While adventuring across the seven seas looking for treasure, you spot a ship adrift on the horizon. It appears empty, not a soul in sight…
You decide to board this ghostly ship, and upon exploring the captain’s cabin you stumble across a strange chest, emanating a strange and mysterious feel. You reach out to it, and as your fingers move across the rusting steel, a voice bellows from the ether.
It is the spirit of the captain himself!
His disembodied voice tells of his discovery of an Aztec ruin, laden with gold. Yet, an even bigger treasure laid within: A totem of immortality. A totem he claimed to himself hastily, hiding the valuable icon from his crew in a chest only he could open.
Yet, The totem was not all that it seemed, the captain passed away and awoke inside the chest itself. The totem was cursed!
You now need to help the pirate by solving all of the exciting puzzles within the chest, breaking the curse and set him free. Are you up for the challenge?
Date Played: 28th December 2021 Time Taken: 30 minutes Number of Players: 2 Difficulty: Easyish
All aboard the Ti-Panic…!
Back in summer 2021 (which is now LAST YEAR – when on earth did that happen?!), we won an Instagram competition to help name The Panic Room’s new pirate ship for their upcoming experience: Dead Man’s Chest.
As we are not often down south, we booked in (optimistically) for winter 2021 when we would be travelling down to Ash’s family in Kent. Luckily, the stars aligned and we managed to make it down south without getting infected (never thought we would cheers to a negative lateral flow test but COVID has taught us lots of new things about ourselves!).
So, we got to have a go at this new adventure which takes place inside the Panic Room’s sister shop – Don’t Panic, and we are so happy we finally got to play this escape game!
It’s only one box… Right?!
This adventure steers away from the typical escape experience as players are tasked with breaking into a cursed treasure chest, rather than escaping from a room. We initially thought, ‘this surely won’t take us long at all!’, but wow, we were pleasantly surprised by just how much The Panic Room have managed to squeeze into one (pretty big) box!
There were layers and layers of puzzles with drawers appearing from literally nowhere and secret compartments galore. On more than one occasion, a drawer appeared from somewhere that we did not expect and offered up a whole new section of gameplay. It’s a box full of different puzzles and gentle nudges in the right direction.
From moment to moment we found it fairly easy to figure out what we needed to work on next, but this just goes to show how well The Panic Room have signposted the experience… Especially when you’ve only got one treasure chest to work with!
Obviously, this is quite a linear experience as players are solving one section of the chest at a time, but we really enjoyed tackling this game as a pair. With the help of our spooky pirate ghost man, we worked through all the puzzles together and navigated the mechanics of the game seamlessly. The technology worked wonderfully to provide us with a magical experience of breaking into the treasure chest.
A note on the clue system, as we did get stuck on a couple of occasions and needed to use it. It was in theme and clues were delivered clearly and always for the right bit of the chest we were currently working on!
We would definitely recommend this game for an enthusiast pair to see how you get on. It would also work really well for a group of newbies to introduce the escape room concept (and to get you hooked!).
This cursed treasure chest!
Overall, this was a great game. We thoroughly enjoyed playing the Dead Man’s Chest and especially enjoyed getting to explore the Don’t Panic shop afterwards with a nice 10% off for escaping successfully! The shop is literally the dream for escape room enthusiasts, there are SO many games on offer and we had to resist buying everything…
We will definitely be returning to The Panic Room as soon as well can.
Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse Review | The legend tells that certain people who are blessed with the gift of deciphering and solving the most complex puzzles descend from dark pacts of blood. But now, an evil curse hangs over their shoulders, one that is taking the life of more than a hundred people.
“The Butterfly Curse” is an original horror escape game that mixes physical and digital puzzles with dark narrative to immerse you in a such terrifying experience that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction.
Completion Time: 3 hours Date Played: 28th November 2021 Party Size: 2 Difficulty: Challenging
Welp… Definitely a game for a dark night!
We sat down on an extremely snowy afternoon to try out Key Enigma’s game, ‘The Butterfly Curse’. After Mairi had warned us that word on the street was that The Butterfly Curse was a real ‘scary’ play at home game, we were very excited to see what we would find within the ominous red envelope!
It had a number of “ah-ha” moments as you always want to see in an escape game, but The Butterfly Curse was also markedly different. There were also a number of ‘AHHHH’ moments, especially when we finally got around to opening that sealed envelope. Al was watching the screen through her fingers at some points, and insisted that we turn the volume down after being made to jump off her seat (on more than one occasion).
Before we started playing this game, Ash already had a fear of butterflies… Turns out, she might have been on to something!
Just your average, friendly BuzzFeed quiz…right?
We’ve all sat and played the classic online quizzes, wondering which Friends character we would be, or which Disney princess we would marry, but we can’t say we’ve ever done an online quiz quite like the one that welcomed us into The Butterfly Curse. It started off so normal… Until everything seemed to go terribly, terribly wrong! We were so impressed at what Key Enigma have managed to create – it is easily one of the most immersive web elements of a play at home game that we have had the pleasure of using.
The introduction was perfectly pitched – it was scary, the puzzles ranged in difficulty, and the general preface of the story was set up so well. We were very excited (read: Al was scared) to see where our journey would take us.
A word of advice: Definitely make sure you play the introduction first – it’s well worth it!
Your run of the mill friendly internet stranger
We soon got our heads stuck into the game, after finding out that we had been cursed by Farglos(!) (which Al kept reading as Fergus lol), to see if we could make it out alive. You are taken in by a helpful internet stranger, who becomes your guide for the rest of the game. The game functions through an online portal, as you solve puzzles using physical components, plus information that you find on the in-game website.
