Welcome Ash & Al, our new writers!

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In super exciting Escape Roomer news, we are growing! You’ll probably recognise their wonderful faces from pretty much all of the digital escape rooms we’ve covered in 2021 so far. But I’m super excited to extend Ash & Al a huge hello and welcome as writers!

Ash & Al join us from Sheffield, UK and will be regular contributors on all things escape room in the North, as well as the many play at home and digital escape rooms that we somehow manage to fit into a week together!

This is the first of many exciting updates, but the one I’ve been most excited to post about! You’ll spot their names popping up on a couple of brilliant reviews coming soon – but in the mean time, I’ll let them introduce themselves:


About Alice

Hello! I’m Alice, a 26 year old, originally from Cheshire, UK. On a very rainy day back in 2017, my eyes were opened to the world of Escape Rooms. I’ve always loved board games and puzzles, but it is the immersion of an escape room that really pulls me in. I’ve introduced a lot of my friends and family to different rooms around the UK, and always enjoy taking a newbie into the unknown world of padlocks and puzzles! I have a terrible habit of booking escape rooms at about 4pm for 7pm that evening, but I think Ash and our friends are sort of used to that by now. One of my favourite escapes started with a 1 hour drive from Sheffield to Retford on a rainy, wintery night to play at Enigma Retford with Ash and two of our pals. We still talk about escaping Colditz now; the best spontaneous Sunday night ever!

About Ash

Hi! I’m Ash, short for Aisling (ash-ling hence Ash), and I’m also 26. I’m from Northampton, UK, but I’ve lived in Sheffield for around 7 years now, since I came here for university (and absolutely love my adopted home!). I met Alice long before we had even heard of escape rooms, but conveniently, we both found that we love escaping as much as each other, making us the perfect team (although we are always happy to pull others in as honorary Escaping the Closet teammates- the more the gayer!). I love escaping in any format (like I need to say that haha!), but when I’m not escaping (or talking about escaping), I enjoy running, playing board games, spending time with animals, or going for walks in the Peak District which we are super lucky to have on our doorstep! I’m really excited to be guest blogging on TheEscapeRoomer, sharing all the brilliant escape rooms that the north of England (and beyond!) have to offer!

Ash & Al can also be found on Instagram at Escaping the Closet.


What was your first escape room?

So, back in 2017 we went on holiday with Ash’s family to the Lake District. As is often the way with holidays in England, and much to no one’s surprise, it rained. A lot. Ash’s mum suggested trying this escape room she had come across when looking for things to do that would avoid the rain, and we thought it sounded like fun, so we went and got it booked in. Little did we know that this would be the beginning of our escape room habit!

The room we played was a Haunted Pirate Ship room by Cliffhanger Rooms and it was fab! We all had a blast, enjoying the challenge of the various puzzles, the immersive decor and the fun of all working together and really getting into the story. Of course we didn’t smash it quite like we do now, but it was a successful escape which we were certainly very pleased with! We enjoyed it so much that the VERY NEXT DAY, when we got back from our holiday, we booked in another room with Al’s friends from home in Stoke.

Since then we’ve not stopped booking escapes, getting more and more of our friends and family involved and we’ve never looked back! How we had never tried one sooner we do not know!! (Ash lived in Bordeaux while at uni and used to walk past an escape room almost DAILY without knowing what she was missing! Oh how we kick ourselves now that we didn’t give it a go while she was out there!!)

Our very first escape that fateful day, so many escapes ago now!

What has been your favourite escape room?

This is a veeeeery difficult question…! There are so, so many to choose from (we are going to have to cheat ever so slightly and list more than one).

One of our shared faves is Dreamscape by Cryptology Nottingham. We played this as just us two and had such a blast. It’s got about 6 escape rooms all rolled into one, and you face such a HUGE amount of puzzles in such an original format which we really enjoyed. We escaped in about 55 minutes – but it flew by, ending with such a fabulous culmination where everything came together in a very exciting final dream sequence!

We also LOVED Ctrl Alt Esc‘s (based in Margate) rooms: Spacescape, Frankenscape and Detention. As a company, these guys really do go all out. If you ever want to do an escape room which involves a ROLLERCOASTER, then definitely try these guys out.

We have to shout out Escape Quest in Macclesfield too – any company that builds their own theatre for their escape rooms, you know is gonna be good!

Image taken at Dreamscape – Cryptology Nottingham

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

Open every drawer! And then try them all again for luck. We are notoriously bad at searching in Escape Rooms, and have often lost valuable minutes looking for keys or clues that are hidden under chairs, in drawers, or simply on the walls (we have also been known to work in the dark due to our inability to FIND the light switch!!). So now, whenever we go into any room, we try to start with a thorough search before we get too sucked into the puzzles on offer!

(Side Note: this is not often successful…)

If you were given a blank cheque to create your dream escape room, what would it be like?

Omg we talk about this ALLLLLL the time and genuinely we wish we had some money so that we could create an escape room, that would be the DREAM! It would be sooo much fun! We have so many ideas for making the scariest escape room experience (probs so scary that Al wouldn’t even be able to do it haha!), but don’t want to say too much in case we ever do get the opportunity to build one (unlikely, we know!).

Also – we’ve done a couple of cat themed escape rooms which have been SO much fun, so that would definitely have to be a contender. Or maybe a horror cat room…with Tilly as the cute but evil villain…food for thought!

Now that lockdown is slowly easing in the UK, where are you looking forward to escaping from most?

We’ve tried to support the industry in all the ways we can during the pandemic and have loved seeing all the innovative escape games that creators have made throughout the lockdown period, and have really enjoyed being able to try games from more far-flung parts of the globe than we ever would have managed in normal times! But we have also really missed the thrill of an IRL room and are looking forward to getting booking some exciting new rooms we are yet to play!

We have been known to plan mini-breaks/holidays around where there are good escapes we want to take on, so we are looking forward to booking in some UK road trips to explore new rooms. We’ve spied a lot of good new rooms being developed in Kent, and we are sooooo looking forward to heading down there in the summer to discover what wonders places like The Escapement and Ctrl Alt Esc have been working on (because we’d already maxed out their OG rooms pre-pandemic!).

Not quite feeling ready for international travel just yet, but we have seen and heard SO MANY good things about rooms in the Netherlands and Belgium and would definitely make the short journey over for an escape room binge! Ash also used to live in the Netherlands and (ONCE AGAIN) kicks herself for not making the most of how easy it would have been to tick off all these amazing rooms while Al came over to visit! However, it’s a great excuse to head back over to one of our favourite places- to do one of our favourite activities and it’s something we definitely plan to do once we feel comfortable with the whole travel/pandemic sitch!


A huge shout out once again to Ash & Al! They can be found on Instagram here, and you can read their reviews and articles here.

30 Before 30 – My Escape Room Bucket List

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It’s my BIRTHDAYYYYYY! *screaming*

Kind of, anyway. It’s in a few days. But I’m one of those people who celebrates “birthday week” and then continues extending that week as long as there’s still cake in the house.

Since I’m now officially a quarter of a century old, let’s talk about escape room goals!

I’m actually very new to the escape room world – I only played my first game in 2018. But with 5 years to go until I turn 30, it’s not a lot of time to pick up the slack. So little time, so many escape rooms around the world I want to play.

