E-Scape Rooms: Detention | Review

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E-Scape Rooms Detention Review | Your behaviour was unacceptable. Detention will teach you a lesson one way or another. It is up to you whether you stay here for the whole day or you can leave if you prove to be smart enough within the hour.

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

About once a week, Al, Ash, our friend Tasha and myself like to meet up to play an online escape room together. This far into (or should I say ‘past’ at this point) lockdown, we’ve played hundreds. One of our favourite companies is E-Scape, creators of the fantastic The Alp and Sword of Drakul. But, stepping away from their fantastical and horror themed genres of the other two games, Detention is far more grounded in reality. It is set in a school. Your mission: Escape detention!

 

Back to School

Ever have nightmares where you’re suddenly back in school and you haven’t done your homework, or you have an exam to complete with no revision, or you’re due to give a presentation in front of the whole school but you’ve misplaced your trousers? No? Just me? Haha. Well the escape room “Detention” is kinda like all my school-related anxiety dreams rolled into one. I’m locked in a room at school and it’s packed with puzzled themed around various school subjects: Science, Maths, English, History and so on. If I can’t escape in time, I’ll be trapped in there… Maybe forever!

The room unfolds in a very non-linear fashion and, being built in Telescape, meant that all of the four of us could click around to take a closer look at anything in any order. Whilst it’s just one large, limited space of a detention room complete with desks, chairs, and a large chalkboard up at the front, it’s anything but small. We found that there were a huge amount of puzzles to grapple with in the experience. It was one of those rooms that probably no single one of us engaged with and solved every single puzzle, but we worked together in tandem towards a collective goal, breaking off into teams of two to work collaboratively on one or the other.

 

 

As with many Telescape games, during the gameplay you can see your fellow puzzlers’ cursor marks to see what they’re working on. It works well, as there are a number of magnifying glasses dotted around the physical space so you know exactly what you can and can’t click into and at any time in the sidebar you can see where others are. So when Al or Ash say “hey come look at this”, the software makes it easy to jump right to them. To input a code, you have a box at the bottom of your screen at any time to type letters and numbers in. This often triggered something to happen in the game, such as adding an object to our inventory or opening a lock.

Of the puzzles I encountered myself, I enjoyed them a lot. There were some that involved periodic tables, maps of our solar system, strange symbols on the walls, flags of the world, a large skeleton, hacking into our teacher’s computer, and so on. I’d rate the room at around a ‘medium’ difficulty and I’d definitely be lying if I said we weren’t stuck at all. Quite the contrary, several puzzles took us many tries to complete and one or two clues, but we got there in the end… And most importantly, we had a lot of fun in the process.

One thing E-Scape Rooms does really well is it’s ability to create drama. Completing puzzles often resulted in short, animated cut scenes that swept around the room in dramatic fashion. Every game they’ve made so far has been 3D modelled and inserted into Telescape creatively. Quite literally, the team are creating rich environments out of thin air, and as a hobbyist 3D modeller I am here for it and I love it. I mean, have you seen how shiny the floor is in this room? So nicely modelled! I need them to hook me up with those cool textures.

 

 

The Verdict

Detention is your classic play-at-home escape room from E-Scape rooms and although it’s not as magical as the fantastic The Alp and Sword of Drakul, it holds its own in the genre as a fun space packed with enjoyable puzzles to solve collaboratively with friends. Since lockdown has ended, I still appreciate games like this being made and put on the market as a way to stay connected with friends who don’t live in the same city as me. Detention is a perfect game like that and would be excellent for friends, family or just about anyone to play together.

 

Detention can be booked by heading to E-Scape’s website here.

Eleven Puzzles: Parallel Lab | Review

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Parallel Lab Review | The detectives are following Cryptic Killer’s trail. After escaping Cryptic Killer’s trap, the detectives thoroughly investigated the area where they had been held. Sadly they have found nothing that could move their case closer to catching the killer… Or so they thought.

Date Played: May 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 2 hours
Difficulty: Medium

 

Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

 

Over the past 2 years, we’ve all become quite familiar with digital escape rooms, and I personally have had hit or miss experiences with them. After a few disappointing experiences, I decided to give virtual rooms a miss unless I was playing by myself, which means I didn’t play the first instalment of this series by Eleven Puzzles (that said, you can read what Rebecca and Mairi thought about the first instalment over in our review).

Fortunately for me, Eleven Puzzles reached out and invited us to play their latest digital escape room-style experience in exchange for a review (this review, in fact), and I was definitely intrigued by the premise and drawn in by the art style!

 

A very friendly parrot! | Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

The Premise

If the name hasn’t quite given it away yet, this virtual room requires at least two players, on separate devices. This is because you will each be exploring a slightly different version of the same room, and communicating to solve various puzzles. As you are independent, you are free to explore without being tied to the other person’s screen which was my main bugbear of other digital games. I loved the free roam aspect, but reliance on communication as there is no way to complete the puzzles otherwise. I assume this would be the same for any number of players and is definitely a huge positive.

