Mystery Locks: Dream Hack | Review


In 2083 things are quite different from today. The simple things in life were sacrificed for time efficiency. There was no time laugh, to love or to dream.

Rating: Different
Completion Time: 29 minutes
Date Played: 17th of May 2020
Party Size: 1

Dream Hack by Mystery Locks wins my award for most interesting (and creative) theme! I love it! Often with escape rooms I see the same theme come up over and over again. It makes sense, there are only so many exciting themes out there. But credit where credit is due for this game and it’s fantastic setting!

It is the distant future and modern technology has enabled human beings to get as much as 10 hours sleep in just 10 minutes. Fantastic, right? We can be so much more productive. Just think about all the free time you’d have to play escape rooms!

But it all goes wrong, such technology should never be in the hands of one corporation. What’s more, a corporation that’s suffering a major security breach. Enter you, the player!

So here’s my review: I say ‘you’ singular, because I did play this game solo. I think I was just so excited about it I had to dive in right away. Plus my partner is all escape room-ed out after a 4 hour marathon this morning. So I raced through it solo. As such, that probably affects my review, so take this with a pinch of salt. Escape rooms are inherently social, and here is me being antisocial.

Being social aside – this one was good fun! Creative, hacking based puzzles that require you to step outside of the boundaries of the game and immerse yourself in real-life internet puzzles. You download ziplocked files, head onto Google Maps, even head onto Instagram to try and solve one particular puzzle.

It’s exciting! And it works… Mostly. I encountered just the one technical difficulty which did impact game play a little (Note: I’ve already relayed this to the owners and they’re assured me the issue is now fixed!). I’d say these puzzles are also on the harder side. Better for veterans with a keen eye for detail, patience, and knowledge of existing cipher systems. Or at least, able to google them!

Maybe surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly as I didn’t need to discuss the puzzles – I finished in good time under 30 minutes! The ending was satisfying. I saved the world, all whilst my partner napped in the next room. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon!

Dream Hack can be purchased for €9.99 on Mystery Lock‘s website.

Escape Kit: The Mysterious Murder

“On Sunday, November 15, at around 9 p.m., the Berkshire police received an alarming call from an anonymous guest who stayed at the Thompson’s Mansion where wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson took place. Mary Thompson was found dead in her room. Cause of death : unknown. No signs or break-in….”

Rating: Exciting
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 12th of May 2020
Party Size: 2

I absolutely love a good murder mystery – I think I’ve been a fan of true crime since I was a young teenager, and obsessively listening to podcasts such as My Favorite Murder and Serial has only grown this fascination! So finding and playing this game was an absolute gem to me and ticked all the boxes.

The Mysterious Murder from French company Escape Kit, I have to caveat, is not what I’d call a traditional escape room. You’re not (really) on a timer, there’s no room to escape from, and the puzzles aren’t typical. But none of these are negatives. In fact, the ‘constraints’ of a play at home escape room do not apply, and The Mysterious Murder really thinks outside the box of what is possible.

Once you’ve downloaded the game, you’re encouraged to set up different pieces of evidence in different rooms. Some in the bathroom, one in the living room and so on. This turns your whole apartment into the crime scene, which is a very cool addition.

From therein, you work through each evidence in turn – evidence 1, 2, 3… At each stage, a little bit more of what happened on the fateful night of the murder of Thompson is revealed.

I would say it’s of medium difficulty – good for beginners or families for sure! Nothing too challenging in there and we only needed to use a clue once. More importantly … Was it good fun? Absolutely! Hercule Poirot, eat your heart out!

The Mysterious Murder can be purchased from Escape Kit‘s website for $22.

Clue Cracker: Escape from Extinction Island


“Extinction Island is a man-made island, near to Mongolia, created especially to breed dinosaurs using old fossilised bones and a whole lot of science!”

Rating: Hilarious
Completion Time: 25 minutes
Date Played: 9th of May 2020
Party Size: 2

I LOVED THIS GAME SO MUCH! No seriously, let me repeat that louder for people in the back. It was fantastic. It’s got dinosaurs, mysterious islands, more dinosaurs, and great puzzles!

