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!

Exciting Prizes to be Won in Sherlocked’s New Puzzle Contest

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If you’re still reeling from missing Puzzletember (yep, me too), fear not! Sherlocked have just announced the launch of another fun puzzle activity taking place on their social media from now until the end of the year.

To celebrate the launch of their upcoming in-person escape room “The Alchemist” in Amsterdam, these 6 puzzles will be dropping every Thursday at 5pm UK time on Instagram.

 

 

6 puzzles, over 6 weeks… And MORE than 6 fantastic prizes to be won.
Each week there are two chances to win a prize:

In addition to the weekly prizes, one player who submits the answer to the final seventh puzzle will receive VIP tickets to play The Alchemist, including a behind the scenes pass and a stay at a local hotel, the Zoku, in Amsterdam.

 

 

This week, a teaser puzzle went live. Whilst there’s no prize for it, successfully solving it will give you a clue as to what to expect from the rest of the series. Give it a go by tapping the link below:

 

How to Take Part

To take part, sign up at sherlocked.nl/alchemist and set a reminder over on Instagram. This way you’ll be notified when each puzzle goes live and be in with a chance of winning that first to solve prize.

Good luck, puzzlers!

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

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

Compendium Bury: Laboratory, Bedlam, Wrong Turn | Review

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Date played: March 2022
Time taken: 48 minutes / 46 minutes / 45 minutes
Number of players: 2
Difficulty: Easy / Hard / Medium

As someone who lives in London, I don’t often get the chance to venture ‘up north’, but there are quite a few companies that are making a name for themselves! Just outside of Manchester (an easy tram ride away) is the small town of Bury, home to “Compendium Escapes”. We decided to tick off all their rooms at once, so here I’m covering the first three, and leaving their award-winning final room for a post of its own!

 

Compendium: Laboratory | Review

You and your friends have been given the challenge to find and steal a Laboratory’s TOP secret remedy needed to cure a deadly disease. You have been entrusted with all the information you need to gain entry to the lab but no idea how to find the antidote undetected and once inside you find yourselves trapped. Do you have what it takes to save lives and escape the lab with the antidote?

 

When we entered the lab we found ourselves in a relatively large, clean room with plenty of science-y artifacts lying around. The premise is simple; locate and recover the antidote for the deadly pandemic that is ravaging the planet (I swear this was launched long before Covid-19). We immediately split up and started searching for clues, locating a number of interesting items and numbers dotted about. The decor in the room was great – it played into the theme and there quite multiple times when something which initially appeared to be a prop turned into a key puzzle!

 

Image (c) Manchester Evening News

 

This room is often said to be the best room for families, and I can see why – the room is full of bright colours and varied puzzles, with most puzzles within reach of small hands and some exciting little spaces to explore. The only issue is that the one main puzzle in the room (to access the parts of the antidotes) would not be possible for younger children, and indeed was not possible for me at 5ft3! However, the GM handled this really well, and let us off as he could see we had made quite a few attempts, but just physically couldn’t manage it. If this had been later in the day I can imagine this would’ve made us quite frustrated, but as it was we brushed past it and chalked it up to a slightly annoying thing.

Accessibility (Spoilers!)

The location isn’t very physically accessible, being up some quite steep stairs, but the room itself has a chair to sit in and is well lit. There is some reliance on colour, and that pesky physical puzzle. Hints are given via a screen, so otherwise no reliance necessarily on hearing.

 

Compendium: Bedlam | Review

 

Bentham Asylum has been standing since the 1900’s. In 1950 Bentham was given the nickname BEDLAM because of the events that happened in those 50 years, In 1974 Cell p23 was mysteriously locked without an explanation as to why. Bedlam has secrets that need to be uncovered. You and your team are the top journalists in your field, you have been tasked with uncovering the secrets that are held behind Cell P23’s walls. Can you go undercover, get in the cell undetected and escape with all the documents that will uncover the secrets of BEDLAM? 

