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.

8 HIDDEN GEMS to look out for in the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase!

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Today is launch day of the much anticipated ‘Cerebral Puzzle Showcase‘! Here at The Escape Roomer, we absolutely love a good puzzle game, and this Steam showcase is absolutely packed with them. Running from the 19th to 23rd May this showcase is full of demos, live streams, and even discounts for plenty of games that are designed to make you think!

There are over 100 games in this year’s showcase (too many to list here). Yesterday we shared our top 8 puzzle games launching or being demo-ed for free. Today, here are 8 hidden gems we’re particularly excited for:

 

🐉 Dungeon Time

 

Dungeons and Puzzles

Dungeon and Puzzles is a dungeon adventure themed Sokoban game. The movement and direction are restricted, and the adventurer’s ability can be changed by equipment at hand. Think through every step, destroy every monster and find a way to the end of the dungeon where the treasure awaits.

Why we’re excited: We love a dungeon crawler, but the added puzzle aspect takes this to the next level! This game has what you’d expect of a dungeon games – dungeons, monsters, and weapons! However, you really have to think through your decisions based on the movement and abilities they grant.

Fidel Dungeon Rescue

A critically acclaimed roguelite where you can REWIND to find the optimal path through monsters, treasure and secrets. Quick to play. No grinding. No filler. Deep gameplay.

Why we’re excited: This is a dungeon crawler with less emphasis on the ‘crawling’ – instead of repeatedly dying, reloading, dying reloading…in ‘Dungeon Rescue’ the whole point is to rewind time and do it better, which is a great concept and very ‘Groundhog Day’! Also, you’re a dog. What could be better?

 

🖱️ Point and Click

Creaks

The ground starts shaking, light bulbs are breaking – and something rather unusual is happening right behind the walls of your very room. Equipped with nothing but wit and courage, you slowly descend into a world inhabited by avian folk and seemingly deadly furniture monsters.

Why we’re excited: From cute to creepy, this game is a quintessential point and click with a touch of unnerving!

 

🗝️ Playing with Rooms

Hiding Spot

A difficult puzzle game about isolating yourself. Build a safe place, huddle up and get cozy.

Why we’re excited: This is the introvert’s dream. This whole game asks you to rearrange the room to create a little hiding spot for yourself. Sounds simple right? It seems like there is a lot more to this game than it appears!

 

Moncage

Moncage is a unique puzzle adventure game where you explore a fascinating world trapped inside a mysterious cube. With each face displaying a unique scene, you’ll have to leverage the illusions and discover the hidden links to solve the puzzle.

Why we’re excited: Everything revolves around you… Revolving a cube, which sounds simple but the beautiful scenes within and how they interact with each other is bound to get your scratching your head pretty quickly!

 

🧩 Puzzle Time

 

Carto

Carto is a charming adventure game wrapped around a unique, world-altering puzzle mechanic. Use this power to explore mysterious lands, help a quirky cast of characters, and guide Carto on her journey back to her family.

Why we’re excited: We love the cute art style and story mixed with interesting puzzle and adventure elements!

 

Cosmic Express

Plan the train route for the universe’s most awkward space colony!

Why we’re excited: There’s something comforting about planning a train route, so let’s take that to space to make it even more fun!

 

Yugo puzzle

Yugo Puzzle is a minimalistic, challenging, and satisfying puzzle game. You move jelly blocks left and right to combine them with the same color. It may sound easy, but it can be challenging. Enjoy lots of mind-blowing moments.

Why we’re excited: Sometimes the most simple-looking games have the most interesting mechanics, and we’re looking forward to getting our head around this one!

 

You can sign up for all the news about the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase this week by heading to the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase website. Check out this post to read our top 8 new releases of the showcase, and keep an eye out for another up-coming post where we’ll be detailing some of the fan favourite games in the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase.

Build Your Own Escape Game Artefacts! Part 5

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Have you ever wanted to build your own escape game artefacts using low voltage electronics? Look no further! In the upcoming months, look out for a short series of articles on how you can approach creating small, but effective artefacts for your own game designs.

