The Magic Emporium: Three days ago a well renowned supplies shop for all budding wizards closed for the day. However inexplicably the shop never opened again. Sensing that forces of evil are at work you have decided that you are going to investigate the mystery behind Ms Garbo’s disappearance. Don’t get caught!
Date Played: December 2022 Time Taken: 35 minutes Number of Players: 3 Difficulty: Easy
“I’ve never done an escape room before”, my friend tells me.
“Wait, what?! Let’s fix that right away!”
Unfortunately by now I have done most of the absolutely excellent rooms in Edinburgh, so my choices to take a brand new non-enthusiast somewhere impressive were slim – but you can’t go wrong with somewhere like “Escape Edinburgh” which is a franchise with venues all around the UK. Back in London, I’d enjoyed a lot of their rooms and being a franchise model of company I figured they’d be pretty good in any city you came across. We’re fans of the ‘magical world’ theme, so The Magic Emporium in Edinburgh (one not available in London) seemed like a good bet to try out.
On a wintery day just after Christmas we took ourselves down to Escape Edinburgh to try out the magical shop themed room as a team of three. Between us, we had a range of ‘experience’ levels with the escape room, making for a perfect mix, and – in my opinion – a perfect team size for a game like this. The lobby area is much smaller than most escape rooms, so as we waited for our friend to arrive, we stood to one side reading through the waiver and making small talk with our host. Just as we were about to be led to the room, an enormous group of around 20 people who had not made a booking showed up asking if they could play a room there and then. I felt for the Games Master as they dealt with the chaos of that group arriving to the world’s smallest lobby all at once, and it did cause a slight delay to the start time of our game as we huddled in the corner patiently. But after a little while, we were at our room’s door and off into the magical world of “The Magical Emporium”.
The room starts impressively as you find yourself in a cobblestone alleyway outside of a row of shops. I really like this “looking into shop front mechanic”, and Escape Edinburgh did well to recreate a magical atmosphere in this space. As we could tell from the offset, there were many more puzzles to be found inside but our first task was simple: Get inside, somehow.
Magic and Mystery in the Air
The room did a fairly good job of taking us through the narrative and puzzling journey in terms of gameplay. It was a fairly linear room, although there were moments when different members of our group were split up from one another, relaying and reciting information we’d found. There was plenty of searching and finding, and plenty of locks to keep us occupied too. At one point did we get stuck and require a clue. The puzzle was something that had been staring us in the face for a while, but after much staring it didn’t quite click for us, so we opted for a clue. Besides this one puzzle, the overall game felt like it had a good balance of fun and puzzling to suit a newbie group (such as ourselves) and still give that magical spark that makes someone want to come back for more escape rooms. My life goal to create more escape room enthusiasts is therefore complete!
Since The Magic Emporium is a franchise escape room available at the Escape group, you might notice a similarly named room available at a number of other locations around the UK. Notable: Chelmsford, Lincoln, Walton Pier, Newcastle, Basildon and of course the venue we visited: Edinburgh. In general, rooms of the same name are the same across different locations. However some may have notable differences. So an experience at another venue may be slightly different than the one we had here. Similarly, being a franchise escape room, I find that sometimes- but not always, there’s a little wear and tear. This holds true for The Magic Emporium which I have no doubt was a stunning room in it’s glory days but now suffers a little roughness around the edges and slight breaks that can’t be easily fixed. That said, if you’re not put off by details like this, it’s still a solid escape room.
The Magic Emporium: The Verdict
A fun little room that suited our newbie group very well. We weren’t overly challenged, but we did have a lot of fun and appreciated the environment and setting a lot. The Magic Emporium would be an excellent room for kids and families alike, as there’s a fun mix of traditional locks and more ‘magical’ activations of hidden puzzles. It might not satisfy the enthusiast’s itch, but still worth a visit if you’re in the area.
The Magic Emporium is available at Chelmsford, Lincoln, Walton Pier, Newcastle, Basildon, and of course the location we did it at: Edinburgh. The room is (as far as we’re aware) identical at all locations.
The Escape Room Adventures take you on a journey of discovery as you puzzle your way through the gameplay and unlock the many secrets within. The easiest room is Mutiny, our pirate-themed room, which is ideal for beginners, families, or a group with mixed experience. Our most challenging adventure room is Nethercott Manor – our haunted manor, which is a fast-paced challenge. We would recommend Dodge City, The Outfitters & our newest room SpellCraft for teams that have some previous escape room experience.
Date Played: December 2022 Number of Players: 5 Time Taken: ~40 Minutes each Difficulty: Expert!
Tulley’s gained its reputation for being one of the best companies in the country a few years ago and has managed to retain it when many others failed to move with the times, or unfortunately closed due to the pandemic. It had long been on my to-do list, but I had been prevented from trying any of their 5 games for a number of factors – namely location, cost, and the necessity to have an expert team to even attempt the rooms!
Luckily for me, the stars aligned at Christmas (well, boxing day) last year – my parter was gifted the day as part of a brand deal, my mum happened to be visiting us (as it was Christmas) and had a car, making transport that much easier, and I had confirmed the availability of the final two members to make us up to a team of 5 experienced players! It may not have been most people’s choice for how to spend their boxing day, but for us it was magical…
Tulley’s has 5 rooms, ranging in theme and complexity, so this is really going to be a whistlestop tour! I also want to highlight their amazing GMs who looked after us throughout the day – Adam, Dan, Ellie, Ed, Jamie, and Tyler – and of course their boss – Sooty the cat.
Dodge City in 2127 remains a stronghold of the wild west. The constant tussle between the Sheriff and local gunslingers means there’s opportunity abound for some creative bank robbery for those with wits and courage. As a member of the Notorious ‘Barn Door’ Gang you’ve been caught by the local sheriff breaking into the bank. Locked away with little hope, hired by an unnamed outlaw and facing the ruthless justice of the old west you’re left with only one option. As the sun sets the race is on to break out, reclaim your supplies, pull off the bank job of the century and get out of Dodge City.
