Hidden City: Moriarty’s Game | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Moriarty’s Game

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Team The Escape Roomer stopping for a cheeky drink

 

Is Hidden City Wheelchair Accessible or Dog Friendly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Treasure Trails: Greenwich and the Time Machine | Review

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Greenwich and the Time Machine Review | Ahoy, me hearties! We need pirate adventurers for this self-guided treasure hunt around Greenwich. Hunt high and low through the riverside borough of Greenwich and reveal stories of its rich maritime history (including the famous Cutty Sark – the last remaining tea clipper)! There’s green, there’s mean, and there’s a time-travelling machine!

Completion Time: ~2 hours
Date Played: 23rd April 2022
Party Size: 2
Location: Greenwich
Difficulty: Easy

Looking for a family friendly outdoor puzzle trail in London (or even around the UK for that matter), look no further than Treasure Trails!

Once you’ve done a lot of the puzzle trails in London you’ll know a lot of the themes revolve around things like defusing bombs, catching a serial killer, busting international drug syndicates, or finding the antidote to a deadly poison in the waterways – which are all great in their own right, but sometimes you just want to go on a traditional pirate treasure hunt equipped with a map and eyepatch.

Enter: Greenwich and the Time Machine.

 

 

About Treasure Trails UK

Treasure Trails was founded in 2005 and is a company I have personally grown up with. In fact, no family holiday was complete without my mum downloading and printing a treasure trail booklet to the local town or countryside spot we were visiting. Despite the ever-obscure areas, Treasure Trails was reliably there.

But despite my fond memories, they’re not just for kids. On a sunny Saturday morning Georgie and I got together in Greenwich – a location a short boat ride away for the both of us, to take on one of London’s most popular Treasure Trail to find out what it was like playing ‘as a grown up’. And let me tell you, it was still just as brilliant as the first time, many years ago.

In London there are around 62 Treasure Trails available – either as a printed booklet shipped directly to you, or as a PDF download. One of the most popular London trails is Greenwich and the Time Machine. We opted for the print-at-home version and in just a few minutes, off we were!

 

 

Hunting for Pirate Treasure in Greenwich

Our mission began near the Cutty Sark, an old tea clipper moored in Greenwich. We needed to team up with a time travelling expert, Merri Deehan, to go back in time and rescue an historical ring from an evil, time travelling green witch. The ring, banished somewhere in time and space was our only key to ‘saving the world’ – or something like that anyway. The important thing to know was that we were on the search of treasure lost not only spatially, but temporally too. Along our way we’d be accosted by the green witch and her minions, but not to worry. Georgie and I were on the case!

The game requires a printed out piece of paper – or the booklet – and follows 18 clues around Greenwich, each split into “Directions” and “Clue”. At the end of each “Directions” we’d find ourselves at a new location, then had to solve the “Clues” to get a location. This location could be found on a map that was handily included at the back of our booklet. Every location you cross off is a location the treasure is definitely NOT buried at. Leaving you with the true location by the end of the trail. Don’t forget to bring a pen to cross off each location as you go!

 

Merri Deehan… Wait, why does that name sound significant?

Greenwich is famous for a lot of things but above all it’s famous for being the home to the Meridian Line. You know, Greenwich Mean Time, the solar time at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. I’m no historian, so I’ll let Wikipedia do the explaining on this one:

As the United Kingdom developed into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was considered to have longitude zero degrees, by a convention adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884. Synchronisation of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, led to GMT being used worldwide as a standard time independent of location.

Point being, if you’re interested in the history of time, then this is a fantastic place to explore. We spotted a lot of cool clocks and even got to stand on the meridian line itself, how fantastic?!

 

Georgie standing on the Meridian line in Greenwich

 

But beyond the historical significance, Greenwich is a really lovely area of London and one I’m not used to exploring. It was a beautiful sunny way with boats floating lazily up the river, and a fantastic view of London in all directions. The houses we passed were gothic and dramatic, and the food at the various markets and pubs delicious. Treasure Trails or not, visiting Greenwich is a must-do for anyone visiting London, and we can’t think of anything better than to spend your time there solving puzzles.

 

For Kids, or Adults?

The whole thing errs on the side of fairly easy, and definitely won’t challenge an escape room enthusiast – but the real joy to playing a Treasure Trail isn’t being stuck in with difficult puzzles and riddles, it’s being able to take the route in your own pace and see the sights. We particularly loved being able to stop at any cafe we liked along the route and even take a detour into some of the fantastic museums. In fact, if you wanted to you could break this walking trip up into several days. There’s nothing stopping you and that’s nice.

With that in mind, we’d definitely suggest this is a game more targeted towards young people. We both remarked that it would be good for kids aged 6 – 12. A great way to introduce little ones to the wonderful world of puzzling but definitely still fun enough to capture the interests of players up to 12. On the route we spotted several other teams also playing the game and most of those also had young kids with them. Between us we were mid-20s, and we loved it though, so it just goes to show!

 

 

Although to say it’s easy would also be slightly unfair as we did get a little stuck on a few moments. However this was largely on the “Directions” side rather than the “Clues”. We also finished the Treasure Trail with *gasp* two locations un-crossed-out on our treasure map, meaning we couldn’t definitively decide where the treasure was buried. Whoops – we’d missed a clue! But thankfully taking plenty of photos of all the spots got us back on track to the correct answer.

A word of advice to prospective players – the locations tend to be quite close together, so if you go too far down one route and don’t come to a solution, it may be worth doubling back on yourself!

 

The Verdict

Anything by Treasure Trails is pretty much guaranteed to be fun. You know exactly what you’re getting – several ours of exploring a fun location packed with puzzles and little clues that revolve around the local landmarks.