Previously…

In part 4, we have our basic countdown timer product. Part 5 will look at potential bonus features you can add to your product to make it even better!

You Will Need

Fundamental Equipment

1x Arduino Uno (or open-source copy)
1x Arduino Uno USB connector
A laptop or desktop computer
A download of the Arduino IDE
A power adapter for the Arduino Uno (see part 1 for guidance)
4x male to female dupont cables (1x red, 1x black, 1x yellow, 1x blue)
2x male to male dupont cables (1x black, 1x brown)

Specific Equipment

1x TM1637 4-digit, 7-segment display timer – (Look here for examples)
1x Emergency stop button with locking mechanism when pressed – (Look here for examples)

Extra Feature #1 – Stop & Reset Button

Picture this. You’ve got 5 seconds left on the clock in an escape room, and you’re about to stop the clock just in time by hitting a big red switch. Sounds amazing right? Let’s make it.

Red – 5V -> VCC
Black – GND -> GND (Timer)
Yellow – Pin 2 -> CLK
Blue – Pin 3 -> DIO
Black – GND -> Button Pin
Brown – RESET -> Button Pin

If this diagram looks unfamiliar to you, please revert to the original one in part 4. This is merely an addition to that. Depending on which type of emergency stop button you have purchased, it might have either 2 or 4 pins to connect. This will be a case of trial and error; swapping the dupont cables to different pins to achieve the desired result.

The desired result will be the timer freezing once the button is pressed and subsequently, locked in (again I stress, buy a locking mechanism button!), and when the button is twisted to unlock, the timer should reset back to 60:00.

Extra Feature #2 – LOSE At The End Of The Countdown

Picture this. (This one isn’t so fun). You’ve got 5 seconds left on the clock in an escape room and you’re about to stop the clock just in time by hitting a big red switch… but you don’t make it quick enough and in place of the timer, you see LOSE. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Sounds um, less amazing…right? Let’s still make it.

Included in the <TM1637Display.h> library which we are already using for our timer, you can add up to 4 characters on the display before or after the countdown.

Here, I will show you how to show LOSE, once the countdown has reached 00:00.

Above, is a diagram of the 7 segments a single display character can hold, alongside a letter (A-G).
First off, we need to work out what segments we need to display the word LOSE. Feel free to work it out yourself, or look below for the solution.

L = Segments D, E & F
O = Segments A, B, C, D, E & F
S = Segments A, C, D, F & G
E = Segments A, D, E, F & G

Now that we have our segments worked out per character, we need to:

  • Declare these in the code we already have
  • Create a function called void lose()
  • Add a condition for it to show once the display shows 00:00

Declaring The Segments

Add this code in your // Display function:

const byte LOSE[] = {

SEG_D | SEG_E | SEG_F,
SEG_A | SEG_B | SEG_C | SEG_D | SEG_E | SEG_F,
SEG_A | SEG_C | SEG_D | SEG_F | SEG_G,
SEG_A | SEG_D | SEG_E | SEG_F | SEG_G

};

void lose()

In between the void setup() and void loop() functions, add the following:

void lose() {
display.setSegments(LOSE);
delay(1000000000);
}

delay(1000000000) – holds the LOSE message on display for approximately 277 hours, when activated – ie: long enough!

Adding The LOSE Condition

In your void loop() function, add the following after the first of 3 right curly braces (}):

else
lose();

Test Your Code

Now is time to check your code is error free. Click on the tick in the IDE. If that is error free, now click the right facing arrow button (with your Arduino Uno connected to your computer) to load your updated code in. You may want to temporarily change your timeLimit to 10 seconds for swifter testing.

If you receive an error at any point, please use my troubleshooting tips in part 4 as a starting place to fix your bug.

If you are feeling brave, you could even try to change LOSE to show a different set of characters – eg: STOP.

If you are feeling even more brave, try putting a 4 character message before the countdown begins.

End Of Part 5

That’s all for now, for the time being. I hope this has been fun for you to build! I’ll return later this year with a new project, but for now, take care!