 

The Puzzles

“Parallel Lab” is based in a series of rooms as you progress further into the lab and dive deeper into the story. There are 3 or 4 puzzles in each room, and it’s pretty clear where they are. By working together methodically we were able to get through each of them, but the answers aren’t always straightforward. Eleven Puzzles did a great job of presenting unique and interesting puzzles that were at the perfect level of difficulty – no hand-holding, no super obvious puzzles, and no tenuous leaps in logic. However, they’re also very supportive – allowing you to use hints with no penalties, and offering you a number of hints and nudges before revealing the answer – very similar to the increase in hints you’d get in a ‘real’ escape room!

I have to say I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. Although there were a couple which we struggled with, they also brought a great sense of satisfaction when we’d had that brain wave – most of the time we just weren’t communicating enough! They were all perfectly suited for the room they were in and addressed a number of different skills and techniques.

My only critique of the puzzles was that they felt a little imbalanced at times – I found myself waiting for my teammate to complete something tricky on their side, but were unable to do anything on my side in the meantime. Later on, this was reversed – I was working on something a little more in-depth, and my teammate had to wait.

 

One of the rooms | Image courtesy of Eleven Puzzles

The playability

Technology-wise this ran extremely smoothly and easily. The game is played in a browser, so we hopped on a Skype call and logged in fairly quickly. The initial instructions were brief but informative, and ultimately the technology provided no barrier to playing. My only qualm with the setup is that I would have loved to see some of the puzzles my partner did!

 

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I went in with fairly low expectations but was absolutely blown away. The interactivity and independence are a real positive, and the puzzles themselves were just as good as any physical room. I’m not sure how well this would work for a larger team, as you may end up talking over each other, but certainly paying £15 for 2 players is more than worth it.

 

Parallel Lab can be purchased by heading to Eleven Games’ website here.

Edaqa’s Room: Office | Review

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Edaqa’s Room Office Review | As a long day draws to a close, you look forward to going home. Just submit your work report and you’ll be done. Maybe one last cup of coffee is on order.

Date Played: April 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Here at The Escape Roomer we absolutely love Edaqa’s Room. Just like many other people in the world have spent their lockdown making sourdough starters, or playing Wordle – we’ve been getting together regularly and diving into the wonderful world of Edaqa’s Room. Each time a new game is released, team The Escape Roomer made up of Mairi, Al, Ash and our friend Tasha get together to puzzle it out of a Sunday night. Playing the latest game, Office, was no exception!

If the name weren’t a giveaway, this time Edaqa’s Room has created an escape room throw back to office life. It’s been years since I’ve personally been in an office and I won’t be going back to one any time soon, so it was extra curious playing a digital puzzle game set in one where your sole goal is to make a cup of coffee. Like technology of bygone days, stepping foot into a virtual office felt like foreign territory. Equal parts nostalgic and curious “hey, what is this machine? a photocopier? what’s that?!”

In short, the perfect environment for an escape room. Here’s how we got on…

 

 

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy the Coffee!

Office by Edaqa’s Room takes place inside an office setting. As I’ve come to really enjoy about all of this company’s games, there’s a charming cartoon style of artwork that accompanies the point-and-click gameplay mechanic. Tap around the environment to poke, point and prod at the decor and in real-time you’ll see your other team members doing the same.

At first players spawn in front of their office desk, complete with pots of pens and pencils, your computer monitor, and very cryptic notes in front of you and on the pin-board. As you progress through the game you can explore other areas of your office and come up against other office-y quirks. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in this experience, just like 90s point-and-click video games (a comparison I’ve made more than once about Edaqa’s Room), you often find yourself clicking random things just for the amusement of seeing the reaction.

From it’s consistently fun graphics, to reliably upbeat humour, to simple story that doesn’t leave too much to the imagination… You always know what you’re getting with Edaqa’s Room an I absolutely love that! It was a well-deserved puzzlingly good evening after a long week, ironically, at work.

 

 

Puzzling Through the Office

But one of the things that really stood out to me about this game however was the puzzles. It’s not often our team of four take a full hour to complete a game but really – there was just so much to do and each puzzle was so challenging! Whilst you can solve the game solo, it’s a lot more fun in a team. Occasionally the game will require you checking between two disparate pieces of information which is where having a team comes into play.

Thankfully, no matter how big sized your team is, everyone is on the same page. Throughout the game pop ups will appear at the top of your screen letting you know what your team mates are up to.

“Alice has solved the post-it note puzzle” and “Tasha has added a cup to the inventory” and so on. Great for keeping on track, and eliminates the oh-so-common “hey has anyone solved this thing yet?” question.

