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.

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 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! 👋

Welcome Karen, our newest writer in London!

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We are super pleased to announce that Karen Myers is joining The Escape Roomer as our latest escape room and features writer in London! 🙌

Karen joins us with a wealth of experience and knowledge about immersive theatre, escape rooms and more in and around London. A local escape room evangelist, there’s very few rooms she hasn’t done and we’re so excited to have her join us as a regular contributor on all things immersive puzzle games. But without further adieu, here is Karen to introduce herself:

 

Hey Karen, please introduce yourself!

Hello, my name’s Karen and I’m an escape room addict.  I’m also a born and bred Londoner, a redhead, a travel fan who likes to go off the beaten track, a theatre addict especially if it’s immersive, a baker, a knitter and an occasional mudlarker.  I do like to keep myself busy.  And when I’m not indulging in one of my hobbies, to pay the bills I watch TV for a living.

 

How did you get into the world of escape rooms and puzzle games?

Until 2014 I didn’t even know such things as escape rooms existed! But after discovering the incredible immersive theatre production, ‘The Drowned Man’ by Punchdrunk (which totally blew my mind btw) I started searching London for similar immersive and playful experiences and somehow I stumbled on ‘Hint Hunt’ (now sadly closed).  Once I realised that you could enter an imaginary world, hunt for clues, solve puzzles and answer riddles like a treasure hunt for adults I was hooked. I fell down the ER rabbit hole right there and then and I hope I never stop tumbling.

 

Do you have a memorable escape room story?

There’s no single story but for me there is unending joy in the discovery of a secret door in an escape room.  Even when I can see the hinges by a bookcase or fireplace and I know it’s coming, that moment when a hidden door pops or pushes open is such a delight.  A massive childish delight. And the first time I discovered that hidden door could be inside a wardrobe?  There is almost nothing as delicious as a door in a wardrobe.

 

The secret book case as Breakin’

 

What are you most looking forward to playing?

So far I haven’t played many games outside London so I know there are some real treats out there still waiting to be explored.  Because I love my immersive theatre, I’m really keen on playing games that have outstanding set designs as I like nothing better than feeling fully ‘lost’ in the game world.  On this score, as well as the top notch puzzling, I’ve heard so many incredible reviews of the games at Darkmaster that they’re definitely at the top of my list of ‘must plays’.  And I’m so excited to be getting my hands on the 3D table top game, Spectre and Vox, this summer (fingers crossed).  Puzzle party at my place!

 

What sort of articles can our readers look forward to from you?

I’ve always got my eye out for something new, fresh and quirky in London so I hope I can hunt those down to share with our readers.  I’m rampantly evangelical about the joys of being a grown up who finds time to ‘play’ in fun spaces, whether that’s immersive theatre, escape rooms, treasure hunts or similar.  So I’d love to write articles that persuade the newbies and the nervous that getting involved in escaping, immersing or exploring is nothing to be scared of and that it absolutely can be life changing.

 

If you were given a blank cheque to create your dream ‘game’, what would it be like?

My absolute dream of a game would be Fireproof’s ‘The Room’ series of mobile/tablet games brought to real life by Punchdrunk.  ‘The Room’s gloriously sumptuous visuals and intuitive puzzling meshed with Punchdrunk’s performative flair and world-building skills would be mind-meltingly good.  And if that blank cheque can stretch to the game being housed in a glamorous villa somewhere in the Caribbean all the better.

 


 

If you want to keep up with Karen, you can find her on Instagram as @quaggie26

Rick Joins The Escape Roomer as our New Escape Rooms Editor!

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We are super pleased to announce that Rick Porter is joining The Escape Roomer as our newest escape rooms editor in York! Rick joins us with a fantastic history of writing about the video games industry, covering guides, reviews and features for several digital and print-media publications.

Rick is also a huge board game fan, and like a lot of us here at The Escape Roomer, has “a board game cupboard in danger of falling through to the flat below“. Haha yep, I’m sure we all can relate!

We’re all looking forward to Rick’s articles, and he’ll be covering a little of everything – expect escape rooms, board games, immersive events in and around York and more! We’re so excited to have him join the team.