In playing the Greenwich trail, I see why it’s the most popular. Some of the sights it took us around were lovely – brilliant coffee shops, a bustling market, a fantastic view of the city, and even some stops for museums. It was quite literally a perfect day out. We’d never have walked that particular route together if not for the trail and for that I’m super grateful. It’s reliably good fun for kids and adults alike and I’d definitely recommend it.

 

 

The Greenwich Treasure Trail can be purchased as a PDF or booklet by heading to Treasure Trails’ website here.

The Tomb Raider Live Experience | Review

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This summer London comes alive with a whole host of brand new not-quite-escape-room immersive experiences. From the Gunpowder Plot, to The Burnt City, and now the very latest: Tomb Raider the Live Experience. This week we were invited along before the doors officially open to try our hands at being Lara Croft for ourselves.

It was time to put on our shorts, tie our hair back, and leap into the action!

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

What is Tomb Raider the Live Experience?

First and foremost, what actually is Tomb Raider the Live Experience? To be sure, it’s not an escape room. Well, not quite anyway.

You and a team of up to 8 intrepid explorers (note, non-exclusive bookings) join Professor Lara Croft on an adventure that’ll take you quite literally around the world. You’re part of her university course and as her top 8 students, the fate of the world is in your hands! But beware, there are nefarious forces working against you.

Starting in Professor Croft’s study, you’re sucked in a whirlwind of adventure, first travelling to an icy cabin in Finland, then into a dangerously sinking ship, before disembarking (by portal, of course) into the heart of the jungle in Costa Rica. Throughout your adventure your goal is quite simple: Recover as many ‘Relics’ as possible. These relics are small orbs that fit within the palm of your hand. The maximum you can get is around 16.

In our particular team, including us at The Escape Roomer and our new friends at Scare Tour, we managed to complete the challenge with a respectable 8 relics in the bag. Enjoyably, we also managed to complete several ‘hidden’ tasks, which was a very nice reveal by our host at the end – but no spoilers as to what those are, you’ll just have to wait and see! 8, or 16… It’s no easy feat! Different relics pose different challenges and some of those quite challenging indeed.

The main way players obtain relics is by solving escape-room style puzzles. Here at The Escape Roomer, we were big fans of these. We only wish we had more time in those sections of the game! Players can also expect to find them hidden around in odd places, as well as the chance to complete physical challenges to obtain those oh-so-shiny relics.

So is it an escape room? No, not really. You’re not escaping, you’re going on a scripted adventure. In some rooms there are puzzles to solve and goals to complete, but it’s a lot more than an escape room. Let’s get into that further.

 

Photo by Us

 

Crawling, Zipping and Leaping!

The best thing about Tomb Raider the Live Experience is the physicality of it. There are very few other experiences that require you to get quite so ‘down and dirty’ than this one- and yes, I mean that quite literally! I’m still brushing off sand from my knees and finding bits of bark in my hair a day later! Each time we rounded a corner and found a new, exciting looking physical challenge, my heart fluttered a little. What would they expect us to do next? Jump from a high height, fire another weapon, or get down on the floor?

For this reason however, there’s a big ol’ note on accessibility to mention. Whilst the best source of information is their own FAQ, our impression is that the experience as a whole isn’t suitable for folks with accessibility needs, or folks who might be pregnant. If any player does have any accessibility need and would like to to skip a section the actors are on-hand to help a player through or bypass it for them entirely. So, yes, you could skip whole sections. But since this is the centrepiece of the whole experience, you would be missing the star of the show!

Still unsure? From the main lobby there’s an enormous window overlooking the most physical part of the experience and all but a few of the ‘most physical’ challenges are visible before you even take part. So you could decide ahead of time what you’re comfortable with and what not.

For a spoiler free list of what physical challenges to expect – highlight the below:

  • A zipwire (~2m tall, 20m long)
  • A leap of faith, forwards or backwards (~2m tall)
  • An army-style obstacle course involving crawling and climbing
  • Ducking and crouching
  • Firing a bow and arrow
  • Crawling through a pitch black tunnel with stairs

Photo by Us!

 

…And Solving Puzzles?

As this is The Escape Roomer, we’re always looking out for fun puzzles to solve. Tomb Raider the Live Experience has plenty of them. In fact, too many puzzles as there was definitely not enough time to solve everything.

For the average escape room enthusiast, this may leave a slightly bad taste in your mouth. Since this is a timed event you’ll be able to spend no more than 10, maybe 15 minutes in each location and after interacting with the actor(s) in the room, there’s not much time left for solving puzzles. Each location can cater for up to 8 players at once, so whilst the spaces are large, a lot of people may be crowding around one thing.

Over the course of the entire experience, I solved one puzzle in it’s entirely. It was a great feeling. There were a further three that I was able to engage with but did not have enough time to solve. At one point I held a 4 digit lock in my hands and was just about to enter the last digit when the actor came over, took it from my hands, and hurried me along. Noooooo- I stare wistfully at the relic in the box just seconds away from me claiming it. For this reason I mention again, it may leave a slightly bad feeling for escape room enthusiasts, because we are enthusiasts because we love to solve puzzles. Being shown puzzles and having them whisked away wasn’t as fun as it could have been.

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

“Everything lost is meant to be found”

I am sure that fans of the Lara Croft franchise will love this experience. Personally, I’ve never played any of the Lara Croft games and so I don’t mind admitting that a lot of the story was lost on me. At any given moment, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on – and I could tell that I wasn’t alone. In our team consisting mostly of strangers there were more than a few blank looks as the actors asked us a question and we weren’t sure what or how to reply. Simple things like who we can trust and who we were up against might have done with a little more explaining – but as I say, hardcore fans familiar with the ins and the outs of the franchise likely won’t have that issue.

