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 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”

CluedUpp: The Ripper | Review

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CluedUpp: The Ripper Review | Three men have already been struck down by The Ripper and fear is taking it’s grip of this town! The police can’t cope with a case this complex and your help is required to catch the killer. Get your family and friends together for a day of crime-solving fun. Put your sleuthing skills to the test at this exciting outdoor detective event and see if your team has what it takes to crack the case.

Time Taken: 2hrs
Date Played: 20th November 2021
Location: Kensington, London
Difficulty: Easy

CluedUpp games are like marmite in the escape room enthusiast world. About once a month somebody in a Facebook or Reddit forum will ask about CluedUpp and be met with a barrage of “they are dreadful” and “I had the best time ever“. So, going into the experience on a wintery Saturday morning before Christmas, we weren’t sure what to think. Given that the tickets were so inexpensive and the area – Kensington – is somewhere we don’t get to explore much, we went in with an open mind.

For this particular case, I went with our regular outdoor escape room enthusiast team who you may recognise from posts over the lockdown, such as Operation Mindfall. If there’s walking and puzzles involved, we are there!

A Team on the case!

How do CluedUpp Games Work?

According to their website, CluedUpp “turns cities into playgrounds”, and yeah, I see it! As a concept, it sets itself apart from other outdoor walking experiences in that there’s no set route you need to follow. Instead what happens once you start your game is that you’ll see a sprawling number of “points of interest” on the map. These are witnesses to speak to, or items to collect, or score multipliers to boost your ranking in the leader boards.

Your ultimate goal is to catch the killer – a serial murderer stalking the streets of Whitechapel I mean, Kensington. Seems straightforward, only you’re racing against other real teams! For this reason, CluedUpp events only take place on specific days of the year. Everyone signs into the app on the same day, the clock starts ticking, and everyone must be finished by 5pm.

It’s entirely self guided, so there’s no big start and finish line you have to race towards but it was pretty cool to walk past other teams we bumped into whilst playing and marvel at their costumes.

One more thing that we didn’t realise until after the game was that you don’t need to visit every single point on the map. Actually, if you want to ‘win’ the game and beat your rivals, you probably shouldn’t because there are a lot. Ironically, we actually figured out who the correct culprit was around 30% of the way into the game. Instead of making our guess right there, we agreed to collect everything, then go to a pub and make our decision from there. It probably cost us an hour and a half of our time, but hey that’s not really in the spirit of things eh?

How to Solve CluedUpp Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, at each point of interest you encounter you’re presented with a riddle. Occasionally, it makes sense. A copper might be reading a newspaper and asks for a second opinion on one of the questions in the puzzle section. Often, it felt forced and a bit silly. Towards the end we began skipping each character’s preamble and instead grinned at each other – “guys, you’re gonna be shocked at this but Dr so-and-so has a riddle for us”

No wonder the crime has gone unsolved if everyone is spending all their time thinking about riddles!

That said, the riddles themselves were a good way to break up the gameplay with some fun moments that tested us. Some of the riddles involved details from the surrounding environment, and others were fairly well known puzzles you’d find on any escape room’s social media account. You know the ones I’m talking about.

So… Who Dunnit?

Haha! That I cannot tell you. You’ll just have to go and book the game yourself!

But I will say that if CluedUpp’s weakness is the puzzles, then their strength is definitely the storytelling. In just a few words with each character, a rich network of witnesses and informants unfolded in front of us. It was easy to forget we were just interacting with an app and not a real person in front of us. And, in the end, the conclusion was very satisfying. It felt like being the main character in your own, London based thriller.

The Verdict

Overall, we’ve definitely classed this one on the easier side – and I can see why it’s marmite to a lot of enthusiasts. It’s not a particularly challenging game. But CluedUpp never pretended to be challenging – they’re mass market appeal murder mystery games and put the emphasis on you and your team exploring a new part of the city, dressing up, and having a laugh.

We played a specific version of The Ripper in Kensington on a special event day. Since the game is available at so many places around the world, it’s hard to say if our experience is representative of what everyone will have when they sign up – but honestly? We enjoyed ourselves.

We would caution enthusiasts not to have too high expectations when it comes to the puzzles, instead this would be a great game to take along your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends for a lighthearted day out. For us, booking and playing was really just an excuse to hang out and I wouldn’t hesitate to book another!

