next?! Check out our reviews for clueQuest’s other games here.

cQ Origenes can be booked on clueQuest’s website here.

Ratings

The Office Quest | Review

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The Office Quest Review | Not all heroes wear capes… some prefer fluffy onesies. The Office Quest is a point & click adventure for all of you people who cannot stay in the office any longer! Solve challenging puzzles and riddles. 

Developer: 11Sheep 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: Yes 

Disclaimer! This review is for console-based versions of the game, and not for mobile. There are some interface differences between the two, that create a slightly different experience. 

Are you bored of your 9-5 office job? Check ✅

Do you wish you could escape – literally? Check ✅

Would you like a new job, where the interview process involves dressing up as a cactus, riding a unicycle and juggling? Check  ✅

Well if so, this puzzle game might just be for you. 

Just Another Day At The Office… 

The Office Quest involves you controlling an unnamed hero, bored out of their mind at work. Their desk flower suddenly loses its colour, and the colour whooshes away! Astounded, you leave your desk to bring the colour back.  

I know this sounds crazy-odd, but it works so well alongside the Hanna-Barbera type, silent cartoon aesthetics. The character design is also highly intriguing. The majority of NPCs in the game (plus the player character themselves), consist of a human in a comical onesie costume. Additionally, some of the costumes themselves, pave the way for interesting items to be picked up and utilised to advance through certain puzzles.  

Each chapter has its own feel and signatures, which tie the narrative together effectively. The initial concern of chapters being considered disparate and disjoined from one another, was quickly dismissed from the seamlessness of the overarching story.   

Say it with flowers. Or better still, emojis.

“You’re Just A Step On The Bossman’s Ladder…” 

The control works mostly at a consistent level. Player controller movement is either done by analog control; using the left stick to move a pointer around and clicking where you want the player character to go, or touchscreen can be used instead. There are no sensitivity settings for analog control unfortunately. Furthermore, there is a short series of platforming puzzles in chapter 3 that does not allow you to use touchscreen; therefore, if you have been using touchscreen controls exclusively prior, it’s not the most welcome experience.  

Despite that, the control works perfectly well for the majority of the gameplay. You can switch between analog and touchscreen in most cases too, which is useful; especially for the more dexterously challenging puzzles. 

“…But You Got Dreams He’ll Never Take Away” 

The Office Quest has a wide range of puzzle types to solve. These include searching, logic, pattern matching, memory, observation, dexterity and as mentioned previously; platforming. Yes, you heard me right. I hope you’ve had your Sonic/Mario training in for chapter 3. The platforming might put some potential buyers off; however it is relatively short in the grand scheme of things.  

What I really did like about the puzzles in The Office Quest, was the reworking of classic games and conundrums into puzzles. A noughts-and-crosses type game with a twist in chapter 2, alongside the ownership of the Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Problem (google it), in a way that is highly relevant to the game’s characters. 

There is no hints system however, for the console-version of this game, and the guides available online aren’t very refined. There’s no official guide either, so tread carefully when looking for clues, so you don’t mistakenly see the solution! There was one puzzle in particular in chapter 2 (involving a television and changing the channel by aerial), that was not signposted all that well. As a result, I had to tread carefully around the web to find a suitable clue to move forward. 

That being said, the breadth of puzzles on offer is solid and enjoyable for the most part. 

The record deal came with a monkey chauffeur as standard.

I’ll Never Forget That Job Interview! 

Where the Office Quest really shines however, is not the puzzle types, but the execution of the puzzles themselves. Many of the puzzles are presented in a way that is funny, charming and adds real value to the narrative. This is especially commendable when the medium of communication in the game is almost entirely visual. I’m not going to forget anytime soon for example; my character undergoing a job interview, whilst dressed as a cactus, performing on a unicycle and juggling 3 cactus-shaped balls to impress the boss. 

Another highlight comes early on in chapter 1, where you have to sneak past a board meeting involving a pineapple, a rabbit and a carrot. The steps you take to achieve your goal, alongside the unique actions and reactions, are equally funny and memorable.   

Salary Deductions

The Office Quest is priced at around the £9.99 mark for most consoles. An experienced puzzler will probably complete each of the 4 chapters between 30 minutes to an hour. Whereas the lesser experienced puzzler may take double that. I feel this is a very fair price point for an independent games development company. 

For The Office Junior Or The CEO? 

The first chapter of The Office Quest, whilst has its challenges, is well-balanced in difficulty. The following chapters however, are certainly more difficult in areas and will require more patience and determination to see you through. I feel this would be most suitable for puzzlers at an intermediate level.  

One final thought to consider; the game presents no (explicit) vocal and very little reading in terms of signposting. The majority of it is visually presented. This in itself can present an initial learning curve. 

Ratings

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 
Control – ⭐️ (Good) 
Puzzles – ⭐️ (Good) 
Freshness – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing) 
Value For Money – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

Overall –  ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

This is another great game with a solid price tag. The execution of the puzzles; relating to the game’s immersive qualities I feel, is enough to warrant a playthrough, however there is plenty, plenty more to be enjoyed here. 