This combination worked really well as you were guided nicely through each step, making it clear which puzzle was next, and what to use when. We really liked this, as it stopped us getting super distracted by exciting items we found in the envelope, which we wouldn’t actually use until about 5 puzzles in. We had to use the hint system a couple of times to get some nudges (Al does not perform well under fear). Luckily, the clue system is set up nicely to give you a few hints before offering the full solution (useful if you really are paralysed with fear – or if you bang your head falling off your chair from a jump scare – looking @ u Mairi).
Welp x2 – what an ending!
The game finishes on an excellent climax, producing one of the most ‘thrilling’ final envelope openings of any game we have played. We had been looking at the mysterious ‘do not open’ envelope throughout our play, wondering what on earth was inside, and whether it would save us from an eternity of being Farglos’ slaves…
No spoilers – but everyone should play the game just for the ending. It was high tension, high drama, and Key Enigma have done really well to re-create the ‘buzz’ of that final puzzle of a real-life escape room. Anyone who has played this will know what we are talking about!
Overall – this was a wonderful game, with clever tricks and turns. Turn off your lights, close the curtains, and hope for the best when you eventually open your sealed envelope…
Escapologic: Reactorvate Review | Your Great Uncle was once a leading scientist known for developing state of the art nuclear technology. In central Europe, during the late 1970’s, one of his experimental reactors went into meltdown as soon as it was activated, causing one of the most catastrophic disasters in modern history...
Your only option is to break into an abandoned power plant located in rural Russia, find a second inactive reactor and start it up. If it is fully functional then you may just have the evidence to free an innocent man. If your Great Uncle is lying, then you may need to run for your life!
Completion Time: 31:27 Date Played: 11th September 2021 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Medium
First up on our long awaited road trip was to take a step into an abandoned nuclear reactor. Our mission was to find out what REALLY happened all those years ago in the 1970s… A totally normal activity for the first time Mairi, our friend Tasha and ourselves were all in person together, right?
We were very much looking forward to seeing how our team functioned in real life. After a long lockdown of playing countless digital escape games together, would the addition of a third dimension to our normally 2D team throw us off? Would being able to see how tall our team members actually are be too big a distraction..?!
Read on to find out…
WOW – Are we actually in the 1970s?
The first thing you notice stepping into this room (well, any of the Escapologic rooms to be fair) is their impeccable attention to detail. We entered a very realistic looking ‘reactor’, complete with the classic 1970s computer vibes, colourful lights and even featuring an on theme chilly room temperature!
Those first few puzzles we encountered in the room were great at introducing us both to the game and to each other. As an introduction space to Reactorvate, it had a fantastic flow. After initially hitting a bit of a hurdle with one of the beginning puzzles, we started to get out stride as we moved into the second space on offer. From here, we split up into two teams of two to tackle the wide range of challenges on offer.
We did have one quite hefty obstacle to get around first though…
Guys, is that your hand touching me? Where are the WALLS?
Before we entered this room, our games master Courtney warned us that at one point we would be in complete darkness. And that point came quite quickly into the game and they weren’t kidding – boy was it dark!
It was the sort of dark where you can’t see your own hand in front of you, and naturally we were all quite unnerved by this. We were quietly hoping that the evil spirit, Mr Moon, who haunts Escapologic’s other game (The Gateway) had not found their way into our room!!! Thankfully no ghosts, which just left the task in hand. Once we figured out where the four corners of the space were that we were in we were on a roll. But first, where the heck is the light switch?!
Science! We’re doing SCIENCE
The technology Reactorvate uses is great. You get to do physical puzzles, mental puzzle, observation puzzles…and you get to DO so much. We love a room that offers players the opportunity to really feel as though you are ‘doing’ the puzzling, rather than simply solving notes scribbled on a page. The whole thing had such a tactile feel as we lifted heavy objects and manipulated strange contraptions we’re all too young to know the true purpose of.
There was one particular stand out element of the room that provided just the right amount of shock value it’s still seared into our memory today. Although, we still can’t figure out if it was triggered by the Games Master, by our actions, or if the course we followed was inevitable – but that’s all good theatre!
We had a great time moving around and discovering this space. It was an impressive room and one we clicked with quite well.
We really did have a great time in our first ever in-person escape room altogether. We are glad we chose such a vibrant, exciting and impressive room to play together for the first time.
Escapologic is great too in what it offers players after they’ve (hopefully) successfully escaped – there is a HUGE wall of tags signed by 100s of teams who have made their way through one of the four games on offer. It was a lot of fun looking through these and finding recognisable names, or even finding our own one from playing Chronos what feels like a loooonggg time ago.
Reactorvate can be booked at Escapologic Leicester by heading to their website here.
Next Level Escape: The Strange Disappearance of Station Eleven | Review | An online sci-fi adventure set aboard a mysteriously empty space station, with a noir flavour. Investigate what happened to the crew, and don’t get yourself spaced! Noir-esque narration, humour and story come together in a fun romp through a small station on the outskirts of space. With a shared inventory system, a catch-up option and other fun ways to interact with your friends, this game is designed to make you feel like you’re all working together… even while apart.
Completion Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes (ish!) Date Played: November 2021 Party Size: 5 Difficulty: Medium
We sat around on a chilly November night to try out Next Level Escape’s new game: The Strange Disappearance on Station Eleven. This game is all about investigating what happened to the crew members – whether it was a classic case of a rouge AI, or if something more…gassy…was afoot.
With five of us playing, including us, Nick and Mairi, we knew it would be a relatively ‘busy’ escape, with people going off much like you would in an in-person escape, looking at different puzzles at different times.
