Hidden City: Moriarty’s Game | Review

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Moriarty’s Game Review | Professor James Moriarty invites you to celebrate the finest minds in London by solving his mysterious challenge, which he has personally prepared. Succeed, and he promises to make you an offer you can’t refuse…

Rating: Fun – but for the best experience, wait until lockdown is over
Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: April 2021 ~ April 2022
Party Size: 4
Location: Baker Street, Marylebone, Mayfair

So, I’m probably one of the few people in London who doesn’t generally recommend Hidden City. The company has a very dedicated following of puzzle enthusiasts and most people will recommend them as creators of the very best outdoor walking trails in London. For me, my un-enthusiasm boils down to one very important detail – I played most of Hidden City’s game during the global pandemic.

As I’ll repeat from my other review of The Enchanted Mirror, I had fond memories of playing Hidden City games that involved indoor locations BEFORE the pandemic. These walking games often take you into famous landmarks to discover cool and unusual facts, and pubs and cafes to whisper secret codewords to the staff and receive packs of information. At the end of each Hidden City game players often receive an edible prize. SERIOUSLY AWESOME!

…Except, that during lockdown their trails remained live and bookable, but all of the exciting bells and whistles that make Hidden City so special were removed. For obvious reasons… It was a global pandemic. But without those bells and whistles it became hard to justify the high price on the market. The cost per player was £19, reduced from £25 during the lockdown, which took away the sting a little bit. But, regardless, they’re still on the more expensive side of the London puzzle trail market, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them during the lockdown. Another shame, given the only thing us enthusiasts could do during the lockdown was walk around outside…

All this is to say that after writing a review for The Enchanted Mirror (lockdown version), I decided not to make the same mistake twice. Since I knew in my heart that a mid-lockdown version of the game wasn’t representative, I went ahead and booked Moriarty’s Game TWICE. First in May 2021, and then again in April 2022. It’s simply not fair for me to judge a game at a time when the business hosting the game was struggling the most. Companies still need to make money, and I’m glad that selling their treasure trails, even if they were a reduced version of them, meant that they could survive the pandemic and reopen the original, brilliant experience. But I wanted to mention all this as I have a slightly unique view of the game, and I’m reminded of this quote:

“If you can’t handle me Moriarty’s Game at it’s worse, you don’t deserve me Moriarty’s Game at my best”

So, without further adieu, let’s talk about Moriarty’s Game…

 

About Moriarty’s Game

Moriarty’s Game: The Professor’s Invitation is an outdoor walking trail that sets off from Marylebone and takes around 3 hours to complete. 2 hours if you’re super fast, and up to 4 if you’re not in a rush and want to take in the sights. Beginning outside The Marylebone on Marylebone High Street, the adventure takes teams across London, past amazing sights and down curious little alleyways in an effort to prove yourself worthy to Sherlock’s Nemesis himself, James Moriarty.

To help you out, you have a direct line of contact via text message during the game. I don’t want to give too many spoilers since this game offers several multiple choice elements, but I will say that at any time you’re either talking to Moriarty, Watson, Sherlock, or the Metropolitan Police. That is, depending on whose side in the game you take. This contact is mostly cryptic puzzles for you to solve taking you on a walk. Occasionally your correspondent will send you into a local business:

“Time for you and your team to send the stealthiest of you into the location…”

At each location we would often be handed a physical pack with physical items covered in puzzles to be solved. In our first lockdown playthrough, all of the locations were shut so no packs – all QR codes! In the second, just one of these locations was shut, but a handy QR code sent us a digital version of the physical pack which helped us along our way. We also found ourselves phoning mysterious numbers and speaking or listening to recordings from various characters from the story. All in all, thoroughly immersive. Occasional nods of “make sure you weren’t followed” added an extra dimension of “oh my god those people look suspicious” and hurrying through the shadows.

 

 

One thing I did notice about playing it twice and by noticing some other teams passing alongside us, their noses buried in their phones, is that there isn’t just one route to the game. Notably, a few key places and indoor locations must be visited in order to progress, but the roads that take you between those can (and probably will) be completely different from the next team. Different clues, different sights, and different riddles. This surprised me, but also delighted me – it meant that playing it twice felt refreshing, and I can easily see how great this would be to play in competition with another team.

At one point during the game, the second time we played I mean, something really cool happened. We were wandering around a street and one of us spotted something curious poking out of a hedgerow. It was a business card… Sherlock Holmes’ business card. No, seriously. Whilst I’m now quite sure this was co-incidence, since this was not an item we found at any point on our experience (I believe the place that we would have picked it up was shut, and so instead we had another puzzle to solve) it still added a whole new level of immersion that… No joke… Blew our minds! Props to whoever accidentally, or on purpose left that business card tucked into a hedgerow because it was very cool indeed.

In terms of the route, I don’t want to give too many spoilers so I’ll just speak in very general terms – we started near Marylebone in a lovely location next to a farmer’s market. The route took us around Mayfair and up towards Oxford Street and Regent’s Street, finally ending somewhere near Fitzrovia. In short, it’s a very ‘fancy’ area of London and not one I’d normally hang out in but it was great to explore it with fresh eyes.

 

Team The Escape Roomer stopping for a cheeky drink

 

Is Hidden City Wheelchair Accessible or Dog Friendly?

One of the biggest considerations when playing an outdoor walking game is accessibility. For this, I’m going to mention two things – wheelchair, and dog friendly, since these are two questions we get asked a lot.

