Natural History Museum: Mystery at the Museum – The Search for Dippy | Review

Mystery at the Museum: The Search for Dippy Review | The year is 1905 and you have been invited to a special preview of the newest display at the Natural History Museum – ‘Dippy the Diplodocus’.  But when you arrive the curators are in a panic and you realise something is amiss – you’ve found a note that tells you several parts of Dippy the Diplodocus are going to be stolen before the display opens!  Follow the clues around the Museum, question the suspects and track down the culprit before the King arrives for the display’s launch. Can you help the curators prevent a national scandal?

Date played: October 2022
Time taken: 90 mins
Number of players: 3
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

 

Night at the Museum

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Which of us wouldn’t leap at the chance to sneak around behind the scenes in a museum after the public have been ushered out and the doors locked behind them? And when that museum is London’s Natural History Museum in South Kensington the appeal is even greater.  London’s museums and galleries have long embraced the idea of late, after dark openings with extra access to exhibitions alongside bars and live music.  But the NHM’s ‘mystery’ evening might be the first time a museum has allowed eager ER enthusiasts and puzzle hunters to roam its corridors in search of suspects and solutions.  Trying to temper my excitement that, at nightfall and behind closed doors, the exhibits might come to life for me as they did for Ben Stiller, I headed down to South Ken to find out if my detectoring skills were up to solving the mystery at the museum.

Impressive Game Space

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

First up, wow.  Just wow.  When we arrive at dusk the Natural History Museum is looking glorious in the gloaming.  It really is a stunning piece of Victorian architecture which lives up to it’s ‘Cathedral of Nature’ epithet.  Entering under the main arch is thrilling when you realise that you’re really about to have this vast space to yourselves for the evening.  Well, you and probably 75 other people.  And only a few of the galleries.  But still.  You still feel… special.

But if there’s anything that’s guaranteed to make you feel insignificant rather than special it’s the humungous skeleton of a blue whale that greets you as you enter the central Hintze Hall.  Suspended dramatically from the ceiling and lit up in startling red, the whale certainly draws your attention.  There’s not much time, however, to feel the vast inferiority of the human species because as soon as you arrive a game card is pushed into your hand and you are whisked off to meet Inspector Lestrade.  The game, it seems, is already afoot.

 

Prehistoric Puzzling

 

One word of warning – although the publicity for this event promotes it as an ‘escape room-like game’, it is most definitely not an escape room.  Arrive expecting an ER and you will be disappointed.  Attempt to rummage around the museum, opening drawers and searching cabinets as you would in an ER and you’re likely to be expelled!  But while it isn’t an ER that doesn’t stop it being a whole heap of fun.

To get started you need to read the game card you were given on arrival.  It outlines the mystery that faces you.  The unveiling of the new exhibition featuring the skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus is due to take place tomorrow.  But a suspicious note has been found, suggesting a crime will take place before the grand opening and which could plunge the museum into unwanted scandal.  The game card also gives you the names and brief bios of six suspects who have been ordered to stay in the museum by Lestrade until the case has been closed.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Lestrade also gives you a copy of the note and your next task is to decipher it.  This is really the only actual puzzle involved in the game and it’s not especially hard but does get you moving around the galleries that surround the main museum hall.  And stopping to ask a few of those suspects some penetrating questions along the way will also help your case solving.

Because this is mostly about interacting with those suspects.  It’s really a traditional ‘whodunnit’ and you will get the most out of your evening and the event if you spend time grilling the suspects (whose period costume makes them easy to spot) and honing your theories.  You can question them as often and for as long as you like, or listen in as other players ask their own questions.  Although they may tell you a few lies, they will also give you some nuggets of truth and if you can unpick their elaborate webs of accusations, fabrications, deflections and evasions, you might just be able to work out, in the words of Mr Sherlock Holmes himself, who had the “means, motive and opportunity” to commit the crime.

 

Dippy’s Dino Denouement

 

Once you’ve solved the opening puzzle, interrogated your suspects and worked out a convincing theory you can take your hypothesis and test it on Sherlock.  Holmes solved the mystery in 17 minutes himself so he’s happy to throw you a bone or two if you’re not quite on the mark.  And if, after a couple of guesses, you’re still not 100% correct, Holmes will take pity on you and give you the full story.  Because no-one wants to go home without knowing who really did design to destroy Dippy’s debut.

 

The Verdict?

 

Overall, if you approach this as a mystery solving game along the lines of a traditional murder whodunnit then you will have loads of fun.  The mystery is sufficiently knotty to keep you questioning suspects and untangling theoretical threads for well over an hour and, for the adults, there’s an in venue bar to keep your whistle wet and your mind sharp.  Full kudos to the actors playing the suspects who handle even the most obscure of questions with aplomb, keep in character throughout and manage to retain details of the multiple narrative threads all while dropping gentle hints and prods to get you moving in the right direction.  And the venue itself, the access to certain areas of it after hours and when it’s empty of tourists, is worth the price of admission alone.