The Ripper is available at countless cities across the world. To find your nearest and book in, head to CluedUpp’s website here.

Ratings

Hidden City: The Enchanted Mirror | Review

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Once upon a time, an Evil Queen cast out her mirror, declared herself the wisest of the land, and challenged her subjects to prove her wrong. Many tried, none were seen again. With help from familiar faces perhaps you’ll be the first to best her majesty, and uncover the truth within The Enchanted Mirror…

Rating: Fun – but for the best experience, wait until lockdown is over
Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: 15th May 2021
Party Size: 3
Location: Kensington, London
Recommended For: Families! Also people who want a fun walk in the Kensington area, to solve puzzles and discover beautiful architecture.

Lockdown has been rough for a lot of escape room companies but ones that offer ‘outdoor puzzle trails’ toe a relatively safe middle ground. From before lockdown, I had a lot of very fond memories about playing Hidden City games that involved indoor locations. They 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. Another cool thing about Hidden City is that at the end of the trails you always receive an edible prize. AWESOME!

…Except, thanks to the lockdown none of this is possible anymore. For this reason The Enchanted Mirror (and Moriarty’s Game that I played in the same week), in it’s current state is a fairly average a walking trail. Without the bells and whistles, it’s super hard to justify the comparatively high price on the market. Sure, the cost of a ticket has been lowered slightly (in case you’re wondering, pre-lockdown tickets cost £25, and in-lockdown tickets cost £19) but they’re still on the more expensive side of the London puzzle trail market.

That said, if you’re reading this review at some distant time in the future where the pandemic is but a mere memory, please take this with a pinch of salt! But if you’re reading it now, in 2021, I’d recommend you wait until lockdown is completely over before booking your game. In the mean time, you can still purchase vouchers or check out their play at home game, but a lockdown booking probably won’t live up to the hype or justify the price point.

So without further adieu, onto the review (it rhymes!):

The Story

The story of The Enchanted Mirror is a classic fairy tale of good vs evil in a quest to discover a mysterious (you guessed it) enchanted mirror. She sets you a challenge to best her. A challenge of your wits and cunning but, since so many before you have failed and disappeared, you’ll need more than a little help if you’re to best her and save the land once and for all.

The Route

The Enchanted Mirror is a trail that starts at South Kensington station, a stone’s throw away from all the cool museums like the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. It’s a busy area and in fact we also saw other teams at the start and throughout the trail hunting about for clues – it’s a popular trail! It ends, after a long winding route around beautiful houses, parks and scenes, a few stops down in High Street Kensington.

As the crow flies it doesn’t seem to great a distance but all in all we walked around 19,000 steps over the course of The Enchanted Mirror! After being locked up for so long it was the exercise we sorely needed too. Of course there are plenty of optional stops along the route. We took one of them as a toilet break but as very few places were open we didn’t stop for any food or drinks as suggested.

What is extra special about this walk is how beautiful the route is. If you think you know the Kensington area, think again! This trail took us through hidden passages, beneath beautiful flower arches, around lesser known alleyways, up stairs behind churches and past iconic artwork. We joked that the unofficial name of this walk should be “Hidden City: House Envy” and it’s no lie. Of course, it did help that we had the weather on our side with beautiful sunlight all day except for one flash ‘summer rain’ shower mid-way through.

The Puzzles

If you’re familiar with Hidden City you’ll know that the puzzles in this gfame have a distinctive style. Nothing quite makes sense until the street, or landmark is right in front of you. A mix of anagrams, abbreviations, and cryptic clues – you’ll have to rely on looking around you and looking very closely to crack the code. There are probably around 20 ‘clues’ to crack as you go, and each time you correctly answer you’ll be presented with the next clue.

Despite what I said in the intro, at one point, you do get to interact with a building in your environment. A pub along the way will have a QR code posted outside – or just inside the door on a menu that you can scan to get a code. It’s clear that this puzzle used to be physical, but the creators have done a good job converting it to a digital format. Arguably this was the hardest puzzle in the whole game, but if there pub were open it would be a perfect excuse to grab a table and take a seat as you riddle it out.

The puzzles are as a whole, pretty challenging, but good fun and particularly good use of their environment. The creators have thought long and hard about making sure it’s fully immersive and again, despite the pandemic, they’ve done a good job and made a challenging-but-accessible puzzle trail.