On the first point, our particular route was not particularly wheelchair friendly. We encountered plenty of steps, but perhaps if you get in contact with the team they may be able to advise.

On the topic of dog friendly, being able to bring your four-legged friends is one of the biggest pulls about opting to play an outdoor walking trip over say, a physical escape room. Most physical escape rooms in London will not allow dogs in side – so visitors to the city, plan accordingly!

(As a total side note, if any fellow enthusiasts are visiting the city and need someone to shower their dog in cuddles for an hour whilst they’re in an escape room… I’m your girl!)

When we played, we had a dog with us. I wouldn’t say the experience was or wasn’t dog friendly in either way. There are plenty of locations where you are encouraged to take a seat. At some of the places, we took the dossier with us and went along our way, but I don’t think they would have turned us away if we had taken a seat. The final location insists that you take a seat and this place is dog friendly – they even brought out a little bowl of water for our thirsty four legged friend, which was a nice touch!

So is it dog friendly? Yeah, kinda! Wheelchair friendly? Not particularly.

 

 

The Verdict

The first time I played Moriarty’s Game, I didn’t enjoy it. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was very expensive, all of the fun things were shut, and our game actually broke towards the end – our texts started going into a loop and the game randomly sent us to the start. We weren’t able to get in touch with anyone from support until days later. Oof, not good.

However, everyone has their bad day. Sometimes that bad day turns into a bad year when the world plunges into lockdown. So, I chose not to review the game at the time, as it wasn’t representative of what people’s actual experience would be.

It seems like waiting for the pandemic to end was well worth the wait, because the experience we got when we were able to book the game a second time was almost flawless. A beautiful sunny day, perfectly working tech, and getting to meet lovely people in fantastic places. We left the experience with a big ol’ grin on our faces and already made plans to book another.

So the verdict? I really, really enjoyed the game. I really recommend it. Despite everything, I am a fan of the company.

Yes, yes, it is still a really expensive game. Easily the most expensive in the market and about the same cost as an escape room ticket. But for that price you’re getting easily over 3 hours worth of fun and you’re getting some lovely keepsakes and pretty fun prize at the end too!

 

 

Moriarty’s Game can be booked by heading to Hidden City’s website here.

Time Run Presents: Sherlock: The Game is Now | Review

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Sherlock the Game is Now 221B ReviewLondon needs Sherlock. Instead, it has you. Sherlock is absent. As a rash of break-ins ripple across the capital, one thing is clear: his brilliance is required. Mycroft Holmes has put out the call. The Network seeks recruits: volunteers with sharp eyes, keen wits and a hunger for adventure. Can you step into the shoes of the legendary detective? Good luck: The Game Is Now.

Completion Time: 52 minutes
Date Played: 2019 – 2020
Party Size: 5 – 4

Please Note: This escape room was played by Georgie in 2019 as a team of 5, and Mairi in 2020 as a team of 4. This review is written jointly to reflect both experiences!

Elementary, my dear Watson

I am a huge Sherlock fan. Before that I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. Before that, I was an Agatha Christie fan.

Basically, I like mysteries (no surprise I like escape rooms then).

When it was announced that team from the amazing Time Run escape rooms (RIP) were teaming up with the writers of Sherlock (Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss) I may have fangirled a little. Just a bit… Massively.

The Sherlock escape room would be combining two loves of mine, with the most amazing teams behind it. The question is, did it live up to the Hype?

Definition of elementary: of, relating to, or dealing with the simplest elements or principles of something.

Okay so if I had to choose one word to describe this escape room, you know I couldn’t resist the great detective’s own catchphrase “elementary”! But I must preface, The Game is Now was far from simple!

Five Orange Pips- I mean, 5 unique spaces!

First things first; the set. The room is in the W12 shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London. This is the smaller shopping centre close to Westfield, and I believe there is already another escape room there.

When you arrive, this looks just like an optometrist from the outside – it’s brilliant. Looking in, the walls are lined with glasses and the staff are all dressed in their lab coats and name tags. There are even posters on the windows advertising eye tests – truly the attention to detail, and dedication to the ‘front’ was brilliant.

I don’t want to give too much away about the room that hasn’t already been told, but most people are already aware you visit 221B. I believe they consulted the fabulous set designer, Arwul, for this – and it was amazing. It did genuinely feel like we were in 221B – lots of props from the show, including the Persian slipper, headphones on the bison, and game of Cluedo.

However…you don’t actually stay there for long. It’s just pass of the initial pre-game briefing.

The actual game rooms were…ok. I’d say they were just like good quality escape rooms, honestly. Some clever tricks here and there.

In our briefing we were told we’d travel around London very fast. They weren’t wrong! What starts as a very unassuming opticians shop quickly becomes an exciting briefing at 221B Baker Street (the iconic residence of Sherlock Holmes). We then rushed off to a series of fantastic locations from the TV series such as St. Barts Hospital, Mycroft’s office, and a brilliant (if a little creepy!) museum of medical instruments.

Each one of these rooms I’ve just mentioned was as large as any regular escape room. Furthermore, the attention to detail was practically perfect, giving a real sense of immersion. Despite never leaving the building, I really did feel like I was exploring a whole new location from the TV show each time. Wonderful!

I’ve already touched on the pre-game experience, but I do really want to emphasise how fantastic the staff were prior to the game. It was the most entertaining pre-game experience I’ve had, with some really super staff.