Keep an eye out for Rick’s features coming soon, but in the mean time here he is to introduce himself:

Hey Rick, please introduce yourself!

Hi, it’s nice to be here! Hmmm, what do you need to know about me… Well, I spent a sizable chunk of my life writing, editing and generally tending to videogame magazines and websites in Bournemouth. That was before I decided that I’d quite like my hobbies to be more hobby-like and not all-consuming, Sisyphean burdens. Due to the subject matter, I like to think that it was an industry that helped keep me young, but my 3-year-old son has already done a sterling job of reversing any possible benefit there could have been.

So I now live in York. A beautiful, walled city that – according to legend – has over 365 pubs. Many of which are apparently haunted. As well as potential ghosts, a lot of them also host pub quizzes – something else I really enjoy. I fill almost all my spare time with videogames, boardgames and puzzles and I‘m really looking forward to sharing my findings, experiences and thoughts with the Escape Roomer readers.

 

How did you get into the world of escape rooms and puzzle games?

I was introduced to escape rooms a fair few years ago when the first one popped up in York. The concept of escaping from a room by solving puzzles was something I’d seen plenty of in digital form, so doing it in real life against the clock really appealed to me. Unsurprisingly, I was hooked. The 18 months that followed saw me complete numerous escapes across York, Leeds, Bournemouth and London. After getting 20-30 rooms under my belt (relatively few, looking at the numbers some of the contributors here have clocked up) I started testing and providing feedback rooms for a company in York, which gave me more insight into how escape rooms are created.

The birth of my son caused an abrupt halt to my escapes, but I’m looking forward to getting back into them now he’s a bit older. I can’t wait to see how things have changed and improved while I’ve not been paying attention.

 

How about video games, do you have any favourites?

I could name several the usual classics here but, putting nostalgia aside for a moment, I think Portal 2 is certainly up there with the very best.

Every element of it is excellent and the mixture of ingenious puzzles, razor-sharp humour and increasingly oppressive atmosphere combine to make something truly memorable. Its predecessor, Portal, is also incredible and does a superb job of showing that games don’t need to be huge to be exceptional.

If you enjoy escaping from rooms, puzzles and disingenuous promises of cake then I can’t recommend the Portal games highly enough.

 

The cake is a lie!

 

What are you playing (…or solving) at the moment?

I’m spinning a couple of plates right now. Videogame-wise I’m gradually making my way through Horizon: Forbidden West, which I’m punctuating with slightly more arduous sessions of Elden Ring. I’m enjoying both a lot, so it’s a constant fight for my free time.

Although I’m currently taking something of a forced hiatus, my last six months have been dominated by the brilliant / daunting / frustrating / rewarding / ridiculous / surprising Taskmaster Treasure Hunt. It’s been an amazing experience so far and I’m sure there’s more in store as the final stages play out.

 

If you were given a blank cheque to create your dream ‘game’, what would it be like?

I’ve always thought that I’d like to put together a steampunk escape room – it’s a style I love, but it would probably take a huge amount of cash to do properly. The blank cheque would help a lot with the intricate machinery required to really set the scene.

However, now Alex Horne and his treasure hunt have showcased how versatile a book can be when combined with freely available online resources, I think I’d prefer to attempt a book project. Something that combines puzzle, story and art elements to create an experience that people can enjoy for months rather than a single hour.

 


 

We are very excited to have Rick on the team and a huge shout out to him for answering all these questions!
If you want to keep up with Rick, you can find him on Twitter.

The best escape rooms in London for work socials and teambuilding

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There are a whole lot of escape rooms in London (TripAdvisor currently lists 103 “room escape games” and experiences), so sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. It can be even harder when adding extra considerations to the mix, such as age, team size, or type of player!

Luckily for you, we’ve put together this handy guide of our top picks for escape rooms to play when that dreaded question of “what shall we do for our work team social this week?” comes to you.

What we’ve considered

When thinking about rooms to play we colleagues there are some key differences that may be important for colleagues, but less important for other team types:

Firstly, many work socials involve a pub (in my experience at least), so rooms near a pub are always great, especially if they’re also near a station for easy commuting.