So, what did we think?
Luckily, the interface set up by Next Level Escape fits really well with multiple users! It was actually quite a nice break from Telescape, and would suit those looking for something a bit more complex. That said, we did experience a few technical difficulties at the beginning which kicked one player out meaning they had to play along via a screen-share for the remainder of the game.
The graphics were excellent and throughout the game it felt like we were on board a spaceship straight out of a sci-fi movie – think The Expanse or Star Trek vibes. The physical space we were exploring felt huge too, with lots of different sections to explore and lots of clickable objects.
Most importantly, we really appreciated the humour interspersed throughout the gameplay too – there was one stand out moment which was a throwback to early 2000s trolling that Al (Alice, not the AI – we quickly realised the confusion we could have with Al and AI in the same space!!) fell victim to which gave us some laughs.
One of the biggest stand out features was a ‘Catch Up’ button, meaning team members who are slightly behind, or just cannot click with that ‘one puzzle’, can skip ahead to join the rest of their crew. This stops everyone from having to put in codes multiple times, which can be a bit of a pain.
We loved this – more of this please!
Some dramatic music + a voiceover (+ beans) = a good story!
The storyline in this game was great. There was a fun introductory video to get everyone up to speed, along with a handy tutorial at the start before you officially ‘board the spaceship’. From here, the game progressed well, with new spaces becoming available each time you solved a new puzzles, and more of the story being revealed as we made our way through the game.
We always like it when the puzzles link to the narrative, and this game really delivered on this front!
The game markets itself towards more seasoned puzzlers and we can see why. Often we think of puzzles in layers of complexity (the more layers of information needed to solve a puzzle, the more complex it is)! We found these puzzles pretty challenging, often requiring multiple people looking at different things to put together to find a solution, so communication literally was the key on many occasions. However, these were all enjoyable (and most importantly – logical!). There were no puzzles where we thought ‘how on earth is that the answer!’. Users need to make sure they have a keen eye for detail though, and be ready for a large amount to solve!
There was one particular series of puzzles that really stood out to us. It involved the use of shapes, and it was something we had never seen before – making for an extremely satisfying A-HA moment when we figured out what was going on.
We did have to use one hint, but this meant we got to see the fun hint package the game offered, which was on theme with the humour of the rest of the game. It was also really easy to navigate, which is nice as it prevents you from accidentally spoiling something you haven’t got to yet!
Friend or foe? (I’m going to poke it anyway)
The climax of the game was brilliant. It involved a lot of figurative ‘running around’ and everyone working in a team together. Once we had stopped poking the AI, we realised it had a lot more to offer us, including a hilarious ending and more mentions of baked beans than we had expected… (would you eat a baked bean cake?! I think even we would draw the line here…)
We would definitely recommend this game to puzzle enthusiasts looking for a fun game that is a bit different but still challenges you with its puzzles. You won’t regret it! Get together with 2-6 players and see if you can figure out what happened to Station 11…
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas? Pfft, it’s all about HALLOWEEN! We’re calling it – spooky season is upon us and the perfect way to get into the ‘spirit’ is to play as many ghoulish, creepy and downright terrifying escapes! And lucky for you, we at The Escape Roomer have pulled together a roundup of the most spook-tacular escape games out there so you don’t have to.
Our list covers spine-chilling games from across the UK, as well as some to give you the creeps from the comfort of your own home (we know, we know, there’s nothing better than settling down with a classic PSL for a rainy autumnal afternoon escape at home, before getting the willies watching scary movies all night!).
But we also know that being scared WIT-less doesn’t work for everyone (and their puzzle solving capability). Never fear! You can still enjoy spooky season; we have included some tamer escapes that are guaranteed not to scare, but that fit in perfectly with the Halloween season.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s find your perfect Halloween escaping plans!
Disclaimer: These scares levels were accurate at the time of writing, but we know some companies like the ramp up the scare for Halloween, so if you are a bit nervous, please check with the company directly if they’ve snuck in an extra scare (or a live actor, no one wants a surprise live actor!!)
😱 Hardcore Scary Escape Rooms 😱
Want to be scared out of your mind? Try one of these escape rooms for an extreme scream…
The 13utcher – Escapologic, Nottingham
If you know anything about scary escape rooms, you will have heard of Escapologic’s the 13utcher! This game is notorious among the escape community for being one of the most terrifying escape experiences in the UK. You accidentally get trapped behind the shutter of what turns out to be the Butcher’s lair and there’s no saying when he will return (it’s definitely during the hour!).
We haven’t yet played the 13utcher (we’ve been working our way up to it), but we have heard amazing things- including overhearing a lad scarred by the fact that the butcher stole his shoes! If you like hardcore scares, this is the game for you!
So Unescapable aren’t really an escape room company- they’re a super secret time travelling facility masquerading as an escape rooms company, but we’re sure they won’t mind us telling you that! When they open a time portal they send one of their scientists back to make sure everything is ok, and Edith was just the lady for the job… only things went awry when they lost communication with her. She should have shut down the portal but something stopped her. It’s your job to go back and get that portal closed!
We can vouch for the scare levels of Edith- there’s plenty of opportunities to get the adrenaline flowing! Something evil stalks you on your mission and takes every opportunity to make you jump, scream and, at times, get separated from your team mates. There were certainly a fair few nervous giggles among our team when we played, but we loved every heart racing moment of it! If you like a scare, this is one not to miss!
You’ve infiltrated a top secret facility rumoured to have been undertaking unethical tests on humans and animals to expose their secrets. Unlucky for you, these test subjects have broken free. Can you avoid the creatures to escape the compound with your life?
