Scarlet Envelope: Screaming Venice Art Heist

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Screaming Venice Art Heist Review | THE SCREAM, Munch’s famous painting & the art’s most haunting face, goes AWOL right before the opening of a posh Art Biennale in Venice. Art lovers are confused: anyone knows that such a well-known piece is impossible to resell! Was it taken for ransom? Or to cover up a larger story? Oh, they have NO idea…

Completion Time: 1hr 30
Date Played: 23rd January 2022
Party Size: 2 (+1)
Difficulty: Hard

If this is the face you make when trying to solve the latest Scarlet Envelope game, Screaming Venice Art Heist… Then you’re not alone!

Just kidding! Yes, this chapter in the subscription is hard, but it’s not insurmountably hard. A couple of hours and a few clues later Bianca and I cracked the codes and tracked down the missing Munch painting. All in a days work for a sunny Sunday morning over a cup of tea.

But lets get into it. What is Screaming Venice Art Heist and how did the pair of us really do with the game?

The Scream is… Missing!

The story of the latest chapter in Scarlet Envelope’s brilliant puzzle subscription follows the infamous painting known as The Scream. Just moments before the gallery’s big millennium opening, The Scream goes missing. Think Netflix’s This is a Robbery, only rather than the police there’s just you to solve the case. Eek! No pressure?!

Everything you need to solve the case is contained within one scarlet coloured envelope. Unlike previous Scarlet Envelope games, like Breakfast for a Serial Killer, we found the envelope comparatively quite light. There are some leaflets for the museum, some small slips of paper, and a bookmark. But essentially that is it.

I feel like in a real art heist case I’d probably need more to go on, but the trail of clues left behind by the master thief sure enough was there. If only we knew how to look.

Screaming at Puzzles

In terms of puzzles and difficulty, as I’ve mentioned we found this game quite tricky. Before we sat down to play, we had a chat about their other games in the series and how long they typically took – I suppose planning out our day and how many games we’d be able to power through together. But whatever we guessed this game would take – double it! We spent well over an hour and a half puzzling through Screaming Venice Art Heist and even enjoyed a break for lunch.

Where in other games the materials are spread out to provide lots of smaller puzzles, Screaming Venice Art Heist was centred around one big linear meta puzzle. The goal was simple: Find letters, convert to colours, convert that to numbers, pop the numbers on the website and Bob’s your uncle.

The linear nature of the game meant that we had to work together closely on each puzzle, but more heads weren’t necessarily better as we still managed to trip up several times. Whilst it took a while to garner the information from each step, we were equally never quite sure what to do with that information to make the jump to the next step.

There was one puzzle we felt didn’t quite work in some cultural contexts. I don’t know if it’s a Europe vs North America distinction (although the creators are themselves European), but to solve one particular step we didn’t have the same cultural point of reference on which to rely. It also wasn’t something we could Google. As to avoid spoilers, we won’t detail the puzzle, but rest assured we needed another hint at that step.

Thankfully, Scarlet Envelope always have a fantastic clue system. There’s always a mini-puzzle to solve to gain access to the hints (which even if I don’t need hints I enjoy solving as a bonus), and once you’re on the clues page it’s carefully laid out as to avoid spoilers. In this game, we became very familiar with the hints in order to keep us on track.

The Story Stole the Show!

Puzzles aside, one of the things I did love about this game was the story. I mean, I’m a sucker for an art heist and Scarlet Envelope pulled theirs’ off flawlessly! The mystery! The intrigue! The TWISTS! Ugh, yes please!

Scarlet Envelope also has a meta puzzle running through all of their envelopes which is fantastically fun to watch unfold. The bonus puzzle in Screaming Venice Art Heist that gave us our answer for the multi-chapter meta was a particularly fun one that had us thinking outside the box. It’s also probably my favourite so far and I’m officially very excited to complete the series and crack that meta!

Finally, one thing Scarlet Envelope does well and again, particularly well in this chapter is the quality of material and integration with some digital elements with the physical envelope in front of you. Think videos, sound files, actors playing out scenes and more. You know you’re getting something great with Scarlet Envelope when each new chapter arrives.

The Verdict

It’s true, we did find Screaming Venice Art Heist particularly hard. It’s easily the trickiest in the series so far and for that reason it’s probably not my favourite. There were a few uncomfortable logic leaps, and we made a few easy mistakes early on that dragged out the puzzle solving well past lunch time (Note to Self: Don’t puzzle on an empty stomach!)

But Scarlet Envelope has to be viewed as a whole and not as each individual envelope. It’s impossible that every single game in a series will resonate with every player. So all in all, I’m still in love with the company! The previous game (Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri) is one of my all time favourites, and the envelope we played immediately after (Tale of a Golden Dragon) was absolutely flawless. No seriously, it was so damn good! I’m excited just thinking about it.

You can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope by heading to their website here.

Houdini’s: Lady Chastity’s Reserve | Review

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Lady Chastity’s Reserve Review | Enter the lair of the deranged Lady Chastity as you pit your wits against her mysterious belongings and strange contraptions. Those who prove themselves worthy will whoop their way through an hour of surreal gaming, leaving with Chastity’s fabled bottle of aphrodisiac wine.

Completion Time: 50 minutes
Date Played: 15th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

Through fits of uncontrollable laughter after a pint downstairs, we stumbled into the famous (or should I say, infamous) Lady Chastity’s Reserve. Tucked away above The Hope in Farringdon, it’s a venue I literally pass every day of my life and never once realised an escape room was hidden within. But that’s how we found ourselves, in the earliest week of January we could get our team together, excitedly buzzing with anticipation that we finally secured a Lady Chastity’s Reserve booking.

[cue more giggling and excited noises]

What Happens in the Lady’s Parlour… Stays There!

