Extremescape: Viking Review | You have entered the Kingdom of the Viking Gods & you are sat in the House of Thor. In an attempt to prevent Thor’s succession to the throne of Asgard, Lowki, Thor’s menacing brother, has stolen & trapped Thor’s weapon in the golden rings of Aesir. The ice giants have got word of this, and they know Thor is helpless to protect the human race without his enchanted war-hammer. The giants are on their way, their mission to defeat Thor and destroy earth. You must find the Gods and return them to Asgard as they will help you in your quest. You must find the thunder hammer and put it in the sacred place to create a storm like no-one has seen before. You must release Thor’s Hammer from the golden rings and return it to Thrudheim where it belongs
Date Played: 24th March 2022 Number of Players: 2 Time Taken: ~50 Minutes Difficulty: Medium
After a hearty lunch in the sunny countryside air, we returned feeling invigorated for our final game of the day. The Viking room is the most recent addition for Extremescape, and you can definitely tell in the step up from the previous two. It’s also so impressive, given just how much they’ve used the space!
Welcome to Valhalla
Walking into the room definitely feels like walking into a medieval feast hall, with a large wooden table and benches lined with furs. The whole room is within this single room, and it’s amazing just how much they manage to fit in. There are many hidden elements in this room, and I was surprised by almost all of them. It’s honestly amazing how seamlessly they’ve integrated quite large surprises into such a small space, and it’s clear they’ve paid just as much attention to set design and how it drives the story as the puzzles themselves. I also loved how Norse this room was – there was no Marvel cheese here, just good old-fashioned Vikings.
Watch out Loki
The puzzles in this room were just as subtle and intriguing as in the other rooms. Although we tackled them fairly linearly, there were enough clues to be finding that we didn’t feel chained together or hindered. The puzzles themselves were all fun to figure out, and definitely felt like Norse puzzles – most were centered around riddle-style/deduction puzzles, which are my personal favourite. We also had no idea what was coming next on more than one occasion, but this added to the excitement! It’s not often that you’re unsure what a puzzle will open, but this room handled it beautifully.
The finale stage itself was also spectacular and so unexpected. Extremescape have done an amazing job of incorporating effects into the room in a way that feels very natural and adds just the right amount of drama. They also introduce this ‘early’ enough that it really feels like a climax, but you have enough time (and gameplay) left to really enjoy it and make the most of it.
By Odin’s eye
The only negative I would say about this room is that it may not be the most accessible. There is a small step and low door into the room, and as the game play takes place within the room there isn’t a lot of space to manoeuver for a wheelchair user. There are plenty of spaces to sit, but there are puzzles and clues beneath knee level so at least one person will need to crawl. There is a minor physical element, so having at least one able-bodied teammate would be a good idea, as well as one point where someone will need to be within a slightly confined space.
For me, I found there were some sensory issues – there were points where the music was a bit too loud for my comfort, the light a little too dim, and room a little too warm. However, these are all minor issues that could be easily remedied (and in fact, they turned the volume down when I asked). If you have sensory issues I advise getting in touch ahead of time too.
In terms of puzzles, there were a few reliant on colour recognition, as well as being able to read something in slightly dim light.
Man the longboats
Overall we had a fantastic time, and the experience continued after we left the room. We spent quite a while talking to the owners and had plenty of cuddles with the resident dog (who is a rather large, but beautiful, Rottweiler-style boy). It’s obvious the passion that has gone into these rooms, and it’s well worth the visit.
Extremescape Pirate Ship Review | A long time ago on the Carribean seas sailed the Spanish Galleon, Castoria. Captained by Zak Barrow and crewed by a gang of murderers & merciless cutthroats. Plundering ships of all kinds along India’s Malabar coast, Barrow was a Pirate, one of the most infamous Pirates of all time. Barrow’s ship Castoria battled with the India Merchant, a huge treasure ship of 350 tons. In rough seas, the merchant vessel fired but due to a sudden ocean swell, the shot missed its mark. The pirates threw their grappling hooks, bringing the two ships together. And rapidly boarded the ship, soon Captain Barrow was in the possession of one of the greatest pirate treasures ever. The ship disappeared in 1722 and was not seen again until now!
Completion Time: 73 minutes (out of 90) Date Played: 24 March 2022 Party Size: 2 Difficulty: Medium
As someone who works full time and lives ‘down South’ it can be hard to find the time to travel just for escape rooms, particularly when the journey alone takes over 4 hours! However I found myself with a few days to space are itching to play some rooms farther afield, so we decided to book a couple of days in Manchester! First up we stopped we spent the day in Disley, surrounded by gorgeous views, friendly locals (sheep) and some cracking rooms!
Time to set sail
The first room we tackled was the oldest at the location – opened 7 years ago and barely changed since! Before you even step foot in the room you know you’re in for a good time, with an epic narration to get you pumped and the ship door swinging open to welcome you. Our first impression of the room was similarly excited – it’s beautifully crafted with plenty of hidden elements (some hid expertly in plain sight), and definitely more than one surprising moment.
Argh, ye scallywags!
We were told that this room was ‘non-linear’, which is technically true as there were a few different puzzles to solve at a time, but I admit in practice it didn’t feel this way. It may have been the early morning or lack of practice, but we worked on most puzzles together, and only felt like we were progressing as we solved the puzzles.
There were quite a few pieces of information scattered about the room, which appeared similar but required different methods of solving. I appreciated the variety of puzzles, but we ended up relying on hints more than I usually like to, as perhaps some of the leaps were a little too far for me! In particular, one puzzle felt very tenuous, and I’m still not convinced of the answer!
Finally, the signposting wasn’t necessarily ideal – usually, I would expect the respective lock to be near the puzzle, or else be marked in some way. However, there were quite a few locks here which meant quite a bit of trial and error each time!
That being said, there were puzzles we got instantly, or just about managed to figure out, which were satisfying and a little different from others we’ve experienced before. I think the theming and thrill more than makes up for any slight frustrations, and I would strongly encourage you to give this room a chance!
Peg legs & eyepatches…not quite welcome
Unfortunately, there are stairs into the venue and up to the room, as well as within the room itself – so not great for those with mobility issues! Hints are delivered both via screen and via a voice-over, so should be suitable for those with either hearing or sight issues. There are some puzzles requiring colour perception, but the light level in the room is generally good and it is fairly spacious.
