Compendium Bury: Laboratory, Bedlam, Wrong Turn | Review

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Date played: March 2022
Time taken: 48 minutes / 46 minutes / 45 minutes
Number of players: 2
Difficulty: Easy / Hard / Medium

As someone who lives in London, I don’t often get the chance to venture ‘up north’, but there are quite a few companies that are making a name for themselves! Just outside of Manchester (an easy tram ride away) is the small town of Bury, home to “Compendium Escapes”. We decided to tick off all their rooms at once, so here I’m covering the first three, and leaving their award-winning final room for a post of its own!

 

Compendium: Laboratory | Review

You and your friends have been given the challenge to find and steal a Laboratory’s TOP secret remedy needed to cure a deadly disease. You have been entrusted with all the information you need to gain entry to the lab but no idea how to find the antidote undetected and once inside you find yourselves trapped. Do you have what it takes to save lives and escape the lab with the antidote?

 

When we entered the lab we found ourselves in a relatively large, clean room with plenty of science-y artifacts lying around. The premise is simple; locate and recover the antidote for the deadly pandemic that is ravaging the planet (I swear this was launched long before Covid-19). We immediately split up and started searching for clues, locating a number of interesting items and numbers dotted about. The decor in the room was great – it played into the theme and there quite multiple times when something which initially appeared to be a prop turned into a key puzzle!

 

Image (c) Manchester Evening News

 

This room is often said to be the best room for families, and I can see why – the room is full of bright colours and varied puzzles, with most puzzles within reach of small hands and some exciting little spaces to explore. The only issue is that the one main puzzle in the room (to access the parts of the antidotes) would not be possible for younger children, and indeed was not possible for me at 5ft3! However, the GM handled this really well, and let us off as he could see we had made quite a few attempts, but just physically couldn’t manage it. If this had been later in the day I can imagine this would’ve made us quite frustrated, but as it was we brushed past it and chalked it up to a slightly annoying thing.

Accessibility (Spoilers!)

The location isn’t very physically accessible, being up some quite steep stairs, but the room itself has a chair to sit in and is well lit. There is some reliance on colour, and that pesky physical puzzle. Hints are given via a screen, so otherwise no reliance necessarily on hearing.

 

Compendium: Bedlam | Review

 

Bentham Asylum has been standing since the 1900’s. In 1950 Bentham was given the nickname BEDLAM because of the events that happened in those 50 years, In 1974 Cell p23 was mysteriously locked without an explanation as to why. Bedlam has secrets that need to be uncovered. You and your team are the top journalists in your field, you have been tasked with uncovering the secrets that are held behind Cell P23’s walls. Can you go undercover, get in the cell undetected and escape with all the documents that will uncover the secrets of BEDLAM? 

I am really not a horror fan. I am a massive coward, so the idea of doing not just one, but two ‘scary’ rooms was a little daunting. However, we spoke to the Compendium team prior to booking who assured me there would be no live actors or jump scares, so we went ahead and booked. Bedlam definitely fits into the ‘creepy’ and suspenseful area of ‘scary’, with atmospheric background music/sounds that felt extremely immersive. I actually found myself really enjoying this! The combination of dingy lighting, a chair with handcuffs, and random screams in the background helped set the mood and get the adrenaline running before any puzzles have taken place.

The room itself is very small – we played as a duo, and I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to play with anymore! Despite this, I was amazed by how much Compendium have fit into this space, and we were constantly surprised by certain discoveries. There are so many hidden areas carefully blended into the padded walls that we really had a sense of excitement and never knew what was coming next.

The puzzles were a fantastic example of thematic design – they all fit the theme perfectly, and to a certain extent helped carry the narrative too. They were fairly non-linear (I know there were a few puzzles I never saw), with a couple that also required some team cooperation.  None of the puzzles frustrated us, and all the logic made total sense. There were also some really interesting mechanisms used for these puzzles, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Accessiblity (spoilers!)

Like all their rooms, this is very much not accessible. Obviously, you need to climb up some steep stairs to reach the room itself, but there is a chair within the room. There is the requirement for at least one team member to be happy with crawling and small spaces, although this really isn’t the room for anyone with claustrophobia given the general size. The room was fairly dim, but we found a torch which helped!

 

 

Compendium: Wrong Turn | Review

 

You and your friends are driving along route 66 when you notice your gas running low, a friend suggests to make a turn at the next set of crossroads to see if there is a gas station… you don’t find a gas station but decide to explore the one place you have discovered by taking that WRONG TURN…. Will you escape or will you spend your life regretting that wrong turn?

The third room we did at Compendium was another ‘scary’ room – this time we entered the home of a serial killer. Once again we confirmed there were no live actors or jump scares, but unfortunately, there were plenty of mannequins (which is my specific phobia). The team were great though, and removed what they could, giving my mum a warning of where others were so she could deal with them for me. That aside, this room was fantastically creepy in a different way to Bedlam. Rather than screams, the soundtrack was instead an old fashion song and commercial, and the room and set dressing were just off enough to be unsettling.

 

Image (c) Manchester Evening News

 

Rather than entering into the lair directly, we instead found ourselves in an old-fashioned kitchen off Route 66. At first glance, nothing seems amiss, but look a bit closer and you realise that maybe things are not as they appear. The set dressing here was excellent, with a lot of relevant props and accessories to investigate, but not so many that they would count as red herrings (and none dressed as puzzles). The difference between this room and the lair (when you discover it) is very stark, and quite horrific (as you might imagine).

