Breakin’: Wizarding School Fang of the Serpent | Review

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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.

*gasp*

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.

Photo (c) Breakin’ Escape Rooms

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.

The Verdict

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.

The Other Tales Printable Escapes: Gatekeeper | Review

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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

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 Experience

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.

The Puzzles

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!

The Clues

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 Art

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.

Overall

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.

ClueHQ: The Warp Core Part Three | Review

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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!

The Story

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 Experience

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

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!

Overall

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.

Breakout Unboxed: The Wizard’s Apprentice

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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?

The Story

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.

Overall

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.

Star Seeker in The Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff

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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.

Star Seeker can be purchased for £3.99 on Steam.

Escape London: Witchcraft and Wizardry | Review

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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.

Petrificus Puzzilaris!

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.

The Verdict

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.

Witchcraft and Wizardry can be booked for £24 pp + on Escape London’s website.

Ratings

Headlock Escape Rooms: The Wizard’s Apothecary | Review

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A mad wizard named Nebo has combined science with magic. The results of his experiments have leaked into the world causing havoc. Six curses Nebo made but only 3 he unleashed. It is up to you to find the 3 sp1hidden by the mad Nebo to expel the curses forever.

Rating: Good Fun!
Completion Time: 46 minutes 49 seconds
Date Played: 29th November 2020
Party Size: 7
Recommended For: Everyone

The Wizard’s Apothecary by Headlock Escape Rooms is a classic remote avatar experience over Zoom for teams of up to 6 (oops, yes I just realised we were a 7 with 5 connections!). The idea is simple – you work as a team to help Wizard Nebo find three cures to three deadly curses unleashed on the world.

The whole thing takes place in a relatively small tabletop area designed by the creative genius Joel. Everything you need is literally right in front of you, and you can direct your host around to poke things, open drawers, and take a closer look.

Wizard Joe- I mean, Nebo has woken up from a deep sleep only to discover he has erased his own memories! But not all is lost. Somewhere, hidden among the items in front of you, the notes and glass boxes on his desk, are the keys to the cures.

A Magical Challenge

Our little remote escape room team took on The Wizard’s Apothecary challenge on a relaxed Sunday evening. Well, relaxed for me! The rest of the team had just come from another room but, despite that, we managed to absolutely ace the room in under an hour with very few hiccups. That’s right Wizard Nebo, we’re not just pretty faces, eh?

Overall, this escape room experience was packed with fun puzzles. Mostly straightforward – or at least, we spotted what you needed to complete them after a little bit of ‘hum’ and ‘hah’. Gatekeeping each puzzle were a series of locks – 4 digit, 3 digit, directional and so on. Each puzzle led to the next solution and we were thankful to be gently nudged by our host in the right direction.

In particular, one puzzle involved sand in a surprising and creative way, which was really fun to experience. We even got a sneak peek of the mechanism behind this puzzle at the end. This is just part of the experience Joel provides, if you ever have any questions he’ll be sure to give you the full rundown after and the exact mechanisms to each puzzle may be more surprising than you think!

The theming of the experience was a lot of fun too – magical, creative and yes probably exactly the kind of things on a desk that a wizard would have. Including a tantalisingly locked away antidote vial, just waiting to be unlocked.

Overall, good fun had all round. The creative folks at Headlock Escape Rooms have outdone themselves. Apparently this game rates a little harder than their other two remote experiences – which I’ve yet to try, but am looking forward to.

The Wizard’s Apothecary can be booked for £35 for a team of 6 on Headlock Escape Rooms’ website.

Access Escape: Escape the Mailbox: A Peculiar Potion | Review

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Can you find your friend Luna. Help Merlin recreate the potion found in her lab to get answers on her disappearance.

Rating: Something Different!
Completion Time: 20 Minutes
Date Played: 5th November 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting emails in their life

November is NEARLY OVER! So stop what you’re doing and go subscribe to Access Escape’s “Escape the Mailbox” series before this absolute gem of a game disappears!

(Even more exciting – January’s Escape the Mailbox game is designed by yours truly, so if you subscribe now you can be the very first to play my game when it is released!)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll have noticed my review for October’s escape game “Diamond Detectives“. The Peculiar Potion is the second email inbox game in the Escape the Mailbox series and takes a very magical departure from the detective thriller that was the previous.

In a Peculiar Potion, your friend Luna has gone missing. You contact her neighbour, Merlin to go investigate. He finds a mysterious potion recipe and the witch nowhere to be found. Together, you must solve the puzzles, retrace Luna’s steps and concoct your own magical brew to try and bring her back.

In this one there’s a good mix of maths puzzles, logic puzzles and puzzles that require thinking outside of the box! Maybe I’m getting used to the format, or maybe the magical theme is more familiar to me – but I found this one a little bit easier than the last, in a good way! A lot less “Please Merlin, may I have a clue.”

Every puzzle in Access Escape’s “Escape the Mailbox” series is fully accessible to blind or partially sighted players too. In simple words each puzzle is easy to follow and you’ll need only your wits about you (and maybe a quick Google via Siri) to solve it. I love this A LOT as it really is a fun game enjoyable by absolutely everyone. I say “recommended for everyone” a lot on this blog, but this time I really mean it.

Overall, really good fun as always! Access Escape have outdone themselves and created a format which is perfect for not just lockdown, but plain and simply “making your day better”. I literally hate checking my email (shh don’t tell anyone). I’ve subscribed to way too much nonsense and almost none of my relatives email me (hey it’s 2020, people Zoom me now). But Escape the Mailbox is an exciting breath of fresh air you can tackle at your own pace or devour the moment it arrives.