Here be the Jolly Roger
The staff at this room are great and very encouraging. We had a lovely time chatting with them, and even met a special guest (check out my later post to hear about him!). Although the website seems fairly basic, this room is anything but and the location is enchanting.
This room was a fantastic room – although I was a little frustrated throughout the experience, the set is so well done and I was still having fun. I highly recommend taking on this room (although I would also book the others at the same time!)
The Mysterious Museum Review | You are on a trip to the Florence Natural History Museum, intent on visiting the sunken treasure of the Santa Maria. Your relaxing day at the museum is quickly derailed by an incredible adventure! Can you solve the mysteries of the museum and find a way out? Difficulty Level: 2 of 5. This game can be played only one time because you must markup, fold, and tear the game materials to solve the riddles and escape.
Completion Time: 1 hour Date Played: February 2022 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Medium
EXIT the Game is one of the best known escape rooms “in-a-box” series in the world. As such, they’re fairly reliable. Going into any experience you know what you’re getting. About 1 hour’s worth of fun, there’ll be a cipher wheel-style disc, several destructible materials, and typically a little booklet with it too. The Mysterious Museum is no different. Except for once, I didn’t buy this game myself! A friend received it as a Christmas gift, and knowing how much I enjoy escape room games, she brought it over to our regular board game night in the hopes of puzzling it out.
We sandwiched this game inbetween two others, intending for it to be our “short and sweet” collaborative refresher between two other bulkier games. It was anything but. Sometimes games come along that others find perfectly straightforward and just don’t click for you. The Mysterious Museum was this for us.
But let’s get into why.
Puzzling at the Florence History Museum
Our story began at the Florence Museum of Science and Technology, a setting mysteriously hinted at by the front cover of this game’s box – a partially open door from which light pours out. At the beginning, you have an idea that your goal might be about tracking down sunken treasure – a mission quite suggestively similar to The Sunken Treasure. But it wasn’t long until we realised the actually this adventure would be quite different. For starters, it revolved around time travel.
Yep, we kept an eye out to make sure we didn’t accidentally step on a bug and change the course of history!
But it’s not just the past. The game takes players all through history – past, present, and future. A museum is an excellent setting for such a tale of time travel, and it was a fun theme to set a puzzle game such as this one in. Did I mention it looks brilliant too? I’m a sucker for lovely artwork, and EXIT has an abundance of beautiful illustrations.
How to solve EXIT the Game
Solving EXIT the Game escape rooms follows a similar formula, and The Mysterious Museum is no different. Each box contains:
Riddle Cards – These are given a letter and generally speaking are worked through in ABC order
Answer Cards – These have a corresponding letter to the riddle cards and, you guessed it, they give the answer if needed
Help Cards – Each help card is denoted by a symbol which you can find on the puzzle you’re working on somewhere (often it’s quite hidden – so look closely)
A Book – This sets the scene and guides you through the story
A Cipher Wheel – To check your answers, a cipher wheel is used. In The Sunken Treasure this cipher wheel is covered in cute sea critters – very sweet!
A bunch of cool looking misc. items – in The Sunken Treasure, you get a whole host of cool things including some very shiny looking gems!
To play, you get up your game with your Help Cards stacked according to symbol, and your Riddle / Answer cards in their own stack. The book guides you through the story to solve each puzzle, find the correct symbols, run it through the cipher wheel and progress.
In terms of difficulty as indicated, we found this game quite hard indeed! Hesitant to take any clues, and a couple of glasses of wine at board game night in, the game didn’t quite click for us. The linear nature of this particular game also meant that once we became stuck, the game ground to a halt. With 4 players playing, a few of us struggled to keep interest up, and the whole game amounted to a slow puzzling session. Even those we were sure we had correct ended up requiring an additional logic leap we hadn’t made.
That said, in hindsight and in asking a few other friends, we might be alone in finding this one tricky. For sure, the company themselves rate this game somewhere towards Novice on the difficulty scale. So don’t let our struggles put you off giving it a go if the game otherwise appeals to you!
On the flip side, this game contained several very delightful puzzles which were some of my all time favourites. In particular, I enjoyed moments of physical manipulation. Furthermore, the EXIT team always make full use of the box. Though no spoilers about exactly what I’m talking about – you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!
On balance, The Mysterious Museum has some strong pros (such as the theme and the quality) but let down by the puzzles and flow. So in a nutshell, it wasn’t my favourite EXIT game. I am however a big enthusiast when it comes to their other games, so I’ve no doubt this is just a small blip with particularly styled puzzles that our team struggled with on the day.
The Mysterious Museum can be purchased from all good board game retailers.
Escape Plan Battle for Britain Review | The day is 18th August 1940 and the Luftwaffe have launched a resurgent attack on Britain, where your air base has been hit by the first wave of heavy bombing. As the only survivors, you must access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain. But with a second attack imminent, can you also save yourselves?
Date Played: April 2022 Time Taken: 34 mins 55 secs
Planes shot down: 70 out of 71 Number of Players: 5 Difficulty: Medium
Whenever that age-old question “What’s the best escape room in London” comes up in ER enthusiast forums, there are a few company names you can guarantee will feature in the answers. Escape Plan is one of them. Currently housed in the Rich Mix arts complex in Shoreditch, Escape Plan have been on the London scene since at least 2015. And their reputation as one of the best in London is well deserved based on their consistent theming, the attention to detail and the sheer number of puzzles their rooms contained. You can tell from the moment you enter their basement space that people at Escape Plan love what they do.
I’d played both of Escape Plans other games, The Adventure Begins and Roll Out the Barrel (which has been hanging onto my top game spot for a while now) previously so it was with a lot of excited anticipation that I arrived with my team of fellow ER nerds to take on Battle for Britain. Only recently reopened in Shoreditch, the game is already the rave of the ER scene, with glowing reviews and promises of an extraordinary and nail-biting finale. So with expectation piled up on top of my anticipation could it possibly live up to the hype?
