Houdini’s: Lady Chastity’s Reserve | Review

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Lady Chastity’s Reserve Review | Enter the lair of the deranged Lady Chastity as you pit your wits against her mysterious belongings and strange contraptions. Those who prove themselves worthy will whoop their way through an hour of surreal gaming, leaving with Chastity’s fabled bottle of aphrodisiac wine.

Completion Time: 50 minutes
Date Played: 15th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

Through fits of uncontrollable laughter after a pint downstairs, we stumbled into the famous (or should I say, infamous) Lady Chastity’s Reserve. Tucked away above The Hope in Farringdon, it’s a venue I literally pass every day of my life and never once realised an escape room was hidden within. But that’s how we found ourselves, in the earliest week of January we could get our team together, excitedly buzzing with anticipation that we finally secured a Lady Chastity’s Reserve booking.

[cue more giggling and excited noises]

What Happens in the Lady’s Parlour… Stays There!

So first things first, let’s clear the air. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is an 18+ room. Some of the reasons for this, we assume are:

  • Themes of a sexual nature (she’s not that chaste after all – are you offended by light-hearted references to Victorian orgies?)
  • The prize of a bottle of wine (tantalising!)
  • The location of the escape room being above a pub (it’s unlikely kids are allowed in after a certain time!)
  • It’s a little bit spooky. You may encounter a dead body.

For those reasons, the owners have slapped on a strict 18+ rating. Whilst we reckon in theory the game could be toned down for a 16+ audience, we mention the reasons why both as a content warning, and to ensure other bookers avoid disappointment. Keep the kids at home for this one!

So with that aside, let’s get into the light-hearted spooky debauchery that is Lady Chastity’s Reserve…

Lady Chastity is a woman who is well known for her… Errr… Parties. Her aphrodisiac wine is a big hit and brings all the ladies and gentlemen to her parlour for some fun. After suffering heartbreak, the lady hosts one final lavish party but- oh no! Disaster strikes! A candle left unattended tips over and sets fire to a curtain, engulfing the building. Whilst all the visitors manage to escape in various states of undress, Lady Chastity is never seen again. Rumour has it at the first sign of fire she ran to her cellar and locked up her last bottle of aphrodisiac wine, but didn’t make it out in time.

This is where you come in. The house has been refurbished by the ever-dutiful Gabriel. Her housekeeper turned inheritor. But he’s never found that bottle of aphrodisiac wine. Can you follow in The Lady’s steps, figure out what happened to her, and claim that bottle of wine?!

Creepy Corners, Candlelight, and Curtains for Days

One of the stand-outs for us in Lady Chastity’s Reserve was the decor of the room. We didn’t have to ‘suspend disbelief’ even for a second… It really felt like being inside a Victorian parlour! The whole space was lit with candlelight – torches were provided, which was a nice touch for an otherwise very dark room – and the furniture, curtains, wallpaper and decor felt lifted directly out of the Victorian era.

Darkness is marmite in an escape room. It makes it harder to solve puzzles. But for me, Lady Chastity’s Reserve was dark for a reason. It’s lit by candlelight, and it really works! None of the puzzles were hindered by it, it only added to the ambience. Dark shadows darted around in our peripheral vision, and when a sudden loud noise rang out from somewhere you were never quite sure where it came from.

Even the smell of the room was authentic. It feels funny to praise an escape room for having a good smell – but the slightly smoky, musty smell felt brilliant.

What I’m trying to say, is full marks for the decor. A lot of folks will be put off by a darker room, but I propose that instead players treat the darkness as an extra character. It really adds to the story.

Photo (c) Lady Chastity’s Reserve

What of Lady Chastity’s Puzzles?

So you see how I said I liked the darkness and they didn’t hinder the puzzles – well not strictly true, as this room does rely on a lot of search-and-find especially at the beginning. Just be sure to shine that torch everywhere!

The whole room follows a linear format. There’s a clear goal, and each puzzle leads onto the next seamlessly. You’re guided not only by clues from your host, Gabriel (of which you can claim just 3 of them over the course of the game), but Lady Chastity herself will often ring out from the darkness and the gloom. Listen to her carefully for she often gives big clues in subtle ways.