Operation Clearsafe can be run on scalable levels of scary. So if live actors and jump scares just really aren’t for you, you can still enjoy all the fun this game has to offer without the fear (fun) factor.
Local people have been going missing and you believe Riser Kane, a creepy psychologist known for his boundary pushing experiments, is to blame. So, of course, while he is detained, you choose to head down into his cellar (shudders) to find out what has truly been going on. Can you manage to overcome your phobias and make it out with the crucial evidence before Riser Kane returns and takes you as his next ‘patient’?
Scary, but not “scarred for life” scary. These rooms will make you jump!
Sleepover – Escapologist, Cleethorpes
Breaking into the abandoned house of the infamous murdered family is a great idea right? What about planning to sleep over there? Easy Peasy! But when the door locks itself behind you, those rumours of the place being haunted start to make you worry a little more…
Sleepover is a jam-packed 80 minute game that you really get your money’s worth from! If you enjoy a good jump scare, you’ll be sure to have a great time!
Cabin in the Woods – Stuck in the Riddle, Huddersfield
Memory implant technology sends you back into the memory of serial killer the silent slayer’s last victim. You find yourself in a remote cabin in the woods. Well of course, what could be more appropriate as a killer’s lair?! Your mission is to find out the identity of the killer and get out of the memory before he comes back to kill the person whose memory you are inhabiting.
We had a great time playing this as a pair and can safely say there were lots of nervous giggles following being made to jump.
Not all fairy tales have happy endings… as the Millers found out when the price of a game they played with a wicked little man was their daughter Olivia, who was taken by him. They’ve spent years trying to find him to have a second chance at the game, and now that they’ve found the man with no name, can you help them defeat him?
A brilliant, dark and unnerving twist on a well-known fairy tale! We loved this room and enjoyed just how cleverly the elements are woven together.
Rated 18+, Seance is a chilling game including genuine arcane artifacts, demonic symbols and rituals. You enter the home of Tabitha, a sickly child who was lost when her mother did a ritual to try to help her. Expect a couple of jump scares incited by Tabitha popping to see what you’re up to. Lots of creepiness in a relatively small space, this is a really fun room!
Escapologic again?! Yes! And while this is a significant step down in terms of outright terror from the 13utcher (no live actor for a start), it is still a creepy room set in a disturbing toy shop with the ability to prompt some good jump scares! Escapologic have really thought about the *special* touches to send a shiver down your spine in this game. We absolutely loved this game, in particular the amazing clue system they use, which lends itself completely to the theme and fans of spooky stuff will LOVE!
There is a section which will require the group to separate, but we managed this as a pair and while unnerving, no one comes into the room so you’re as safe as you can be in a creepy toy shop!
Father Frederick has asked you to enter the Monastery at Kelham Hall to search for Novice Tobias who has gone missing. Your Sacred mission is to search for his whereabouts and discover the truth… A really atmospheric game set in the grounds of Kelham Hall. Who knew that monks could be so creepy?
Lucardo provide a PG rating for this game which is sure to give you the creeps. The derelict St Josephine’s Orphanage for Girls is up for auction so you’re headed there to take a look at the site and its redevelopment potential. Upon entering the building, the previous residents have left eerie signs of their unhappy time in the Orphanage and you get caught up in the history of the place. Just try not to get singled out by the cruel woman who ran the place, and try not to get locked in the Keeper (we thought this was veeeery reminiscent of the chokey from Matilda!)
You may recognise this as the game Ariana Grande played on the Late Late Show with James Corden (just at a different branch, somewhere in the USA, rather than Sheffield). Set in a dilapidated ex-children’s home, local urban legend claims that many moons ago the home’s Headmaster used to pay for his own immortality with the souls of these poor unfortunate children. Of course this means that exploring the place you uncover unnerving items, things that go bump in the night and downright creepy goings-on. IF you want to break the curse, set these poor children’s souls free and make it out of the derelict building unscathed, you may have to RUN!
An innocent little girl called Abigail whose life was stolen by her cruel parents who locked her away in her bedroom for years. Tragically she was taken by the flames of a blazing fire, burnt and alone. Some say they still see a little girl walking the hallways of the now derelict Hallows House. Since Abigail’s death in the early 1940s, there has been a terrifying amount of disappearances and accidents within the walls.
You’re part of a paranormal team investigating Hallows House when things turn sinister. A haunting looking doll has been watching you and you realise the uncanny familiarity the doll has to long gone Abigail. This is really exciting game spread over a large space giving you plenty of chances to get the willies as you go off exploring the house, and with a few opportunities for jump scares thrown in for good measure.
If you are a longstanding fan of scares and escape rooms, you may remember Bad Clown. Unfortunately we missed out on playing this as we have heard that it was SCARY- in fact, owners Elaine and Mike said that so many teams would refuse before the beginning was over! As a result, a tamer version, Mr Chuckles’ Funhouse, emerged and we have had the pleasure of playing this!
You need to outsmart Mr Chuckles and his puzzles to escape his creepy funhouse. To do this, each player needs to win a ticket. The catch? The time ends as soon as the first golden ticket holder exits the game, sabotaging the rest of the team’s chances of exiting the creepy funhouse, so you need to decide what’s more important – A fast time or for every member of your team to win the game? Will you come together as a team to overcome Mr Chuckles and his games or will it be every player for themselves?
For teams unlucky enough to still be inside without a ticket or too slow to get out as the final seconds tick by, Mr Chuckles has one last surprise up his sleeve…
A missing bride is never a good thing…. Jilted? Or is something more sinister at play?