Part adventure game, part scripted – there’s a lot of actor interaction and each person we met along our journey played their role with gusto and enthusiasm! One or two actors perhaps a little too enthusiastically as increasingly aggressive orders were barked at us when we weren’t sure what we were supposed to do, but I’ll not fault the actors for teething issues on the first night.

 

The Verdict

Overall, we did had fun at Tomb Raider the Live Experience. It is a very physical experience with an on-site bar in a prime London location, making it a good spot for teambuilding activities or birthday parties. Tomb Raider the Live Experience comes in at £77 – £99 per person, though if you’re lucky you might just nab a “super off peak” ticket for £66.

Since we are ‘The Escape Roomer’, we have to ask whether we’d recommend it for escape room enthusiasts and to that I would say probably not. It’s a very fast-paced experience where teams are herded through impressive physical spaces, but that doesn’t leave much time for solving puzzles. There’s few things more dissatisfying in an escape room than not solving all the puzzles, but unlike a real escape room there’s no games master to explain ‘what you missed’ after. For every ‘yay’ moment of taking part in something physical, there were many more moments of confusion and dissatisfaction.

That said, if you’re looking for something ‘a little different’ and enjoy running, jumping and hopping around through the jungle, then this might be for you. In particular, we really enjoyed taking part in activities outside of our comfort zone. It’s not every Thursday night I get to climb ropes and leap off things backwards with my eyes shut. And hey, no matter what anybody says, I didn’t scream that loud. Okay, maybe a little bit loud.

For now, I think I’ll stick with Lara Croft on my video game consoles, but I’m excited to see if and how the experience will evolve in the future.

 

If you wish to try Tomb Raider the Live Experience for yourself, head to their website here.

The Secret City: Murder on the Don | Review

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The Secret City: Murder on the Don | A local resident has been found dead after playing a mysterious game. The only way to catch the killer? Joining the next round. Solve cryptic and sinister tasks as you work with Sherlock Holmes to try to figure out the identity of the game’s murderous creator. Fail, and you might be their next victim.

This outdoor escape game offers an engaging new way to experience Sheffield. Explore the historic city, its pubs, statues and street art, as winding clues lead you to the heart of a deadly mystery. Will you be able to catch the killer, or will you be forced to survive by other, less heroic means… 

Completion Time: 1 hour 42 minutes (plus a couple breaks as recommended by Sherlock)
Date Played: 17th April 2022
Party Size: 3 + a bulldog!
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Difficulty: Medium

We struck gold with the BEST weather we could ask for to take on The Secret City’s ‘Murder on the Don’ outdoor experience. It was also the vegan market in the centre of Sheffield, so it was a double win-win for us to be out and about exploring the city! 

Prior to heading down to town, Ash received clear instructions from the Secret City team instructing us how we would access the game and what to expect. We’ve never used the Telegram app before, and we were really impressed with how well it functioned! It helped boost the immersion with ‘real-time’ messages and clues that progressed alongside the storyline, helping to give the experience, that ‘buzz’ of adrenaline that can be sometimes hard to capture outside of a physical room. 

The game began at Devonshire Green. We were called upon by our friend, Sherlock Holmes, to assist him with a recent murder case. From there, we were thrust into a race against time to play along with the mysterious ‘murder game’ that had been involved with some recent homicide cases (just some light-hearted Easter fun!!! It was a bit more time-pressured than your average Easter hunt).

Initially, I must admit that we were all very sceptical of Sherlock’s role – could we trust our favourite detective?! 

 

So far managing to stay ahead of Sherlock….

 

One Sunny Day in Sheffield

The puzzles were great. We were looking at our city through new eyes! It was a combination of following directions (which were often given to you in riddles), noticing things around the area and then applying these to a ‘puzzle’ to work out a solution that was input into the Telegram app. It was really handy that we were given the total number of tasks at the start, so we could easily see our progress, and how much we still had to complete (side note, the bulldog managed about 18 of the 23 tasks – Maggie was a 10/10 companion, although she did mean we took way longer as everyone understandably wanted to give her fuss and attention).

The game itself had in-built breaks which were very welcome, and recommended local businesses nearby to try out – very much a win-win!

 

Taking a much needed pit stop at one of the great bars recommended to us!

 

We should caveat our commentary on this game with the fact that all three players are very familiar with the city of Sheffield (although despite living here all her life Tasha can still get lost hehe). However, we managed to visit places we had never been before, which was amazing! The scope of this game was great, it took us all throughout the city, visiting the classic spots such as the cathedral, the Riverside, the steel works at Kelham Island before finishing at the beautiful Victoria Quays!

For people who are new to the city, or those that are steel-city legends themselves, this is definitely one to play. 

 

Tasha seeing our city in a whole new light!

 

The Verdict

The ending was delivered well – it was dramatic and provided a satisfactory finale to our playthrough. A nice touch was the list of recommendations for nearby pubs etc that the game gave us (big shout out again for this, what a good feature!).

We will definitely be keen to check out the other games on offer by The Secret City. What a fab activity for the upcoming summer months and such a brilliant way to discover somewhere new or get a new perspective of a well-loved city!

 

Murder on the Don can be booked for Sheffield by heading to Secret City’s website here.

If you wish to play at another location, a similar story is also available in New York and Sydney.

Urban Missions: Bomb Disposal Lambeth | Review

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Bomb Disposal Lambeth Review | The Agency has got wind of a possible plot to detonate an explosive in central London. They have identified some suspects and need your help to interrogate them, find the criminal mastermind behind the plot and dismantle the bomb.

Completion Time: 1hr 30
Date Played: 16th April 2022
Party Size: 4 + a dog!
Location: Lambeth, Parliament
Difficulty: Easy

At this point I’ve done so many outdoor puzzle games in London, yet I still love them to bits. Most of us here at The Escape Roomer each have a particular sector in the puzzle game world they specialise in and for me, I cannot get enough of anything that gets me in my walking shoes and exploring quaint and curious alleyways around London. I mention it as this point I feel like I can quickly recognise a good outdoor puzzle game when I see one! For me, Urban Missions hooked me from the very first clue in the game, and I knew this was something special.