Top Secret Mission Briefing
All of Escape Plan’s games are set during or shortly after World War II and the narrative for Battle for Britain takes place on one very specific date, 18th August 1940. The Battle of Britain has been raging for a month and on this date, known as ‘the Hardest Day’, the German Luftwaffe made an all out effort to completely destroy Britain’s Fighter Command. With that historic backdrop, the game makes you members of the RAF and the only survivors of a bombing raid on your airbase. Under continuing enemy fire your first task is to gain access to the strategic ops room. Once inside you must then take control of the full force of all available RAF squadrons and push the German planes back out of British airspace. Your final aim is not to escape, but to shoot down as many aircraft as you can before your time runs out. It is this last angle that makes Battle for Britain stand out as different to most trad ERs. You are told from the very start that your goal is not to escape from the room in under 60 mins but to bring down as many of the German planes as possible. The maximum it is possible to shoot down is 71 – the real number of German losses inflicted on that day in August 1940.
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”
The game is effectively in two parts, although they aren’t equal in complexity or time needed. The first part is closer in style to a ‘normal’ ER in that involves solving several puzzles that will allow you to open the door to the strategic ops room. Escape Plan love a good meaty, physical prop repurposed into a puzzle and this room has you tackling challenges involving bikes, barrels and road signs. Logic, spatial awareness and code breaking all come into play in this room and every puzzle is substantial and satisfying.
So far so linear. But once you’re in the Ops room the game becomes much less of a straight line from one puzzle to the next and it’s very easy to split up and figure out several puzzles at the same time. As in Escape Plan’s other games, the physical puzzles are a real joy. The set design and build are probably the best in London (IMHO) with the clear love for both puzzles and crafting evident in the high quality, hand built nature of the props. Why buy in an everyday padlock when you can build your own miniature puzzle boxes? And as with the first room, there are lots of period props and objects that have been converted into puzzles, some of which are beautifully novel and unlike anything I’ve seen in other ERs.
The puzzles aren’t just beautiful, they are myriad. There is a lot to do in this second room, with each individual puzzle helping you towards the meta puzzle that is the game’s climax. This is both a blessing and a curse. The sheer number of puzzles means that even a big team can split up and work on separate elements, feeding their results back into the bigger picture of the final puzzle. But it does also mean that you can feel like you’ve only played a fraction of the room. My team of 5 ER regulars and enthusiasts all left saying that we felt we’d only seen a small proportion of the puzzles. What we had solved was very satisfying but we felt we’d missed out on quite a lot. That, however, is the fault of our decision to put five puzzle-addict, ER geeks in the same room at the same time, not a fault of the game itself.
Once the individual puzzles are solved, you are ready to complete the final challenge. I won’t give away details as part of the joy of the game is the discovery of how the climax happens. But it is a nail-biting, nerve-jingling conclusion to the game that will make even the most cynical player feel patriotic and proud to have served in RAF colours. It is inevitable that whoever plays, there will be cheering.
While Roll Out the Barrel still remains my favourite of their games, Battle for Britain is another string in Escape Plan’s ‘one of the best ERs in London’ bow. It has all the same loving attention to detail, hand crafted props and vast range of puzzle styles and challenges that have made their other games so popular. The slight twist on a traditional ER structure makes for an interesting change to the norm, while there’s also enough satisfying individual puzzles to keep even the most experienced of players entertained. To make the most of the room, I’d advise any ER enthusiasts to play with a max of 2-3 people so you get to see and play as many of the puzzles as possible, while for less experienced players, around 4-6 would make it easier to get everything done. And as a final piece of advice from a team that managed to shoot down 70 of the 71 planes – double check your workings before committing to the final challenge or that last Luftwaffe bomber might just escape to raid another day.
Pharaoh’s Chamber Review | You have successfully passed through all 12 of the black hell gates and are deep in the heart of Egypt’s oldest pyramid in Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber. Legend has it this Chamber is cursed and all who remain in it longer than 60 minutes will have their souls removed from their bodies and be destined to guard the Pharaoh’s tomb and his treasure for all eternity. You are the 100th raider of this tomb; the 99 that have come before you are believed to have perished in the chamber though no bodies have ever been found. You have 1 hour to find his treasure and light all the flames of the gods in order to escape; otherwise you will, as those before you, be forced to remain at the Pharaoh’s side forever. Are you Ready to Escape?
Date Played: April 2022 Number of Players: 4 Time Taken: 50 Minutes Difficulty: Easy
I’ve heard stories (usually told nostalgically over drinks) of escape room players talking about racing through an easy room then getting stuck on the very last puzzle, watching the clock tick tick tick until the deadline and not escaping and woah- I never thought it would happen to us. Until Pharaoh’s Chamber. Except, we did actually manage to escape. But equally we did manage to complete 99% of the room in record time, and spend the rest of the experience trying to figure out what on Earth we’d missed.
But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about Pharaoh’s Chamber in more detail…
Welcome to Escape Rooms
Last Christmas I was super lucky to nab myself a voucher to play at Escape Rooms in the charity auction. Actually, I surprised myself – just a short walk from where I live and I’d never even heard of ‘Escape Rooms’ least of all played there, so I was pretty excited to book my team in! Whats more, we had dinner reserved around the corner at one of my favourite spots (Kin + Deum if anyone is looking for a recommendation). In short, the makings of a great evening.
Escape Rooms is tucked away off a side street in London Bridge, just a stone’s throw from the station and the Shard. When we arrived there was another team waiting in the waiting room to be briefed, and since one of our party was running a few minutes late – they went ahead and briefed both teams at the same time. Our Games Master was the enigmatic Craig who delivered both briefings with gusto and flair, before hurrying us down into our room. I would say we did feel a little rushed, there wasn’t as much banter as I’m probably used to, but I can’t blame them – the site seemed quite busy for a Sunday evening!
From here, we were led into the Pharaoh’s Chamber – a large Ancient Egypt themed room with several doors leading off from the spacious main room. Our adventure begins!
100th Times a Charm!
Pharaoh’s Chamber follows you, the 100th team of adventurers into Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber in search of his treasure. When our Games Master first swung open the doors, we were greeted by a comparatively quite sparsely decorated room. But, what struck me most was just how large this escape room was! It has one very spacious central area and a number of doors leading off at all directions. Each door is guarded by an Egyptian God – one of those large statues more at home in a museum – and each has a light above it’s head that will turn on when it’s relevant puzzle is solved.