Escape from Extinction Island begins with a mysterious broadcast from your mentor, Professor McDougall. Something terrible has gone wrong on the island, dinosaurs are loose everywhere and you must go to his house to discover co-ordinates and send help before it’s too late! It sounds a little bit like a popular dinosaur themed franchise which I won’t mention here, but heck, I love Dinosaurs. There aren’t enough escape rooms themed around them.

It’s an escape room in every classic sense and has buckets of charm! We played on a sunny way with our window wide open – I just can’t get the sound of sirens from Extinction island blaring out onto the balcony and Professor McDougall screaming “LISTEN” out of my head! I’m sure the neighbours were confused.

In terms of puzzles – Escape from Extinction Island follows quite a linear flow and is aided by the computer interface. To proceed, you must enter a code or a password at the end of each stage, all whilst guiding your character through the environment of puzzles. With each stage ‘gatekeeped’ it feels quite natural to input a code before you can proceed – both pacing the game out and providing a sense of positive feedback when you get something right!

Thankfully, we didn’t need to use many clues, so I’m pitching this game on the slightly easier side. That combined with the theme makes it fantastic for families – I actually wish I could go back and play this with my parents and little brother! But there’s always next time – Clue Cracker has many more to try!

Overall, another easy 5 star game with a bonus shout-out to how brilliant Professor McDougall’s character and acting was. The enthusiasm and caricature brought the whole experience together. McDougall Voice: “LISTEN!” I want to see more McDougall in future games please!

Escape from Extinction Island can be purchased for £9.99 from Clue Cracker’s website.

The Panic Room: My Dearest Emily | Review


My Dearest Emily Review | Months go by and John sends his letters back home to his dearest Emily...

Rating: Fun
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 7th of May 2020
Party Size: 1.5

Nick’s Thoughts:

This online experience is really like nothing else. You will not be disappointed!

My Dearest Emily is based on the love letters between John and Emily, as John departed to secure their future during the 1889 Land Rush in America. You follow their relationship during their separation with an ever evolving love story and series of riddles. Not the kind of story line you would expect with an escape game, however stop your judgement right there! 

Being so used to being pressured in escape room games this was a refreshing break from the norm. The calm, relaxed atmosphere of this game, provides a sense of empathy with the characters. As a player you become attached to their story. Never did I think that you feel a real sense of emotion playing an online game, but the guys at The Panic Room have really nailed it.

In addition to their love letters, further emotion is applied by a beautiful soundtrack which provides for an atmosphere like no other. Sitting calmly in the background, this well written orchestral acoustic score accompanies the puzzles perfectly. In addition, you have the option to listen to Emily reading the love letters which is a lovely touch.

The puzzles in this game vary in complexity, however fit very well with the story and stay strictly on theme. First timers may find a handful of the games tricky, however well placed hints sit nicely at the bottom of each page and provide the right level of guidance without spoiling things too much. If completely stuck, you can reveal the answer in order to move on, however please only do this as a last resort! The sense of achievement in answering the riddles will add to your joy in this game. 

In terms of who I would expect to play, this is really not aimed at big groups of friends. I would expect this to be for couples wanting to sit down, enjoy each others company and exercise the grey matter! Likewise, newcomers and experienced gamers alike will certainly enjoy this ever-evolving love story. 

As ever for an online experience, I was worried that their would be no real pay-off at the end of the game. No spoilers, however, I am pleased to say in this game I was wrong. The finale completes this experience beautifully and leaves you with that warm fuzzy glow that I didn’t think possible with an online game. 

Its safe to say, I was hugely impressed with this experience and there was very little I could fault. A beautifully appointed, atmospheric experience, with well placed puzzles, great flow and very individual yet interesting theme. 

Mairi’s Thoughts:

My Dearest Emily really surprised me – it feels less like an escape room and more like a beautiful story told through the medium of letters.

John, separated from his sweetheart Emily, ventures off to the USA during the Oklahoma Land Rush in search of a place where the two of them can be happy. John writes her one letter a month and includes a little puzzle for his dear to solve. Skip to today, you come into possession of these 12 letters.