Overall

Good fun! Hidden City are a great company that make some really innovative and immersive experiences. The pandemic shutting everything down makes it harder to run anything ‘immersive’ and they’ve done their best but I’d definitely recommend waiting until later for something truly spectacular!

I personally had a lovely time on a sunny afternoon with 2 of my best friends. We weren’t worried about being top of the leaderboard, we just wanted a nice (and different) day out, which is EXACTLY what we got with The Enchanted Mirror. In the end we saved the day and went home with full stomachs for a nap. You can’t ask for anything more.

The Enchanted Mirror can be played for £19 per person by booking on Hidden City’s website here.

Foxtrail: Lancelot Trail | Review

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Join the amazing urban treasure-trail experience that’s taking the world by storm. Explore the city in a way that’s exciting, fun and utterly unique.

Rating: High Production Quality!
Completion Time: 5 hours
Date Played: 16th May 2021
Party Size: 6
Location: St. Pauls, Southbank, Tower of London
Recommended For: Teambuilding Activities, Bachelor/ette Parties, big groups of friends who want to spend a whole day in London

What Foxtrail does, they do really (really) well, and I’m not kidding. It’s actually the first company I’ve seen to successfully integrate aspects of the environment into their outdoor walking trails. You’re not just looking for some abstract answer to a question, you’re looking for physical objects – lock boxes with items to collect inside, carefully concealed buttons that project laser pointers onto public art, giant treasure chests hidden in pubs, and even public art installations that send coded messages to you when you text a certain number. Oh, and did I mention there’s a boat in this game?! You literally have to get on a boat and travel to another part of London. My mind is blown.

It makes sense though, Foxtrail is a hugely popular company from Switzerland with a major presence running immersive outdoor trails in many parts of Central Europe. It was only a matter of time before they came to London and hit the ground running.

One of my good friends invited me and a team of 5 to play the Lancelot Trail on a Sunday afternoon – one of those UK days where you get all four seasons in one day. Well, except snow. But hail is pretty close for winter. Despite the bad weather, we had an absolute blast playing it and I wholeheartedly recommend Foxtrail to absolutely anyone in London – tourists and residents alike.

Just be sure to pack an umbrella just in case, and set aside at least half a day so you can stop and take in the environment. After all, this game isn’t timed, which is how we come to mark this as a 5 hour experience. Inbetween stopping at pubs 4 times, waiting in queues for food, and generally taking our time, we weren’t in a rush to finish Foxtrail.

The Route

Lancelot starts at the visitor information centre neat St. Pauls. To actually begin the trail, you need to go into the centre and collect some stuff. We sent the two most outgoing of our group and 5 minutes later they returned with armfuls of lime green lanyards, boat tickets, and some very exciting items which wouldn’t make sense until much later in the puzzle.

From here, you journey South along and eventually across the River Thames through to one of my favourite parts of London – past the Clink, the Hinde and into Borough Market. The day we did the trail a lot of the market stalls were sadly closed, so it wasn’t as vibey as we’d normally expect from the area. However – it meant queues were shorter! In this area we made two (yes, two!) pub stops for takeaway drinks and I paused for a box of doughnuts from Bread Ahead and a sandwich from one of the open stalls.

The next part of the trail took us towards The Shard and back along the river all the way along to the Tower of London. From this area, the ‘boat’ portion of the trail started and we were taken all the way back to where we started – St. Pauls! I actually love it when a trail starts and ends in the same location. It makes it a lot easier to plan your day.

According to my step counter I did about 15km. The whole route should take no longer than 3 hours. We took 5 hours.

*awkward pause*

Moving on…

The Experience

Lancelot is unique in that is doesn’t require a mobile phone… Well, not really anyway, but it’ll help to have someone on your team who can text a number, and look up a video on YouTube. I say it doesn’t require a phone though because these parts of the game were so minimal, mostly what you need you have in your hands or you can pick it up from one of the secret lock boxes along the way!

Ahead of time, we printed out our pack of information which was a very respectable 2 sheets long (double sided). We were also given some additional material from the St. Pauls Visitor Centre. Early on in the game too, you’re able to unlock a box which will give you a map of London and some very helpful cipher translators.

