Hackers: The Tomb of the Wandering King | Review

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The Tomb of the Wandering King Review | The find of the century has been uncovered in the depths of Yorkshire – The Tomb of The Wandering King, a mysterious figure, lost to history. But the archaeological team have been silent for weeks. You arrive to find a dig site, long abandoned, and the mouth of the Tomb ajar and aglow. Who – or what – is this Wandering King? And what secrets lie beneath the soil?

Date Played: 8th May 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: ~1 Hour
Difficulty: Medium

Escape rooms and crazy golf... Not something I’d usually pair together, but after seeing how excellently Hackers has accomplished it, a trend I hope to see more of across the country. Add into the mix a well stocked bar and a fantastically enthusiastic bar-tender who was a dab hand at whipping up martinis for us, and you have a brilliant mix, truly putting Billericay on the map as a destination for a thoroughly fun day out.

On one such beautiful sunny Sunday, myself, Karen, Nick, and Nick’s kid arranged to travel in from our respective corners of ‘The South’ to take on not one but two brand new escape rooms. Not just any old escape room either… Two new creations by Time Run and Spectre and Vox alumnus Nick Moran – what a treat!

For many reasons *gestures vaguely*, this will be a difficult escape room to review, as it’s hard not to reveal too much about the game. But trust me when I say, this is a room you want to go into with absolutely no expectations. Expect the unexpected. Expect “ooohs” and “aaahs“. Expect to have your heart strings tugged at. Expect difficult decisions. Above all, remember that this escape room is all about the journey and not the destination and my God, what a journey.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

About The Tomb of the Wandering King

The name of this escape room evokes such strong imagery in my mind… Something between PB Shelley’s Ozymandias poem, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In both cases we, as the audience, are asked the question:

Who, or What is the Wandering King?

This escape room challenges players to find out exactly that. In this way, it’s not your classic “you’re locked in a room and you have 60 minutes to escape.” Actually, quite the opposite. We were never verbally given a time limit and, although we took around an hour to complete it, I didn’t get the sensation of time pressure at any moment at all. We were merely there to investigate and to see where the tides of our investigation might take us.

In this way the focus throughout the experience was less on the puzzles (more about those later) and more on the journey of being there and experiencing the story. The puzzles merely served as triggers to advance the story and uncover new rooms as we ventured along. The strangest thing? I didn’t even mind. Within minutes I was 100% there for the story.

That story! The character development! Ugh, give me more!

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

I met a traveller from an antique land

The story begins with you, an intrepid team sent to investigate an archaeological dig that has gone unusually quiet. Your mysterious benefactor has a financial interest in the dig, but doesn’t mind if you (or the archaeologists) study what they’ve found first. So long as the profit goes straight to him.

You arrive in the first room to an abandoned dig site. Initially it looked like something out of a vintage ‘camp forest’, complete with it’s log cabin, radio dials on the walls, and soft wood chip flooring. How… Curious! We were alone, yes, but a series of video and audio recordings left behind by one of the archaeologists kindly provided us expositional material and got us started on the journey. Having that anchor to a character along the journey was very helpful, and she was all parts charismatic, determined and brave.

Our mission was simple – retrace the archaeologist’s steps and uncover what she was digging up. You probably know the drill: a mysterious (and very well decorated) tomb entrance with an ancient and cryptic mechanic to get inside it. But here, unfortunately dear readers, is as far as I can go into describing what happens.

You’ll thank me later for not explaining any further, even though I’m dying to.

But what follows is an hour (or more) of following our fearless archaeologists steps, finally making contact, and doing some things that shake the foundations of what we know about, well, *gestures vaguely* all of this. If I weren’t with company, I’d probably have cried a little at the ending.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay…

In terms of puzzles, individually they were probably the weakest part of the escape room experience. But even take this with a pinch of salt, the real reason I think you should visit this room isn’t for ‘excellent’ puzzles, it’s for pure atmosphere and story. But since this is The Escape Roomer, we’ve gotta mention them.

In our session, our Games Master kindly let us know that there was one puzzle that wasn’t working correctly so they were going to provide a manual override on it. If we hadn’t been told, I don’t think I would have noticed as it was very easy to bypass, but it was nice of her to let us know.

Of those puzzles that were working, we found this room to be a very high tech room. A lot of screens, buttons, and fancy wiring in the back-end. Not a single lock and key in sight. Okay, well maybe just one. But as a whole this is a high tech room. I’m always a little questioning of very high tech rooms as they tend to be the first to break (our own breakage not withstanding), but since we’re one of the first teams to play it I’m not in a position to judge how they’ll hold up long term.

High tech or not, every single puzzle we encountered worked very well within the environment. Nothing immersion breaking, and some really brilliant moments of mimetic puzzle design that were a delight to play.