So here’s my 30 before 30 bucket list of escape room (and other, such as creative) goals I’d like to hit… Or as I like to call it, a “Let’s keep Mairi accountable” post.

Do you have an escape room bucket list? Please let me know!!

Escape Room Goals!

(With some bonus ‘experiential’ goals which aren’t specifically escape rooms but hey ho who is counting?)

1. Play an escape room in Central Europe

So this one seems so obvious, but in lockdown I’ve had the joy of playing a lot of Central-European escape rooms such as Project Avatar, The Forgotten Station, and many more. All that’s left to do is wait for the UK’s international travel ban to be lifted and book my escape!

2. Play an escape from in North America

Also of course… I’ve gotta make a stop in on all my favourite escape room people and say hello. (I’m looking at you ESCAPETHEROOMers!)

3. Play an escape room on the other side of the world!

*stares at Japan, the home of escape rooms*

4. Bonus: Play an escape room in another language

To be honest, I’m not precious about where I do this one. It could even be a room in London if it fits the bill! This lockdown I’ve been hard at work learning Japanese, so that would be a pretty fun place to play my first non-English room. 手がかりをもらえますか

I could also give French, Spanish, or Arabic a go. So open to suggestions on this one!

5. Come first on an escape room leaderboard! Any leaderboard!

Can you believe I’ve never achieved this? Yes, yes I can believe it and I’m sure you can too! Haha. My closest to 1st place is 7th on an all time leaderboard for District 3 in Canada. Coming 1st place is a right of passage.

6. Achieve a puzzle game speed run record!

I’m talking video game speed runs. I keep attempting Agent A over on my Twitch channel but I get too distracted and start chatting to folks in the audience haha. At some point during the next 5 years will be my time to win *clenched fist*

7. Get over my fear of horror games… And book one *eek*

When I was about 16 I had to be escorted out of the London Dungeons by a security guard crying. It’s safe to say I’m not a horror kinda person, and still get the heebie-jeebies when I book a scary play at home game. I’d love to finally book one before I turn 30. It probably won’t be as scary as I think.

8. Buy a VR headset (to play all those escape room videogames of course!)

WELL I can tick this one off already as, between me writing this bucket list and my birthday weekend arriving, my partner saved up and did the incredible – bought a VR headset for me!

Taking recommendations! Just no horror. I might have a heart attack in VR.

9. Get an escape room tattoo!

I’ve been chatting with one of my good friends Armchair Escapist who suggested a UV tattoo. Wouldn’t it be cool to have something morse code, or another type of cipher tattooed on my skin? Maybe it could be a UV QR code that leads to another puzzle… Then another puzzle… Then another! Woah!

@theescaperoomer

tattoo part 2 – the finished piece 🥰 shout out to the talented Theresa Vendetta at Velvet Underground #tattoo #tattooreveal #watertower #tattooart

♬ Fantasy – Khai Dreams

10. Attend an escape room convention, or conference

I’m actually kinda new to the escape room world and, in my previous employment, everyone else EXCEPT for me got to go to ERIC *shakes fist*. I’d love to go to a real life, physical one. RECON later this year is awesome, but as it’s digital I’m not counting it towards my bucket list.

11. Play the first escape room in the UK

Escape rooms arrived in the UK with company Hint Hunt. Their business has recently been bought out by ClueQuest. Anyway…

12. Play The Crimson Room

This video game from 2004 is widely accepted to be the first escape room video game ever – with it’s low resolution graphics and simple mechanics, the goal is quite simply to escape from a room. This sets it aside from earlier puzzle games such as Myst.

There’s no particular reason I haven’t played it yet – but what better motivation than to put it in my 30 before 30 bucket list?

13. Play the Crystal Maze

Okay so this should be totally achievable! I used to work with an awesome colleague who worked on The Crystal Maze and honestly… The stories! I have such FOMO that I haven’t been able to book and play yet. The catch: it is really, really expensive (about £75 pp), so this might be something I save up for, later on. Anyone wanna come with?

14. Participate in a Zombie Apocalypse live event

So you know how I said I hate horror, the exception is Zombies. I would LOVE a Zombie Apocalypse simulated theatre experience, and they pop up from time to time in London. Only problem is my apocalypse buddy has moved to Scotland, but I’ll have to tempt her back down to London for this.

15. Dine in the Dark!

*accidentally pokes self in the eye with a fork*

16. Introduce ALL my closest friends to the joys of escape rooms!

If you’re reading this, you know who you are! But seriously, when I get to know new friends I often hear them say “wow what’s an escape room?”

Well for the next 5 years I pledge to take every one of my good friends to an escape room and hopefully get them hooked. The world needs more fun in it!

17. Compete in the Red Bull Mind Gamers Escape Rooms World Championship

At the time of writing this competition isn’t running anymore… The last championship was in 2019 in London (near me! Cool!) I hope they bring it back within the next 5 years, but until they do, all I can do is keep on preparing. Watch out champions! I’m coming for you!

Creative Goals!

18. Publish the small digital escape room experience I’m working on

Since about mid-2020 I’ve had an idea for a digital escape room experience and with plenty of experience designing games, I’ve been quietly working on making this a reality. It’ll be called Crow Valley Tales. I just need to… Finish it *nervously sweating*

19. …And also publish the escape game I wrote for a friend in 2020!

Last summer for a friend’s birthday I made her a very silly (and quite fun) online escape room experience. It lasts around 4 hours! With a few tweaks here and there I’d love to make it publicly available to play. It’s called “The Secret Society of Your Birthday” and follows an underground cult that has been tracking you (yes you!) for many years leading up to a big reveal this birthday, but only if you prove your worthy of their prize!

20. See a video game idea I have become a reality

I tried to teach myself Unity but it didn’t go so well *sighs in computer coding*. But what I do have is a notebook packed with paths, dialogue and twists and turns. A puzzle game packed with mystery and intrigue and I’m quite sure nothing quite like it exists on the market! It’s a big goal of mine to convert this into a deck and pitch. Pitch it to who, I’m not sure. I’ve got 5 years to figure that part out.

21. Reach 1,000,000 words written here on my blog!

I’m at about 129,127 so far, so this goal doesn’t feel unreachable in the next 5 years. Perhaps I just need to channel this mindset:

Chat: Can’t
Email: Cannot
3,000 Word Essay: Henceforth I am unable to can.

22. Contribute to a puzzle video game

I have no idea where life will take me next, but in 2021 I’ve had the pleasure of gaining valuable experience at a video game company. It’s introduced me to a whole new world of gaming and I would love to some day be able to work, or freelance for a company that produces games like The Room, The House of Da Vinci, or Other Tales.

23. Create a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (and DM it with friends!)

I’ve always been a player, never the Dungeon Master! Well I’m about to pull my boots up in the next 5 years. I’ve got a short, silly game in the works for my immediate group of friends. We normally just hang out with pubs, so of course this game is going to be pub themed: A band of adventurers go on a search to find a new watering hole after theirs closes down and they some how end up in 21st century London, faced with all kinds of weird beers they don’t recognise.

