Headlock Escape Rooms: Cracking Christmas | Review


Every year, Santa practices his “chimney falling technique”. Last night, he ate too many mince pies and it threw him off balance, making him hit his head inside the fireplace.  So now, Santa cannot remember where he has hidden the naughty or nice list for this year!  Mrs. Claus decided to hire the top rated festive detectives in all the world to help him find it (that’s you)! 

Rating: Brilliant!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 12th December 2020
Party Size: 5
Recommended For: Christmas Parties & Get-Togethers in December

Fabulously festive and a wonderful hour spent over Zoom with friends I may not have otherwise seen this Christmas. Headlock Escape Rooms have perfected the art of puzzlebox escape rooms via Zoom! Although this game was originally designed to be posted to players, the online / digital format still works beautifully and makes an all round fantastic game. Cracking Christmas is not to be missed!

The Cracking Christmas story goes: You and your team travel to the North Pole in order to help Bob Christmas (our hilarious host) find and retrieve Santa’s Naughty and Nice list. Boy, does Santa take his security very seriously – but it makes sense! You wouldn’t want such an important document falling into the wrong hands.

In true Christmas spirit, you must then search the scene – there’s a chimney, an advent calendar, paintings on the wall, stockings, snow-globes, cookies – well, pretty much everything you’d expect to find at the North Pole, or the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Except unlike a Hallmark Christmas movie, each item has an intriguing puzzle to be solved that will slowly crack the Christmas case. Each puzzle as surprising and charming as the last!

Underpinning the story is the ever-present threat of whether you and your team will find themselves on the Naughty, or the Nice list. In fact, at at least one point in the game you get to make choices about whether an action you’ll do is naughty or nice. Play, and make your choices at your peril! * (I’m kidding, there’s absolutely no peril in this game)

Woven throughout the game are also a series of surprising tasks which we loved! Sing a Christmas song? Shout HO HO HO the best? Sit on Santa’s lap? (Yes, really!). It really elevates the game from a regular escape room, to an all round fun Christmas experience. If you’re still looking for an office Christmas activity, or something for the family to do remotely – honestly, look no further. Cracking Christmas will have the whole team in fits of laughter and walking away with a warm fuzzy glow.

In terms of puzzles, I would personally put this on the easy/medium end of the difficulty scale – but I’d preface this by saying that level is ‘just right’ for a game like this. Of course I may also have found it a little bit easier after the success of playing Headlock’s earlier game, The Wizard’s Apothecary. But regardless, this one is a great game for introducing a friend to the genre and it’s absolutely packed with things to do and fun to be had.

Overall, a real hidden gem of a game. I can’t recommend it enough! Be sure to book it before it finishes!

Cracking Christmas can be booked for £35 per team on Headlock Escape Rooms’ website.

Escape Hunt: The Bletchley Park Papers


It’s December 1941 and mystery surrounds a sunken submarine, we have a list of suspects and it would seem someone knows more than they should. Do you and your team have what it takes to pit your wits against the WWII codebreakers and find out the truth?

Rating: Exciting
Completion Time: 50 Minutes
Date Played: 18th November 2020
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: History Fans

So back in 2019 before the apocalypse started, I visited Bletchley Park twice (twice?!) over summer and I LOVED IT. I am a super nerd like that (but also some of my funniest Instagram stories ever were shot there so they were trips well spent!). In 2020 I didn’t visit Bletchley Park. In fact I didn’t really visit anywhere this year (oh hi lockdown), so The Bletchley Park Papers by Escape Hunt really scratches that itch!

In this digital game you and your team of players (we completed it in a team of 2) head to Bletchley Park in 1941 at the height of WW2 to become a codebreaker. It’s your job to find the double agent hidden among the personnel.

Your guide is Gordon Welchman, the Chief Codebreaker at Bletchley Park. A real person and an Easter Egg if you want to go explore his Wikipedia page further.

Using his instructions, to play the game you must travel from hut to hut around the Bletchley Park map meeting a host of colourful characters (both real and fictional) from the team. The game progresses in a linear fashion – discover a new location, pick up clues, decipher puzzles, then access the next location.

Simple to follow, but no less exciting! It’s absolutely packed with story! Historically accurate, jokes, and yes, more serious moments too – an enjoyable story from start to finish!

In terms of puzzles, as you’d imagine in a game set in the middle of WW2 you can expect a lot of codebreaker style puzzles. There’s a Morse code puzzle, a braille puzzle and a few creative logical reasoning (which I got woefully incorrect haha!) ones too. Yet The Bletchley Park Papers is also a Christmas game – you’ll have to work your way round a very puzzling Christmas tree and some Christmas Cards too! No spoilers here, but there’s a good mix of puzzles to suit everyone you might have in your team.

Even though I’ve already played this, I’m excited to bring it with me to my parents house for Christmas. My 11 year old brother (occasional Player 3 on this blog) is studying WW2 and he’s going to love this!

Overall I really enjoyed this game! It’s got buckets of charm and a really historical lovely story to play through with a small team for an hour or so. Cheerio, chaps!

The Bletchley Park Papers can be purchased for £9.99 on Escape Hunt’s Website.

Mystery Mail: A Very Merry Christmas


An opening has come up to become Santa’s chief elf. In order to be considered, Santa himself has set you a series of challenges. Can you solve them successfully and join him at his North Pole workshop?