I am really not a horror fan. I am a massive coward, so the idea of doing not just one, but two ‘scary’ rooms was a little daunting. However, we spoke to the Compendium team prior to booking who assured me there would be no live actors or jump scares, so we went ahead and booked. Bedlam definitely fits into the ‘creepy’ and suspenseful area of ‘scary’, with atmospheric background music/sounds that felt extremely immersive. I actually found myself really enjoying this! The combination of dingy lighting, a chair with handcuffs, and random screams in the background helped set the mood and get the adrenaline running before any puzzles have taken place.

The room itself is very small – we played as a duo, and I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to play with anymore! Despite this, I was amazed by how much Compendium have fit into this space, and we were constantly surprised by certain discoveries. There are so many hidden areas carefully blended into the padded walls that we really had a sense of excitement and never knew what was coming next.

The puzzles were a fantastic example of thematic design – they all fit the theme perfectly, and to a certain extent helped carry the narrative too. They were fairly non-linear (I know there were a few puzzles I never saw), with a couple that also required some team cooperation.  None of the puzzles frustrated us, and all the logic made total sense. There were also some really interesting mechanisms used for these puzzles, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Accessiblity (spoilers!)

Like all their rooms, this is very much not accessible. Obviously, you need to climb up some steep stairs to reach the room itself, but there is a chair within the room. There is the requirement for at least one team member to be happy with crawling and small spaces, although this really isn’t the room for anyone with claustrophobia given the general size. The room was fairly dim, but we found a torch which helped!

 

 

Compendium: Wrong Turn | Review

 

You and your friends are driving along route 66 when you notice your gas running low, a friend suggests to make a turn at the next set of crossroads to see if there is a gas station… you don’t find a gas station but decide to explore the one place you have discovered by taking that WRONG TURN…. Will you escape or will you spend your life regretting that wrong turn?

The third room we did at Compendium was another ‘scary’ room – this time we entered the home of a serial killer. Once again we confirmed there were no live actors or jump scares, but unfortunately, there were plenty of mannequins (which is my specific phobia). The team were great though, and removed what they could, giving my mum a warning of where others were so she could deal with them for me. That aside, this room was fantastically creepy in a different way to Bedlam. Rather than screams, the soundtrack was instead an old fashion song and commercial, and the room and set dressing were just off enough to be unsettling.

 

Image (c) Manchester Evening News

 

Rather than entering into the lair directly, we instead found ourselves in an old-fashioned kitchen off Route 66. At first glance, nothing seems amiss, but look a bit closer and you realise that maybe things are not as they appear. The set dressing here was excellent, with a lot of relevant props and accessories to investigate, but not so many that they would count as red herrings (and none dressed as puzzles). The difference between this room and the lair (when you discover it) is very stark, and quite horrific (as you might imagine).

The puzzles themselves were a bit trickier than the other rooms, but still had a great flow and were fairly non-linear. I really appreciated the need to hunt for items and keep track of these throughout the room, as well as the requirement to move between the kitchen and the lair. The space is also a lot bigger than initially anticipated, with a great sense of atmosphere. There were also some unique physical puzzles here, which I quite enjoyed!

Accessibility (spoilers!)

In terms of accessibility – again, steep stairs to the location, but chairs inside. There is a requirement to be able to crawl to reach the lair, and there are some smaller, darker spaces to be aware of. You will need to be able to differentiate colours for this room too.

 

Compendium, The Verdict

 

I think Compendium is a fantastic company, who clearly pay close attention to all aspects of room design. I have written a separate review about their final room, UI-55, which is currently my number 1 room. Out of these three, I enjoyed ‘Bedlam’ the most, followed by ‘Wrong turn’, but that’s probably my cowardice talking. I would say you shouldn’t be put off my the scary aspect of either room though, as they are worth playing!

The team at ‘Compendium’ are also fantastic – we spent a long time chatting with them and they are top-notch. Given we booked all 4 rooms they’d actually ‘closed’ the place for the day, so we could be a bit relaxed about timings and decide when we wanted to play each room. This gave us time to grab refreshments between rooms, and decide on our lunch break, rather than either rushing out of one room and into the next, or else sitting around in a long gap. This was a little touch that was really appreciated and so unexpected. I also just enjoyed talking to them in general, as they are clearly passionate about what they do (which shines through in the rooms) and so we spent a while comparing and recommending rooms to each other! Compendium is definitely a must-visit for me.