The puzzles themselves were a bit trickier than the other rooms, but still had a great flow and were fairly non-linear. I really appreciated the need to hunt for items and keep track of these throughout the room, as well as the requirement to move between the kitchen and the lair. The space is also a lot bigger than initially anticipated, with a great sense of atmosphere. There were also some unique physical puzzles here, which I quite enjoyed!

Accessibility (spoilers!)

In terms of accessibility – again, steep stairs to the location, but chairs inside. There is a requirement to be able to crawl to reach the lair, and there are some smaller, darker spaces to be aware of. You will need to be able to differentiate colours for this room too.

 

Compendium, The Verdict

 

I think Compendium is a fantastic company, who clearly pay close attention to all aspects of room design. I have written a separate review about their final room, UI-55, which is currently my number 1 room. Out of these three, I enjoyed ‘Bedlam’ the most, followed by ‘Wrong turn’, but that’s probably my cowardice talking. I would say you shouldn’t be put off my the scary aspect of either room though, as they are worth playing!

The team at ‘Compendium’ are also fantastic – we spent a long time chatting with them and they are top-notch. Given we booked all 4 rooms they’d actually ‘closed’ the place for the day, so we could be a bit relaxed about timings and decide when we wanted to play each room. This gave us time to grab refreshments between rooms, and decide on our lunch break, rather than either rushing out of one room and into the next, or else sitting around in a long gap. This was a little touch that was really appreciated and so unexpected. I also just enjoyed talking to them in general, as they are clearly passionate about what they do (which shines through in the rooms) and so we spent a while comparing and recommending rooms to each other! Compendium is definitely a must-visit for me.

These rooms can be booked on the Compendium Bury website.

Mythologic Escape Rooms: Needlenose | Review

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Needlenose Escape Room Review | Don’t be the next victim of the Copycat Killer Clown!

Date Played: 2019
Team Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

 

Mythologic Escape Rooms have two locations which are based just off Gillingham High Street, one in an upstairs unit above some retail outlets. With a blacked out front door, with some cool graphic design explaining what to expect inside, and large Mythologic sign, the unassuming building houses two escape rooms which really pack a punch. The other a large double fronted shop with HUGE Mythologic sign, certainly making it difficult to miss!

Greeted at the door by the owners/designers Michelle and Chris, the welcome could not have been warmer. Both waiting areas are open and airy, with a comfortable reception area, we are offered a comfortable seat and somewhere to lock away our belongings. Water is readily available and there is well appointed lavatory area (which also has a number of essential personal hygiene products, such as deodorants etc. which is a lovely personal touch)

A briefing commences within the reception area and the disclaimers are all signed on digital tablets (which makes the hassle of pens and paper disclaimers feel like a distant nightmare)!

It is clearly evident from chatting to the owners that they are passionate about their rooms and obviously their customer service, which was faultless. We were made to feel at home with their personal yet professional touch.

 

Who Wouldn’t Love to be Locked in the Sewers?!

Who wouldn’t love to locked in the sewers with a killer clown on the loose hell bent on capturing you and taking your life!? No?! Why not?! This hour of tension, horror and excitement is an absolute scream! We loved it!

This room has taken the team at Mythologic a huge amount of time to create, design and build and walking through the door it is evident to see why! The combination of great theme, strong design build and the addition of a live actor brings, this game to life as you are plunged into the dark world of Needlenose the copycat killer clowns mind!

The room has a fair few observation-based puzzles alongside some physical games which played alongside the theme beautifully. Every puzzle fitted into the room very well and it wasn’t always clear what we were meant to be doing, which was a real plus as it gave a greater sense of reality!

Be prepared to be on edge! Everywhere you look in this game, there is something to keep your nerves rattled. As ever, no spoilers, however , there are a handful of surprises in this room which made us scream (both in terror and excitement!) It does however balance the level of scares very well to still give you the opportunity to complete the numerous puzzles inside.

 

The Verdict

All members of the team loved this game and place it in high esteem, and in great company with our absolute favourites. There are some tricky puzzles inside which certainly challenged us (and being the first physical game after lock down, the grey matter really got a run out!) but everything was achievable, even if you need a subtle hint like we did!

 

Dont be a clown! – Put on your big boy pants and head down to Mythologic to play this game. It is certainly one you wont forget in a hurry!

Would I recommend this room?

Definitely! The theme and mix of terror and strong puzzles put this up there with our favourites!

Who would I recommend it to?

Groups of friends and families would love this. More experienced players will still be challenged for sure and likely be in awe of the play area.

How many players would I recommend?

Around 3-4, taking into consideration the size of the room and number of puzzles inside

Suitable for Children?

Absolutely not!

 

Needlenose can be booked by heading to Mythologic’s website here.

Professor Puzzle: Curse of the Dark | Review

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Curse of the Dark Review | Investigate the mystery of a doomed village and its cursed castle in this thrilling escape room game! You couldn’t resist the allure of Mordengraf: a remote mountain village, overshadowed by an imposing Gothic castle and haunted by a spate of mysterious disappearances. Could there be truth in the hushed whispers of a ‘creature’ stalking the area? As you look for answers, your investigation takes a sinister turn. Captured by an unseen force, you must escape the castle’s dungeon or become the creature’s latest victim. But you only have three hours before the creature resumes its hunt.

Completion Time: 3+ hours
Date Played: 6th May 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

It was only a little while ago that I had the pleasure of playing through Professor Puzzle’s “Danger in the Deep” so when I heard that they had another escape game out but double the length, I jumped at the opportunity. The former is easily one of my favourites of 2022 so far, and I was eager to see how their sequel would perform. It was time to dim the lamps, light some candles, pour some red wine (because of course, vampires), and crack open the game.