24. Create some more Murder Mystery games!

Pre-pandemic, writing and hosting murder mystery parties was MY JAM! Unfortunately I haven’t seen my friends in months and ughh, I miss them. I’d like to get back into the flow and write some games again. Bonus points if they run well and other people would like to purchase them! You can buy my earlier games, A Sharpe Distinction and The Last Days of Rome on Etsy.

25. Throw another EPIC Halloween party (in 2021 fingers crossed)

Every year for Halloween I design a “Halloween treasure hunt” which pits my friends split into groups of 4 head to head in various challenges. Last time I did one, back in 2019 (*cries*), each team was a team of TV ghost hunters and they had to fake the best “ghost caught on camera” whilst completing challenges to keep their TV ratings up. There were 6 teams and it was… Hilarious.

After being locked up for so long, 2021 is going to be bigger and better than ever!

26. Keep on making art!

Okay, okay I know! This one is a little vague. But the fact is I LOVE painting. I’ve been trying to set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to make art, for art’s sake! But some days I’m busy, or lazy, or just plain ol’ forget. This Sunday is my actual birthday, and what better day to pick it up again!

Personal Goals

27. Know my worth

Let’s call this one a ‘career’ goal. I’m a serial “oh I’ll take a pay cut for this job” kinda person, and sadly this is a phenomenon over-represented in my gender too. I pledge not to sell myself short in the next 5 years, to shoot for the stars, and above all know my worth. I encourage you, dear reader, to do the same!

28. Love myself more

Yeah, we’re all guilty of this one. Who among us doesn’t look in the mirror and go “bleh” from time to time, or get impostor syndrome over the smallest things. I for one am constantly feeling out of place, even within this wonderful escape room community. I’m not smart enough to be solving puzzles, I don’t write as well as other bloggers, I’m not charismatic enough in online meetups… And so on.

It’s not easy stopping negative thoughts, but if I put it in writing here I’ll… Hopefully… Hold myself more accountable!

29. Drink more water

What the heck Mairi?! As I sit here writing this article I haven’t drunk nearly enough water.

*pauses to fill up my water bottle*

30. Have a great birthday this Sunday!

*tick*

Just For Fun

Whilst writing this blog post, I had a look through all my old bucket lists from the last 5 years since I turned 20. I haven’t achieved everything, but here are some fun ones I have:

  • Travel to the USA (and meet some of my earliest online BFFs!)
  • Start an escape room blog (yay!)
  • Play 100 escape rooms play at home games
  • Design an escape room – professionally!
  • Design a puzzle experience for a wedding proposal (she said yes!)
  • Play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time
  • Design a murder mystery game (then 2, then 3!)

Thanks for Reading!

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much for listening to my rambling, wild escape room ideas. More importantly, thanks for being a reader of my website. This is a huge passion project and every time I see a +1 like or even a +1 unique visitor it makes me so happy to know I’m providing some value to the escape room industry!

Do you have an escape room bucket list? I’d absolutely LOVE to hear your ideas on what you’re working hard to achieve.

As always, my DMs on Instagram and Twitter are always open for escape room chat, sending silly memes back and forth, or if I can help you achieve your bucket list items that’d be awesome too!

What Happens When You Mix Open Bars with Escape Rooms? – An Interview with an Enthusiast

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I’m Chapter 2 of our “Interview with an Enthusiast” series, I spoke to Jamie from Armchair Escapist about all things escape rooms! Jamie is best known for covering escape rooms in Wales with his comprehensive reviews BUT did you know he’s also an escape game designer himself? Check out Dragon Egg Quest today!

Tell me about yourself!

Hi, I’m Jamie! I’m a somewhat overly enthusiastic geek stereotype from South Wales. I’m a puzzle designer and escape game reviewer over at Armchair Escapist. I cover escape rooms in Wales as well as play-at-home escape games.

The million dollar question – how many escape rooms have you done?

Here’s my shameful secret – I’ve only done about 40 real life escape rooms. Not even enough for my first escake! I’ll show myself out. 

I don’t get to travel much, so the vast majority of the rooms I’ve done are the ones near to me in South Wales.

Which was your very first escape room?

My first room was at Escape Rooms Cardiff when they launched, about five years back. As a former (disgraced) Egyptologist, I made a beeline for their Egyptian room – The Tomb. I was hooked instantly!

I went back and redid it a few years later to see whether I’d been wearing rose-tinted glasses, and it still held up. A very fun room to play!

Photo (c) Wales Online

What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had in an escape room?

I once did two rooms while pretty drunk. I was at a launch event and was waiting for some friends to arrive before we played one of their rooms. There was an open bar …

We didn’t get out. It didn’t help that it was their hardest room, and being three sheets to the wind definitely didn’t work in our favour.

We then tried their second hardest room, but there was about a 45 minute wait to get it ready and the open bar was still there.

Yeah, that worked out as expected.

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

Always the plant. Everything else is too obvious. Plus you look like a raging madman if the first thing you do is start hauling the greenery around, so everyone knows you’re serious.

The last TV show you watched suddenly gets its own licensed escape room. Hooray, or oh no?

I’ve been watching The Irregulars on Netflix, so that would make for a wonderful escape room. Victoriana, paranormal happenings, a sprinkling of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a huge hooray from me!

Image (c) The Irregulars

Can you think of a song that would make the perfect soundtrack for how you tackle an escape room?

I tried my best to find something both thematic and cool, but it didn’t happen. So it’s going to be Complicated by Avril Lavigne. If there’s one thing I do in an escape room it’s over complicate the simplest of puzzles.

And keep me away from the maths puzzles. I’ll say I can do them but under any kind of time pressure my brain turns to soup.

When you’re not escaping from locked rooms, what do you like to do in your free time?

I’m busy making them! I’ve started doing some freelance puzzle design, and I’ve made a print-at-home game for kids to collect missing dragon eggs.

I’m also parent to a toddler so any notion of ‘free time’ is inconsistent at best.

How would you explain escape rooms to people who have never played one before?

Escape rooms are a self-contained, hour-long team adventure with puzzles. You can be an explorer, an astronaut, a spy or a pirate for 60 minutes while you and your friends are in your own cross between an immersive roleplaying game and The Crystal Maze.

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream escape room, what would it be like?

I’d recreate the adventure from The Goonies – you’d start at a lighthouse restaurant and work your way through tunnels, booby traps and puzzles to wind up on One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship. It would be epic! There’d be a lot of Rube Goldberg style machinery to give it that old school feel.

Can you imagine having to solve a puzzle that leads to a water slide? Shut up and take all of my money!

Can you give me a short puzzle for me (and my readers) to solve?

How about the puzzle I crafted based on your suggestion last Halloween? See if you can solve The Demon’s Smile:

Image (c) Armchair Escapist – check out the link below for the full puzzle!

A huge shout out to Jamie who runs Armchair Escapist for this brilliant interview! Jamie also creates fantastic play at home escape room games, go check out his site here!

Beam Me Up, Chris! – An Interview with an Enthusiast

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In this brand new series on The Escape Roomer, I’m talking to a different escape room enthusiast each month and chatting all things puzzles, immersive, and of course, escaping! One of my favourite blogs to read belongs to Chris Fairfield, who writes about everything from Colourblind Friendly Game Design to really cool reviews of puzzle boxes. He’s also just a really nice person too!