Players can expect to encounter quite a few padlocks and 4 digit codes (hey, this Lady is trying to protect her wine from thieves like us!), and some ingenious uses of physical manipulation, smoke and mirrors. For sure, there were a lot of puzzles to get through, but some of them were so utterly delightful I can’t help but still smile about them days later. Conversely, there were some that other members of my team solved so efficiently that I didn’t even see how.

Cue my “Woah look at this, you can do that!” to everyone replying in unison, “Yep we’ve solved it“. Haha, oops.

We were warned that the room was a little on the harder side, but managed to escape with 10 minutes left on the clock after using 2 clues. I think I’d still agree that it’s hard – but not impossible. For a team of 4 fairly experienced enthusiasts, some of whom on our third pint of the evening, we didn’t do too badly! We’d definitely recommend aiming to play with a similar sized group, but don’t be put off if you go in with a smaller, or brand new team!

Team ‘Lamb Sauce’ Achievements

How much does Lady Chastity’s Reserve cost?

For London, it’s not the cheapest escape room for sure. But it’s also not the most expensive. And hey, how many rooms let you take home a bottle of wine if you win?

This is a conversation we regularly have on The Escape Roomer. How do we measure “value” when different regions are priced so differently? There’s no right or wrong answer, so we try instead to ask “was it good value?” In all this room costs a flat fee of £30 per person – regardless of team size (therefore it’s £60 for a team of two, and £180 for a team of 6). Originally this escape room was also non-exclusive, meaning you might get put in with strangers. Whilst this is common in the United States, it’s unpopular in the UK. It seems like in recent times this policy has been scrapped and bookings are exclusive. Phew.

So, with this in mind, did we get a good value? Oh yes, absolutely!

Once upon a time, the original creators of Lady Chastity’s Reserve, Handmade Mysteries, closed down and for a while we thought the escape room would disappear forever. Whenever I asked other enthusiasts about their favourite room, I’d hear this one mentioned so often. Too bad it had closed down! Argh, the heartbreak.

But when the news that Houdini’s had purchased the game and was bringing it back – no price was too high for me to book this. It so happened that we got extra lucky with a Black Friday discount and didn’t pay full price between the four of us. But honestly? I’m just glad I survived the pandemic long enough to see this gem reopen.

The Verdict

*chef’s kiss*

Lady Chastity’s Reserve absolutely lived up to the hype for us, and I’m thrilled that we chose it for our very first escape room of 2022. Start the year as we mean to go on, eh?

It’s creepy, musty, sordid, manic and above all, just so much fun. We also in particular want to shout out our Games Master at The Hope Farrington for his fantastic portrayal of the caretaker Gabriel. From start to finish he never once broke character – all the way from a perfect intro briefing, to scaring us quite a few times, to presenting the bottle of The Lady’s Reserve to us at the end of our game.

After some deliberation in the pub downstairs, The Hope, we’ve decided to award this game our Fun Factor badge – awarded to all escape rooms that are just that extra bit of fun. Lady Chastity’s Reserve takes itself seriously yet still managed to balance the hilarity and silliness that we love in a room. We were all smiles and laughter from start to finish, and it’s certainly going to be a room I’ll remember for a long time.

I would highly recommend Lady Chastity’s Reserve to anyone wanting something a little different to play. At the time of writing, the Farringdon version of the game is the only one available on Houdini’s website (aww), but well worth the trip into London.

Lady Chastity’s Reserve can be booked at Houdini’s in Farringdon here.

CTRL ALT ESC: Quick-E-Mart | Review

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CTRL ALT ESC: Quick-E-Mart | Review | Shop smart and shop fast because there’s plenty of points to be won. You and your team will solve puzzles and fill those trolleys, shopping has never been so much fun!  IT’S TIME TO GO WILD IN THE AISLES!

Date Played: 30th November 2021
Time Taken: 62mins 27secs
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy

If you are in the market for some completely over the top, retro adventures then look no further. This game is an absolute riot and, potentially the most fun I’ve ever had inside an escape room! Strap in folks, here comes the positivity…

This room is going straight in my basket!