A few minor niggles.  Any expectations of difficult tradition ER puzzling will be disappointed and I think, personally, that they should remove the reference to an ‘escape room-like game’ from promotional material and instead focus on the massive positive of it being a strong mystery-solving evening.   Those ER players who don’t enjoy engaging with live performers will want to steer clear as well.  Talking to the actors throughout is the only way to play this game.

There were also some weaknesses in communication that left us unaware we had to take our final conclusions to Holmes to be checked.  It was only when we eavesdropped on other groups that we realised.  And there’s no satisfyingly dramatic conclusion when the culprit is officially unmasked.  Because the event has a staggered start time with groups arriving and getting started throughout the evening, everyone reaches their final answer at different times.  Once we’d reported to Holmes, that was it.  Game no longer afoot.  So the evening sort of petered out.

We had a fun evening though.  Not too strenuous on the little grey cells, but a nice little mystery to solve in a fantastic location.

 

This event runs for a limited number of days in October and November. Book via the Natural History Museum website here.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

Local Bonus

If you want to get into a suitable detective frame of mind before the game, or want to continue afterwards, then I highly recommend a visit to the Evans and Peel detective agency (about a 15 minute walk away).  A secret speakeasy bar with a fantastic, and inventive, cocktail menu, you need to provide a good cover story before you can gain access.  The more imaginative and bonkers the better.  It’s advised to book.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Ct Rd, London SW5 9BA

 

TED X Marriott: The Curiosity Room | Review

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The Curiosity Room London Review | Sparking curiosity from the start, guests embark on the adventure immediately upon entry to the room. The entire room is a puzzle box waiting to be solved. Puzzle elements have been seamlessly hidden within the décor; solving them all will lead guests to a grand finale and series of surprises and rewards. The puzzles have also been customized to the three destinations, featuring and celebrating local landmarks, culture, and more. Guests will uncover hidden messages, hunt for puzzle pieces, and experience elements of the room in unexpected and delightful ways. The room’s Curiosity Journal serves as the guide and connection to the one-of-a-kind in-room journey, with hints available in case guests need a helpful hand. When the final challenge has been completed, guests receive a certificate of completion and can celebrate with a complimentary dessert in the hotel’s restaurant.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 2nd October 2022
Party Size: 6
Difficulty: Easy

As escape room enthusiasts we often travel to experience the escape room scene in other cities. Escape rooms and travel go hand in hand… So its surprising that no one had really capitalised on this until TED teamed up with Marriott Hotels to bring a unique escape room twist to their hotel rooms. “The Curiosity Room” is the first of these experiences, a collaboration of immersive experience and physical, in-person hotels and is popping up at the Marriott Hotels in San Francisco, Bangkok and right here in London. We couldn’t wait to try it!

Our First Impressions of the Curiosity Room

When we arrived it was very clearly the 5-star service you would expect from London Marriott Hotel County Hall. The staff were all very polite and welcoming, and once we entered the room it was so immaculate and beautiful. The initial starting point was immediately obvious, in a very tantalising way, so we were soon off searching the room for further clues and admiring the beauty within.

 

 

TED X Marriott on Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, those in The Curiosity Room were quite linear, but this worked fairly well given this is very much a self-guided room. Clues were given via a journal and a web page, which provided an increasing level scale of hints until finally giving the answer. We found many ‘wow’ moments throughout but often realized we had come to a puzzle too early, so put it back until that point arose.

For traditional escape room players, this was one of the slight negatives in the room. All escape room players know how to search for clues, but this proved detrimental here (despite the first puzzle requiring you to search), as often it meant jumping ahead, potentially confusing the story or ruining the surprise of a later puzzle.

That said, many of the puzzles themselves were actually quite unique and exciting to discover. There weren’t too many jumps in logic, and even as a team of experienced players we still found ourselves excited by many of the techniques used. It was certainly more puzzle-y than I had anticipated going in, which was a bonus! They clearly put a lot of thought and passion into these puzzles, which were all varied and interesting; mixing physical, hands-on puzzles with wordy brainteasers. The fact this room isn’t timed is also a nice touchs – we were able to slow down and really enjoy each puzzle together as a team. This will also appeal to families staying in the room, as many of the puzzles used physical elements to trigger/solve the puzzles.

 

A ‘Hotel’ly New Escape Room

In terms of the room itself, The Curiosity Room is first and foremost a room to stay in. It was beautifully decorated with a large mural of London (by artist Caleb Morris) on the wall, which was a nice touch to the theming and almost outshone the amazing view from the window. The use of space was really well thought out, although the puzzles were largely contained to the sleeping area. It may have been nice to see the puzzles extend to more of the physical space. But we understand the physical limitations.