These rooms can be booked on the Compendium Bury website.

Ubisoft announce their latest VR escape room: Save Notre Dame on Fire

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If any of your local escape rooms or VR cafes offer “VR escape rooms”, there’s a chance you’ll have spotted a game or two by the video game developer, Ubisoft. Well known in our industry for creating the (fantastic) Beyond Medusa’s Gate, The Dagger of Time and Escape the Lost Pyramid, Ubisoft have a reputation for high quality, cinematic escape experiences set in the video game universe(s) of Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia. Which is why when they announced last month that their newest VR escape room experience was set in present day France, we were surprised! Surprised, but still excited.

 

Save Notre Dame on Fire

In 2019 the Notre Dame cathedral in the centre of Paris, France caught fire and was almost destroyed by the blaze that lasted 15 hours. In their latest adventure, Save Notre Dame on Fire, Ubisoft have created a virtual reality puzzle experience that puts players in the shoes of the first responders and firefighters who were sent to the scene to put out the flames and save the historic building.

The player’s mission (should they choose to accept it), is to venture into the building and recover the “crown of thorns”, an incredibly precious relic stored within.

Where previous games in the Ubisoft VR experience were based on video games, this one is based on the film “Notre-Dame On Fire” by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The experience is supported by first hand accounts of the firefighters on the scene, and experts on the building’s architecture, history, and the events that unfolded in 2019.

 

 

After extensively researching the Notre Dame’s structure in order to recreate the building in Assassin’s Creed Unity, the video game developer had been actively involved in the reconstruction effort. After hearing of this, the film’s director Jean-Jacques Annaud contacted Ubisoft with a proposal to use their vast library on Notre Dame to create a new kind of virtual reality experience.

In an interview, Ubisoft’s Senior Vice President Deborah Papiernik explained that the company made the choice to create the game as an escape room VR experience rather than an at-home VR experience as a move to bring the game to the general public. She explained,

“Home VR is still growing, and we wanted to do something for the larger public… The social aspect is central to the experience”.

This also ensures that players who don’t have at-home VR equipment can still head to their local escape room and experience the game.

On Ubisoft’s website, they indicate that part of the profits will be contributed to the Notre Dame’s reconstruction:

“Part of the benefits will be donated to the organization in charge or reconstructing Notre-Dame de Paris, giving everyone a chance to contribute to its rebirth.”

 

 

Solve Puzzles, Escape the Building

Save Notre Dame on Fire is a virtual reality experience for 2 – 4 players and will last up to 1 hour long. Unlike traditional escape rooms however, there’s no timer. No big clock looming over the team. Instead players will be forced to work fast on their feet as the building quite literally collapses around them. Players will not only solve puzzles to rescue the crown of thorns, but they’ll also need to work together to extinguish the flames and escape the building once they’ve recovered the precious relic.

Throughout the game payers will explore the choir with the altar, the transept, the gallery of Chimeras, and the bell tower. Players will be expected to climb, run, jump, toggle switches, and use everything they can find to navigate the space. In deciding where to send the players around the physical experience, Papiernik recounted a story of one of the firefighter’s experience. He had grabbed the crown of thorns where it was exhibited, made it out, and then the cathedral told them “That’s not the real one, that’s the copy”.

“The real [crown of thorns] was hidden in a safe, unknown to most people, and retrieving it proved to be a puzzle worthy of an escape game!”

 

 

Where to Play Save Notre Dame on Fire

Presently, it is the intention of Ubisoft that the new game, Save Notre Dame on Fire will be a game available at all existing escape room and VR venues that offer Ubisoft escape games. This roll out has begun with a few companies around the UK already offering the new game, including Chesterfield VR. We expect to see the name pop up at a lot more escape rooms around the company, and if in doubt you can check out the full list on Ubisoft’s website here.