There isn’t really an ‘end goal’. The goal is very self-driven, if you want to learn the story you just have to play. For this reason it reminds me more of videogames like Dear Esther, or Whatever Happened to Edith Finch. Sure, you can ignore the plot. You can whiz through it and solve the puzzles and go “yes I’ve finished!” but the beauty in games like this is taking time to listen to the story. And let me tell you, it must be hard weaving puzzles into letters without ruining the integrity of the story, but The Panic Room does it very well!

The puzzles are clever and enjoyable! At least two of them were enormously tricky, but there’s a good balance in there for everyone.

You’ll notice at this point I noted the number of players as 1.5 – we started the game as a couple but Player 2 soon got distracted by a phone call and so I powered on without him. It was still just as fun playing solo as it was in a couple and not too challenging in either case.

If I had just one tiny negative it would be that this game is best played on a screen, not printed (don’t let my photographs mislead you!). This is due to the need for passwords at each stage. But that’s definitely just a personal preference. My tiny laptop screen makes it hard to crowd around, so any more than 2 players I’d recommend plugging into your TV to play together!

But any negatives are easily redeemed by how lovely the ending was. Did I mention there’s a beautiful little song you get to keep? Album launches of the future should be like this! “My Dearest Emily” (the song, this time) was recorded by a professional musician based on the story. The whole game’s soundtrack was then worked by a composer so that when you finally hear the end tune, it’s comfortingly familiar, even though it’s the first time. This time, effort and attention to detail deserves all the praise in the world!

Overall, I’m rating this 4 stars!

My Dearest Emily can be purchased for £15 on the Panic Room website.

STL Fantasy Maps: Escape the Empire


*dun dunnnnn dun dun dun deee dunnnnn*

ESCAPE THE EMPIRE! An play at home adventure from STL Fantasy Maps set in a galaxy far far away!

Rating: Outstanding
Completion Time: 2 hours (over 2 days)
Date Played: 2nd – 3rd of May 2020
Party Size: 2

Since Escape the Empire took us about 2 hours over 2 different days – for that reason, I’m not calling it a classic escape room. It’s an adventure-come-party-game.

First you choose your character from a selection of booklets … Each character has different skills and different secret information that will help them in the game.

Then, in character (and costume if you fancy!) you and your crew have 5 missions to complete, with two fun ‘bonus missions’. The missions aren’t too long apiece, maybe 15 or so minutes between them – which is a nice pace to go out and enough in each to keep everyone busy!

The bonus missions by contrast are just brilliant. One of them has you attach little light sabres to your thumbs and take on a thumb war to determine the champion (who gets to wear a badge for the rest of the game). The other has a player blindfolded as you guide them through an asteroid belt.

And how was it? Brilliant!

I’m so inspired and wish I could play it again after the quarantine with a larger group. So if you’re ever planning a Star Wars themed party this game is an absolute must!

But most of all, I loved this game because it’s so obvious how much love has gone into making it. It’s a real enthusiast’s dream and sparks joy in really unexpected ways. Refreshingly different, it goes to new levels of immersivity and more than anything is really, really accessible to the non-escape room player market too!

Escape the Empire can be purchased for $19.99 – $26.99 USD on the STL Fantasy Maps website.

Mobile Escape: Family Secrets

A mysterious cousin … Who is he? What does he want? Where has he gone?

Rating: Outstanding
Completion Time: 42 minutes
Date Played: 29th of April 2020
Party Size: 2

Mobile Escape NAILED IT! Admittedly, it took us a while to stop giggling about how funny the opening letter is… A long lost cousin who your family have kept secret suddenly wants to give you an enormous fortune. Yep, I’m 99% sure I’ve received spam emails like this – but it’s still utterly charming.

Once we got into the story, I honestly had such a good time and I’m happy to say that this is probably my favourite play-at-home escape room I’ve done during quarantine so far. It’s effortlessly simple. Treasure maps, compasses, mysterious coins, things to cut out, things to measure, things to draw on.