Can you go to hell and back to find out what really happened after the bridal party left the bride? Jilted offers plenty of puzzles in an impressive and interactive set that really immerses you in the unorthodox rituals the bride got involved in during her preparations for the big day. While there are definite creepy vibes and a darker story line at play, this game won’t scare your pants off (well not too much anyway!)
A very dramatic (and black mirror-esque) introduction sets the story line for the Hellevator: your torturous ascent will be live streamed to the general public watching your every move as you try to solve the series of trials to make it up to floor 13 successfully! The drama and tension escalates exponentially as you ascend towards the final level, creating an intense and exhilarating finish, and feeling a rush of adrenaline followed by relief to have completed the Hellevator!
Sam has been sticking around in your Motel for longer than the average guest. To add to that, something doesn’t feel quite…right…about him. He gives you the creeps and you want to know what he’s hiding. So, opportunity strikes when he heads out one evening and you take your chance to snoop around his room and find out who Sam really is. Just try to be quick and make it out before he returns to discover you in his dingy motel room, otherwise things could get really nasty!
Out on the docks of Whitby, people have been disappearing. These are dark times, and there are rumours of things being spotted in the shadows. The locals have grown fearful, but the night watchman might have uncovered the secret. He’s the next person who has gone missing, but managed to leave a trail of clues. As the top detectives in Yorkshire, you have been called in to help. Can you follow in the night watchman’s footsteps find out what is wreaking terror on the town. (If you know anything about what Whitby is famous for, you may be able to hazard a guess at what or who that might be…)
These rooms probably won’t scare you, but they scratch the Halloween itch just nicely!
Frankenscape – Ctrl Alt Esc, Margate
You might be able to guess what the theme of this room is from the name! Professor Alec Smart has been working on a groundbreaking experiment that some may think is controversial. The key to its success is lightning and a storm is a-brewin’. Ctrl Alt Esc has gone all out on a thrilling room, and the end sequence is unforgettable!
If you’re a fan of gothic classic Dracula, you’ll love Carfax! You are called upon by Van Helsing following some strange goings on, to find out what is going on. In Carfax, you follow the story of Dracula from arrival in the dockyard, through to overcoming the infamous vampire himself. And to add to the gothic atmosphere, Carfax is built within Nottingham’s underground cave network. Does it get more spooky and atmospheric than that?! But rest assured, this is not a scary game, just based around a Halloweeny theme.
Can you beat Death himself? Find out in this adventure through Purgatory, Hell and into the pearly gates of heaven. If you succeed, you get to add your name to the Book of Life. Fail, and I guess you’re…well…dead.
You’ve been mistakenly put on Ward 13, and that is a place you do NOT want to be! Can you manage to work out how to sneak your way out before you end up in the same position as the patients before you? If you know Pretty Little Liars, think Radley vibes… A creepy theme, but rest assured that you can enjoy this safe in the knowledge that there aren’t going to be any jump scares to throw you off your puzzling!
I’m sure you know the story of Sweeney Todd. Barbershop… people going missing… plenty of delicious pies in Mrs Lovetts’ shop downstairs. Enigma have created a magnificent recreation of the Victorian tale in this game, with an amazing centerpiece that sets this off perfectly! Despite the dark tale, you won’t be too scared, just make sure you don’t try any of those pies!
While visiting Salem, you hear stories that supposed witch Marjorie Sutton can still be seen prowling around in her old stomping ground and you want to know the truth, so you head to her abandoned shack in the woods to explore. But while you are there, the witching hour strikes. Transported into the world of Salem Witch trials, you must find and destroy the book of the damned and escape the cabin before you are trapped in the Salem forest forever. A great game to enjoy the atmospheric witch-y theme with no scares to freak you out.
What a magical game! We’d recommend bringing a big group to this game as the room is jam packed with puzzles and is quite the challenge. In fact, with this game- the more, the merrier as it is a spacious room and can accommodate up to 10 players. Based on a real tale of witch trials that took place in Derby in the 1600s, you enter the cabin of these two accused witches, centuries after their conviction for witchcraft, to explore their cabin, find out the truth and become part of the legend. A perfect way to celebrate Halloween with all your fellow spooky season connoisseurs!
Escape Tales: The Awakening Review | Players take on the role of Sam, whose daughter has been in a coma for a couple of months and whose doctors still cannot explain how or what caused it. According to them, everything is fine with the girl; she’s healthy and shouldn’t be in this condition. Sam is desperate and looks for answers everywhere he can.
Enter Mark, a man whose son was once in a similar condition. Mark is quiet on the details, handing Sam a scary-looking book containing a ritual called “The Awakening”. Mark promises that the book contains the answer, but Sam will need to prepare himself mentally for the journey ahead. Sam must transverse a whole different reality! Through determination, and a bit of luck, he will be able to find his daughter, understand the cause of her condition, and wake her up.
Completion Time: 3-4 hours Date Played: Summer 2020 Party Size: 2 Difficulty: Medium
A sinister, story-driven game
The Awakening is a spell-binding, mysterious experience, merging board game and escape room, all pulled together by an emotionally charged, superb story. We played this during Lockdown 1.0 in Summer 2020, and absolutely loved it! We had added it to our wish list for a while before purchasing, and we are soo glad we did (and have since gone on to buy the other two games released by Escape Tales because it was so great and we wanted more!) because this game is a worthwhile investment!
The Escape Tales games’ format is an escape room style card game. But where, in an escape room you are challenged to complete the game within an hour, there are no time limitations in the Awakening, and encourages players to fully explore the story world they find themselves in, getting an amazing 3-6 hours of game play out of this story!