Post-game, you get a debrief, which was quite nice too. You get given your time (55mins for us), a brief rundown of how you performed, highlighting anything particularly clever (or stupid) that you did, and get handed a nice little souvenir. You then get to go into the bar, which again is fabulously themed, with friendly staff.

The Game (Is Now)

What of the game itself?

The reason I thought it important to mention when we went was because there had been teething problems when it first opened. However, I think this is the case for any new room, this one just happened to be more high profile, and therefore they were scrutinised more and their mistakes were more public.

However, by the time we went I think most of these issues were ironed out. We only had 2, at most 3 issues with the room, and it sounds like one of the issues only happened to us.

In terms of puzzles, it has a brilliant variety. There’s a great mix of looking for things, solving puzzles, connecting clues…it was your classic escape room.

However, one of the first puzzles we encountered was probably my favourite puzzle I’ve done in any room. I don’t want to spoil it, but it was very Sherlockian, fitting with the theme perfectly.

It was mostly non-linear, which you need with a team of 5.

One of my only criticisms for this room was the hint system. Although it was slightly different, fitting the theme for each room, we found the hints were a bit hit and miss. Most of the time we were getting hints for things we’d already done, or they came at points when we didn’t need them…or they were coming too late…I think we ultimately only used one of the hints we received.

The Perfect Game for Sherlock Fans

At this point I should maybe mention that I am personally a big fan of Sherlock. This effects my review of course! It’s not just the BBC adaptation I’ve got all the books, and gobble up every TV adaptation as fast as they come out. How on earth it’s taken me this long to visit The Game Is Now is in fact, beyond me.

If you are also a fan, The Game is Now will give particular joy of brand recognition. For the first time in my life I could stand in Sherlock’s room in 221B and look really, really closely at the books on the shelf. Suddenly, the screen flickers and Mycroft himself is talking… To me! Wooo… All the good kind of chills!

Is 221B Worth the Price?

This cost £54 each, which is quite a bit more than the usual rooms I go to.

However, I personally thought it was worth the money.

Admittedly, some of this price tag is based on the name (for me, both the Sherlock name and Time Run name). Yet, when you consider you’re effectively getting 2 hours of entertainment (at least), it’s really not much more. The room was excellent, and I had a really fantastic time.

This is definitely a room I would urge you to visit if convenient.

If inconvenient, go anyway.

I think it’s fairly understood that The Game is Now is possibly one of the more expensive escape rooms in London? I don’t have the statistics immediately to hand, but for our team of 4 players on the specific day we visited, it came in around £38 per person. On top of that, you have to pay an extra £10 if you want to purchase your digital photo. Then, there is the (extra brilliant and actually definitely worth it) upsell of “The Mind Palace” – a bar at the end of your experience to relax and talk puzzles with your team. Which yes, costs even more money. Possibly a lot more, depending on how thirsty you are.

I only really mention the price in this review because the full experience could end up costing around £60 + per person, depending on a few factors!

But that’s the big question: “Mairi, is it worth it?” Here’s my answer: Yes!

Especially if you’re a fan of the show. But non-fans will get a particular kick too. At the core, it’s more than just an escape room, it’s an immersive experience from start to finish. You can’t put a price on sneaking up to an unassuming opticians for an eye test, speaking to your favourite actors, then travelling to immaculate sets from the show where you quite literally get to become Sherlock.

Accessibility Notes

From an accessibility point of view, the room and venue were entirely flat, and I do believe there would be enough room for a wheelchair to move around comfortably, and access pretty much all of the puzzles. There was a place to sit in every section except the last.

You will need one team member who can hear, and one who is fully sighted. The majority of the experience is well lit, bar one section, which is fairly dim (and later, dark). I also found the atmospheric music a little loud at points, but not deafening, and I’m sure you could ask for it to be lowered.

The Verdict?

My team and I genuinely had a great time. For that, I have to give it an almost flawless mark. Sure, I could spend a long time picking apart each puzzle, talking about customer service, decorations, locations etc. Since originally writing this review I’ve had some negative interactions with the company, but those are for another review. At the end of the day I’m in the business of having fun and that’s what I’m looking for. Was I immersed? Did we leave this experience smiling? Yes, yes and yes.

TL ; DR

Pros; Set, Staff, Pre & Post experience, puzzles

Cons; Cost, hype, hint system

The Game is Now is located in Shepherds Bush, London, W12. Tickets start at £30 per person. The Game is Now can be booked on their website: www.thegameisnow.com

iDventure: The Fire in Adlerstein | Review

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Adlerstein Review | A citizen was killed in an arson attack in the city of Adlerstein. Isn’t it a strange coincidence? You, inspector, have to find out who the culprit is by detecting files and alibis.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 23rd October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

“Let’s play a board game, here are two choices” I say to my escape room un-enthusiastic partner on a Saturday morning. Surprisingly, rather than picking another ancient civilisation building romp, they selected Adlerstein as something a little different. It’s not quite an escape room in a box, but it’s not quite a board game either.

The packaging – a box that fits neatly on my board game shelf – is deceptive. What you actually receive within this box is a detailed paper case file. The game also doesn’t come with any instructions, except for a single letter entitled “Dear Detectives“.

No turns, no dice, your goal is to simply ‘solve the case’ in the fastest time possible.

Good luck!

