Compendium: UI-55 | Review

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Compendium UI-55 Review | A German U-boat named UI-55 was found in the river Thames. Have you and your team got what it takes to sneak aboard and retrieve all of Britain’s wealth before the German soldier’s return?

Date Played: March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: ~50 Minutes
Difficulty: Expert!

When we were planning our mini-break to the North we chose Manchester due to the escape rooms. I had heard such fantastic things about UI-55 that it was a bit of a no-brainer. This room has actually won multiple awards, and (spoiler alert) is one of the few rooms I’ve done that I think is well deserving of the hype!

 

All Aboard UI-55!

The premise of UI-55 is that you have discovered a German U-boat, hoarding plenty of British treasure, and you only have an hour to recover as much as possible. The first thing you’ll realise upon ‘boarding’ is just how massive this room is. For context, it fills an entire floor and is apparently the size of two normal escape rooms put together! However, if you’re worried that this looks like a big rectangle, don’t be! It’s very much structured as a submarine, with long corridors and windy passageways to traverse. I loved the general size, and the attention to detail in that every nook and cranny reads as ‘submarine’. I had great fun running up and down, as the puzzles absolutely cover the space, and you will need to get elements from each area to complete some.

The other thing to be aware of is the sheer amount of puzzles, especially given the 60-minute time. In a normal room, you might expect to complete 10-15. Here there are nearly 30 to complete alone, which each give you a task to complete and then a key to use to retrieve some loot (depending how quickly you locate the right locker). Luckily, you don’t need to complete all of the puzzles – from memory, you only need to complete 21 within the time, with a very clear (and very fun) indication of when you should really move into the final phase of the room (the loot grabbing).

 

Baffles

As you might expect in a room with such a large variety of puzzles, they are all completely different with a fantastic variety. If one puzzle isn’t your forte (*side eyes the dexterity puzzle*) that’s ok! There is always another puzzle to do instead. Some of these puzzles are available upfront, some require you to complete others to gain the materials you need. It’s fairly obvious which bits go with which puzzles, and what you need to do. There are also clues scattered all over the place in the decor, and even some answers which are available to you right from the start! Completing a puzzle gives you a code, which you use to get some tokens, which are then used to gain keys, which are then used to unlock lockers. Luckily, as a duo the ‘gaining keys’ stage can be skipped, as I can see that this would take quite a bit of time, and personally, I feel is a step too far for any team.

I can only remember what a few of the puzzles were in the game, as I was very much running around like a headless chicken, completing one puzzle and then moving on, but I know I’d love to redo the room just to have the same experience again! I also know I only saw around half the puzzles, with my mum clearing half the sub by herself and me clearing the other half. If you or your teammates are the sorts of people who want to know what everyone has done so far or how they’ve reached their conclusions…this is not the room for you. We had to trust that we each had a grip on what we were doing and that we would call for help if needed, or if there was a puzzle we couldn’t figure out. Even when it came to the co-op puzzles we were so aware of the time we just trusted each other’s instincts, and if we ever found objects we weren’t sure of we checked in with each other to see if they had an idea. Honestly, it’s probably the best teamwork we’ve ever had as we didn’t have time to argue!

Normally I would talk about flow, but honestly here there is so much to do in so little time we were never stuck, bored or frustrated. The team are so slick with their clues too – they know exactly when to give us a nudge, what sort of nudge we needed and clearly could tell what we were each working on.

This room is also an example of my favourite type of room – the type where you don’t need to 100% complete it, but if you have the time and skill you can. This meant we were determined to grab all the loot, so really pushed the time at the end to get all the lockers unlocked and money in the bags.

I could go on and on about this room, but it’s honestly the best room I’ve ever played, and I could easily go and replay it (especially as I know there are a lot of puzzles I didn’t even see the first time!).

Accessibility (spoilers!)

