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Swamp Motel: The Drop | Review
At the centre of London’s criminal underworld lies a centuries-old secret. In 1912, two Bloomsbury bookbinders created a luxurious jewelled binding for a book that became known as The Great Omar. Hugely valuable, the book found a buyer and was packed safely aboard a boat bound for New York. On the 15th of April 1912 the HMS Titanic sank, leaving the book forever lost at sea. Its secrets were never recovered.
Until now. In an unassuming building in London, a sea of secrets is waiting to be revealed. Enter a hidden world as you descend into the dark underbelly of international crime and prepare yourselves to face The Drop.
Will you beat the villain, or become one?
Completion Time: ~ 90 minutes
Date Played: 10th November 2021
Party Size: 4
About one in every ten articles I write, I find myself writing then deleting and re-writing the opening lines over and over. Trying to explain how amazing Swamp Motel’s latest immersive experience “The Drop” is one of those times. I mean, where do we even begin?
In an exciting race against the clock, The Drop transports players to the criminal underworld of London in search of a long lost and highly valuable book. For those 90 minutes, we were the stars in our own action thrilled drama and my heart didn’t stop pounding once. The Drop is an experience like no other and if you’re fans of escape-room type immersivity, it’s unmissable.
Introducing Swamp Motel
Swamp Motel is an award-winning immersive theatre company, best known for creating Plymouth Point, The Mermaid’s Tongue, The Kindling Hour – now known collectively as the Isklander Trilogy. Most recently the team was also involved in creating Panic: The Experience in collaboration with Amazon Prime. The Drop marks a departure from their at-home genre however, with it’s first live, in-person experience since lockdown.
Located at 55 Aldgate High Street, The Drop takes place in an unassuming office building owned by ‘Hopkins Stearne’ – oh hey, I recognise that name from Isklander! We knew we were in for a treat.
What to Expect in The Drop
The Drop takes place in small intimate teams of 2 – 4 players and is strictly limited to 20 sessions per day. It’s somewhere between playing an escape room, experiencing live immersive theatre, and starring in the latest James Bond film. In my case, a shorter, rounder, blue haired James Bond – but let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and run with it.
Players arrive at the mysterious Hopkins Stearne offices, are greeted by the receptionist, and then told to head into the lift and up to Floor 3. It’s very hard to tell where your game begins (or ends, for that matter) but it’s all part of the immersive world Swamp Motel have created to feel a little lost and apprehensive.
So let’s address the elephant in the room: Lifts. If the trailer weren’t a giveaway, The Drop largely takes place inside a lift. Or an elevator, for our American audience. If you are claustrophobic there is a safe word, but one thing that is important to keep in mind is that The Drop is just a game and as realistic as it may seem, you aren’t in any danger.
What followed was 90 minutes of a whirlwind adventure that took us through several jaw-dropping physical spaces. To me, the highlight of the experience was how much attention to detail went into each set. Swamp Motel take blurring the boundaries of what is real and what is fiction very seriously, and this is no more evident than in the spaces they create.
At times the story was a little hazy. It’s easy to forget why you were there or who each character was. But I think that’s a natural sacrifice of having a fast-paced game: sometimes those small jigsaw pieces which come together to make a whole picture at the end are lost in the noise.
But if you are narrative driven, then keep in mind that your quest is to retrieve the book of The Great Omar, assumed lost to sea in 1912 when the HMS Titanic sank. The catchy tag line of the experience is “Will you beat the villain, or become one?” which perfectly sets the stage for the shady, criminal underbelly you’ll encounter. After all, sometimes the best way to beat a villain is to become one yourself!
“Not gonna lie I’m a little bit stressed…”
In terms of the puzzles, they were a little on the easier side and largely weighted towards the beginning of the experience. That said, being on the ‘easier’ side is no criticism and worked really well for a fast-paced experience like this. In each unique area there was at least one puzzle to be solved, not to mention the brilliant meta puzzle of cracking the whole case and figuring out what is going on.
Whilst we don’t want to spoil anything for any players, we will mention that these puzzles felt right at home in an escape room but had the added benefit of being extra mimetic – meaning they weren’t solving codes for the sake of it, everything made sense in the universe.
Thankfully, in case you get stuck, you have a near constant line of communication between various live actors and Swamp Motel staff who take a Games Master role in co-ordinating the experience and nudging teams along who may be struggling. Compared to escape rooms where phones are not allowed in the room, The Drop actually requires you to have fully charged phones – you’ll need them!
In one moment involving a text-chat, an “Are you okay?” message popped through. By this point most our the group were occupied with solving puzzles or trying not to get killed. So the most calm and collected in our group coolly typed back his response:
“yeah I’m not gonna lie I’m a little stressed”
In hindsight, I think that completely sums up the entire The Drop experience. From start to finish there’s no relief from the action. You’re on your toes and moving fast – and we loved every second of it!
To reveal too much more about the game would take away from the amazing experience. Expect the unexpected – The Drop is packed with twists and turns and some brilliant reveals. So what we’ve mentioned in this review is just a part – and a small part at that – of what you can expect when you play.
After the game we were very lucky to be invited to the press reception where we got a chance to talk to the creators of the show. It made me realise that they had a huge vision in mind when they put the experience together, and really pushed the boundaries on what is possible in a live immersive experience.
Tickets to The Drop are £39.95 and the game runs from now until December 31st, 2021. With such a limited number of spaces, you’ll regret it if you miss it! Be sure to book The Drop quickly before it sells out!
The Drop can be booked on www.thedropexperience.co.uk
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