On the other hand, we felt that although it’s called ‘The Curiosity Room’ there weren’t that many elements that played with this theme. There were a few books about London and one or two puzzles which might have been fun for younger players to figure out, but otherwise not too many things that taught us new things or sparked our curiosity about London itself.

 

A Note on Technical Issues

In our particular playthrough, there were some technical issues which stopped us for over an hour. Not the worst thing in the world, as we enjoyed the opportunity to simply relax on the very comfy beds and have a chat to each other while the staff fixed those issues. But in general, technical issues like the ones we experienced do hamper an escape room’s flow.

As we were amongst the first teams to play the room, it’s not surprising that there were issues or that it took time for them to be fixed. We imagine, or rather we hope it will be much smoother in the future!

When everything did work the technical elements were impressive and would have thrown up some sweet little surprises if our mechanical issues hadn’t pre-empted them. Teething issues aside, we think it’s clearly a high-quality room and high-quality production.

 

The Curiosity Room: The Verdict

Before discussing the verdict of the room, we need to mention the elephant in the room. The price, which will likely be the biggest barrier for any escape room enthusiasts interested in playing. One night at the London Marriott Hotel County Hall is a minimum of £405, and I believe you have to book this room for at least 2 nights. It does sleep 4 (and it’s a very high-quality room with a glorious London view), but that’s obviously quite a bit of commitment, especially as you can’t pay to play the game element of the room alone. To reiterate, you do have to book to stay overnight in order to experience The Curiosity Room.

If you remove the price element, this was a really fun and special room. The Curiosity Room is targeted at families, so the level of puzzling isn’t overly challenging but the combination of quirky interactions with the room itself and some lovely ‘wow’ moments it’s definitely a great overall experience. And if you’re an escape room player with a sweet tooth there’s an added attraction.  Solve the puzzles and you’ll win a sharing dessert from the London Marriott Hotel County Hall’s restaurant, Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar, where you can also indulge in locally sourced steaks and, if all that puzzling has left you with a thirst, choose from over 100 gins.

If you were considering staying somewhere for a similar budget anyway then we’d definitely recommend this. Similarly, we would recommend checking it out if they ever opened any slots for just the escape room alone, but otherwise, I count myself lucky that I had a chance to play!

 

The Curiosity Room can be booked on the London Marriott Hotel County Hall website.

ER Champ Begins Soon – Are You Ready?

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Calling all escape room enthusiasts! ER Champ is BACK for 2022. It’s bigger and better than ever, and team The Escape Roomer cannot wait.

 

What is ER Champ?

The Escape Room Championship (or ER Champ for short) is an annual escape room championship crowning the world’s best escape room players. Since the lockdown, the competition has pivoted from it’s in-person origins in Poland, to a digital event anyone can play from anywhere in the world. Instead of locks and keys, the puzzles are cerebral and require pointing and clicking, deciphering passwords, and inputting data into your browser to ‘escape’.

Throughout the ER Champ, thousands of teams of 2 – 4 players compete for the fastest time over a series of eliminations, then the finale. This year an estimated 800 teams will compete for the title, but only 100 of the fastest teams will make it through from eliminations to the finale. Competition is tough!

Last year in 2021, 823 teams took part but CKCOS from Taiwan won, with two Japanese teams taking second and third place. Sadly, none of the teams from The Escape Roomer made the finale. But perhaps the real finale was the friends we made along the way- or perhaps we’re just going to double down on our efforts for this year.

Want to take us, and 800+ other teams on? You can sign up right now. Participation is completely free and can be done at any time by heading to the ER Champ website.

 

 

ER Champ Dates for your Diary

Make a note now! There are two rounds to the ER Champ and you won’t want to miss it.

  • ER Champ Pre-Game Livestream: November 5th 2022 at 3:30 PM UTC
  • ER Champ Elimination Competition: November 5th 2022
  • ER Champ Finale Competition: November 26th 2022
  • ER Champ Winners Announced: November 30th 2022

ER Champ 2022 Prizes

This year the first, second and third placed teams can enjoy the following prizes.

 

 

Important ER Champ Links

The 10 Best Non-Escape Room Things to do in London

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Now I know what you’re thinking.

Why are we The Escape Roomer, writing an article about the best things to do in London which AREN’T escape rooms? Probably for the same reason as you’re reading this – we have all been burdened with various friends, relatives, and co-workers who want to do ‘something fun’ in the city, but aren’t that into escape rooms! Can you believe it?

Not to worry though – we have you covered. Here are our top 10 things to do in the capital in the summer of 2022 that will scratch that immersive, co-operative itch for you, without resorting to locking your loved ones in a room for an hour.

First up…

 

Monopoly Lifesized

 

Image (c) Monopoly Lifesized

I’m personally not a fan of Monopoly – it’s one of my least favourite games and I can’t think of the last time I played an actual game. However, Monopoly Lifesized is in fact nothing like monopoly… Or at least it has none of the bad parts.