One of my favourite puzzles I’ve ever played in an Edaqa’s Room game also occurred in Office, and I’m still grinning thinking about it as I write up this review days later. Amusing then that this was the puzzle I personally spent the longest on throughout the whole game, and it was eventually solved by Ash not me! This was the post-it note puzzle, and when you know, you’ll know!

 

 

The Verdict

I can’t compliment the creators enough, they’ve got a formula to make ‘good escape room games’ and they consistently nail it every single time. Above everything, what I loved about Office was how fun it was. Office is light-hearted, silly, humorous and… FUN! From a carnival, to your first day on the job, to a curious old lady, to a quest to make a cup of coffee… I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

I’d recommend this game for anybody reeling from spending too much time in their office, friends, family, or even co-workers will enjoy playing this together.

 

Office by Edaqa’s Room can be booked and played by heading to this link here.

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: Spirit Seekers – The Dullahan | Review

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The Dullahan Review | The Dullahan was the original “Headless Horseman”, and not the cute pumpkin-headed variety from the Disney movie!  The Dullahan is a grotesque and horrible creature who claims souls (kills people).  He carries a whip made from a human spine and he uses it to blind anyone who sees him (gross!).  Can you find a way to rid the village of the Dullahan before he returns at nightfall?

Date Played: 13th March 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 35:40
Difficulty: Medium

Online Escape Rooms Ireland is one of those companies that when I hear they’ve announced a new game, I’m first in the digital queue to play. When we first got out hands on a link, an ill-timed holiday meant we had to push playing back a few weeks, but it was well worth the wait. The Dullahan is another fantastic instalment in the Spirit Seekers series and one that is even better than the first.

About Spirit Seekers Ireland

Spirit Seekers Ireland is a series of escape rooms from the creative duo Connor and Sarah of Online Escape Rooms Ireland and their physical site, Escape Rooms Shannon whose video on their About Us page is one of my favourite things on the internet. The idea behind Spirit Seekers Ireland was to pay respectful homage to local landmarks and legends of interest in Ireland through the medium of escape rooms. You play as ghost hunters sent to explore a number of real life locations through the interface (Telescape) and… You guessed it… Catch ghosts!

In The Clare Abbey, you explore a church which is riddled with various ghosts. Armed with a ghost hunting kit and various tools (EMPs, audio recorders etc.) you must catch evidence of ghosts on camera. In this game, The Dullahan, the experience takes a slightly creepier turn as you’re in hunt of a very specific local legend: a Dullahan.

The Dullahan *Shudders*

According to local legend, a Dullahan is essentially a headless horsemen – the kind you see across cultures and ghost stories for centuries. What makes him unique to Ireland is the myth that he uses a whip made of the spine of humans as a weapon, and that he can claim people’s souls by calling out their name. It’s said that when the dullahan stops riding, a person will die.

So it’s no surprise that we needed to stop this once and for all, we can’t have any more people dying in this village, so team Al, Ash, Tasha and myself were put on the case to catch him. If we needed any help we could consult the SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE (love it!). He’s cute, but he’s only there for emergencies.

“OMG! I’ve found a pig”

…A statement I think I said several times whilst playing this game because of how excited I was to whip the 360 degree camera around and come face to face with a sweet little piggie.

But jokes aside, The Dullahan is a great game that takes place on Telescape – meaning you’ve a 360 view of a number of locations and a map you can use to guide yourselves through the game. What I loved about this was that it really is based on a real location and one I kinda want to visit myself if I’m ever in the area just for how quaint the cobbled paths and dry stone walling is. We explored the church ruins and cemetery, a stone cottage, a white cottage, a school, a pig sty, a blacksmith and a caravan – each place more delightful and fun to explore than the previous.

In terms of puzzles, The Dullahan isn’t perfect, no – I always take some small issue with found puzzles (of which there were a few), mainly because I never ever remember to bring my headphones along to a digital escape room and tend to spend the whole thing muted. This game was no different and we encountered several sound-based puzzles which I handed the reigns over to Al & Ash to solve in tandem.

But whatever issue I have with sound puzzles, it’s all but made up by how much fun the puzzles were to solve overall. In my opinion, Online Escape Rooms Ireland does “fun” very well and it’s always a joy to hear they’ve a new escape room experience launched. Players can expect to encounter typical escape room puzzles such as digit codes, moving options to make patterns, listening to sounds and translating them, some cool ciphers, matching puzzles and so on. Nothing breaks the mould but that’s okay.

The Verdict

Another really sold escape room experience from Online Escape Rooms Ireland, and another nail in my “I really want to visit this part of the world post-pandemic” coffin. Despite the ghostly and supernatural themes, this wasn’t a scary game in the slightest. There are some spooky vibes, but I don’t think particularly young players would be put off. Most young people I know would love the idea of a whip made of bones… Me though? *shudder*

Accessibility Notes: In terms of accessibility, as there are some sound puzzles you’ll need one person who is able to hear clearly, but to my best knowledge there aren’t any other accessibility flags to raise at this stage.