There were a few puzzles that were definitely open to interpretation, and there were a few more that were needlessly finnicky. At a point sometimes finnicky puzzles are more about luck than about skill, but we got there in the end after much huffing. There were a few ‘sound’ puzzles which didn’t gel well with us as a team – we’re all completely tone deaf and found these to be more frustrating than anything else. Finally, there were a few puzzles that were quite similar to one another in functionality.

Again, take this with a pinch of salt. If you’re like me and viewed the puzzles more as a mechanic to further the story – then you’ll be fine. But it’s worth mentioning as besides a few standout fun ones, we didn’t enjoy the puzzles as much as we might have done.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

…Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare…

…And right back to the positives. Starting with the decor. The decor was *dramatic chefs kiss* beautiful.

I genuinely felt like it might be the most pretty and awe inspiring room I’d ever experienced. At least until we stepped into Blood Over Baker Street the next room we had booked at Hackers.

The space was huge and no expense spared to make it look, feel and smell realistic. Every detail perfectly encapsulated the theme of the environment and it was a joy to just physically be there. Can Nick and his team please come round and convert my apartment into a super realistic fantasy world? Please and thank you.

 

Team Escape Roomer!

 

…The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Sometimes on The Escape Roomer, and in life in general, I like to describe escape rooms as like films. Only you play the main character. Thriller, horror, magical? It’s always about you and your quest. 90% of the time it’s an accurate description. But after playing Tomb of the Wandering King with it’s intense level of immersivity I’m going to rethink how liberally I give that description to other escape rooms. Few can hold a candle to the level of storytelling and immersivity in this game. It’s like something else entirely.

If my tone of voice and general gushing weren’t obvious, I cannot recommend Tomb of the Wandering King highly enough. It ticked so many boxes for me personally and I am a big fan. For sure, I think the puzzles brought the overall rating down from a 5 to 4, and if you’re an enthusiast who looks for excellent puzzle design before making a trip then perhaps book yourself into Blood over Baker Street instead. But for me? Tomb of the Wandering King is well worth the trip and goes down in my personal hall of fame.

For this, and many other reasons, I’ve decided to award this escape room the “I Believe” badge, awarded to experiences that had us immersed from start to finish.

In terms of accessibility there were some cramped spaces, low lighting conditions, crawl spaces, objects placed quite high up in various rooms, and sound-based puzzles. For those reasons it’s not the most accessible in the world. That said I’d recommend reaching out to Hackers about your specific accessibility needs if that’s a concern.

In terms of recommendation – we had a young lad (Nick’s son) with us. Whilst I’d love to say it’s a great room for kids, being on the longer and more narrative side it is hard to capture a kid’s attention for that long. It’s also fairly scary with some real moments of threat. So I’ll leave that at individual adults’ discretion, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than say, 14.

 

The Tomb of the Wandering King can be booked by heading to Hackers’ website here.

VRCave: Space Station Tiberia | Review

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Space Station Tiberia Review | Become a member of the Space Station Tiberia crew and to save the planet from a unavoidable catastrophe in this free-roaming VR Escape room! Enjoy the unprecedented level of immersion: walk around the room (up to 4 people) and use your logic and teamwork to succeed. Don’t expect this to be an easy task. The clock is ticking and the challenge you’re about to face is very real.

Date Played: November 2021
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 35 minutes
Difficulty: Hard!

Space Station Tiberia is free-roam virtual escape room that is available at a number of locations across the UK (and the world!). We originally played it at DNA VR, a fantastic little VR arcade located in the new build near Battersea Power Station. You can read more about this venue in our guide here. In this review, I want to reflect both the general experience of this game (that’s likely identical wherever you play it), and our specific visit to DNA VR.

Image (c) DNA VR

About DNA VR

DNA VR is one of London’s first VR arcades and is home to a whole host of arcade games, including one of the most impressive escape room suites we’ve seen in the UK! including a range of original, free-roam titles.

On a quiet Monday evening in November, we visited their brand new site in the beautiful riverside arches at Battersea Power Station to find out what all the hype is about. We were greeted by Games Master Chris our enigmatic host for the hour. As the previous group was just finishing off their session, it gave us a chance to explore the venue and find out all about the exciting games they have on offer.

As well as all of the Ubisoft escape room games, you can play a number of other free-roam and fixed position VR experiences, including this one.

About Space Station Tiberia

Space Station Tiberia is an exciting, fast-pace virtual reality ‘escape room’ that places you, a team of astronauts on a space station, in the unenviable position of stopping a meteor from crashing into Earth and destroying the planet. You have just 35 minutes, but the only problem is your Meteor Defense Platform is broken – no pressure, hey!

Throughout this experience you have two goals:

  1. Fix the space station!
  2. Stop the asteroid

The game begins inside a very clean and clinical space station. A lot more high tech and comfortable than the ISS – so we must be living in the near future! After an initial ship-fixing first 20 minutes, you spend your last 10 outside the ship in a very cool outro sequence fighting off asteroids.