Secondly, companies that can accommodate larger teams for bigger team events are great, especially if these include some sort of team element.

Finally, I also want to give a nod to outdoor experiences, which may be more fun as the weather heats up.

Rooms near pubs

If you’re familiar with the escape room scene in London you can probably already guess which escape room ‘near’ a pub I’m going to recommend, but you may not have realised there’s a second!

My first pick would naturally be Lady Chastity’s Reserve (previously reviewed). This fantastically spooky room is based above The Hope pub in Farrington – perfectly situated for both drinking and commuting! This is an 18+ room, with a bottle of wine as the price, so is sure to engage those who enjoy a bit of adult humour, as well as fans of spooky atmospheres without being a full-out ‘horror’ room. Although the room only takes 6 at a time the slots run fairly late (later than many rooms) and the pub beneath is a great way to pass the time!

My second pick would be ‘Gangster’s treasure’ by ClueAdventures. This one is further out than Lady Chastity, all the way in Leytonstone (east London) and a little walk from the station. However, it is above The Coach and Horses pub, and boasts two 2-player rooms as well as this 6 player room. I haven’t played this one myself, but can heartedly recommend the 2 player rooms so I’m sure this would live up to the same standards!

Rooms with competitive elements

When it comes to competitive elements there are a few companies that offer the ‘vs’ format, but I’ve picked out 2 who I think do it really well.

First up is ‘ClueQuest‘ near King’s Cross. It’s no secret that we’re a fan of this company, but I didn’t realise until writing this post that they offer an excellent corporate package! For your more formal work social they can cater for up to 66 players, offering extras such as food, drinks and an all-important trophy! Even if you don’t go the official route, their booking system makes it easy to book up to 4 copies of the same room at once (depending on the room) so you can still have a head to head of the same game, as well as also offering a VR experience. The rooms themselves are excellent quality so make a great impression on new players and are well balanced for mixed teams.

Mairi at a Team Social at ClueQuest in 2018

My second choice of a competitive style room would be Secret Studio near Aldgate East station. What I appreciated most about the rooms at Secret Studio is that they are the same but different – although most of the core puzzles are the same, the decor and puzzle specifics are slightly different for each team and they are also able to change certain puzzles. This makes it great for replayability – they talk quite a bit about returning visitors on their site, and even give them the chance to get involved (in more ways than one);

When we played previously as a large group my team finished quite a bit before our friends, and I loved being able to watch them and even interact. I think this also opens the doors for excess players to have fun too, or those who are uncertain about playing.

Outdoor experiences

There are quite a few outdoor experiences in London, although I’m not sure how these may have changed since the early days of the pandemic. However, I’m sure the core elements will be the same and I know they’re great for splitting teams up a bit!

Playing The Enchanted Mirror in 2021

My personal top pick would be a Hidden City ‘treasure hunt’. My first experience with these style of games was playing ‘The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat’ and I still maintain it was one of the most impressive games I’ve played. For a colleague perspective these games are perfect – they can host up to 300(!), stagger teams start times, have in-built (pub) breaks (often with discounts) and have a final leaderboard at the end. They even offer a virtual hunt for remote workers! The treasure hunt itself is amazing fun – you go into places you never knew existed, as well as those you never think to go into, and hunt for things in plain site. There are also in-built story trees, so you could make one decision and a different team may make another, sending you in different directions.

If you’re after a more traditional escape-room style experience I recommend AIM escape‘s outdoor experience. Although I wasn’t hugely impressed by their indoor offering, I found their outdoor experience to be one of the best I’ve played. Rather than using phones each team is supplied with a kit and must undertake ‘challenges’ (puzzles) at various locations. Unlike other outdoor experiences which challenge you to follow precise directions, AIM instead gives you a map and lets you decide where to go and how to get there, really giving the teams freedom (and the chance to plan strategically). They also provide different routes and staggered starts, so teams won’t be constantly following each other. There are 3 pre-built routes, but also the offer to create your own!