DecodeXP: Teambuilding | Review

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DecodeXP Review | Problem-Solving, reimagined. Problem-solving capacity is an integral part of success in almost every business endeavour. And yet, it is one we rarely test, understand or develop. At DecodeXP we want to change that. Through the development of immersive problem-solving experiences, the use of video-feedback and innovative methodology we can tangibly develop this capacity within teams.  Founded on the military methodology of train hard, fight easy our programmes place participants into complex scenarios where they must work together as a team, solving problems requiring a wide-range of skill-sets. 

Date Played: 29th June 2022
Number of Players: 8
Time Taken: ~70 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium

A few months ago I joined a new company (unfortunately, playing escape rooms cost money), and if I needed any more proof that I had found a great place, they booked DecodeXP for a team-building day! DecodeXP isn’t an escape room per se, but rather a team dynamic assessment and training day, featuring a 90-minute escape room at the start! I was naturally extremely excited about this, and as I had never heard of this company before (being very much in the corporate space), I think it’s worth giving them a little blog post here. I recommend you check out this video of the room they built for Dyson, which is seriously cool!

 

A souvenir of the day!

About the Day

Prior to our team building day, we were asked to complete a quick questionnaire, essentially asking us to say which words we most identified with (are you more a leader or team player? Do you prefer clear steps or an overall goal?). If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world I’m sure you will have done many versions of these previously, but essentially your answers denote your ‘colour’ – you can read more about this here if you’re interested. The escape room portion of the day is ostensibly there to see how everyone acts and interacts where problem-solving and project management is concerned, followed by a debrief after lunch to talk about what you did, what worked, what didn’t work etc. and how to apply that to ‘real life’, before revealing your colour profiles (and discussing).

These are obviously all very interesting factors, which I’ll go into a little more detail afterwards, but we’re obviously just here for the escape room…

Always important to wear the correct PPE

The Escape Room Portion

The escape room portion is really well-positioned in the day –  nice and early to get you engaged and excited for the day, just before lunch so you’ve got a chance to debrief, and really the focal point of everything. It’s also right after the explanation of the colours, so for the first 20 minutes or so everyone is second-guessing their behaviours.

First things first – turns out I am too experienced at escape rooms and would bias some of the actions (totally fair enough), so I was essentially benched.

Yup. I was sat in an escape room but told I couldn’t take part. Nightmare…or was it?

For me, it actually made it even more unique, and actually removed some of those pressures of would we escape, would we beat the other teams’ times, and of course the expectations my team had of me (they had in fact stood there looking at me expectantly, not doing anything until we revealed I had been asked not to take part).

Of course, being an escape room enthusiast I just couldn’t help myself. After what felt like an eternity (although filled with some really interesting escape room-related discussion with Jamie, the founder of DecodeXP) I just happened to take a wander through the room, dropping some (apparently not so) subtle nudges to my colleagues. As the time ticked by I got a little more brazen with my hints, although I did my best not to touch anything!

The way the room is set up is really interesting and really emphasises the team dynamic aspect. As DecodeXP is bespoke and corporate, the room is essentially made up of props/puzzles than can be transported anywhere (although this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re small), so it’s clear the lack of set design has meant more focus could be placed on the puzzles. They were also neatly split out around the room, so for a large team this meant a lot of time with your back to everyone else, huddled over your little puzzle. You can probably guess the issue this lead to…

There was a great mix of puzzles here – from the more basic (find letters, anagram them), to the more complex (identify and combine 2 or 3 different props/pieces of information to find the correct combination), and the usual hidden elements throughout the room too. DecodeXP have done a great job of balancing the difficulty of these puzzles, so they can be solved by varying levels of expertise and capabilities, and addressed many different skill sets. All of the puzzles appeared very simple and logical to me (as an expert) – there were no great leaps in logic required, so I can imagine they were very satisfying to solve.

The room was also non-linear for the most part, which is always a bonus. The overall goal was to track down 14 keycards, and I believe there were 14 puzzles (although a few could only be solved after solving previous puzzles). In fact, there were only 2 areas I think I would mark this down (if this were an actual escape room) – there was no real end goal or final task – once the 14 key cards had been found, that was that. It may have been nice to have had a final, deduction-style puzzle to identify a single name and use that to unlock something or give some other indication of finality. The second thing I would’ve had a minor quibble over was an unsolvable puzzle, requiring the facilitator to step in and explain it, before unlocking the solution. In a real room, this would’ve been a frustrating time sink. In this room…it was pretty funny to watch multiple colleagues fall into the same trap.

