… Suddenly you glimpse something white in the distance. It’s the White Rabbit! Wonder where he is heading? You run after him but can’t quite catch up. Quite unexpectedly he disappears behind a door. You can’t sustain your curiosity and crack it open to take a look… You can’t quite make out what’s inside, you take a step forward – the door closes shut right behind your back! You look around and realise that it’s not just a room – it’s Wonderland!
Completion time: DNF
Date played: March 2023
Party size: 2
On our recent weekend trip to Dublin one of the only things we booked was called ‘Dublin’s Best Kept Secrets Tour‘. It’s a four or so hour tour, which I highly recommend and happened to end at the escape room, ‘The Clockwork Door’. This was a really lovely and special place, and something I wish existed in more cities – but hold up, we’ll cover more about this at the end!
Before the Dublin trip I had naturally researched escape rooms in Dublin, but the theme of Alice in Wonderland, and the website in general had put me off slightly (as well as the fact we were limited on time, so wanted to prioritise the escape room on a boat). However, after speaking to the owner I found myself convinced to book, due to just how lovely he seemed and his own love of escape rooms. I mean, anyone who has been to Budapest just to play is clearly an enthusiast!
Unfortunately, after playing the experience, I probably should’ve trusted my gut instinct…
Alice in Wonderland: The Set Design
When we entered the room I could immediately tell I had made a mistake. The room visually looked quite tired and rough around the edges. The lighting was dim, the door didn’t close behind us, and we could very loudly hear what was going on in the rest of the place. Not to mention, the objects and decor around the room were fairly damaged too.
I think wear and tear in an escape room is understandable,and not everyone has the space or budget to be truly transformative, but there was something about Alice in Wonderland that felt a little too worn down, and particularly disappointing for the price (which was about £30 per player). To make things even worse, a couple of people actually barged into the room halfway through. We presume they were there to see what work needed doing as they were noting things down, but the whole thing felt quite weird and unprofessional.
Curiouser and Curiouser Puzzles
I was determined to make the most of it (a.k.a I’m too stubborn to admit I had made a mistake), so we persevered. However, it’s clear right from the first puzzle that we were in trouble. We knew what we had to do to ‘decode’ the puzzle, but the ‘solution’ barely made sense. We managed to vaguely figure out what we had to do but in doing so found that this became a common theme throughout the room. The clues barely making sense, the puzzles with no links between them, and little to no logic underpinning the gameplay flow.
Furthermore, hints came via a projector, projecting the necessary clues on the wall. This came unprompted without indication, such as light or sound to draw our attention to the clue, meaning often we just happened to look up and notice some text on the wall without warning. The hints themselves were unhelpful, emphasised by the fact we didn’t complete the room.
A number of times I asked for a specific hint and didn’t receive it – perhaps the pre-written text didn’t have a clue for the particular thing we were asking for a hint on? My partner spent a good 20 minutes trying to solve/decode a puzzle, only to discover (much later) that he didn’t have all the information he needed to do so. In other escape room experiences, we might have expected a hint to redirect attention or push us toward obtaining the correct information. However, instead, we were essentially stuck for a third of our time, becoming more and more frustrated.
They eventually gave us the solution to the puzzle with about 5 minutes left, but with no explanation or hint to what had occurred during the previous puzzle, which would have given us the ‘key’, the remainder of the room was no good. I attempted to rush through the final couple of puzzles, but to no avail.
When the Games Master came to tell us the game was over, it was a different member of the team to the one who had started us off – which, we’d love to add had given us quite a good brief. I asked our new team member about a number of the puzzles, but he wasn’t able to give us any answers or explanations. For example, it turns out I had indeed solved the previous puzzle that should’ve given us the ‘key’, but when the numbers didn’t work in any of the lock or for any other puzzle, he wasn’t able to explain why. Without giving spoilers on the particular puzzle – we suspect it was a reset error in the room, essentially a detail not picked up on by the reset team, or whichever Games Master was supervising us wasn’t picked up, and we couldn’t progress.
A single mistake is understandable, but this happened over and over again – another set of numbers deciphered at the beginning, and nowhere to put them, without an explanation from the Games Master. Perhaps they were in puzzles we hadn’t yet reached, but we’ll never know.
We left very frustrated indeed, particularly as there was no one else around we could talk to. We ended up leaving, and rushed off to the airport to fly home. On the way home, I decided to email the owner. I will say now that I am in two minds about how this went.
My initial email was just asking for clarifications over a couple of the puzzles and their solutions, and explaining the GM hadn’t been able to tell us how it was supposed to work. I wasn’t too surprised when the response was essentially that they didn’t give any written solutions, and assured me that the GMs are very knowledgeable about the room and can decide best when to give help. After a little back and forth, the team acknowledged that our Games Master wasn’t actually trained to give post-game debrief, as they weren’t familiar with the puzzles.
Whilst out of fairness, we’re wondering if our experience was down to a bad Games Master, or if there were genuine problems with the room. Here at The Escape Roomer we like to give the benefit of the doubt, and second chances with other rooms where applicable. But after reading a number of other similarly disappointing experiences in very similarly disappointing ways, we wonder if this might instead be a “give a miss”.
The Clockwork Door
Although I had a very dissatisfying experience in this room, I think The Clockwork Door is a really lovely place and definitely worth a visit – though perhaps to try a different room on their list! The venue itself has a video game room with both modern and retro games, a quiet study room, and a ‘main waiting area’, which feels like a large sitting room, full of sofas and board games. They also have a kitchen where you can help yourself to tea, coffee, and biscuits. Despite all, we do recommend visiting the venue – but just avoid Alice in Wonderland.
The Clockwork Door is up a flight of steep stairs, so it won’t be accessible for anyone with mobility issues.
One person will need to be able to crawl, and there is a colour puzzle not suitable for colourblind players.
Alice in Wonderland can be booked on the Clockwork Door website here