The story goes that you, an investigator, receive a mysterious letter from someone known only as “J”. A monster lurks in the castle at the corner of a village and many of the villagers blame the monster for the recent disappearances. Your job is simple: investigate and get to the bottom of the mystery. But before long you find yourself sucked into the castle and soon to become the monster’s next victim. That is, unless you can puzzle your way out!

 

 

How to Play Curse of the Dark

Curse of the Dark is nothing if not very ambitious. Written in large letters on the front of the box is a total play time of “180 minutes” which of course, can (and probably should) be split into two parts at 90 minutes each. Our team of 3-4 players decided that we’d set aside an entire evening to complete the experience. From 6pm on a dark and stormy Saturday evening we sat down to a bottle (okay, maybe two bottles) of red wine, plenty of snacks and spooky music in the background.

180 minutes? Pfft.
We ended up concluding the game with a successful win at around midnight 🤯

This would put the game in more comfortably at 6 hours long, but even I’ll admit that’s a bit silly. The point being is this game, despite the recommendation, be enjoyed at any pace by any sized group and is definitely the most fun when you break it up with wine and snack breaks. So long as your goal is to have fun, you can’t go wrong with Curse of the Dark. So don’t be worried if you take a lot longer than the recommended time.

Where Curse of the Dark differs from *checks notes* pretty much every other escape game I’ve ever played, is it’s fantastic use of space. It’s somewhere between a tile-based, almost “worldbuilding” game with Cluedo, and Unlock! mixed in. As a team of intrepid investigators, you reveal and place new tiles that build up an immense, sprawling castle around your movements as the game progresses. Past the halfway mark and you’ve already strayed into 3D territory with an enormous stained glass window and not one but two brilliant tall towers standing at either edge of the board. Until we flipped each new tile it was impossible to know where our story would take us, but each room was as fantastical as the previous and each twist and turn as exciting as if we were watching a movie.

Visually, this game is gorgeous. Each tile is a top-down view of a specific room, but as mentioned the game occasionally forays into 3D, building up a complete picture of an enormous ‘spooky castle’. I happen to know *taps nose* that each tile was modelled in 3D on a computer and then rendered top-down to create a large but well proportioned environment. The edges of each tile often had an overlap or matched up directly to where the next room was. Only a few times did we need to slide the whole model across because we’d built too close to the edge, but thankfully figuring out how to lay out your castle isn’t one of the puzzles. There’s a handy guide as you go.

 

 

See the Day Turn into Night…

In terms of puzzles, there are 22 in the game, but if that number sounds low I can assure you it is not. Curse of the Dark is big. No, I don’t think you understand. It’s packed with possibly hundreds of pieces, cards, tiles and objects. We found that throughout our experience, objects we’d discovered earlier in the game often didn’t come into play until hours later – resulting in more than a little panicked rummaging throughout the boxes. So a fair warning when we say that this game is big – it’s worth keeping track of what you’ve used and are still to use.

By the end of the game we found that there were a few cards we hadn’t drawn from the deck, but thankfully the game has a very robust clue system to keep you on track if you’re unsure. On only one occasion did we accidentally brute force a puzzle, and only then we realised this because we’d left a card we’d needed to solve the puzzle in the deck without spotting it. This goes to show that the puzzles whilst not too difficult nor too easy, seem well pitched for an enthusiast to comfortably potter through.

Throughout the experience, my favourite puzzles involved anything that was 3D – what can I say? It’s a lot of fun picking up the great big bell tower and pretending you’re King Kong as you push and pull bricks out haphazardly. Other puzzles take you away from the physicality of the game and onto a simple web-based application which worked well, but the bulk of it took place via a system of cards and ’tiles’. As with many games, there were some puzzles we got right away, but plenty more we needed to use hints (a scratch-off system). In each we were looking for a secret hidden symbol to proceed.

 

 

…Through the Darkness, There’s the Light

In terms of the question of age rating and accessibility , Professor Puzzle recommends 14+. In terms of theme, I’m not so sure about that. There’s the odd splatter of blood and an allusion to nefariousness, but it’s ultimately quite a light-hearted, Vampire themed romp and nothing I wouldn’t have loved as a kid. The real question is whether or not somebody is able to sit still for the full 3 hours and remain engaged and interested – so I’ll leave that at the discretion of parents.

There are a few puzzles that involve sound, so someone who is able to hear well is recommended, but I believe it may be possible to solve those with the visuals. Some of the scenes are darker and will involve Similarly there are some moments in the game where colour is referenced, but if I remember correctly, none of the solutions hinge upon being able to identify colours, so it’s also colour-blind friendly.

Unlike previous games in Professor Puzzle’s catalogue, Curse of the Dark comes with a free download of the printable elements of the game. This means that after destroying certain components during your gameplay, you can print them off at the end to reset the game perfectly back to the beginning. In an era of being more environmentally conscious, I commend the creators for making this game not single-use, and encouraging folks to re-gift it on. That said, I won’t be giving up my copy of Curse of the Dark any time soon. Oh no, by contrast I plan to reassemble some of the coolest 3D components and put them on my shelf in pride of place.