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Crowdfunding at a Glance

This sheet covers:

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

 

Some exclusive crowdfunding tips for The Escape Roomer:

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

 

 

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

Build Your Own Escape Game Artefacts! Part 4

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Have you ever wanted to build your own escape game artefacts using low voltage electronics? Look no further! In the upcoming months, look out for a short series of articles on how you can approach creating small, but effective artefacts for your own game designs.

Previously…

In part 3, we created real code out of our pseudocode and placed it into our IDE. Part 4 will involve testing both the code and the connections between the Arduino Uno and the TM1637 timer component.

You Will Need

Fundamental Equipment

1x Arduino Uno (or open-source copy)
1x Arduino Uno USB connector
A laptop or desktop computer
A download of the Arduino IDE
A power adapter for the Arduino Uno (see part 1 for guidance)
4x male to female dupont cables (1x red, 1x black, 1x yellow, 1x blue)

Specific Equipment

1x TM1637 4-digit, 7-segment display timer – (Look here for examples)

So Far…

  • We have planned our objective:

We want to code a timer that counts down from 60:00 minutes to 00:00 minutes.

  • We have designed our coding workspace (IDE) to have 4 functions or ‘containers’.

Library, Display, void setup() and void loop().

  • We have written our code in the workspace.

Next, we will connect our hardware components, power up and test the artefact!

Setting Up The Hardware

Go ahead and use your dupont cables to connect the Arduino Uno and the TM1637 display timer like so.

Red – 5V -> VCC
Black – GND -> GND
Yellow – Pin 2 -> CLK
Blue – Pin 3 -> DIO

Make sure the dupont cables are snug when connecting. Next, take your USB connector and connect the one end to the Arduino Uno and the other into your computer. The power on should light up on the Arduino Uno; the computer may take a few minutes to download any required drivers, and should let you know when it is done.

Testing The Code

Open up your IDE with your code from part 3, and go to
Tools > Board > Arduino/Genuino Uno
then
Tools > Port > COMx (Arduino/Genuino Uno) – The x will be a number of the Arduino’s choice.

Next, click the tick button, right below the file option. This will check the code for any errors.
If you have any errors, you will need to troubleshoot them. Two good starts to this would be:

  • Checking that your code is identical to that presented in part 3.
  • Pasting the error description into google and see if any of the forums have already answered/resolved the issue you have.

Should the code be error free, it should show a message starting

Sketch uses x bytes (x%) of program storage…

Once you see that message, go ahead and click the right-pointing arrow button, next to the tick button. This will transfer the code to the Arduino Uno and subsequently, the TM1637 display timer.

Should this be successful, the TM1637 timer should light up and start counting down!

Testing The Countdown

One other thing I suggest testing, is if the countdown stays at 00:00, when counted down entirely; ie: no further counting, or no counting up for that matter!

There are two ways you can do this. The easiest but far longest way is to wait until the timer has counted down from 60:00 then check its status. The better way is to temporarily change the timeLimit to 10 seconds, then check. How to do that however, I’ll leave for you to figure out.

Remember, if anything isn’t doing what it should be doing, try my two suggestions for troubleshooting above.

Testing The Power Adapter

Whilst the USB connection powers the Arduino Uno perfectly well, it is highly unpractical to have the artefact permanently connected to a potentially large and bulky computer. Here would be a good time to plug your power adapter (remember to take out the USB connection!) into the Arduino Uno and see if the desired results are the same.

End Of Part 4

At its most basic (but certainly useable), you have your escape game countdown timer artefact programmed and working! Nicely done! Part 5 will look at bonus features you can add to the countdown timer for further usability.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

The Escape Roomer Interviews: Professor Puzzle

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Earlier this year Professor Puzzle, the UK based puzzle game company, launched one of the snazziest looking escape games in-a-box we’ve seen in a while: Danger in the Deep. Set on a submarine, players are instructed to “navigate your way through the deserted sub, crack the shutdown code, disable the warheads, and locate the enemy agent. All in two hours!” You can read more about what to expect in our latest review, or head directly to Amazon to pick up a copy for yourself!