For starters, the board has been grown to actual size but reduced to only 12 properties. You play as a team of up to 6, facing up to 3 other teams. Every other turn you role the dice, land on a property, and enter the mini-room to complete a challenge! These challenges are very escape room-esque and vary square to square. Unlike other experiences you may be familiar with, you have a decent amount of time to play and enjoy these – and get your head around them! Plus did we mention there’s a themed bar and restaurant on-site?

We had an absolute blast and will definitely be returning. The only downside? The price runs a little high when compared to escape rooms, and given the experience is still only an hour.

Location: Tottenham Court Road

Price: From £49 per person

Website: https://www.monopolylifesized.com

The Grid

 

The Grid is what you get when you cross an escape room with cocktails and honestly, what’s not to love?! Our Chief Mairi recently visited this mashup from We Are Lollipop, and you can read our glowing review here! There are many similar cocktail/puzzle experiences across London for example the recently opened H-Division, but The Grid is our favourite and is as close to a physical escape room you can get. It’s got an underground rabbit warren of cyberpunk-like environments, wacky bubbling cocktails, a host of brilliant characters, and a slide.

Location: Southwark

Price: From £32 per person, which includes 2 cocktails and a welcome drink of your choice each!

Website: https://www.thegrid.london/home

Hidden City Outdoor Puzzle Trails

 

Photo (C) Hidden City

One of our favourite things to do in London on a sunny day is an outdoor puzzle trail. We recently covered off our favourites in a post here, so for the purposes of this article we’ll just mention one of our personal favourites – Hidden City. These are the first trails I did pre-pandemic and I love everything about them… From discovering hidden facets of busy streets, to exploring completely new areas where there’s is mystery around every corner.

I particularly enjoy Hidden City for how they integrate the real world into their trails and the style of puzzles. Plus they almost always offer a delicious treat for teams who manage to solve all the puzzles and make it to the finish line. If you’ve only got a day or two in London and want to be guided around by Sherlock Holmes or an Evil Queen whilst exploring the great outdoors, then look no further.

Location: Various

Price: £25 per player

Website: https://www.inthehiddencity.com/

Draughts Board Game Café

 

 

If you prefer something a little less active, why not try out one of the many board game cafés London has dotted around. The best known and one of my personal favourites is Draughts Waterloo. Based in Leake Street tunnels, Draughts is perfectly placed for transport, serves some delicious food and drinks and have quite literally hundreds of games in their library. I love the atmosphere here, and it’s one of my favourite places for a fun time with friends. When you visit, be sure to ask them what puzzle games they have available! Draughts’ second venue is located in Hackney.

Location: Waterloo or Hackney

Price: Cover price is £6 per player

Website: https://www.draughtslondon.com/

Electric Gamebox

 

Photo (c) Electric Gamebox

Board games not your thing? Prefer something a little more active? Then you should check out Electric Gamebox! Electric Gamebox have absolutely exploded in size recently. Going from one small venue in London Southbank to hundreds across the UK and the USA. The Southbank venue has a special place in our heart as it’s the venue we’ve played at, but wherever your nearest site is located you’ll be sure to find an excellent a variety of games, from puzzles to physical, all played out in a 3D space using a visor. We had great fun making absolute fools of ourselves and we were all kept on our toes throughout.

Location: Southbank or Wandsworth

Price: From £11 for children, £16 for adults (Off-peak)

Website: https://electricgamebox.com/

Otherworld VR

 

Photo (c) OtherWorld

Take things a step further and go fully immersive in VR. Otherworld is my favourite VR venue – the location is suitably sci-fi themed, with individual pods and even fancy Japanese toilets. It’s an excellent spot to take larger groups and there’s sure to be something for everyone. There are an abundance of games to play from first-person shooters to relaxing painting games and even some puzzle games. If VR is your thing then they also offer a loyalty programme where you can convert your virtual points for real-world food and drinks! Closer to Battersea, you can also check out DNA VR. A similar concept, and just as fun for a trip to a fantastical alternate world.

Location: Hackney or Victoria

Price: From £11 (Off-peak)

Website: https://www.other.world/vr-games

SENSAS, A Multi-Sensory Experience

 

Team The Escape Roomer at SENSAS

If you’re looking for something even more unique and varied, check out ‘SENSAS’. This is a multi-sensory experience where for two hours, you will embark on a series of challenges like nothing else in the world. Whilst nothing like an escape room, you’ll certainly be pushed to your limits with a series of zones all designed to test your senses: Taste, Touch, Smell, Sight and Sound. Was it fun? Did we have a good time? Would we recommend it? The answer to all of these questions with SENSAS is a resounding YES. In addition, by surpassing yourself, you will collect a number of SENSAS Charms which will be converted into a donation that SENSAS makes for its partner charity supporting people with disabilities. Have fun and do good in the world? We love it.