 

 

The Verdict

If you can’t tell from my gushing, the verdict is we really did have a great time playing Curse of the Dark. From the fantastically fun puzzles that consistently manage to surprise me, to the beautiful visuals (2D and 3D), to a very spooky vibe that made our board game night perfect. There were a great many “a-ha!” moments, so many I’m sure my co-players got sick of my insisting “wow thats a clever puzzle” by the end of it. For that reason, we’ve chosen to award it our Badge of Honour which is awarded to games that achieve five stars from us across the board, and it’s well deserved too.

For sure it will attract a slightly more niche audience than other games in the Professor Puzzle catalogue coming in at ~3 hours of gameplay. Compared to other ‘escape room in a box’ games you see on the high street, this one is three times the length. But in this way it’s also excellent value for money.

Typically in ‘The Verdict’ I like to recommend who I’d buy this for. The answer for this one is simple: everyone. I could see myself playing this with family members old and young, enthusiasts and newbies alike. I’ve no doubt it’ll be a big hit for Professor Puzzle and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

A big round of applause from me!

Curse of the Dark can be purchased from major retailers, pre-order it here.

Emergency Exit: The Studies of Dr. Becker | Review

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The Studies of Dr. Becker Review | You are invited to spend an hour with the famous Dr. Becker at Boleskine Lodge Practice. He is currently with another patient and will be with you shortly. In the meantime make yourself at home and enjoy his hospitality and his study – a beautiful place decorated with his bizarre collection of strange and wonderful things. But do not dig too deeply as things are not always as they seem in this place, after all it is well known that some of his previous guests are still there after volunteering to help with his studies. Dr. Becker has a past which is questionable at best and not everyone agrees with his methods.

Completion Time: About 1 hour
Date Played: January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

What’s your favourite scary movie?

What’s everyone’s favourite thing about horror movies? Scream…Halloween.. the many, many Friday 13ths!…Yes, it’s the sequels! Everyone loves returning to that creepy place they have become so familiar with from the original film that sparked the cult following. Well, what Emergency Exit have created with ‘The Studies of Dr Becker’ feels very reminiscent of this. Dr Becker is the third part of what is now a trilogy of escape games focused around Crowley Manor, the infamous house of Aleister Crowley.

Now, you may or may not know the name Aleister Crowley. In case you don’t, he was a real English Occultist in the 20th Century, and boy did he enjoy dabbling in creepy stuff! The lore around his mysterious life is a fittingly creepy setting for a series of scary escapes. The trilogy centres around Crowley Manor where the In:Theory investigators decide to sneak in to snoop around and find out what’s going down, and unfortunately find themselves WAAAAAAY in over their heads!

We came across Emergency Exit while we were in lockdown during COVID last year when everyone was looking to virtual means to get their escape fix, and The Beast was receiving rave reviews from the escape community. We managed to convince our friends Tasha and Mairi (aka the scaredy cats) to join us for this scary adventure (after all how bad can a virtual scare be?!) and we all loved the thrill of it (despite the varying degrees of fear we experienced). Since lockdown easing, Emergency Exit have reopened their doors to in-person bookings and created the third part of the trilogy, The Studies of Dr Becker. While we were super keen to return to the Crowley Manor story, we wanted to continue the story with the team we started out with. Therefore we were excited to find out that Dr Becker has recently been made available to play online too, and got the gang back together (virtually)!

Online games work well for us as a team still as geography does not favour in-person rooms. With us in the North, and Mairi based in London, we love to still plan in a regular escape in the online world. Recently it’s been a lot of Telescape rooms, which we love. But what better way to brighten up a gloomy Friday evening that by dabbling in the occult. The hosted virtual game, played through Zoom, is really immersive and arguably offers even more than the in-person experience. Not only do you get to play the room in full, but you get the additional fun of working with the In:Theory team to solve the room.

Previously on…

Emergency Exit have put a lot into putting on a show in their rooms; hosting the game on Zoom requires 2 people who you interact with (the In:Theory team) and the story is extremely important. While each of the games are playable as a standalone, the overarching story is really cohesive and adds an extra layer of enjoyment knowing the backstory.

Previously in Crowley Manor: The In:Theory team managed to accidentally summon Surgat, Demon of Locks (very apt). Woopsie! Let’s see what happens to them next…

What happens to them next? They find themselves in Boleskine Lodge Practice, under the care of creepy Dr Becker, who is ‘treating’ them to help them forget their experiences in Crowley Manor. However, Dr Becker’s practices are…questionable….and there’s more to why he wants you to forget the demonic apparitions. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well, you’ll have to play to find out more, but let’s just say, Boleskine Lodge Practice ever so conveniently happens to be attached to Crowley Manor. That is to say, the In:Theory team STILL haven’t managed to escape Crowley Manor yet!

Lights, camera…is that someone’s BUM?

This is where you rejoin the In:Theory team as the voices inside your host’s head. Interacting with the hosts is one of our favourite parts about the Emergency Exit rooms (a bit because if any bad stuff were to happen in the room, it was happening to them and not us). But they really MAKE the experience; not only do you get to explore the room and solve puzzles, instructing your host as to what they should look at or do next, but the story is really brought into it’s own by James and Liam. James was our main host, and Liam is the dedicated cameraman. And boy is he dedicated to his role, ensuring that no matter what the occult throws his way, you always have a clear view of what’s going on around the space you’re in. And they’re funny! A bit of light relief from bantering with your hosts works really well to lighten the mood after a period of tension.