As I mentioned in my previous review for the other Compendium rooms, there are some steep stairs to reach the room. However, there are chairs to sit on inside the room itself. It’s a bit dim in places, with lots of reading and colour requirements. There are a couple of puzzles requiring hearing, and some requiring dexterity. No crawling in this one though! You should also be fine if you’re concerned about claustrophobia, as although this was set on a submarine it was actually pretty spacious.

The Verdict

This is a short review because the verdict is simple. This is a must-play room, and we are awarding it our highest award; The Badge of Honour.

I’ve played many of the top rooms in the TERPECA and ‘Escape the review’ lists, but this is hands down my favourite. It’s going to be a long time before this gets knocked out of number one for me!

UI-55 can be booked by heading to Compendium’s website here.

Top Escape Rooms: Rockstar Swan Song | Review

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Top Escape Rooms: Swan Song Review | Dean Waylon is the front man of the band – Us, Them, Or Dean. Tonight, they will be performing the kick-off show of their concert run at the Colosseum Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Checking in Dean’s dressing room, his manager finds Dean’s personal belongings, but no sign of Dean. Find the clues and solve the puzzles as you retrace the career of Dean Waylon. If you’re quick, you can get the scoop on his disappearance before security catches you.

Completion Time: 59:00
Date Played: 8th October 2022
Party Size: 3

About Top Escape Rooms

Rockstar Swan Song is one of five escape rooms provided Top Escape Rooms in Holt Heath, Worcestershire. The room is based on the touring band Us, Them Or Dean and their frontman called…. *checks notes* Dean; whom has gone missing before a Las Vegas show and we need to locate him!

This was supposed to be a party size of 4. However one of the party was ill, therefore 3 of us had to take to the stage instead!

Poster (c) Top Escape Rooms

Before We Begin…

The party consisted of myself and 2 friends who all share two things in common… our love of the Netflix series Cobra Kai and that we are all current/former music professionals.

Another thing… my teamies had never done an escape room before. As an escape room ambassador, I’ve got to get this right and not scare them off! When I saw this music-themed room advertised I booked it post-haste.

Poster (c) Top Escape Rooms

I’ve Lost My Frontman…

Our GM was welcoming and friendly. He explained that the game was linear, allowing us to fully focus on the task in hand. We then passed round a directional lock (see below) for familiarity, giving us a practice go on them to get a tactile feel of how they work. This was great, especially as my two teamies had not used one before.

The GM then spoke about his own background of working in the music industry. This was interesting in itself and I didn’t even realise the fluid change into the backstory of the game; until it actually happened(!) Next thing we know, we have been tasked with finding his frontman Dean, as the show was to begin in one hour.

We were given our backstage/dressing room passes, alongside a digital notepad and the timer starts to tick away!

Pay Attention Russ…

Mental Note. Don’t steamroll the room. I had to make myself not get too involved and at times, stand back to allow my teamies to experience as much escape room fun as they possibly could…. otherwise the escape room gods would never forgive me.

This Felt Too Familiar…

I’ve been there before. About to go on stage and a band member (usually the frontperson!) has gone for a walk without telling anyone. The rest of the band now sweating bullets and arguing about who is going to sing in their place…

The dressing room was very thematic; there was that feeling of a bare room being dressed-up for it’s specific habitant at the time, ready for it to be changed for the next performer in minimal turnaround time. On one wall, were three very distinctive touring posters of the band from years past. Each one, telling a story (and a puzzle) of what happened and what is to come.

All but one of the puzzles were padlock based. The one, was an electronic-based, fader/mixer type puzzle with an amplifier. It looked incredibly authentic and had the biggest wow factor. I personally would like to have seen more electronic-based puzzles, especially considering how much electronics are used in a musician’s day-to-day life! The types of puzzles included, but not limited to; map-reading, wordplay, maths, light-based and musical.

I’ve Never Heard “Helpful” And “Stage Manager” Put In a Sentence Together…

When we were stuck and needed a hint, an electric guitar chord would strike and the stage manager would leave us a tailored message under the countdown clock. The hints were useful and relevant, however in some cases; unsolicited. There were times, I feel, if the stage manager had let us have another moment or so to reflect, we would have solved the focussed set-piece on our own.