Tell me about yourself!

Hi! I’m Chris Fairfield, hailing from Seattle, WA. I’m a Puzzle Game / Escape Room enthusiast, and review games over at my vanity site: https://chrisfairfield.com

The million dollar question – how many escape rooms have you done?

The short answer is: not nearly as many as I’d like! The longer answer is I’ve gone through 12 traditional escape rooms and 23 at-home puzzle game experiences. I moved to Seattle in 2017, so finding a new local playgroup has been a challenge that has kept me from doing more traditional rooms, but I’m hoping to increase the number when we finally get out of quarantine.

Which was your very first escape room?

I am so lucky in this regard! My first escape room was “Office Hours“, which I ran through on March 24th, 2016. The room was created by two friends of mine, Anne and Chris Lukeman; I had met them through the local filmmaker community and knew that they were both exceptionally creative and talented story-tellers, so I was really excited to see what they would be able to do in a space like this. Unsurprisingly, they knocked it out of the park! Their company, CU Adventures, has gone on to well-deserved acclaim and, after several iterations and refinement, “Office Hours” eventually became what is now known as “The Lost Temple”. 

While it now, in hindsight, looks a little rickety in comparison to CU Adventure’s newest offerings (Gen 1 vs Gen 3), I was completely enchanted by the experience. The puzzles and presentation were really sharp, the space was used very well, and we were able to complete the objective and save the world! (You’re welcome world!) My favorite moment was finding a surprise basement in a spot where one wouldn’t expect a basement to be. This was extra delightful to me because I didn’t yet know that secret rooms were a common escape room trope, and, ever since I was a kid, I wanted to find a bookshelf with a hidden room behind it! Overall it was a ton of fun and I immediately knew that I wanted to go through many more escape rooms.

Photo (c) CU Adventures

What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had in an escape room?

Oh man, so many! My favorites are where you do something in a game that feels like actual, factual magic. When you think to yourself, “There’s no possible way this could work” and then it does! There’s a sort of stagecraft to it, and I love that no matter how many rooms I do, how many games I play, I keep coming across puzzles and concepts that feel unexpectedly magical and novel.  

It started with the secret basement reveal in “Office Hours”, I knew that there was a hidden door there from the beginning of the game. However, the game creators spent the rest of the room setting expectations in just that right way, that I was expecting the door to open into a closet or a small side room. Instead it opened to reveal stairs to a huge basement room, which swapped out the muted 1930’s palette of the rest of the room with these neon fluorescents. It truly felt like walking into another realm and left me with the biggest grin plastered on my face.

In another game, the room was setup as an apartment. In the kitchen, there was a sink with a garbage disposal—you might see where this is going—one of us needed to reach our hand into the garbage disposal and fish something out. There is some sort of preservation instinct that makes it hard for anyone to reach their hand into a garbage disposal, even knowing fully well that an escape room company isn’t going to risk the lawsuit of having it be live. Long story short, it took a full minute for my teammate to work up the nerve to stick her hand in there and announce that she’d found something. Which was the exact moment that the gamemaster remotely activated the very loud rumbler that they’d attached to the underside of the sink. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone scream as loud as my teammate did as her hand shot out of the sink—with the hidden object in hand. We laughed so hard about it afterwards, it was a perfectly designed moment. 

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

As the official “tall person” in my group (6’4”/1.93m), I feel like it’s my job to hit those picture frames first. 

The last TV show you watched suddenly gets its own licensed escape room. Hooray, or oh no?

I’m currently watching the 4th Season of Infinity Train, so very much hooray! Infinity Train is an emotionally rich cartoon that explores many concepts around mental health, identity, and belonging; but the foundational conceit that it builds all of that complex narrative around is a train filled with train-cars that are essentially each their own themed escape room. An licensed Infinity Train escape room would be amazing.

Can you think of a song that would make the perfect soundtrack for how you tackle an escape room?

This was the hardest question! But, after much deliberation, I think I have found the perfect answer and it may surprise you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c18441Eh_WE

Once I start a puzzle game, it’s just stuck in my head until I solve them! Sometimes when I split a game over two days, the unsolved puzzles will even show up in my dreams at night!

When you’re not escaping from locked rooms, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love creative activities that emphasize narrative and storytelling, so naturally I’m a big fan of roleplaying games. I DM a weekly Dungeons and Dragons campaign and have a stack of indie RPGs that I’m looking forward to running when I can sit around a table with friends again. I’m a big fan of board games and video games. I also have a habit of starting projects, though I have a less-than-stellar completion record on them. 😬

In safer times, I also really enjoy road trips and nature, and am looking forward to being able to resume exploration of this wonderful little corner of the country I live in. 

How would you explain escape rooms to people who have never played one before?

My pitch is always this: “Escape Rooms are the most fun way you can spend an hour of your life.” They will challenge, surprise, and delight you, and at their best you will feel like a superhero. 

I would also let them know that most rooms don’t actually lock you in, that most places will have a room that’s designed to onboard new people into the hobby, and that they’re designed to be fun. 

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream escape room, what would it be like?

This is totally childhood wish fulfillment, but I would make a licensed Star Trek: The Next Generation escape room. The story would be that aliens, let’s say the Ferengi, in a botched takeover attempt have given up and fled, sealing the doors and turning on the self-destruct mechanism as they left. You need to board the ship, make it to the bridge, and abort the self-destruct sequence. You “beam in” to the transporter room, and have to find a way to open the jefferies tube that leads into Engineering. Decoding the pulses of the warp core in Engineering will be essential for restoring power to the turbolift, which will then take you (via a hidden rotation mechanism) to the bridge. The bridge, which is a life size replica of the set, is the crown jewel of the experience, requiring you to use various stations to regain control of the Enterprise and deactivate the self-destruct sequence. 

Players will also be given the choice of either tractor beam-ing the Ferengi vessel to capture it or to fire torpedoes and blow it up. 

The consoles are all touch-screen interfaces, using the iconic LCARS style that was popularized in the series. Tricorders with hidden RFID readers allow you to “scan” and get accurate readouts of various objects in the game. Puzzles on the fly based on the number of players and the players’ progress. For example, each player will be required to man a station in the bridge to get past that puzzle.

Now that I’ve put this out into the world, I need this to happen!

Can you give me a short puzzle for me (and my readers) to solve?

Think you’ve solved it? Let me (Mairi) know and I’ll check if you’re right!


Thanks so much Chris for taking the time to answer all my bizarre questions, and keep up the awesome work with your writing!

Here Lies John Renie | A Puzzle from Beyond the Grave

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TW: This article contains themes of death / graves.

On the 17th of March 1800, John Renie was born. Then, 32 years and a few months later on May 31st 1832, he died. However this isn’t where the story ends. No, his gravesite at St Mary’s Priory Church of Monmouth, Wales is a peculiar spot of interest because of what Renie chose to inscribe on his grave:

A 285-letter acrostic puzzle.

The epitaph is 19 squares across and 15 squares high and should be read from the inside letter H, outwards to one of the letters E at each corner. There are 45,760 ways to read the ‘hidden’ sentence, but each will give you the same: “HERE LIES JOHN RENIE”.