There are some pre-recorded sections which are transitioned into smoothly and which helped to accentuate the story with dramatic ‘cut scenes’. This includes an extremely dramatic conclusion to the story, which we enjoyed. While we’re sure the in-person experience is equally fun to play, we really feel like the Emergency Exit team have NAILED the online hosted escape room! The way it runs feels so reminiscent of a horror movie, but with the added element of choosing the decisions the characters make and, of course, what we all came here for in the first place- puzzle solving! For this reason, we’ve decided to award it the Immersion Badge!

The puzzles are all well-fitting with the theme and add an element of mystery, as they are well-integrated into the demonic, occultish storyline. Fear not, there is plenty to do in terms of puzzling in this room, you just also get the added bonus of a suspenseful horror movie setup!

The Verdict

We would really recommend playing The Studies of Dr Becker (and its predecessors if you haven’t yet). We are sure that an in-person visit would be equally fun but we can’t stop raving about the online hosted experience. At £20pp (for a four player team), this is a great way to spend your Friday night.

Please note that there are some creepy sections and mild gore, but these are generally not too scary so don’t let this put you off. We mentioned afterwards that we felt this was less scary than The Beast, but we enjoyed it just as much!

The Studies of Dr. Becker, either the live or remote avatar version, can be booked by heading to E-Exit’s website here.

Mythologic Escape Rooms: Mr Todd’s | Review

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Mr. Todd’s Review | Just a little off the top! this could be more than you bargained for, you heard that Mr Todds was the place to go for that close shave, but maybe a little too close, a strange smell in the air raises suspicion, you decide to leave but the door is locked, can you get out before he returns?

Date Played: 24th November 2021
Time Taken: 87mins 23secs (90 minute game)
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Hard

After being met by our host Amber and the always enthusiastic owner Chris, we were let to the entrance of the infamous barber shop. Then, the fun began; lightning strikes and thunder rages, as we were plunged into near darkness at the start of this game!

So, where to begin?!

As ever, no spoilers but knowing where to begin is actually the hard part! Clearly the designers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the décor reflects that of the era – this evidently creates a challenge of its own, as the room is relatively dark and sparse – and this works brilliantly!

As experienced players, we are often drawn to one to two areas of a room which get us flowing. Here, subtlety is key – some really well hidden signposting sits within the room without being too evident. This was a big winner for us as it really get the brains working from the offset! But don’t expect too much of an easy ride either!

When I say this game is tricky, don’t think rocket science. Everything is very achievable. However, we got far too comfortable in the early going and let time drift away with us. This isn’t purely about difficulty – think about volume! There are A LOT of puzzles in this room! They really come thick and fast and vary immensely.

As regular readers will know I am a massive fun of physical puzzles. This room is loaded with them. And, brilliantly, they are all in-keeping with theme. You’ll find no digital shenanigans in this room. Sure, there is lots of clever tech going on behind the scenes in this one, but don’t go expecting to see that on display openly. Think locks, levers, pulleys etc! All right up my street!

Don’t go losing your head now!

As the illusive barber says, don’t go losing your head! As a team of four, this game played really well. The flow is superb and the surprises just keep coming. There is a subtle innovation behind this game and you can really tell that the owners have gone to great lengths to make this game a real showpiece. As ever, no spoilers, however its really easy to get lost in the atmosphere of this game. An eerie soundtrack keeps you on your toes, the volume of puzzles coming thick and fast – linear game moments followed rapidly by non linear game play. Lots of times when the team needs to come together and a number of times where you can go it alone. The flow really is superb.

I am the type of player who tends to go head first into most puzzles and doesn’t always thick of the bigger picture. Here, make sure to pay close attention to detail. There were a handful of occasions where time could certainly have been saved if I’d actually paid closer attention to the details that were presented! My awesome team mates pointed out on a few of these occasions that I needed to slow down (and yep, they were right!).

An ever-evolving storyline

Often is the case, that when entering a room, the understanding is that you need to escape. True is that fact with this room, however… As this experience evolves, you’ll find yourself deeper immersed into the storyline behind this demonic barber. To save the entirety of the team having to read into finer details on evidence that is presented, a well-timed audio soundtrack ensures that everyone understands the full story. And, without giving too much away, this game, with its 90 minute play time, certainly packs a punch when it comes to story and set.

A really close shave!

When all was said and done, we scraped by in a really close time of 87 mins 23 secs – a close shave when the barber was due to return! All the games we’ve played at Mythologic have been pretty impressive but this one takes it to another level. Awesome scenery, great action, a brilliant mix of puzzles (and a massive volume of them too!), customer service continuing to be outstanding, and overall just a fabulous well-rounded experience. As a side note, this is my girlfriends first ever escape room (yeah, I know right?!), and its already given her the bug! So although I’d air this game towards slightly more experienced players given the volume of puzzles, its evident that a newcomer will enjoy it just the same (she was actually really good in the room too – insert jealous face emoji here!).

I’d agree that a team of four works really well for this room; a 2 would be a major push to complete this within the time frame – although I’d love to see a pair give this a good try! Is the room generally family friendly – I’d say so. There’s no actors or jump scares to be concerned by. Sure the play area is generally quite dark, and there are some fabulously creepy props here and there, particularly as the game develops, however young teenagers and above wouldn’t have any issues in this room.

So sit back in the barbers chair, don’t get too comfy, a short back and sides will be more than you bargained for when entering this escape room!

To book Mr Todd’s at Mythologic Escape Rooms Gillingham, head to their website here.

Ratings

Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse | Review

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Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse Review | The legend tells that certain people who are blessed with the gift of deciphering and solving the most complex puzzles descend from dark pacts of blood. But now, an evil curse hangs over their shoulders, one that is taking the life of more than a hundred people. 

