Enigmagram: Third Edition | Review

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Enigmagram Review | Send an Enigmagram to a loved one in three simple steps. First, create your secret message. We’ll then send out an envelope containing the puzzles and an anonymous letter explaining what they need to do. The answers to the puzzles make up a passcode, which they’ll use to unlock your message from an online location.

Completion Time: Around 45 minutes
Date Played: Over a couple of weeks
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium difficulty
AKA… Not too hard, but definitely some puzzles that require a little more than surface level thought!

 

Your mission has been set by whoever has sent you the Enigmagram. You must solve the puzzles and use the answers from each of them to gain access to your personal hidden message.

Are you up for the challenge?

 

The Enigmagram 3rd Edition. Photo (c) Enigmagram

Note, if you’re looking for our early review of the first edition, please head here.

 

About Enigmagram

The concept of Enigmagram is incredibly simple, but incredibly smart. The perfect gift for a friend or loved one who enjoys puzzles – with that added layer of personalisation. These two ideas combined make for a far more thoughtful present/celebration than just a simple card bought from a card shop.

I had been following the company for some time now but was still surprised to see that this was the third edition of the game, but after playing it, it really feels like they have perfected this short-form style of puzzle adventure.

 

The Challenges

What impressed me most about the challenges contained inside the Enigmagram was the variety. There were puzzles that required logic, puzzles that required observation, puzzles that required mathematics – something for every different part of the brain.

The thing I loved about the entire experience is that they are of course limited by the size of what you can fit into an envelope, but instead of this being a hindrance, the Enigmagram team have found innovative ways of making the puzzles transcend the paper limitation and feel much more substantial.

I think one way that they achieve this is finding clever ways of making the puzzles feel more physical. The first puzzle in the game has a lovely rip and tear element – which I think sets the expectation and tone for the rest of the experience.

Each of the following nine puzzles then brings something else to the table, which is another of the things I enjoyed about Enigmagram – no two puzzles felt the same. This is obviously quite important in a shorter experience, but very easy to overlook when designing.

There are puzzles for everyone – people who enjoy arithmetic, people who enjoy word challenges, puzzles that require visualisation, riddles – a relative puzzle smorgasbord. This variety really brings a real depth to the Enigmagram.

This brings me to my next point – is Enigmagram just for the person you’re purchasing it for to play? In my opinion, no. I would be much more fun for everyone if you played it with them.

That’s not to say that a solo individual couldn’t take on the challenge and enjoy it, they absolutely could! I personally, however, would have got a little frustrated If I hadn’t had my partner playing it with me. This is certainly not a criticism of the game, more a criticism of my own mind. But with the variety in the puzzles provided, I personally think it takes several different types of mind to solve them efficiently. There is a certain logic puzzle in the game which I couldn’t get my head around at all – but my partner solved it in a few minutes. I think this is a real plus point for Enigmagram – not only are you providing a lovely gift, but the taking the time to play it together adds to the experience.

After you have solved the ten puzzles then it’s all wrapped up nicely with the login on Enigmagram’s website – the secret message provided by your sender. I think this is a wonderful way to finish the game, it provides closure to confirm that you have completed everything, whilst also adding that layer of personalisation that I have discussed before.

The beauty of this is of course that your sender can end your game with literally any message that they want. The Escape Roomer team had been left an interesting message by Enigmagram… let’s just say that we both know the game and we’re going to play it.

 

The Enigmagram 3rd Edition. Photo (c) Enigmagram

Was Enigmagram fun?

We really enjoyed playing through the ten puzzles in our Enigmagram. They are excellently balanced, with some easy wins and some slightly trickier twists

The real fun of the experience however is in its simplicity. You have been challenged by the sender to reveal the message, and the fun is to be had in proving that you are worthy of finding out this secret.

I would definitely recommend it for puzzle aficionados, but it is also a lovely gateway into the world of tabletop puzzle games for people that don’t just want to pop down to Clintons and buy another £2 birthday card. It’s a lovely gift and a triumph for simplicity.

The Enigmagram can be purchased from their website here.

iDventure: The Fire in Adlerstein | Review

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Adlerstein Review | A citizen was killed in an arson attack in the city of Adlerstein. Isn’t it a strange coincidence? You, inspector, have to find out who the culprit is by detecting files and alibis.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 23rd October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

“Let’s play a board game, here are two choices” I say to my escape room un-enthusiastic partner on a Saturday morning. Surprisingly, rather than picking another ancient civilisation building romp, they selected Adlerstein as something a little different. It’s not quite an escape room in a box, but it’s not quite a board game either.