Logistically, this means that the game works as a choice based narrative, combining the use of a puzzle book with various cards, and an online app to input your answers and access clues. Players are required to solve puzzles to access objects or snippets of information. You are then required to make a series of (sometimes morally ambiguous!) choices, in order to progress through the game, moving you through various locations. You only have a limited number of moves in each location, so you need to think carefully about whether you *really* need to look at the teddy bear…
We found because of the decision making aspects of this game, that it worked well to play as a pair, as we could discuss our options and come to an agreement over what to do next. While the game is marketed for 1-4 players, we feel that 2 is the sweet spot for not having too many opinions on what to do next, while being able to talk each other into good decisions and out of bad decisions!
You have chosen wisely
There is a good level of re-playablilty of The Awakening, as there are multiple different endings that players can end up with, depending on your choices throughout the game. This is great, as investing in a boxed game, it’s nice to know that you can play it again and get a different outcome! Lots of play at home games are designed to be played once, so it’s good to know that we can pass this on to someone else to enjoy without having the fear of ‘destroying’ anything that would affect future players’ game play!
By a very happy accident, we ended up with the most successful outcome (in the circumstances…), so we were pleased (read: extremely relieved!) about this. We did have a peek at the alternative endings and have to say, if you do choose less wisely, things certainly don’t go so well…
We got so engrossed in the story that we played the game in one hefty sitting (probably about 3-4 hours) ⏰ Considering that this is a play at home game, it is extremely immersive- we felt transported into a sinister ‘in-between’ land of those who have passed, or nearly passed!
The puzzles were challenging and logical, and managed to be varied despite the card based nature of the game. We got stuck in a few places, and definitely made some questionable decisions looking back 😦
The Beautiful Game
No, no, not football! We’re still talking about The Awakening and how beautiful this game’s aesthetic is! The artwork in the game was brilliant. We loved the style of the drawing, the theming and the colours used to create the perfect atmosphere for the story. The room cards are so vibrant, and each room you explore is so different.
In our first play through, there were some rooms we didn’t even mange to reach due to the choices we made, so when we glimpsed 👀 these when packing away the game we were definitely inspired to replay- we want to go to the bathroom next time!
We would 100% recommend The Awakening games, but would add a provision that the story can get quite dark in places, with a content warning for themes of suicide, so tread cautiously if this concerns you. Perhaps give Children of Wyrmwoods a go, which doesn’t have a content warning, we’d definitely recommend giving Escape Tales a go!
You can purchase Escape Tales: The Awakening, as well as their other games: Low Memory (also great) and Children of Wyrmwoods (we have this on our games shelf ready to play 😃) from Board & Dice for €17,50.
The year is 2321, Earth’s population has spread out into space. Mega-corporations have built space stations throughout the galaxy.You have not long arrived on-board a Citadel class space station owned by the Federal Defence Union (FDU). The main function of this Citadel is scientific research and development.The night you arrived, the station’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) was beginning to malfunction. And now, only one week later, the Citadel’s main power has just shut down, and the backup generator has come online.
The doors won’t open, communications don’t work, and you can hear some unusual noises from other parts of the space station.Can you escape before the backup generator goes offline and you’re trapped on-board forever?
Completion Time: 32:30 Date Played: 26th August 2021 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Moderate
We have seen a lot of good reviews flowing in for Escape Nation’s room, The Citadel, so we took the opportunity of visiting Al’s parents to journey down to Stafford – and we were NOT disappointed! This room was BRILLIANT. It was definitely a good choice to play with Al’s parents, who are big fans of ‘puzzle content’. We actually managed to escape with the second fastest time ever recorded, which we were absolutely stoked with.
The logic definitely was not puzzling…
When things ‘click’ in an escape room, it always makes a room more appealing. As a group of 4, it was surprising that we all seemed to gel with the puzzle flow and the use of logic in the room. This was one of those rooms where you kept seeing new puzzles that were yet to come, which can be distracting as you get excited about the puzzles still to solve, whilst you are still figuring out the previous puzzle.
We split up into two duos for the majority of the room, each moving through different puzzles, and coming back together at the particularly ‘tricky’ bits! Some of the puzzles used in this room were ones we haven’t seen before (which is unusual now we’ve done >150 rooms!). Others were more ‘classic’ escape room puzzles, but when delivered so well, these are a joy to solve. We even managed to do some searching, successfully! Perhaps it was the addition of Al’s parents, or perhaps it was just a good day for us, but we will take that victory haha!
Artificial Intelligence… Friend or foe?!
The interaction between the players and the AI in this room was great. We love a good sci-fi story, and this did not disappoint. In fact, we thought we had finished the room at one point (so much so that Al’s mum had gone and put her coat on!), only for a rather alarming alarm to sound, and the narrative took quite a dramatic twist. We quickly dropped our bags, took off our coats and returned to puzzling. It was fun to see parts of the room we had thought we wouldn’t interact with suddenly open up and become part of the gameplay – a welcome surprise.
We are so glad the room ended like this. We weren’t quite ready to leave the room when we thought we had finished, and loved the opportunity to face even more puzzles. It made the experience feel much fuller and really helped to create that ‘last minute’ game tension that can sometimes be missing from rooms which you click with so well.
We can’t recommend this room enough. The puzzles, the decoration, the hosts, everything was brilliant. If you are in the vicinity of Stafford, definitely make your way across, and see if you can beat our time!
USB Escape Season 1 Review | Conventional escape rooms lock you in a room with a ticking clock and an assortment of puzzles. USB Escape brings that complexity and that intensity to your desktop for the ultimate immersive experience. Join us in solving a reality- bending virtual escape room puzzle collection.