Find the Culprit, Crack the Case

Your introduction to the case begins when you receive a letter from a local journalist. Interested in the case, we had gathering evidence when suddenly he got arrested – I mean, he was spotted at the scene of the crime and took an unhealthy interest in the fire! Protesting his innocence, he sends you all the evidence he’s collected in the hopes you’ll solve the case for him.

From here it’s a classic whodunnit… A number of suspects with motives, unpicking their actions and figuring out who reasonably could have been at the scene of the crime at the correct time with the right motive to have commited the crime.

To help you out, you’ve got a box packed with a large quantity of stuff to sort through, which was a lot of fun. One made up location, but plenty of impressively realistic pieces of evidence, ranging from Google Maps, license plate searches, stills from CCTV, high quality photographs, written notes. We can’t fault how exciting and realistic it felt to receive a box filled with such objects.

By the end of the hour as we were approaching the climax, we’d completely covered two tables in a ‘detectives board’ style of flat lay, spreading all the relevant information out and drawing lines and connections between characters and events. If you enjoy completely immersing yourself in fictional worlds as you unravel a complex case, then this game is for you! For sure, there are better games out there that do the same thing, but it certainly scratched that armchair detective itch.

Photo (c) iDVenture

There’s a Killer Among Us…

Putting our ‘escape room’ hat on for a moment, it’s hard to judge Adlerstein on puzzles because there weren’t many puzzles to solve in the game – with one exception in the form of a classic cipher puzzle. But this cipher didn’t fit well in the universe, and whats more it was long, cumbersome, and not fun to solve. We ended up skipping the cipher by checking the hints as not to disrupt the flow of the gameplay.

Otherwise all the puzzles players will encounter are pure social deduction puzzles. “If this, then that” or “If he said this, and she said something else, who is lying?” type of thing. Which are fun in their own right, but are less common in the escape room world.

You solve the case by filling out a grid – find everyone’s motive, their alibi, and so on. Whatever the gaps int he grid are is where you’ll find your killer.

So how did we do? We played Adlerstein once through without filling the grid and instead just holding the information in our heads. We reached the ending and short of an educated guess – couldn’t crack the case. So we started from the top and went through methodically, filling the grid, and making sure that each piece of information couldn’t be guessed. And then… We couldn’t crack the case either. I’m quite sure we guessed every single wrong answer before getting to the correct one, and even then we were like “huh? how?” A little but anti-climactic and a lot of frustrating, but we were glad for the resolution at the end.

No, the best thing about playing Adlerstein wasn’t solving puzzles – or even cracking the case. It was reading through a pretty cool story and feeling like you too were at the heart of it. People (fictional, sure) are depending on you to crack the case. It’s not your regular board game, it’s something quite different and that’s exciting!

Photo (c) iDventure

The Verdict

The Fire in Adlerstein is a classic whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns in the detailed story. Our tip to anyone using this post to help solve the game is to read and re-read everything for even the smallest details. The game comes in at between 1 – 3 hours, but can easily be reset and regifted. We made a lot of effort not to ruin any of the materials, and passed it along to the next person at The Escape Roomer to see if they could solve any faster!

The creators want you to feel like a real detective, but they’ll make you work for that solution – good luck!

Adlerstein can be purchased from iDventure’s website here.

The Panic Room: CSI Stranglehold | Review

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CSI Stranglehold Review | Blood has been spilt across the streets of London! ‘The Eastside Strangler’ has yet to be caught, leaving a gruesome trail of bodies in his wake at a breakneck pace. You don’t have much time before he strikes again! Be swift and sure, follow in the footsteps of the previous detective on the case and finally bring justice to his neck of the woods!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

An outstanding example of what a great online detective game should be. A game which will test your powers of deduction which is guaranteed to be a winner with everyone!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it – A string of murders have been committed throughout London, known to have been carried out by the mysterious Eastside Strangler. In an unrelated event, the detective on the case has passed away. You will be picking up his case files, reviewing the evidence and seeing if you can solve the crimes!

We really love the story line. One of the great things that The Panic Room manage to do in all their games, is have an overarching simplicity to their stories. They then build in fantastic detail which provides believable characters and makes their games an experience as opposed to just a series of puzzles – this game is certainly proof of all this!

Another huge positive to this game is the level of audio and video content. The quality is very strong, the characters are given an extra dimension and all of the audio/video clues serve a great purpose in building the gameexperience. Be sure to download the audio soundtrack to play in the background for this game – it adds some great tension! 

In terms of game puzzles, these certainly vary in difficulty which mean that this game can certainly be a real favourite for family, friends and enthusiasts alike! The games are based around the detectives notebook as the primary focus, where he has scribbled and jotted notes. These notes are subsequently reference points throughout the game. We really enjoyed this aspect, as on their own, the notebook “scribbles” mean absolutely nothing – when coupled with the various evidence files, you begin to unravel the crimes and you find yourself with a good number of light bulb moments! All puzzles are brilliantly compiled and stick strictly to the theme. 

As with the other Panic Room CSI games, there are on screen clues available to be revealed if you get stuck or need a subtle nudge in the right direction. The first hint is normally more cryptic, followed by others which are a little easier to follow. This is a great way of pushing you along the game without spoiling it. If you are still really stuck, you can also reveal the answer – but try not to, everything is possible to answer and you will get a much greater sense of achievement!

An honourable mention certainly goes to the finale of this game. Using all your powers of deduction you have to work out the culprit. Over the final few puzzles, the tension certainly ramps up into the finale crescendo. The “pay off” finale video is brilliant and pulls the story together perfectly. 