The packaging – a box that fits neatly on my board game shelf – is deceptive. What you actually receive within this box is a detailed paper case file. The game also doesn’t come with any instructions, except for a single letter entitled “Dear Detectives“.

No turns, no dice, your goal is to simply ‘solve the case’ in the fastest time possible.

Good luck!

Find the Culprit, Crack the Case

Your introduction to the case begins when you receive a letter from a local journalist. Interested in the case, we had gathering evidence when suddenly he got arrested – I mean, he was spotted at the scene of the crime and took an unhealthy interest in the fire! Protesting his innocence, he sends you all the evidence he’s collected in the hopes you’ll solve the case for him.

From here it’s a classic whodunnit… A number of suspects with motives, unpicking their actions and figuring out who reasonably could have been at the scene of the crime at the correct time with the right motive to have commited the crime.

To help you out, you’ve got a box packed with a large quantity of stuff to sort through, which was a lot of fun. One made up location, but plenty of impressively realistic pieces of evidence, ranging from Google Maps, license plate searches, stills from CCTV, high quality photographs, written notes. We can’t fault how exciting and realistic it felt to receive a box filled with such objects.

By the end of the hour as we were approaching the climax, we’d completely covered two tables in a ‘detectives board’ style of flat lay, spreading all the relevant information out and drawing lines and connections between characters and events. If you enjoy completely immersing yourself in fictional worlds as you unravel a complex case, then this game is for you! For sure, there are better games out there that do the same thing, but it certainly scratched that armchair detective itch.

Photo (c) iDVenture

There’s a Killer Among Us…

Putting our ‘escape room’ hat on for a moment, it’s hard to judge Adlerstein on puzzles because there weren’t many puzzles to solve in the game – with one exception in the form of a classic cipher puzzle. But this cipher didn’t fit well in the universe, and whats more it was long, cumbersome, and not fun to solve. We ended up skipping the cipher by checking the hints as not to disrupt the flow of the gameplay.

Otherwise all the puzzles players will encounter are pure social deduction puzzles. “If this, then that” or “If he said this, and she said something else, who is lying?” type of thing. Which are fun in their own right, but are less common in the escape room world.

You solve the case by filling out a grid – find everyone’s motive, their alibi, and so on. Whatever the gaps int he grid are is where you’ll find your killer.

So how did we do? We played Adlerstein once through without filling the grid and instead just holding the information in our heads. We reached the ending and short of an educated guess – couldn’t crack the case. So we started from the top and went through methodically, filling the grid, and making sure that each piece of information couldn’t be guessed. And then… We couldn’t crack the case either. I’m quite sure we guessed every single wrong answer before getting to the correct one, and even then we were like “huh? how?” A little but anti-climactic and a lot of frustrating, but we were glad for the resolution at the end.

No, the best thing about playing Adlerstein wasn’t solving puzzles – or even cracking the case. It was reading through a pretty cool story and feeling like you too were at the heart of it. People (fictional, sure) are depending on you to crack the case. It’s not your regular board game, it’s something quite different and that’s exciting!

Photo (c) iDventure

The Verdict

The Fire in Adlerstein is a classic whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns in the detailed story. Our tip to anyone using this post to help solve the game is to read and re-read everything for even the smallest details. The game comes in at between 1 – 3 hours, but can easily be reset and regifted. We made a lot of effort not to ruin any of the materials, and passed it along to the next person at The Escape Roomer to see if they could solve any faster!

The creators want you to feel like a real detective, but they’ll make you work for that solution – good luck!

Adlerstein can be purchased from iDventure’s website here.

ClueAdventures: Jet 2 Space | Review

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If Space is the final frontier then Jet2Space is a full-frontal fictional frenzy. It’s 2199 and you and your game partner have made the mistake of buying the cheapest tickets to space on the market. Not long after takeoff, you’ll realize that WheezyJet have cut every corner on Flight 069.

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 3rd February 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Easy

If you’re anything like me you tend to save escape rooms until you have friends visiting, or until you can do them with someone who will really appreciate them, or even just feel a little bit of guilt in doing one as a pair. However, ClueAdventures has noticed this niche and created not one, but two two-player only games! I played their first game, “2 Tickets 2 Ride”, at least 3 years ago and it was great, so I was very excited when they announced ‘Jet 2 Space’! I did decide to save it for a special occasion, so moving flat seemed like as good a reason as any!

On a mission to Uranus

When we booked this room we didn’t realise we had actually booked a trip to space, although as this was with the budget space company “WheezyJet” we probably should’ve known what we were getting into. It doesn’t take long before things go wrong, and thanks to certain economies we were left in charge to figure out how to take control of the ship and find somewhere to land safely.