The game DOES rely a lot on slower cipher codes which might not be good for a big group, but it paces the game nicely – and mixes it up with some real nice “aha!” moments too.

More than anything I felt very engaged in the story, it was authentic. What a cool cousin it turns out you have too! Who is he? Where is he (by the accent, I think Canada – haha)? Why was he not at that wedding last summer? Does he want to catch up over some baby photos?

No spoilers, but the ending got to me and I literally CANNOT WAIT for part 2.

Family Secrets can be purchased for $14.99 CAD on Mobile Escape‘s website.

Escape Hunt: Treasure of the Aztecs | Review

Escape Hunt Treasure of the Aztecs Review | Can you decipher the ancient Aztec clues and find Montezuma’s long lost treasure?

Completion Time: 39 minutes
Date Played: 26th of April 2020
Party Size: 2

This is the second play at home escape room I’ve played since quarantine started, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! What a brilliant and charming way to bring the escape room genre to your living room. A great way to stay in contact with friends, family, and well… Not lose your mind in lockdown. Haha.

Treasure of the Aztecs is a new game in this genre by Escape Hunt and it didn’t disappoint! The idea being that so long as you have a printer at home, you can play a similar, 1-hour long ‘at home’ escape room. It’s a unique new genre and a pretty exciting way to play if you’re locked at home.

The story goes, split out over two parts, you and your teammates go on a big ole’ treasure hunt across the world. Think: Maps… Codes… Ancient Aztec texts to decipher. It’s exciting, fairly realistic, and exactly what you want in a treasure hunt! You’ll have to find precise locations, uncover hidden clues in historical documents, and really put yourself in the mind of early treasure hunters hot on the trail of one of the world’s most infamous treasure hoards ever.

In this game, one thing I particularly enjoyed was the addition of a chat bot (or should I say… a direct line to the director of the museum *cough*) to help. In the same way you’d have a Games Master monitoring your real life escape room, at any point in Treasure of the Aztecs, you could pick up your phone and ask for a hint. The hints come through conversationally and you must check your answers with the Museum Director as you go.

You’re communicating your treasure hunt progress with a third party, and receiving clues to the next steps along the way. For example, you solve something, he’ll send a team of excavators out to investigate, and the game proceeds. It worked well to keep the story moving along.

Overall, a tricky new genre to nail – but Treasure of the Aztecs definitely holds a candle to ‘real life’ escape rooms, as a fun way to spend an evening at home. The best part, you’re not on a timer. So why not give this a go over a meal, a couple of days, or as a party activity?

The Treasure of the Aztecs can be purchased for £14.99 on Escape Hunt‘s website.

ClueQuest: Stolen IQ | Review


ClueQuest Stolen IQ Review | Agent Lisa Hammerschmidth has discovered Professor Blacksheep’s evil plan. For some time now, the despicable sheep has secretly been kidnapping top scientists, and forcing them to join his attempts at world domination.

Rating: Brilliant
Completion Time: 70 minutes
Date Played: 12th of April 2020
Party Size: 2

Our second play at home escape room in a week! Maybe being quarantined isn’t quite so bad when you have brilliant adventures like these to play, eh?

clueQuest’s real life games are hugely popular in London, and their print and play experiences are no less high quality than the real life counterpart. Whilst the real life sites remain shut for a while longer, you can keep up with the super spy antics of Mr Q and his troupe of anthropomorphic animals.

Stolen IQ by Cluequest is a long awaited print and play game for me… As someone who has completed every single escape room Cluequest offer, this game couldn’t come fast enough. On receiving my code, I immediately sent it to the printer- alas! No black ink. But I think blue looks just as cool.

In Stolen IQ you play the role of a secret spy on the hunt for Agent Crimson who has gone missing. In typical ClueQuest fashion it has mice, sheep, and theatrical hilarity! All intermixed with brilliant puzzles requiring tactile manipulation, cutting, folding and sticking.