We think that this a real masterpiece of an online detective game. Filled with great puzzles, stacked with outstanding audio/video content with a fantastic simple, yet highly detailed, story line. Be sure to have a go at CSI:Stranglehold as this is not one to miss! It will leave you gasping for air!  

CSI: Strangehold can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

The Panic Room: CSI Mafia Murders | Review

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CSI Mafia Murders Review | A shooting has happened at the Mafia operated Bonnetti VIP Lounge! The Family has given you approximately 1 hour to investigate the crime scene uninhibited, but you’ll need to solve the case before the police arrive to brush it all under the rug!

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

A top-notch online murder mystery experience, where your inner detective will be tested and your enjoyment will thrive. 

Your mission – a robbery and multiple murders have occurred and “the family” wants to know who it was. It is your job to help the family (said in my best New York Italian accent) work out who did the job before the cops track them down, so you can handle them in your own special way! An old friend managed to gain access to the evidence locker at police HQ and now with it in your hands its time to track them down! 

Safe to say, we loved the story. A real true crime case, which doesn’t just tick the “you are a detective” box; its adds this brilliant twist of actually beating the cops to crack the case. It evolves brilliantly and as the evidence stacks up, so does the tension.  

The first thing to mention is the brilliant opening video. It sets the scene very well, tells the story, adds some great imagery and really gives the game its feel. Then add in the New York Italian soundtrack to your game and your atmosphere is complete. 

The puzzles within the game are also very strong – each evidence pack is a puzzle on its own however, don’t just read it as an answer to open the next lock – read a little further into it. Why? Well lets just say, in order to solve the mystery you need to have your detective hat on and not just look at things at face value. The puzzles aren’t hugely difficult on their own for more experienced gamers,  and the experience lends itself well to families with older children (I would say 10 years plus given the subject matter) and keen enthusiasts who love a who done it mystery. Likewise, getting your friends and work colleagues together over video conference software for this would be brilliant.

Another great point in this game is the quality of the evidence which vary vastly from puzzle to puzzle. Some are audio clues, others visual, others are video based. The written documentation is clear yet detailed enough to provide just the write amount of red herrings, so keep a clear head and you will be bound to succeed. If stuck some well structured clues are sat on each web page and you also have the option to reveal the answer – only use this as a last resort – everything is achievable and you’ll certainly get a much greater sense of fulfilment! 

The finale builds the game very well and pulls on all your powers of deduction from the previous puzzles to work out what has unfolded during the robbery. From your exhaustive list of suspects, who actually did it?! We really enjoyed this detective element in the story and makes the game more like an experience than just a set of online puzzles to answer and move on to the next. You can click back and forth through all the evidence once open just in case you have missed anything, but a keen eye will certainly be able to deduce the suspects as you progress through the game.  

When all is said and done, its safe to say we loved this game. Its a very well rounded, well produced online game, with stacks of strong puzzles and a great story line. A great game for enthusiasts and new comers alike, this online experience certainly put the bullet in our gun!  

CSI Mafia Murders can be purchased on The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

Evans & Peel Detective Agency – No Case too Big or Small!

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Date Visited: June 2021
Recommended For: Couples, Special Occasions

Tucked away on an unassuming side alley in Earls Court is a black door that reads “Evans and Peel Detective Agency“. Entry to the door is by appointment with Detective Evans or Peel only, and even then they’ll only accept the most interesting cases. Missing people, scandalous murder, nope, we went for “the case of the missing whisky barrel” and spun a tall tale of illicit gambling parties and a case of rare vintage whisky gone missing. After pointing the finger at a few of our friends, our detective promised to investigate, insisting we’d better stay there while he sent a few of his boys to the property.

With a theatrical knock on the door, the bookcase we’d been sitting beside swung open revealing the most impressive 1920s bar I’ve ever seen. This is the speakeasy, and this is the real reason we booked at Evan and Peel Detective Agency.

Criminal Case, or Case of Wine?

So, if Evans and Peel Detective Agency is a bar, why are we writing about it here on The Escape Roomer? That’s true. There were no escape room mechanics at any point in the ‘experience’, but what it lacks in puzzle games it makes up for in character, roleplay, immersivity and pure wow factor.

We often get follow-up questions when mentioning a specific escape room such as “where would you recommend we go for food in that area?” and if you’re ever in London Evans and Peel is the place to go. It’s exciting, immersive, and feels about as close to playing an escape room as you possibly can sitting down to food and drinks.

We were led to our seats and tucked away at a corner in one of their spacious rooms a little away from where the live music would begin later that evening. Around us, the whole place was lit by candles and chandeliers, constructed in the secret space from crates and barrels and odd items of household whimsy that really completed the speakeasy look.

This attention to detail continues throughout the menu. Each cocktail has a namesake gangster, such as the Forrest Bondurant – a rye sazerac for the tough guys! But what we loved most was how each cocktail was served. Some are served in brown paper bags with little Evans and Peel dollars clipped to it, to keep your silence of course. Others arrived in dainty teacups or portable coffee drippers. All household items, as if we’d wandered into somebody’s home roughly converted into a speakeasy and ready to disappear at a moment’s notice.

It was… Magical!

Evans & Peel Menu

Drink and dance and laugh and lie, Love, the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow we shall die! (But, alas, we never do.)”