So first things first, let’s clear the air. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is an 18+ room. Some of the reasons for this, we assume are:

  • Themes of a sexual nature (she’s not that chaste after all – are you offended by light-hearted references to Victorian orgies?)
  • The prize of a bottle of wine (tantalising!)
  • The location of the escape room being above a pub (it’s unlikely kids are allowed in after a certain time!)
  • It’s a little bit spooky. You may encounter a dead body.

For those reasons, the owners have slapped on a strict 18+ rating. Whilst we reckon in theory the game could be toned down for a 16+ audience, we mention the reasons why both as a content warning, and to ensure other bookers avoid disappointment. Keep the kids at home for this one!

So with that aside, let’s get into the light-hearted spooky debauchery that is Lady Chastity’s Reserve…

Lady Chastity is a woman who is well known for her… Errr… Parties. Her aphrodisiac wine is a big hit and brings all the ladies and gentlemen to her parlour for some fun. After suffering heartbreak, the lady hosts one final lavish party but- oh no! Disaster strikes! A candle left unattended tips over and sets fire to a curtain, engulfing the building. Whilst all the visitors manage to escape in various states of undress, Lady Chastity is never seen again. Rumour has it at the first sign of fire she ran to her cellar and locked up her last bottle of aphrodisiac wine, but didn’t make it out in time.

This is where you come in. The house has been refurbished by the ever-dutiful Gabriel. Her housekeeper turned inheritor. But he’s never found that bottle of aphrodisiac wine. Can you follow in The Lady’s steps, figure out what happened to her, and claim that bottle of wine?!

Creepy Corners, Candlelight, and Curtains for Days

One of the stand-outs for us in Lady Chastity’s Reserve was the decor of the room. We didn’t have to ‘suspend disbelief’ even for a second… It really felt like being inside a Victorian parlour! The whole space was lit with candlelight – torches were provided, which was a nice touch for an otherwise very dark room – and the furniture, curtains, wallpaper and decor felt lifted directly out of the Victorian era.

Darkness is marmite in an escape room. It makes it harder to solve puzzles. But for me, Lady Chastity’s Reserve was dark for a reason. It’s lit by candlelight, and it really works! None of the puzzles were hindered by it, it only added to the ambience. Dark shadows darted around in our peripheral vision, and when a sudden loud noise rang out from somewhere you were never quite sure where it came from.

Even the smell of the room was authentic. It feels funny to praise an escape room for having a good smell – but the slightly smoky, musty smell felt brilliant.

What I’m trying to say, is full marks for the decor. A lot of folks will be put off by a darker room, but I propose that instead players treat the darkness as an extra character. It really adds to the story.

Photo (c) Lady Chastity’s Reserve

What of Lady Chastity’s Puzzles?

So you see how I said I liked the darkness and they didn’t hinder the puzzles – well not strictly true, as this room does rely on a lot of search-and-find especially at the beginning. Just be sure to shine that torch everywhere!

The whole room follows a linear format. There’s a clear goal, and each puzzle leads onto the next seamlessly. You’re guided not only by clues from your host, Gabriel (of which you can claim just 3 of them over the course of the game), but Lady Chastity herself will often ring out from the darkness and the gloom. Listen to her carefully for she often gives big clues in subtle ways.

Players can expect to encounter quite a few padlocks and 4 digit codes (hey, this Lady is trying to protect her wine from thieves like us!), and some ingenious uses of physical manipulation, smoke and mirrors. For sure, there were a lot of puzzles to get through, but some of them were so utterly delightful I can’t help but still smile about them days later. Conversely, there were some that other members of my team solved so efficiently that I didn’t even see how.

Cue my “Woah look at this, you can do that!” to everyone replying in unison, “Yep we’ve solved it“. Haha, oops.

We were warned that the room was a little on the harder side, but managed to escape with 10 minutes left on the clock after using 2 clues. I think I’d still agree that it’s hard – but not impossible. For a team of 4 fairly experienced enthusiasts, some of whom on our third pint of the evening, we didn’t do too badly! We’d definitely recommend aiming to play with a similar sized group, but don’t be put off if you go in with a smaller, or brand new team!

Team ‘Lamb Sauce’ Achievements

How much does Lady Chastity’s Reserve cost?

For London, it’s not the cheapest escape room for sure. But it’s also not the most expensive. And hey, how many rooms let you take home a bottle of wine if you win?

This is a conversation we regularly have on The Escape Roomer. How do we measure “value” when different regions are priced so differently? There’s no right or wrong answer, so we try instead to ask “was it good value?” In all this room costs a flat fee of £30 per person – regardless of team size (therefore it’s £60 for a team of two, and £180 for a team of 6). Originally this escape room was also non-exclusive, meaning you might get put in with strangers. Whilst this is common in the United States, it’s unpopular in the UK. It seems like in recent times this policy has been scrapped and bookings are exclusive. Phew.

So, with this in mind, did we get a good value? Oh yes, absolutely!

Once upon a time, the original creators of Lady Chastity’s Reserve, Handmade Mysteries, closed down and for a while we thought the escape room would disappear forever. Whenever I asked other enthusiasts about their favourite room, I’d hear this one mentioned so often. Too bad it had closed down! Argh, the heartbreak.

But when the news that Houdini’s had purchased the game and was bringing it back – no price was too high for me to book this. It so happened that we got extra lucky with a Black Friday discount and didn’t pay full price between the four of us. But honestly? I’m just glad I survived the pandemic long enough to see this gem reopen.

The Verdict

*chef’s kiss*

Lady Chastity’s Reserve absolutely lived up to the hype for us, and I’m thrilled that we chose it for our very first escape room of 2022. Start the year as we mean to go on, eh?