 

 

We recently had a chance to catch up with James and Elliot, two of the game’s creators to find out more about themselves and what exactly goes in to creating a game like Danger in the Deep. They’re both incredibly busy working hard on designing some fantastic looking games for the future and so we’ve tried to limit this interview to just a few key questions about their most recent game, Danger in the Deep. Though believe me, I could pick their brains for hours!

 


 

Meet James, Game Designer at Professor Puzzle

Mairi: Hey it’s so great to meet you both! Please could you introduce yourselves?

James: Ooh, shall I go first?

Elliot: Yeah, I mean I’ve never heard you say your name-

James: It’s James Smith, and we’re not just colleagues but actually long time friends as much as it pains Elliot. Haha! I’m the game designer for Danger in the Deep, so I wrote the story, designed the puzzles, and so on. I joined Professor Puzzle about two years ago, I spent the first summer tweaking a couple of their existing games, but Danger in the Deep was the first time I got to work closely with Elliot!

Elliot: I’m Elliot Humphries, a senior designer at Professor Puzzle. I’ve been with the company for over 10 years, from back when we were just a couple of guys in a room above a warehouse selling metal and wooden puzzles. But over the course of those 10 years we’ve grown from 4 or 5 people to well over 50 of us now! I’ve been involved in the design for a long time, but the escape room games only began around four years ago. That’s what I’m focusing on now. They’re pretty cool because they take the “Puzzle” part of the Professor Puzzle brand but make them a bit more relevant for the modern consumer compared to the puzzles we created 10 years ago.

 

Meet Elliot, Senior Designer at Professor Puzzle

Mairi: Oh wow, a long time! How did you both get into the puzzle game industry?

James: Me? Definitely not a typical trajectory. I graduated from studying Classics at university… So I’m responsible for 100% of all Greek and Roman references in Professor Puzzle! Then I worked at my local council for about 7 years, and another local council after that. I’ve always been into games, and one day Elliot suggested I come to work for Professor Puzzle. Back then the company was just beginning to focus even more on the escape room games. The thing that appealed the most was the writing aspect of it. So making something that’s not just a pick-up and play game, but a whole story you’re experiencing through the game. That’s sort of inherent in escape rooms in general and I wanted to take our boxed escape room games in that direction.

Elliot: As for me, I joined Professor Puzzle right out of university. I used to live in this small town called Shepperton and that’s where Professor Puzzle first started. The team was a five minute walk up the road, which was basically the other side of town! I started out helping with filling out invoices, helping at the warehouse, and then it became more and more about the design. I very much fell into it but it aligned so well with my sensibilities and that’s what’s kept me here for so long!

 

Mairi: Cool! And what kind of games inspire you both?

James: I’ve played a lot of Exit and Unlock games! They’re consistently good and very concise – I think my first one was the Pharaoh’s Tomb. But beyond escape room games I play a lot more video games than I do book or tabletop games to be honest. One of my biggest inspirations behind parts of Danger in the Deep was a fantastic video game by Lucas Pope called Return of the Obra Dinn. I think it’s the best puzzle game since Portal. Now I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but one of the puzzles in Danger in the Deep which I call the “Chain of Command” puzzle was inspired by Return of the Obra Dinn. Originally that puzzle was going to be the big finale, but as we came up with more ideas it evolved away from that and now it sits comfortably in the middle.

Mairi: How about you Elliot?

Elliot: Same actually, I’ve done a lot of the Unlock! games and I find those really fun. I do those with my wife and they’re not too hard, not too easy, nicely in the middle! Haha forgive me, I’ve got a little left over brain fog from covid, so the thought of doing one of the more difficult puzzle games out there and expending the brain power needed to solve them terrifies me!

Elliot: One game that really jumps to mind is again, like James, a video game. It’s It Takes Two – from a co-operative angle I thought that game was amazing, and I think that’s something we try to put into our games too. We want to give players stuff they can do together. We’ve even written the words “Collaborative Escape Game” on the box! As you know there’s three books in Danger in the Deep and players have to work together collaboratively as they work through all the information – someone has one piece of the puzzle and another person has another piece of the puzzle, and so solving Danger in the Deep requires a lot of collaboration and communication.