 

You have 45 minutes to defuse the bomb…

Eek! No pressure!

Bomb Disposal: Lambeth starts at the iconic Leake Street Arches – a place where artists from all over the UK come to celebrate street art, eat fantastic food, and take part in indie immersive festivals. This is the perfect place to start an exciting puzzle hunt like this, and a place I was equally surprised to learn my co-players (my parents, brother, and our family dog, Shovell) had never visited before. But we had no time to stop off and take in the sights, as we had a bomb threat to track down and (hopefully) defuse!

Once you meet at the start location, each of us had to text a number to join our team. From there, each member of the team received updates and texts as the game progressed meaning we were all on the same page at the same time. To begin with, the puzzles started slightly more deductive. Actually, the very first puzzle was one of my favourites I’ve ever experienced in an outdoor walking tour, as we were encouraged to retrace the steps of several suspects in order to identify any inconsistencies. Afterwards, the route took on slightly more of a traditional take, giving a series of cryptic clues that we had to follow to each new location. At each location, we had details to look for and hidden codes to decipher, as well as a number of video and audio segments to keep the story on track.

As a team, we all remarked that we found the game to be slightly on the easier side. That said, we still did rack up a fair few penalties at the end for incorrect answers and almost ran out of time. So I suppose, not that easy! The puzzles themselves weren’t too tricky – it’s the type of thing where you receive a clue and it doesn’t quite make sense until you turn a corner and easily spot what it’s referring to. We didn’t get lost at any time and didn’t trip up. That is until the final segment of the game. At the end, there’s a dramatic timer counting down and each incorrect answer knocks more time off it. This time it became less about the location and more about finding numerical codes, which was very exciting. Here the difficulty also ramped up, resulting in a fair few incorrect answers from us as that ever-present clock ticked down.

 

A Modern Whodunnit

In terms of the story, Bomb Disposal Lambeth was fun and full of tension. There is a bomber on the loose hell bent on destroying a particular London landmark and it’s up to you – the eyes and the ears on the ground – to track down the individual and stop them before they can hit the trigger button! The story is told via the texts, but most importantly through a series of video and audio messages, which was a nice touch. There are at least two characters to encounter and it was always fun to see a new video message pop through from one or the other.

It was a simple story, for sure, but why improve up on “there’s a bomb and you’ve gotta stop it”. It’s tried and tested and leaves nothing to the imagination, allowing us to take in the sights and enjoy ourselves with the puzzle rather than thinking about a complex plot.

 

 

Lambeth, Houses of Parliament… And Beyond!

Conveniently the start location for this game is very centrally located, just a stone’s throw from Waterloo and the River Thames. It’s also fully accessible for wheelchair or buggy users, as we never once encountered any steps. Similarly, since all locations are outdoors and even includes a few walks through green spaces, we found the trip to be dog friendly too. All important considerations when picking a walking trail in London!

One thing I would say when playing this game however is to use discretion. No, seriously. If you’re like our team- loud and enthusiastic- you’ll be walking around watching the video content and listening to the audio content on full volume. The theme of the game is defusing a bomb. Well, in Central London saying the word “bomb” out loud is a big no no and we got a lot of looks from police, especially when the route took us near Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. I’d recommend using a code word, like Ice Cream… Quick everyone, we’ve got to get to the ice cream before it melts. Works just as well especially on a sunny day, and you’ll get a lot fewer funny looks.

If you choose to meet for food before you start, I’d recommend wandering down Lower Marsh street for some food. In particular, Balance Cafe is a fantastic spot for salads, cakes, and absolutely gorgeous coffee. Vaulty Towers is another brilliant spot for a drink or a bite to eat, as you can hang out in the treehouse. Though Note: Hidden City’s Cheshire Cat also takes players to this location, so you’ll bump into more than a few other teams on the mobile phones playing a different game. If you prefer to eat afterward, the route ends near the Houses of Parliament. I know this area less, but I would say that there are some lovely sunny parks round there – so perhaps packing a picnic to share on Big Ben’s lawn in front of the river is the way to go. Apparently players can stop the game at any time and take a break, but we weren’t aware and didn’t utilise this feature.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, we enjoyed the game a lot! In particular, I loved how the route took us through some parts of London I’d never, ever been to before, and pushed me to notice details about my surroundings that I’d normally pass by without a second’s glance. It’s reasonably priced for London, and even better when you consider you’re going to get up to 2 hours worth of fun, wandering around this gorgeous city solving puzzles out of it. We played on a very sunny bank holiday weekend, clocked in a comfortable 12,000 steps, and at the end of the day after enjoying an ice cold drink and a slice of cake, I remarked that it has easily been one of the nicest days of 2022 so far.

If you’re looking for a reliably good outdoor puzzle trail, Urban Missions is a great choice. It might not be the most challenging for hardcore enthusiasts, but I guarantee there isn’t anything quite like it, nor on that particular route. Just don’t say anything about a bomb too loudly next to the local police, and you’ll be golden.

 

If you’d like to book Bomb Disposal: Lambeth for yourself, head to Urban Mission’s website here to get started.

StreetHunt Games York: Colombia’s Finest | Review

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StreetHunt Games: Colombia’s Finest Review | Can you spill the beans on what’s happening in Jim Robusta’s coffee company? Jim works alongside people with a shady past and has asked you to sniff out evidence of crime amongst the caffeine.

Time Taken: 2-3 hours 
Date Played: 
9th April 2022
Location: 
York
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: 
Medium

To read our review for Colombia’s Finest London, head here.