Also I personally haven’t played this one, Mairi tells me I’m missing out with Colombia’s Finest by Street Hunt, a new player to the walking puzzle game genre in London. It’s another route perfectly suited for large teams as different people can take completely different routes in this race to catch the criminal. In a less touristy area of London that is packed with office buildings (Temple, St Pauls area), there are several pubs and cafes on this walk making it a great one for a team social of any size.

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

Project Breakout: The Complete Guide

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Project Breakout, the full run-down!

Anywhere that is within ~1 hour drive of Sheffield, we will have looked into whether there are any escape rooms that we are yet to try out. Brighouse is no exception!

The back story of us discovering Project Breakout is quite amusing – it was Sheffield Pride (which explains the face paint that some of our team members are wearing on the below picture) and it was SO rainy. We had a go on a few of the rides (it’s very amusing watching people ride of mechanical bulls in the pouring rain), but then we soon got chilly and wandered back to our house, looking for something to do for the afternoon…

Of course why not have a look into doing an escape room?!

We had done most of the rooms in Sheffield by this point and we were constrained to places that had last minute availability. After browsing the web, we came across Project Breakout’s room: ‘Operation Clearsafe’. We called them up, and got ourselves booked in. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Brighouse (although Al originally said it was in Pontefract which if you know your Yorkshire geography was quite a lie).

Little did we know what we had got ourselves into!
(especially taking two escape room newbies, so sorry guys!!!)

Photo (c) Halifax Courier

Project Breakout: Operation Clearsafe

Welp! We were led downstairs into the basement of the climbing centre where Project Breakout is based, feeling the chilly air surround us as we were taken further and further away from the safe, light, outside world.

In the briefing, we were asked how scary we wanted the room, to which one of our members said ’10/10′. But we soon shut that down and asked for a medium 5/10, which in hindsight was lucky as I think if we had had 10/10 some of our team members might have actually cried!

The premise of this room is: an experimental laboratory which has been testing on animals and humans, and has recently experienced a disaster, and accidentally (whoopsie) let loose all of the test subjects. Of course, this meant a 60 minute count down until the self destruct of the entire facility. Our aim was to get out of the facility (alive) and avoid any unwanted encounters with the mysterious subjects who were said to be freely roaming around. Luckily, we had help from our technical friend, who kept us up to date on a walkie-talkie with the whereabouts of any unwanted guests.

“He’s got a KNIFE!”

This room is very, very creepy. You are on edge throughout, with a creepy soundtrack, the (very atmospheric) actual chilliness of the basement, and many, many dark corners…

Make sure you are comfortable with the people you go in with, as you will inevitably end up grabbing hold of them, or hiding in places that are way too small to fit one person, let alone two, to avoid being seen! One of our team members took the saying ‘hiding in plain sight’ a bit too literally and decided that sitting on the floor with her eyes closed was the best way forward. She then loudly exclaimed that one of the test subjects was carrying a knife (spoiler, he was not) – and then she was pretty much paralysed with fear for the rest of the game.

It’s amazing how well a spooky atmosphere, story and an actor can escalate into something altogether more scary through the participants’ own imaginations!

The actual physical space the game takes place in is vast- it is definitely one of the biggest escape rooms we’ve played, and as such we would highly recommend taking a bigger team to take on this challenge (not to mention the safety in numbers aspect!).

We talk about this game so much, and think it is one of the only escape rooms we would choose to re-play!

These are smiles of RELIEF!

Back again…!

Project Breakout: The Dollmaker

Full of high praise from our first experience at Project Breakout, we knew we had to return! A weekend many moons ago (well, pre-covid so it feels like a lifetime ago) we headed up to Brighouse intending to play one room -The Dollmaker.

This was a dingy, unsettling room, with creepy dolls and plenty of serial killer essentials. It was nowhere near as scary as Operation Clearsafe, but it was quite creepy!

In our team of 4, we settled into a reasonably steady rhythm, navigating the puzzles on offer and taking it in turns to look after Alice when she was jumping at the slightest noise. The room is well suited to a more experienced team, and enthusiasts will find themselves facing some new challenges!

Smiling after playing three escape rooms instead of one WHOOPS

Project Breakout: Project Z – zombies and a secret bunker…

After successful completion of The Dollmaker, we wanted more, and our superb games host kindly squeezed us into Project Z. This room was set in a bunker-one of the best bunker sets we have seen (complete with a secret door none of us saw coming!).