You can purchase The Office Quest on your platform of choice here.

Dark Park: Witchery Spell | Review

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Witchery Spell Review | While playing Witchery Spell you will meet 5 young witches. One of them recently turned 23 and mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to her and does the same horrific fate await the others? As young girls, they performed a ritual from an ancient book they found. Now it turns out that this seemingly innocent child’s play may be their downfall. The problem: only someone who is not a witch himself can lift the spell, but what are the consequences? Are you brave enough to unleash the powerful ancient magic once again?

Rating: Spooky
Completion Time: 1hr30
Date Played: 1st August 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Small groups on dark nights

Witchery Spell is one of those games. You know the ones I mean… Everybody is talking about them.

If the at-home escape room industry had a ‘game of the year’ award, Witchery Spell would probably be up for nomination in every category there is. Which is why I’m surprised to be writing that I don’t know if it quite lived up to the hype. But don’t get me wrong – it was still a brilliant game. But that’s the problem with hype, isn’t it?

So all hype aside, we’re going to discuss the game’s merits with one cautionary note: Don’t me like me and place Witchery Spell on a (literal) pedestal in your office and wait over a year to play it because you were too worried about ‘wasting it’ on a regular board game night.

Just play it now! You won’t regret it.

Solve the Puzzles, Save the Witches

Dark Park have created a really well rounded boxed game that is equal parts surprising and delightful in Witchery Spell. At it’s core, Witchery Spell is a story about a group of witches being hunted by a modern day witchfinder organisation. One of their party had recently turned 23, which is the age their original protection spell wore off. Before they’re all found and killed, they turn to you for help. You see- there’s another protection ritual that they desperately need in order to evade detection, but apparently witches can’t actually perform this type of magic themselves. How inconvenient!

What follows is a non-linear style game to figure out a number of things:

  • What happened to the missing witch? And,
  • How we could perform the ritual ourselves?

To help you out, you’ve got a big cardboard box full of stuff, and the internet.

Really Impressive Puzzle Components

What makes Witchery Spell such a special game is the sheer high quality of it’s components. However I’ll caveat that by saying it does come in a very ordinary, and very degradable cardboard box. The box was pretty scuffed up when it arrived in the post *shakes fist at the postal system*, but thankfully the material inside was in tact, packed up tightly with straw.

The components include:

  • Curious jars and vials of ingredients, such as Arsenica, Ivory and Salt
  • Equipment that looks right out of an apothecary
  • A candle, a feather, and some magical stones
  • A small deck of Tarot Cards
  • Several rolled up scrolls
  • Something that can only be described as a “demon summoning mat”
  • Photographs, case files, and other oddities about the witches in question

…But that’s not all, Witchery Spell also has a very large online component, guiding you through the experience and providing guidance and puzzles along the way too. For a two hour experience, it really is an immersive and in-depth game.

Each one of these components I’ve mentioned ended up being used in really delightful ways. There’s one moment in the game, and I’ll try not to spoil anything here, where we suddenly spotted that an earlier item we’d put aside was now doing something very unexpected. Yes ‘doing’. Cue some very excited screams!

So I guess you could say it’s about as close to magic as it’s possible to get.

How Difficult is Witchery Spell?

Our team of three completed Witchery Spell in around one hour and thirty minutes with no hints. We did accidentally skip one or two steps in the game – reaching the next part without fully following how we’d made the jump, but overall this game flows well and doesn’t throw anything super difficult at you!

This means that in terms of difficulty, I’d rate it ‘comfortable’. It’d be a great game for beginners to fall in love with the wonderful world of at-home escape rooms, but still provides enough brilliant ‘wow’ moments and unexpectedly exciting puzzles for veterans. I can also guarantee that even players on their 1000th game will experience something very new in Witchery Spell!

That said, there is a ‘choose your own adventure’ element to this game. I mention this as the ‘other path’ may have wildly changed the difficulty in this game, but I may never know!

Halloween Activity? Look No Further

As mentioned, I had this game on my shelf for literal months. When one of my closest and most enthusiastic escape room buddies visited after a long lockdown, I figured it’d be the perfect game to try out with her. The sun was already beginning to set, we switched up the lighting to red, lit some candles and got stuck in.

In hindsight, October 31st 2020 was one of those days Witchery Spell sat on my shelf gathering dust, and I regret not playing it then! It’s so atmospheric and genuinely puts the player on edge, feeling like they’re inside a world of black magic and witches perfectly. But October 31st 2021? I might just put that refill kit to good use and invite a small team around to give this another go – it’s just that perfect of a game for October.

In particular, I’d recommend this for a team of up to 5 players sat around a table. Better still with candles, and better even still with some kind of witchy playlist in the background.

Overall, a brilliant game. Sure, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, but it’s still absolutely worth the price and I can see how impressive it is in the at-home genre. Go in with an open mind and a sense of delight and wonder and you won’t be disappointed. Especially don’t let this one gather dust on your shelf 😉

Witchery Spell can be purchased for around £55 on Dark Park’s website here. We’d recommend purchasing a refill kit.