Quite often in escape rooms it’s hard to know if you’ve solved something or not, but Pharaoh’s Chamber is very literal with it. Light on = Solved. Light off = Keep on.
So, solve all the puzzles, find the treasure, and escape… Simple? Right?
The room that followed was incredibly non-linear. I’m a huge, huge fan of non-linear escape rooms, but this one took the non-linearity to it’s logical conclusion. Each puzzle around the room could be solved separately, and there wasn’t a hierarchy of “beginning puzzles” and a “meta puzzle”, nope – you’d be let out once every single puzzle in the room was completed. When our clock started to count down, we all immediately split up and did just that – started to solve things separately. Meaning that for the average team there’ll probably be puzzles one individual will never encounter and vice versa, as each person gets on with their own things.
One thing I would mention here however is that one of our team was an escape room newbie. For this reason I think perhaps the non-linearity didn’t completely work for our team. She admitted post-game that it was hard to keep track of what each of us was doing. And yeah, I get that. We’d got it in our minds to try to beat the record, and so got stuck right in. But for someone with less escape room experience I can definitely see that it’s hard to know where to begin or indeed, what is happening at any given moment.
Crack Khufu’s Codes
In terms of the puzzles, they were fairly satisfyingly easy all round. There was a mix of brilliant little puzzles that fit very well into the environment of ‘Ancient Egypt’ which I enjoyed playing through. Others were a little more tenuous, such as pressing electronic buttons or cipher and letter puzzles. Overall, I felt that the puzzles, though fun, didn’t completely fit in the world. Nothing was uniquely Ancient Egypt – not the decorations nor the puzzles, and instead it felt more like a generic escape room with a theme loosely added. Pros and cons all round.
That is to say that one of the puzzles I encountered was easily one of my favourites – but then, I love a good word puzzle! Haha. In this particular puzzle, as I’m tempted to do in any newspaper-style word puzzle over my morning coffee, I spent reverse engineering it to get the answer. I was absolutely sure I’d solved it correctly but with the wrong method, but later our Games Master explained that nope, I’d done it the most common way. It felt like a big difficulty jump from the others, but it goes to show that there’s something for everyone in this escape room. Also, I got to feel super smart for a hot second. Win win!
The Games Master delivered clues via a walkie-talkie in the room, if we needed a clues we could ask. If he thought we needed a nudge in the right direction, he would suggest one. He did so with remarkable frequency, but we were very careful not to ask for a “Clue”. Teams who ask for clues are not eligible to be on the leader board, but those who get nudges or hints are okay. We’d made up our mind during the briefing to try our best to get on the leader board so we did not ask for any clues.
That said, we didn’t make it onto the leader board as we were tripped up on one tiny detail – an object not correctly placed somewhere that hadn’t triggered the mechanic output. So when we were sure we’d finished the room (in record time), our Games Master chimed in on the walkie talkie that we’d missed something. Cue 25+ minutes of wandering around the room trying to figure out what we’d missed. Boooo, no leader board score for us! In hindsight, we should have taken the clue and gone to dinner earlier.
Pharaoh’s Chamber first came out in 2014 and I have absolutely no doubt that it was a fantastic room then. In fact, I regularly read other escape room blogger reviews and that seems to be the consensus – when it launched a lot of people gave it an easy 5*s. Wow, when it came out I was still a teenager and at least 5 years from my first escape room… Fast forward 8 years, and the room does feel very dated. Slightly tired, sparsely decorated, and a host team that felt quite rushed and keen to get us through the room and out.
I just wish I’d played it when it first came out, because I would have been absolutely blown away by it! I can tell it’s got charm, and I don’t fault the room or the team in the slightest, I’d just love to see the creators use the space and create something even more exciting with all the learnings the UK escape room industry has had in the past 8 years. It’s a well-loved site, and I’ve no doubt it can be a top enthusiast spot with a little more TLC.
Since I didn’t pay full price for this, and managed to support a good charitable cause in buying the voucher, I’m not mad in the slightest. It was a great time for a fraction of the full price and we will definitely return again to try out the rest of their rooms. Maybe next time we’ll earn our place on that coveted leader board!
Pharaoh’s Chamber can be booked at Escape Rooms in London Bridge by heading to this website here.
Mission Breakout: The Lost Passenger Review | Based on the true story of the lost passenger in South Kentish Town tube station in 1924. In 1924, soon after South Kentish Town was closed down, a train stopped at the station by mistake, and a man absentmindedly alighted. The train departed, and Mr Brackett disappeared in the darkness. No one knows if he ever escaped. Are you brave enough to step down into the Ghost tube station and investigate the paranormal activity?
Date Played: 27th March 2022 Number of Players: 2 Time Taken: 47 Minutes Difficulty: Easy
My personal escape room Kryptonite that I absolutely melt with joy when I experience in a room is authentic theming and props. An escape room themed around the building it’s set in? Tick! Original equipment and props from the era and time? Double tick! Being allowed to press buttons and pull levers from old timey 1920s railway train control rooms that by all right should probably be in a museum behind a glass window? Triple tick. YES! PRESS ALL THE BUTTONS!
Mission: Breakout is located in South Kentish Town Station. It’s in the classic tiled redbrick style of many stations around London, but unfortunately was closed down in 1924 due to low passenger numbers. The building sat there for a very long time gathering dusts… And ghosts!
…And he was never seen again!
We booked in to play The Lost Passenger at Mission: Breakout after a very, very long lockdown. My family are long-time fans of urban, abandoned building exploration. Our idea of a fun weekend out is putting on hard hats and descending into the old abandoned railway stations of London (on guided tours of course, we’re not breaking any laws here!). So one Christmas I knew just the gift to get them – a voucher for us all to play this escape room, set in the old disused train station in Kentish Town.
Unfortunately, that Christmas was Christmas 2020 and it took us almost 2 years until we were actually able to redeem the voucher. Even then, the day before we were all due to play, half our party tested positive with covid. After deliberating, the remaining 2 decided to go ahead with the booking – we lost the other two places on the booking but it was still worth it, if we didn’t play now, we may never have gone!
In The Lost Passenger, you descend into the depths of the station in search of a passenger who alighted from the train when it mistakenly pulled up at the abandoned station. Based on a true story, this passenger seemingly stepped off the train, walked into the darkness of the station and vanished into thin air and was never seen again.