In general, the set was very tactile – there were lots of things to see, do and interact with – any areas that seemed shabby felt purposeful, and I was able to feel immersed in the experience. The decor of the room was a hybrid between an airplane cabin and a rocket ship, with plenty of easter eggs sprinkled about. If it isn’t obvious from the fact you are on flight 069 to Uranus, this game has quite a few adult themes, but I’d describe them as loving and silly, rather than trying to be actively dirty. They also have plenty of very geeky references spread everywhere in a similar style, making this the perfect mix of not knowing whether you’re about to be excited over a Sci-Fi reference, or groan over some sort of phallic pun.

Use the force…(or don’t)

We all know the first rule of escape rooms is that usually force is not required. The same applies to this room, although you are encouraged to “use THE force”…brain force that is!

*insert groans here*

Seriously though, I love the geeky aspect of this room, and it shines through everything they do. The puzzles in the room were all fairly simple and linear – following one after another – so the challenge came not from figuring out what the puzzle was, but from figuring out the solution (imagine a Suduko – you know what to do, but you still need to work to find the solution). Fortunately for us, there was an onboard magazine available (for a small fee) that contained quite a few valuable pieces of information.

Being a small space there were very few hidden objects, so our powers of observation and attention to detail were testing more than our hide & seek skills. There were also no keys and only a very small amount of number locks, because of course, they won’t exist by 2199.

Bumping uglies

Being quite a small space we found ourselves bumping into each other quite a bit, so teamwork and communication are an absolute must. There are a few puzzles that require overt teamwork, and ClueAdventures do a great job of making sure you are switching positions so you don’t get one person doing all the grunt work. I would have liked to see more of this though – many of the puzzles were solved single-handedly, which I think is a shame. Perhaps if they release a third 2-player room they could make it entirely based on teamwork!

We managed to navigate most of the room without incident, which is a shame as I was looking forward to using the help phrase (“Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!”). The hint would (apparently) pop up on the on-board monitor, but otherwise we were left to fend for ourselves.

Accessible boarding

ClueAdventures is based above “The Coach & Horses” pub in Leyton, so while it is great for a pint it isn’t great for accessibility needs. Stairs will need to be navigated to reach the room, and once inside it’s quite a small space, so please check before booking if you have any claustrophobia or concerns about space/temperature. It was well lit, with no loud noises. Hearing and colour perception are both necessities for this journey, although as someone with hearing impairments I coped fine as you just need to be able to communicate with your fellow passenger. There were a few puzzles that required physical dexterity too, although only one team member needs to take on this burden.

The price of a good time

We know that escape rooms can be expensive, and it’s a question within our community about whether it is fairer to price per player or a flat rate per room. Unfortunately, teams of 2 are often disadvantaged by either model which is what has put me off booking a room for two previously.

Despite the fact this room was designed for 2 players only, the price of £35 each still felt quite steep, given most times I’d expect to pay less than £30 when playing with a larger team. It was also a little disappointing as I might expect that from larger rooms with a flat rate (e.g £70 a game regardless of team size), but not one which has been specifically designed for a smaller team.

Even taking away the monetary side and thinking about value…it still feels a little steep. We had a really fun time, but ultimately it was very linear and I didn’t feel I had my money’s worth.

The Verdict

Overall this is a fun and entertaining room, but not complex or engaging to those who are more experienced. I think if you’re still embarking on your escape room journey this is a great room for you, and possibly cheaper and more manageable than other London rooms not designed for 2. However, in the future I would probably suck it up and pay for other rooms in London, knowing I’d feel more challenged and the price would be justified a little more.

Jet 2 Space can be booked at Clue Adventures Leyton here

Code Bakers: Fudge Fiasco | Review

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Fudge Fiasco Review: A pack of puzzles to solve to uncover what flavour fudge you’ve been sent!

Rating: Fudgin’ brill!
Completion Time: ~30 minutes
Date Played: 29th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A sweet treat!

Penguins taken from codebakers.co.uk (not literally)

A Christmas Treat!

A combination of a sweet treat + an escape room style puzzle…

…We are so there!

The team at Code Bakers have hit the jackpot with this winning combination which allows players to combine delicious sweet treats with puzzling to definitely make you feel like you’ve earnt your dessert! The Fudge Fiasco game sends players two mysterious blocks of fudge, challenging you to find out what the flavours are before tucking in.

A mystery map!

For Fudge Sake!