The best thing about Space Station Tiberia is that it is free roam. normally in VR escape rooms you’re fixed in one spot. Sure, you can sometimes teleport location but largely the puzzles come to you. In this game, you could move freely throughout the room in any direction. We had to crouch down, stretch up, and peer around corners to succeed in this room. oh- and of course we bumped into each other quite a fair few times! Haha!

But let me tell you, it is hard! Though unfortunately, not in a good way where we walked out satisfied that we’d solved a lot of puzzles. It was obtusely difficult. For starters, outside information was required which is a big no-no in escape rooms. I was lucky to be playing with someone who knew the answer, but otherwise we may have needed to skip that puzzle. Secondly, it made use of VR in an unconventional way. Small spoiler incoming – one of the puzzles required you to balance objects on top of each other to reach a high up place, a nearly impossible feat in virtual reality and didn’t really quite us to ‘solve’ anything either.

That said, if we look at the experience less like an escape room and more like a general VR game, then it makes a little more sense and becomes more enjoyable. It’s a fairly solid first-generation (if such a thing exists in the VR world) escape room that challenges small teams to perform quite manual puzzles around a space ship. There are more than a few action-centric scenes of shooting asteroids and lifting and throwing things around, but mostly it’s enjoyable to be in a sci-fi environment unlike anything else you can play ‘in real life’.

After Space Station Tiberia…

We finished the ‘escape room’ with a little extra time on the clock and were invited by our games master Chris to play another, much shorter experience: The Hospital of Horrors

“Not sure I like this”, my player two uttered from the other side of the room as we descended a rickety old lift into a pitch black basement. As the lights came on we realised we were surrounded by spiders…

Overall we both loved Hospital of Horrors a lot more than Space Station Tiberia. It’s a truly creepy experience that really pushes what is possible in VR and one we’d definitely recommend everyone try. So not quite an escape room but if you’re looking for something unique in VR then this is where it’s at!

Player beware, you’re in for a scare!

The Verdict

We had a great time at DNA VR, it’s a great venue and our host was fantastic. Did we love Space Station Tiberia? Honestly, not particularly, but I do like the genre of escape room in VR and I really, really liked that this one was free roam. It gives the player a chance to do some very cool actions and solve puzzles that simply wouldn’t be possible in real life. But hey, there are better experiences to try out in VR (some of those also available at DNA VR!) if you want to do something very special.

If you want to book an experience at DNA VR, head to their website 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.

ClueAdventures: Jet 2 Space | Review

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If Space is the final frontier then Jet2Space is a full-frontal fictional frenzy. It’s 2199 and you and your game partner have made the mistake of buying the cheapest tickets to space on the market. Not long after takeoff, you’ll realize that WheezyJet have cut every corner on Flight 069.

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 3rd February 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Easy

If you’re anything like me you tend to save escape rooms until you have friends visiting, or until you can do them with someone who will really appreciate them, or even just feel a little bit of guilt in doing one as a pair. However, ClueAdventures has noticed this niche and created not one, but two two-player only games! I played their first game, “2 Tickets 2 Ride”, at least 3 years ago and it was great, so I was very excited when they announced ‘Jet 2 Space’! I did decide to save it for a special occasion, so moving flat seemed like as good a reason as any!

On a mission to Uranus

When we booked this room we didn’t realise we had actually booked a trip to space, although as this was with the budget space company “WheezyJet” we probably should’ve known what we were getting into. It doesn’t take long before things go wrong, and thanks to certain economies we were left in charge to figure out how to take control of the ship and find somewhere to land safely.

In general, the set was very tactile – there were lots of things to see, do and interact with – any areas that seemed shabby felt purposeful, and I was able to feel immersed in the experience. The decor of the room was a hybrid between an airplane cabin and a rocket ship, with plenty of easter eggs sprinkled about. If it isn’t obvious from the fact you are on flight 069 to Uranus, this game has quite a few adult themes, but I’d describe them as loving and silly, rather than trying to be actively dirty. They also have plenty of very geeky references spread everywhere in a similar style, making this the perfect mix of not knowing whether you’re about to be excited over a Sci-Fi reference, or groan over some sort of phallic pun.

Use the force…(or don’t)

We all know the first rule of escape rooms is that usually force is not required. The same applies to this room, although you are encouraged to “use THE force”…brain force that is!

*insert groans here*

Seriously though, I love the geeky aspect of this room, and it shines through everything they do. The puzzles in the room were all fairly simple and linear – following one after another – so the challenge came not from figuring out what the puzzle was, but from figuring out the solution (imagine a Suduko – you know what to do, but you still need to work to find the solution). Fortunately for us, there was an onboard magazine available (for a small fee) that contained quite a few valuable pieces of information.