The Lost Passenger. Photo (c) Mission: Breakout
Mind the Gap
Arriving at Mission: Breakout was exciting. It quite literally, is inside an old train station. I’m not sure what I’d expected, but we couldn’t contain our smiles at the details,
“Wow look this bench is an original Great Western Railway bench OMG!”
“Look at the tiling here, it’s from the 1910s!”
Our GM who came to greet us in amongst our cries of exclamation was Elza, who explained that it was of the very first escape rooms she’d run. She did a fantastic job – and even managed to tease us with a few jump scares during the game too. She led us down several corridors through the dim lights and past curious features of the abandoned railway station, until we arrived at the escape room. From here, we were shown into the lift that was to take us into the bowels of the train station from whence we may never return.
So, a full disclaimer, this room can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We didn’t know it going in but apparently you can ask for a certain level of scariness and the host can dial it up or tone it down accordingly. Since we didn’t ask, I imagine we got an ‘average’ level of scariness. I scream easily, and my screams probably terrified my co-escaper more than the original jump scares did, but it was all light hearted fun. The kind of ‘doors closing behind you’ and ‘what’s that lurking in the shadow’ scares. No live actors, but a general level of creepiness for sure. If in doubt, just ask them to tone it down and I’m sure they will!
Can you read a train map?
In terms of difficulty, The Lost Passenger is definitely on the easier side. This makes it a good room for smaller groups, kids, or people who are mostly there because they love abandoned train stations. For once, I am in the last group. Although, despite it being ‘easier’, it’s still a vastly big escape room space with no fewer than 6 separate rooms, and many of those containing stairs and cool passageways. So it certainly won’t be a quick room to escape from.
One thing to flag (and it’s important to mention for accessibility reasons), is that some parts of this escape room are in the dark. Very, very dark. Almost pitch black. These rooms involve puzzles where you have to feel around for things and then try to solve them in the dark. In the escape room industry as a whole, there’s a little bugbear among enthusiasts about ‘darkness’ being a puzzle in itself. I can see why it (has to) work in this room, and it fits well with the environment – why wouldn’t you be crawling in the dark?
There are also several moments where players must crawl around on all fours in cramped spaces. Again, this is likely just the way that the original site was built, a lot of the rooms in this are workers shafts and tunnels leading between control rooms – but it’s another consideration.
In terms of puzzles beyond “dark and small spaces”, players can expect to encounter plenty of searching and finding, some jigsaws, finding objects to use in other places, and a few very fun cerebral puzzles involving operating the heavy machinery. Largely, the room is less about using your brain and more about pushing and pulling things. It’s a very physical room, and there’s more than a little trial and error to get particular puzzles working, but we liked it. My favourite thing about this escape room was that it really does use all the original equipment, and there’s something very exciting about pushing buttons and pulling levers on machines from the 1920s to make escape room puzzles work.
The Lost Passenger was a really fun room and well worth the long wait in lockdown. It won’t challenge enthusiasts, but that’s okay – I think the real reason to book and play this is to experience an exciting an adventure in such an impressive physical location. We loved that it was based on a true story, but what we loved the most was the setting, the theme, the creaky equipment, and the general ghostly vibes as we scrambled around the depths of an abandoned station looking for puzzles to solve. Furthermore, Elza did a great job as our host and made us feel really welcome (and more than a little bit scared).
The Lost Passenger can be booked at Mission: Breakout in London by heading to their website here.
The Dullahan Review | The Dullahan was the original “Headless Horseman”, and not the cute pumpkin-headed variety from the Disney movie! The Dullahan is a grotesque and horrible creature who claims souls (kills people). He carries a whip made from a human spine and he uses it to blind anyone who sees him (gross!). Can you find a way to rid the village of the Dullahan before he returns at nightfall?
DatePlayed: 13th March 2022 Number of Players: 4 Time Taken: 35:40 Difficulty: Medium
Online Escape Rooms Ireland is one of those companies that when I hear they’ve announced a new game, I’m first in the digital queue to play. When we first got out hands on a link, an ill-timed holiday meant we had to push playing back a few weeks, but it was well worth the wait. The Dullahan is another fantastic instalment in the Spirit Seekers series and one that is even better than the first.
About Spirit Seekers Ireland
Spirit Seekers Ireland is a series of escape rooms from the creative duo Connor and Sarah of Online Escape Rooms Ireland and their physical site, Escape Rooms Shannon whose video on their About Us page is one of my favourite things on the internet. The idea behind Spirit Seekers Ireland was to pay respectful homage to local landmarks and legends of interest in Ireland through the medium of escape rooms. You play as ghost hunters sent to explore a number of real life locations through the interface (Telescape) and… You guessed it… Catch ghosts!
In The Clare Abbey, you explore a church which is riddled with various ghosts. Armed with a ghost hunting kit and various tools (EMPs, audio recorders etc.) you must catch evidence of ghosts on camera. In this game, The Dullahan, the experience takes a slightly creepier turn as you’re in hunt of a very specific local legend: a Dullahan.
The Dullahan *Shudders*
According to local legend, a Dullahan is essentially a headless horsemen – the kind you see across cultures and ghost stories for centuries. What makes him unique to Ireland is the myth that he uses a whip made of the spine of humans as a weapon, and that he can claim people’s souls by calling out their name. It’s said that when the dullahan stops riding, a person will die.
So it’s no surprise that we needed to stop this once and for all, we can’t have any more people dying in this village, so team Al, Ash, Tasha and myself were put on the case to catch him. If we needed any help we could consult the SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE (love it!). He’s cute, but he’s only there for emergencies.
“OMG! I’ve found a pig”
…A statement I think I said several times whilst playing this game because of how excited I was to whip the 360 degree camera around and come face to face with a sweet little piggie.
But jokes aside, The Dullahan is a great game that takes place on Telescape – meaning you’ve a 360 view of a number of locations and a map you can use to guide yourselves through the game. What I loved about this was that it really is based on a real location and one I kinda want to visit myself if I’m ever in the area just for how quaint the cobbled paths and dry stone walling is. We explored the church ruins and cemetery, a stone cottage, a white cottage, a school, a pig sty, a blacksmith and a caravan – each place more delightful and fun to explore than the previous.