It’s creepy, musty, sordid, manic and above all, just so much fun. We also in particular want to shout out our Games Master at The Hope Farrington for his fantastic portrayal of the caretaker Gabriel. From start to finish he never once broke character – all the way from a perfect intro briefing, to scaring us quite a few times, to presenting the bottle of The Lady’s Reserve to us at the end of our game.

After some deliberation in the pub downstairs, The Hope, we’ve decided to award this game our Fun Factor badge – awarded to all escape rooms that are just that extra bit of fun. Lady Chastity’s Reserve takes itself seriously yet still managed to balance the hilarity and silliness that we love in a room. We were all smiles and laughter from start to finish, and it’s certainly going to be a room I’ll remember for a long time.

I would highly recommend Lady Chastity’s Reserve to anyone wanting something a little different to play. At the time of writing, the Farringdon version of the game is the only one available on Houdini’s website (aww), but well worth the trip into London.

Lady Chastity’s Reserve can be booked at Houdini’s in Farringdon here.

Puzzaroo: The Corporation | Review

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Puzzaroo’s The Corporation Review | The Corporation have tried to contact you through covert means. They are looking to recruit you to their agency but unfortunately they have had trouble with their subtle ways to contact you. With one last ditch attempt they’ve collated all covert communications in one envelope to send to you and are expecting you to meet them in a secret location, the whereabouts of which you need to figure out.

Completion Time: ~1 hour
Date Played: 17th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

Way back in the summer of 2021 (it feels like a lifetime ago now), Bianca and I went to visit Escape Entertainment. It’s little inner-city escape room tucked away a short walk from Bank, and also not too far from my apartment. Besides the localness, Escape Entertainment has a special place in my heart firstly as I drink from my commemorative Escape Entertainment mug daily, but secondly because we had such a great interaction with the host!

It was to my absolute delight that our very same host (the enigmatic Paul) reached back out to us at The Escape Roomer with a new, independent project he’s been working on: Puzzaroo!

*round of applause*

So excited to get into the game, I sat down with my regular Player 2 and gave Puzzaroo’s premier game “The Corporation” a go the same evening. So how did we get on?

About Puzzaroo’s The Corporation

The format of The Corporation is a fairly straightforward one: A mysterious envelope arrives in the post packed with puzzles to be solved. Each puzzle outputs a letter or a number, and those characters must be strung together, ‘solved’ and popped into a password box on the Puzzaroo’s secret link to verify and finish the game. In this way, it’s similar in format to games like Puzzle Post, or Post-a-Puzzle – and totally accessible to enthusiasts and puggles (puzzle muggles) alike.

In this case, it seemed a mysterious shadowy organisation had been trying to test my skills over the past few weeks by putting secret codes in everyday objects and leaflets. Me, ever un-observant, had missed them all. But not to fear, my future-handler wanted to give me one last chance so they gathered up all the clues, bundled them into an envelope, and popped them through my letterbox.

My goal was simple: Solve the puzzles, find the secret location to meet my handler.

Ooooh ~ exciting!

Finding Puzzles in Everyday Objects

☝ It’s a topic I’m fascinated by. Like when you’re in a Doctor’s waiting room and the unusual wallpaper is ripe for a puzzle. Or an accidental pattern somewhere must be Morse code, right?

The genre of: puzzles in normal items hiding in plain sight is something Puzzaroo does really well in this game. Here are the items you’ll find inside our Puzzaroo envelope:

  • A flyer for a betting shop
  • A number of playing cards
  • A newspaper
  • A photograph
  • Some business cards
  • A tube map
  • A lottery ticket
  • An old receipt
  • And so on…

If you didn’t look closely, you wouldn’t suspect anything is wrong about these items. It’s only on second glance (or third, on some of the harder puzzles) that you begin to spot irregularities.

What I really liked about everything in this game is that it was all of fantastic quality! When I say it’s a tube map, it looked and felt just like a tube map. No detail was spared on the design and print quality!

In terms of types of puzzles encountered, it was mostly fairly recognisable types of puzzles – no, no, not the dreadful car parking spaces puzzle which I see 8 times a week – more like creative reimaginings of familiar mechanics. There’s a little folding, a little maths, some fun wordplay puzzles… And so on. Between two players we found it to be a medium level of challenging. Not too difficult, but certainly a challenge! We used clues on 3 puzzles in total, and on one extra puzzle received some clarification from the creator directly – the answer for which was brilliant I might say, we’d just not spotted it in our playthrough!

The Verdict

Overall, we really enjoyed playing The Corporation. For sure, it wasn’t ‘perfect’ (whose first game design venture ever is?!), but it still impressed us! If this is the company’s first game of this style, then we’re very very excited to see what they come up with next. More stories, more envelopes, more more more please!

We’d recommend the game for anyone wishing to dip their toes into puzzle solving. It’s a really well priced and lovely looking gift filled with mystery and intrigue.

In the mean time, the creator is also one of the game designers at Secret City Trails – so until they launch another game, we might just have to go and play all of his outdoor walking trails to scratch that puzzle itch!

The Corporation can be purchased from Puzzaroo’s website here. Currently, they ship to the UK only.

Code Bakers: Fudge Fiasco | Review

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Fudge Fiasco Review: A pack of puzzles to solve to uncover what flavour fudge you’ve been sent!

Rating: Fudgin’ brill!
Completion Time: ~30 minutes
Date Played: 29th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A sweet treat!

Penguins taken from codebakers.co.uk (not literally)

A Christmas Treat!

A combination of a sweet treat + an escape room style puzzle…

…We are so there!

The team at Code Bakers have hit the jackpot with this winning combination which allows players to combine delicious sweet treats with puzzling to definitely make you feel like you’ve earnt your dessert! The Fudge Fiasco game sends players two mysterious blocks of fudge, challenging you to find out what the flavours are before tucking in.