After receiving Fudge Fiasco as a part of the UK Puzzle Bundle, we cracked it open on a cosy afternoon, looking to fill half an hour of puzzling and tuck into our afternoon snack. These games are interesting in that it can be difficult to know where to start, especially when you are presented with multiple puzzles at once. But, once we had figured out what we were doing and what bits went together, the puzzles flowed really well.

It is great how much the Code Bakers’ team can pack into their small envelopes!

The map puzzle (pictured above) was definitely one of the more innovative versions of this style of puzzle that we have seen. It did leave us scratching our heads for a while, but once we realised some slightly ‘outside the box’ thinking was needed, we worked our way through this nicely!

It was very satisfying to solve, and the aha moment left us both smiling.

The puzzles are good for teams of two or more working together in a more relaxed atmosphere. We think this would be a great pre-dinner game for a family or a pre-escape room warm up for a team of enthusiasts (plus then you’d have the sugar kick from the fudge ready to go in and boss your room!).

Ash looking 10/10 happy with discovering her fudgey flavours

The Delicious Finale

Once we had made our way through the puzzles, we treated ourselves to two tasty bars of fudge! It’s nice to have a physical reward for solving the puzzles, which helps make these games stand out in that ‘at-home’ escape market.

We always enjoy a game from the Code Bakers – I think we will start using these to send gifts to our friends (to make them work for their treats!).

We look forward to playing more of these in the future!

Fudge Fiasco can be purchased for yourself (or given as a gift) by heading to Code Baker’s website here.

Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse | Review

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Key Enigma: The Butterfly Curse Review | The legend tells that certain people who are blessed with the gift of deciphering and solving the most complex puzzles descend from dark pacts of blood. But now, an evil curse hangs over their shoulders, one that is taking the life of more than a hundred people. 

The Butterfly Curse” is an original horror escape game that mixes physical and digital puzzles with dark narrative to immerse you in a such terrifying experience that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction.

Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: 28th November 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Challenging

Welp… Definitely a game for a dark night!

We sat down on an extremely snowy afternoon to try out Key Enigma’s game, ‘The Butterfly Curse’. After Mairi had warned us that word on the street was that The Butterfly Curse was a real ‘scary’ play at home game, we were very excited to see what we would find within the ominous red envelope!

It had a number of “ah-ha” moments as you always want to see in an escape game, but The Butterfly Curse was also markedly different. There were also a number of ‘AHHHH’ moments, especially when we finally got around to opening that sealed envelope. Al was watching the screen through her fingers at some points, and insisted that we turn the volume down after being made to jump off her seat (on more than one occasion).

Before we started playing this game, Ash already had a fear of butterflies… Turns out, she might have been on to something!

Just your average, friendly BuzzFeed quiz…right?

We’ve all sat and played the classic online quizzes, wondering which Friends character we would be, or which Disney princess we would marry, but we can’t say we’ve ever done an online quiz quite like the one that welcomed us into The Butterfly Curse. It started off so normal… Until everything seemed to go terribly, terribly wrong! We were so impressed at what Key Enigma have managed to create – it is easily one of the most immersive web elements of a play at home game that we have had the pleasure of using.

The introduction was perfectly pitched – it was scary, the puzzles ranged in difficulty, and the general preface of the story was set up so well. We were very excited (read: Al was scared) to see where our journey would take us.

A word of advice: Definitely make sure you play the introduction first – it’s well worth it!

Image (c) Key Enigma

Your run of the mill friendly internet stranger

We soon got our heads stuck into the game, after finding out that we had been cursed by Farglos(!) (which Al kept reading as Fergus lol), to see if we could make it out alive. You are taken in by a helpful internet stranger, who becomes your guide for the rest of the game. The game functions through an online portal, as you solve puzzles using physical components, plus information that you find on the in-game website.

This combination worked really well as you were guided nicely through each step, making it clear which puzzle was next, and what to use when. We really liked this, as it stopped us getting super distracted by exciting items we found in the envelope, which we wouldn’t actually use until about 5 puzzles in. We had to use the hint system a couple of times to get some nudges (Al does not perform well under fear). Luckily, the clue system is set up nicely to give you a few hints before offering the full solution (useful if you really are paralysed with fear – or if you bang your head falling off your chair from a jump scare – looking @ u Mairi).

Welp x2 – what an ending!

The game finishes on an excellent climax, producing one of the most ‘thrilling’ final envelope openings of any game we have played. We had been looking at the mysterious ‘do not open’ envelope throughout our play, wondering what on earth was inside, and whether it would save us from an eternity of being Farglos’ slaves…

No spoilers – but everyone should play the game just for the ending. It was high tension, high drama, and Key Enigma have done really well to re-create the ‘buzz’ of that final puzzle of a real-life escape room. Anyone who has played this will know what we are talking about!