Our impression of the experience as a whole was overwhelmingly positive. In short, we had a really good time – despite the rain. Every single step along the way was an unexpected delight. Even at the 4 hour mark I was like “ok nothing can surprise me now” and yet surprised I was. Even after such a long time starting to feel a little tired, the ‘grand finale’ perked us all up immediately.

Most walking puzzle hunts in London are like “get a text, follow a clue, text a reply”. Don’t get me wrong that’s still great fun… But Foxtrail was so different it blew me away. In particular, how much it actually relied on the environment was awesome. Climbing inside fountains to reach for hidden compartments with messages, huge pirate chests with concealed buttons to press in certain orders, spotting fox themed Easter Eggs on physical maps in the environment. Incredible!

The Story

If you’re looking for a super rich story, this is the only thing Foxtrail doesn’t do quite so well. The story is very simple – you’re following a fox. Why? I’m not sure. It didn’t really matter, so long as you knew to look out for lime green footprints here and there.

On the one hand this makes the experience slightly one dimensional, but on the other hand it does mean this game has universal appeal and infinitely translatable across groups. You could play with work colleagues, you could play with drunk people, you could play with small kids – it’s all the same, everyone understands what they have to do… On second thought, maybe don’t play with drunk people because it would be a waste not to experience the game with full focus!

The Puzzles

Finally, the puzzles! They were actually quite challenging which again is quite rare for an outdoor walking tour. On more than one occasion we had to hang around a particular location trying to figure something out.

In particular, the game made us do a lot of searching at locations. It wasn’t always so easy to find what you’re looking for. Things were often hidden underneath things, or in peculiar places you wouldn’t think to look. In particular, something was written upside down and backwards in a place we couldn’t see – so we had to use our camera in selfie mode to find the message. In other locations, we’d have to climb up onto something and look in a certain direction making bridges, or roads line up. In another location, we found a secret coded message and needed to use the cipher – and in others this went a step further in that the key for the cipher was also in the environment as well.

Each puzzle was very well thought out and made wonderful sense within the environment, and that’s a stand out for me! I’m impressed!

Overall

About 15 minutes into this game I knew it was the easiest 5* mark I’d ever give… Then the game got even better from herein! I’m absolutely stoked that we played it and despite the fact it rained and it rained and it rained, we had such a laugh. Given a little more press and publicity now that Foxtrail is officially open, I’ve no doubt this company is on track to being the best outdoor experience in London and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

I’ll leave you with a video which condenses 5 hours of laughing and puzzle solving into just 60 seconds:

Foxtrail can be booked for £19.99 and includes a boat ticket from their UK website here.

Secret City Trails: Kings Cross – Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards | Review

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Dive into the history of London’s buzzing Kings Cross area! Trust us, there’s much more to discover here than platform 9¾. Follow the location-based riddles made by our local creator, Jennifer, to explore hidden wonders of this remarkable neighbourhood. You’ll learn little-known or forgotten stories behind striking sculptures, fascinating architecture, and unexpected pops of colour. It’s an experience for the curious by the curious!

Rating: Delightful!
Completion Time: 1hr 23m
Date Played: 9th May 2021
Party Size: 2
Location: King’s Cross
Recommended For: Families, Couples, People who want a lovely day out (go on a weekend!)

Kings Cross – Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards is the second Secret City Trails experience I’ve played, and I’m beginning to get the hang of their unique style of puzzle! This time I was joined by the fabulous Bianca of Shiny Life for Me on a sunny Sunday afternoon. At the time of writing, it’s the last sunny day I can remember actually (*shakes fist at the rain*), therefore I’m glad we made the most of it!

The sun must’ve done us some favours though as at the time of writing, our score earned our team an awesome 10th place on the leader board overall! Take that *checks notes* Team Wiffins, in 11th place!

Unlike a lot of my reviews, I’m leaving off the “Story” aspect of this review, as Secret City Trails aren’t build around a narrative – or rather, you’re the narrative! The story is whatever you make of it and really it’s just a fun way to explore a new part of your city without worrying about saving the world or tracking down an elusive enemy.

The Route

Kings Cross – Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards starts off out front of King’s Cross station and, after talking a long round about route, ends up in the ‘new build’ area of King’s Cross: the beautiful and modern area behind the station next to the canals. Along the way, you’ll get to go into the station itself, around the courtyards in the nearby area, and into the British Library too.