Elliot: From a design side haha, I don’t know. I’m probably the worst (or the best) at pulling inspiration from lots of places and putting strange visual references in these games and hope nobody pulls me up on it!

James: Elliot’s also got a reputation for sneaking himself into every product in the Professor Puzzle line! If you look closely you’ll probably find a photo of Elliot in there somewhere!

Elliot: Haha yeah, there’s only a small handful of games where I’m not in them in some way.

Mairi: Yeah I spotted those, are all the photos of the crew members in Danger in the Deep your colleagues?

James: Mostly! There’s one or two who were stock photos. Originally that puzzle was going to be illustrated, but then Elliot came back with a “What if we do a photoshoot?” It was unfortunately in the middle of the COVID lockdown, so we had some challenges there. The crew members you see in the game is everyone we could get into the office.

Elliot: I ordered a load of boiler suits too, all mediums and large, then two of the guys who I asked to come in are six foot four and they didn’t fit in anything!

James: In the end it was a ‘each person in front of a green screen’ sort of thing. Everyone’s a colleague except for two of them, the commander and the captain, they were stock images-

Elliot: Stock images, but they were your body! I just put an old man’s head on James’ body and no one could tell!

James: Haha, I’ve got the body of an old man!?

 

Danger in the Deep Puzzle Design – Before and After!

 

“If we put a detail into the game, there’s a reason!”

 

Mairi: So tell me more about Danger in the Deep! Where did the idea come from and how did you bring it to life?

Elliot: Ooh, big question! So with any new game we really start with the rough idea then start making loads of lists and ideas. We had the central idea for a submarine, so we knew we wanted a blueprints or a map, then it was a case of thinking “Ok, what is in a submarine and what can we make puzzles out of?” We come up with a quota for how many puzzles and what we want out of them.

James: We always start big and need to cut it down so that we’re left with the best stuff!

Elliot: From there we build a narrative flow diagram which is useful in allocating the story beats, such as where puzzles happen, and making sure it’s evenly paced. A flow diagram is a great visual way of telling how and when things interlink. Over time we build up these really crazy maps!

James: It can be a mess for a while but it gets better. It’s super important to establish that theme right at the start too. So it’s not just the setting. We began with ‘submarine’ but there were so many directions it could have gone. It could have been like you’re on the HMS Belfast in London and you’re stuck on it for example. The angle we went with was inspired by James Bond with a dash of The Incredibles as well. That vibe can really inform the puzzles that go in the finished game, so when you go “it’s a spy thriller on a submarine” you’re not just looking at mechanical wiring puzzles, you can have decoding puzzles, you can shutdown nukes, and use gadgets to investigate and interact with the submarine.

Elliot: From a physical standpoint as well, when we were designing Danger in the Deep we had a specific box format to work to with the internal tray fittings the same as the Starline Express and The Grand Hotel. So we thought “what can we do with this?” and started to think about all the things we could fit in and hide into the space.

James: One of the key things for us to to make sure everything has a purpose as well. That’s something we did with this game, a lot of the little details in the booklets and on the box give clues as to how to solve puzzles. There are many puzzles in there that can be approached in different ways too. One player may not pick up on all the details, but if we put a detail into the game there’s a reason. I won’t give any spoilers so let’s just say there might be more than one way to solve a puzzle!

 

Danger in the Deep – Behind the Scenes

 

Mairi: What’s coming next for Professor Puzzle?

Elliot: We finished work recently on a new game set in a Gothic castle called “Curse of the Dark“, or as I like to call it, it’s internal codename which James absolutely hates is “Spooky Castle

James rolls his eyes and laughs.

James: So, many of our upcoming games follow a similar format, they’ll be tile based, have a scratch off symbol hint system, have a series of books, and a big centrepiece- like the blueprints. Curse of the Dark is a much bigger game. In Danger in the Deep there are 22 cards, in Curse of the Dark... Let’s think… There are about 60, 65 odd cards. So it’s big, really big! We’re really proud of it!