Overall – this was a wonderful game, with clever tricks and turns. Turn off your lights, close the curtains, and hope for the best when you eventually open your sealed envelope…

You can buy The Butterfly Curse here:
https://keyenigma.com/products/horror-escape-room-the-butterfly-curse.

Ratings

Puzzle Post: The Scandal | Review

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Puzzle Post – The Scandal Review | Femi Banuve, a sports photographer, has stumbled across a story of match-fixing and blackmail at the Marseille Tennis Championships. A bank of files and documents are being used to threaten a leading tennis star and Femi needs your help to disrupt the plan.

Completion Time: 70 minutes
Date Played: November 2021
Party Size: 2(+2)
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: A dinner party with a twist!

I am a huge fan of Puzzle Post – so when I found out they had a new (and quite unique) experience out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! The Scandal differs from every other Puzzle Post game (such as The Split, The Secret Service and The Missed Flight) in that this one is not personalised. Rather than working on a code which unlocks a secret message for your lucky recipient, The Scandal is a game for groups to play together for a common goal.

Finally – I can stop buying these games as ‘gifts’ for other people then immediately asking to borrow them so I can solve it too!

Because it’s a group game, the envelope is packed with not one but two copies of the entire game. Doubles of everything. In particular, the creators suggest playing it over a dinner party – and I’d agree! With the addition of multiple copies in one go you can spread out and work together. With Christmas around the corner, it’s an impressive game that slims down to an A4 envelope that you could bring to your next celebration.

So What is The Scandal?

The scandal part of The Scandal takes place at the Marseille Tennis Open. The usual – blackmail, match fixing, and some very scandalous revelations. Some interested parties have got their hands on the information and stored it in a secure safe… The code for which, as I’m sure you can guess, is hidden behind juicy puzzles. It’s a fun spin on their usual formula where the sender hides their own message for the recipient to unlock!

Despite tennis being something we know absolutely nothing about, the puzzles that got us to the solution were fairly accessible. Each puzzle in the game is self contained and, hidden somewhere inside the game, is a meta puzzle which reveals the order.

I’m always particularly delighted when regular, almost ‘household’ items are included in puzzle games too. In The Scandal, on opening the envelope a full Raffle Ticket booklet fell out, as well as plenty of business cards, some stickers, leaflets, betting slips and menus. Each item is printed on different styles and qualities of paper but the whole thing felt incredibly genuine. In short, pretty much all the things you might accumulate if you were hanging around the Marseille Tennis Open.

Most of the puzzles are offline with the exception of one that will require you to use the internet. The ending too is digital, as you need to collect the codes from each puzzle and enter them to see if you’re correct. We used a couple of clues and again had to hop online for this – though the whole thing was mobile optimised, so no dinner-party-immersion breaks here!

At the end of the game we found ourselves with a very exciting decision to make. One that, amusingly, we could not agree on! It’s traditional to have at least one argument per dinner party, right? I particularly enjoyed that ours was over our escape game choice (and not the best method of cooking potatoes – I’ll die on the ‘mashed potato’ hill).

The Verdict

I am completely here for this new direction of Puzzle Post games that you buy for yourself rather than a gift, and The Scandal is a fantastic first entry in what I hope is a new series. Everything the company produces is super high quality, really accessible to puzzlers of all ages and demographics, and feels so exciting. All round reliably good games.

There’s a reason they were one of the first puzzle-game creators to get me into the genre and hey, look at where we are now!

The Scandal can be purchased on Puzzle Post’s website here.

Ratings

Kingston Escape Rooms: Rob the Bank | Review

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Rob the Bank Review | Angie knows who stole the family gold – it’s midnight and she backs her Ford Transit into the side of Harman’s Bank. You and your team have one hour to jump out and get the gold back. Will you find it? Will you make it out in time?

Completion Time: 51 minutes
Gold Bars Stolen: 59
Date Played: 21st November 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Tricky!

Think you know heist rooms? Think again!

Confidently, after playing a lot of heist themed escape rooms together, I teamed up with my good friend Bianca to take on another. By this point, we’re debating putting “expert bank robbers” on our CVs. But Rob the Bank at Kingston Escape Rooms proves how unexpected (and delightful) even a familiar theme of robbing a bank can be!