Hours of story-driven puzzles explore the psychological horror of a broken family recovering buried truths. These will test your ability to observe the unseen and your commitment to uncover the truth.
Have you got an inquisitive mind?
Date Played: July/August 2021 Number of Players: 2 Difficulty: Medium Time Taken: 2 stints of approximately 60-90 mins
Are you ready to plug into an immersive Escape Room experience like no other?
This game starts from the moment you receive your USB in the post, with an accompanying letter, as players are pulled straight into the USB Escape universe. The first thing to mention in this game is the wonderful USB itself. It’s so unique (much nicer looking than any USB we ever used at uni to save our essays on, and more exciting!) and we are huge fans of the logo and branding here. It was exciting plugging this into the laptop, and watching the game develop at our fingertips!
We’ve never used the file explorer this way before, to ‘unlock’ files using the correct password, but it worked so well! You are given just enough information to start piecing the story together, but with a lot of cleverly placed ‘plot holes’ that make you desperate to figure out what happened in June of 2017. There are also helpful ‘password reset’ files for each puzzle, in case you need a hint to nudge you in the right direction- just don’t click into these files unless you are hoping for a bit of help! As you travel further into the narrative, you realise that things are definitely not OK, and something spooky is afoot. We both enjoy a creepy theme, and this game played some of the classic horror themes nicely!
Is Alice a wimp? The answer is always… Yes!
The use of video and audio were particularly effective, especially to help pull players into an immersive universe. Watch out if you’re wearing headphones, Al had to take hers off at one point and watch through her fingers (much to Ash’s amusement!). (Side note – Al is a bit of a wimp, you will be perfectly fine playing this game even if you are a bit averse to the horror genre!). The creepiness increases as you progress with the game, so we would recommend playing this in a couple of longer sittings (or one major sesh, if you’re hardcore), to ensure that you get the full experience of being pulled into the tension.
Gmail has never been so scary!
The puzzles were interesting: lots of visual searching was required (good practice for us!) and often you had to combine multiple pieces of information to solve the puzzles. Players are provided with snippets of information, through the medium of email between two central characters – “Owen” and his sister “Allie”. These emails get gradually more unsettling as you unlock more information. The progression of the narrative was strong, climaxing with an intense ending based on a local urban legend that had us both at the edge of our seats!
Reaching the end… for now…
We were so impressed by the volume of story and puzzles, all stored away in the tiny USB. There was one point during this game that gave Al quite the shock (and felt SUPER unsettling, it is such a simple but clever idea to do this). USB Escape can even add some ‘personal’ touches to your copy of the game! Ash gifted this game to Al as a birthday present, so of course she just HAD to get some creepy additions in there , and had a slight upper hand in knowing what was coming…
Overall, we really enjoyed this game, and we will definitely be looking forward to continuing the saga with Season 2 when this is released! See our full ratings below.
Escapages Vice Versa Review | Two strangers are meeting, heading for the same destination. One is a murderer; the other a victim. But who is who?
In this unique and ground-breaking book, 46 puzzles have been placed alongside a gripping narrative. The only way to solve the puzzles is to have a companion work through the puzzles, using the other edition of this book. Whether sitting next to each other, or on the other side of the world, you will need to work together to discover the truth.
Fun Factor: 5/5
Overall: 3.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
An Escape Game… In a book?
YES! Aptly named company EscaPAGES creates escape room style puzzle content in BOOK format.
We’d previously got our hands on Journal 29 and were enjoying playing these puzzles as a great way to pass time on long train journeys (well, before COVID anyway…) or as a rainy afternoon activity. Journal 29 completed, we now wanted to find a new puzzle book adventure to enjoy during lockdown!
Escapages have a whole host of puzzle books on offer, but we decided to opt for a concept that stood out to us the most: a set of two books which contain clues and keys to ‘unlock’ the overall answer to each puzzle. This seemed perfect to us as here at Escaping the Closet we come as a pair!
There are two different adventures of this two-player ilk: Escape the Compound and Vice Versa. Although Escape the Compound sounds brilliant (each puzzle’s answer forms a compound word, from the clues provided in each version of the book), one of the editions is easier than the other, making it accessible for parents to play with children, or an avid puzzler with a newbie. As both avid puzzling fans, we figured we would not be able to decide who got the easier copy, so this helped swing it for us to opt to try Vice Versa!
Heads, or Tails?
As a cooperative puzzle escape book, you need to buy both editions of Vice Versa. Escapages distinguish between these by calling them Heads Edition and Tails Edition. In other words, if you have the Heads Edition, in order to successfully solve any of the puzzles, you will need a partner playing with the companion: Tails Edition.
We (fittingly) flipped a coin to work out who would get which edition and got stuck straight into Vice Versa. The beauty of puzzle books like this is that they can be played at any time. There’s no need to set aside a full hour for escaping, even if you’ve only got a spare 15 mins, you could probably fit in a puzzle or two!
There are 46 puzzles to complete in Vice Versa, meaning you can chip away at it however you fancy… One puzzle a day, a marathon puzzle sesh, or anything in between! We found a happy medium of fitting in a stint of about 5-10 puzzles each time we picked up the books, so we could thoroughly immerse ourselves back into the story and feel like we’d had our puzzling fix!
How does Vice Versa Work?
Well, in the words of Escapages themselves:
‘Sometimes you’ll have half a puzzle, and they’ll have the other half. You’ll have a code, and they’ll have the key to that code. Using your wits and the occasional internet search, you will work to uncover the buried third story, hidden within puzzles, codes and ciphers.’