An endearing feature of York is that it often smells of chocolate. It’s the nearby Nestlé factory that’s responsible for this as it routinely burps out wonderful aromas and – if the wind catches them right – the whole city gets to indulge. Nasally, at least. However, on the day we took on StreetHunt’s York debut it was equally easy to catch a whiff of coffee on the breeze.

The city’s kind-of-famous Coffee Yard was our mystery’s starting point. At 67 metres, it’s York’s longest snickleway and within spitting distance of numerous coffee servers who keenly cater to those who aren’t quite ready for a pint yet. It’s an apt beginning for a hunt named Colombia’s Finest – a mystery walking tour that charges you with both revealing a murderer and uncovering a drug ring that’s operating within a local coffee company owned by one Jim Robusta.

 

Getting Started with Colombia’s Finest York

To get things rolling you are able to familiarise yourself with the format and key characters of the game via a short introduction that takes place off the clock. It’s far from complicated and each team member is encouraged to use their own device so everyone can be equally involved. The core of this experience is an interactive map that gradually populates with your network of contacts (or Yorkies) who you need to locate, meet and solve environment-based puzzles for. In return they spill their secrets and help you solve the case.

 

 

At the start these ‘Yorkies’ drop onto the map one at a time, easing you into the routine of travelling to their location and scouring the surrounding area for whatever nugget of information they’re demanding as proof of your presence. After a handful of encounters, though, multiple contacts drop onto the map at once, forcing you to form your own logical route to meet as many of them as possible within the 90-minute time limit.

Fortunately, your tipsters place themselves reasonably conveniently. An efficient path to hoover up their info isn’t too tricky to plot and you’re soon systematically ticking them off the list. The puns come thick and fast, and each informant brings with it another aptronym, causing titters and groans in equal measure, but the puzzles that gatekeep the information at each location maintain an impressive level of creativity throughout. Even those of us who felt we had decent knowledge of York’s quirks were occasionally stumped and introduced to minor details that had been successfully ignored for the best part of a decade.

 

Get a move on

An hour and a half is quite a long time. I certainly thought so, anyway. However, the sun was out and it was the weekend, which meant the narrow streets of York were cluttered with people who seemed to be queuing to join the longer queues that would eventually lead them into a tearoom or wizarding shop. This meant some of the more obvious routes from A to B were slower than their longer alternatives. Throw in a real-life run-in with an overly casual barista – who clearly didn’t share our urgency for catching the killer – and it soon became apparent that we needed to pick up the pace to have any hope of success.

Once we’d focussed ourselves, we made decent progress. The software itself is slick and intuitive. Presentation is clear and Robusta himself gets in touch occasionally, asking you to confirm what you’ve discovered so far (presumably to help fix some key details in your brain). A suitable break is suggested just beyond the mid-way point where you can pause the game for as long as you need without penalty and enjoy lunch, drinks or just have a break from weaving between bodies waiting to sample fudge.

Once time is up you are prompted to find somewhere comfortable you can sit and converse before triggering the final 15-minute countdown. This is your opportunity to pull together the information you’ve uncovered and bicker with your team about possible motives before embarking on some official finger pointing. The details you’ve collected throughout the day are simple to review and neatly compiled into categories in-game so, as long as you have a fair number of clues available, piecing together the full picture is relatively straightforward yet still satisfying.

 

The verdict

York is the perfect location for such an activity and if you make a full afternoon of it, take in the sights, and stop for a spot of food along the way then it’s easy to allow yourself to have a great time. Nothing here is going to really tax serious puzzle-solvers, but if taken as a fun day-out with friends or team building exercise then I can wholly recommend it.

If you’d like to book Colombia’s Finest in York, head to this link.

They have also kindly provided me with a promo code for 20% off for The Escape Roomer readers: “THEESCAPEROOMER20”

Witness for the Prosecution | Review

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Witness for the Prosecution Review | Step inside the magnificent surroundings of London County Hall and experience the intensity and drama of Agatha Christie’s gripping story of justice, passion and betrayal in a unique courtroom setting. Leonard Vole is accused of murdering a widow to inherit her wealth. The stakes are high – will Leonard survive the shocking witness testimony, will he be able to convince the jury, and you of his innocence and escape the hangman’s noose?

Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution has been intriguing amateur sleuths since 1925 when she first penned the story in her short story ​​”Traitor’s Hands”. Originally adapted into a stage play in 1953 by Christie, the play has seen the West End, Broadway and a film adaptation. This current production of Witness for the Prosecution takes place in the stunning London County Hall, which served as the headquarters of London’s local government until 1986. The play is performed in-the-round, with the site-specific courthouse setting allowing for very effective immersion during the courthouse scenes.

The show has been described as both immersive and interactive, so, as this is The Escape Roomer, my review will be in two parts. The first will look at the show as a piece of theatre and the second will focus on the immersive and interactive elements of Witness for the Prosecution.

London County Hall. Photo by Grace O’Kefe.

I originally had tickets for Witness for the Prosecution at the end of March 2020 (we all know how that turned out), so I was delighted to have the opportunity to see the play two years later. Director Lucy Bailey immediately establishes a superb level of tension in the nightmarish opening sequence, with Mic Pool’s sound design particularly getting my heart pounding before the courtroom is transformed into the play’s secondary setting: the accused’s barrister’s office. As an American who had spent one entire summer interning at a law firm, occasionally making it into the city’s courts, I was intrigued to see if there were any differences in the British legal system. My takeaway: it seems that we basically stole everything except for the wigs. 

The County Hall is a stunning venue that immediately transports you into the drama and sets the stakes as life or death. My seat in the courtroom stalls was perhaps the comfiest theatre seat I’ve had the pleasure to sit in for two hours. As the performance is in-the-round, you are basically guaranteed to have a great view, although note that there are quite a few flights of stairs to get up to the seats in the galleries.