The sound effects were perfect at heightening the immersion, with the zombies scratching and moaning, it was good for keeping you on track (and keeping Alice on edge lol).

We were having a particularly good day when we played this game, and we really clicked with this room and the puzzles.

It is not a scary room, but is effective a creating a sense of unease (Steven was utterly convinced we were going to have a zombie visitor). We escaped in a record (at the time of playing) 26 minutes, but we felt this was a very jam-packed room with some clever puzzles which very much fit into the theme and which we just happened to click with on the day!

Antidote – the cure is always to play more rooms, right?

As we got out in under 30 minutes, Benn (our host for the day) told us we were eligible for a free escape… So we made our way into the Antidote and onto room 3 (thank you Benn for being so flexible!). We were warned that this was their easiest game, but we were excited nonetheless as we knew Project Breakout do what they do very well!

This room starts with a very clever play to spring you straight into the immersive story, it’s something that makes it stand out in our memories for sure.

This room would be absolutely perfect for a beginner group! It cleverly introduces a wide range of puzzles: logic, observation, math, riddle…it was all there, and delivered really well. The storyline was excellent, and we knew our challenge was not to escape, but to solve a bigger problem(!).

Escaping in 22 minutes, we just missed another record!

Photo (c) Tripify

Overall – The Verdict

We love Project Breakout’s rooms. We have had some great days out playing their games and would be super keen to return when a new room opens. We have no doubt that enthusiasts and beginners would find something to enjoy here.

You can book yourself in to play any at Project Breakout by heading to their website here.

Wordle & The Paradox Of Language In Escape Games

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Disclaimer! This is from Wordle 235, dated 09/02/22 and is not a spoiler.

I’m sure the majority of readers have come across Wordle, a 5 letter puzzle game where a word is presented daily to guess in 6 attempts. Then, once you find the word (or not), you can show your achievement of how few attempts it took on all social medias; with a pretty, spoiler-free “footprint” image of your playing history to boot.

A Quick History

Wordle was created by Josh Wardle, an American citizen, and subsequently has been bought by the New York Times as part of their games suite. Despite this, it is currently a huge hit in the UK. I am one of many who enjoys the daily challenge it presents. If you look at my Twitter page, the only things I presently post, are TER news and reviews (usually mine!) and Wordle results. Even my family, have a Whatsapp group called ‘Wordle Nerds’ where we post our results religiously and compare accordingly.

Wordle 235

On Wednesday, this week just passed, we British Wordle users were stopped in our tracks. As the answer to Wordle 235 was a 5 letter word in US English, but a 6 letter word in UK English. Cue twitter enragements. Including myself and my fellow writer Nick.

It was so poorly received, that a “British” version of the game; called Wourdle, was born; with its first word being, you guessed it, the 6 letter word in question. Even the British embassy in the US had their say!

There Is A Point To This I Swear

Ok… rant over. Some readers are probably thinking; “its an American-born game, just suck it up and move on”. But I disagree. If a game is so popular in the UK, surely the chooser of the daily word should be more mindful of our language differences? Also, according to his wikipedia page, Josh Wardle is UK born and spent time studying at university here.

Back in February, a similar issue occured with Wordle 207, however between then and Wordle 235, UK engagement has rapidly increased, hence the larger volume in outcry compared to previous.

My point is, that as game designers, we need to be considerate and respectful of the complexity of the English language when designing word-based puzzles and conundrums. I myself will hold my hands up in failing to acknowledge this, in my previous escape game AIRLOCK.

One of the puzzles designed, included a horoscope page from a newspaper that had letters circled, spelling out the phrase:

“Ten and three, focus on the tears and the spaces you see”.

Pages ten and three in the clue document; given to the team at the start in the game, had rips in them, highlighting the tears in the sentence above. The problem is, tears can be pronounced as tairs, as intended… or tee-ars; as in the tears of someone crying.

Guess what around 90% of teams initially prounounced it as…

Then, guess how long on average it took players to realise to pronounce it differently… about 7 minutes per team on average of a 60 minute timed game, lost on a pronounciation trap.