Dorothy Parker

As we drank (and danced, and laughed…), the Detective himself between taking new cases wandered the speakeasy and sat down at tables to update the patrons on their case. Over the course of the evening he came to learn our names, joked with us, and chatted to us for hours. Dare I say it, I think we all fell a little bit in love with him that night.

What was so magical was that this underground world was a million miles from the street level, just above us. Here we stepped back into the 1920s and for one night only were the starring guys and gals in our own detective drama. At the end, stepping back into the cold night air was a depressing return to reality.

As a final note, to address the elephant in the room: The Price. We visited as a table of 4 and spent over £350 which is more than I’ve ever spent in any establishment ever. No, seriously. That said, it was my 25th birthday and I’d just received a modest pay rise at work. For that price we all ate, consumed several cocktails each, enjoyed live music, and stayed from opening til almost-close. So was it worth it? Absolutely. I am still daydreaming about Evans and Peel Detective Agency six months later, and I daresay I’ll take the happy memory of visiting to my grave.

The Evans and Peel Detective Agency is located in Earls Court, London and can be booked in advance here.

The Panic Room: CSI Deadline | Review

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CSI Deadline Review | Something strange is happening in your comfortable company. A few days ago, your boss ‘Jerry Hoskins’ died in his office. The official story: Suicide. So then why is his office now closed for investigation?

Curiosity has got the better of you. It’s decided! Time to sneak into the office to see what you can find. Was he killed by someone in the company? Or was it really just a suicide?

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 Hour

The Panic Room have done it again with a brilliantly strong CSI style murder mystery, with an impressive story line and great engaging puzzles.

In terms of story, you are an employ for Gen Win Solutions – a pharmaceutical giant. Upon your arrival to work, you are advised by police that the company boss, Jerry Hoskins has sadly taken his own life in his office. Knowing Jerry better than most, you feel that this would not be possible and have your suspicions. You and your group of fellow employees take it upon yourself to investigate further, as the police feel that this is clearly an open and shut case. 

Instantly I was hooked – the CSI series of games by The Panic Room all have really strong stories and this was no different. A believable story line, which as it evolves, gives great depth and further realism. Much like all other CSI games, the opening story is easy to understand and grasp and then as the case deepens, you find yourself unravelling subtleties and niche information. 

The first point of note in this game is that it feels much smoother in terms of game play that the other CSI games (and I am a big fan of all of them!).  A new and improved password system has been a real boost to game play and the interaction with on screen documents is much smoother.

Being the music geek I am, I loved the soundtrack to this game. Certainly not as intense as the rest of the series, however packed with subtle sound effects, giving a great office ambience, coupled with some well placed background music. 

As ever, no spoilers, however I really enjoy the opening video to this game as you are met by another Gen Win employee. It plays a great balance in being able to understand the company as well as giving you some hints on how the game works – I found the actor in this very believable and it is a very cute opening touch.

I found the puzzles within this game the strongest point of all. They are well produced, neatly presented and given the “office” environment you are working in, surprisingly varied.  An added element within this game is the use of slightly more interactive images, so there are aspects of “point and click” coupled with the more traditional “here’s a set of pictures, now solve the puzzle” games. This makes you feel like you are a little more involved with this “detective” case and actually rummaging around to find evidence of what actually happened. 

That being said, there are a number of evidence items you come across throughout the game will help you solve the case! You may not think it at the time, but I would certainly suggest jotting down what you see,hear and read – much of it will come in handy later! This all adds to the detective feel of the game.  

With the above in mind, I think that, given puzzle difficulty and interactivity, this game would suit families with older children/teens as well as enthusiasts. There are certainly some trickier puzzles within this game which will get the grey matter working, however if a little stuck,  a quick click of the hint button will get you back on track. Two or three puzzles in this game were real highlights, where the innovation of creating puzzles never ceases to amaze me!

Again, this game builds nicely as you pull together all the evidence and clues to work out actually what happened to Jerry. Using your powers of deduction, gathered clues, puzzle answers, subtle hints you’ve found along the way, this is a great finale to your hard work.  

Yet again, The Panic Room have pulled it out the bag with another outstanding CSI game. Stacked with puzzles, well presented, neat soundtrack and a very nice game play flow, this one will not disappoint. Gather your friends and family for a day in the “office” you will never forget – but don’t forget to meet your Deadline!

CSI Deadline can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

The Panic Room: Sherlock Holmes Detective Story | Review

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Sherlock Holmes Detective Story Review | The year is 1912, the location: London town. You and your group think yourself to be a top-notch group of detectives and are itching to take on your first big case. What better start than a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve? You’ll need your wits about you, a keen eye for detail and don’t forget to take notes! Time to bring out your inner detective, with this brilliant online game, with classic styling, challenging puzzles and great story telling. 

​Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~ 1 hour

The year is 1912. The location, London Town. Think yourself to be a crack team of detectives? What better than to work on a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve! Try and catch up with Sherlock and crack the case of the missing Mrs Haversham.

As stories goes, this is a classic and it hit all the right notes. As the story evolves there are also some great twists, which aide in providing a great sense of reality.  Once again, the Panic Room team have it nailed with an overarching simplistic story, coupled with some outstanding in game detail, which give the characters depth and realism.  

The game starts with a brilliant, black and white stylised video which sets the tone beautifully, It is evident from the get go that this game has a very different feel to the great CSI series of games by The Panic Room. The tension and urgency is replaced by a classic, stylised game which is more fitting to the era in which the game is set. It combines the feel of of their My Dearest Emily game with the detective puzzles of the CSI series- a real match made in Heaven!   