I did two walks in one day, and by the end of the day I’d walked a whopping 25,000 steps! But noooo… Don’t get the wrong idea, this walk itself isn’t 25,000 steps. Unless you want it to be? It’s actually about half of that.

My favourite bit – even though by the time we finally got there we’d started rushing (gotta get that good score, amirite?) – was the canal area towards the end. It’s incredibly pretty round there and honestly I could have found a sunny spot on the grass and dozed for hours. It didn’t help one of the canal boats was also playing live music – lovely!

On our particular walk, we experienced one or two minor issues with the route, however this was down to us being the first team to play it post-lockdown. The British Library section was shut, and one of the features in a puzzle had been removed. However, on alerting the Secret City Trails team they’ve let me know they’ve fixed this right away! So take my experience with a pinch of salt.

The Tech

This walk was played entirely on a browser on our mobile phones! The team leader is given a link at the start of the game that all team mates can sign onto and begin their journey! The format goes:

  • Receive a riddle to your phone
  • Follow the clues and head to the location
  • Solve the riddle, input the answer
  • Read some facts about the local area
  • And repeat!

You can see your progress throughout the game at all times, and optional breaks are even listed in the game so you know how long until you can stop for a coffee! Which is exactly what we did at the half way mark and a nice opportunity to catch up whilst not thinking about puzzles for a brief half hour.

The Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, this is where the ‘core’ of the game really is. Each puzzle is a riddle… Of sorts! The kind of confusing message that would only make sense as you walk it through. Think anagrams of place names, puns hidden inside words, and references to stepping L or R depending on where about you are.

More than being ‘hard to solve’ you need to really pay attention to your environment – read every sign, every blue plaque, and look closely at the cobblestones you’re walking over! For this reason, this game is an excellent way to get to know the city. Avid puzzlers won’t be challenged, but a family or friends group will enjoy an exciting walk.

We got slightly stuck towards the start on one section, where the answer became super obvious once we walked an extra block (and might even have been more obvious earlier if not for scaffolding). So for this reason, I’ll also say to trust your gut and explore the environment thoroughly!

The Company

Secret City Trails, originally founded by all-female duo Wendy and Kristina, is now an international puzzle trail company spanning countless cities. In each city is a team of puzzle writers who can submit their own games to be used on the app (I assume) via a shared revenue model. Different creators have different styles and for that reason the games are priced slightly differently.

The most expensive route in London is priced at £30 per team, and the least expensive at £16 per team – unless you count the £10 “Mystery Walk” offer where you’ll be allocated a game at random. This makes the King’s Cross walk comfortably priced in the ‘middle range’ and great value for what you get too!

Overall

I really enjoy Secret City Trails! ESPECIALLY in lockdown where I’ve been having some serious escape room withdrawals, being able to solve puzzles out in the open with friends really scratches that itch! I discovered some amazing new stuff in an area I’d never normally visit, such as a beautiful mural of a maze and some awesome art within King’s Cross station itself. I love the area, I love the canals, and I love the company I shared the game with! I’d definitely recommend Secret City Trails to anyone new to the city, or even if you’ve lived here your whole life a chance to discover something new!

Kings Cross: Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards can be booked for £22 per group of 1-5 players on Secret City Trails’ website here.

Street Hunt: Colombia’s Finest | Review

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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.

Rating: Exceptional!
Completion Time: 2-3 hours
Date Played: 9th May 2021
Party Size: 4
Location: Blackfriars, London
Recommended For: Adventure fans! Folks who want a real good challenge in London.

CW: This game contains themes of drugs and murder and may not be suitable for a younger audience.

I normally start these reviews with a bold proclamation of what I love about the theme. Such as “I LOVE MURDER MYSTERY” or “I LOVE THE 80S” but Colombia’s Finest is about a drug ring operating out of a coffee shop so err… umm… I LOVE COFFEE!

No but seriously, this was like nothing else I’ve ever played and I don’t get to say that too often on The Escape Roomer because I’ve played a lot! Everything from the excellent technology, to the plot, to the brilliant writing, to the ‘non-linear’ format was unique. Could it be my new favourite outdoor puzzle trail company? Why yes, it might just be!

The Story

A mysterious coffee shop, an infamous drug ring, and a dead body! Shocking!