We’d recommend this experience for just about anyone but particularly folks who want to engage with beautiful places in Ireland and local Irish folklore through the medium of puzzles. Through brilliant games like this I’m learning more about the folklore of my own near-ancestral home, but I think I’ll probably make my granny shriek if I start talking about dullahan over our next tea party.

The Dullahan can be booked by heading to Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s website here.

itstravelti.me: Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | Review

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Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | itstravelti.me is a free puzzle, it’s like the online equivalent of a multi-part escape room. But with time travel. Navigate through 6th Century China, Egyptian zork-style tombs and the ’90s to help the time traveller, Agent 14, complete their mission and return to safety. The puzzle is split into three parts, each part will take roughly 30 minutes – 3 hours. There’s no time limit, take as long as you want to solve it, you can take a break and return where you left off at any time.

Completion Time: ~1hr30
Date Played: February 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

There’s something incredibly exciting about seeing a listing on Craigsli- I mean, Daveslist for a Time Traveller’s apprentice. Just like in the 2012 film starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson, I too was answering a mysterious call from the internet to embark up on an adventure like no other. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but that is definitely the coolest thing ever.

So when we received a mysterious email from one of the creators of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant, we were very excited indeed! Al, Ash, Tasha and myself got together on one of our weekly puzzle-solving Sunday nights and all agreed to open the introductory link at the same time to get started.

Safety not Guaranteed…

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a web-based ARG (alternate reality game). Not much is known about it, except that’s it free and it begins right here. As an ARG, it isn’t any sense of the word ‘traditional’. By that, I’m comparing it to other escape room type games usually hosted on Telescape where you’re pointing around the room and clicking on objects to interact with them. Instead, you navigate through a series of web pages.

To guide you along the way is ‘The Time Traveller’ / Agent 14 who is caught in various eras throughout history including 6th Century China, ancient Egypt and the ’90s. Thanks to modern technology, they’re able to communicate directly with you via a handy one-way chatbot.

Because of the ARG nature, it’s not the most suitable game for playing with friends via video chat – which is exactly what we did. It’s definitely more suited to solo play, or playing with people in the same room. But if you do choose to play with friends online, you can always share your screen or read the text-heavy segments out loud.

In terms of technology, Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was really unique. A lot of ARGs are on the basic side, but the creators have pulled out all the stops to make something unique and fun to play. At each time it felt immersive, almost like we were really talking to some pour soul at the other end of the interface. Plus, no surprise to say we loved the 90s aesthetic. Ahh… The internet of my childhood! *wipes tear from eye*

The team has done a lot with just a little text and created a digital world I really wanted to explore more and dig deeper into. I am impressed!

Part One – 6th Century China

The game begins in 6th century China with a mysterious puzzle about the zodiac years. Your goal is simple – figure out when the heck your Time Travelling companion is stuck! We whizzed through this puzzle using a clue or two and plenty of Google and before long we were on a roll. Onwards and upwards to Part Two!

Part Two – Ancient Egypt

The second part of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was maybe one of my favourite puzzle levels in any digital game for a long time. But heck, it was difficult! Players are presented with a text-based input to communicate with the Time Traveller who is in a maze. You’ll need to draw the maze as you instruct your companion to progress because the maze gets more complex the further in you go.

Along the way we encountered different chambers, different mini puzzles, and some delightful roleplay elements. I like a good maze as much as the next person, but it turns out I enjoy directing someone else through a maze even more so! Especially when the maze is full… Of cats!

One of the fun things about playing this game with other players is we all ended up in different parts of the maze. “Wait, where the heck are you? how do I get there?!” we called to each other back and forth as each of us exclaimed they’d found something different. Here working together really helped. The maze was not quite as daunting when we divided and conquered it.

Part Three – We Have No Idea!

Wait, what?

That’s right – we couldn’t actually progress to the third section of the game. The puzzle ‘gating’ the third section of the game we found insurmountably difficult between the four of us. It’s a common type of puzzle (no spoilers here) that two of our party were comfortable solving, but the ramp up in difficulty combined with the fact it was already quite late on the Sunday evening when we arrived at it meant we gave up after ~20 or so minutes and put the game to one side.

This particular puzzle is probably uniquely and logically solvable, but again not well suited to playing with a group of four players over video call since it’s very much a solo-puzzle. I later went back and did have a second attempt in my own time after printing the puzzle out and pouring over it over breakfast a few days later. But I came up against the same issue, not being able to pass beyond this point. I don’t consider myself particularly bad at solving this kind of puzzle but this particular iteration just didn’t click for me.

But I don’t just a game for my own personal shortcomings. So I couldn’t solve one puzzle – that’s on me. Up until this point we had a great time playing.

The Verdict

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a really unique ARG experience quite unlike anything else I’ve played in a very long time! It had it’s delightful moments – and an equal number of moments where we were banging our collective heads against the desk. But hey, a balance in a game like this is good, right?