Mairi: When is Code Spooky Castle– haha I mean Curse of the Dark due to release?

James: We hope we’ll have the finished product back from the factory by April-May time, but it should be in stores by late May.

Mairi: Any others?

James: There’s also a kids escape room game launching this summer set in an aquarium, for ages 8 – 12, again I can’t give an exact time but very soon!

 

Elliot & James with their upcoming game, Curse of the Dark!

 

“Make games you’d want to play, make them good and be proud of them.”

 

Mairi: Okay final question, what advice would you give to somebody who wanted to create puzzle games like yours?

James: Big question! So I suppose we both kind of fell into this ourselves, but my biggest advice would be simple: Just make stuff!

Elliot: I’d also say it’s really important to make things you’d love, or games that you’d want to play. With Danger in the Deep we really wanted to create this game, but a few people had some uncertainty about the theme. We were like “I don’t know if this is going to be a success, but look we’ve got this really good idea and if you let us make this it may not sell well but it will be good.” As a creative person, you obviously want things to sell really well, but more importantly you want them to be good.

James: Yeah absolutely. Make games you’d want to play, make them good and be proud of them. One more thing I’d add is that our first versions of every game were on Word documents and Excel. They’re just scribbles, drawings on a whiteboard or silly cartoon people doing poses. Point being, you don’t need the best tools or funding or a factory to produce your game, your first version can be on paper and card and whatever you can find around your office. Don’t be afraid if the first version is rough. Nobody, certainly not us at Professor Puzzle get it right the first time. You go over your game with a fine-tooth comb and keep improving it.

Elliot: Yeah nobody springs into the world fully formed and makes a perfect game the first time. And if they have then they’re incredibly lucky and they probably won’t be able to replicate that effort the second time round. So yeah, just get out there and make stuff with confidence!

 


 

A huge shout out to James and Elliot for taking the time to chat to us. If you’re interested in checking out Danger in the Deep, you can head to Amazon – don’t forget to leave a review!

 

The Murder on Hemlock Drive – Murder, Mystery & Intrigue

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Hey everyone, I am Mitchell Clifford, a mystery novel fiend and game designer working on a new adventure game, The Murder on Hemlock Drive. I am so honored that The Escape Roomer has given me the chance to tell you a bit about my new game! The Murder on Hemlock Drive is a murder-mystery, adventure game built around deduction and risk. I want to make you feel like you are stepping into the pages of an Agatha Christie novel full of lies, intrigue and little gray cells.

Here’s a brief teaser of the story: The year is 1928. You are invited to a New Year’s party by a friend that you haven’t seen since childhood. It seems strange, him reaching out after all this time, but you’re intrigued. You travel to the small town where his family estate sits. You never suspect your night of partying will be the stage for murder! 

The Murder on Hemlock Drive – Screenshot

How does this game transport you into the world of Agatha Christie?  One of distinguishing characteristics of an Agatha Christie novel is how the detective solves the mystery by looking beyond the clues and into the psychology of the people involved. In my game, I put character interaction first. In order to solve the mystery, you have to get to know the characters, find out what makes them tick, and maybe then they’ll reveal to you their secrets or become your ally. But don’t worry my classic adventure game fans– there will be plenty of puzzles to solve and codes to decipher along the way!

One of the hang ups I have with mystery games is that they don’t give you many choices. You start out as a generic detective,  find a piece of evidence until the game tells you you’ve got it all and later the game prompts you with an obvious place to use that evidence. It feels more like the game is doing all the deducing for you. Before this game even begins, you are given the opportunity to assign varying levels of  3 character traits to your protagonist: charisma, class, and intelligence. These traits shape how they interact with the other characters and puzzles throughout the game, and it will be your job to determine what information is important and what is a red herring!

The Murder on Hemlock Drive – Screenshot

Charisma

A “charismatic” detective is one that everyone may like but not everyone takes seriously. Think of Nancy Drew, Blanche White or Miss Marple. These detectives are down to earth and know how to listen and understand people, but they get underestimated by villains and authorities alike. As a charismatic protagonist, you will be able to pick up gossip and other characters are more likely to let their guard down around you. However, characters that prefer credibility, like the police, won’t tell you everything they know.