Over lunch I had many colleagues lament the fact I couldn’t take part, pity me, and then ask me what I would rate it. I actually had a great time regardless (which I think says something about the room and Jamie), and would rate this pretty highly as a room in its own right. It was an excellent experience – varied puzzles, non-linear, logical solutions…everything I look for!

 

The Debrief

We actually had three separate debriefs – a ‘hot debrief’ immediately after completing the room (5 minutes of initial thoughts and feelings), an ‘unofficial debrief’ over lunch, and then the ‘real debrief’ with Jamie, talking about the things he’d observed and then discussing how to apply these facets in the real world. I’m sure we’ll have another debrief in work, with the other teams who took part too!

As an observer, I found this really interesting and picked up on things I may not have picked on otherwise (or maybe that’s just because I am already aware of the language and methodology of escape rooms). After this we moved into discussing the colours, what colours we were and how to work together, but I think it would’ve been fascinating to discuss the escape room in that context too, to see whether these ‘colours’ shone in the room, and whether Jamie would’ve pinned us as those colours.

 

The Verdict

I loved this. I found the day really engaging, entertaining and fascinating, and I would love to do any room designed by Jamie. Unfortunately, you won’t find it easy to do one – they are mainly corporate and bespoke, but I encourage you to recommend DecodeXP to your own company! In the meantime, I am going to try and persuade my manager to take us to an escape room where I can really show off my skills…

 

If you’d like to book DecodeXP for your next teambuilding, they can be contacted via their website

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.

13 of the best outdoor puzzle trails to play in London

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Inspired by Georgie’s recent article on great team building experiences in London, I found myself looking back on all the outdoor puzzle walking trails I’ve done in London in search of the hidden gems I’d recommend above all others. Being the capital means there’s a hub of fantastic puzzle game creators using the rabbit warren of tight alleyways, historical buildings and local curiosities as their blank canvas for creating innovative and exciting games. I myself even designed a game for the (unfortunately) now-retired company Locked City back before lockdown.

 

London Outdoor Puzzle Trails by Area

If you’re in London and looking to get your puzzle fix whilst sightseeing, look no further! Here we have split each of our favourite walking trails by geographical area.

 

West

Hidden City – The Enchanted Mirror

Start Location: South Kensington Station Arcade
Areas Covered: Kensington
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 4 Miles

Website

The story of The Enchanted Mirror is a classic fairy tale of good vs evil in a quest to discover a mysterious enchanted mirror. The Queen sets you a challenge to best her. A challenge of your wits and cunning but, since so many before you have failed and disappeared, you’ll need more than a little help if you’re to best her and save the land once and for all.

 

The Escape Roomer plays The Enchanted Mirror

 

Secret City Trails – Hampstead

Start Location: Belsize Park Train Station
Areas Covered: Hampstead
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 2.5 Miles

Website

This playful walk across London’s Hampstead sharpens your senses and encourages you to appreciate the most wonderful – and often hidden – details around you.

 

Hidden City – Moriarty’s Game

Start Location: 93 Marylebone High Street
Areas Covered: Marylebone, Mayfair
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 1 Mile

Website

Moriarty’s Game is a must for fans of Sherlock Holmes. Follow in Sherlock’s footsteps as you go into physical locations, discover hidden clues, choose your allegiance, and crack the case Watson has given you. Hidden City is immersive like no other outdoor game you can play in London and is well worth playing.

 

Treasure Trails – London’s Little Venice

Start Location: Paddington
Areas Covered: Little Venice
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

Treasure Trails is fantastic if you’ve got kids, and the best part is the whole thing is completely offline. You’ll be sent a booklet ahead of time packed with puzzles to take you from location to location. If you solve the whole quest, you’ll be entered into a monthly prize draw too!