Since the letters “H E R E L I E S J O H N R E N I E” never appear in one unbroken path, readers must snake around the puzzle to find their own pathway. Although commonly called an “Acrostic Puzzle”, the grave is actually an example of the “Staircase Walk” mathematical problem. For each quadrant of the inscription there is a 9 x 7 grid. The number of paths within one quadrant is 16!/(7!9!), giving a grand total of 45,760 possible pathways… Err, I’ve counted about 8, but after that maths I think I’ll stop.

About John Renie

John Renie was a decorative painter and glazier by trade, who married a woman by the name of Sarah Howells. Together they had three children, James, Ann and a boy also called John (I guess that was pretty common back in the day but seems strange to me now).

An interesting fact about the Renie family is that after John’s death at the age of 32, Sarah went on to live until the ripe old age of 72. It’s cited that she lived by ‘independent means’, with another woman in London named Annie Cooper.

In his life, John was active in the community, both local and political, and believed in ‘the equality of mankind’ especially with regards to the local school system. Education after all, was a great equaliser of the disparate social classes that existed back then (and heck, probably still do). In particular, his aim was to ensure the ‘common folk’ were appropriately represented in parliament, but sadly an early death brought his dreams in Monmouth to a close.

But one big thing he did accomplish was through his work with The Order of Odd Fellows (a sort of alternate Freemasons). Renie was hailed as single handedly spreading The Order throughout Wales and, on his death, The Order raised the sum of £80 (about £5,000 in today’s money, or about 2 year’s wages) for his widow.

A Reason Why

I’ve often toyed with the idea of leaving my legacy as a puzzle – one last cryptic message before I exit the world with a big bang! This might be a UV tattoo with a mysterious Morse Code riddle, or an unsolvable cipher in my Will that’ll leave people scratching their heads for months. It’s a nice way to be remembered for what you loved in life.

So a big part of me wants to believe that John Renie is just one of us, a puzzle person who spent time designing his grave with a sly smile on his face. On the other hand, writer and cleric Lionel Fanthrope believes the message has been carved to confuse the devil himself, thus giving Renie safe passage into the afterlife.

As an educated man and a member of The Order of Odd Fellows, it’s also highly likely the grave has deeper significance. Historian Charles Fairley suggests the idea that the grid is part of a larger, infinitely repeating ‘apotropaic demon trap’ filled with numbers that hold special religious significance. The grid has 285 squares but when inserted into a repeating pattern (not duplicating the 19th column and 15th row) a total of 252 letters becomes clear. From here this number can be divided into it’s roots and split out to show significance of God, the Holy Trinity, the Freemasons and more.

With the phrase HERE LIES JOHN RENIE becoming infinite, it loops forever on the word “HE”, which could either be an allusion to the self, or to God. Seems possible- no, likely! And pretty damn cool if it is the case.

The Legacy

The stone has since been moved from it’s original place, so the actual body of Renie now lies elsewhere. I hope he made it to wherever he was going before the stone was moved, but now it’s Grade II listed so it won’t be moving again any time soon.

As a standalone curiosity, Renie’s grave is delightful to the passer-by on a walk through Monmouth, wondering what it all means. To the historian, you might draw parallels between this tombstone and a SATOR square. To the average escape room blogger (*cough cough* me), you might spend an afternoon researching it and putting it through Photoshop to ‘mess around’ and try and divine some hidden meaning.

Maybe after all that, it’s nothing more than a prank from beyond the grave? Perhaps we’ll never know!

Header Image by Leo Reynolds on Flickr. Close up image by Robert Cutts. Infinite Word Matrix by Charles Fairley. I also thank Hermit Jim, Wales Online, and Charles Fairey whose publications helped me research the site!

10 Escape Room Video Games you can play for FREE during the Steam Game Festival 2021

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So here’s a bit of a life update for everyone who didn’t ask for it – in 2020 I transitioned away from working in the escape room industry into the video game industry. Does this mean this blog is now about videogames? Nahhh. Far from it. All it means is that my horizons have been broadened- no, that’s not right… More like they’ve been totally blown open with all the amazing ‘escape room’ video games I’ve been exposed to lately.

One thing I’m extra excited to talk about on The Escape Roomer is the Steam Game Festival. Why? It is absolutely PACKED with escape room games this year. The best part? Since this festival is the developer’s chance to put their best foot forward and showcase their games, you can play most of them for free.

The Steam Game Festival runs from the 3rd – 9th February and showcases a whole range of games from different genres (my company’s own game is there under ‘Racing’ – keep an eye out for Drive Buy!) If you spot any games you like the look of, you’ll be able to watch live streams with the creators, add to your wishlist for news, and in most cases – download a demo version of the game! Pretty much all you need to play them is a PC, and not even a particularly good one at that.

So without further adieu, here are my top 10 picks of Game Festival games for the escape room connoisseur:

Tested on Humans: Escape Room | mc2Games

You are the test subject. In this escape room with a dark setting, you will have to escape from the research center where you are trapped, by solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover how did you get there and escape?

This game is a total classic in every sense of the world. A mysterious research center… Weird and wonderful puzzles… A chilling back story? Yep, it’s got pretty much everything you could possibly want from an escape room game. From just moments into the trailer I can already spot a whole host of tantalising puzzles. Are those secret button panels?Unusual light fixtures? Objects locked inside cages? I reckon if you’ve only got time to download one escape room game from the Steam Game Festival, give this one a go!

Download the Demo

Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure | DigiTales

A murder. A hack. A bombing. All it takes to plunge the solar system into war – unless you do something about it. Help CDI agent Neil Conrad make a string of increasingly difficult decisions in this modern dialog-driven adventure set in a gorgeous 2D sci-fi noir universe.I look up at the stars one last time before they disappear. They don’t provide any guidance. They don’t give a f*ck.

A “sci-fi”, “noir”, “detective” adventure?! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. What really draws me to this game is the moody 2D pixel art. This one is all story, all puzzle and has already bagged itself a bunch of awards. Sure, you’re probably thinking it’s not exactly an ‘escape room’ experience, but I can’t help but find myself drawn to this adventure. Escape room or not, it scratches the itch and I cannot wait to leap into the mystery and solve crimes. 2D pixel crimes. Heck yeah!

Download the Demo

Escape Simulator | Pine Studio

Escape Simulator is a next-gen escape room experience: pick up and examine everything, move furniture, smash pots and melt locks! Play solo or with a friend to solve cryptic puzzles and riddles. Remember to vote for the next location every month. ESCAPE SIMULATOR is a platform for immersive escape rooms. You can pick up and examine every object, drag furniture, smash vases and glass, burn things, melt locks – all of this in the interest of solving challenging (and fun!) puzzles.

Not a lot is known about Escape Simulator so far but it’s one to watch this 2021! Launching with 15 rooms to play – each in their own interesting looking environment, Escape Simulator takes the escape room experience to it’s logical conclusion. With local co-op multiplayer, there’s room for your whole team too. Since the start of the festival, they’ve made Escape Simulator free to demo and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Download the Demo

Ghost on the Shore | like Charlie

An exploration game about emotional ties that transcend even death. Riley is faced with a headstrong ghost, urging her on an adventure across atmospheric shores, uncovering the island’s tragic secret. Choices in dialogue shape the bond between the two, ultimately deciding Riley’s fate.