A mystery map!

For Fudge Sake!

After receiving Fudge Fiasco as a part of the UK Puzzle Bundle, we cracked it open on a cosy afternoon, looking to fill half an hour of puzzling and tuck into our afternoon snack. These games are interesting in that it can be difficult to know where to start, especially when you are presented with multiple puzzles at once. But, once we had figured out what we were doing and what bits went together, the puzzles flowed really well.

It is great how much the Code Bakers’ team can pack into their small envelopes!

The map puzzle (pictured above) was definitely one of the more innovative versions of this style of puzzle that we have seen. It did leave us scratching our heads for a while, but once we realised some slightly ‘outside the box’ thinking was needed, we worked our way through this nicely!

It was very satisfying to solve, and the aha moment left us both smiling.

The puzzles are good for teams of two or more working together in a more relaxed atmosphere. We think this would be a great pre-dinner game for a family or a pre-escape room warm up for a team of enthusiasts (plus then you’d have the sugar kick from the fudge ready to go in and boss your room!).

Ash looking 10/10 happy with discovering her fudgey flavours

The Delicious Finale

Once we had made our way through the puzzles, we treated ourselves to two tasty bars of fudge! It’s nice to have a physical reward for solving the puzzles, which helps make these games stand out in that ‘at-home’ escape market.

We always enjoy a game from the Code Bakers – I think we will start using these to send gifts to our friends (to make them work for their treats!).

We look forward to playing more of these in the future!

Fudge Fiasco can be purchased for yourself (or given as a gift) by heading to Code Baker’s website here.

AIM Escape: Patient Zero 2150 | Review

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Patient Zero 2150 Review | Armageddon beckons. The world’s superpowers are no more. Renegade factions vie for domination. Rogue scientists have breached all moral boundaries creating pathogens that create non-humans. Nerve agents so nightmarish that they corrupt physically and mentally, turning those exposed into the living dead – zombies. In the subterranean depths of their secret facility, the pathogen has escaped. It must be contained or all humankind, as we know it, will cease to exist. Your mission – contain the bio-threat, secure the facility and escape uninfected. Can you hold your breath for 60 minutes? This high tech terror will test the smartest players.

Date Played: 21st January 2022
Time Taken: 60 minutes (plus 15 seconds)
Number of Players: 2
Difficulty: Hard

In a picture-perfect exit, we escaped with the countdown timer ringing in our ears. Well- okay, not quite. We technically overran by 15 seconds. But we tried our best, and saved the world in the process. What more can you ask for, eh?!

AIM Escape is one of those venues I’ve been dying to try out since I took on Operation Mindfall, hosted by them around London two summers ago. But of course, thanks to the global pandemic, the world had other plans and we kept putting off the visit. That was until an icy cold January Friday evening when we booked the game for two. Patient Zero 2150 – save the world from a deadly virus? Well, that’s close to home, but hey after dealing with you-know-what for two years, we’re experts.

AIM Escape

About Patient Zero 2150

The story of Patient Zero 2150 is a creepy one – but not a million miles from *gestures vaguely at the past few years*. In the not too distant future we, a pair of intrepid scientists are a part of Team Beta and sent in to investigate a mysterious laboratory disaster. We arrive to discover dead bodies, cages ripped open from inside, rooms on fire, and even a whisper of zombies.

You see, this laboratory was investigating deadly pathogens and nerve agents. But clearly, something escaped and went on to kill everyone else in sight. So our job was simple: isolate areas of the lab, and develop and escape with the antidote. Simple.

Oh- but one catch, to avoid catching the virus ourselves we should probably hold our breaths for the full 60 minutes. Or, ya know, we might become zombies ourselves.

Photo (c) AIM Escape

Escape… The Living Dead!

One thing we both absolutely loved about Patient Zero 2150 was the ambience. I mean, this room is so ultra-immersive that for 60 brilliant minutes we forgot where we were. At the start of the escape room there’s a map on the wall showing the vast sprawling laboratory. Sure, you never actually get to visit these places but you do truly believe you’re there. Cut to an age later, we were several rooms ahead and I remember saying “hey behind this wall is the infirmary“. Nope, it wasn’t relevant at all – but AIM Escape really managed to make the world seem bigger than the escape room we were playing in.

We even encountered along the way small windows and doors into other ‘rooms’ and ‘areas’ – not real, of course, but you’d have fooled me!

One of the best ways AIM Escape achieves this effect is by the use of sound. Throughout the whole game we heard noises and walkie talkie chatter that set the scene of the chaos around us. Elsewhere in the laboratory, a war between the living and the dead was raging. Subtle crashes, muted gunfire, creaks and noises lurking behind every door. It was… Perfect! Kudos to the sound engineers – which is another thing I’ve never ever said about an escape room before.

One thing we would mention is that some sections of the game are fairly dimly lit. It makes total sense given the setting. Of course there would be dim lighting in places – it is after all quite a creepy game – but we wanted to mention it as a heads up for prospective bookers. You’re provided with torches throughout the game and there’s also a torch added to the walkie-talkie you have to communicate with your Games Master which comes in handy.

Photo (c) AIM Escape

“I’ve pushed every button in the room, now what?”

In terms of puzzles – I won’t beat around the bush – we found this game HARD. Not impossibly hard, and over a pint afterwards we remarked that none of the puzzles made you feel stupid. But for some reason a lot of it didn’t click and we used many clues. Sometimes those clues were the little nudge we needed before an “ohhh! That’s brilliant!” moment. Other times we still didn’t quite click with what the puzzle was asking us to do and why. But hey, that’s okay! It was a welcome challenge.