My suggestion would be to Top Escape Rooms for all their games; to ask how much input the hint-giver should provide to the team before the game begins.

*Internally Panics*

With around 12 minutes to go, I felt we were doing rather well….

Until we opened a padlock to a second room.

At this point, I internally panicked.

“We have 12 minutes to solve another room?!”

Well, it was two puzzles total. However, that revelation turned me from a semi-seasoned escaper, into a fumbling idiot. The majority of work for the last two set pieces was done by my teamies, who once again, had never done an escape room before. (Well done Russ, you’re letting the whole escape room industry down here….)

To their credit however, they pulled us (me) through with one minute to spare.

As much as the first room was thematically and immersivity beautiful, the second room felt bare in comparison. Firstly, because there were only two puzzles, it felt unbalanced from a weighting perspective. Secondly, the walls were blank with one poster, that didn’t really add to the theming or immersion in any way; it lacked the personality the first room had. It wasn’t a complete deal-breaker, but the overall experience was certainly reduced because of this.

As you can see, my music career was short-lived, based on the way I held a guitar…

For The Music Dreamer Or Virtuoso?

My escape newbie teamies found the room not too easy and not too difficult. Therefore, this would be a perfect choice for someone who hasn’t played an escape room before. More seasoned players however, might find (particularly the first few) aspects of the room, to not be challenging enough.

The puzzle designs (again, particularly with the first few) are almost-all quite common and have been often used in already existing escape rooms. There are also two maths-based puzzles. There is a calculator in the room, however if you are really adverse to them, the second of the two may cause frustration…

The music based puzzle however, was very innovative. That being said, we collectively agreed that it may completely stump a team with zero musical intuition.

Unfortunately however, this room is now retired! We were the very last team to play it!

Touring Is Expensive!

For a party of 4 as we intended, this room cost £17.50 per person. This is a solid price point, however big thanks to Top Escape Rooms for handing me a £10 voucher to use for a future game in light of our poorly 4th player. This kind of customer service is greatly appreciated and I have already booked two further rooms here in the upcoming months as a result of this gesture.

Rating

Overall, Top Escape Rooms have a solid room in Rockstar Swan Song. It is a great one for beginners, with its linear design and organic learning curve. The second room falls a little bit flat, however the first room has a strong thematic and authentic take on the dressing room of an actual touring musician, which was a welcome sight for us as a team of musicians.

My teamies both enjoyed themselves and are looking to do another escape room closer to Christmas time. I’m counting that as a mission successful from an ambassador point of view!

Top Escape Rooms’s Rockstar Swan Song is now retired, but their other games can be booked by heading to their website here.

Top Christmas Gift Ideas for Escape Room Enthusiasts

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Hey, what would you like for Christmas?” my friends, partner and family asks me.
“Oh I dunno, just escape room stuff!” I reply.

So how on earth do you shop for that escape room fan in your life? Here’s my definitive guide to what’s new on the UK (and further afield!) market this year, everything and anything Christmas themed, and the down low on what your escape room playing friend really wants in their stocking*

*Santa if you’re reading this, you know what to do.

 

Escape Room Gifts

My first category is “Escape Room Gifts”, this covers just about anything that isn’t an actual, playable escape room! Advent Calendars, stocking fillers and more!

 

An Escape Room Advent Calendar | £15 – £20

This year there are plenty of escape room advent calendars to choose from. I myself am enjoying the newest “Exit” calendar, but here are a few more you may wish to check out:

 

Chocolateral & Puzzle Wrapping Paper | £19.50

 

We are big fans of Chocolateral AND their festive Puzzle Wrapping Paper.

This year you can get two in one from Enigmailed’s website and the best part? It comes with a festive ornament too. Win, win.