The Butterfly Curse” is an original horror escape game that mixes physical and digital puzzles with dark narrative to immerse you in a such terrifying experience that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction.

Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: 28th November 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Challenging

Welp… Definitely a game for a dark night!

We sat down on an extremely snowy afternoon to try out Key Enigma’s game, ‘The Butterfly Curse’. After Mairi had warned us that word on the street was that The Butterfly Curse was a real ‘scary’ play at home game, we were very excited to see what we would find within the ominous red envelope!

It had a number of “ah-ha” moments as you always want to see in an escape game, but The Butterfly Curse was also markedly different. There were also a number of ‘AHHHH’ moments, especially when we finally got around to opening that sealed envelope. Al was watching the screen through her fingers at some points, and insisted that we turn the volume down after being made to jump off her seat (on more than one occasion).

Before we started playing this game, Ash already had a fear of butterflies… Turns out, she might have been on to something!

Just your average, friendly BuzzFeed quiz…right?

We’ve all sat and played the classic online quizzes, wondering which Friends character we would be, or which Disney princess we would marry, but we can’t say we’ve ever done an online quiz quite like the one that welcomed us into The Butterfly Curse. It started off so normal… Until everything seemed to go terribly, terribly wrong! We were so impressed at what Key Enigma have managed to create – it is easily one of the most immersive web elements of a play at home game that we have had the pleasure of using.

The introduction was perfectly pitched – it was scary, the puzzles ranged in difficulty, and the general preface of the story was set up so well. We were very excited (read: Al was scared) to see where our journey would take us.

A word of advice: Definitely make sure you play the introduction first – it’s well worth it!

Image (c) Key Enigma

Your run of the mill friendly internet stranger

We soon got our heads stuck into the game, after finding out that we had been cursed by Farglos(!) (which Al kept reading as Fergus lol), to see if we could make it out alive. You are taken in by a helpful internet stranger, who becomes your guide for the rest of the game. The game functions through an online portal, as you solve puzzles using physical components, plus information that you find on the in-game website.

This combination worked really well as you were guided nicely through each step, making it clear which puzzle was next, and what to use when. We really liked this, as it stopped us getting super distracted by exciting items we found in the envelope, which we wouldn’t actually use until about 5 puzzles in. We had to use the hint system a couple of times to get some nudges (Al does not perform well under fear). Luckily, the clue system is set up nicely to give you a few hints before offering the full solution (useful if you really are paralysed with fear – or if you bang your head falling off your chair from a jump scare – looking @ u Mairi).

Welp x2 – what an ending!

The game finishes on an excellent climax, producing one of the most ‘thrilling’ final envelope openings of any game we have played. We had been looking at the mysterious ‘do not open’ envelope throughout our play, wondering what on earth was inside, and whether it would save us from an eternity of being Farglos’ slaves…

No spoilers – but everyone should play the game just for the ending. It was high tension, high drama, and Key Enigma have done really well to re-create the ‘buzz’ of that final puzzle of a real-life escape room. Anyone who has played this will know what we are talking about!

Overall – this was a wonderful game, with clever tricks and turns. Turn off your lights, close the curtains, and hope for the best when you eventually open your sealed envelope…

You can buy The Butterfly Curse here:
https://keyenigma.com/products/horror-escape-room-the-butterfly-curse.

Ratings

No Escape: The Haunted Toy Store | Review

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The Haunted Toy Store Review | An abandoned toy store looms over an otherwise charming village. People tell stories of weird noises and strange happenings, toys found in odd places and children going missing. Nobody has been brave enough to attempt to solve the mysteries of the toy store that is, until you…

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 29th October 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy-ish

I’ve got a reputation on The Escape Roomer for being a little bit of a scaredy cat… Dark Spaces? Ghosts? Asylums? No thank you.

I listen in horror as Al and Ash chat about all the UK’s scariest games they’ve played and instead ‘reminisce’ about the time I went to the London Dungeon and had to be escorted out because I got too scared and started crying. It would be a funny story if I’d been a child… Only I was 17 at the time!

But when our group committed to playing a scary escape room over Halloween, I figured what the heck – if you can’t get scared witless on Halloween, then when can you? No Escape, bring it on!

A Hauntingly Good Halloween at No Escape

For No Escape’s special Halloween weekend, we went for what sounded like the least scary game they run: The Haunted Toy Store. Somehow ghosts feel more manageable than walking into a blood splattered cutting floor- which made being greeted at the entrance by a terrifying butcher in full character, sporting a human ear necklace all the more chilling.

For one weekend only in 2021, each of No Escape’s escape rooms at both of their London sites had a live actor in the room with the teams. It’s important to note that normally, their rooms are not live actor rooms, but given the circumstances I think The Haunted Toy Store was vastly improved with the presence of a creepy clown throwing red herrings our way. The creepy clown was an actor, Nicole, and just outside the room our games master was Holly.

We resolved to enter the room and pretend as if we wouldn’t be scared and in the end I think we made the right decision. I think without the live actor the room itself would have been fairly average and not too scary- but if you’re into creepy cursed dolls and children’s toys coming to life, then you’ll probably enjoy it all the same! No jump scares in the original, but plenty in the Halloween special! So a huge shout out to Holly and Nicole for that!

Pitch Black… Cackling Laughter

We began our briefing being told that this was a mysterious toy shop. The day before a boy had come into the room and cut himself quite badly, but when they’d returned to clean it up all the blood had mysteriously disappeared. Creepily, so had the boy – not a trace of him since.