Dodge City was our first room…and one of their hardest! Immediately on entering it’s obvious how Tulley’s have earned their reputation – the set design is amazing and extremely immersive, and there are surprises throughout the game. Even as a hardened spotter of fake doors and moving bookshelves, I soon gave up trying to anticipate what was coming next.
This room started with one of my favorite tropes – being separated! We were placed in separate cells, and this obviously required good communication from our newly assembled team, as well as a neat form of contact between us. We then progressed to all things cowboy and outlaw related. I don’t want to give away too much, but the set design and theming were amazing and definitely felt like you were progressing through Dodge City as you progressed through the room. There was only one point in which we were truly stuck, and this was largely due to a breakdown in communication and confusion over who a hint was intended for. Otherwise, this room was one of the most fun rooms we did all day, with some unique puzzles I’ve not seen before (or seen used in a different way), really appealing to different skills. As a team of 5, we only made it out with 4 minutes to spare, which was a great way to get the adrenaline going for the rest of the day!
It’s 1926 here in Chicago, and depression is still rife. Jobs are few and far between and the Prohibition has been in force for six years now. Everyone still drinks, nothin’ has changed. But now the mob control the streets, the supply and the money. The influence of the Outfit is far-reaching. Most of the cops are even under their control. Who can put them in the joint? You can, that’s who. The Commissioner has put together a special task force of straight, trusted cops and you’re on the team. You’ve spent the last few months infiltrating their network and now tonight is the night to get the evidence you need to put them away forever. But it won’t be easy, your cover might be blown! Do you have what it takes?
The natural progression from ‘cowboy’ is ‘mobster’, right? We moved almost straight from the Wild West into a mafia front in Chicago. We entered into an unassuming tailors shop, before discovering all was not what it seemed… The use of space at Tulley’s continued to be a lovely surprise, although the set felt a little more tired and rough around the edges in this room. That’s not to say it wasn’t good though – hidden information was the name of the game for Outfitters (what more could you expect from Gangsters), with themed puzzles and ’20s mechanisms running the room.
In this room, there were a few moments where mechanisms didn’t trigger or triggered when they shouldn’t have, and we were much less active than we had been in Dodge, with only a couple of us solving puzzles at a time. We managed to escape with a respectable 19mins remaining and an eagerness to sink our teeth into the next one (after lunch). Although this wasn’t a bad room, I’d say it was fairly average, and if this was the only room we’d done…I would have been disappointed.
The SpellCraft twins, Evilinda & Spellinda, two witches, two paths, two shops, two worlds, two journeys, their two magical worlds collide, and you find yourself in the middle of their story. SpellCraft will take you on a magical adventure, you’ll need to work together, but in the end there’s always a battle, will you escape and who will win?
Our next room was the newest room at Tulley’s, and the room that has quickly become a favourite of most players (myself included) – Spellcraft! When I first heard it was a magic-themed room my reaction was probably similar to many other enthusiasts – “not another one!”, “How is this going to be any different from all the other magic rooms?” , “why do people love this so much? What’s so good about magic?”
However, it was unlike any magic room I’ve done before, and has truly earned its place at the top of many lists. Firstly, you can tell from the waiting area that the set and story are going to be completely different from any other magic room. There are no “wizard school” or 4 “magical houses” that happen to be primary colours…
Instead, we were once more split into teams – this time “good” and “evil” – and given wands, which stayed with us and were used throughout the game. We were also given cauldrons to collect/carry things with us, which was a nice touch I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Inside the room, the set design was once more delightful and surprising. The set is huge, but of course, you don’t realise this at first. However, there is a truly magical mechanism within the room and we were transported again and again to extremely different settings and places. There were a lot of fun puzzles here too – some familiar, others less so, and the climax of the room brings together the two teams in a fierce battle of good and evil, which we obviously won.
Overall, while I can’t remember (or didn’t see) quite a few of the puzzles the experience itself blew me out of the water with the magic and joy I felt. As a team of 5, we escaped with 16 minutes remaining, and I enjoyed every second. This is an amazing room, one of the best in the country I’d say, and makes me excited to see what they do next.
It’s the year of our Lord 1672, and you be right in the height o’ the golden age o’ piracy… After years of sailin’ the high seas, you and your crew have succeeded in your fair share of ambushes, and as a result – your ship is teemin’ with bounty. Yet you’re still suffering beneath the cruel wrath o’ Captain Starling – a notoriously bloodthirsty buccaneer, and your shipmates have decided you all shall take matters into your own hands. After all… you fought for the gold, so the gold is yours for the taking, aye? Once the old seadog has retreated to his berth for the night, you make your move. Get in, get the treasure and get out. You won’t have long before he starts to stir – and Starling shows no mercy to ANY soul…
After that amazing experience we needed to calm down a little, so found ourselves upon a ship in the easiest room. This was again misleading – although our initial perception was that of every other pirate game I’ve played (as we solved it as such, by guessing digits in combination locks and skipping steps), once we were out of the cabin we had clearly been played.
As you might expect for a ship, this game required more physicality than others, but these were more to reveal/solve puzzles than being the puzzle itself. There was one particularly unique feature of this room, which was fun to build and use, but otherwise, this was your average pirate room, just more polished and better executed. Ultimately we escaped with 22 mins left, and we had fun doing so, but we were looking forwards to the final room.
The old manor house is entwined with local legend, the living don’t remember the Nethercott’s, the family’s hay day was long ago. Local folk talked, whispers were heard, rumours began, lights were seen within. The Nethercott’s are long gone but something remains, an essence, a smell, a feeling, it’s in the fabric, in the walls, under the floor boards … it ticks, it creeks … take a trip into the past, uncover the family’s many secrets and glimpse their fleeting souls?