With multiple endings and a super rich environment to explore, this one is visually (and narratively) quite ‘wow’! You play as Riley, wandering a lonely island trying to solve a mysterious death, retracing steps backwards in the sand and uncovering more than just the history. Whilst the Steam page doesn’t mention any puzzles explicitly, I always enjoy a game where there’s a mystery to be solved and items to find. Ghost on the Shore looks like a good’un.

Download the Demo

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark | Spooky Doorway

Delouse your room with sage and pack up your travel-sized ouija board, it’s time to re-enter Twin Lakes – America’s 34th most haunted city. Join Detective McQueen as he puzzles his way through 6 chilling cases, risking life and pixelated limb to solve the macabre mysteries that plague the poor town.

You had me at “1 mail-in rebate per customer on exorcism services for hauntings resulting from play”. This game’s got humour AND style. It’s a point and click puzzle, adventure and exploration game that’ll have you travelling to a whole manner of spooky locations. Think of it like your favourite Scooby-Doo episode, but in 8-bit.

Download the Demo

Operation: Tango | Clever Plays

IT TAKES TWO to save the world in this Asymmetrical Spy Thriller. Pair up with a friend as a special agent or elite hacker, and work together to bring a high-tech global menace to its knees.

I love this! I’m getting real “Tick Tock: A Tale for Two” vibe from Operation: Tango as the crux of the whole experience is you need 2 players to complete the game. One player takes on the role of AGENT and the other HACKER. You’ll both have a totally different perspective and puzzles that require two heads than one. It’s a smart idea but I think Clever Plays might just have nailed it.

Download the Demo

Nine Noir Lives | Silvermode Studios

Stretch your legs, clean your whiskers, and dive into Nine Noir Lives. Enjoy a “point-and-lick” comedy-noir adventure, full of humour, crazy characters, and intriguing locations. Solve challenging puzzles and answer the immortal question: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Welcome to Meow Meow Furrington, capital city of cats, home of the world’s biggest ball of yarn…and hotbed of crime. You are Cuddles Nutterbutter, feline private investigator and owner of two perfectly normal-sized paws, the doctor said so.

I’m not a cat person, but I’ve never wanted to be Cuddles Nutterbutter more than anything else in my life right now. Plus, I’ve seen a LOT of people VERY excited about this game which is always a great sign! It’s another classic point and click detective story on this list but the twist here is that Nine Noir Lives finally answers the question that’s been nagging at me a while now: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Since I can’t go around licking real life escape room surfaces (thanks pandemic), this game’ll do the trick.

Download the Demo

Dr Livingstone, I Presume? | Vulpesoft

A letter from the messenger in which your friend Dr Livingstone asks for help makes you turn back to Ujiji. After crossing the threshold of the house, you immediately realize that something has changed. Explore a mysterious building full of locked doors and face puzzles to find it.

A self-prescribed ‘inverted escape room’ – rather than escaping, you’re called to the mysterious home of your friend Dr. Livingstone only to discover something is very wrong. You must search for clues, unlock locked doors, peer inside cabinets, finds items and solve puzzles in order to unravel the mystery. It’s also completely embedded in history which is awesome. You learn about the tumultuous period of European colonisation in Africa. I enjoy a history lesson with my escape room. This means I can skip school and play this game instead, right?!

Download the Demo

Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut | Clifftop Games

Award-winning adventure Kathy Rain returns in the Director’s Cut, featuring an extended story with more puzzles to solve and new areas to explore. Witness the rise of an iconic detective as you uncover a dark and sinister truth hiding behind the calm exterior of a small rural town.

The directors cut, in order words a more expanded version of the original. But why am I so intrigued? It has more PUZZLES TO SOLVE. *smashes download button*. Kathy Rain has won a LOT of awards, and I’m super pleased to see a Directors Cut making a return in the Steam Game Festival 2021. With it’s female protagonist and atmospheric artwork, this one is guaranteed hours of excitement.

Download the Demo

Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery | Kiary Games

Find the answers of town mystery in the game with escape the room mechanics. You are a private detective. After receiving a letter from your father, asking for help, you go to the small town of Redcliff. The city is completely empty. Where have all the inhabitants gone? What happened to your father? This is what you have to find out. Explore the city, find clues, solve puzzles, open locks to advance your investigation. The game is a mixture of escape the room and classic quests.

With simple graphics, this one puts all it’s focus on a rich story and engaging puzzles. Another aspect of the gameplay which is unique to Tiny Room Stories is the ability to rotate the location 360 degrees – want to search behind the house, in the bins, or sneak a look underneath? Well go on and *gameshow host voice* SPIN THE WHEEL! It’s overall a really nice concept, and although I haven’t yet played this one despite it also being available on mobile – I’m sure it’ll be a hit for beginner and veteran escape roomers alike!

Download the Demo

P.S. After posting this article I spotted another FANTASTIC game that absolutely had to make the cut.

Slender Threads

Slender Threads is a point-and-click thriller adventure where unseen forces bind the fate of an unremarkable traveling salesman to the peculiar town he one day arrives in.

Download the Demo


With that, I conclude my list! This was a really exciting one to pull together and even though the Steam Game Festival only runs for 1 week, you can bet I’ll be doing my best to play each and every one of these before the time is up.

Don’t forget, if you enjoy a game please please ‘add it to your wishlist’ because it really helps small developers be found in Steam.

Have fun and escape that room!

Find Satoshi – How a 14 year old online puzzle was finally solved in 2020

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Unsolved internet mysteries are the best! You’ve got the classics: Cicada 3301, Chip-Chan, Kanye Quest, A858… But wait, don’t Google any of those unless you want to fall into a deep rabbit hole and emerge none the closer to a solution.

But what happens when mysteries are solved?

On the 27th of December 2020, one of the most confounding and puzzling internet treasure hunts has finally been put to rest: Find Satoshi. But exactly what is ‘Find Satoshi’ and how was it solved?

Perplex City

Lets start at the beginning! Back in 2004 a UK based company called Mind Candy founded an ARG (alternate reality game) called Perplex City. The goal of the game was essentially a real world treasure hunt that took place across many mediums including cards, digital websites, blogs, puzzles, and secret real life locations. Oh, and did I mention the first season came with an exciting prize of £100,000 to the first player who found “The Cube” a precious artefact set in the Perplex City universe hidden in a real life location.

“A city obsessed with puzzles and ciphers. A game that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality.”

The game grew to be much larger than any other ARG out there, with numerous real world tie ins. One such example was information locked in the PXC (Perplex City) Academy Library which could only be accessed by a published author… So budding puzzlers went away and did just that: Wrote and published booked to get access! Another example is a banner plane flew across Manchester with a keyword that enabled access to a new area of the game. Blink and you’ll miss it, Manchester!

Illustration by Anton Bogarty for Perplex City.

Billion To One

This sets the scene for just such a puzzle by Mind Candy designed to test the theory of “six degrees of separation”. The theory goes that all people on the planet are separated from all other people by just 6 connections. A chain of “friend of a friend” or “I once knew a person that knew…” statements could lead you pretty much anywhere, to anyone.