One thing is for sure, and that there’s a lot of cutting out! On each page you print out theres at least one thing to cut – ranging from one or two things that’ll need to be folded, to lots of itty bitty small pieces of paper that will play a biggger role later when you get to solving the puzzles.

In particular we enjoyed the digital aspect of the game. clueQuest provide a simple online interface for inputting your answers as you go. Very satisfying! However – satisfying or not, it was hard! Our completion time came in over 1hr, but I’ll blame that on the breaks we took to top up our drinks.

*nervous sweat*

…That or the time we took to admire al the beautiful illustrations. Of which there are many!

…Overall good fun, and one of the better priced play at home escape rooms on the market at the moment! And if you have as much free time as I do right now you’ve no reason not to give it a go!

Stolen IQ can be purchased for £12 on ClueQuest’s website.

Escape London: Escape the Seven Seas | Review


Escape London: Escape the Seven Seas Review | Legend speaks of a treasure, The envy of all those who admire, A treasure that’s said to grant any sailor a wish that so desires.

Rating: Brilliant
Completion Time: 39:15
Date Played: 29th of February 2020
Party Size: 4

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! Games at Escape London just do not disappoint. Today marks #2 with the company – and we’re looking forward to coming back for #3 very soon.

Escape The Seven Seas begins with you and your crew locked up (separately, I might add!) in the heart of a pirate ship. So your first puzzle is to escape! But, as your two prison cells are quite far apart, that’s no easy feat. Eventually by working together, stretching your arms, and trying not to drop the items you pass between your cells, you’ll unite for Room 2.

There are two different rooms from this point in this game and the theming is fabulously pirate-like. From the eerie music to the whole room looking visually great. At one point we had to figure through rope knots. Later we had to solve something involving barrels of rum. Of course, at the end there is treasure! Lots of it! No ‘pretend’ treasure chest, with this one you can practically shower in gold coins. It’s great.

The only drawback of this experience was that they had some pretty bad technical difficulties on the day. Their camera feed broke so they were unable to see where we were, or what we were doing. The GM had to come into the room twice (first to tell us about the issue and second to give us a clue). But I won’t hold it against them, technical difficulties happen!

We nonetheless had a lot of fun together. A like a good pirate themed game, and Escape London do a good job with theirs.

Escape the Seven Seas can be played at Escape London (Shadwell). Prices start at £23 pp.


Modern Treasure Hunt: The V.O.C. Treasure | Review

The VOC Treasure Review | Sunk on a mysterious V.O.C. (Dutch version of the East India Company) ship, join the Van Amstel family and claim your family’s rightful inheritance!

Rating: Creative
Completion Time: 50 minutes
Date Played: 7th of January 2020
Party Size: 3

In this time of quarantine – you have to get creative and play an “at home” escape room. Now there are TONNES on the market and all my favourite escape room companies are releasing more daily. But sometimes the best ones are the hidden gems you find on Kickstarter, which is exactly what this is!

The V.O.C. Treasure is a play at home boxed game by Modern Treasure Hunt – at the time of writing they’re offering a 10% discount due to COVID-19 and it’s worth it for the beautiful looking box and few hours of fun it will give you!

The V.O.C. Treasure arrives with a mysterious letter from you estranged uncle, a famous treasure hunter. He has left you his incredible inheritance. But you have to find it first!

It’s available in Dutch and English – I played the English version. It also comes in an absolutely awesome big wooden treasure chest, which is a great keepsake even when the treasure is found. It’s replayable, and most important – brilliant fun.

Gameplay revolves around the concept of a logic grid. There are a number of ships, items of treasure, locations et al. By solving all the individual puzzles (which I should add, range from ultra creative things inside a wine bottle), to more manual sorting, and a slightly frustrating mini-puzzle that needs a magnifying glass to solve! At the end, you input all the information you have and only then can you track down your treasure.

I haven’t played a logic grid game in a long time and VOC Treasure does it quite well. We did have to use quite a few clues to nail the game. As such, I’ve rated it 3 stars for the creativity and I’ll definitely be excited to see what this company comes up with in the future.

The VOC Treasure can be purchased for €49.95 on Modern Treasure Hunt‘s website.