In terms of puzzles, The Dullahan isn’t perfect, no – I always take some small issue with found puzzles (of which there were a few), mainly because I never ever remember to bring my headphones along to a digital escape room and tend to spend the whole thing muted. This game was no different and we encountered several sound-based puzzles which I handed the reigns over to Al & Ash to solve in tandem.
But whatever issue I have with sound puzzles, it’s all but made up by how much fun the puzzles were to solve overall. In my opinion, Online Escape Rooms Ireland does “fun” very well and it’s always a joy to hear they’ve a new escape room experience launched. Players can expect to encounter typical escape room puzzles such as digit codes, moving options to make patterns, listening to sounds and translating them, some cool ciphers, matching puzzles and so on. Nothing breaks the mould but that’s okay.
Another really sold escape room experience from Online Escape Rooms Ireland, and another nail in my “I really want to visit this part of the world post-pandemic” coffin. Despite the ghostly and supernatural themes, this wasn’t a scary game in the slightest. There are some spooky vibes, but I don’t think particularly young players would be put off. Most young people I know would love the idea of a whip made of bones… Me though? *shudder*
Accessibility Notes: In terms of accessibility, as there are some sound puzzles you’ll need one person who is able to hear clearly, but to my best knowledge there aren’t any other accessibility flags to raise at this stage.
We’d recommend this experience for just about anyone but particularly folks who want to engage with beautiful places in Ireland and local Irish folklore through the medium of puzzles. Through brilliant games like this I’m learning more about the folklore of my own near-ancestral home, but I think I’ll probably make my granny shriek if I start talking about dullahan over our next tea party.
Escape from the Golden Hinde Review | Escape From The Golden Hinde is an interactive adventure on a historic 16th century galleon in the centre of London! The Golden Hinde is a perfect reconstruction of the ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world in the 1570s. The reconstructed ship also sailed around the world in the 1970s. It is haunted by ghosts from both journeys. So, the ship holds an unhappy mix of spirits – like a dodgy Rum Mojito. (Which, legend has it, was invented by Drake.) You will be locked on the ship with these ghosts. You will have 60 minutes to escape. You’ll also learn some history. But don’t let that stop you.
Date Played: 11th February 2022 Time Taken: 40 minutes Number of Players: 5 Difficulty: Easy
Just a few days after we announced Georgie was joining The Escape Roomer, the two of us metaphorically “smashed the bottle against the boat”, by playing an escape room together… Quite literally on a boat! Not just any boat either, the iconic Golden Hinde in Central London, Sir Francis Drake’s original ship that has sailed around the world twice.
We were joined by Bianca, a new friend Jojo, and partner Keianwho was celebrating his 100th room! First, we met up at The Old Thameside Inn opposite for a drink (or two) to get our sea-legs in ship shape before heading onboard with a triumphant cry: “We pledge to save to captain!“
Team Scurvy Scallywags for the win!
Escape Room Versus Immersive Theatre
Mairi: Escape From the Golden Hinde isn’t an escape room exactly. Sure, it technically ticks the boxes (you’re in a room, you have to escape), but it’s actually a lot closer to immersive theatre. It has a certain mass-market appeal which means the puzzles aren’t overly challenging, and instead most of the enjoyment of playing this game comes from listening to the actors and putting your all into appreciating the historical setting and your pirate captains.
Sure, there were a few moments of “ooh how do we solve this?”, and without such a good team with me I’d probably have been quite stuck in a few places, but overall we whizzed through it in 40 minutes – record breaking speed!
Georgie: I think you hit the nail on the head for me there – I went in expecting an escape room, which it very much wasn’t, so had to temper my expectations pretty quickly! As a traditional escape room, I would say it was pretty underwhelming – the puzzles were very linear and easy. I think I personally solved one puzzle throughout the whole experience, and spent a lot of the time sat idly by watching other teammates complete the one or two puzzles in that area. However, I loved being on the ship and overall felt pretty immersed in it!
Addendum: Since writing this review, we’ve discovered that there are different difficulty levels of Escape From the Golden Hinde available to players. At full launch of this escape room later in the year, players will be able to choose!
Escape From Francis Drake’s Original Galleon
Mairi: Escape From the Golden Hinde uses the entire ship, which was very cool indeed. There are at least 4 unique spaces in this ship and the whole thing feels very ‘spacious’. Before heading in I was aware that they could take up to 3 teams at a time, but unsure of the specifics of how this works. Now I can confidently say that this would be achieved by staggering the start times. First team goes in, then 15 minutes later when that team is out of the first room, the second team goes in and so on to a maximum of three teams on the boat at any one time.
We were a very fast team and there was nobody else playing at the same time as us, so it’s hard to say how well this works at peak times. But the games masters *cough* I mean ghosts and pirates were fantastically savvy, I daresay they’re able to speed up or slow down a team as needed in each space to keep the pacing correct.
Georgie: I’m not sure I’d agree about ‘spacious’! I’d say the hard-hats we were given were definitely necessary – I’m only 5ft3 and felt pretty uncomfortable throughout most of the game – if you’re on the taller side I would definitely advise you to be prepared! I think it’s smart on their side to take the staggered approach, as in theory you should be able to gain more business that way, and each section was pretty easy to get through.
I worry about what might happen with, say, a novice group directly in front of an experienced group. How would they slow down that group without them feeling frustrated or bored? Or how would they speed up the others without them feeling spoon-fed or robbed? I suppose the rooms were pretty simple so there may not be much chance of that, but it’s definitely a thought.
Mairi: In terms of the story and using such an awe-inspiring historical ship, whilst I’m usually terrible at paying attention to the plot (“Hey does anyone remember what we’re meant to be doing?”) I did love that I left the ship feeling like I learned something new by the end! I’ve got a new found interest in the history of the Golden Hinde that two previous visits to the Golden Hinde museum hadn’t taught me. Escape rooms are educational!
Georgie: This is where I think they may be taking on too much at once. I love history – I’m a big history nerd so I was expecting to eat this up – but I actually felt like I didn’t learn much about the ship or got that sense of awe I was hoping for! I remember in the pub (the Old Thameside Inn opposite) afterwards I was confused about what was fact vs fiction, and I think parts of the story definitely passed me by.