The doors then swung open and we were in pitch darkness. As cackling laughter rose out of the corner, we quickly realised we were not alone! Our first actor interaction began in this room, which I feverishly tried to ignore, rushing past them to start busying myself with anything else. A word of warning: It’s quite hard to try to look for a light switch when you have your eyes closed.

From here, we were off to a flying start. The Haunted Toy Store is essentially a two-room escape room that pretty much looks and feels exactly like a toy shop from everyone’s worst nightmare. Plenty of dolls staring out at you from shelves, and plenty of toys that have had heads and limbs ripped off. So many distorted faces, dark corners and eerie sounds!

*shudders*

How did we escape the Haunted Toy Store?

The puzzles in this escape room were fairly straightforward and we managed to escape with a respectable time that put us right at the top of the Halloween leader board. I’d probably pitch the general puzzles at an easier-than-average level, but that’s not to say we didn’t get immensely stuck from time to time! No sir. The presence of a creepy clown made it all the harder.

There was a bit of searching and finding, plenty of children’s toys, some of which had clues and others were just for display, as well dials to turn, things to count and a few 3 and 4 digit codes. This all led to a meta puzzle which combined lots of the room and took us the longest to get right! There were also a few red herrings in the game which are usually a no-no in escape rooms, but we all felt they worked pretty well in a room like this. Red herrings can go a long way to building up atmosphere and forcing you to spread out (and away from the safety of numbers!)

Over the course of The Haunted Toy Store we asked for two hints. One of these was delivered via a screen in the room, and the other was given by the live actor in the room. Since this room is not usually available with a live actor, I don’t mind telling you that she had us all holding hands and singing ring-a-ring-a-roses followed by lots of screaming in order to receive the clue. I still have nightmares!

The Verdict

Overall, we had a lot of fun! We screamed quite a few times – but thankfully not as many as the butcher room next door to us, so I think we made the right choice!

There are a few ‘meh’ reviews of the company and the room out there, and I can see that without a live actor it probably wouldn’t appeal to hardcore enthusiasts as much. We were there for a good time, a couple of screams, and that’s exactly what we got – so no complaints.

For the special Halloween edition, we paid £35 per ticket which is also fairly expensive, even for London, but we’d still recommend the experience for the right team. Especially at Halloween.

The Haunted toy Store can be booked on No Escape’s website here. Please note, this review is of their special Halloween version of the room available from the 28th – 31st of October 2021. This involved a live actor in the room, which is not typically available.

Ratings

Morpheus Show: Locked Down | Review

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Morpheus Show Locked Down Review | You wake to find yourself in a strange place. Memories distorted – a jigsaw puzzle of violence and horror. But what happened? As you explore your new surroundings, the pieces begin to slot together. There was a deadly virus. Mass panic. Riots. A civil war. There is now just one hope for civilization: you.

Completion Time: 2 hours
Date Played: 3rd November 2021
Party Size: 4 (+2)

Before setting out to play a Morpheus Show experience I read a lot of reviews. It seemed like this would be unlike anything else I’d ever played… And yes, despite reading up and getting in the zone as best I could, nothing could have prepared me for what the actual experience was like.

Instead I loaded up the Zoom call with my team with Rebecca, and Escaping the Closet, donned a blindfold, and was transported into an incredible, slightly terrifying, immersive world.

Live Action RPG Meets Thriller Meets Escape Room

So let’s address the elephant in the room – what is Locked Down and how does Morpheus Show work exactly?

Morpheus is an online interactive & immersive audio theatre experience, Morpheus takes place entirely in your mind as you are blindfolded and the world around you is described and implied solely by audio clues. Each guest will create their own visual interpretation of the show.

Morpheus Show ‘About’ Page

What this means is that it is a hosted, auditory adventure. No need for fancy graphics, because the whole game takes place entirely within your head. Your imagination is quite literally the limit.

You and up to 5 other players put on a blindfold and the game is described to you by the host.

“You wake up in an unfamiliar room”

As a team, you must move together. Meaning the situation is described to you and whilst individual characters can do different things… Such as Rebecca donning a dressing down whilst my character chose to stare out the window… you must make a decision as a group to move to a new location or explore something closer. In this way, it’s a little but like Dungeons and Dragons. Players can call out their action and the Games Master will respond accordingly, describing what then happens.

Because the game is played with a blindfold on, it’s also (probably accidentally) totally accessible for a blind audience. I thought this was really nice, as it’s a question we hear from time to time. Access Escape is generally seen as the leading company in accessible escape room experiences, but it’s cool to know there’s another on the scene.

The moments after we all put our blindfolds on…

Welcome to the Apocalypse

In Locked Down, players wake up in a dark room with a headache and fragmented memories about how they got there. Moments before we had been driving through London happily, embarking upon a trip, not a care in the world. Suddenly disaster struck – our car crashed! Days later, the hospital is dark and not a soul can be found.

In our playthrough of Locked Down it quickly became evident that a terrible virus had swept the world leaving few people remaining. Those that had survived were fragmented into militias. A tannoy overhead kept repeating more and more dystopian messages and as we crept through the hospital eerie screams and crashes reminded us of the horror outside.

Being in the middle of a pandemic ourselves, the experience was horribly close to home. For this reason it was all the more exciting too. The current climate, a deadly disease, and just a dash of Day of the Triffids thrown into the mix.

The show actually predates the global pandemic. Produced way back in 2018 by Yana Greene, the script was then adapted from the original Russian and converted into a play-at-home format.