In respect of puzzles, these are really strong. Cleverly,  all the games have a similar theme throughout, by using both a visual and audio clue for each puzzle and working on locations around the streets of London. Trying not to give away spoilers –  it amazes me how well this game has been designed in spite of these features – it adds to the realism of the game and makes it feel like a proper detective case.  

When it comes to difficulty, I would suggest that these sit in the medium to hard range. First timers might struggle on a handful, but don’t be dismayed – a great on screen clue system is in place which provides just the right level of helping hand without spoiling things. Firstly you can choose a more cryptic clue and then if that doesn’t guide you well enough, a clearer clue then follows. If worst come to worst you can reveal the answer – try not too though – everything is achievable. Just put your mind to it, sit back and think of the obvious!   

This game has a real sense of charm brought on by some brilliant interviews with the characters, including some nicely inserted subtle musical aspects. The combination of the charm and the strong puzzles makes this a really enjoyable prospect. 

In spite of the less pressurised experience, the finale of this game culminates nicely, bringing together all your evidence gathering skills and naming the culprit. 

We really enjoyed this game, in particular with the slightly more relaxed feel, some really strong puzzles, brilliant theme and awesome story telling!  Playing this game is Elementary my dear Watson! 

Sherlock Holmes: Detective Story can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

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ImmerCity: The House of Irene Adler | Review

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The House of Irene Adler Review | Irene Adler has disappeared under highly suspicious circumstances and Sherlock has nothing but a cryptic note to go on. Will you venture into the spiders lair? Will you make it out again unscathed? Will you find her before it’s too late?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 12th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Hard

The House of Irene Adler is an escape room by every traditional definition of the word, but we were ever intrigued by the signs around the space that indicated what we were about to experience was very much a show. One hour long, and leaving through one of the exits would end the show early… How curious!

For a limited time, The House of Irene Adler has popped up down an unassuming cobblestone alley in Kentish Town. When Bianca (of Shiny Life For Me) suggested we try out this new part-theatre, part-escape room on the opening weekend, I couldn’t hit “book now” fast enough. But what exactly is The House of Irene Adler..?

About ImmerCity, The House, and Irene Adler Herself…

An new, interactive, immersive mystery from the company that brought you “Silhouette in the Smoke” and “The Unholy Marriage of Slice and Sweetly”

ImmerCity is the brain child of director Rosanna Mallinson (who on this occasional also hosted our game – and someone I am 100% sure I’ve crossed paths with before in the escape room world, but can’t quite put my finger on where!). The company is best known for putting on immersive theatre like no other and pushing the boundaries between what is fiction and real.

In their latest show, players are invited to step into Sherlock Holmes’ London – but rather than meeting the man himself, we found ourselves hot on the heels of Holme’s accomplice, Irene Adler. Miss Adler has gone missing and left nothing but a cryptic note in her wake. The police have been and gone, finding nothing suspicious. Now, it’s your turn.

We arrived at the location and were invited into The House of Irene Adler by Adler’s housekeeper. She insisted there was nothing left to find, but let us have a look anyway. From here, we were led into the dresser room, the door closed behind us, and we were off.

Photo (c) The House of Irene Adler

Take a Trip to Victorian England

One of the most impressive things about The House of Irene Adler is the decorations. It’s a Victorian parlour that has been entirely sourced dressed from objects found in charity shops and it’s impressively authentic.

After a fairly plain lobby space of a normal office building, the first room in the game was by far the most impressive of all of the different environments and was a joy to open the doors and emerge into. From gorgeous period clothing, to trunks of treasures and dainty fans. Beyond this space the environment became a little more rough around the edges but – if you look closely enough – this trend of authentic objects from the era continues. The ‘secret’ living quarters of Irene are decorated with an 1800s cot, and there’s a few really lovely items of furniture.

As your average escape room players, we’re used to picking up every object in a room and handling it from all angles to see what it does. By contrast, The House of Irene Adler doesn’t require a lot of ‘search and find’ and the objects are very, very old. As such, players should afford to be a little more delicate with what they do find.

Another really impressive facet of The House of Irene Adler by far was the presence of hidden rooms. This game contained some of the most brilliant room reveals we’ve seen in a long time. Let’s just say I love it when a whole wall gives way.

Image (c) The House of Irene Adler

When you have eliminated the impossible…

Decor aside, your goal as players is to solve the mystery of Irene Adler. To do that, you must work together as a team internally, and communicate well with the outside world too. You can book for any sized team from 2 – 6 and honestly? A team size of 2 was perfect.

Whilst there are puzzles to be solved and hidden rooms to be discovered, the game is far less about the puzzles and more about the story. There’s a mystery at the heart to be cracked, but you can’t do that by solving ‘puzzles’ alone – you’ve got to think logically about all the evidence you collect over the hour and make a verdict.

How did we do? Not great. But, the more I think about the experience, like any good murder mystery, the more it all fits into place.

There was one dexterity puzzle in the middle of the game that took us a lot longer than we should have done – we definitely feared we’d broken it, but by a stroke of luck we managed to pull it off in the last second. No, the majority of the game was spent reading and pouring over details in letters or telegrams in order to make our verdict. As the time was ticking down we were no closer to the truth, but helpfully hints and theatrical moments from the host weren’t far.