Being a small space there were very few hidden objects, so our powers of observation and attention to detail were testing more than our hide & seek skills. There were also no keys and only a very small amount of number locks, because of course, they won’t exist by 2199.

Bumping uglies

Being quite a small space we found ourselves bumping into each other quite a bit, so teamwork and communication are an absolute must. There are a few puzzles that require overt teamwork, and ClueAdventures do a great job of making sure you are switching positions so you don’t get one person doing all the grunt work. I would have liked to see more of this though – many of the puzzles were solved single-handedly, which I think is a shame. Perhaps if they release a third 2-player room they could make it entirely based on teamwork!

We managed to navigate most of the room without incident, which is a shame as I was looking forward to using the help phrase (“Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!”). The hint would (apparently) pop up on the on-board monitor, but otherwise we were left to fend for ourselves.

Accessible boarding

ClueAdventures is based above “The Coach & Horses” pub in Leyton, so while it is great for a pint it isn’t great for accessibility needs. Stairs will need to be navigated to reach the room, and once inside it’s quite a small space, so please check before booking if you have any claustrophobia or concerns about space/temperature. It was well lit, with no loud noises. Hearing and colour perception are both necessities for this journey, although as someone with hearing impairments I coped fine as you just need to be able to communicate with your fellow passenger. There were a few puzzles that required physical dexterity too, although only one team member needs to take on this burden.

The price of a good time

We know that escape rooms can be expensive, and it’s a question within our community about whether it is fairer to price per player or a flat rate per room. Unfortunately, teams of 2 are often disadvantaged by either model which is what has put me off booking a room for two previously.

Despite the fact this room was designed for 2 players only, the price of £35 each still felt quite steep, given most times I’d expect to pay less than £30 when playing with a larger team. It was also a little disappointing as I might expect that from larger rooms with a flat rate (e.g £70 a game regardless of team size), but not one which has been specifically designed for a smaller team.

Even taking away the monetary side and thinking about value…it still feels a little steep. We had a really fun time, but ultimately it was very linear and I didn’t feel I had my money’s worth.

The Verdict

Overall this is a fun and entertaining room, but not complex or engaging to those who are more experienced. I think if you’re still embarking on your escape room journey this is a great room for you, and possibly cheaper and more manageable than other London rooms not designed for 2. However, in the future I would probably suck it up and pay for other rooms in London, knowing I’d feel more challenged and the price would be justified a little more.

Jet 2 Space can be booked at Clue Adventures Leyton here

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

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

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience

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

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

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

What to Expect at War of the Worlds Immersive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Experience of the Apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit of Man Bar & Restaurant

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

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

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

Christmas Eve of War

The Christmas Eve of War

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

The Martiantini

Martiantini

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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Next Level Escape: The Strange Disappearance on Station Eleven | Review

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Next Level Escape: The Strange Disappearance of Station Eleven | Review | An online sci-fi adventure set aboard a mysteriously empty space station, with a noir flavour. Investigate what happened to the crew, and don’t get yourself spaced! Noir-esque narration, humour and story come together in a fun romp through a small station on the outskirts of space. With a shared inventory system, a catch-up option and other fun ways to interact with your friends, this game is designed to make you feel like you’re all working together… even while apart.

Completion Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes (ish!)
Date Played: November 2021
Party Size: 5
Difficulty: Medium

Welcome aboard…!

We sat around on a chilly November night to try out Next Level Escape’s new game: The Strange Disappearance on Station Eleven. This game is all about investigating what happened to the crew members – whether it was a classic case of a rouge AI, or if something more…gassy…was afoot.

With five of us playing, including us, Nick and Mairi, we knew it would be a relatively ‘busy’ escape, with people going off much like you would in an in-person escape, looking at different puzzles at different times.

So, what did we think?

https://sds11.escapingonline.com/videos/SDS11_OPENING.mp4

The Interface

Luckily, the interface set up by Next Level Escape fits really well with multiple users! It was actually quite a nice break from Telescape, and would suit those looking for something a bit more complex. That said, we did experience a few technical difficulties at the beginning which kicked one player out meaning they had to play along via a screen-share for the remainder of the game.

The graphics were excellent and throughout the game it felt like we were on board a spaceship straight out of a sci-fi movie – think The Expanse or Star Trek vibes. The physical space we were exploring felt huge too, with lots of different sections to explore and lots of clickable objects.

Most importantly, we really appreciated the humour interspersed throughout the gameplay too – there was one stand out moment which was a throwback to early 2000s trolling that Al (Alice, not the AI – we quickly realised the confusion we could have with Al and AI in the same space!!) fell victim to which gave us some laughs.