Grab the Cash, Get Out

Rob the Bank is an escape room that is available at a number of sites within the Know Escape franchise including at Gatwick, Bishop’s Stortford, Maldon and Chesterfield Escape Rooms respectively. In many cases the rooms are similar but each site has the freedom to get creative and Rob the Bank is a perfect example – so expect the unexpected.

At Kingston Escape Rooms, your experience starts in the back of a van- yes, literally! A short introductory video later, a wild ride and BOOM! You crash the van into the side of the bank! From here it’s up to you to sneak in and steal back your family gold. Emphasis on the word ‘sneak’, as it’s imperative to be quiet. Amusingly the bank security guards we were hiding from didn’t hear the van crash into the wall but they did hear me giggling a few times.

So, How Do You Rob a Bank?

What sets Rob the Bank apart from other bank heist escape rooms are the puzzles. They really ask the question: how do you rob a bank? This escape room’s answer is… Dare I say it, quite realistic.

Photo: Bianca / Shiny Life

In terms of puzzles, you can expect a lot of interaction with actors. This sort of thing always makes me nervous. I’m rather heavy and noisy, so you can imagine I get caught by security guards often. But, did we expect to be in fits of laughter and have to sing and cry our way out of puzzles? Certainly not!

The level of theatre that has gone into the room is absolutely fantastic, and our brilliant live actor Braedyn should be given an Oscar for her equal parts thrilling and comedic performance as the security guard (and a pair of glasses – these guards are not the most observant!).

To explain too much more would be inching into spoiler territory, so we’ll just leave with these words of wisdom if you’re planning to book the room yourself: expect the unexpected, think outside the box, and most importantly: have fun!

The Verdict

With so many exciting twists and turns in this room it’s possibly one of the most “fun” escape rooms I’ve done in a long time. Considering the fairly large space, we’d recommend this room would be perfect for a team of 2 – 4. I counted an impressive 6 separate ‘areas’ you’ll end up exploring over the course of the hour. Within that there are a few tight spaces and a few moments where only one person is playing an active role in solving a puzzle and the rest are watching, but it’s an otherwise well balanced and fast paced, exciting experience.

In the end, this room isn’t about the fastest time to escape – it’ll take all teams a fairly similar time to escape. Too fast and the games masters will slow you down a little, too slow and a friendly nudge will keep you on track. It’s also not about stealing the most gold, though again that’s another thing your team will be measured on at the end. Nope, the real winners are any team that got stuck in and enjoyed themselves to the fullest. It’s a game you’ll really bond with your co-players (or ruin friendships for life – as our host recounted a very funny team story from a few weeks earlier), and excellent for beginners and hardcore enthusiasts alike.

We’ve chosen to award this room our ‘Best in Genre’ badge. What does this mean? It means it’s one of the best bank heist themed room we’ve played. A special shout out to our hosts Dave and Braedyn, and Frank for inviting us to play!

Rob the Bank can be booked at Kingston Escape Rooms by heading to their website here.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: A Curious Tea Party | Review

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Escape Hunt: A Curious Tea Party Review | Wonderland is all in a whirl at the news of a Royal Tea Party. The White Rabbit needs your help delivering invitations, and time is running out! Use the map and guestlist of memorable characters to explore Wonderland, help the white rabbit, and join the tea party!

Date Played: 29th October 2021
Number of Players: 2 (+1 cat)
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 50 minutes

Yes, Yes I Know…

Here at The Escape Roomer, I’m the video game guy (with maybe midlands-based, brick-and-mortar escape games if I’m lucky). I’ve done a good handful of print and play games; but never reviewed one.

The reason for agreeing to review this? My wife. She loves anything Alice In Wonderland based. If she knew that there was anything Alice In Wonderland to review and found out I passed upon it… it bares not thinking about!

Every Adventure Requires A First Step

So. We have a print-out of the game. My wife is here and so is Nelson; one of my two cats. Nelson was especially curious to begin, as you can see in the picture below. The instructions were on the first page; plus, an introduction to read out loud, a map and guestlist, 9 puzzle pages and a clues sheet; which we immediately turned over and put to one side. Scissors and a mirror were also required. A good start, instructions and requirements clearly displayed with no ambiguity or confusion.

Nelson scouring the puzzle pages for clues…

If I Had A World Of My Own, Everything Would Be Nonsense

In terms of theming, I felt it was best to leave this decision to the resident Alice In Wonderland expert; my wife. In her words, “It was excellent. The style, narrative, page illustrations and puzzle thematics, all complimented the original literature wholeheartedly and authentically.” High praise indeed.