The recently opened 2nd venue for CTRL ALT ESC in Margate, Kent was the scene of this outrageous adventure. Treated like absolute royalty, we took a seat in the large reception area (which includes some cool gadgets of its own!), and here our briefing began. Lets just say the “normal” room briefing wasn’t present here. Our host, dressed appropriately in a very fetching game show host attire, set the scene superbly; a thorough introduction of what to expect, in what can only be described as showbiz!

And, for added sparkle, as a team we were then presented with our very own brightly coloured aprons and escorted up to the room to begin our game show!

Attention to Detail? This Checks Out!

Our Game Show Host escorted us to the room. Well, I say room – opening the door, you would be forgiven for mistaking this for a local shop! Our host Geoff stayed in character whilst advising us about the room and what to expect. One thing is for sure, this is no normal escape room adventure!

Here’s the deal: You are a contestant on a new gameshow Quick E Mart. Clearly, this is absolutely nothing like Supermarket Sweep (honest lol!). You are presented with a shopping list and 90 minutes in which to collect all the items and get as much money as possible. So certainly not your normal escape room, that’s for sure, but by god was this where the fun ramped up even more!

Our host left the room, we grabbed the trolley and our retro adventure commenced!

Now, the first thing to mention here is the overwhelming brightness of the room. Everything is exactly how you would think it to be in a throwback like this. Lots of inflatables, big, bright, bold colours, the lot. Something else to note are some really clever extra attention to detail areas. Make sure to look at product names, subtle nods to members of the CTRL ALT ESC team, and plenty of tongue in cheek humour! I’d suggest that the first five minutes of the game was us running around and laughing at all the different things in the room!

There is certainly nothing linear about this room. Sure there are specific things you cant do unless you have carried out actions prior to that, however on the whole, as a team we just spread out and got cracking.

Don’t forget your Shopping List!

Yep, that might sound obvious, however with so much going on in the room, its so easy to get distracted and lose track of what you were trying to achieve. And that is exactly why this room is so much fun. A clever system will keep tabs of the items you have collected along the way; some items are readily available and require just tracking them down. Others are brilliantly secured using some very innovative methods.

Don’t think traditional escape room puzzles here. Cyphers and numerous padlocks need not apply! Sure there are occasional nods to commonly utilised puzzles, however what the designers have done brilliantly here is cleverly insert puzzles into the theme of a supermarket. Nicely hidden puzzles (which are actually in plain sight!), sit beautifully on theme and do not sit out of place at all. Something short of amazing when you think about how little is locked up in an actual supermarket!

Many of the puzzles in this game are short and snappy and that really adds to the way it flows. There are one or two longer or ongoing puzzles in this room and they provided a great distraction to appreciate potentially how far into the game we were (I’m trying desperately not to provide a spoiler here!).

Walkie Talkies? No Thanks!

The big question: How the hell do you provide a clue system for a game based in a supermarket?! All I can say is: Brilliantly!

There isn’t a walkie talkie in sight. Instead pay close attention to the briefing at the start of the game as there aren’t any ‘normal’ ways of getting hints and clues that’s for sure. More innovation from the designers here – as a team we all agreed that this was possibly our favourite hint system. Very simple in practice, beautiful in execution.

We played Quick E Mart as a team of four, three adults and my 10 year old son. Now, this may sound bias however he is absolutely outstanding in escape rooms. He’s played around 10-12 games with me and he never ceases to amaze me with how he picks stuff up – and this room was no exception. Agreed that this room is a simple affair and certainly not going to be one that taxes even first time gamers, but he said, hands down that this is his absolute favourite game he has played – and he is a harsh judge!

With that in mind, I would certainly recommend this game for friends and families with children of all ages. It really hits the nail on the head between what you would expect in an escape room and what a family attraction has. Similarly, experienced escape room players need to embrace a game like this, let their hair down and just have 90 minutes of fun and laughter!

A Suitably Fitting Finale

As a team we smashed through the game at a great pace; the money was stacking up brilliantly and the shopping list had been completed! But wait, we are on a game show – we get to play the bonus round! Now, as ever, no spoilers, however be prepared for a suitably different over the top finale to this game. It will help you build up your cash and you’ll have a brilliant laugh doing it too!