Puzzle Wrapping Paper

Escape Game Achievements – A2 Scratch Off Poster | £10 – £15

Okay, I have seen SO MUCH buzz about this on various escape room forums about the A2 Scratch Off Poster. That’s why I’m so excited to put this on my list this year! Where the video game world meets the escape room world, this poster gives you a series of unlockable achievements… For the real world! The perfect gift for escape room veterans and ‘just getting started’ players alike!

www.thepanicroomonline.net

 

Wine Stopper Lock Puzzle | £30 +

Genius? Or fiendishly cruel? You decide. If a fancy bottle of wine is your go-to Christmas gift, why not take the experience up a notch buy encasing it in a wooden puzzle. Kubiya games also have a selection of mini games, boxes, and even one of these for beer bottles!

www.kubiyagames.com

 

Scream Pretty Padlock Necklace | £30 +

This entry is inspired by an item of jewellery I own myself – its a little gold padlock necklace. A declaration of love, or a declaration of “I really enjoy escape rooms” it serves both purposes well. I’ve listed Scream Pretty, but plenty of local shops and Etsy sellers make similar, custom pieces.

www.screampretty.com

 

Lock & Key Chocolate | £10 – £15

 

It’s not Christmas until you eat a large quantity of chocolate and pass out on the sofa in front of Home Alone 2. Give the gift of chocolate this year – there’s no puzzle in this delicious box, so your lucky recipient can tuck in immediately. The Chocolate Workshop also do a range of other chocolate sculptures. I bought my mum a pair of chocolate scissors one year. Why not?

www.thechocolateworkshop.co.uk

 

Puzzles by Post

The last few years have been next level apocalyptic – but thankfully, as a result of not being able to leave your home and travel to see friends, the concept of “puzzles by post” has grown in popularity.

The concept is simple – your friend receives a mysterious envelope filled with puzzles to solve. When they do, they’ll get a code to log into a secret portal and find the message you’ve left for them! Write, record or snap something fun for your recipient to find. It’s something a little different for Christmas Day! Here are a few companies that do this, or something similar to this really, really well:

 

Curious Correspondence Club | £20

 

Curious Correspondence Club are a 24-part puzzle game told over a number of chapters. They place an emphasis on storytelling, supported by challenging puzzles to advance a narrative over two seasons. Handmade and delivered from Toronto, Canada if your gift won’t arrive in time they’ll send you a printable puzzle to let you recipient know their gift is on it’s way. 

Read our review here.

 

Puzzle Post | £10 – £15

Puzzle Post are a UK based company that ships worldwide. We’ve played both their titles: The Missed Flight and their game specifically for kids, The Secret Service and loved them!

www.puzzlepost.uk

 

Post-a-Puzzle | £10 – £15

From the makers of Escape Rooms Cardiff here in the UK comes their very own Post-a-Puzzle service. This one is bright, fun and exciting – we played it here!

www.post-a-puzzle.com

 

Books

There are many escape room books out there. Here are a list of some (hopefully!) surprising books you may wish to consider for the escape room fan out there.

Journal 29 | £10 – £15

A classic! Ask any escape room fan out there, it deserves all the praise in the world too. Journal29 has over 63 riddles and puzzles contained within it’s pages, and each one is solved by inputting the answer into their website. You can write, draw, search, fold pages, combine different methods and try to get those riddles right. But did you know they also have a brand new book The Cypher Files out too? That’s Christmas morning sorted!

www.journal29.com

 

Codex Seraphinianus | £30 +

Photo (c) Mark Riechters @ TTBook

Often called “the world’s strangest book”, this is an Encyclopedia of an imaginary world written in an imaginary language. True, there are no puzzles to be solved. But it’s gorgeous, mysterious and excites all my “I must try and decipher this” senses. Whilst you’re at it, you might want to purchase a copy of the Voynich Manuscript too.

www.365games.co.uk

 

Party Games

What even is Christmas if not a time for getting together with your loved ones and playing silly games? Whether you’re a fan of board games or videogames, giving one as a gift is something you can enjoy too! Whenever I’m showing up at my parent’s house for Christmas, I’m bringing a game for us to play.