Finally, the room that put Tulley’s on the map (for me at least) – their largest and hardest (I think), as I didn’t even see half of the room – more like 1/3! It was also the one I was most nervous before, being a massive wimp and this being a haunted house. Nevertheless, I couldn’t pass the experience up, so I steeled myself and forged ahead.
The atmosphere is obvious from the start, finding ourselves outside the front door of an abandoned house, with an atmospheric soundtrack doing nothing to ease my nerves. The immediate puzzles were fairly easy, clearly luring us into a false sense of security before we entered the manor itself. Once inside, the set is appropriately dimly lit (until you’re able to find the fuse box at least), with many old-fashioned items of decor and themed puzzles attached. This is also when you get your first taste of the spirits that haunt the house, and it became clear that I was an easy mark for the GM.
For those of you of a similar disposition to me, I will just reassure you that nothing physically jumps out at you, but there are a lot of loud noises, which the GM can, and will, trigger whenever they feel like – especially if you are an obvious target stood next to the item in question.
This first room had the most frustrating puzzle I’ve seen in any room…ever. We found out afterwards that even the GMs will struggle to complete it, so usually, they take pity on the players and allow them to bypass it (ourselves included). Usually, this type of time sink would annoy me, especially in a room as large as this, but we actually addressed most of the room at the same time as this ‘puzzle’, and the GM clearly knew the right time to give us a nudge that gave us a chance of solving it, without feeling frustrated.
From this point, we barely saw each of our teammates again until close to the end of the room. I found myself with my mum solving a series of logic puzzles while being terrorised by the GM ghost. We also encountered a smell test, which worked well given we were in the kitchen. From what we saw afterwards, our teammates were working through similarly well-themed puzzles for their respective rooms, across a large variety of skills.
The final puzzles were once more of the deductive style (my favourite), before quite a fun/creepy ending (depending on your perspective). We managed to escape with 9.34 left, which is quite an achievement given they used to sell this as an 80-minute room, and I know many people who didn’t manage to escape! This was definitely a great way to end the day, and almost my favourite room.
The team at Tulley’s were fantastic, and the rooms were large and immersive, while still delivering high quality puzzles. We appreciated the drink offerings, and usually they serve food on the farm too. The introduction videos are also worth mentioning – very entertaining, and slightly unhinged, but they weave into an overall lore, which I’ve only seen a handful of other rooms do as effectively.
This is definitely a must-visit for any enthusiast. Although we could award this nearly all of our badges, we definitely think they’re most deserving of our “I believe” badge, for just how immersive and expansive their rooms were.
Audio – nearly all the rooms require some form of communication between players. Spellcraft, Nethercott and Dodge also featured audio puzzles/prompts, although not everyone will need to do these.
Vision – Nethercott, Mutiny and Outfitters all had fairly low lighting at points. Dodge required a small amount of colour identification, as did Nethercott and Outfitters.
Smell – Nethercott has a smell puzzle!
Spatial – In Dodge you start in a small cell, so if you have issues with space I recommend being the only person in yours. There are also some small spaces in Nethercott, Outfitters, Mutiny and Spellcraft, but none require all team members to enter. There are some smoke effects in Spellcraft, as well as Nethercott.
These rooms can be booked on the Tulleys website here
Prophecies Quest Review | As the last hope for the magical world you must collect The Prophecies and use them before it’s too late. The Dark Lord has hidden The Prophesies so you must find them in The Department Of Mysteries before using them to defeat him. You need to hurry, The Dark Lord is on his way and only you can stop him.
Completion Time: 32 minutes (out of a possible 50) Date Played: January 2023 Party Size: 4 Difficulty: Easy
Having moved to Edinburgh a little over 6 months ago, you’d have thought I’d have played all of the rooms here by now? Well, not quite. There are a few that have been on my radar that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Department of Magic was just one of those places, and the occasion of two of our loveliest escape room friends from home in London coming up for a weekend to visit was just the ticket to finally book it.
Sandwiched between the potion mixing cocktail experience at the bar portion of Department of Magic, and a trip round the corner to Cocktail Geeks (currently running a Lord of the Rings themed experience), we had an hour to spend. Without haste, we got ourselves booked into to play the more popular of the two games at this hidden wizard-themed speakeasy: Prophecies Quest.
Wands at the ready, witches and wizards…
Let the Magic Begin!
If you think of Edinburgh escape rooms, the chances are Department of Magic isn’t on your radar. But let me tell you why it should be. Located a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle is a mysterious little black door located at the bottom of a little rickety iron staircase. Behind this door is a tavern lifted straight of a storybook. The walls are lined with peculiar magic trinkets, and on each table is a gaggle of magicians brewing the most brightly coloured, bubbling, fizzing and smoking potions- I mean, cocktails.
This is the Department of Magic. It’s best known for it’s ‘pub’ portion. With advance booking, you can grab a table for normal drinks, or one of their special brew-your-own potions, which are fairly reasonably priced for how exciting they ended up being. We did book ourselves into one of their sessions in advance, but it ended up being about the same price as if we’d have just booked for a normal table and ordered off the menu. But in truth, we weren’t really here for the cocktails… We were here foe the escape room out the back.
When your game session begins, a mysterious wizard in a long dark cloak approaches you and asks if you’re the chosen ones here to save the world.
“Yessir!” we exclaimed, before following her through the door in the back and into the briefing area.
Fortune Favours the… Wise!
Before entering the escape room, we allocated a captain, and that captain looked at four great wizarding traits – Wisdom, Bravery, Cunning, and… Well, I forgot the fourth one, as people often do. We chose wisdom, and were given a special item for it, which would come into use later.