If you’re looking for something similar but more relaxed, why not head to Dreamachine – similarly touted as an immersive, sensory experience, but for this one only your mind will be moving!

Location: Vauxhall

Price: £34 per adult

Website: https://london.sensas.top/

Try One of London’s Many Theatre Shows

 

 

London is well known for the West End, so if you’re looking for a perfect non-escape room activity, you can’t go wrong by heading to see a show! To appeal to your sense of mystery, we recommend the world’s longest-running play: The Mousetrap. This is the classic murder-mystery play, written by the Queen of Murder Mystery herself.

If you prefer your mystery plays even more interactive, we also recommend another Agatha Christie play – ‘Witness for the Prosecution‘, which brings the audience into the play via the set design.

Finally, if something a bit more light-hearted (and family-friendly) is what you’re looking for I highly recommend checking out ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ – one of the funniest and cleverest plays out there. Fun fact; one of the original creators is also one of the creators of ‘The Mystery Agency‘ play-at-home escape rooms!

Evans & Peel Detective Agency

 

Photo (c) Evans and Peel Detective Agency

If you want drinks with a side of deception, Evans & Peel is the place for you! This is possibly one of the best speakeasies in London (and their website boasts that they serve they officially serve the World’s Best Old Fashioned – we can attest, it’s delicious!), but still a relatively unknown hidden gem for many! Put on your best dress and conjure up an excellent case to take to the detectives and if they deem it interesting enough, the bookcase will swing out and you’ll be invited into the hidden bar. When we visited, we took the case of the missing whiskey bottle and pointed the finger at the second group of friends joining us. You can either choose to do nothing more than enjoy the atmosphere, live music and refreshments, or throw yourself head first into the ‘mystery’ you’ve created by interacting with the hosts, the detectives and other visitors around you.

Location: Chelsea

Price: Cocktails are around £12

Website: https://www.evansandpeel.com/

Other Immersive Experiences in London this Summer

 

Photo (c) Phantom Peak

Immersive theatre isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there’s no doubting that there are some outstanding immersive theatre events taking place in London this summer. We’re particularly looking forward to Phantom Peak, the wild west town with a mystery that’s due to open in August. If that’s not your thing, over in the centre of Camden Market you’ll find Tomb Raider: The Live Experience inspired by the infamous Lara Croft video games (though take note, it’s heavy on physical activity and light on puzzles). At the Tower of London there’s a brand new immersive experience by the creators of the brilliant War of the Worlds Immersive, this time themed around Guy Fawkes and called The Gunpower Plot featuring Tom Felton! Finally, one of the highest-rated companies, Punchdrunk, is back with their Trojan-inspired experience. You can’t go wrong with Punchdrunk, so it’s sure to be something special.

 

With that, we conclude our roundup of the best non-escape room things do to in London this summer.

Have we missed your favourite activity? Let us know in the comments below.

Interview with Jamie from Challenger Escapes

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A few months ago, I completed the DecodeXP teambuilding day with my workplace. Throughout the day I spent quite a bit of time discussing all things escape rooms with Jamie and had such interesting discussions I knew I had to interview him! It took a few months, but we managed to grab a coffee together and he gave me a chance to pick his brains.

 

 

Hey Jamie! Great to see you again. One of the things that struck me before was your interesting background. Could you remind me about it?

I was an army officer for about six years, and I still do some things with the reserves. When I was about 25 a group of us took a trip to Budapest and we did three or four more advanced escape rooms there. It made me realise three things – firstly, the complexity of the build in Budapest was way ahead of what there was in Europe at the time, which meant there was the opportunity for the tech to be used better in the UK. Second, we picked up on the fact that the team in the escape room really reflected what we were like in real life, and I was especially interested in the dominant and less dominant characteristics coming out in that environment. Finally, the time you’re in an escape room is completely unique and personal to you, which is an incredibly powerful time that has relevance in the corporate and business world. Earning a free sample or a team photo, rather than buying it or just being handed it, is a massively profound change on the way you think about that.

Long story short we decided to test these theories and we created the first room in the UK to be built in a shipping container! It was 40ft long, called “Heist”, and it allowed us to learn how to build experiences. From there, we kind of wanted to focus on not just commercial experiences, but whether we could get brands to offer this to their people as a retention or internal marketing strategy. We tested this with Dyson, who was our first big client, and I worked with their engineers to build a room harnessing different bits of Dyson technology.

 

There’s a really cool YouTube video you can watch here!

 

 

I saw the video of that! I think it was amazing how you worked the Dyson technology in, and I think it was Dyson’s most popular social media campaign that year? That was pre-covid though – I imagine the pandemic affected your business quite a bit?

Yeah, during Covid we obviously couldn’t run these in-person rooms anymore, but it gave us the time to focus on creating DecodeXP. We took the best we could find in the industry and the army and brought this team of behavioural analysts together to create a product we knew would be valuable once we came out of Covid.