The cast of Witness for the Prosecution. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Christie’s script is well-paced and timeless, touching on issues of class, gender relations and xenophobia, without ever feeling dated despite being a period piece. The introduction to the case is in the defendant’s barrister’s office, who, as portrayed by Jonathan Firth, has all the wit, vivacity and presence that you’d expect of one of Christie’s detectives. Our defendant Leonard Vole’s arc is actually a very interesting examination of male vulnerability, the role is played with a great deal of sensitivity and range by Joe McNamara throughout the piece.

Witness for the Prosecution is at its best during the courtroom scenes, which allows the site-specific setting as well as its full company of actors to shine. There are many non-speaking characters in the play as various members of the court. In particular, I found myself drawn to the court stenographer, played by Lorna Lowe, who fittingly was an attorney before training at Lamda. Without drawing focus, her reactions to the scandalous court proceedings added a level of realism that reminded me of my time spent observing court cases. 

As this is Agatha Christie, of course, this is no mere courtroom drama, it is also a mystery. Christie’s clever plotting leads us through several twists and turns, and if you’ve managed to remain unspoiled, trying to solve the case alongside the characters is a great deal of fun. Although my guest and I had different guesses of ‘whodunnit’, I must admit we were both entirely wrong. Leave it to Agatha Christie to be ten steps ahead of us even half a century later. Overall, Witness for the Prosecution is a gripping murder mystery and a beautifully-executed piece of theatre.

The cast of Witness for the Prosecution. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Immersion and Interactivity

Sorry Brecht, but the appeal of immersive theatre appears to be here to stay. Over the past few decades, immersion and interactivity have become increasingly prevalent buzzwords in the entertainment industry. The terms are often conflated, but as readers of The Escape Roomer, I hope you’ll indulge me with a brief, very nerdy examination of the two terms. I turn to my favourite scholarly article on the subject (yes, I do have a favourite): Catherine Bouko’s “Interactivity and Immersion in a media-based performance” from 2014. If you are a nerd like me, I highly recommend reading the whole article, but here is my cliff notes version of my understanding of her definitions:

There are three levels of immersion: the first involves the breaking down of the “fourth wall” between performers and actors, the second has the audience placed within an environment and narrative, and the third (which is nearly impossible to achieve without VR or similar technology) sees the audience experiencing confusion between reality and fiction.

A clear definition of interactivity and its varying degrees is more elusive: the baseline for interactivity involves some form of reaction to the participant from the performance, more advanced interactivity allows the audience to make choices that will affect the narrative in a predetermined way, while the final stage of interactivity allows the audience to affect the narrative in unforeseen ways beyond the control of the performance. It’s actually very rare for experiences that we might describe as interactive to reach the later stages of interactivity, as most interactive experiences have a predetermined outcome (or outcomes).

In a way, all live theatre is in some sense both interactive and immersive, as actors on stage feed off the energy and reactions of the audience, allowing the audience to interact with the performance and audience members often feel immersed in a production through the magic of live theatre. That being said, this is The Escape Roomer, so let’s break down how much immersion and interactivity you can expect in Witness for the Prosecution. 

The cast of Witness for the Prosecution. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Is Witness for the Prosecution Immersive or Interactive?

Witness for the Prosecution certainly has immersive elements, chief among them being its site-specific setting. According to the very trusty source of an uncited claim on Wikipedia, “it was always Christie’s wish to see the play in a site-specific location”, and if that is indeed true, you can easily see why: it is a stunningly effective way to bring you into the world of the play. This immersion is slightly undercut during the times when setting switches, despite the set changes being beautifully realised through direction, lighting and sound. While Christie’s script is tightly woven as is, it would be interesting to see a version of the play that was adapted to take place entirely in the courtroom.

The interactive elements of the play are limited to the VIP Jury tickets who decide the fate of the accused. Notably, the tickets come with a reminder that “as a member of the Jury you must shut out from your minds everything except what will take place during the trial”, which seems quite a difficult task as the entire performance plays out in front of you. I was not a member of the jury, so I cannot truly attest to the level of interactivity of the experience. That being said, from my outside perspective, there seemed to be some limit to the amount of influence they had on how the play unfolds. That being said, it seems like an excellent VIP theatrical experience, where you become part of the show and have an increased level of immersion: throughout the play, witnesses, solicitors and the judge speak directly to the jury, the jury has a brief moment to deliberate and the jury foreman gets to announce the verdict. 

Taking this all into account, if asked specifically about the level of immersion and interactivity, I would describe Witness for the Prosecution as a really fantastically executed site-specific piece of theatre that creates a heightened level of theatrical immersion. If you are interested in more immersion, as well as elements of interactivity, I’d recommend going for the VIP Jury tickets. And of course, as with any Agatha Christie mystery, the audience gets to put on their detective hats and decide for themselves: whodunit?

Witness for the Prosecution can be booked at London County Hall here.

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

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

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

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

Criminal Case, or Case of Wine?

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

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

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

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

It was… Magical!

Evans & Peel Menu

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

Dorothy Parker

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

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

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

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

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive | Review

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It’s not theatre, or cinema. It’s not an escape room, theme park ride or VR game. Yes, there are pyrotechnics, projections, holograms and special effects. But this is quite different to an arena show (there are only 8-12 tickets per performance). As London’s multi-award winning, top-rated “immersive night out,” this event combines them all.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience

In an unassuming period building on Leadenhall Street, just a short walk from Bank Station and dwarfed by nearby skyscrapers, a whole new world can be discovered. This building houses Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Immersive Experience, but until you stick your head through the door and notice the enormous Martian towering over the bar, you’d never have believed it!