One of the biggest stand out features was a ‘Catch Up’ button, meaning team members who are slightly behind, or just cannot click with that ‘one puzzle’, can skip ahead to join the rest of their crew. This stops everyone from having to put in codes multiple times, which can be a bit of a pain.

We loved this – more of this please!

Image (c) Next Level Escapes

Some dramatic music + a voiceover (+ beans) = a good story!

The storyline in this game was great. There was a fun introductory video to get everyone up to speed, along with a handy tutorial at the start before you officially ‘board the spaceship’. From here, the game progressed well, with new spaces becoming available each time you solved a new puzzles, and more of the story being revealed as we made our way through the game.

We always like it when the puzzles link to the narrative, and this game really delivered on this front!

The game markets itself towards more seasoned puzzlers and we can see why. Often we think of puzzles in layers of complexity (the more layers of information needed to solve a puzzle, the more complex it is)! We found these puzzles pretty challenging, often requiring multiple people looking at different things to put together to find a solution, so communication literally was the key on many occasions. However, these were all enjoyable (and most importantly – logical!). There were no puzzles where we thought ‘how on earth is that the answer!’. Users need to make sure they have a keen eye for detail though, and be ready for a large amount to solve!

Image (c) Next Level Escapes

There was one particular series of puzzles that really stood out to us. It involved the use of shapes, and it was something we had never seen before – making for an extremely satisfying A-HA moment when we figured out what was going on.

We did have to use one hint, but this meant we got to see the fun hint package the game offered, which was on theme with the humour of the rest of the game. It was also really easy to navigate, which is nice as it prevents you from accidentally spoiling something you haven’t got to yet!

Friend or foe? (I’m going to poke it anyway)

The climax of the game was brilliant. It involved a lot of figurative ‘running around’ and everyone working in a team together. Once we had stopped poking the AI, we realised it had a lot more to offer us, including a hilarious ending and more mentions of baked beans than we had expected… (would you eat a baked bean cake?! I think even we would draw the line here…)

The Verdict

We would definitely recommend this game to puzzle enthusiasts looking for a fun game that is a bit different but still challenges you with its puzzles. You won’t regret it! Get together with 2-6 players and see if you can figure out what happened to Station 11…

The Strange Disappearance on Station Eleven can be booked on Next Level Escape’s website here. While you’re here, be sure to check out our review of A Temporal Tangle.

Ratings

Escape Nation: The Citadel | Review

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The year is 2321, Earth’s population has spread out into space. Mega-corporations have built space stations throughout the galaxy. You have not long arrived on-board a Citadel class space station owned by the Federal Defence Union (FDU). The main function of this Citadel is scientific research and development. The night you arrived, the station’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) was beginning to malfunction. And now, only one week later, the Citadel’s main power has just shut down, and the backup generator has come online.

The doors won’t open, communications don’t work, and you can hear some unusual noises from other parts of the space station. Can you escape before the backup generator goes offline and you’re trapped on-board forever?

Completion Time: 32:30
Date Played: 26th August 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Moderate

We have seen a lot of good reviews flowing in for Escape Nation’s room, The Citadel, so we took the opportunity of visiting Al’s parents to journey down to Stafford – and we were NOT disappointed! This room was BRILLIANT. It was definitely a good choice to play with Al’s parents, who are big fans of ‘puzzle content’. We actually managed to escape with the second fastest time ever recorded, which we were absolutely stoked with.

The logic definitely was not puzzling…

When things ‘click’ in an escape room, it always makes a room more appealing. As a group of 4, it was surprising that we all seemed to gel with the puzzle flow and the use of logic in the room. This was one of those rooms where you kept seeing new puzzles that were yet to come, which can be distracting as you get excited about the puzzles still to solve, whilst you are still figuring out the previous puzzle. 

We split up into two duos for the majority of the room, each moving through different puzzles, and coming back together at the particularly ‘tricky’ bits! Some of the puzzles used in this room were ones we haven’t seen before (which is unusual now we’ve done >150 rooms!). Others were more ‘classic’ escape room puzzles, but when delivered so well, these are a joy to solve. We even managed to do some searching, successfully! Perhaps it was the addition of Al’s parents, or perhaps it was just a good day for us, but we will take that victory haha!

Artificial Intelligence… Friend or foe?!

The interaction between the players and the AI in this room was great. We love a good sci-fi story, and this did not disappoint. In fact, we thought we had finished the room at one point (so much so that Al’s mum had gone and put her coat on!), only for a rather alarming alarm to sound, and the narrative took quite a dramatic twist. We quickly dropped our bags, took off our coats and returned to puzzling. It was fun to see parts of the room we had thought we wouldn’t interact with suddenly open up and become part of the gameplay – a welcome surprise.

We are so glad the room ended like this. We weren’t quite ready to leave the room when we thought we had finished, and loved the opportunity to face even more puzzles. It made the experience feel much fuller and really helped to create that ‘last minute’ game tension that can sometimes be missing from rooms which you click with so well.