I think perhaps it might have been nice to just have a little bit of a story ahead of each section, so it was more as though you were then experiencing a re-enactment of that. Instead, I didn’t really follow the thread of the overall story (if there was one) and the different sections felt quite disjointed – ultimately we just found the puzzles, solved them and moved on.
Meet Gooselegs & Jack(ie)
Mairi: My favourite thing about Escape From the Golden Hinde was the actor interaction. From the moment we first stepped onto the ship and were greeted by two very enthusiastic pirates, I knew we were in for a treat. But this interaction turned out to only be the beginning, for we were greeted by a further four unique actors during the course of the game. This cast of characters included historical figures, and sailors on the lash dancing around a disco room. It was nothing if not very fun!
Georgie: Yes, the actors were my favourite part too! The two crewmates who greeted us (Jack(ie) and Gooselegs) were absolutely superb. I was immediately drawn into the experience and having a good time. They had such a natural flow about them and were so witty and quick to interact with each other I could’ve watched a how show just with them! The other actors were pretty good too – nicely in character and friendly, but I felt we didn’t get as much time with them or build that rapport. I think this was really noticable when at one point we’d met a character, then another, and then suddenly asked to make a decision with not much to go on from either the story or our interactions!
Dubloons and Pieces of Eight (AKA The Price!)
Mairi: In terms of price, there’s no beating about the bush. Escape From the Golden Hinde is really, really expensive. At £43~ a ticket at peak times, it’s easily one of the most expensive escape rooms in London, if not the United Kingdom. It’s a conversation that comes up frequently within The Escape Roomer team – how do we measure value? What is a good price for an escape room? Personally I (Mairi) don’t think that any single escape room (at 60 minutes in length) should be priced at over £35 per person. A few exceptions here and there for ultra immersive, or extra long rooms. But that said, I can see how this price is justified in Escape From the Golden Hinde.
For starters, there are a number of live actors whose salaries must be paid. For seconds, you do get a cheeky drink (a small one, mind!) in the middle of this game included, which was a fun touch. It’s also an incredibly iconic location that most people wouldn’t normally be able to visit. When you play an escape room in a special location, I’ll admit that does come at a premium price (for example my previous “woah this is really expensive but cool and historical” at the Jersey Wars Tunnels for £150 for any sized team).
Was the Golden Hinde worth it? Maybe, kinda… Yes. We personally had a fantastic time and I like to say that if I had a great time then of course it’s worth it, right? But it’s hard to say if we could have physically afforded to pay full price, which for 5 players at £43 each would be £215. But if you can afford it, then by all means it’s well worth it for the unique-ness factor!
Georgie: I’d agree – we had a great time, but it did leave me itching for a ‘real’ escape room, and if we’d paid full price I would be feeling very short changed! Even if I switch to viewing it more as an experience, I would’ve wanted longer on the ship and more education/story aspects. I think this might be worth it if you want the experience of being on board the Golden Hinde, but if you’re looking for an escape room there are better rooms in London for a lower price.
However, I would gladly pay that premium price if I could just spend the whole hour watching Gooselegs and Jackie – they’re the real stars here for me!
A Note on Accessibility
Georgie: A quick note on accessibility from me – this is a historical ship, so unsurprisingly it wasn’t very accessible! There were lots of stairs, cramped spaces for the majority of it, dim lighting and loud sounds/puzzles requiring some hearing. If you’ve played “Secret Studio” you may be worried about jump scares, but let me assure you that there are no “scares” here!
Escape from the Golden Hinde is at an incredibly unique location in the heart of London and it’s quite unlike anything else we’ve played! Part escape room, part immersive theatre, there’s a lot of love gone into this room and it shows. In particular, we really enjoyed interacting with our hosts, Jack(ie) and Gooselegs, as well as the cast of fun characters we met along our adventure. At present, the high price point may be a barrier to play, and enthusiasts will probably not be challenged by the puzzles. But it’s still a delightful pirate-themed romp around one of the most iconic seafaring vessels in British history, and that’s pretty special!
Just like those explorers who claim to visit the furthest reaches and climb the highest mountains simply “because they are there”, I think playing this escape room should be done because it’s there. Escape from the Golden Hinde is an escape room that will not be around forever, and if you’ve ever wanted to don a funky hat on, talk in pirate-speak, and get very hands-on with an awesome piece of history, then now is your time.
It may not be our favourite escape room in London, but I’m really glad we did it and we had a great time. Decades in the future I’ll be walking around London with my grandkids and be like “I was once a pirate on that ship” and I’ll describe how I ran around the deck and hooked ropes, solved puzzles, hoisted the sails, and drank grog beneath a disco ball… And my offspring will be like “sure grandma lets get you home“. But I’ll have those fun memories!
Escapologic: Operation Magnus Review | The year is 1942, World War 2 rages on. You are an elite spy deep undercover at the operations bunker of the infamous splinter cell group known as SPYKE. The group has reached an agreement with the mysterious Magnus, an aerospace engineer, and he has agreed to develop a new super weapon that could change the tides of war and leave devastation in its wake.
Completion Time: 35 minutes Date Played: 11th September 2021 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Moderate
Woohooo! It’s road trip time! 🚗
For the longest time I’ve been playing online escape rooms with Team Escaping the Closet and our friend Tasha, but now that the UK is starting to open up after a long lockdown – we’re finally able to meet in person! The first stop on our escape room travel itinerary? Escapologic in Leicester – the midpoint between London and Sheffield.
There we took on two rooms, first Reactorvate followed by Operation Magnus, where we were greeted by the enigmatic Games Master Destiny.
Change the tide of war
Operation Magnus is your classic World War 2 room with a couple of tasteful changes (namely, no awkward references to the axis forces, instead you’re fighting SPYKE). The story goes that you are a secret agent deep undercover in the enemy’s operations bunker. SPYKE is on the brink of developing a new super weapon that could seriously change the tides of war and leave huge global devastation in it’s wake.
It’s up to you to gather the intel on the inner workings of this weapon for the allied forces. You have another agent on the inside who has left you clues behind in their bunker, but you must not blow their cover.
No pressure, eh?