At the start of our briefing our fantastic host Mads joked that we could ask for unlimited clues, and that they wouldn’t judge us (ok well maybe a little). At about our 6th clue (some requested, some volunteered), we began to wonder if we might be breaking a record for most clues required in this game.

The website does warn that it’s a hard game. Not only that but it’s the hardest available at AIM Escape. In hindsight booking with just two players – one of whom it was her third escape room ever – maybe wasn’t the best choice. But we were there to have fun, and we did have a lot of fun, twenty thousand clues or not.

With no locks, every puzzle we encountered was technological. Push buttons, do things on screens, to trigger the next step. This meant that when we were particularly stuck on a digital dexterity puzzle, our Games Master could helpfully in-character ‘remotely hack’ it to move us along to the next step. As a player, I felt bad doing this. We should have stuck with it and kept trying – but time was against us!

Photo (c) AIM Escape

A Challenge for the Brave

So difficulty aside, who would we recommend this room for? For starters – not kids! It’s not overtly scary, but there’s a definite sense of looming threat and a couple of minor jump scares, and plenty of fake blood that little players might get upset with. I say that knowing fine well that my own brother, aged 12, probably would have found the whole thing absolutely brilliant. But better safe than sorry.

We also would recommend a team of 3 at the minimum. The mix of rooms jumbles up linear and non-linear moments – meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for players to work on different things at the same time. Our recommendation of 3 comes more in terms of ‘brain power’ however. We escaped – but only just! And our host did give us a lot of much needed help, so I’m calling her our honorary third player.

The Verdict

We had an absolute blast at Patient Zero 2150 and it’s been cemented in my imagination as one of London’s must-play rooms – especially for enthusiasts! It’s a challenge, but a fully rewarding one that transplants you, the players, into the middle of a high-adrenaline thriller zombie film where the fate of the world is literally in your hands. The ambience and atmosphere is second to none (no, seriously, I mean it!), and the staff (despite it being very busy when we booked) went above and beyond to make sure we were well looked after.

Sure, it’s a hard room, but also saving the world from a deadly pathogen was never going to be a walk in the park!

Patient Zero 2150 can be booked by heading to AIM Escape’s website here.

clueQuest: PLAN52 | Review

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PLAN52 Review | PLAN52 is a top secret location and a fortress for highly classified archives and data. However, something terrible has happened: four agents who were stationed there have vanished without a trace. We have proof that this was the work of Professor BlackSheep who had help from a clueQuest insider. It is up to you and your team to discover the identity of the double agent. You will have just 60 Minutes to learn who the double agent was and deactivate the security device before the entire facility detonates.

Completion Time: 59:02
Date Played: 5th November 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

There’s nothing quite like back to back escape rooms to satisfy your puzzling needs, so after the nail biting finale of Revenge of the Sheep, we were suitably warmed up (especially after directions to the local coffee shop from the clueQuest team!) and ready to defeat Professor BlackSheep once more.

Not a lock in sight…

PLAN52 was the first escape room offering from clueQuest and although exciting at the time, an office space full of padlocks has now become an all too familiar sight in the escape room world. We were delighted to be informed by our Game Master, Esther that the experience has been lovingly and technically upgraded to be almost fully digitalized.

This made the game feel so much more immersive. When you’re playing a spy, you want your surroundings to pull you in and convince you that you’re genuinely about to save the world. Typing codes into neon red number locks, hacking into computers and automatically triggering big reveals with puzzle solves made the theming of this room so much better than manual puzzles and locks could have offered.

Pay close attention to everything

One of my favourite moments during this game was realising something we had questioned at the very beginning turned out to be a massive clue. Obviously I won’t reveal the answer, but after this point we decided to trust our gut instincts and keep our eyes extra peeled.

It’s a good job, because you’ll have some red herrings to contend with as you make your way through some sneaky puzzles. Frustrating they may be, but they provide a nice nod to the history of the room as well as a chuckle.

You’ll also need to keep an eye out for plenty of hidden objects, which is great for families to ensure everyone can contribute. They all satisfyingly combined for some big puzzle solves towards the end of the game.

No I in Team

One of the trickier puzzles in PLAN52 was one where we were practically in different rooms having to communicate to operate a nifty device. It’s a real test of observation and keeping calm under pressure where the other person can’t see what’s right in front of you, but the reveal is completely worth the potential fall outs!

There were plenty of other cooperative tasks, as well as puzzles which can be solved individually for those who like to separate to cover all bases. There’s something for everyone, from books to mathematics to map reading to building blocks, all your puzzle solving abilities are tested. I especially enjoyed the codebreaking which fitted the theme perfectly.

Another close call

We escaped with less than a minute to spare, and just like Revenge of the Sheep it was a nerve-wracking experience. Our frantically high pitched voices were trying to figure out the final piece of the puzzle as the clock counted down, and it was brilliant to have such an epic end to the game.

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and even if you’ve played it before I’d recommend popping back to see the enhanced version. You won’t be disappointed! The staff at clueQuest are all incredible and will ensure you are completely immersed in your surroundings as well as providing some laughs along the way.

PLAN52 can be booked at clueQuest by heading to their website here.

The Panic Room: CSI Mafia Murders | Review

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CSI Mafia Murders Review | A shooting has happened at the Mafia operated Bonnetti VIP Lounge! The Family has given you approximately 1 hour to investigate the crime scene uninhibited, but you’ll need to solve the case before the police arrive to brush it all under the rug!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

A top-notch online murder mystery experience, where your inner detective will be tested and your enjoyment will thrive. 

Your mission – a robbery and multiple murders have occurred and “the family” wants to know who it was. It is your job to help the family (said in my best New York Italian accent) work out who did the job before the cops track them down, so you can handle them in your own special way! An old friend managed to gain access to the evidence locker at police HQ and now with it in your hands its time to track them down! 