In our particular playthrough, it was a little bit disappointing not to be able to fully finish the game but as I say, that may be an issue with us and not with the game – I’ll let other players judge! But for that reason it’s hard to comment on the complete story line. What we saw was a lot of fun, but how did it end? Argh! I want to know! *shakes fist at the sky*

Do we recommend it? Well, it’s not quite an escape room, no, but it’s incredibly unique and well worth a try… Especially as at the time of writing it’s completely free. Yep, you read that right. For a game that is at least 2 hours worth of puzzling goodness, you can’t go wrong. Give it a go! See if you can succeed where we failed!

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant can be played for free by heading to this link here.

Royal Museums Greenwich: The Cursed Collector | Review

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The Cursed Collector Review | Someone is trying to break into The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre. Is it a thief, and if so, what are they trying to steal? As an undercover investigator you will help the curators find out what is going on and take action … and fast!

An anonymous tip has revealed that a person already known to the Museum is the potential perpetrator. We need to convince Security that the threat is real!

Completion Time: 21:49
Date Played: 17th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Personally, I love it when museums enter the ‘escape room’ space. Museums are packed with history, fascinating stories and curious collections ripe for converting into an immersive mystery just like this one. I actually hope that more museums will do it in the future – it’s just such a fantastic way to get the general public to engage in a meaningful way with the past and I love that!

The Cursed Collector is the latest in museum-escape room collaboration. It’s also a funny story, because my partner (occasional player 2 in my reviews and UK museums professional) heard about this game’s launch long before I did. We bounce around ideas for museum themed escape rooms from time to time, but one day he turned to me and asked “Hey, have you played the Royal Museums Greenwich one yet?”

Wait what? A brand new digital escape room experience that I’d never heard of?! Well, that had to be fixed at once! And so, pulling together a fantastic team of Al, Ash and Georgie, we booked ourselves in right away.

About The Cursed Collector Escape Room

The Cursed Collector is a timed digital escape room experience. You’re given a specific time slot and a Zoom link to join 5 minutes before. At your allocated time, you all hop onto the call and are greeted by your host, then in no time at all the adventure begins.

The whole game then takes place over a series of websites which one member of the team is encouraged to share their screen so that all players can play along. The narrative weaves seamlessly between fictional websites, for shady security firms and secret societies and real websites including the Royal Museums Greenwich actual collections! Various pages have audio files, and password protected sections which must be unlocked to progress.

The game centres around a fictional story inspired by those collections, but it does a great job of forcing you to interact with the real exhibits which you can then go and see in person. What a fun blurring of story and truth together! We worked together and dug through layers of maritime history in search of lost treasure. Why? To break a curse, of course!

The whole thing should take an average team around 60 minutes to complete. We were on particularly good form and took just 20 minutes, but equally I’m not sure enthusiasts are the target audience of the game so we may be outliers there.

Introducing, Our Museum Guide!

In our case, the host (in our case named Victoria) was one of my favourite things about the whole experience. Bearing in mind it’s just a museum (and not say, an escape room company with games masters who have trained for years), our host was full of enthusiasm from the first moment to the last. Due to the nature of the gameplay, we interacted with her only during the intro briefing and the outro, as for most of the game she took a very hands off role. A good thing, I suppose, as we didn’t require any hints! But even at the last moment it felt like she cared a lot about our experience, asking all the right questions about what worked and what didn’t work and what feedback we had. A lovely touch to feel listened to!

I do feel that for an experience like this it is unusual to have a host. Since the whole thing was digital and fairly self-contained, we easily could have played without an intro or outro video (say, just a pre-recorded video and a web-page with hints if we needed them). I mainly mention it because there are only 2 slots offered per evening, but the whole game could easily be a “play anytime” game if players were allowed to start and finish at their own pace without needing to book into a slot. The more players who get to experience this game, the better, right? But hey, that’s just my two pence on the matter! I appreciated getting to meet our lovely host, but the presence of any host was not necessary for the gameplay.

Cracking Codes and Hacking into the System

In terms of puzzles, whilst they may have been on the easier side, it certainly was fun to whiz through the internet hacking into various login pages and security systems to access information. For the best experience, whilst one person will be sharing their screen – other players should open up the same URLs and have a dig around at their own pace. You never know what you may find.

Some of my favourite moments included ‘hacking’ into a real email address’s inbox, and finding many cool pages on the internet that you’re never quite sure are real or fictional.

There’s a lot of ‘guessing the password for this page’ with a few clues pointing on various web pages. Though these people seriously need to up their security! Haha!

If you enjoy more deductive, mimetic puzzles like that, then it’ll be right up your street.

The Verdict

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to grade this escape game as we traditionally do for each review. Subjectively, not my favourite escape room experience. But would I recommend it? Sure!