Them, in a flurry of magic, the bookcase swung open and we were off to a flying start!
Prophecies Quest is an unusual escape room for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a multi-room experience, but you have full run of the area. You don’t need to complete any particular room in order. Secondly, there are no locks. Everything is done with magic. Impressive – but probably a lot of work for our games master listening out for us saying the exact correct spell, or performing the exact correct action!
Beyond those two details, the room was your standard magical room. Players can expect potions, spell casting, dragons, dark wizards, the whole shebang. Just like in a pirate room I hope to see treasure maps and chests and the odd skull here and there, by now we’re familiar with rooms set in the wizarding world, and Prophecies Quest was a classic, well executed example. Notably, one that took good care not to tread too heavily on any particular well known IP. Kudos to them!
A celebratory drink for afterwards!
A Spellbinding Escape?
The room’s uniqueness was also it’s strength. We were very, very fast out of the room (almost record breaking in fact, there were just a few seconds in it), but I think on reflection it wasn’t really a room designed for competitive folk trying to break a record. It was a room all about fun. And on that note, it succeeded.
I absolutely love rooms that make you hop around on one foot and hum your favourite song, or make you flap around like chickens and crouch down on all fours. I love rooms that make you roleplay what you’re actually doing, so that you live and breathe and feel what you’re doing. Prophecies Quest did that really well, and it’s a shame it’s an 18+ room (well, the whole venue is) because this would be an excellent one for families.
Ultimately, this escape room is best played between a round of cocktails. I would expect 99% of players to go into this room having just come from the bar, so none of the puzzles are incredibly puzzling. Many of them require physical actions and working together in a silly way. So whilst it won’t necessarily challenge the most hardcore escapers, it will encourage you to have fun, and that’s a double thumbs up from me.
Well worth visiting! I’m surprised Department of Magic isn’t more popular. Not that it isn’t, just that I hadn’t heard any other enthusiasts recommend it on a visit to Edinburgh – but I want to change that right here and now. Add Department of Magic onto your trip, and for extra fun, book yourself in for their cocktail brewing experience for a perfect, photo finish to your evening.
Finally, a shout out to our host for the escape room, who was the fantastic Hannah. She let us know that she usually runs their other room (which we’ll definitely be returning to play), but today she ran our room instead and never once broke character, providing fantastic help, encouragement, and a thorough brief and debrief after. Escape rooms can sink or swim by their team’s hosting ability, and Hannah did a superb job!
Edinburgh Treasure Hunts Review | Professor M has arranged for you a day of creature-hunting. It’s all about using your special map wisely and keeping your eyes peeled. There’s so many secrets hidden in the beautiful Old Town.
Completion Time: ~2 hours Date Played: 17th July 2022 Party Size: 2 Location: Edinburgh Old Town Difficulty: Moderate
I (Mairi) have just moved to Edinburgh from London and I wholeheartedly insist that the very best way to explore a new city is to immediately book yourself in for an outdoor treasure trail. What’s not to love?! New sights, hidden alleyways, history, and most importantly… Puzzles!
One of the most, if not THE most loved treasure hunt company in Edinburgh is the aptly named “Edinburgh Treasure Hunts“. A solo-run and operated business by your incredibly awesome host Sabi who, as a part-time tour guide, is an expert in all things Edinburgh. The company is also one of the first to start running games of this kind with many of their trails being well over 5 years old and host to thousands and thousands of players over the years.
In particular, Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a hugely popular game to play during the Edinburgh Fringe. They take you right past many of the largest and most popular venues as well as plenty of popular landmarks on lesser trodden streets. Being self guided, there’s also no need to hurry. You can take the trail at your own leisurely speed (well, within reason!), so breaks to see the fun sights of the city are encouraged.
Over our very first weekend in the city, Rebecca and myself decided to book ourselves into two of the trails: Fantastic Creatures, and Sherlock. Let me just say, we were not disappointed! Let’s get into why…
Fantastic Creatures (and Where to Find Them in Edinburgh!)
If you’re into witches, wizards and magical places, then the Fantastic Creatures trail will be your cup of tea. At the Chamber arches on the Royal Mile, we met up with Sabi- or should I say, the Professor’s Assistant Sabi who set us off on our lesson in magical creatures around the city. We were first sorted into a magical house (House of the Haggis, if you were wondering what our team went for), then given a tote bag filled with curious objects including a bestiary, an old locked box, and a map of the city with carefully labelled locations.
Our ultimate goal was to find the fabled Unicorn, a rare creature from history with mythical properties. We had a sub-goal of finding (and I suppose, rescuing) our teacher, the Professor, who had a terrible accident. Our tertiary goal was to have a lovely day out and enjoy ourselves puzzle solving. Tick, tick, tick all round.
Unlike Sherlock, Fantastic Creatures had a web-app counterpart we could load on our phones. The broad structure of the game was that we followed a physical map around the city and at each marked point we had a challenge to complete – locate a particular mythical creature in the environment from our bestiary, read about it, and answer a location-based question. The experience was challenging on a few levels. Firstly, we had to find the actual location designated a single letter on the map. A task easier explained than done for a team of players new to the city, who aren’t yet familiar with it’s little hidden alleys. Then, we had to look very closely at our surroundings, taking care to stand exactly on the right spot, before we could answer the questions.
…And listen, this game was surprisingly educational! Yes, yes, the creatures are fantastical. Yet I learned a lot about their myths, legends, relationship with Edinburgh and more. It was very well done!
Unlike Sherlock, we finished Fantastic Creatures in a comfortable amount of time – around 2 hours. However despite it being on the easier side, more appropriate for family groups, we still managed to get a lot of questions incorrect. So some advice from us: read the question very carefully to figure out what it’s asking before wasting guesses (and points) on incorrect tries.