If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, Any Road Will Get You There

What I liked most about the puzzles was the pacing. They weren’t incredibly taxing, however the difficulty curve was well balanced and followed a core game loop that was solid throughout. That being said, I felt some of the puzzles lacked finesse. Two of the nine puzzles from the puzzle pages can be (and subsequently were), made incomplete to advance; once we knew the answer from the puzzle, we didn’t have the motivation to complete it in its entirety.

The hints system is written backwards and thus, requires the mirror mentioned earlier. This is a perfectly adequate way to stop players from accidentally reading hints from other puzzle sets; as long as your mirror is small enough!

Initially eager to get stuck in, Nelson opted for the sought-after ‘supervisory’ role quite quickly.

Sometimes I Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

I appreciate that one of the main obstacles of a print-and-play game is creating an immersive atmosphere, with only the printed paper presented. I felt that the quality of the materials provided in A Curious Tea Party do this quite well. All things considered, it provided enough for us to want to continue and be invested in the narrative throughout the entire gameplay.

My main qualm, was that after all is said and done, we were merely looking from the outside. Maybe we could have been actual characters from the Alice In Wonderland universe, to immerse us further?

Imagination Is The Only Weapon In The War Against Reality

Some factors of A Curious Tea Party are quite innovative, whilst others aren’t so. The positives involve how the puzzles are tied to the thematics of the game. For example, there is a directional puzzle, as one of the puzzle sets. On its own, it’s not very innovative. However, the method the player moves to the instructions provided by the character in the puzzle, is innovative. On the whole though, the puzzles (and the game’s mechanics generally), are quite safe, quite conventional and otherwise, don’t really push any boundaries.

At this point Nelson either trusted me, or got bored of my poor deduction skills.

How Long Is Forever? Sometimes Just One Second

A Curious Tea Party costs £15 for around 30-75 minutes worth of play depending on player experience. £15 is the bench mark for all Escape Hunt print-and-play games, however I’d argue that this is a little steep considering the amount of play time outputted. Especially, with what you tangibly receive as a product, alongside the hit-and-miss nature of the puzzles presented.

For The Mad Hatter Or Sleepy Dormouse?

Escape Hunt says this game is for ages 8 and up. I’d very much recommend this game to children (with or without parents actively involved), from those ages, without a doubt. It is most definitely a family friendly escape game option. This would also be appropriate for introductory puzzlers or even people who don’t regularly like puzzle games; there’s enough here to whet the appetite, but not too heavy to put non-puzzlers off completely.

Rating

This is a decent print-and-play game that is perfect for beginner players. More experienced players however, (unless they are die hard fans of the Alice In Wonderland franchise) may not find enough present, to be value for their money. That said, what it lacks in puzzles and innovation, it certainly makes up for in theming and overall fun.

Nelson also enjoyed herself, however would have liked it more, if cat treats were present. 😸

A Curious Tea Party can be purchased from Escape Hunt’s website here.

Fast Familiar: The Curse of the Burial Dagger | Review

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The Curse of the Burial Dagger Review | When everyone is a suspect, and a killer is on the loose, is anybody safe? A mansion near Dundee, 1923. Susie Sato finds herself investigating a murder when her great-uncle and host Lord Hamilton is found dead in his private museum, an ancient Egyptian burial dagger protruding from his back. Could it be the curse of the dagger, an object Lord Hamilton was warned not to remove from the tomb? Or could something else have caused his death?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 20th October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Narrative Driven (aka easy-ish)

Fast Familiar are one of those ‘experience creators’ who I have all notifications switched on for. When they create a new game – whatever it looks like – I’m first in line in the metaphorical queue at midnight to get my hands on it. The Curse of the Burial Dagger was no different. Even though it’s not quite an escape room (technically it is a forensic science game), it’s got buckets of that light hearted comedy, fun puzzles, and rich diverse characters I come to expect of all Fast Familiar games. It’s also been developed in collaboration with the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science. Meaning, it’s also educational.

How quickly can I press play?! Will I be judged if I play twice, or even three times?

Another huge fan of the Fast Familiar series, Rebecca and I teamed up together to take on the new, murder mystery challenge on a Wednesday evening in October where the stars were out outside and murder was afoot within!

An Introduction to Forensic Science

Our main character, the lovable Suzie Sato (who I may have a slight crush on) is a forensic science student. In this adventure, she’s walked right into a murder scene – the perfect opportunity to put her skills to the test! This is where you, the players come in. Suzie talks directly to the camera in a series of graphic novel style panels and its up to you, the players, to draw conclusions from the evidence presented and the interviews she conducts.