 

Londons Little Venice

 

Central

Hidden City – The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat

Start Location: 91 The Strand
Areas Covered: Strand, Charing Cross, Waterloo
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat is the walking puzzle tour that made me discover my new favourite pub in all of London – but no spoilers, you’ll just have to play the whole thing yourself to find out where that is! Follow the cat through London’s alleyways, going into landmarks and cafes to speak secret codes and find secret items along the way.

 

AIM Escape – Operation Mindfall

Start Location: Temple
Areas Covered: Temple
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: ~

Website

 

 

Secret City Trails – Picadilly Circus

Start Location: Criterion Theatre
Areas Covered: Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament
Length: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
Distance: 1.3 Miles

Website

This playful walk across London’s vibrant neighbourhoods sharpens your senses and encourages you to appreciate the most wonderful – and often hidden – details around you.

 

The Secret City – Secrets of the Squares

Start Location: Picadilly Circus
Areas Covered: Picadilly Circus, Soho
Length: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Distance: 2.8 Miles

Website

A cryptic trail through the bustling parts of central London and a great spot for tourism, shopping, and eating out.

 

East

Street Hunt – Colombia’s Finest

Start Location: Shoe Lane Library
Areas Covered: Blackfriars, Temple, St. Pauls
Length: 2 hours
Distance: ~

Website

One of my personal favourites on the list, Colombia’s Finest is a fantastically unique walking puzzle game from up and coming Street Hunt games. If you like your coffee with a dash of sinister organisation, illicit drug trade, and of course murder, then it’s a great day out!

The Escape Roomer takes on Colombia’s Finest

 

AIM Escape – Operation Mindfall

Start Location: Monument
Areas Covered: Monument, Tower of London
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: ~

Website

Operation Mindfall is without a doubt in my mind one of the most creative and high-tech outdoor games on the market. AIM Escape’s version in particular takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of London but through the eyes of the super secret spy organisation W.I.S.E. It’s perfect for tourists and locals alike!

 

Treasure Trails – A Tale of Two Bridges

Start Location: Tower Bridge
Areas Covered: Tower Bridge, London Bridge
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

Treasure Trails is fantastic if you’ve got kids, and the best part is the whole thing is completely offline. You’ll be sent a booklet ahead of time packed with puzzles to take you from location to location. If you solve the whole quest, you’ll be entered into a monthly prize draw too!

 

Honorary Mentions

CluedUpp – The Ripper

Start Location: Multiple!
Areas Covered: Multiple!
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

CluedUpp gets an honorary mention on this page because it’s not tied to one specific location. In fact, you can play CluedUpp from practically anywhere in the world. There are a number of ‘events’ running at a number of cities where teams are encouraged to dress up, solve puzzles, and crack cases. We played The Ripper at Kensington and had a great time (although it probably wouldn’t challenge enthusiasts).

 

Team The Escape Roomer taking on The Ripper

Foxtrail – Lancelot

Start Location: St. Pauls
Areas Covered: St. Pauls, Borough
Length: 4+ hours
Distance: 5 Miles

Website

Foxtrail is now sadly retired but was easily my favourite outdoor adventure game in all of London, and I keep it on the list in the hopes that it will one day return! Foxtrail is easily the most ambitious walking trail, with boxes and interactable hidden across the capital. Your ticket also includes a boat ride and several stops, making it a must-do!

Team The Escape Roomer plays Foxtrail

 

That’s all for our list! Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

Meet Mitchell Clifford, the Creator of The Murder on Hemlock Drive | Interview

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An exciting new crowdfunding campaign in support of the murder mystery video game “The Murder on Hemlock Drive” is about to launch, and we caught up with the game’s creator, Mitchell Clifford, to find out more.

 

Mitchell Clifford

 

Mairi: Hey Mitchell, it’s great to meet you! Please introduce yourself.

Mitchell: Hi! My name is Mitchell Clifford. I am a multimedia artist from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mairi: And is this the first video game you’ve created?

Mitchell: Yeah, this is my first video game. So my, my background is in electrical engineering, but I’ve always had an interest in the stories that people tell each other and how do you can use technology to enhance those stories.