Any team that manages to score 25 points or above will win a special bonus prize. I say bonus as we were delighted to find that on discovering the final location for our trip a little treat waiting for us behind a lock. But then, as our host scootered over to collect our bags from us we were presented with a further prize for scoring a coveted 29 points!
Edinburgh, City of Hills
One of the things we loved the most about Fantastic Creatures was the trail itself. Although, ‘trail’ is a strong word as it’s largely self-guided and with just a map to guide you, you can take any route you like. On the one hand, at times we were worried we’d taken a wrong turn. On the other, we were glad to not be wedded to a specific route around the city, as it gave us a chance to stop off for a snack, a drink, and an ice cream cone. Which, if you’re interested, we recommend lunch at the tiny, family run Olly Bongos and ice cream at Alandas Gelato, both en-route around the trail.
Edinburgh truly is a really beautiful city though. No matter which specific road on the map you choose to take, you’re sure to discover a new hidden gem, or a beautiful sight around a corner at the top of a hill. In fact, the trail starts right up near Edinburgh Castle, which is the perfect tourist spot for snapping lovely photos of the surrounding area. It ‘ends’ nearer Underbelly, making it again, an excellent place to springboard you into an Edinburgh Fringe show, or to round off the day after one.
The only thing that we felt could have been improved about the route was that occasionally we doubled back on ourselves. Not because we’d answered anything incorrectly, but because the route required us to. Towards the end, you find yourself in an area of town, and are sent back to the start of your route. Only to walk back up the long street and need to turn right back around to head even further in the other direction. It was a curious choice! It didn’t bother us too much as, being new to the city, find every little alleyway delightful, but we definitely saw the same few streets multiple times over.
We really enjoyed Fantastic Creatures. After playing Sherlock’s Secret Challenge the day before we had high hopes and once again Sabi and her company absolutely outdid our expectations. For sure, there were some minor bits that didn’t completely click with us – a few difficult puzzles we struggled to get the answer for for example. But overall we had a fantastic experience once again. Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a super hidden gem in the city and will be the first place I recommend folks new to the city book themselves into.
Another year at the Wizarding School brings with it new challenges. You have been summoned by the headmaster to find a most precious artefact which has been lost for many decades. Its whereabouts unknown, your search leads you to a mysterious part of the castle where no one has ventured in years. You feel danger lurking around every dark corner…
Rating: Magical! Completion Time: 50 minutes Date Played: 2019 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: Adventure Seekers! Larger groups, teambuilding, beginners
It’s another trip down memory lane with today’s escape room review! Wizarding School: Fang of the Serpent is one of the rooms I played long before The Escape Roomer existed, back in 2019.
What was I doing with my time if not writing about escape rooms? I dare not remember.
It’s always been one of those escape rooms I return to when friends, particularly friends who are fans of a certain magical wizard whose name rhymes with Larry Trotter, ask for recommendations in London. It’s just such a classic in the magic school genre and Breakin’ Escape Rooms absolutely nailed it. The story, the theming, the magic! Love, love love.
So when I recently visited to play Heist Plan, I asked the owner if I could stick my head into the Fang of the Serpent room and have a look around. Just enough to job my memory so I could do a good job reviewing the experience. That said, for all my fond memories of the escape, this is a review written two years after the fact. So please take this with a pinch of salt – rooms change, teams change, the world changes.
Yer a Wizard, Mairi…
If you’re still waiting for your letter to Hogwarts to arrive in the post (dw, the owl’s just been a little delayed I’m sure it’s on it’s way), then playing Wizarding School at Breakin’ is the next best thing. It’s a three-room escape room experience where each room represents a different area of the wizarding school and takes you on a narrative journey not too dissimilar from The Chamber of Secrets.
To get you started, all players are given a magic wand at the start of the experience. Why? To do magic of course!
Once you’ve figured out how to magic some light into the room, you quickly realise you’re in a breathtakingly detailed wizarding school. Seriously, no expense spared and I definitely spent more time perusing the ancient books on the shelf and trying to swish-and-flick my way into levitating objects than solving actual puzzles. Oops!
From here you solve puzzles in the first room, uncover the second room, and the third in time for a grand finale. I don’t want to spoil too much about the further spaces, but I will say that they were very clever. The room is packed with surprises and at the time, I definitely ranked this room as one of the most impressive in their use of space ever.
Puzzles for witches and wizards
To really succeed in Wizard School: Fang of the Serpent, I’d advice brushing up on your knowledge of magic. Since playing Fang of the Serpent, I’ve seen similarly themed puzzles in play at home games and other wizarding world games alike – so there’s definitively a theme! Potions making puzzle? Tick. Puzzle involving magical emblems? Tick. Book themed puzzles? Tick.
My favourite of the puzzles in the game involved potions. Well, what can I say? It’s my favourite subject in the magic school genre by far. Breakin’ Escape Rooms’ interpretation of the ancient art of potions making was creative and delightful. It did something different that I’d not personally seen matched at any other escape room before, and I love that.
If we needed a clue at any point, we could request one via a walkie-talkie in the room. It was slightly immersion breaking, but at least it’s consistent! Every room available at Breakin’ delivers clues in a similar way, so at this point (many rooms later) I don’t mind.
Overall, Wizarding School: Fang of the Serpent is cinematically impressive, putting you at the centre stage in your own magical story. I really enjoy a good magic theme and I think Breakin’ absolutely aces it. I look back on this room very fondly, and whether that’s just rose tinted glasses or because it was a genuinely good quality adventure, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
In fact, let us know in the comments what you thought of this room!
Wizarding School: Fang of the Serpent can be booked on Breakin’s website here.