This live immersive experience has been in London since 2019 but thanks to the pandemic (an event not too dissimilar from the death and destruction the story itself tells), it’s been shut for most of 2020 and 2021. The moment tickets came back on sale, we re-downloaded the album and started getting ready for our very own Martian adventure.

Photo (c) Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive

What to Expect at War of the Worlds Immersive

There’s no denying that Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive is a huge experience, and bookers should be prepared to have their socks blown off over the course of the 2 hour event.

For starters, there are 24 unique scenes. Typically when reviewing escape room experiences, we mention how many unique spaces, or ‘rooms’ there are in an experience. I didn’t think I could be any more impressed after 221B’s five spaces, but The War of the World’s Immersive Experience has 24 unique spaces in it.

Players are guided through each of these 24 scenes, scattered through time and space, to tell the story of the Martian invasion of Earth. You’ll find yourself running through trenches with huge robots up above, slipping down slides, scampering across rickety bridges, entering VR areas such as on a boat or up in a hot air balloon. This thing is huge.

The Earth Under The Martians by Fluid based on originals by Peter Goodfellow, Geoff Taylor and Michael Trim

Of all the areas, the VR sequences were definitely some of the most impressive and they worked well to transport players from one area into another seamlessly. For example, at one point you sit down in a boat, don your headset, and off the boat gentle sails through London. By the time you emerge at the other end of this VR sequence (a bit wet and rather terrified), a clever lighting change gives the impression of being in an entirely different location. Quite clever, really!

According to the creators (Layered Reality) populating the immersive world they’ve created are 17 live actors too. These actors dip and out of your experience, setting the scene and guiding you along the way.

On the day we attended, it was this particular batch of actor’s final show day – and it was a lovely (albeit unexpected) treat to be joined by the bar after our experience by the actors themselves, who were absolutely fantastic.

Photo (c) Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive

Our Experience of the Apocalypse

Currently, you can only book The War of the World’s Immersive Experience in a team size that’s a multiple of 2 – so 2, or 4, or 6 etc. We went as a team of 4 on a quiet Sunday evening and were 8 other players for the show.

The show sizes are small and intimate, and it felt like the team had gone to good lengths to ensure everyone’s safety… Especially in light of the global pandemic. Masks were worn at all times and there were plenty of places along the experience to sanitise your hands, as well as regular cleaning of the equipment inbetween every group.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but what few expectations we did have were totally blown out of the water. Equal parts terrifying, and tense and thrilling, the experience jumped from scene to scene to scene in a fast paced retelling of the War of the Worlds. The story has been lovingly recreated by the Layered Reality team and stunned us from start to finish. Even now, days later, I’m still thinking about it and remembering some small detail in one of their amazingly intricately designed sets.

Was it fun? Oh yes, absolutely! It was incredible.

Was it worth the price? Well, this part is a little bit trickier to answer. The website says tickets start at £40, but we were unable to find any session in the next few months for less than £70 per person. This likely due to Christmas, and peak times – but we can’t help but compare it to escape rooms! This comes in at around double the cost of an average escape room. At this price point, it’s still absolutely worth it. So far, so good, except the experience is definitely geared towards making you spend even more. With two bars on-site that you are required to spend time in, and your team photo costing an extra £12, this puts the price more on the £100 per person range. Slightly cost prohibitive, but they have gone above and beyond making it worth the price. The verdict? Definitely worth it!

…And yes, we definitely did order a drink before to calm our nerves, and a celebratory drink afterwards… Or two… Or three!

Team The Escape Roomer about to enter The War of the Worlds Immersive

The Spirit of Man Bar & Restaurant

We’ve mentioned that there are two bars on this immersive adventure, and with both stocking a fantastic range of delicious cocktails, they’re well worth the trip! In the first, The Spirit of Man, customers are greeted by an enormous Martian towering over the tables pumping coloured steam into the dining area on a rotation times to the music.

The second bar is appropriately named The Red Weed Bar and is located at the 50% mark of your immersive experience. At this point, the Martians have truly taken over the world and those humans left are in hiding… Hiding in the sickly red world the Martians have created. Creepy!

Presently, the bar is offering it’s Christmas menu complete with themed food and cocktails. Whilst we were there we tried:

Christmas Eve of War

The Christmas Eve of War

A delicious concoction of: Dry vermouth, cointreau, disaronno, lemon juice & blackberry syrup. This comes in a martini-style glass and is decorated with blackberries and raspberries. This is one of their winter exclusive cocktails.

The Martiantini

Martiantini

Available all year round, the Martiantini contains Vodka, melon liqueur, green apple liqueur, lime, sugar & cherries.

Not into cocktails? Fear not – both menus also sport a range of regular beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages too.

The Verdict

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Immersive is like nothing else you can experience in London right now and I’m still humming along to the tunes and remembering small but delightful moments days later. My only real regret is not going in the first few months – oh why did I wait so long! *shakes fist at the global pandemic*

It’s a great experience for families, couples, or for a special occasion for that sci-fi fan in your life.

How soon is too soon before I can book another ticket, eh?

Tickets for Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience can be purchased on their website here.

Rating

Monopoly Lifesized | Review

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Monopoly Lifesized Review | All the most well-loved elements of a classic Monopoly gameplay have been translated into an exciting 4D experience on a full-sized board that teams of players will move around, participating in challenges as they go in order to acquire properties, earning money as they pass go, go to jail, picking up a chance card and maybe getting lucky landing on free parking…?

Monopoly Lifesized is an immersive, on-your-feet version of the world’s favourite family game brand. Compete in one of a kind challenges for your chance to buy properties. Experience the thrill of trying to stage a heist in Mayfair, competing against a clock to build some of London’s iconic buildings, solving a baffling murder mystery and stepping into the world of codebreakers.