Safe to say, we loved the story. A real true crime case, which doesn’t just tick the “you are a detective” box; its adds this brilliant twist of actually beating the cops to crack the case. It evolves brilliantly and as the evidence stacks up, so does the tension.  

The first thing to mention is the brilliant opening video. It sets the scene very well, tells the story, adds some great imagery and really gives the game its feel. Then add in the New York Italian soundtrack to your game and your atmosphere is complete. 

The puzzles within the game are also very strong – each evidence pack is a puzzle on its own however, don’t just read it as an answer to open the next lock – read a little further into it. Why? Well lets just say, in order to solve the mystery you need to have your detective hat on and not just look at things at face value. The puzzles aren’t hugely difficult on their own for more experienced gamers,  and the experience lends itself well to families with older children (I would say 10 years plus given the subject matter) and keen enthusiasts who love a who done it mystery. Likewise, getting your friends and work colleagues together over video conference software for this would be brilliant.

Another great point in this game is the quality of the evidence which vary vastly from puzzle to puzzle. Some are audio clues, others visual, others are video based. The written documentation is clear yet detailed enough to provide just the write amount of red herrings, so keep a clear head and you will be bound to succeed. If stuck some well structured clues are sat on each web page and you also have the option to reveal the answer – only use this as a last resort – everything is achievable and you’ll certainly get a much greater sense of fulfilment! 

The finale builds the game very well and pulls on all your powers of deduction from the previous puzzles to work out what has unfolded during the robbery. From your exhaustive list of suspects, who actually did it?! We really enjoyed this detective element in the story and makes the game more like an experience than just a set of online puzzles to answer and move on to the next. You can click back and forth through all the evidence once open just in case you have missed anything, but a keen eye will certainly be able to deduce the suspects as you progress through the game.  

When all is said and done, its safe to say we loved this game. Its a very well rounded, well produced online game, with stacks of strong puzzles and a great story line. A great game for enthusiasts and new comers alike, this online experience certainly put the bullet in our gun!  

CSI Mafia Murders can be purchased on The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

Evans & Peel Detective Agency – No Case too Big or Small!

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Date Visited: June 2021
Recommended For: Couples, Special Occasions

Tucked away on an unassuming side alley in Earls Court is a black door that reads “Evans and Peel Detective Agency“. Entry to the door is by appointment with Detective Evans or Peel only, and even then they’ll only accept the most interesting cases. Missing people, scandalous murder, nope, we went for “the case of the missing whisky barrel” and spun a tall tale of illicit gambling parties and a case of rare vintage whisky gone missing. After pointing the finger at a few of our friends, our detective promised to investigate, insisting we’d better stay there while he sent a few of his boys to the property.

With a theatrical knock on the door, the bookcase we’d been sitting beside swung open revealing the most impressive 1920s bar I’ve ever seen. This is the speakeasy, and this is the real reason we booked at Evan and Peel Detective Agency.

Criminal Case, or Case of Wine?

So, if Evans and Peel Detective Agency is a bar, why are we writing about it here on The Escape Roomer? That’s true. There were no escape room mechanics at any point in the ‘experience’, but what it lacks in puzzle games it makes up for in character, roleplay, immersivity and pure wow factor.

We often get follow-up questions when mentioning a specific escape room such as “where would you recommend we go for food in that area?” and if you’re ever in London Evans and Peel is the place to go. It’s exciting, immersive, and feels about as close to playing an escape room as you possibly can sitting down to food and drinks.

We were led to our seats and tucked away at a corner in one of their spacious rooms a little away from where the live music would begin later that evening. Around us, the whole place was lit by candles and chandeliers, constructed in the secret space from crates and barrels and odd items of household whimsy that really completed the speakeasy look.

This attention to detail continues throughout the menu. Each cocktail has a namesake gangster, such as the Forrest Bondurant – a rye sazerac for the tough guys! But what we loved most was how each cocktail was served. Some are served in brown paper bags with little Evans and Peel dollars clipped to it, to keep your silence of course. Others arrived in dainty teacups or portable coffee drippers. All household items, as if we’d wandered into somebody’s home roughly converted into a speakeasy and ready to disappear at a moment’s notice.

It was… Magical!

Evans & Peel Menu

Drink and dance and laugh and lie, Love, the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow we shall die! (But, alas, we never do.)”

Dorothy Parker

As we drank (and danced, and laughed…), the Detective himself between taking new cases wandered the speakeasy and sat down at tables to update the patrons on their case. Over the course of the evening he came to learn our names, joked with us, and chatted to us for hours. Dare I say it, I think we all fell a little bit in love with him that night.

What was so magical was that this underground world was a million miles from the street level, just above us. Here we stepped back into the 1920s and for one night only were the starring guys and gals in our own detective drama. At the end, stepping back into the cold night air was a depressing return to reality.

As a final note, to address the elephant in the room: The Price. We visited as a table of 4 and spent over £350 which is more than I’ve ever spent in any establishment ever. No, seriously. That said, it was my 25th birthday and I’d just received a modest pay rise at work. For that price we all ate, consumed several cocktails each, enjoyed live music, and stayed from opening til almost-close. So was it worth it? Absolutely. I am still daydreaming about Evans and Peel Detective Agency six months later, and I daresay I’ll take the happy memory of visiting to my grave.

The Evans and Peel Detective Agency is located in Earls Court, London and can be booked in advance here.