Overall

We can’t recommend this room enough. The puzzles, the decoration, the hosts, everything was brilliant. If you are in the vicinity of Stafford, definitely make your way across, and see if you can beat our time!

You can find Escape Nation on this website here: https://www.escapenation.co.uk/

Ratings

Enibot: Mission: Mars | Review

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Enibot Mission: Mars Review | Join a once in a lifetime mission! In the mission you will go through the astronaut selection process. If successful, you will join the first manned flight to Mars to find life signs! You must prove yourselves along the way via interesting challenges and smart and creative puzzles.

Date Played: 30th August 2021
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 45 minutes

One small step for Team: Al, Ash, Mairi, Tasha… And one giant leap for mankind!

After receiving a code to play Enibot’s Mission: Mars as part of the RECON play pass, we wasted no time before arranging another of our weekly escape room get togethers to try the at-home digital escape game out. It’s been a long time in lockdown, and heck, I can’t think where better to spend a Sunday evening than as far away from here as humanly possible: Mars!

Mars Needs you!

The story behind Mission: Mars is very much in the title. You must embark upon a mission to… You guessed it… Mars! It’s a short, light-hearted, and very fun little digital game that follows you and your intrepid team of space explorers receiving an invitation, passing the test, and journeying to the red planet. Throughout your trip you’ll encounter obstacles, difficulties, and more than a few puzzles to be solved before you can progress!

Whilst it probably won’t be winning any awards for outstanding storytelling, it is a classic escape room space adventure. A reliable and predictable narrative injected with puzzle solving fun! Being playable via your browser makes it accessible to a wide audience and it’s a fun way to spend an hour with friends. Very nice!

About Enibot & Quala

Enibot is a technology startup with the goal to create a software for digital escape rooms. To bring Mission: Mars to life, Enibot has also collaborated with Israel-based escape room company Quala. According to Enibot’s website,

After gaining experience together in hundreds of escape rooms, we came to the conclusion that it was time to create something special. We combined together puzzles and games with our unique and fun platform to create the perfect gaming experience for you!

Step One: Crack the Code & Travel to Mars

Mission: Mars is best played with one person sharing their screen and the rest of the team following along. When we first opened the game, it wasn’t immediately clear who would be the ‘lead’ screen-sharer, but we quickly figured it out after a couple of refreshes. From here, we were in!

The game is sectioned out into a number of unique scenes which tell the story of you and your team journeying to Mars. The flow of the game is fairly simple: Each scene has around one or two puzzles to be solved before you can progress to the next. To progress, you’ll find a chat-bot style interface on the left hand side of your screen where you need to input your next password. In most cases, this was a single keyword, but it could also be a number.

In an interface similar to Telescape, each scene we encountered was either an interactive image, for example our cockpit in the space shutter, or a 360 degree room we could click and drag and navigate around seamlessly! One of my favourite parts of Mission: Mars actually involved the sequences where we would find 3D modelled items and would need to rotate them to find specific details. Enibot handles this super well, and we found ourselves spinning planets around looking for minute details, and holding up Mars Rovers to discover hidden codes! Absolutely amazing!

To help you on your journey, you may ask for a number of clues. Clues and incorrect guesses will count against your final score, and we made 5 of them! Ooops!

One of the puzzles we enjoyed the most was the ‘takeoff to Mars’ sequence, performing all the last minute checks before your shuttle can take off. Here your screen is fully interactive and packed with dials and buttons to press and pull. It was pretty complex, but a lot of fun! I reckon after that we’re all just about ready to pilot a real space shuttle… Just waiting for my call from NASA any day now!

Don’t Forget to take a Selfie on Mars!

No escape room is complete without a team selfie at the end, right? One of the most unique features in Mission: Mars came right at the end of the game. Once you’ve successfully completed your mission – the game prompts a “photobooth”, offering boomerangs or still photos on the surface of Mars.

The Verdict

Enibot’s Mission: Mars is a sweet and light-hearted game! I think first and foremost it’s been designed as a showcase of their software – with different levels showcasing exactly how cool their software is. Above all, it’s also just a fun game! Not to be taken too seriously, it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two, escaping from the disaster we call ‘Earth’.

There’s some real fun humourous moments elevating the game, such as your crew saying “Oops, we didn’t think you were going to make it so we already locked the door!”. With a nice mix of puzzles to boot, it’s a well rounded digital escape room game with a fun theme.

Due to the nature of one player needing to share their screen, we’d recommend Mission: Mars be best played by players all in the same room. This would also mean that you can get all players in on the end-of-game selfie!

Currently, our team is third on the leaderboard! Think you can beat us?