When all was said and done, this was certainly one of the most fun and innovate rooms I’ve ever played. From the over the top retro theming, the cleverly inserted puzzles, the cracking clue system and the all round fun and entertainment value, this is certainly not one to miss. Brilliantly hosted, all in character, superb setting, and something very different from what you’d expect to see in many escape rooms.

So remember, next time you are at the checkout and you hear the beep, think of the fun you could be having on Quick E Mart!

Without doubt, I happily award this room a very special, well deserved, FUN FACTOR BADGE!.. 🎉

If you want to go wild in the aisles, click the link to book at CTRL ALT ESC: https://ctrlaltesc.co.uk/index.php/en/games

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Headlock Escape Rooms: The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us | Review

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Headlock Escape Rooms: The Keeper and the Fungus Among Us Review | The Keeper has awakened. This only happens every 1,000 years when the evil Paxillus is released from his mushroom prison. Your team, The Guardians, must help our hero defeat this dreaded Mushroom King and save the people of this land.

Date Played: 13th September 2021
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 80 minutes

One day, roughly 10 months ago, Joel (one of the creative geniuses behind Cracking Christmas and The Wizard’s Apothecary) was suddenly struck by the following pun:

I put the fun in fungi

Joel immediately turned to his partner and said, “OK we need to make a musical escape room out of this.

I put the fun in Fungi

The rest as they say, is history! Which is how our team consisting of Mairi, Al, Ash and Tasha came to be playing a remote avatar game curiously titled ‘The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us‘ one Monday evening. We had no idea what to expect, but within 5 minutes we were crying with laughter and within 10 minutes we were singing along to all the musical parts.

Keeper? Fungus? What’s Going On?

The Story of The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us is fairly simple…

In a mysterious land far, far away, the evil Mushroom King Paxillus awakes from a 1,000 year slumber and swears to turn every resident of the peaceful Toadstool Village into mushrooms. But not all is lost! To meet Paxillus’ challenge is a hero for all ages: The Keeper. This millennium, The Keeper is a curious, slightly sassy, five legged spider.

Through this puppet adventure, it was our job as players to guide The Keeper through the trials and tribulations, journeying across the land and solving puzzles.

Not ‘Mush Room’ For Error

In terms of game structure and puzzles, The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us follows the loose format of:

  • Exciting video introducing what is happening
  • An area of gameplay, with about 1-5 linear puzzles to solve
  • Collect some cool and unique items which’ll be used later
  • A (more often than not) musical outro

The types of puzzles players will encounter vary, but they’re also brilliantly creative and not something you’d encounter in a typical escape room style game. We found ourselves navigating puzzles which felt a lot more at home in an adventure RPG video game, such as rotating cubes in specific orders, or attacking a gang of street fighters in a very specific combination to ensure they could all be defeated in the right order and that you also wouldn’t run out of health.

It’s like the creators have taken a genre of video game, added puzzles, transposed the experience onto a miniature scene, and run the whole thing as a 90 minute escape room! And so many unique sets all built in a very small area no less! To call it creative would be the understatement of the year.

World’s Most Unique Digital Escape Room?

…Yeah, we’d say so.

There’s quite literally nothing quite like this on the market, and believe us – we’ve played a lot! It’s a cross between an adventure video game, a Dungeons and Dragons one shot campaign, a musical like Rocky Horror Picture Show, a hand puppet performance, and a kids TV show from the early 00s. If you like any of the aforementioned media, you’ve got to book this. Seriously, you won’t regret it. Go in with an open mind and an ambivalence towards mushrooms.

Joel and his partner have built the experience themselves from scratch and make use of several unique sets and a lot of wonderful video trickery to produce an all round fantastic immersive experience-come-show. At the end of our adventure, he took us behind the scenes showing us not only a few of the endings we didn’t unlock, but also exactly how much love and toil goes into setting up such an amazing set.

This is what good puzzle games are. They’re created by folks who love the escape room industry and put their absolute everything into making fun content for the rest of us to enjoy. Joel has nailed it, and The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us will go down in cult escape room history for may years to come. Make sure you book it while you still can, you’ll kick yourself some day, decades down the line when Joel has retired, if you don’t.

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us can be booked by heading to Headlock Escape Rooms’ website here.

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us Ratings