Emergency Exit: The Studies of Dr. Becker | Review

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The Studies of Dr. Becker Review | You are invited to spend an hour with the famous Dr. Becker at Boleskine Lodge Practice. He is currently with another patient and will be with you shortly. In the meantime make yourself at home and enjoy his hospitality and his study – a beautiful place decorated with his bizarre collection of strange and wonderful things. But do not dig too deeply as things are not always as they seem in this place, after all it is well known that some of his previous guests are still there after volunteering to help with his studies. Dr. Becker has a past which is questionable at best and not everyone agrees with his methods.

Completion Time: About 1 hour
Date Played: January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

What’s your favourite scary movie?

What’s everyone’s favourite thing about horror movies? Scream…Halloween.. the many, many Friday 13ths!…Yes, it’s the sequels! Everyone loves returning to that creepy place they have become so familiar with from the original film that sparked the cult following. Well, what Emergency Exit have created with ‘The Studies of Dr Becker’ feels very reminiscent of this. Dr Becker is the third part of what is now a trilogy of escape games focused around Crowley Manor, the infamous house of Aleister Crowley.

Now, you may or may not know the name Aleister Crowley. In case you don’t, he was a real English Occultist in the 20th Century, and boy did he enjoy dabbling in creepy stuff! The lore around his mysterious life is a fittingly creepy setting for a series of scary escapes. The trilogy centres around Crowley Manor where the In:Theory investigators decide to sneak in to snoop around and find out what’s going down, and unfortunately find themselves WAAAAAAY in over their heads!

We came across Emergency Exit while we were in lockdown during COVID last year when everyone was looking to virtual means to get their escape fix, and The Beast was receiving rave reviews from the escape community. We managed to convince our friends Tasha and Mairi (aka the scaredy cats) to join us for this scary adventure (after all how bad can a virtual scare be?!) and we all loved the thrill of it (despite the varying degrees of fear we experienced). Since lockdown easing, Emergency Exit have reopened their doors to in-person bookings and created the third part of the trilogy, The Studies of Dr Becker. While we were super keen to return to the Crowley Manor story, we wanted to continue the story with the team we started out with. Therefore we were excited to find out that Dr Becker has recently been made available to play online too, and got the gang back together (virtually)!

Online games work well for us as a team still as geography does not favour in-person rooms. With us in the North, and Mairi based in London, we love to still plan in a regular escape in the online world. Recently it’s been a lot of Telescape rooms, which we love. But what better way to brighten up a gloomy Friday evening that by dabbling in the occult. The hosted virtual game, played through Zoom, is really immersive and arguably offers even more than the in-person experience. Not only do you get to play the room in full, but you get the additional fun of working with the In:Theory team to solve the room.

Previously on…

Emergency Exit have put a lot into putting on a show in their rooms; hosting the game on Zoom requires 2 people who you interact with (the In:Theory team) and the story is extremely important. While each of the games are playable as a standalone, the overarching story is really cohesive and adds an extra layer of enjoyment knowing the backstory.

Previously in Crowley Manor: The In:Theory team managed to accidentally summon Surgat, Demon of Locks (very apt). Woopsie! Let’s see what happens to them next…

What happens to them next? They find themselves in Boleskine Lodge Practice, under the care of creepy Dr Becker, who is ‘treating’ them to help them forget their experiences in Crowley Manor. However, Dr Becker’s practices are…questionable….and there’s more to why he wants you to forget the demonic apparitions. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well, you’ll have to play to find out more, but let’s just say, Boleskine Lodge Practice ever so conveniently happens to be attached to Crowley Manor. That is to say, the In:Theory team STILL haven’t managed to escape Crowley Manor yet!

Lights, camera…is that someone’s BUM?

This is where you rejoin the In:Theory team as the voices inside your host’s head. Interacting with the hosts is one of our favourite parts about the Emergency Exit rooms (a bit because if any bad stuff were to happen in the room, it was happening to them and not us). But they really MAKE the experience; not only do you get to explore the room and solve puzzles, instructing your host as to what they should look at or do next, but the story is really brought into it’s own by James and Liam. James was our main host, and Liam is the dedicated cameraman. And boy is he dedicated to his role, ensuring that no matter what the occult throws his way, you always have a clear view of what’s going on around the space you’re in. And they’re funny! A bit of light relief from bantering with your hosts works really well to lighten the mood after a period of tension.

There are some pre-recorded sections which are transitioned into smoothly and which helped to accentuate the story with dramatic ‘cut scenes’. This includes an extremely dramatic conclusion to the story, which we enjoyed. While we’re sure the in-person experience is equally fun to play, we really feel like the Emergency Exit team have NAILED the online hosted escape room! The way it runs feels so reminiscent of a horror movie, but with the added element of choosing the decisions the characters make and, of course, what we all came here for in the first place- puzzle solving! For this reason, we’ve decided to award it the Immersion Badge!

The puzzles are all well-fitting with the theme and add an element of mystery, as they are well-integrated into the demonic, occultish storyline. Fear not, there is plenty to do in terms of puzzling in this room, you just also get the added bonus of a suspenseful horror movie setup!

The Verdict

We would really recommend playing The Studies of Dr Becker (and its predecessors if you haven’t yet). We are sure that an in-person visit would be equally fun but we can’t stop raving about the online hosted experience. At £20pp (for a four player team), this is a great way to spend your Friday night.

Please note that there are some creepy sections and mild gore, but these are generally not too scary so don’t let this put you off. We mentioned afterwards that we felt this was less scary than The Beast, but we enjoyed it just as much!

The Studies of Dr. Becker, either the live or remote avatar version, can be booked by heading to E-Exit’s website here.

