Dive into the history of London’s buzzing Kings Cross area! Trust us, there’s much more to discover here than platform 9¾. Follow the location-based riddles made by our local creator, Jennifer, to explore hidden wonders of this remarkable neighbourhood. You’ll learn little-known or forgotten stories behind striking sculptures, fascinating architecture, and unexpected pops of colour. It’s an experience for the curious by the curious!
Completion Time: 1hr 23m
Date Played: 9th May 2021
Party Size: 2
Location: King’s Cross
Recommended For: Families, Couples, People who want a lovely day out (go on a weekend!)
Kings Cross – Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards is the second Secret City Trails experience I’ve played, and I’m beginning to get the hang of their unique style of puzzle! This time I was joined by the fabulous Bianca of Shiny Life for Me on a sunny Sunday afternoon. At the time of writing, it’s the last sunny day I can remember actually (*shakes fist at the rain*), therefore I’m glad we made the most of it!
The sun must’ve done us some favours though as at the time of writing, our score earned our team an awesome 10th place on the leader board overall! Take that *checks notes* Team Wiffins, in 11th place!
Unlike a lot of my reviews, I’m leaving off the “Story” aspect of this review, as Secret City Trails aren’t build around a narrative – or rather, you’re the narrative! The story is whatever you make of it and really it’s just a fun way to explore a new part of your city without worrying about saving the world or tracking down an elusive enemy.
Kings Cross – Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards starts off out front of King’s Cross station and, after talking a long round about route, ends up in the ‘new build’ area of King’s Cross: the beautiful and modern area behind the station next to the canals. Along the way, you’ll get to go into the station itself, around the courtyards in the nearby area, and into the British Library too.
I did two walks in one day, and by the end of the day I’d walked a whopping 25,000 steps! But noooo… Don’t get the wrong idea, this walk itself isn’t 25,000 steps. Unless you want it to be? It’s actually about half of that.
My favourite bit – even though by the time we finally got there we’d started rushing (gotta get that good score, amirite?) – was the canal area towards the end. It’s incredibly pretty round there and honestly I could have found a sunny spot on the grass and dozed for hours. It didn’t help one of the canal boats was also playing live music – lovely!
On our particular walk, we experienced one or two minor issues with the route, however this was down to us being the first team to play it post-lockdown. The British Library section was shut, and one of the features in a puzzle had been removed. However, on alerting the Secret City Trails team they’ve let me know they’ve fixed this right away! So take my experience with a pinch of salt.
This walk was played entirely on a browser on our mobile phones! The team leader is given a link at the start of the game that all team mates can sign onto and begin their journey! The format goes:
- Receive a riddle to your phone
- Follow the clues and head to the location
- Solve the riddle, input the answer
- Read some facts about the local area
- And repeat!
You can see your progress throughout the game at all times, and optional breaks are even listed in the game so you know how long until you can stop for a coffee! Which is exactly what we did at the half way mark and a nice opportunity to catch up whilst not thinking about puzzles for a brief half hour.
In terms of puzzles, this is where the ‘core’ of the game really is. Each puzzle is a riddle… Of sorts! The kind of confusing message that would only make sense as you walk it through. Think anagrams of place names, puns hidden inside words, and references to stepping L or R depending on where about you are.
More than being ‘hard to solve’ you need to really pay attention to your environment – read every sign, every blue plaque, and look closely at the cobblestones you’re walking over! For this reason, this game is an excellent way to get to know the city. Avid puzzlers won’t be challenged, but a family or friends group will enjoy an exciting walk.
We got slightly stuck towards the start on one section, where the answer became super obvious once we walked an extra block (and might even have been more obvious earlier if not for scaffolding). So for this reason, I’ll also say to trust your gut and explore the environment thoroughly!
Secret City Trails, originally founded by all-female duo Wendy and Kristina, is now an international puzzle trail company spanning countless cities. In each city is a team of puzzle writers who can submit their own games to be used on the app (I assume) via a shared revenue model. Different creators have different styles and for that reason the games are priced slightly differently.
The most expensive route in London is priced at £30 per team, and the least expensive at £16 per team – unless you count the £10 “Mystery Walk” offer where you’ll be allocated a game at random. This makes the King’s Cross walk comfortably priced in the ‘middle range’ and great value for what you get too!
I really enjoy Secret City Trails! ESPECIALLY in lockdown where I’ve been having some serious escape room withdrawals, being able to solve puzzles out in the open with friends really scratches that itch! I discovered some amazing new stuff in an area I’d never normally visit, such as a beautiful mural of a maze and some awesome art within King’s Cross station itself. I love the area, I love the canals, and I love the company I shared the game with! I’d definitely recommend Secret City Trails to anyone new to the city, or even if you’ve lived here your whole life a chance to discover something new!
Kings Cross: Colour, Curiosities and Courtyards can be booked for £22 per group of 1-5 players on Secret City Trails’ website here.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief of The Escape Roomer and writes about news, and reviews covering London and UK south.