The House of Irene Adler: The Verdict

Even though this experience plays a lot like an escape room, we can’t judge it as an escape room – for those differences are what makes The House of Irene Adler so different. Not a few hours later I was having a discussion with a game designer about ‘social deduction puzzles’ in escape rooms, and The House of Irene Adler was on the tip of my tongue as a game that is all about that. To solve the case, rather than solve puzzles, you have to analyse evidence and communicate with a host of ‘characters’ to succeed.

There were a few teething issues that come with opening weekend and a few immersion breaking moments and a slightly disappointing ending that hadn’t been built up to properly – but many more very satisfying moments of brilliant theatre that make this game stand out. I’ll be thinking about this experience for a long time.

Overall, we had good fun. It’s a shame the experience is only available for a limited time and I would love to see this pop up as a permanent game. But, since it’s only on for a little while longer, it’s definitely worth checking out – whilst you still can!

The House of Irene Adler can be booked for a limited time in December 2021 – January 2022 by heading to their website here.

Play Dead London: The Elf Who Stole Christmas | Review

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The Elf Who Stole Christmas Review | In the run up to Christmas, Santa’s workshop is in chaos! There’s so much to do and to make matters worse… SOMEONE has stolen Santa’s Naughty and Nice List! Can you solve the mystery and work out which Elf it was?! This family friendly mystery will be great fun and a way of our detectives young and old to test their interrogation skills!

Date Played: November 2021
Time Taken: 60 minutes
Number of Players: 1 (with 12 random online strangers!)
Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Who, who, who not Ho Ho Ho!

I’ll start this review of with a bit of a disclaimer! – I have never actually played an online zoom “murder mystery” style game before, so had no idea what to expect. When I say I was blown away, I mean I really was BLOWN AWAY!

First thing to mention is the storyline; a really simple affair – someone has stolen Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. It is for you and your team of detectives to work out who did it! Now, Line of Duty this isn’t BUT it pitches perfectly at the target audience – families, work get togethers etc. You don’t want something too taxing – this storyline certainly made the whole thing massively fun!

A photo of the cast pre-lockdown!

So, “how does it work?!” I hear you cry

Simple! You and your team will each be given a specific Zoom login via email which will take you directly to Santa’s grotto in the North Pole. (Ok, well maybe not his actual grotto, but the Zoom backgrounds looked fantastic!). Here you will be joined by Detective Sleigh Bells who will assist you on your mystery!

Detective Sleigh Bells is on hand throughout the game to give you subtle hints to the identity of the culprit and provide additional evidence which has been supplied as you get into the depths of this ever-evolving mystery. The awesome actor who plays Detective Sleigh Bells certainly has a challenge on her hands in being able to manage the game, the numerous players (I believe I was playing with 12 other strangers!), plus the team of naughty elves, who are our suspects! She done an amazing job in juggling all this at the same time plus staying in character.

The Naughty Elves – I Tip My Hat To You!

Speaking of staying in character, this is where the game excels! How the ladies managed to carry this out was beyond me, however you are also joined by a team of naughty elves within your zoom call. Each has a very unique personality and specific job role within the North Pole (I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you their names, but needless to say, they are just as creative as the rest of the game!).

Evidence is mainly provided by Detective Sleigh Bells within the main forum of the game, however cleverly, the Zoom chat is then taken into breakout sessions where you have direct conversation with the elves and have the chance to really interrogate them about their whereabouts, their relationships and their roles. Each actor was phenomenal in staying wholly in character (despite my best efforts to put them off, or tell silly jokes to take them off their stride!). Even though the game is aimed on the humorous side, this hasn’t affected the depth of each individual characters back story – and their improv game was off the scale! Quick wit, on point, clearly not scripted, I tip my hat to each of these ladies in being able to make comedy characters fully believable and allow me to spend an hour just generally being silly and forgetting about the world!

There’s no need to be a Sherlock!

Of course, in spite of this being a comedic online adventure, you still do have to pay attention to what is going on! There are subtle hints here and there which you should jot down in case you need them to build up your case. You certainly don’t need to be the next Sherlock Holmes however! The evidence is quirky, including some cool audio and visual clues, the occasion sing song (which clearly I sung at the top of my lungs!), however make sure to listen closely when discussing directly with the elves. The massive benefit of playing as a large team (even though I knew no one I was playing with), is that you all build up your file of evidence and then collectively come up with your final suspect. There’s no pressure to succeed but you’ll certainly be fully invested after just five minutes of playing this game!

Sooooo much fun!

I’m often sceptical about things that portray themselves to be “humorous or hilarious” but this game certainly succeeded! I’m never the best on video chats, and despite having almost 2 years of non-stop video chats at my office, I’ve always found myself to be a little self-conscious in front of the camera – not here however! Within minutes, I was happily talking to the other players, liaising with the detective and the elves and generally having an absolutely fabulous time. At no point did I feel embarrassed and I came away from playing the game with a massive smile on my face.

Our game finale was suitably fun and we were pitched off into breakout rooms to divulge our evidence before coming all back together to present it, and acknowledge who we felt was the culprit. And between us, I’m happy to say – we succeeded!

There are very few games that I have played within the last three years of reviewing, that leave a lasting impression. This however is one of them. A proper murder-mystery style game, with a brilliant level of immersion, impressive acting, some cool tech elements with audio and visuals and generally just an overwhelming level of fun. I’d urge families, friends and work colleagues to all come together to play this game. It gave me the festive cheer I didn’t realise I was missing!

To book this experience and see what other experiences Play Dead London are running, head to Design My Night

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