 

Your experiences are always unique. Do you have a philosophy or method for designing your rooms?

We’re continually iterating on how to make problem-solving a learned skill, rather than just something we do day-to-day but don’t practice. We basically want to focus on the needs of the client first; understanding that and then developing the experience afterwards, which is a bit different from how others maybe do it. Our Samsung room was a great example of this – the initial brief mentioned that it was for an influencer campaign, but it was only after spending time talking to Samsung that we realised the intention was to livestream the room, which meant we wanted to have lots of puzzles which were quick and easy to solve (no one wants to watch someone sat there thinking for a while), and make sure there were lots of flashy effects and wow moments that would look great on camera and make great content.

 

Of all the experiences you’ve created, what is the most fun or satisfying puzzle you created?

We’re about to launch an escape in the Aviation Gin distillery, which I think is unbelievable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Ryan Reynolds, but the marketing agency had a very clear vision which we’ve replicated in the escape room. There are some really fun things in that room, like having to make a cocktail. It’s definitely the most satisfied I’ve been with a room.

 

 

Assuming you enjoy escape rooms yourself, what is your favourite trope to see?

The element of surprise. Anyone who has done a few rooms realises there’s an element of continuity, so anytime I’m genuinely surprised by an outcome it’s really cool. There are some great moments in the latest ClueQuest room that kind of completely flip what it is to be an escape room on its head. I think that’s the next stage for more traditional escape rooms – finding ways to break off the narrative. There’s a need to continually innovate now, especially in bigger towns and cities.

 

What would be your dream escape room to play, and what would be your dream room to design/build?

Before Covid we were talking to Darren Brown for a while. I’m also a fan of how immersive ‘The Crystal Maze’ experience is and the way the actor and set are used there. I think there’s a market for an escape room that offers multiple endings, that you can do more than once as an individual and have different outcomes. We’ve got some rough designs for this already, but I’d need to get funding for it.

 

Do you find there’s much difference between UK and US rooms?

I think we’re probably still slightly behind America. In America, some of the rooms we did were just next level. Not necessarily in terms of puzzles or narrative, but in terms of set design. The stuff that these guys do is awesome and really immersive. There’s no need for reliance on padlocks anymore – you can get electronic locks and even full puzzles fairly cheaply, so there’s not really any excuse anymore.

 

What about theme? Is there one theme you haven’t seen that you think is being missed/slept on?

I’ve not yet done a space-based room, certainly in the UK, that I can look back on and go “That was really, really cool.” So maybe a cool space room.

(We here at The Escape Roomer recommend Spacescape at Ctrl, Alt Escape. We’ve also heard there’s a new space room at Co-Decode, and although we haven’t done it their other rooms are great!)

 

What’s your favourite room you’ve done? Or what is a room you’d recommend?

I hate this question! I always recommend ClueQuest – they’re the only rooms I’ve done in London that have the same standard as I see elsewhere. Other rooms I’ve done in London have unique narratives but are let down by the puzzles. Galactic Warriors in Prague was unbelievable and was probably the most immersed I’ve been.

 

When it comes to building puzzles, is it always solution first, or do you sometimes immediately know what you want to do?

I think we always have immediate inspiration about the types of puzzles we’re going to use, but there’s a lot to be said for not pre-empting what we’re going to design. Sometimes companies already have ideas, and then we have to explain why they won’t necessary work which obviously isn’t a great foot to start on. We spend a while in the workshop and have a relatively similar structure each time, where we try to understand what the client wants and then sometimes the solution presents itself, rather than needing us to engineer it. Often requirements like certain functionality or results, or time and budget, quite quickly narrows down the options.

 

After running so many sessions you must have some great stories! Anything you can share?

I think we’ve had a few storm outs. I think people tend to see it as a challenge of their cognitive ability, which it really isn’t – none of the puzzles are that complex, and they’re more designed to generate teamwork, or see where the natural teamwork comes to the fore. Often, we have people inadvertently leaning against clues or completely missing something. I’m a terrible watcher though – it’s hard not to jump in and I have to force myself to be more passive. It’s also interesting seeing how a room of officer cadets might behave versus a team of accountants. The more rooms we do, the more data we get, so we’re redesigning the programme to focus more on different types of puzzles solving, so moving the escape room to later in the day and focusing on individual puzzles and escape room boxes to start with.

 

Has there ever been a case where someone has behaved completely differently in an escape room than you thought they would be, or afterwards seemed completely different?

We actually ran a session where my ears pricked up because one of the girls in the room had found the perfect solution but just as she was speaking someone else spoke directly over her and said “we need to go and do this”, so I started a stopwatch. They carried on and around 18 minutes later they got back together and said “we can’t solve this puzzle”, to which the girl said “yeah, here’s the solution”, and I paused the stopwatch. In the debrief session (which we always do after a room) we pointed out that she’d had the answer way before and that it had cost them 18 minutes. That sort of thing is fine in an escape room context, but you take that into a meeting room – how many times have you seen someone’s idea in a meeting spoken over and ignored? What if that’s the idea that gets you to the solution?