 

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes | £10 – £15

All you need to play this one is a printer and a console (yes, your mobile phone counts!). In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, one players is the ‘bomb disposal’ person, and the rest of the players have an elaborate defusal manual. Print ahead and pack this one in your overnight bag for Christmas, it’s an absolute crowd pleaser!

www.keeptalkinggame.com

 

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective | £30 +

Okay, yes. I did just write a review and said “don’t play this drunk”, but I’m suggesting this one as a gift, not necessarily a party game over the mulled wine. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games easily give the player over 20 hours of play time, and they’re packed with puzzles and cerebral challenges that even the great Sherlock himself would be challenged by. It’s a great gift for the price!

www.board-game.co.uk

 

Decrypto | £15 – £20

 

This is it! This is the ultimate escape room style board game and I will die on this hill if anyone disagrees! Two teams go head to head to decipher the other team’s code. Fastest wins. It’s really that simple, but oh so much fun. If your escape room friend doesn’t already own this game, immediately buy it for them. They need it. In fact, I’ve just put 3 in my shopping basket now.

www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

 

Mysterium | £30 +

 

I’ve never seen a board game get such glowing reviews from escape room fans, so you bet it’s on this year’s gift list! One player plays the role of the ghost, the others take the role of mediums, as you work together to reconstruct a murder. It’s exciting, engaging, and whats more a great game to play after Christmas dinner with those escape room fans in your life!

 

Just for Fun

Still stuck? How about this:

A Rubix Cube | £10 – £15

If you’ve read this far and haven’t already rushed off to buy your Christmas gifts – I can’t help you! But hey, this last item on the list might actually be the perfect stocking filler? And why not? It’s a classic since the 1970s. Why improve on perfection?

www.rubiks.com

 

Vouchers

If you’re still in doubt – why not buy a voucher for their local escape room? The escape room industry has suffered A LOT in 2020, so supporting them with vouchers is more important than ever! Plus, your friend will enjoy having something to look forward to in 2021.

I haven’t got a list for this particular category, as it will completely depend on where your gift recipient lives in the world. But likely has it they’ve got their eyes on their next escape room just as soon as lockdown eases. Why not ask them where they’re headed and pick up a voucher for an experience?

Trust me on this one! It’s a win-win gift.

 

 

Did I miss something? Send us an email at hello@theescaperoomer.com with your top gifts and we’ll add them in!

Edinburgh Treasure Hunts: Fantastic Creatures | Review

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Edinburgh Treasure Hunts Review | Professor M has arranged for you a day of creature-hunting. It’s all about using your special map wisely and keeping your eyes peeled. There’s so many secrets hidden in the beautiful Old Town.

Completion Time: ~2 hours
Date Played: 17th July 2022
Party Size: 2
Location: Edinburgh Old Town
Difficulty: Moderate

I (Mairi) have just moved to Edinburgh from London and I wholeheartedly insist that the very best way to explore a new city is to immediately book yourself in for an outdoor treasure trail. What’s not to love?! New sights, hidden alleyways, history, and most importantly… Puzzles!

One of the most, if not THE most loved treasure hunt company in Edinburgh is the aptly named “Edinburgh Treasure Hunts“. A solo-run and operated business by your incredibly awesome host Sabi who, as a part-time tour guide, is an expert in all things Edinburgh. The company is also one of the first to start running games of this kind with many of their trails being well over 5 years old and host to thousands and thousands of players over the years.

In particular, Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a hugely popular game to play during the Edinburgh Fringe. They take you right past many of the largest and most popular venues as well as plenty of popular landmarks on lesser trodden streets. Being self guided, there’s also no need to hurry. You can take the trail at your own leisurely speed (well, within reason!), so breaks to see the fun sights of the city are encouraged.

Over our very first weekend in the city, Rebecca and myself decided to book ourselves into two of the trails: Fantastic Creatures, and Sherlock. Let me just say, we were not disappointed! Let’s get into why…

 

 

Fantastic Creatures (and Where to Find Them in Edinburgh!)