I think it comes down to the technology. Playing The Cursed Collector reminded me a lot of playing the very earliest games in the Isklander series – that is before they revamped them all into a trilogy. What I mean by that is that it reminded me of the kinds of games that game out in early 2020. Isklander won a lot of awards when it first came out because nobody had seen anything quite like it. If they launched now… Meh.

So what I’m trying to saying a roundabout way is that the style and ambition of The Cursed Collector already feels dated, which is a slight shame given the wealth of resource material a museum like The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre has. They could have done a lot more with it.

But here’s the thing, why on Earth would I expect a museum who has never made an escape room before to compete with the established escape rooms that have spent the last 2-3 years fine tuning and honing the digital escape room craft? I wouldn’t. Museums do not have a lot of money, made even worse by the drastic cuts faced in the UK as a result of the pandemic. People aren’t visiting museums as much anymore, and museums need to do whatever they can to secure more income and bring more excited people through their doors – especially young people!

So am I thrilled that RMG created this escape room? Heck yeah!

Should you play it and support them? Absolutely.

I hope that this is just the first of many immersive experiences the team go on to create and I hope they inspire other museums across the UK to follow suite and create their own games.

The TLDR; Verdict

The Cursed Collector is fairly engaging and has a great host who guides you through the RMG Collections in search of missing items in order to break a curse. Sure, it’s not the most impressive escape room, feels a little dated compared to other digital escape rooms you can play today, and it definitely won’t challenge enthusiasts, but it’s important to support museums if you can. We’d recommend this for families and kids** who cannot visit the collections in person but want a fun and educational way to engage with the RMG. For the best experience, why not play first, then go visit those very same objects you were working with in the game!

** please note, the website recommends it for ages 14+. We think this game would be fine for players much younger, but do get in touch with them directly to discuss!

The Cursed Collector can be booked by heading to Royal Museums Greenwich’s page here.

Hourglass Escapes: NOVA | Review

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Hourglass Escapes NOVA Review | Greetings, crew. Our mission is in great danger. An asteroid storm has disabled our ship–but worse, it damaged the automated drop ship that was delivering the Nova seed. The Nova Seed is needed to terraform Khepri 5, the future home planet of what’s left of humanity! Work together to restore power to your vessel, find the crashed Nova drop ship, and deliver the seed!

Completion Time: 22 minutes
Date Played: 10th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Hourglass Escapes across the pond in Seattle is one of those companies I will literally never stop recommending. From their consistently high quality digital games, to how much fun we have with our host (usually the owner Seth) each time. Their Evil Dead 2 room was easily one of our highlights of 2021!

So whenever we hear that Hourglass Escape is releasing a new game, you bet we’re first in the virtual queue!

This month the Hourglass Escapes team announced a new ‘play any time’ sci-fi game game: NOVA. In a similar vein to The Navigators and the Call From Beyond, up to 6 players all log on and are immediately transported across the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Our mission, simple! We’re here to rescue the legendary Nova Seed needed to terraform humanity’s new planet. So err, no pressure!

Let’s go where no man has gone before…

Disclaimer, I am a huge sci-fi fan. There’s a reason my username is mairispaceship (that reason being that at the age of 7 I accidentally legally gave myself the middle name “spaceship” but that’s a story for another time). But for this sci-fi loving reason, I’m a big fan of the story of NOVA. It’s probably my favourite thing about the game.

Not a lot of details are given. All we really know is that it’s set in the far future on a spaceship that’s in peril. Cut to sweeping views of your shuttle ship which looks like a cross between The Expanse and Star Trek, and it well and truly affirms your place in the great unknown universe.

Impressive Production Value

I don’t know why on Earth I’m surprised given their track record, but let me just say it again: NOVA had an incredible production value! It was almost like they’d built an entire spaceship from scratch complete with many rooms, hidden passages, and beautiful sweeping views of the cosmos. Walking around- or rather, pointing and clicking in the handy Telescape platform– felt much more like we were playing a multiplayer video game than playing a simple, browser-based escape room.

As a video game designer for my day job – I appreciate that a lot! But it’s also great to see how much love and care the designers have put into the world building. Kudos!

On the topic of ‘Telescape’, the in-browser technology has improved since we last played another point-and-click at Hourglass Escapes. This time our video chat was inbuilt into the system (hooray! No more Facebook or WhatsApp calls in the background!). This ‘Jitsi’ plugin meant that we could see each other and hear each other from within the browser at all times.

One Small Step For Man…

In terms of puzzles, we found NOVA to be quite easy. According to the playtesting, most teams take around 60 minutes to complete, with enthusiast groups coming in around 40.

*pause*

We took 22 minutes!

But I can explain – NOVA is a very non-linear, collaborative game. In each new area you reach there are a number of panels and screens dotted around, each with their own puzzle. With our team of 4 we immediately got into a rhythm of splitting up and solving in parallel. So whereas a room with 4 unique puzzles may easily take 20 minutes (5 minutes each or more), we all solved about one each and raced through each room in no time.