Class

A “classy” detective is one that has more privilege when interacting with others. Think Hercule Poirot or Parker Pine. As a classy protagonist, you will be able to learn more information from people who consider themselves of a higher class or who are authority figures, like the police. However, your status as a member of the higher class restricts which characters will be forthcoming with information. Be aware that deference from people below your station may hide secrets. 

Intelligence

An “intelligent” detective has the upper hand as they explore the world, observing and manipulating the environment. Think Sherlock Holmes. As an intelligent protagonist, you will observe people and make deductions about who they are and what they’ve done. Catching people off guard often yields clues that you wouldn’t get otherwise. However, you’re out of luck if the subject is outside the field of forensics. You’ll have to try hard to not come off as a jerk.

The Murder on Hemlock Drive – Screenshot

Assigning character traits isn’t the only choice you’ll have to make in this game, there are also a variety of different ways to influence conversations between characters. Items you’ve collected can be used as a gift or bribe, you can also  push for answers and call people out on their lies. But, these choices also come with consequences — the more brash you are, the more you alert the murderer. Be careful or you might be killed yourself!

To demonstrate how all these choices work together, I will break down the initial puzzle of the game. (Skip this paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers!)  

As the game starts, your character arrives on the last train of the evening and you are tasked with finding a way to your childhood friend’s house. Depending on the combination of the 3 character traits you chose, the solution of the puzzle changes dramatically. For example, if you chose high levels of class, the solution is to walk past everything to the train station attendant who will call a taxi for you. As a classy protagonist, you have an air of authority around you that makes people step in line. If you chose high levels of charisa, you can gossip with the traveler in the station until he trusts you enough to give you the task of finding his suitcase. Exploring the station, you’ll find the only place that could hold the missing suitcase is a locked office. You then have to convince the attendant to give you the key to the office where you retrieve the suitcase. The traveler will then give you a ride to your destination in return for your help. If you chose intelligence, authority and persuasion are not your strong suit and you’ll need to find another way out of the station. Talking to the traveler will alert you to the fact that he lost his valet ticket somewhere in the station. Exploring will yield nothing except a locked door and a paperclip from some brochures. Talking to the attendant will give you a clue to where you can find a spare key to the locked office. Once you unlock the office, you will stumble upon the traveler’s locked suitcase that you will jimmy open with the paperclip you found and, voila, a valet ticket! Your way out of the station is secured.

The Murder on Hemlock Drive – Album Art

The Murder on Hemlock Drive is currently in its development stage. Right now  I am crowdfunding to raise money to commission new maps, character and sprite designs, music and animation. I hope you’ll consider supporting the continued development of my game by heading over to hemlockmurder.com/crowdfunding and making a donation.

While you’re there, you can also read my blog that details more of my murder mystery inspiration, watch the game trailer, and even download the demo. Hope you’ll make the classy, charismatic, and intelligent choice and join me on this journey! 

“The Roomer Mill”, An Escape Roomer Newsletter

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Starting this month we’re pleased to announce that we have…

✉️🌟 A Newsletter! 🌟✉️

Thanks to some fantastic feedback from you (yes, you!) we’ve decided that rather than rely on RSS feeds (or as well as, if that’s your jam), we’d like to put out a monthly newsletter that rounds up the top posts from The Escape Roomer in each category.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Escape Room News from around the UK
  • What games we’ve been playing (and our Most Recommended Reviews)
  • Game Design & Escape Room Design Tips
  • Local upcoming events in cities near you (that is, assuming you’re in the UK!)
  • Discounts and Competitions – Our own, and from local escape room businesses

Since we’ve never done a newsletter before, this is a little test for us and one we hope you’ll come along for the journey on – we promise we’ll make it worth your while!

 

 

If you want even more news of course, we recommend our friends over at Escape Industry News (where I myself am a researcher and editor), but in the mean time we hope you enjoy our first issue of The Roomer Mill.

See you in your inbox soon! 👋