Enibot’s Mission: Mars can be purchased for $30 USD on Enibot’s website here.
For 10% off your mission, you can use promo code TheEscapeRoomer (valid until 30th Sept 2022)

Ratings

Palindrome Syndrome | Review

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Palindrome Syndrome Review | You wake up in a spaceship with no memories. In this escape room with a sci-fi setting you will have to investigate your past solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover what happened to you and how did you get there?

Developer: mc2games
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch
Touchscreen Compatible: No

Aibohphobia is a fear of palindromes.

Do you like space? Check ✅
 
Do you like puzzles? Check ✅
 
Are you a person who giggles gleefully at words like CIVIC, RADAR, RACECAR and TACOCAT? 
….just me? *Ahem* Check ✅

Well if so, this escape game might just be for you. 

“So, What Do You Like About Being Up Here?”

“The Silence.”

Palindrome Syndrome is a space themed game where you control a character who has woken up, alone, from a cryogenic sleep chamber. From there, you have to solve a number of puzzles in a room to move to the next; piecing together the narrative elements.

The wake-up icy effects at the start of the game, really helps pull you into the game straight away. The music is minimalistic; audio you would expect to hear in an airport waiting area, which in itself is highly appropriate for the progressing narrative. 

The narrative is mostly pieced together as you progress further and further, however towards the end of the game when the narrative is realised; it truly gave me some chills down my spine! I came out of it with a real feeling of existential dread. That being said, I would really like to have seen the endgame sequence extended further, to increase the immersive intensity; instead, its unfortunately leaving me wanting more.

Be warned! Saving is manual via the pause menu. It works just fine, but don’t expect it to auto-save like I did!

One Small Step For Man…

The player controller movement is universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. There are sensitivity and invert Y axis options, which are well considered. A couple of points for improvement though:

  1. When focussing upon a puzzle the cursor on screen is controlled by the right analog stick. This threw me off to begin with, as I was trying to use the left analog stick as a default. Its a shame that there isn’t an option to switch this. Instead, I had to force myself to use the right stick (I’m left handed!).
  2. The snap-on mechanism when placing objects into designated areas was quite hard to do. The area of snap-on was quite small in a lot of cases, and required real precision from my (poor) right analog stick skills, otherwise the object would miss and return to its original placement. 

The controls work on a fundamental basis, but if an update was made by the developers in future, these are what I would like to be considered.

The lunchbox operated a traffic light system for some reason….

In Space, Anything Is Possible.

There are a variety of puzzles including logic, observation, sequence, placement, decoding and math. I don’t mind math puzzles, but I know a lot of puzzlers who are not keen on them. There is a slight lean towards math puzzles against the other types in Palindrome Syndrome and this may put some potential buyers off. 

All puzzles work as they should, with the exception of one placement puzzle. It works, but there is technically more than one correct answer and the game only accepts one of them; which took a small amount of time to cycle through each answer until one was accepted. There is no hint system either, however their official guide (link below) does the job and is cleverly redacted to prevent solution spoilers.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2256529649

Aside from that, it is a satisfying collection of puzzles that are all around a similar difficulty range.

The Sky Is The Limit Only For Those Who Aren’t Afraid To Fly!

Is Palindrome Syndrome a good escape game? Most certainly.
Does it have any fresh ideas? Not really.

A lot of the concepts and puzzles, have already been tried and tested by many escape games preceding them. There are two elements however that did strike a chord with me:

  1. A light-based puzzle that was used multiple times, with some clever variants.
  2. The ending is not your usual “We escaped, hooray!” which I really applaud mc2games (as well as other developers), who take that risk in trying something different with the endgame formula. 
Obviously the first place to head, is the free space bar.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Spend

The price on the switch store is £8.99 and is £7.19 on steam.
If you are a seasoned puzzler, this value might be less so as you are likely to finish the entire game quicker than my attempt. That being said, for an independent development team, I feel this price is very fair. It’s very important we give love to independent development teams as often their costs are larger than the more established!

For Space Cadets or Voyagers?

This would be an ideal game to pitch to a beginner or a casual puzzler. There is enough there to still engross a veteran, but it’s a strong introductory skill game based on the puzzles presented and time taken to complete.

Ratings

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 
Control – ⭐️ (Good) 
Puzzles – ⭐️ (Good) 
Freshness⭐️ (Good) 
Value For Money – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

Overall⭐️ (Good)

This is a good game pitched at a very fair price. It doesn’t break the mould in any large way, but if you have a spare hour or two, this is certainly worth your time; especially for the narrative pay-off at the end. 