The flip side to that was that we didn’t all experience the same puzzles, which is a downside because the ones I did were a lot of fun and what can I say? I want more!

Each of the puzzles I did encounter all felt very mimetic in the sci-fi universe they’ve created. In short, exactly the kinds of things you would be expected to do on a space ship. Reading radio wave read outs, flicking switches and rewiring the hardware, analysing chemicals, and so on. Nothing challenged us for more than a minute or two and overall – the whole thing felt fun to solve! So no complaints on the difficulty here.

The Verdict

NOVA is another really solid game from Hourglass Escapes and one I’ll definitely be recommending. It’s probably not my favourite game from the company. No, that award goes to Rise of the Mad Pharaoh, but it’s still an all round fun experience with a lot of snazzy graphics and unique puzzles. Those puzzles probably won’t challenge a larger team, but for a beginner room it’s spot on, so definitely one to introduce to your Puggle (puzzle muggle) friends.

NOVA can be purchased and played at any time from Hourglass Escape’s website here.

The Panic Room: CSI Stranglehold | Review

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

Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~1 hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ratings

Real Escape Game Japan / SCRAP: JUJUTSU KAISEN Online Puzzle Game “Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School” | Review

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Jujutsu Kaisen Online Puzzle Game Review | You are a student of the Tokyo Prefectural Jujutsu High School. Your skill as a jujutsu sorcerer is the ability to use cursed techniques over long distances. But in exchange for that power, you are unable to leave your home – a student who has been registered in name only. One day, news of ordinary people going missing one after another at an abandoned school reaches your high school.

Completion Time: 2 hours
Date Played: 29th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

If you had to ask us (or rather me specifically) for a list of my favourite escape room companies in the world, based on any metric, SCRAP / Real Escape Game Japan would come up on top almost every time. No matter what the escape room industry looks like here in the UK, or in the USA, or anywhere else in the world… SCRAP is doing something totally different and it’s brilliant.

In their latest at-home ‘escape game’, we found ourselves escaping from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School. A very wordy headline, but no more than the previous two titles you may recognise from earlier reviews:

The game is similar in that there’s this fantastically high production value featuring live voice actors, high quality artwork, and exceptional storytelling. But Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School (which I’ll refer to as Cursed Spirit from herein) had a couple of key differences from the earlier games in SCRAP’s at-home series. Firstly, it’s a partnership with the hugely popular manga and anime series Jujutsu Kaisen. Secondly, you need a physical pack to play the game.

With both of those things in mind, we waited until a Saturday evening when we had ample time, plugged in our laptop via HDMI cable, grabbed our pack, and got puzzling!

About Jujutsu Kaisen Online Puzzle Game

Jujutsu Kaisen is an anime and manga series about a group of students named Yuji, Megumi and Nobora who are students at the Tokyo Jujutsu school and learn to become sorcerers. Their goal is to rid the world of evil energy and exorcise curses.

Which is pretty much where the game comes in. There’s a cursed spirit lurking at an abandoned school, and after a streamer goes missing, you and our three heroes are called in to perform another exorcism. I’ll let the trailer do the talking:

The game features the original cast of voice actors from the show as well as recognisable artwork and environments, which is pretty cool! Especially if you’re a fan of the anime.

Your journey as the player begins when you receive a mysterious letter from a fourth character named Gojo. He is a senior sorcerer and reaches out to you since you have a very special ability: Long Range Techniques. Meaning, you can cast spells from afar and help a team along from a careful distance via a web connection. The catch however is that you are essentially a hikikomori (so cool that I learned a new Japanese word from this game!), a shut in who is unable to leave and help physically.

So whilst you cannot be there in person, you see and hear everything that our three heroes see. Told through a series of video connections which are pre-recorded video sequences in Japanese with English subtitles, you take part in subtle ways. Each video lasts between 5 – 15 minutes, and at the end you have puzzles to solve which allow you to cast spells to further our heroes efforts. Cast a spell, sit back and relax, cast a spell, sit back and relax. And so on, and so on.

For Saturday night entertainment, we loved this format! You can plug your device in onto a big screen, have a keyboard near you to type in your spells, and keep the whole pack on your lap. It felt just like watching an animated film, but a film that we were a character in!

Solving Puzzles and Casting Spells!

In terms of puzzles, we felt that The Cursed Spirit did one thing but it did it really, really well. When we first received the pack we were surprised that it was a little light – just a few curious letters, books and sheets of paper. But when we got into solving puzzles, the game was unexpectedly delightful.

The premise of the puzzle game aspect of the experience is that you are able to cast a particular type of spell and you do so by folding your paper doll to conjure the image of what you’re casting the spell on. That then outputs a code, which advances the game. Essentially almost every puzzle centres around this idea (though we won’t go into more detail on this as to avoid spoilers), but somehow over two hours this familiar mechanic doesn’t feel repetitive!