Whilst designing the game, I never considered the double pronounciation of the word. Now looking retrospecively, I feel it should have been signposted better, to evade the inevitable trap. Or alternatively, scrap the puzzle entirely.

In Conclusion

I feel as game designers, we need to cater to our audience fairly and not provide them with pitfalls to fall in, that can make them feel silly; intentional or otherwise. Hopefully the Wordle team have taken this on board; due to the reaction from Wordle 235, and as a result; create an experience that is universally fair, for all users of the confusing and goal-post-shifting English language.

Welcome Georgie, our newest writer in London!

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In very exciting news for The Escape Roomer team today, as we’re pleased to welcome Georgie as our latest Escape Room editor for London, the South and Wales! Georgie is currently based in London but joins us with a wealth of experience playing (and absolutely smashing the leader boards of) escape rooms all across the United Kingdom.

You may know her writing from the leading escape room review site Discomlogicated. Since playing her first game in 2016, she’s steadily racked up the play count to well over 100! Es-cake is in order 🎂

Georgie will be a regular face posting news and reviews from all over the UK, but her area of expertise is London, the South, and her home, Wales. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the occasional board game and video game content.

Please join us in making Georgie feel extra welcome! Onwards and upwards!

Without further adieu, here’s Georgie to introduce herself:

Hey Georgie! Please introduce yourself

Hey – sounds like you’ve done a good job of that for me already!

I moved to London in 2018, around the same time escape rooms were growing in the UK, so I quickly covered off most of the rooms back home in Wales, around Bristol and Bath (where I went to uni) and then London.

I grew up playing lots of board games and puzzles, so I feel like escape rooms were just a natural progression for me! When I’m not geeking out with those, I’m either reading or baking – I’m definitely cultivating the grandma persona!

Do you have any favourite escape rooms?

Oh man, so many! For the longest time “Time Run” was top of my list (there’s a throwback for you!), but recently that’s been knocked off by “LockedIn Edinburgh”. If you can’t make it that far North, I’d also recommend “Loot the Lanes” down south in Brighton or pretty much any room in Reading!

You go into a new room, what’s the first thing you do?

Search for hiding places! Rip out drawers, open anything that looks like an obvious hiding place – my first 30 seconds tend to be pretty manic. Once we’ve got a good collection of things going I then figure out where the puzzles are!

So, new year! What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

There are so many new and upcoming rooms I can’t wait to get into! I wrote a post about these rooms last year, but most were pushed back to 2022!

Top of my list at the moment has to be Quick-E-Mart at Ctrl Alt Escape in Margate. I’m going to save that for when their other new rooms are open too, as well as the ones ‘Escapement’ have planned which sound groundbreaking.

Do you have anything fun in the works you can tease here?

Ooh I have a few ideas! I’ve just finished writing a book about escape rooms, so we’ll probably post some teasers of that on the blog. I’m also bringing more Welsh rooms to TER and I can’t wait to get my hands on a certain Kickstarter I invested in…

A huge shout out to Georgie! If you want to learn more about Georgie, we interviewed her as an enthusiast last year! You can also keep up with all of her posts on The Escape Roomer here, or head over to Instagram and Twitter to follow her directly.

Jersey Island: The Escape Room Guide

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The Channel Islands aren’t particularly known for their immersive experiences, such as escape rooms or treasure hunts… But why the heck not?! The ones you will find here are absolute hidden gems! Here’s a must-visit list if you’re an escape room enthusiast.

Photo (c) The Independent

The Best Escape Rooms in Jersey

Quest Escape Rooms

Quest is the biggest escape room company in Jersey and located in the heart of the capital, St. Helier. Situated on the waterfront in the Cineworld building, the escape rooms can be found tucked away at the back of Arcadia. Easy to miss if you’re not looking, but well worth the visit!

Currently, Quest offers three escape rooms:

Steve, one of the lead game designers on these rooms is also a Games Master at Quest! We were super lucky to have him run our room whilst there – it’s always good to get a full walkthrough of the game by the designer themselves, so if you see Steve running one of your rooms, be sure to say hello from us!