A List of All Escape Room Conventions and Conferences

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The escape room industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world – from an estimated 3,000 escape rooms globally in 2016, there’s currently well over 50,000 in 2021! With great escape rooms, come fantastic conventions and conferences to mix, mingle, and most importantly learn from the best designers and enthusiasts out there.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest escape room conventions and conferences taking place around the world:

Escape Room Conventions & Conferences

TransWorld’s Room Escape Conference

When: April
Where: USA (City Subject to Change)
Attendance Size: Unknown

Transworld’s Room Escape Conference takes place in St. Louis, MO each year and is estimated to be the largest dedicated escape room convention out there. It features seminars, exhibitions, new technology, parties and mixers, and several hands-on demos.

Photo (c) TransWorld

Up The Game

When: May
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Attendance Size: Unknown

In recent years, thanks to the global panini (yes, we really just called it that!), Up the Game has gone fully digital. But pre-pandemic the convention saw great success after it’s foundation in 2016. Primarily, Up the Game is focused on the owner rather than the enthusiast. Topics of discussion and seminars include collaboration, business, innovation, technology, marketing and so on.

Up the Game

Reality Escape Con

When: August
Where: Boston, USA
Attendance Size: 900 approx

Hosted by bloggers, Room Escape Artist, RECON is one of the newer escape room conventions but gaining traction and popularity quickly! With headliners like Neil Patrick Harris during the digital RECON in 2021, RECON’s focus is on creating a convention for enthusiasts and owners alike. Expect workshops, games, immersive experiences, and lectures.

Graphic (c) RECON

ERIC – Escape Room Industry Convention

When: October
Where: United Kingdom
Attendance Size: 500-1,000 approx

Whilst technically closed since the world went into lockdown, ERIC gets a special place on this list as it’s UK based (as we are) and we hope it will return in full force just as soon as the world reopens. ERIC is geared towards owners and creators, showcasing new technology and innovation alongside a series of talks focused on topics like business ownership, management, and collaboration. It pulls in a wide range of expects and speakers from all over Europe.

Image (c) ERIC UK

Immersive Theatre Experience Conventions

Immersive theatre is theatre production in which the audience plays a crucial role. We’ve seen a lot of blurred lined between escape rooms and high quality immersive productions recently, such as events like The Drop, or audio adventures like Morpheus Show. As escape rooms become even more innovative there’ll likely be no distinction in the future. But for now, check out the following conventions to see the very cutting edge in escape room innovation:

The Next Stage

When: January
Where:
Los Angelus, USA
Attendance Size: Unknown

The Next Stage has an honorary place on this list because… Thanks to you know what… It’s premier show has been cancelled in 2022! We’re not sure exactly what to expect from The Next Stage onwards, but we’re sure that when it is safe to launch, it’ll be something special!

Electric Dreams Festival

When: July
Where:
United Kingdom
Attendance Size: Unknown

A self-proclaimed festival of storytelling through cyberspace, and somewhere where you’ll see fantastic immersive escape room media such as Swamp Motel’s Plymouth Point really come out. Each year every title in the digital show and every talk in the roster sends us down a rabbit hole of mystery and intrigue. Fans of the immersive, genre defying experiences, do not miss this!

Immersive Home Coming Summit

When: August
Where:
Las Vegas, USA
Attendance Size: Unknown

The Immersive Industry Homecoming Summit is a gathering of creators within the immersive world- yep, that includes escape rooms too! With features like Disney, Meow Wolf, AREA15, Broadway, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and many more, this summit is sure to impress each year. Shut up and take my money!

Image (c) Immersive Homecoming Summit

Tabletop Gaming Conventions and Expos

In these tabletop gaming conventions, recent innovations from escape room companies who have turned their hand to creating immersive, tabletop puzzle adventures can be discovered. For fans of the escape room industry – these expos are not to be missed!

UK Games Expo

When: June
Where:
Birmingham, UK
Attendance Size: 50,000 approx

The UK Games Expo punches well above it’s weight and pulls in a huge amount of visitors from the UK and Europe. But the most important part? It’s very well represented in the escape room industry. From local escape room exhibits, to popular tabletop puzzle makers like The Detective Society, Escape Plan, and 404 Escape there’s something for everyone at the UKGE.

Photo (c) Ben Broomfield

Origins Game Fair

When: June
Where:
Columbus, USA
Attendance Size: 20,000 approx

One of the oldest conventions on this list, the Origins Game Fair was first held in 1975. Today it’s grown to a large size and serves all manner of tabletop games – from escape room games, to board games, to wargaming and miniature gaming.

Image (c) Dicebreaker

Gen Con Indy

When: August
Where: Indiana, USA
Attendance Size: 70,000 approx

Part of the Gen Con group, Gen Con Indy is the live convention for tabletop games. Arguably the largest in the United States, Gen Con Indy is home to a range of tabletop games including escape room games – but also pen and paper, roleplaying, wargames, collectable cards, and even live action roleplay. It’s a fantastic haven for all things geeky – not just escape rooms and puzzle games.

Photo (c) Jeff Vrabel in Indianapolis Monthly

Essen Spiel

When: October
Where: Essen, Germany
Attendance Size: 210,000 approx

Taking place every October in Germany, Essen Spiel is the convention for board game enthusiasts and an excellent place to pick up a brand new boxed escape game and meet likeminded enthusiasts. It boasts the highest attendance numbers in all of Europe and is a platform for many exciting talks, workshops, and play tests.

Photo (c) Essen Spiel

PAX Unplugged

When: December
Where: USA (City Subject to Change)
Attendance Size: 40,000 approx

PAX Unplugged is part of the PAX group of expos, but this one specifically focuses on tabletop games. It features an enormous hall filled with tabletop gaming curated from decades of PAX shows, and plenty of panels and presentations. Escape room enthusiasts will enjoy big releases from the likes of Thames & Kosmos, Unlocked! and other publishers.

Photo (c) Dicebreakers

Have we missed your favourite convention or conference? Let us know in the comments below.