Your Uncle Keith always stood out from the rest of the family. He lived alone in a grand old mansion, and everybody thought him to be a bit of an eccentric. It was a great surprise to you when you received a postcard from Uncle Keith. You haven’t heard from him in many years. You arrive at his home, but find the house empty. What mysteries await you within?
Rating: Lighthearted! Completion Time: ~45 minutes Date Played: 15th May 2021 Party Size: 2 Recommended For: A fun game to play at home – if you have a printer handy!
I kept planning to play The Gatekeeper and waited for the perfect sunny day to take photos… And waited… And waited. Yep, the perfect sunny day never arrived (*shakes fist at London rain*), so instead I tackled the print & play game with my Player 2 on a Saturday morning over a pot of tea.
What followed was a particularly charming game about breaking into your uncle’s house- but I get ahead of myself! Here’s the review:
The story starts with your eccentric uncle Keith who lives alone in a mysterious old mansion- alone. One day, he invites you to come visit but immediately you know something is not right when you arrive and Keith is nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is just one of Keith’s peculiar games, or perhaps he is testing you? In any case, you decide to see if you can find your way into the mansion.
What follows is a journey from room to room as you explore the mansion and uncover secrets along the way. Behind each new door is a delightful new environment filled with surprises. The magic you’ll find at the heart will surely change your life forever, if you can unlock it!
The Gatekeeper is an entirely printable game, meaning there’s no online interface to grapple with. Even the clues can be printed in advance, making this a pretty good game to pack with you on a holiday if you know you’ll be without internet for a while.
The game is played in ‘chapters’ where each chapter has a number of puzzles which must be solved before you can proceed onto the next one. Each of these puzzles is marked with a unique symbol that relates to the puzzle at hand. For example, a star, or a key, or a potion bottle. These act as locks, and your answers are the key.
There are 11 puzzles in the entire Gatekeeper game – 11 symbols to find, dotted around the pages and we both really enjoyed the puzzles. There’s a good mix of nice and simple and really hard but the different difficulties are dotted around the whole pack giving someone something to do at all times and no big blockers to continuing the game.
As the game is magic themed, players can expect to come across puzzles that make use of dusty old tomes, of strange language ciphers, mixing potions, harmonising crystals with magic properties, and crafting keys. In particular, I really enjoyed the first half of the game’s puzzles the most. There’s a puzzle early on involving books which took us a while but it was worth all the more when we finally cracked the code.
I also enjoyed a puzzle involving the Herbarium – or maybe that was mostly because I loved looking at the beautifully drawn pictures of flowers!
In terms of difficulty, I’d overall rate the puzzles as “Medium”. We definitely struggled more than we expected to – probably the pot of tea wasn’t strong enough! But there was plenty to do in this game and persevering on the harder puzzles made it worth it. In short, a great mix of different things to do in this game and the creators have made good use of the printed medium!
If at any time you need to check your answers, there’s a separate PDF. I think Gatekeeper actually does their clues and answers system really well for a printed game – it’s kinda like a mini puzzle in of itself! The reason being, the clue system is designed so that you can’t accidentally spoil the game for yourself.
For each answer there is a 5×5 grid of letters. If you cross out all the letters contained in the answer you think is correct, the Xs will make a shape and you can check if this shape is correct. Pretty ingenious actually! And, if for any reason you want to skip this, the actual answers can also be found later in the PDF but written backwards so a skim read won’t be a huge spoiler either.
The artwork in this game deserves it’s own header as it is frankly fantastic! The whole pack has a whimsical, magical allure to it and this is made all the more special by the hand drawn illustrations on each page. It’s almost water-colour style and really brings the house to life.
Because of the light hearted nature of the game with it’s bright colours, warm vibes, and magical plotline, I’d recommend this game for families and kids in particular – and I think it would be a big hit in this group! I really enjoyed it, but after a whole lockdown of printing out play at home games I think my printer might be on it’s very last legs these days. Worth it though to see the bright colours of The Gatekeeper in all their glory.
The Gatekeeper can be downloaded for $29 USD on The Other Tales’ website here.
A Warp Core team ventured back to 1692 Massachusetts, the location of the Salem Witch trials, in search of a magic wand and spell book but they never made it back to the ship. Will you join the rescue mission to bring them, and the magical artefacts, home safely?
Rating: Awesome! Completion Time: 61:45 Date Played: 25th April 2021 Party Size: 4 Recommended For: Everyone!
Woohoo! It’s Escape Game Olympics part… *counting on fingers* okay, okay I’ve lost count, but I reckon I’m getting into the flow of it now *flexes muscles*. Nevermind that we only placed 15th this week… You can’t win them all, and anyway it’s the taking part that counts! Right? Right?!
The truth is I’m actually having a LOT of fun playing a new escape room game every week, and I was super thrilled after the success of The Warp Core Part II to see Part II in the roster. ClueHQ have really outdone themselves with this series, each game so far is an absolute delight (and better than the last!).
Part III is markedly more difficult than Part II, if the “time to complete” weren’t already a giveaway. There’s just so much to do in these rooms – I love it! So many nooks and crannies and unique interfaces to point, click, drag, button mash. In this game we found ourselves crawling around through caves, casting spells, and transfiguring animals. So darn creative. A round of applause!
I missed “Part I” of The Warp Core series and now I’ve come too far along to go back and play it, so I have to admit I don’t fully understand the over-arching plot. I admit, it’s my fault! But here’s my vague interpretation of what is happening in The Warp Core:
You and your team of intrepid explorers have a TARDIS- I mean, it’s a time machine. Just a general, sci-fi time machine. Any resemblance to fictional alien spaceships is purely co-incidental (I’m kidding! Haha). Your goal in each of The Warp Core games is to go to a specific time in history and steal an ancient artefact. At the end of each game you store that artefact in the ‘Artefact Hatch’. It’s likely there’s a greater purpose to all this, but in the mean time I’m enjoying the ride.