Rating: Festive!
Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 2nd December 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Families, Kids, A brilliant Christmas gift!

A Very Merry Christmas is the latest release by the UK puzzle-making duo Mystery Mail – just in time for Christmas! Earlier this year, I LOVED playing The School of Witchcraft & Wizardry and Catch Me if You Can – so this game couldn’t come soon enough!

It starts with a very mysterious letter through your letterbox. “North Pole Airmail”, and a “Checked by Santa” seal of approval. So exciting! Unless your Secret Santa lets you know in advance, you won’t actually know who sent you the mysterious package until – yep, you’ve guessed it – you solve all the puzzles!

To get started, you head online for a magical introduction video from Santa himself. Santa has a ‘task’ for you – solve the puzzles and prove your worth as an elf in order to win a coveted position in Santa’s workshop. The video and the story are both a brilliant touch and a step up for the whole experience. What then follows are a series of 7 printed puzzles that either give a number, or a word.

As a whole, the puzzles aren’t too tricky! I know Mystery Mail comes in Adult/Teen/Kids versions, but I’d definitely recommend their any of their gifts for a more general audience. You can expect a little bit of maths, some word games, sequence visualising puzzles, and so on. Nothing a hobbyist puzzler couldn’t solve – and why not? If you’re giving this on Christmas morning, unless your recipient is hardcore, they probably want to be able to solve the whole thing in under an hour, find your secret message, then move on eating too many Mince Pies and falling asleep to It’s a Wonderful Life.

Speaking of the secret message, this is a nice touch. As with previous Mystery Mail experiences, on purchase you have the option to record or write a personalised message. The lovely folks at Mystery Mail sent me a video which brought such a smile to my face. I can only imagine how much fun this would be to receive a video message from a loved one on Christmas and, well, since it’s looking like we’ll still be in lockdown – it might just be the perfect socially distanced gift too.

Overall, really good fun. A lovely gift to give or receive, that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your recipient’s face. Rest assured I will now be taking up my position at Head Elf at Santa’s workshop, for successfully completing the game. Bring on Christmas!

A Very Merry Christmas can be purchased for £9.99 on Mystery Mail’s website.

Clue Cards: The Forgetful Elf | Review


10/12/2020 UPDATE: Please note, the Kickstarter was cancelled and all pledges refunded. We are well aware of all the controversy around the game, the company and the production. We’ve kept this review up as a snapshot of the game, at the time we played it, in late 2020, although information may no longer be accurate.



It’s Christmas eve and Santa has just finished delivering the presents to the Franklin family. As he was unloading he noticed that Francois the forgetful elf has forgotten to label the presents! Santa needs your help! Jump down the chimney and figure out how to label all 6 names, but be quick -it’s almost Christmas morning!

Rating: Fun!
Completion Time: ~25 Minutes* DNF
Date Played: 28th November 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: A Christmas Gift

Even though I marked this as DNF (Did Not Finish), I LOVE the idea and am so excited to have been sent an early copy of The Forgetful Elf to play. A refreshing concept, surprising and absolutely charming. In short, a lot of fun on a Saturday night over a cup of mulled wine, which is exactly how a festive game like this is meant to be digested. Oh yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


At the time of writing, the clue system isn’t yet live on Clue Cards’ website. So whilst I’m 99% sure I’ve got 5/6 of the names correct, I can’t realistically say I finished *nervous sweating*. In all likelihood, I’ll come back and update this review once I’ve checked my answers. But for now I’ve popped the card in centre place on my mantelpiece among my other Christmas cards for all to admire in December, pretty as it is!



Clue Cards: The Forgetful Elf is a well thought out experience that I’d be excited to send to just about anyone for Christmas – veteran escapist and casual player both! It’s sturdy and easy to write on card stock, with a space for your stamp and your personalised letter too. At it’s core, this is what the game is designed for – a card you can send. But it’s so much more than a card. It’s a card packed with puzzles.

One of the my favourite things to highlight are the illustrations. When I hear the suggestion of a “Puzzle Christmas Card”, I immediately assume that it’s going to look… Well… Puzzle-y! Design sacrifices a lot to fit puzzles in (believe me, I’m a game designer myself). But Clue Cards pull this off flawlessly with what looks like a regular Christmas card until you take a closer look. Yes, I might have scribbled all over my copy right after I took these photos – but scribbles aside, it looks PERFECT with my other Christmas cards. Nobody will be able to tell that there’s more than what meets the eye.

In terms of content of puzzles, Clue Cards recommends The Forgetful Elf as a 2/5 difficulty experience. My experience was that there was a very good mix of puzzles in there, with some solid logical deduction. A few I picked up immediately, spotting what to do and how. Other puzzles I had to think over a few times, flipping back and forth between the instructions and the card’s front. But once you’ve figured it out – you’ve got it. There’s a strong “OH! YES!” moment to each of them, fuelling the positive reinforcement of solving a game.



Overall, to end with my opinion – I only played the one from Clue Card’s series but I can confidently say I had a fun, festive time with the game. At the time of writing there is a Kickstarter live for other cards, and I hope that these get released and are just as enjoyable! I’m excited to see what Clue Cards will come up with next.

Clue Cards cards can currently be purchased on their website here.