Date Played: 29th November 2021
Board Played: City

Ever intrigued by the phrase “the best of the Monopoly game but with added escape room and team challenges”, we booked ourselves in and secretly hoped we’d be thrown in jail… Just so we could spectacularly escape!

What we actually experienced when we visited Monopoly Lifesized was frankly, something unlike anything else you’ll experience in London. The creators, Hasbro Inc. and Gamepath have converted the old Paperchase HQ building on Tottenham Court Road into an enormous immersive Monopoly themed world. Spread across the multiple stories are several game boards teams of up to 24 players can take on. To call it simply a ‘team challenge’ is underselling Monopoly Lifesized – no, it’s a thrilling, past paced 4D board game experience that has literally everything. Like Monopoly, but bigger and hosted by a fleet of actors playing each of the board tokens.

Behind each of the property doors on the Monopoly board is a challenge for you and your team to take on. For this reason no two teams – even playing the same board – will have quite the same experience. The luck of the roll means that each team will land on different property pieces and tackle different challenges. For example, we managed to avoid many of the most escape room-y type games and instead found ourselves having a dance-off, playing a modern spin on guitar hero, and assembling 3D jigsaws. It was… Wild.

Image (c) Monopoly Lifesized

How does Monopoly Lifesized Work?

When we took on this ultimate Monopoly challenge as a team of 4, we picked the Thimble token to represent us and accordingly, gave our team the name Thimbley Chalamet. It felt appropriate. Our Thimble token was played by Ben, an exceptionally enigmatic and funny host who was quick on the auction round and filled with sassy comebacks towards our rivals.

The game works in a series of turns:

  • Dice Roll Turn
  • Strategy Turn

In the Dice Roll turn, two teams got to roll their dice and move around the board. Whatever properties they land on, they get to take on the challenge behind the door. If the property is unowned, it is theirs to keep, and if the property is owned, they’ll have to pay a fine. Meanwhile the other two teams got to take part in a Strategy Turn. In a Strategy turn, a Chance Card is drawn, and then teams have the opportunity to build houses, hotels, or enact special actions against their rivals.

Sounds complicated? Eh, a little bit at the start, but having a host-per-team really helped. They’ll be guiding you around the board and through the game. They’ll also be helping you out… In a manner of thinking! So be sure to be extra nice to your token.

Team Thimbley Chalamet For the Win!

Monopoly Lifesized: The Experience

When we play any experience as The Escape Roomer, we have to ask ourselves how it compared on an escape room level. The truth is, we didn’t get to experience most of the puzzle related challenges. Jail being one of the obvious ‘escape rooms’ – we were lucky enough to never land on that foreboding ‘Go to Jail’ token. Instead most of the properties we picked up were tactile, musical, and quite silly. That’s the luck of the roll!

In two of the property locations we did land on, there were some puzzle games. In one, a pure maths puzzle involving a cipher that had been reskinned to look like a hacker’s apartment. This one we complexed in around 30 seconds of the available 5 minutes. Another property involved rearranging objects on a shelf according to logic rules (X cannot be next to Y, and so on), which we solved just in the nick of tie with a little help from Thimble.

In both cases, the puzzles had more mass-market appeal, and wouldn’t necessarily challenge the hardcore enthusiast – but that’s okay. In a game like this you’re not meant to fail. You’re meant to succeed even after a couple of drinks. So it’d be a perfect game to take your Puggle (Puzzle Muggle) friends to dip their toes into.

Overall, we had an absolute blast playing the game. There was something for everyone on our team and I don’t think any one of us stopped smiling, even for a second.

I suppose you’re wondering how Team Thimbley Chalamet did?

Well… We won! 🎉

An Immersive Dining Experience at the Top Hat Bar

Situated on the ground floor of Monopoly Lifesized is the ultra immersive and really quite swanky Top Hat Restaurant and Bar. With a menu packed with Monopoly-themed meals and brightly coloured cocktails, the presence of the bar elevates the fun experience into an all night affair.

Photo (c) Monopoly Lifesized

We tried out the Top Hat’s brand new Winter Menu and enjoyed sliders of pigs in blankets, and stuffing balls dipped in gravy on skewers. In short, heaven on a plate. But, the real pièce de résistance of dining at the Top Hat has to be the cocktails. One, above all, stole the show:

The Mayfair Royal Sours

Inspired by the original ‘May Fair’ that took place in the 16th century in the now famous, affluent district of Mayfair. The ingredients include Laurent Perrier Brut Cuvée Champagne syrup, Courvoisier VSOP, Lemon, Ms. Better’s Bitters, Edible Gold, and is topped off with a £50 note made from sugar.

For me, this one cocktail encapsulated the splendour of the whole event – there’s nothing quite like earning (and spending) millions of pounds on property, destroying your rivals, then clinking glasses in the Top Hat to celebrate afterwards.

The Verdict

We had no idea what to expect when we booked in to play Monopoly Lifesized, but even if we’d gone in with high expectations, I’m pretty sure they’d have been blown out of the water. Monopoly Lifesized is all about the glitz and the glamour and the sheer budget hat’s gone into every single aspect of the game is outstanding. It’s such a high quality experience.

Of course, this does come with a big price tag: Ticket prices range from £27.50 to £35 for the Junior Board and from £59 to £74 per person on Classic, City and Luxury Boards, depending on the date and time of day you book for. Food and drink are extra, and there’s also a gift shop on site which you’ll definitely want to spend some time browsing. In all, for the full experience you’re probably looking in the region of £100+ per person.

That said, I do think it’s worth it. For a special occasion or for a teambuilding event with work *cough* if you can get the boss to pay for it, it’s absolutely not to be missed. The best part, it’s completely replayable. With many boards to choose from and so many different challenges, no two games will be the same. Mark my words, we’ll be back!