The most wonderful thing about this room is how well they’ve themed the room. For starters, you really are in a deep underground bunker. I’m not sure what the original use of the building was, but we emerged into our escape room into a strangely dark, slightly musty tiled bunker space. Nope, I don’t think this is just really creative set design, the room feels incredibly genuine. It seems so funny to mention it, but I loved how dusty the space was too. Real nooks and crannies, I even think I spotted a spider.
From the era-appropriate props (clues delivered by a real WWII phone, need I say more?), to the smell, to the tiled walls, to the coldness- if you’d transplanted this exact escape room into a “life during world war two” museum, I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised! And not a single broken prop either!
Another great thing about the physical escape room space is how large it is. It might just be the first escape room I’ve played with a whole staircase in it and multilayered areas. We found ourselves running up and down stairs, crawling through rickety doors, discovering hidden passageways. Some areas were a little bit of a squeeze for our team of 4, but nothing we couldn’t handle by dividing and conquering the puzzles.
Operation Magnus Puzzles
In terms of puzzles, there was a good mix to challenge us! The game got off to a slow start as we struggled to find the one thing which could start us on our way – but from reading other reviews, it seems like this beginning trips up a lot of teams, so don’t be afraid to ask for a clue so early! Once we got into the flow of things, we were off to a flying start!
Players can expect to encounter a lot of mimetic puzzles such as searching and finding, rummaging around the clues, and of course… No World War Two room would be complete without a couple of maps and a Morse Code puzzle or two.
The only thing to highlight is that there were a lot more red herrings than expected. In truth, I’m not a fan of any red herrings in an escape room unless they add to the story, but Operation Magnus had more than a fair few that didn’t have much connection. At the end of the game our Games Master Destiny was very helpful to walk us through the whole room from start to finish – but we had a lot of “what about this object” and “we never used this” questions. Examples of such red herrings included hidden openings in the wall, a key we never used, and some clear signposts to use particular objects when those objects weren’t involved in the game at all.
That said, if you don’t mind the occasional red herring or two, there’s still more than enough in this room to have a lot of fun! The attention to detail is second to none, and the puzzles challenging, tactile and delightful.
Operation Magnus – The Verdict
The real pièce de résistance of Operation Magnus is without a doubt the ending.
Oh my God that ending!
It takes the biscuit as one of the most impressive escape room endings in any room ever. I really don’t want to describe what it is bat the risk of giving away any spoilers, but anyone reading this review looking forward to booking it, you’re in for a treat!
It’s with a lot of pleasure I’m awarding this one a “Best in Genre” badge. Alongside Escape Plan’s Roll out the Barrel, Operation Magnus is probably one of the best World War Two themed rooms in the entire country. I’ve played a lot of World War Two rooms (it’s probably my most-played genre, come to think of it), but Operation Magnus ticks so many boxes and the designers have really outdone themselves on this one. It’s something special and not to be missed.
Operation Magnus can be booked at Escapologic Leicester by heading to their website here.
Escapologic: Reactorvate Review | Your Great Uncle was once a leading scientist known for developing state of the art nuclear technology. In central Europe, during the late 1970’s, one of his experimental reactors went into meltdown as soon as it was activated, causing one of the most catastrophic disasters in modern history...
Your only option is to break into an abandoned power plant located in rural Russia, find a second inactive reactor and start it up. If it is fully functional then you may just have the evidence to free an innocent man. If your Great Uncle is lying, then you may need to run for your life!
Completion Time: 31:27 Date Played: 11th September 2021 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Medium
First up on our long awaited road trip was to take a step into an abandoned nuclear reactor. Our mission was to find out what REALLY happened all those years ago in the 1970s… A totally normal activity for the first time Mairi, our friend Tasha and ourselves were all in person together, right?
We were very much looking forward to seeing how our team functioned in real life. After a long lockdown of playing countless digital escape games together, would the addition of a third dimension to our normally 2D team throw us off? Would being able to see how tall our team members actually are be too big a distraction..?!
Read on to find out…
WOW – Are we actually in the 1970s?
The first thing you notice stepping into this room (well, any of the Escapologic rooms to be fair) is their impeccable attention to detail. We entered a very realistic looking ‘reactor’, complete with the classic 1970s computer vibes, colourful lights and even featuring an on theme chilly room temperature!
Those first few puzzles we encountered in the room were great at introducing us both to the game and to each other. As an introduction space to Reactorvate, it had a fantastic flow. After initially hitting a bit of a hurdle with one of the beginning puzzles, we started to get out stride as we moved into the second space on offer. From here, we split up into two teams of two to tackle the wide range of challenges on offer.
We did have one quite hefty obstacle to get around first though…
Guys, is that your hand touching me? Where are the WALLS?
Before we entered this room, our games master Courtney warned us that at one point we would be in complete darkness. And that point came quite quickly into the game and they weren’t kidding – boy was it dark!
It was the sort of dark where you can’t see your own hand in front of you, and naturally we were all quite unnerved by this. We were quietly hoping that the evil spirit, Mr Moon, who haunts Escapologic’s other game (The Gateway) had not found their way into our room!!! Thankfully no ghosts, which just left the task in hand. Once we figured out where the four corners of the space were that we were in we were on a roll. But first, where the heck is the light switch?!
Science! We’re doing SCIENCE
The technology Reactorvate uses is great. You get to do physical puzzles, mental puzzle, observation puzzles…and you get to DO so much. We love a room that offers players the opportunity to really feel as though you are ‘doing’ the puzzling, rather than simply solving notes scribbled on a page. The whole thing had such a tactile feel as we lifted heavy objects and manipulated strange contraptions we’re all too young to know the true purpose of.
There was one particular stand out element of the room that provided just the right amount of shock value it’s still seared into our memory today. Although, we still can’t figure out if it was triggered by the Games Master, by our actions, or if the course we followed was inevitable – but that’s all good theatre!
We had a great time moving around and discovering this space. It was an impressive room and one we clicked with quite well.
We really did have a great time in our first ever in-person escape room altogether. We are glad we chose such a vibrant, exciting and impressive room to play together for the first time.
Escapologic is great too in what it offers players after they’ve (hopefully) successfully escaped – there is a HUGE wall of tags signed by 100s of teams who have made their way through one of the four games on offer. It was a lot of fun looking through these and finding recognisable names, or even finding our own one from playing Chronos what feels like a loooonggg time ago.
Reactorvate can be booked at Escapologic Leicester by heading to their website here.