You can check out Steve’s work at Imperial Light & Magic on Instagram.

Space Quest

The UES Radiance has sent out a distress signal on its return to Earth. The spaceship’s core functions have failed and it is now on a collision course with the Earth’s atmosphere. It is up to your team to bring the ship back online. But with only 50 minutes and a lock-in situation, your mission will be dangerous. Can you save the ship and prevent disaster? The clock is ticking!

Time: 50 mins
Difficulty: 8/10
Pass Rate: 4/10

Photo (c) Quest Escape Rooms

Mission: Impossible Breakout

Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to locate six bombs that have been hidden around the world. Then you will need to disarm a dirty bomb targeting the nation and its ancient past. As agents of the Impossible Mission force, you find yourself in the secret hideout of Dr Dunn. Find out what he was hiding and avoid the traps to complete your mission! The clock is ticking to save yourself, save Egypt and save History.

Time: 50 mins
Difficulty: 7/10
Pass Rate: 5/10

Secrets of Horus

Step through the eye of Horus into the lost tomb of secrets and wonder. You’ll need to use your skills as young archaeologists to ensure you’re not trapped ten feet under. Discover clues left behind from those who aimed to uncover and find. Suited for a younger audience or groups looking for a fast paced introduction to escape rooms…

Time: 30 mins
Difficulty: 7/10
Pass Rate: 6/10

Photo (c) Quest Escape Rooms

Jersey War Tunnels

The second escape room in Jersey can be found at the Jersey War Tunnels. During World War II Jersey was occupied by German forces and during this time the war tunnels were dug deep into the hillside in the centre of the island. In the heart of the tunnels is a little space set aside for an escape room: Operation Constellation.

Currently, there is one room available, which is getting a big overhaul in 2022 by- you guessed it- Steve! Jersey Wars Tunnels also have plans to open a second room, so keep an eye out for that in the near future.

Operation Constellation

It is 1943 and Chief of Combined Operations, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, has conceived Operation Constellation, a daring offensive against the Channel Islands. A team of elite commandos are to land on Jersey and break into Ho8 (Jersey War Tunnels).

Your mission is to access the German Commandant’s Office and find the locations of the newly constructed fortifications. You will have to search, identify clues and decipher puzzles to find the locations and discover the code to unlock the door. You will have one hour to complete your mission. Good luck teams. God Save the King!

Other Immersive Things to do in Jersey

Run out of escape rooms? Fear not – Jersey is an excellent destination for all things immersive, and you can lose yourself in these activities to scratch that puzzle itch.

Geocaching on Jersey

At the time of writing, there are over 200 Geocaches on Jersey Island! If you’re unsure what Geocaching is, check out our handy guide here.

Secret City Trails: Statues, Sailors and Soldiers

Secret City Trails (the creators behind London’s Camden and Primrose Hill walk, and Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards) also have an outdoor puzzle trail: Statues, Sailors and Soldiers. It’s a short walk around St. Helier created by locals Callum and Philippa to inspire and delight visitors. From historic battles to life during the occupation, from castles to cattle markets, to tales of thousands toads… Secret City Trails is a great way to see the city.

It costs £24 per group, starts and ends at Liberation Square and takes around 4km. The best part about Secret City Trails is that you can play any time.

The Blind Pig Speakeasy

Blink and you’ll miss it! The Blind Pig is a true speakeasy in every sense of the word, hidden behind some bins in a very unassuming alley, look out for the tiny blind pig emblem and knock to enter. In the week we spent in Jersey, The Blind Pig became our regular – one of the most cosy and curious experiences of the whole island.

Since finding this place was harder than escaping from all the other escape rooms on the island, it deserves a place on this list! So why not check it out for a celebratory tipple once you’ve worked up your thirst puzzling all day.

How to Find The Blind Pig Speakeasy Jersey

On Pier Road you want to look for a little alley leading underneath a residential building. It’s almost directly opposite the Societe Jersiaise’s back entrance. Once in the alley you’ll spot a newly constructed wooden fence. Take a closet look at this fence for the Blind Pig and you’ll know you’re in the right place!

Have we missed your favourite immersive thing to do in Jersey? Let us know in the comments!