Actually, I had no idea what to expect in terms of the plot, but it was a little more explicit than I expected… Read As: walking around the centre of London loudly talking about cocaine, and getting to check autopsy reports. We tackled this game as a team of 4 consisting of me, my parents, and my 11 year old brother which, despite the theme, he found the whole experience absolutely hilarious (and I hope didn’t understand everything that was going on… Though he probably did! Kids have internet these days.)

Your first contact is a man named Jim Robusta, who suspects something very shady is happening at the coffee shop he works. Thankfully, you have a network of informants – a kinda modern day “Baker Street Irregulars”, if you’re familiar with Sherlock Holmes. These people have small tidbits of information and it’s up to you to travel around to each one and speak to them to figure out what’s going on and whether there’s a murderer on the loose! As the story unfolds, Jim’s life gets put in danger and you must seriously pick up the pace if you want to save him in time.

The Route

The game starts a short distance from Blackfriars Station in an inconspicuous square next to a library, featuring a very cool copper sculpture! Here, I waited a while in the late-pandemic deserted streets one sunny morning for my family to arrive.

The whole route is around 4 miles or so, or at least that’s what my step counter said by the end! But here I’m using the term ‘route’ very loosely because the fact is, you can actually take any route you want to complete this game. Your informers pop up at random intervals and whilst there’s a suggestion of who you need to see when, you might prefer to follow the interwoven story threads in a different way. So long as you solve the mystery and speak to as many people as you like, the choice is entirely yours. Take an unconventional route and you might find yourself cracking the case even quicker!

Our chosen path took us around the new builds of the City of London, through squares and leafy green spaces and even down along the river as we searched for the scene of the crime. The game both starts and ends in more or less the same area and with optional breaks there’s plenty to see and do.

If, like us, you choose not to take any breaks – I’d recommend grabbing a coffee at the end. The final location is a street or two away from St. Pauls and the Paternoster Square area is packed with cafes – even in lockdown and on a Sunday – for coffee.

The Tech

The technology in this game gets it’s own section because I really enjoyed this part! I’d gone into the game like “yeah, I know the drill, I get puzzles texted to my phone…” BUT NO. Nothing like that at all! Instead you get a link to a fully interactive in-browser map. At first, one or two “points of interest” appear on the map, nudging you in a certain direction. The more you solve and discover, the more yellow dots appear on your map.

However, before you can interact with a yellow dot – which it typically one of your informants with information, you must solve a quick puzzle about the surrounding location. A question you could only know if you were actually there – so no cheating!

Each player has their own link and must also input answers into the game for a unique personal score at the end. However, the game updates at a similar pace. Things will happen at the same time across all your devices and we didn’t encounter any sort of lag by using three separate devices.

Solving the Puzzles

There are two types of puzzles in this game:

  • The puzzles you encounter at each geographic location, to prove you’re actually in that space in order to talk to your informant.
  • The over-arching mystery, where you must figure out who in the organisation has which role and who the murderer is.

For the first type, it’s quite simple! You’ll receive a small question or riddle about the location and, once arrived, must figure it out. Usually this involves looking around for a clue on a blue plaque, or a piece of wall art. They were riddles, sure, but none were tricky and felt more like a formality.

The second type was the opposite – very tricky indeed and involved all our deductive reasoning skills to figure out how to take down the expansive network of criminals!

After solving your final location based clue, the timer suddenly goes red and starts counting down the time you have left to submit your police report and you’re presented with a simple form to tick who is guilty of what, and why. We needed to go back and re-read everything, as each conversation we had with informants gave us some small piece of information that only made sense in the context of the bigger picture. Tricky!!

Overall

We cracked the case! Woohoo! Take that, murderer!

It was touch and go for a bit at the end and yes, I did have to break into a run to reach the last location – making for a really epic and out-of-breath finale. But overall? This experience was AWESOME. I genuinely can’t praise it enough. We had a really sunny day for it, no technology issues, and enjoyed an absolutely lovely coffee at the end as we continued chatting about the case well into the afternoon.

I think what the two creators (London-based couple Annaliza and Tony) have created is totally unique in the market and this would be a huge hit for office teams, groups of friends, and heck even families (though maybe not your 11 year old brother, unless he’s cool with this kinda stuff). I had a wonderful day out and I absolutely recommend this. Five stars!

Colombia’s Finest can be booked for £15 / player on Street Hunt’s website here.

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