 

What’s the spark that keeps you going? What do you really love doing?

Such a good question. I really like the creative phase. I’m really selfish and like the fun bits. My brother Sam, our Operations Manager, very much deals with delivering the product, the setup, making sure the right staff are there and that everything actually works. I’m not very good at that bit, but I like taking a new concept and working out how to get to there. That’s the bit that I really enjoy.

 

 

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

I’d probably still be with the army, or like a manager or consultant. I don’t know – maybe I’d start another business. I like the idea of getting up and being accountable for what I do each day, and if we have a good sales meeting we go out for a nice meal, and if we have a month of bad meetings we go to McDonalds. It’s kind of fun and a more interesting way of doing our day-to-day. We’re lucky – we work with some really cool clients, on numerous different projects, and the longer we keep going the easier it gets from that side.

 

Who’s been your favourite client?

It has to be Dyson. We were just two guys with a shipping container and they trusted us with this massive campus and project, despite not really knowing how we were going to do it. We got to work with their comms teams, and my fondest memory has to be explaining how to engineer a puzzle to a room of 200 Dyson engineers!

 

What’s next for DecodeXP/Challenger escapes?

For DecodeXP we’re about to launch residentials – 48 hour-long, more immersive experiences that really test people and take them out of their comfort zones.
For Challenger escapes we’re working on a big project which I can’t talk about yet, as well as launching a video game room at ComicCon and the Aviation Gin room that I mentioned before. We’re also expanding our work with Savilles to do more building-based rooms in the next six months. I don’t know what else we’ll do, but we’ll keep going!

 

Sound interesting? You can contact Jamie Pollard-Jones via the Challenger Escapes website

Spencer is Puzzling: Lost in the Shuffle | Review

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Lost in the Shuffle Review | Boost your brain powers on your quest to become officially, legally, a genius!* Submit all 52 correct answers to access the final challenge, “Puzzle 53” (dun dun duhhhhhn!).

Completion Time: 4 hours
Date Played: 5th October 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Moderate

I often wonder how you officially become a genius. Is it when you’re accepted into Mensa? Or perhaps when you win an international Scrabble Tournament? No! It turns out the status of genius can be achieved only by solving puzzle 53 in Spencer Beebe’s latest game, Lost in the Shuffle.

“Give me puzzle 53!” I hear you cry.

Not so fast. First, you have to work your way through a deck of playing cards packed with 52 puzzles you must solve to reach your final test.

 

 

Ok I’m ready. Where do I start?

Good question. One of the things I absolutely loved about this game is that there are no outright instructions. You have to search for the puzzles before you even think about solving them. Some cards contain multiple puzzles and some puzzles need multiple cards, so finding the puzzles to solve is a puzzle in itself! Phew!

You’re not completely on your own though, when you first begin the game, you’re directed to a website where an introductory video with a surprisingly expressive new friend awaits, reassuring you that you’re about to have a lot of fun (which we did!) You’ll unlock more videos as you progress, which will slowly unravel the story behind Lost in the Shuffle. As well as the videos, the website also hosts the rules of the game, a code sheet and a brilliant hint system that I’ll touch on later. The website is also where you input all your solutions, and you can watch your brain matter increase as the puzzles become increasingly more difficult. Eventually your brain will reach the long awaited point where it’s ready to tackle the biggest puzzle of all.

 

 

Sounds like a big deal!

Deal?! Cards?! Get it?! (Sorry) But yes, these puzzles range from relatively simple to really quite difficult so solving them feels like a big achievement. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall watching our celebrations for some of the trickier ones.

There are puzzles to suit (!!) everybody, and because they can be done in any order, you can squirrel away with one puzzle while others work through another. Remember though, some cards are needed more than once! Some puzzles required logic, some observational skills, and some even a quick internet search. There’s also some hidden surprises which I won’t spoil, but they’re really impressive once the penny drops. One things for sure, so much heart has gone into this project and it shows. Every inch of the design of the play of this game has been thoroughly thought through and it’s a joy to experience.

Speaking of joy, seeing the answer sheet gradually fill up with correct answers is a very satisfying way to track your progress. What’s even better is that your answers are saved, so you can take a break whenever you need a log back in to where you left off. We were only forced to take a break because I realised it was past my bedtime on a work night…

 

 

Need a clue?

The online clue system is nice and easy. Simply click on the card you’re stuck on, and links to any of the puzzles that card is part of will be revealed. You can then gradually reveal hints, as little or as many as you like, and finally you have the option to reveal the answer if you wish.