Back when I was in high school I was really into animatronics, things like the Dark Crystal and Jim Henson stuff. So when I went through college my main focus was electrical engineering. I mean, you’ve gotta make money somehow, right? But I focused on getting into a school with a great art program. This let me do both.

From here, I’m self-taught. I have some background in coding from the engineering, but learning video game engines, that part is all new to me. I really got into game design when I started attending conferences for VFX, they often showcase a lot of video games and art installations. I’m fascinated with how people tell engaging stories through multimedia and non-traditional formats. Interactive technology is great.

 

 

Mairi: Totally! But what about you, what are some of your favourite games?

Mitchell: From an early age I started out with the Pokemon games. I played Pokemon Yellow and I couldn’t for the life of me beat it. Like, I raised a Level 70 Pikachu and always ran out of money. The funny part is, I finally beat the game years later in college. Haha!

More recently my favourite genre has become puzzle games. I’ve loved playing Gris, Superliminal, Monument Valley… Games like that!

Mairi: How about murder mystery games?

Mitchell: Well, the murder mystery genre is very interesting because my writing a mystery into The Murder on Hemlock Drive came from the storytelling point of view. My first job out of college was really boring, but it let me listen to audio books for hours and hours. At first, I was reading through all of the new Nancy Drew Chronicles because they were all at my all free on my app. Then I got into Agatha Christie, went back to Sherlock Holmes – I read everything I could!

They were such an important part of my life I wanted to make one of myself. I’m not going to compete in the literary field- haha no. But I did want to bring fun and interactivity into stories like this with a video game.

Mairi: And so The Murder on Hemlock Drive was born! How did you go about writing the story?

Mitchell: Sure, so when it came to writing the story, I was inspired by an Agatha Christie book called Towards Zero. It’s such a great way to write these stories. The murder is 0.0 and then everything branches out from there. So I’ve kind of started from there: Here’s the murder! Then working the story back, like how did all these people get here? And then once I have that, I can be like, well how do you solve that? How do you like untangle the mess that happened back here and then have a conclusion?

 

 

Mairi: Will the game just be on PC, or Consoles too?

Mitchell: To begin with, it’ll be on itch.io and steam. The goal there’ll be PC Linux and potentially Mac too. The whole time I’ve been working on the game I’ve actually been imagining it as a tablet or mobile game, so that’s the next step for me. It depends on the interest.

Right now there’s technical demo available on itch.io. It’s got your basic mechanics, the look, the feel, and the music too. I’d definitely encourage people to try it out if they’re interested! It gives you a real feel of the game. I’ve been using local Cincinnati based artists for the illustrations – Evan Verrilli makes the illustrations, and Ethan Kimberley and Katie Carson produce our music.

 

 

Mairi: And if the crowdfunding is successful, what’s next?

Mitchell: We have some stretch goals too. If it does really well, we’ll be expanding our team – I’d love to bring on someone to do more animations for the game, and we can add more levels and expand the look and the feel. It’s been quite hard as a solo game developer. Right now I’m not a full-time designer, my time is split between lots of activities. So even one more person would give us twice the capacity to make the game even better for launch. Expansion stories would also be really fun if the crowdfunding goes really well, there’s so many different stories I want to tell.

Mairi: And finally, what are you hoping the game will achieve once it’s launched?

Mitchell: Haha, well I don’t want to like put too much on it, but I’m hoping that it will be an interesting experience. There’s different character traits and different ways to solve it. So once you solved it, you really feel like you figured it out on your own.

I built in a couple of newer elements, like this risk system, you have to push people for answers, but if you push people too much then it’ll come back to bite you. Perhaps the killer will be alerted you’re on their track, or perhaps people will just feel like you’re an asshole and won’t want to talk to you anymore.

But yeah, I’m really just hoping it’s fun. Even if small amount of people play and really enjoy it, that’ll be good!

We thank Mitchell Clifford for taking the time to be a part of this interview!

If you want to keep up with The Murder on Hemlock Drive, check out the website hemlockmurder.com and Mitchell’s Itch.io page here.