So they tested it with a puzzle called “Billion To One”. Simply put: Card #256 contained the image of a man (helpfully identified by Mind Candy as Satoshi) and the Japanese characters 私を 見つけなさい (meaning “find me”). This is where the international hunt for Satoshi began!

Photo from FindSatoshi.com

The Hunt for Satoshi

Card #256 wasn’t the only unsolvable card of course, there were others. Two other cards in the deck remained unsolved for the longest time. Card #238, Riemann posted players the problem of solving the unsolvable Riemann hypothesis, whilst Card #251, The Thirteenth Labour required 30,000 computers running all at once to solve.

But none of the Perplex City mysteries captured the imagination more than Card #256, A Billion to One as somebody, somewhere had to know Satoshi.

Various efforts to find Satoshi emerged all around the world and, as you would imagine, petered out over the next couple of years as interest in Perplex City waxed and waned. A number of ‘find him’ sites emerged including billion2one (closed), haveyouseenhim (closed) and findsatoshi.com.

Screenshot by Reddit user LeftSubstance

First, players identified the background of the photograph as being taken in the small town of Kaysersberg-Vignoble in North-Eastern France. From here, the trail went cold. Very cold! It’s safe to say nobody expected Satoshi to be found many years later in 2020 but perhaps, after being cooped up in a pandemic for a year, the time was just right for someone to stumble across Satoshi on some far flung corner of the internet.

Reddit /r/FindSatoshi

A small but active community kept the /r/FindSatoshi Reddit thread alive where regular updates on the search could be posted. In a recent break in the case, user th0may, who is currently doing a research project on AI decided to run the image through an advance image recognition system and found a similar photograph of a man drinking beer in 2018.

The image was traced to a company email address. At first, no response could be solicited from Satoshi, so th0may got in contact with Laura Hall who, along with a friend working in Japan, sent a follow up in Japanese. From here, Satoshi confirmed his identity and at last, the puzzle was solved.

Six Degrees of Separation

I don’t know whether the puzzle being solved proves or disproves the 6 Degrees of Separation hypothesis. On the one hand Satoshi was found not through separation but through a complex computer algorithm. On the other hand, the Find Satoshi puzzle was created many years before Reddit, or other social networking sites where the search has taken place.

I’d like to believe that in the exact moment user th0may found Satoshi and his identity confirmed, it forges a new link in the six degrees. Just like that, we are all now one link closer to Satoshi, albeit digitally. It’s up to you to decide if computer technology brings us closer to our six degree links or alienates us from the human connection the puzzle was actually about?

Thanks!

A huge thanks to Laura E. Hall for championing the Find Satoshi movement, and for speaking to me for this article.

Laura E. Hall is an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, immersive environment and narrative designer living in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on the intersections between arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming.

Hall is a co-founder of Portland’s first escape the room game company, the award-winning 60 Minutes to Escape, and the author of Katamari Damacy for Boss Fight Books. She now creates exciting adventures for the curious at heart with Timberview Productions and Meridian Adventure Co. Her upcoming book “Planning Your Escape: Strategy Secrets to Make You an Escape Room Superstar” will be published by Simon & Schuster’s Tiller Press in 2021. She proudly serves on the board of the Portland Indie Game Squad (PIGSquad), a non-profit organization supporting game development and indie game enthusiasts in Portland.

All information for this article come from Wikipedia, Find Satoshi, Perplex City, Perplex City Card Catalogue and Reddit.

The Escape Roomer’s 2020 Round-Up

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2020 has been… Quite the year! For me at least, it’s gone “January – February – Quarantine – December”. Whilst this means I did not get ANYWHERE near my escape room target of 50 rooms this year (thanks coronavirus), an almost brand new sub-category has emerged in the escape room industry: Play at Home.

From a relatively small part of escape rooms, I can confidently say that the play at home genre does (and will continue to) form an integral part of any escape room business, and I’m extremely excited to see where 2021 takes this trend.

Without further ado, here are my measly stats for 2020!

Total Escape Rooms12
Total Play at Home95
Fastest (Escape Room) Escape30 minutes
Escape the Vault
Slowest (Escape Room) Escape52 minutes
Sherlock: The Time is Now

And if you’re interested… In 2020 I have also designed 7 escape games, 1 outdoor adventure, and started work on a small indie videogame!

Favourite Escape Room

Impossible to pick! Impossible firstly because I find the good in everything and strive to leave positive reviews where possible. Impossible secondly as my ‘big plans’ got decimated down to just a few real life escape rooms behind a mask and eight bottles of hand sanitiser. Nonetheless, there are two stand out experiences to mention:

Sherlock: The Time is Now

A high tech, immense and multi-roomed experience from the talented people behind Time Run. As a Sherlock fan, this ticked all the boxes.

Ready Escape Games: Escape the Vault

A trip all the way to Brighton to meet the creators and experience this brilliant 40 minute escape room. After a rocky start, we smashed it! But the real stand out was the location, the environment, and the team!

Last Escape Room Before Lockdown

All, that sweet, sweet time before the apocalypse arrived! Around a week before lockdown hit (whether that was the formal mandate by the government, or the “we’re all going to work from home I bet it’ll only last a week or so” period), I was lucky to attend the launch of A Dalek Awakens at Escape Hunt Reading.

First Escape Room After Lockdown

For a brief period in August – October, things returned to *almost* normal. People were encouraged to Eat Out to Help Out and escape rooms across the UK reopened allowing groups of up to 6 in a ‘social bubble’. Well, my regular team immediately ‘bubbled up’ and off we headed to The School of Witchcraft & Wizardry at Enigma Quests. This was an escape room that had been on our list for literally years since it first came out. It did not disappoint!

Top 10 Play At Home Games:

So now, onto the hot topic of the year. Playing escape rooms from home! But I couldn’t just pick one favourite. There are so many games and so many types – how on earth can one compare a remote avatar with an audio adventure, or a digital game with a printed one? Instead, here’s a top 10:

  1. Real Escape Game Japan: The Strange Village [Digital]
  2. Agent Venture: The Heist [Remote/Digital]
  3. Next Level Escapes: A Temporal Tangle [Digital]
  4. The Profoctor Predicament [Printed]
  5. The Curious Elevator or Mr. Hincks [Physical]
  6. Clue Quest: Humanity 2.0 [Printed]
  7. Truth Seekers Remote Adventure [Remote]
  8. Clue Cracker: Escape from Extinction Island [Digital]
  9. Project Avatar: Stalker [Remote – Review Not Yet Published!]
  10. STL Fantasy Maps: Escape the Empire [Printed]

Enter: Video Games

In late 2020 I also added the category “Video Games” to this blog. *Cheers in gamer* Whilst I haven’t published nearly enough reviews to talk about my favourites, the one stand out for me that defined this whole year was the Rusty Lake series. On every lunch break and well into the evenings, you bet I had a Rusty Lake loaded up on my mobile phone. It got me through a lot! Haha! You can read my review for Paradox here.

Statistics Time!

…And finally, a couple of blog stats, in case you’re interested!

This website launched in May 2020 and went from an average of 300 visitors a month, to an exciting 4,000 – 5,000 visitors per month in November and December. This probably has a lot to do with the fact I started posting more:

Wow! Thanks for sticking around this far 😀
Our most popular posts per month were:

And finally, since WordPress provides such a handy data widget, here are some more general site stats which I found pretty fun to share!