In essence, it’s really important to communicate clearly between the both of you, to see how your unique parts of the puzzle align to give you a solution. No sneaky glances at the other person’s book!
More than just pieces of the puzzle
But, Vice Versa is more than just a puzzle book- within the pages a gripping narrative has been created, making this a story-driven puzzle book, providing that nod to a more escape room feel than a standard puzzle book. In Vice Versa, each edition tells the story of two people whose lives are linked in a curious way- both are on a journey towards one another, but one is a killer and the other a victim. But which is which? The parallel storyline provides twists and turns leaving you guessing right to the end, who is the murderer and who is innocent.
You have co-operative puzzles set alongside an immersive storyline. But that’s not all; each section of the story provides subtle hints linked to its associated puzzle – everything is relevant!
Sometimes we found it could be really helpful to take a step back and look at everything related to the puzzle on a macro level… What links are there between each of our sections of the story, and between the story and the puzzle? We found that key words in the text could literally be the key to unlocking how to approach the puzzle. Remember those parallels between the two storylines? While they throw each character’s intentions and motives into question, make sure you pay attention to them!
The A-ha Moment!
When you have pulled together all the relevant pieces for a puzzle, you can check whether you are right! Each puzzle is fully supported with a QR code linking to the Escapages website, so you can check as you go. Getting a solution correct unlocks for you a ‘key’ word. This is a word shared across both books, and make sure you hang on to all of these solutions!
But it’s not over once you’ve solved all 46 puzzles (is it ever really over?!) Oh no, you are in for a TREAT, because there is still one final piece to unlock- a third, shared story! Could this be to do with those key words we told you to keep a hold of? Maybe, just maybe… 😉 (Yes, yes it is).
Do these two individuals know one another? Who is the killer? What is their motive? You’ll have to pick up a copy of Vice Versa with your best puzzling companion to find out! (And hope to not turn out to be the killer…although thinking about it, it doesn’t seem so great to be the victim either…. Maybe it’s best to just flip a coin for it!)
You can buy Vice Versa from Amazon for approximately £7 per book (don’t forget you need both Heads and Tails editions!), or go to Escapages’ website to find out more about the other great puzzle books they have on offer!
In order to stop the Professor from breaching our firewall, you and your team will have to access Mr Q’s old base. The only way in, however, is to shrink down to the size of a mouse with the help of the Shrink’o’Mat. Word of caution, agents: the technology you’ll be exposed to is…a bit unstable and still experimental. You’ll have only 60 minutes to counteract the cyber attack and secure the mainframe before the Shrink’o’Mat’s effect wears off and things get messy.
Battling the storm en route to escape!
We played cQ Origenes back in February 2020, just before the pandemic began, which must have been the last time we were in London (wow that feels like a long time ago!).
Our first mission however was actually getting there, as this was during the ‘Storm Dennis’ weekend… Luckily, escape rooms are literally the PERFECT rainy day activity! Although, they are also ideal on: sunny days, snowy days, windy days too.
This trip was our second time at clueQuest. We had previously taken on Operation Blacksheep with the same team and thoroughly enjoyed it, so were very excited to be back to face the slightly more challenging cQ Origenes room. cQ Origenes is one which is always recommended as a top room in terms of the capital’s offerings, and it’s easy to see why. Even clueQuest’s reception area feels special, bustling full with teams. It makes for a very lively pre-escape atmosphere!
It’s clear clueQuest would be so great to host a big party with lots of people taking on different rooms and all coming back together to discuss times, and inevitably, searching fails!
…Hm, maybe this is something we would do for the big 3-0…?
The Mission Brief
Back to the mission: the briefing for cQ Origenes was consistent with the overarching CQ storyline – our group of ‘spies’ have to break in and retrieve an SD card. However, this is more challenging than it first appears! The first step of the two stage mission requires you to operate the shrink-o-mat to infiltrate the lair – making everything after this point ‘larger than life’!
Beyond this, the room is split really well, with the decoration tying into the storyline allowing for a super smooth puzzle flow.
The cQ Origenes rooms are decorated brilliantly, which is no surprise as the production value on clueQuest’s rooms is SUPER HIGH. This really pays off to create an immersive atmosphere with a humorous twist.
The mission offers great interactivity and clever puzzles to solve: varied, challenging, logical and original… There was plenty to get on with. We were glad that we went in with a strong team of 4, Tilda and Johnny are always super on it for escaping (our favourite kind of friends haha!).
There was even one very special padlock in the room – we’re sure even the biggest padlock-phobe would enjoy opening.
Good things come in small packages
We absolutely loved the concept of this room, it was so simple but designed incredibly well. We had so much fun exploring all the props and clever, special touches in the space. The props were well designed and pretty much everything really ‘worked’, meaning a great deal of exploring the room pays off, not only for progressing the story, but also for the wow-factor of discovery!
We were particularly blown away by the final puzzle: this really impressed us with its design… But you’ll have to go and play to see what we mean!
Alas, we did hit a hiccup at the end and spent around 10 minutes stuck on one (tiny, tiny…) piece… However, our overall escape time came in at just over 56 minutes, successfully returning to full size! That said, looking at the photo it looks like Johnny is full size and the rest of us are still slightly shrunk haha!
cQ Origenes is great for enthusiasts or large groups of newbies looking for a challenge! We definitely hope to return to help Mr Q face Blacksheep again next time we return to London.
Which room would you recommend we try our hand at next?! Check out our reviews for clueQuest’s other games here.
cQ Origenes can be booked on clueQuest’s website here.