In Part III, you journey back to Salem in the time of the infamous witch trials. The year is 1692 and there’s magic afoot. This time it seems you’re not just there for an artefact but you’re also looking for a missing team of Warp Core treasure hunters who disappeared around this time. What on earth did those witches do to the treasure hunters? Can you find them? If you don’t hurry their fate will also be yours! Go go go!
The Warp Core Part Three takes place in a piece of software called Telescape and honestly I think it is the best example of Telescape from any company out there right now. As well as the typical 360 degree view of a space that by now I expect, Warp Core is multi-room, meaning you unlock not only new physical spaces but also other additional spaces which would not be technically possible in a real escape room experience. You can move around, zoom in, and click on things, and often this will trigger an interesting video sequence or a fully interactive interface.
Again, I have to reiterate that Warp Core III is impressive in the world it creates and in particular for those moments which would not be possible in the real world. For example (and minor spoilers here – this is information available on their website so I think I’m free to mention it), in a real escape room would you really come face with a witch or wizard and be able to enter into a spell casting battle in real time? Could you cast spells and physically see the result of your spells in front of you, such as things materialising or transforming? Can you cut shapes out of materials and have them transform into the real thing?
I reckon the answer for each of those things is no. At least, in 2021! I dunno you might be reading this blog post way out in in the year 2500 and all that stuff is possible. But right now, I AM IMPRESSED. This game is excellent!
The puzzles in Warp Core III are pretty cool too. It felt as if the designers paid a lot of attention to detail and furthermore really pushed the limits of what is possible in a digital space, which is cool. Using my magic wand, I was able to draw shapes and physically manipulate objects around me… With magic!
That said, we did get fairly stuck! Not only is there A LOT to do in one small escape room, but the puzzles were a big step up in difficulty from Part II which he how we came to take a lot longer to finish it. However one of the main places we ‘got stuck’ wasn’t due to the difficulty of the puzzles, but more because we didn’t think to look in a place where the next clue was to be found. Oops! So piece of advice: check everything and check it twice!
My favourite puzzles involved Scanny Tim. No spoilers here, but I loved the addition of a handheld device that helped advance the game in very unexpected ways!
I am a huge fan of The Warp Core series and I cannot stress enough what an impressive piece of tech it is! The creators have gone above and beyond in creating a brilliant play at home experience and I only wish we weren’t playing these competitively so I had more time to soak it all up and enjoy. I’m super stoked to see what Part IV will bring! Bring it on, Warp Core!!
The Warp Core Part 3 can be booked for £15 on ClueHQ’s website here.
Do you posses Magic within you? Are you ready to go on an epic magical journey to find out. Maybe you are the next Wizard’s Apprentice!
Rating: Magical Completion Time: 1hr 45 mins Date Played: 20th March 2021 – 22nd March 2021 Party Size: 1 Recommended For: Families, Enthusiasts and real life Wizards.
The Wizard’s Apprentice is a simply MAGICAL play at home game perfect for families, aspiring witches and wizards, or pretty much everyone growing bored with lockdown and looking for something more interesting to do *cough cough* it’s me. Despite the fact I massively messed up the order of the puzzles (more on this later), the game still managed to be a complete delight, packed with “aha!” puzzles and, dare I say it, real magic?
Your story begins with a mysterious letter from your great, great, great (more greats) grandmother, a powerful witch of her own right who needs your help. As a descendent, you hold the potential for great power yourself – but first, with the help of this box, you must learn to use it. By harnessing your own magical abilities, it’s your job to find the long lost Power Spell.
The Exciting Stuff
So this game is really special in one particular way… Unlike every other magic-themed play at home game I’ve ever done, this one actually IS magical. No seriously, let me explain. There are a couple of really, really clever puzzles in this that feel just like you’ve just done a pretty cool spell. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but with a wave of a wand and the touch of my hand this game let me reveal unseen things and read the minds of others.
Another fun part about the game is the overarching puzzle. It’s *whispers* a logic puzzle! The game works in this wonderful way where each individual puzzle you solve adds up to one larger, logic based puzzle and if you know me you know I love drawing logic grids. This ticked all the boxes!
I also loved the modern touches. It’s 2021 people, of course wizards have websites! Did you know you can mail order your wands and broomsticks online? Well, this game also introduces you to that side of the wizarding world. A great touch!
In fact, I loved it so much I actually wish I hadn’t done this solo. I’ve got an 11 year old brother on the other side of the city who would ADORE this, but thanks to lockdown I had to settle for sharing the “wow moments” with the ‘big kids’ people I live with instead. Even though I say it would be great for families – aren’t we all just big kids inside?
My ‘Oops’ Part
Okay so here goes… How I royally messed up! And please, take this with a pinch of salt, because your experience probably won’t be quite like this:
Within the box there are two envelopes locked with a padlock. Somehow, I got into the second one first, did all of those puzzles first, and then hit a massive roadblock. To this moment I can’t say if it was my mistake or not, but I’m giving the game the benefit of the doubt. I have a track record of rushing into puzzles in the wrong order.
After contacting Breakout Unboxed for help, they got back to me fairly quickly and from here I realised my error, oops! Even after fixing it, I HAD messed up the flow of the game a bit – I mean no major disaster but it’s worth mentioning.
One example of this was a puzzle involving shields and maths. With only 4 shields and 4 possible mathematical symbols I deduced the answer before finding the actual key (hidden in the envelope I should already have opened) to solve the puzzle.
Another example was a potions puzzle. I didn’t have the recipe yet (you guessed it, it’s in the envelope), but as only some ingredients were able to be mixed with others, there was a finite amount of solutions and I guessed it correctly. Emphasis on ‘guessed’.