Your Imagination is the Scariest Place to Be

From start to finish the whole experience was wildly immersive. I’m always a little sceptical when experiences take place ‘in your imagination’, but it turns out your imagination is often the scariest place to be. Not knowing what lurked around the next corner or what we might find was the chilling part. We’d hear a noise, and the group would panic and hide. For better or for worse, he outcomes were ours to decide.

Coming from a background of playing live-avatar escape rooms via Zoom, the only jarring thing about moving to Morpheus Show’s format was playing with strangers. Especially with our blindfolds on, it’s hard to know who you’re talking to. Instead, you have only the faceless voices of strangers you’ve never met before.

The game sets up the premise of ‘being with friends’, but unlike live avatar escape rooms (with mostly offer exclusive bookings for teams of 2-6), or even live roleplay games playing Dungeons and Dragons, the synergy of playing with friends and having a common goal was lacking. As such, some players took a more dominant role, making decisions collectively was met with resistance, and we struggled not to talk over one another during high-action scenes.

That said, of course it wouldn’t be fair to judge Morpheus Show on our escape room expectations. We just mention it as a word of advice for any escape room enthusiast wishing to book an exclusive show. A lot of folks will probably love being put in with strangers, and for sure there’s a kind of magic to starting as strangers and ending the show was best friends!

The Verdict

Overall we loved Locked Down. Morpheus Show is a wholly unique experience and we were blown away by the storytelling and production value that’s gone into it.

We’ve also chosen to award this show our ‘I Believe’ award for it’s incredible level of immersion. Sitting in the dark with nothing but your imagination is one thing, but the way this show manages to elevate your heart rate and send real shivers up your spin is quite another. At many points in the show I gasped out loud, and at many more moments I considered taking my blindfold off for a break from the vivid scenes. Truly Locked Down transports you to another world and for those two hours we lost sight of what was real or not anymore.

Locked Down can be booked on Morpheus Show’s website here.

Ratings

E-Scape Rooms: The Alp | Review

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The Alp Review | The Alp is here. He won’t leave and you can’t run away. He waits for the night to fall. When you lay your head to rest, he will be there.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: March 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

I absolutely love the horror genre, and with that comes the excitement of horror escape rooms. The unsettling feeling of fear combined with time sensitive puzzle solving gives me such an adrenaline rush, so I was eager to play E-Scape Room Games’ The Alp.

An unsettling horror themed game with brilliant puzzles and an excellent eerie narrative

We played as a group of three over Zoom and were each invited to join the game on our separate devices. Our narrator is introduced through some mysterious black and white footage, and he begins to describe a house with a dark past. On moving into the house, his wife started to experience horrific nightmares until one morning, she didn’t wake up. Soon enough, the narrator starts to experience these nightmares for himself. It’s up to us to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late.

The game begins and we’re free to explore the first room. We’re all able to explore separate areas of the room at the same time by dragging and clicking, and if anything of significance happens we’re all redirected to a video simultaneously to ensure we don’t miss a thing. Many of the puzzles require teamwork and communication from different areas of the room, and the game makes it really easy to co-ordinate this.

The puzzles are a mix of cyphers, deduction, pattern spotting and some algebra thrown in to test our school day memories. They fit in with the theme perfectly, and are supplemented by an eerie soundtrack which allow the puzzles to flow nicely with the story. Game design means it’s always clear what the task in hand is, and progress is marked with several sinister videos deepening the feeling of immersion.

The hint system is simple, and you can select which area of the room you need help with along with step by step clues designed to not give too much away.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this room. Although one addition to the ending of the story took us away from the immersion slightly**, we were suitably spooked and relieved with our decision to play in daylight.

Note: This review was originally published on March 7th 2021 on Borderline Puzzler. ** the ending has since changed.

E-Scape Rooms are currently offering The Alp for just £5.49 with the discount code ALPINTRO666, which is an absolute bargain for this game.

Ratings

Hysteria Escape Rooms: Aftermath | Review

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Hysteria Escape Rooms: Aftermath Review | In a world where the infected kill & eat the living, how much time does anyone really have? In a secret facility a team is working on a cure to the zombie virus but communications are down and we need to send in a response team… CAN YOU AVOID INFECTION & HELP SAVE HUMANITY?

Completion Time: 54 Mins 55 Secs
Date Played: 30 June 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

This is the first room that was designed by the guys at Hysteria and they really hit the ground running – This is an awesome, well paced experience which is an exceptional challenge.

Based on the fact that you need to find an antidote and escape from the clutches of a zombie apocalypse, this is one of those rooms where the pressure certainly builds. Another room where the the point is to ESCAPE!, this hit a home run with me and the team.

Good use of props, some well timed surprises, a simple yet exciting plot,  as well as some really well put together puzzles (many of which I hadn’t seen before!), this certainly puts this room up their with our personal favourites. The sense of tension within this adds to the atmosphere.

Would I recommend this room?

Yes, certainly. Great room, great atmosphere and hugely enjoyable. You will not be dissapointed! 

Who would I recommend it to? 

There are handful of trickier puzzles which may fox the most experience escapist, so maybe players that have a few games under their belt however if you want a challenge, this would be a great benchmark game for beginners.  

How many players would I recommend?

3-4 would be a great number in this room. Although not huge in size, the puzzles often need more than 1 brain! Communication is certainly key in this room. 

Suitable for Children?

Not young children! Hysteria suggest 12+ which I would agree with with.

Ratings