Some spells we spotted and were able to cast quickly, and others took quite a good deal of thinking outside of the box. It wasn’t too difficult of a game, but we were certainly scratching our heads and trying to figure out the best way of solving each dilemma.

But overall, well balanced and fun to solve. I have a real soft spot for tactile games that involve physical manipulation of materials. The Cursed Spirit did this really well! But just one note – we did have to destroy some of the components so this game is not replayable (or re-giftable).

The Verdict

The Cursed Spirit is another fantastic play at home escape game from SCRAP and Real Escape Game Japan and we’re thrilled to have played it. As ‘Saturday evening entertainment‘ goes, it’s a hundred times more fun than watching a film or playing a traditional boxed escape game because it’s like both things combined together.

Overall, I probably still prefer SCRAP’s previous two games more: The Strange Village and The Demon Fortress. Both experiences we played early in lockdown and they absolutely blew me away. The Cursed Spirit was just as accomplished a game – if not better in parts – but we were not familiar with Jujutsu Kaisen and that probably didn’t help! I imagine if you’re a super fan of the series then getting to work with your favourite characters to exorcise demons would be thrilling.

In The Strange Village and The Demon Fortress you meet the characters for the first time, but in The Cursed Spirit there is an implicit assumption that you are familiar with the characters already, and the game jumps straight into the action.

That said, we are once again very impressed!

We would recommend The Cursed Spirit for smaller teams of no more than 3 players as many of the puzzles are quite tactile and can only be done by one or two players at a time. We would also recommend playing in the same location, as it is very video-heavy. With those two conditions met, you’re in for a treat if you play The Cursed Spirit and I kinda wish I could go back and play it for the first time again!

JUJUTSU KAISEN Online Puzzle Game “Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School” can be purchased in the UK from Amazon for a limited time only. Head to this page to find all the international links to purchase.

The Cari Mysteries: Grandfather’s Fortune | Review

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The Cari Mysteries: Grandfather’s Fortune | Review | A young family comes to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies in the 1950s. One day, one of the grandchildren receives her grandmother’s diary. For years, the story has been going around that Grandpa brought a fortune back from the Indies and that Grandma’s diary was supposed to be the treasure map. The diary is incomplete. The fortune has now been a legend in the family for over 50 years. No one has ever been able to find it. Discover and experience this true story and help find Grandfather’s Fortune.

Completion Time: 70 minutes
Date Played: 30th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

Gezelligheid kent geen tijd!

Or, to those of us who aren’t Ash (the French & Dutch graduate) – time flies when you’re having fun! Our classic online escape team of us, Mairi and Tasha sat down together on a chilly January evening to see whether we could help search an old Dutch farm house, to find the family’s hidden fortune. Turns out, it was hidden in far more than a locked box, it was hidden in time itself.

So, put on your time-travelling glasses, and let’s get exploring.

A beautiful family farmhouse – so much to see!

This game begins with a wonderfully sweet introductory video, bringing you up to date with the family’s history and the mystery of their grandfather’s hidden treasure. It is a very nostalgic game, as players are reviled with tales of old family traditions and introduced to the various members of the family and their individual stories.

The first space you get to explore is the looming front door. It’s very easy to look around, and the exploration in the game feels very nature. The software itself helps to plant you in the game, as you can see the seemingly never-ending fields stretch out way in the distance from the farm house, it feels like you are really there! Ash was absolutely loving this, and wishing that she had played the game in Dutch, returning to her days living in the Netherlands as a student.

Are these…magic glasses?!

Once we managed to make it inside, we were taken into the first ‘space’ of the game: the house’s attic. Here, we found out what really makes this game special: the magic glasses! Players can click a button to put them on, and they are taken back in time! You can look around the room with a whole new perspective, new puzzles appear, people appear, the overlay of the present and the past is brilliant! It works pretty seamlessly too, so it doesn’t feel dis-jointed or laggy, which was a big relief.

We worked together to solve the puzzles, which were actually quite challenging. You have a diary which accompanies you throughout the day, acting as a handy guide/map. It’s a clever way of having a sort of ‘options menu’ without breaking the immersion – and works very well in the digital escape room format.

The treasure! Eindelijk!

This was a really fun, wholesome game. We had a great time exploring the many rooms on offer within the farmhouse, flitting between the past and the present to combine items to make our way to the family’s hidden treasure. There were a hefty amount of puzzles, and we did get a bit stuck a few times! We definitely have a new favourite kind of puzzle, one we’ve actually never seen before (which is unusual given we are now nearing our 200th game) – kudos to the Cari Mysteries!

This game lends itself well to being played online. It’s been designed with care, and with love. We would highly recommend this for a cosy Sunday evening with friends. It might be a nice one to play with family if you are all apart, it certainly made us feel quite nostalgic!

Grandfather’s fortune can be played by going to the Cari Mysteries website here.