Total Posts: 96
Total Words Written: 50,670
Total Comments: 65

Thank You!

Overall, what a year. I for one am glad it’s over (and just quietly hoping it was a “bad year” and not the start of a “bad decade” haha). But also looking forward to the exciting new games and experiences 2021 will bring.

But, I don’t mean to be hasty! 2020 wasn’t all bad! For one, I’ve made so many new friends in the escape room world (you know who you are!) and played a lot of brilliant and surprising games this year I’d never otherwise had tried. So here’s to many more digital games, remote avatar and printable kits, and here’s also to hoping that the world returns to normalcy just a little bit more and escape rooms can reopen.

Thanks for sticking around with me and this blog for this long! Cheers to 2021!

Enter: Video Games!

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Now listen up readers, we’ve got a new segment on this blog! VIDEO GAMES! That’s right! I’m planning on breaking up my regular escape room content with an escape room “adjacent” game review once a month (or every two months, we’ll see how this goes).

If anybody knows me personally (or is even remotely interested in my life), you may know I no longer work in the escape room industry, and I’ve accepted a dream job in the video game industry which I’m so, ridiculously, unbelievably excited to start in January!

But before you suddenly hit “unsubscribe” or go to unfollow my social channels… Hear me out! The video game industry is absolutely PACKED with escape room and puzzle games. You’ve got the classic Rusty Lake on mobile devices, the Ubisoft VR series, or computer (and console) experience such as The Room, Myst, The Experiment, MOTAS, The Doors… Honestly, the list goes on!

Rusty Lake

So from this point onward, I’m going to be picking, playing and reviewing a video game as often as I can that I consider close to an escape room experience. I’ll be looking for the following (loosely defined criteria):

Does the gameplay feature puzzles or logic questions?

Note, I didn’t say “is the game a puzzle game” because plenty of fantastic games that absolutely fit the category of an ‘escape room’ video game might put narrative, or walking/exploring above puzzles.

  • Example of a game where puzzles are the #1 mechanic – Portal
  • Example of a game where logic is the #1 mechanic – The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
  • Example of a game where puzzles/logic is secondary – Myst

Portal

Does the game have a ‘mystery’ narrative?

For me, this is quite important! Every good escape room has a goal – and usually a mysterious one. Whether that be to find something, to uncover something, or to solve a murder. I’ll be looking out for this in my video games. Here are some good examples:

  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • L.A. Noire
  • The Stanley Parable

L.A. Noire

…And finally, Triple A versus Indie Short?

Okay so this is just my personal preference, but I started this blog to support the escape room industry (it’s why my reviews are overwhelmingly positive – I want to find the good in everything). So whilst your Skyrim, or your Assassin’s Creed, or your Fallout games MIGHT have some good puzzles and fantastic mysteries (Detective Nick Valentine in Fallout 4 anybody?), I’m primarily here to support smaller indie companies that more closely fit into the escape room genre.

As a huge generalisation, I find these games are usually created by indie studios, are under 30 hours of gameplay, and don’t feature enormous maps or countless side quests. But, as this category is brand new to the blog, we’ll see where it goes!

7 lessons the Christmas film “Home Alone” taught me about solving Escape Rooms

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One of the most easily recognisable and iconic Christmas films of our generation is “Home Alone”. A staple of 90s kids (that’s me!), Home Alone is about being resourceful, thinking outside the box, preparation in all situations, and most importantly a lesson not asking for directions from Donald Trump in the foyer of the Plaza Hotel. In short, just a few of life’s golden lessons. But it’s also taught me a thing or two about solving escape rooms.

The night before a festive family trip to Paris, 8-year-old Kevin McCallister is sent to sleep alone in the attic (90s, amirite?). In the morning, on missing their alarm clock, the McCallister family rushes to the airport only to leave Kevin behind. What ensues is a slapstick few days where the ‘Wet Bandits’ attempt to repeatedly break into the house, foiled each time by a kid armed only with hit wits and a selection of highly deadly materials such as tar, rusty nails, and a doorknob heating device.

So what can we learn from the film?

Lesson 1: Come Prepared

You wouldn’t walk into battle against criminals un-prepared. Neither would you start a video game without looking up the instructions, or for that matter, walk into an escape room without knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into. In Home Alone, we come to learn and love Kevin’s extensive and elaborate traps. He spends HOURS (well, I’m guessing here, it’s actually a 3 minute montage) laying them all in the name of success: protecting his life, his home and of course, saving Christmas. So the key lesson here is ‘be more like Kevin’. Make a game plan.

Lesson 2: Think Outside the Box

Taking on an escape room is like nothing else you’ll experience out there in ‘the real world’, nor will the puzzles you encounter be solvable in expected ways. To succeed, you need to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Although sidebar: In my 70 + escape rooms I’ve escaped from, I’ve never needed “brute force”, so we can take that off our list. However like Kevin, you’ll have to look at ordinary objects around you and imagine eventual scenarios that nobody else has. This could be anything from a cipher or two, lateral puzzles, logic games, creative things that require all 5 senses, or even physical activities that take advantage of your aim and speed. Almost nothing is off limits.

Lesson 3: Keep Calm

Do you think Kevin could have foiled the Wet Bandits if he’d been panic stricken by the disappearance of his family? No! Kevin had a level head at all times – and you’ll want to as well. If this is your first time taking on an escape room, it’s important to keep in mind that most are not scary and you’ll never be truly ‘locked in’. No, the key to success is to find your inner calm, look at the bigger picture and to crack on with the plot.

Lesson 4: The art of distraction

Not necessarily required for game play (no escape rooms require you to start pulling sleight of hands against the games masters), but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when attempting to solve a room. In Home Alone, Kevin casts silhouettes and plays recordings of people to simulate parties and dissuade suspicion from passers by. In an escape room, if something looks out of place or at all suspicious – it’s probably worth taking a closer look at. Don’t let the rooms beat you!

Lesson 5: Keep an eye on the clock!

You know what could have prevented LITERALLY EVERY BAD THING that happened in Home Alone? Checking the clock. But noooo, the McCallisters went to bed without so much as glancing at their unplugged alarm clocks. Again, maybe it’s a 90s thing. In an escape room not keeping an eye on the time can be disastrous (not quite as disastrous as ‘forgetting your child’, but you get the picture). The key to success is to plan your time well and be aware of how long each puzzle is taking. Sometimes asking for a clue is worth it if the alternative is wasting 10 minutes on a red herring.

Lesson 6: Fuller! Go easy on the Pepsi

There’s always one hyperactive member on the escape room team, be it ‘Cousin Fuller’ or a family member who isn’t taking the game seriously. The last thing you want to do is lose time because you drank too much soda pop right before entering the room and need to take a bathroom break. So please, go easy on the Pepsi! Moving on…

Lesson 7: Keep the change ya filthy animal!

Finally – almost all escape rooms will offer deals, so be sure to check out their social channels and any ongoing promotions before making a booking, to ensure you get the most out of your visit! Why not keep hold of that change (ya filthy animal) and spend it on a celebratory drink when you beat the clock instead?

Please note, this a repost of an article I wrote and published on LinkedIn in November 2019. You can read the original article here.