The best part about the game though? Despite my major mistake I still had such a good time solving everything! All it meant was that I overthought a couple of puzzles more than they should have done. So here’s a golden nugget of advice playing The Wizard’s Apprentice: You can also mess up and still have a great time. That’s testament to it being a great experience.
So overall, a good time was had by all! A delightful game, despite my oopsie! I had a nice time completing the puzzles spread out across a Saturday morning and a Monday afternoon. Plus, it comes packaged in a really nice and robust box AND now I have a gorgeous wand to keep as well? Despite being a Harry Potter fan I’ve never owned a wand before, eek!
In a rare one for The Escape Roomer, I realised I don’t feature my own face in this blog enough, so here’s a snap of yours truly, enjoying the game:
The Wizard’s Apprentice can be purchased for £27 on Breakout Unboxed’s website here.
In this short point ‘n’ click adventure, you are Star Seeker – a WIZARD solving a WIZARD crime to not get put in WIZARD jail by the WIZ- I mean, PLAIN OLD cops. With a useless detective, countless red herrings, and unique dialogue for every evidence combination… will this case ever be cracked?
Time Played: 81 minutes Console: Computer Recommended For: Fans of Magical Detectives… Or just looking for a light hearted experience!
If you like wizards, criminal cases, 4th wall humour, gender representation, and goats… You’ll love Star Seeker! I mean, what’s not to like? It’s silly and fun, the artwork is bright and colourful, and there’s a twisty crime at the centre of it’s narrative that makes you “woah” out loud.
Star Seeker sets you in a world where magic is illegal. VERY illegal. In fact, the only reason you’re not locked up is that the police rely on your consultation on magical and arcane crimes… Which is how you come to find yourself at 3.20am at a run down wizard apart-I mean, den, staring down at two bodies.
The gameplay that follows is quite simple. Star Seeker takes place over just one room: You may move around, click objects to investigate them, then make your accusations to the Chief Investigator, Leo Fleini. To help you out, you also may access your Lightningbolt Mind- a sort of “Mind Palace” a la Sherlock Holmes, where you can review all the evidence you’ve seen so far.
As a consultant brought in from parole, there’s definitely a question of whether or not you’re qualified! A question with hilarious consequences. The game rolls with the punches and given the hodge-podge of magical evidence you can dig up, the theories you can confidently declare range from the “ah yeah that makes sense” to “I have no idea where that came from but lets go with it.”
It’s wonderfully absurdist and I love it! Murder mysteries are already one of my favourite genre of escape room, so why not a videogame too? Combine this with the dry humour and world of witchcraft and wizardry and I’m sold! Move over Ms. Marple and Morse, there’s a new detective in town. It’s me. I came here to cast spells and solve crimes, and I just solved this crime.
In terms of puzzles, it follows a very typical logic flow of a murder mystery game. There aren’t puzzles per se, but connecting the dots in the right order is no small feat. Certain wizards at certain levels can cast, well, certain spells. Then there’s the GOAT! Where does the goat come in, eh? This crime scene is bursting with traces of magic but putting it all in the right order is a tricky task. However, with no consequences to guessing wrong a couple of times, you may as well have fun and test out all the speech options for a laugh.
Overall, good fun! A game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, full of light hearted gags and a very strong narrative to boot. If you’re a fan of the mystery genre, or heck just want a laugh, give Star Seeker: The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff a go.
Having graduated from the school of witchcraft and wizardry, you’ve suddenly been brought back. Only this time, you sense something sinister at work. The professor has gone mad. Mad with power. You’ve been sealed inside the room and within an hour he will extract all magic from you. Stripped of your wand and powers, you must use your wits to retrieve your wand and escape before you lose all magic forever.
Rating: Magical! Completion Time: 35:59 Date Played: January 2020 Party Size: 4
Lockdown is easing in some parts of the UK, so it’s time to revisit (and finally post my reviews for!) a few games I completed before the apocalypse happened. Where better to start than with the absolutely MAGICAL “Witchcraft and Wizardry” at Escape London?!
Ahh, a fond memory from January when *gestures at the world* we had no idea what 2020 was going to be like.
50 Points to Ravenclaw!
So full disclaimer, I LOVE escape rooms that are wizarding themed. Anything remotely magical and the opportunity for effects, props and an all round vibe that excites the 10 year old inside me is a double thumbs up for me. Witchcraft and Wizardry did not disappoint – it was BEAUTIFULLY themed. I think that’s why it has stuck in my mind for so long.
Escape London have done an excellent job with their set design. For a comparatively small space, this room was packed with exciting things to discover and trinkets which felt as if they came directly off the film set of a certain magical movie franchise. Did I mention costumes? I see a wizard hat… I put the wizard hat on! I am an escape roomer of simple pleasures.
For sure, the room was a little close to that famous, unnamed wizard brand out there *cough*. But I’m not complaining, it’s a winning formula and why not? Such a theme is sure to attract a wide audience of escape room players and families from out of town.
Besides, my blue hair represents my house. It worked well.
In terms of puzzles, there was a very wide range of things to do! Our team of 4 immediately split up into our own bubbles, rummaging and searching and solving. This slightly more non-linear format that gives everyone something to do is my absolute favourite! We started with a lot of searching around. Plenty of spaces to rummage through, and those delightful moments where you discover a key where you hadn’t expected one to be.
With all magic themed rooms, there are several puzzles that felt like we were doing real magic. I don’t want to give any spoilers for any of the puzzles and since we only asked for 1 clue throughout the whole game, I’m pleased with how we did.
Overall, we loved it! I’m keeping this review on the short and sweet side as I appreciate either my memory could be failing me, or the room may have changed in the almost-year since I’ve visited, but it definitely stands out as one of my favourites of 2020. I’d recommend this for a beginner team, a team of magic fans, or anyone wanting a satisfying escape room experience.