This is what I mean when I say it’s not exactly an escape game. No, this is a visual novel game which is occasionally broken up with a puzzle or two, and at the end you must make a judgement on who you think the killer truly is. There are two things you want to watch out for when solving this game:

  • What the characters say – hidden among the jokes and humorous encounters are some real nuggets of truth. Who said they were where, when, and why?
  • The conclusions from the scientific and mathematical puzzles you solve with Suzie. What do they really tell you about the scene?

Science is Fun

In terms of those mathematical and scientific puzzles, these are rooted in real life forensic science techniques, and players can expect to grapple with a number of styles including mathematical puzzles, chromatography puzzles, fingerprint analysis, and so on. There are also more ‘traditional’ escape room style puzzles, including jigsaws and spot the difference and cross-referencing data.

Since The Curse of the Burial Dagger is recommended for players aged 10 and above, it’s not too difficult. Yes, we did get very hung up on the maths puzzle, but so did I when we played Bad Altitude earlier this year.

In addition to traditional puzzles, there’s a really interesting murder mystery deduction mechanic to the game which really sets this game apart from others in the genre. Along the way you as players can make deductions and assumptions by ranking different statements as “likely” or “not likely”. At any time you can go back and alter your statements if you change your mind or make a mistake. This was really cool and unlike anything else I’ve seen in a murder mystery game, but it just worked so well! It also set up the premise of what you need to be looking out for.

A Lesson in Brilliant Storytelling

If you took out all the interactivity and just made this a graphic novel book, heck I’d still buy it. If you turned it into a TV show, I’d binge it. If you did this experience in any other medium it would still be excellent – and that’s good storytelling! One of the best things about Fast Familiar is that they always get this spot on.

For starters, there’s the characters:

  • Suzie, played by Ami Okumura Jones
  • Syed, played by Jamie Zubairi
  • Lady Hamilton, played by Rachel Donovan
  • Struana, played by Sarah Waddell
  • Hywel, played by Delme Thomas

Then, there’s the humour. With excellent writing from Dan Barnard, Delme Thomas and Rachel Briscoe I’d expect nothing less – but The Curse of the Burial Dagger is particularly amusing and jsut enough twists to keep us hooked right until the end.

The Verdict

The Curse of the Burial Dagger is a fantastic experience. Unmissable if you’re a fan of murder mysteries, and something a little outside of the box if you’re more of a traditional escape room audience. Once again Fast Familiar have nailed it and their new game is perfect for all audiences.

The Curse of the Burial Dagger can be booked on Fast Familiar’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Kent: Prison Island Maidstone | Review

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Prison Island Maidstone Review | Gather your friends, form a team and solve exciting logic or physical challenges in themed prison cells. Play amongst yourselves or choose to compete against other teams, the choice is yours – all that matters, is that you can escape the island.

Date Played: August 2019
Time Taken: 1 Hour
Number of Players: 2
Difficulty: Easy

So you think you can beat the bars?

Based on Maidstone High Street, Prison Island is a huge experience and is a combination of escape room and the Crystal Maze!

The first thing that hits you as you walk through the door is the sheer attention to detail, with even the welcome desk being designed to look like its in a prison! We were politely greeted and advised about the set up of the game. From there, we were escorted to a briefing room, provided with our room key and then set to work on the epic hour long experience.

Prison Island Maidstone Exterior

This isn’t a traditional escape room – its basically a Crystal Maze style adventure where you have 1 hour to score as many points as you can within the 25 different cells. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team is key, as you don’t wan to get bogged down in rooms and waste your time!

Each room is brilliantly themed and the tasks range from physical, mental and technical. WE quickly found out that the mental rooms weren’t our strong suit so we set to work on the more physical challenges.

I would hate to spoil some of the surprises so wont go into detail about what’s inside the rooms, but some real highlights for escape room fans would be Burglar, The Joker and The Prison, so be sure to try those within your allotted time!

An experience that I will never forget and certainly one you could do over and over again – in fact we are putting the team together for another try here very soon! (Update – we returned a few months later and had just as much fun the second time around!)

Nick & Team Escaping!

Would I recommend this room?

Yes, for sure. An adrenaline fuelled, exciting adventure you will never forget. 

Who would I recommend it to? 

Everyone! Groups of friends, families and work outings! 

How many players would I recommend?

3 players is perfect – we did it as a 2 which proved tricky in some rooms. When we returned as a four, this 1 person too many!

Suitable for Children?

Yes. Over 5’s would be fine. Some of the challenges would still be tricky for young members of the team, however you can always leave them rooms if you want! 

Image (c) Prison Island

Ratings