If you’re into witches, wizards and magical places, then the Fantastic Creatures trail will be your cup of tea. At the Chamber arches on the Royal Mile, we met up with Sabi- or should I say, the Professor’s Assistant Sabi who set us off on our lesson in magical creatures around the city. We were first sorted into a magical house (House of the Haggis, if you were wondering what our team went for), then given a tote bag filled with curious objects including a bestiary, an old locked box, and a map of the city with carefully labelled locations.

Our ultimate goal was to find the fabled Unicorn, a rare creature from history with mythical properties. We had a sub-goal of finding (and I suppose, rescuing) our teacher, the Professor, who had a terrible accident. Our tertiary goal was to have a lovely day out and enjoy ourselves puzzle solving. Tick, tick, tick all round.

Unlike Sherlock, Fantastic Creatures had a web-app counterpart we could load on our phones. The broad structure of the game was that we followed a physical map around the city and at each marked point we had a challenge to complete – locate a particular mythical creature in the environment from our bestiary, read about it, and answer a location-based question. The experience was challenging on a few levels. Firstly, we had to find the actual location designated a single letter on the map. A task easier explained than done for a team of players new to the city, who aren’t yet familiar with it’s little hidden alleys. Then, we had to look very closely at our surroundings, taking care to stand exactly on the right spot, before we could answer the questions.

…And listen, this game was surprisingly educational! Yes, yes, the creatures are fantastical. Yet I learned a lot about their myths, legends, relationship with Edinburgh and more. It was very well done!

Unlike Sherlock, we finished Fantastic Creatures in a comfortable amount of time – around 2 hours. However despite it being on the easier side, more appropriate for family groups, we still managed to get a lot of questions incorrect. So some advice from us: read the question very carefully to figure out what it’s asking before wasting guesses (and points) on incorrect tries.

Any team that manages to score 25 points or above will win a special bonus prize. I say bonus as we were delighted to find that on discovering the final location for our trip a little treat waiting for us behind a lock. But then, as our host scootered over to collect our bags from us we were presented with a further prize for scoring a coveted 29 points!

 

 

Edinburgh, City of Hills

One of the things we loved the most about Fantastic Creatures was the trail itself. Although, ‘trail’ is a strong word as it’s largely self-guided and with just a map to guide you, you can take any route you like. On the one hand, at times we were worried we’d taken a wrong turn. On the other, we were glad to not be wedded to a specific route around the city, as it gave us a chance to stop off for a snack, a drink, and an ice cream cone. Which, if you’re interested, we recommend lunch at the tiny, family run Olly Bongos and ice cream at Alandas Gelato, both en-route around the trail.

Edinburgh truly is a really beautiful city though. No matter which specific road on the map you choose to take, you’re sure to discover a new hidden gem, or a beautiful sight around a corner at the top of a hill. In fact, the trail starts right up near Edinburgh Castle, which is the perfect tourist spot for snapping lovely photos of the surrounding area. It ‘ends’ nearer Underbelly, making it again, an excellent place to springboard you into an Edinburgh Fringe show, or to round off the day after one.

The only thing that we felt could have been improved about the route was that occasionally we doubled back on ourselves. Not because we’d answered anything incorrectly, but because the route required us to. Towards the end, you find yourself in an area of town, and are sent back to the start of your route. Only to walk back up the long street and need to turn right back around to head even further in the other direction. It was a curious choice! It didn’t bother us too much as, being new to the city, find every little alleyway delightful, but we definitely saw the same few streets multiple times over.

 

 

The Verdict

We really enjoyed Fantastic Creatures. After playing Sherlock’s Secret Challenge the day before we had high hopes and once again Sabi and her company absolutely outdid our expectations. For sure, there were some minor bits that didn’t completely click with us – a few difficult puzzles we struggled to get the answer for for example. But overall we had a fantastic experience once again. Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a super hidden gem in the city and will be the first place I recommend folks new to the city book themselves into.

 

 

All of Edinburgh Treasure Hunts’ games can be booked by heading to their website here.