A Pecular Potion can be played for free by subscribing to Access Escape’s Escape the Mailbox.

Oh, and if you want to create your own email-based escape game like this, Access Escape have created their own software called Puzzle Panther which you can try here.

Ratings

Mystery Mail: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

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An envelope arrives at your door. You’ve been accepted to Wizard School. But you have one more exam to pass before being admitted. Will you be the next Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

Rating: Magical!
Completion Time:  20 minutes
Date Played: 30th September 2020
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Kids/Teens

*screams* I love The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! After honestly some of the most tiring weeks of my life (apologies for the lack of posts in a while), settling down with some candles, a cup of hot chocolate and opening this magical looking letter was just the ticket.

Mystery Mail recommends this one for teens (or rather, there’s a version for adults/teens/kids), but as a fun little game it’s 100% suitable for any age. This is maybe why I loved it so much, none of the puzzles were too taxing (in a good way!), it gave my tired brain that quick sense of accomplishment!

So to explain exactly what Mystery Mail is… Mystery Mail is a company that specialises in puzzle greeting cards. The idea is simple, you get a card in the post from a mysterious friend and must solve a series of puzzles to unlock a code, input it into the website, and reveal your message.

It’s actually a fairly similar concept to other puzzle-by-post services such as Puzzle Post and Enigmagram, but Mystery Mail stood out as being a little different. Firstly, it’s quite literally a card and with gorgeous artwork it’ll look beautiful on your mantelpiece or hanging on the wall. Secondly, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a lot more linear! There’s a step one, two and three with spaces to write and jot down your answers as you go.

I highlight this in particular as I know it’ll be fantastic for the beginner who loves to puzzle but isn’t used to a non-linear format. So I’ll repeat again, this is suitable for literally anyone! If you’ve got that friend, or family member who isn’t really into escape rooms but you want to share the fun of puzzling through a game – 100% go for this!

So in terms of my experience, I completed the game quite quickly. Of the 7 puzzles, they take just a few minutes each to figure out what you need to do and solve. There’s a bit of maths, some very creative thinking outside the box, there’s an absolutely charming puzzle where a combo of the game and a cool little web browser reads your mind (no spoilers here but I LOVED THIS!).

Each of the puzzles were perfectly topical and made sense in the world. Furthermore, as this is a wizarding exam, they felt like they covered a wide scope of topics that yeah, you probably would have to study at a wizarding school. Give me more potions lessons and astrology any day!

Photo (c) Mystery Mail

One of the nicest things about this pack, which I feel I should also mention before signing this review off is that I received not only the loveliest ending message from Matt (one of the creators!), but my letter also had a pack of stickers featuring some of the artwork from the game. What a really nice touch to set this game apart from all others in the genre. It’s full marks from me 🙂

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be purchased for £9.99 on Mystery Mail’s website.

Enigma Quests: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry | Review

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Enigma Quests: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Review | Ever wanted to have magical abilities? You now have a chance to graduate from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and prove everyone that you are a true witch or wizard!

Rating: Magical
Completion Time: 50 minutes
Date Played: 5th August 2020
Party Size: 4

Our first real life, physical escape room since lockdown happened and it was … Magical! It played like a dream for the discerning Harry Potter fan out there. In School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, your goal is not to escape. Far from it – you, a student at the Wizarding School, must work within the time limit to pass 5 exams. History of Magic, Potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms and Runes. After all, why would I want to escape from Hogwa- I mean, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

What starts fairly non-linear quickly becomes more and more linear as you complete various tasks relating each subject. There are 3 distinct rooms in this game, hidden in clever ways. There’s more than enough in there for different groups to be puzzling out different things at the same time. Whilst one pair is translating, the other might be solving a complex riddle, the others working on a puzzle involving rare and mythical creatures. I value this a lot in an escape room and am a fan of the non-linear, so this game proved to be the perfect balance.

What really stood out about the game were the special affects. Not a single lock – instead you navigate the puzzles by waving a wand, filling up a cauldron and coming face to face with an enormous and fearsome creature. There’s a bubbling smoke effect at one point, immersive sound effects and very cool hidden bricks and pressure plates in the walls. Locks would certainly have broken immersion, but more than anything they don’t fit into the narrative. You’re not trying to escape, you’re trying to complete the magical tasks.

In particular, as a bit of a potions boffin I LOVED the potions puzzle the most, if you couldn’t already tell from my mentioning it a lot in this review. Anything with a wand too, sign me up. I’m still waiting for my acceptance letter to Hogwarts, pretty sure it’s just lost in the owl post … So this escape room was about as close as I can get to being an actual witch.

Overall, as an escape room it’s really strong! I recall when it first opened the waiting times to get a booking were around 3+ months. In this case, my team got very lucky securing a booking in the first few days after they reopened from lockdown.

Yes, the post-lockdown world of escape rooms is really, really different. It was a bit of a culture shock, but not an unexpected one. It’s impossible to deny that escape rooms are really intimate spaces. Whether you’re playing with just your household, your social bubble, or friends you haven’t seen in a while – you do have to get up close and personal. You’ll all be touching the same things and sharing the same air space.

But from what I’ve seen Enigma Quests (and other escape rooms we’re looking forward to playing later in the month), the companies are making it as safe as possible to return to. With compulsory masks (some places are making gloves compulsory too!), regular cleaning, a 1 in 1 out policy with teams so the waiting areas aren’t crowded, and of course hand sanitiser a plenty.

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is £30 per person and can be booked directly on the Enigma Quests website.

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