Modern Fables: Hypersomnia | Review

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Your dreams have been getting stranger and more vivid lately. In your dreams, you play yourself but there’s something different about you in some way. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. More recent dreams have also featured a strange symbol that keeps appearing in the strangest of places. One night it might appear as a tattoo, another night it might be the pattern on some wallpaper. One afternoon, a card with the very same symbol was slipped into your pocket. You didn’t see who left it but you have a strong feeling enticing you to investigate…

Rating: Narrative
Completion Time: 50:00
Date Played: 10th July 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Folks who want a puzzle-light, theatrical 80s experience

*cue rad 80s music*

London’s only 80s themed escape room? Don’t mind if I do! Well… I suppose now I’ve played it I’d actually have to classify it as a sci-fi escape room. Think interdimensional space travel but with tape cassettes and VHS thingy-me-bobs that I’m too young to remember. Actually, between us, we weren’t sure HOW to load a cassette into the cassette player, but not to worry that’s just a bonus extra puzzle!

Actually, I think Hypersomnia is a game that exists within the We Still Fax universe. The parallels are uncanny! With the escape room plot centering with you hopping between an infinite number of parallel universes where tiny changes spin out whole new worlds – then it’s impossible that We Still Fax doesn’t exist in this world, right?

Photo (c) Modern Fables

An Escape Room Birthday… A Month Late!

I love the 80s so much that I initially booked Hypersomnia for my birthday way back at the start of June. Unfortunately on the day I felt sick, and you can’t take any chances in *gestures vaguely* the global panini, so I emailed the team very late to cancel myself and my partner from the booking.

The rest of my team played on without me and I sat at home feeling sorry for myself… But it’s testament to the excellent customer service that even though I was prepared to eat my booking fee, the owner Jay was absolutely wonderful in getting us rebooked! Which is how a whole month later I finally got my chance to step across the threshold into an incredible new world and take on Hypersomnia.

@theescaperoomer

my reaction when I found out there’s an 80s escape room in London 🤩🎉 #escaperoom #london #80s #escapegame #puzzle

♬ Bizarre Love Triangle (2015 Remaster) – New Order

It Began With Extreme Memory Loss…

We arrived at the venue and entered a very dark and very strange room. Actually, it was so immersive we initially thought that this WAS the escape room, prompting one of our member to start lifting things up and looking behind doors. The whole setting was bathed in an eerie red glow and I definitely heard the sound of what I can only describe as intergalactic space travel coming from the next room.

After a few minutes, our host arrived!

“Ahh, welcome back! What are your names… No, not your fake Earth names, your REAL names? Oh wait… You don’t remember them? Hmm, that’s a problem.”

Oh no, it seemed our whole group had suffered a very serious bout of amnesia and couldn’t remember why we were here on Earth. In fact, our whole memory was filled with useless Earth stuff, like the name of my so called pet from my so called childhood. But not to worry, that can sometimes happen with inter-dimensional travel, and our host was quite sure our memories would return once we got into the room.

Photo (c) Modern Fables

Puzzle-Light, Story Heavy

If anyone were to ask me for a recommendation for a game to play in London, I’d ask them whether they prefer puzzle solving or a rich story first. For anyone who prefers a rich story, Hypersomnia is perfect! At it’s core it’s a really unique story with some puzzles aiding the plot along – more like jigsaw pieces where solving something merely reveals more of the narrative.

This wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but it does make for a really refreshing game. There was no rummaging around for 4 digit codes, or looking for keys, or lifting plant pots up to find cipher wheels. No, instead your goal was to remember who you were. Each player had their own identity with skills and weaknesses. As I learned more about mine I really fell into her character and, as the game reaches it’s climax and gives you a difficult decision to make at the end, I felt like my role influenced the decision I made too.

The puzzles that were in there fit wonderfully with the setting and delightfully, included things I’d never seen before. The less said about them the better, as I don’t want to spoil anything!

I did get the impression that most of the puzzles in Hypersomnia were triggered by ‘hand of God’ (aka, a very attentive games master in the next room). It was clear they were paying great attention as we tripped up early with a technical error in the room and the GM immediately appeared to put it right.

Photo (c) Modern Fables

An Unusual, Inter-Dimensional Experience

I really want to be able to say that I had a great time playing Hypersomnia, but the truth is days later I’m still wondering if I made the right choice with how I payed the game. It wasn’t your typical escape room – no, it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. ‘The rules’ of escape rooms I’ve come to expect with every experience I play were broken and remade in this room, and you know what? I kinda wanna go back and give it another try!

You enter into an unusual lobby where the event is in character from the moment you start, then after re-learning your whole identity and making monumental decisions that affect many universes, you suddenly emerge into daylight, have a quick photo (in a completely different themed room) and then disappear off into the day. I don’t know what our final time was – I don’t know how well we did, all I know is that I’m not really from Earth and probably my life is a lie.

The Verdict?

My two absolute favourite genres of escape room in the world are sci-fi and 80s. It ticks all the boxes for me and I’ll be the first to recommend it to my friends, but man it was a really, really strange day.

You can book Hypersomnia at Modern Fables by heading to their website here.