 

The Verdict

I really enjoyed Lost in the Shuffle. It’s a wonderfully unique game which turns this common item we know and love into an innovative experience that provides hours of puzzle solving fun. You can take it with you anywhere, play solo or with others and go for as long or as little as you like at a time. The flexibility of the game and the puzzles within the box are a win, and I look forward to seeing more of Spencer Beebe’s imagination turning into a reality.

Lost in the Shuffle is now available on Kickstarter! Back it here, or head directly to Spencer’s page here.

Mythologic Escape Rooms: Needlenose | Review

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Needlenose Escape Room Review | Don’t be the next victim of the Copycat Killer Clown!

Date Played: 2019
Team Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

 

Mythologic Escape Rooms have two locations which are based just off Gillingham High Street, one in an upstairs unit above some retail outlets. With a blacked out front door, with some cool graphic design explaining what to expect inside, and large Mythologic sign, the unassuming building houses two escape rooms which really pack a punch. The other a large double fronted shop with HUGE Mythologic sign, certainly making it difficult to miss!

Greeted at the door by the owners/designers Michelle and Chris, the welcome could not have been warmer. Both waiting areas are open and airy, with a comfortable reception area, we are offered a comfortable seat and somewhere to lock away our belongings. Water is readily available and there is well appointed lavatory area (which also has a number of essential personal hygiene products, such as deodorants etc. which is a lovely personal touch)

A briefing commences within the reception area and the disclaimers are all signed on digital tablets (which makes the hassle of pens and paper disclaimers feel like a distant nightmare)!

It is clearly evident from chatting to the owners that they are passionate about their rooms and obviously their customer service, which was faultless. We were made to feel at home with their personal yet professional touch.

 

Who Wouldn’t Love to be Locked in the Sewers?!

Who wouldn’t love to locked in the sewers with a killer clown on the loose hell bent on capturing you and taking your life!? No?! Why not?! This hour of tension, horror and excitement is an absolute scream! We loved it!

This room has taken the team at Mythologic a huge amount of time to create, design and build and walking through the door it is evident to see why! The combination of great theme, strong design build and the addition of a live actor brings, this game to life as you are plunged into the dark world of Needlenose the copycat killer clowns mind!

The room has a fair few observation-based puzzles alongside some physical games which played alongside the theme beautifully. Every puzzle fitted into the room very well and it wasn’t always clear what we were meant to be doing, which was a real plus as it gave a greater sense of reality!

Be prepared to be on edge! Everywhere you look in this game, there is something to keep your nerves rattled. As ever, no spoilers, however , there are a handful of surprises in this room which made us scream (both in terror and excitement!) It does however balance the level of scares very well to still give you the opportunity to complete the numerous puzzles inside.

 

The Verdict

All members of the team loved this game and place it in high esteem, and in great company with our absolute favourites. There are some tricky puzzles inside which certainly challenged us (and being the first physical game after lock down, the grey matter really got a run out!) but everything was achievable, even if you need a subtle hint like we did!

 

Dont be a clown! – Put on your big boy pants and head down to Mythologic to play this game. It is certainly one you wont forget in a hurry!

Would I recommend this room?

Definitely! The theme and mix of terror and strong puzzles put this up there with our favourites!

Who would I recommend it to?

Groups of friends and families would love this. More experienced players will still be challenged for sure and likely be in awe of the play area.

How many players would I recommend?

Around 3-4, taking into consideration the size of the room and number of puzzles inside

Suitable for Children?

Absolutely not!

 

Needlenose can be booked by heading to Mythologic’s website here.

Crowdfunding at a Glance: How to raise money for your escape room with crowdfunding

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In addition to my role as writer at The Escape Roomer, I’m the Head of Community and Theatre at Greenlit.com, a British Crowdfunding Platform designed for and by creatives.

 

Greenlit launched in 2019 with a mission – to be the very best place to crowdfund your creative project. Originally, we concentrated on film projects; our success means we’ve expanded to support all kinds of creative work.

Making a film, a game, a play, an album is hard. And the big crowdfunding platforms offer little help – your work gets lost among the hundreds of gadgets and products. At Greenlit, we only deal with creative work and people, and we want your project to succeed.

 

We would love to give advice to any escape rooms who may be interested in crowdfunding, so here’s our sheet about crowdfunding at a glance:

Crowdfunding at a Glance

This sheet covers:

  1. How much can I raise?
  2. What’s my timeline?
  3. Making money
  4. Your pitch
  5. Common terms

 

Some exclusive crowdfunding tips for The Escape Roomer:

  • Use your backers! It’s a great idea to have experience rewards, so why not use your backers as Beta Testers? Remember, they’re already invested (literally and figuratively) in your success.
  • Shout it out! Make sure people feel appreciated for backing. Giving them a shout out on social media helps make them feel special AND boost your reach. A real win-win!
  • Upgrade it! Have different stretch rewards so people know exactly what their money is going towards. Entice them to give more so they can get more!

 

 

If you’re interested in crowdfunding, you can reach out to me directly at grace@greenlit.com!