Escape Simulator | Review

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Escape Simulator Review | Escape Simulator is a first-person puzzler you can play solo or in an online co-op. Explore a growing set of highly interactive escape rooms. Move furniture, pick up and examine everything, smash pots and break locks! Supports community-made rooms through the level editor.

Developer: Pine Studio
Console Played On: Steam
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Difficulty: Medium
Number Of Players: 1

Escape Simulator is finally here! And yes, we’re thrilled. After all we’ve been patiently waiting for this game ever since they announced it in September.

*let me innnnn*

We spent a lot of time on The Escape Roomer between us various video game editors deciding if a video game is close enough to an escape room to review it. Is a point-and-click adventure sufficiently puzzle-y? What about unravelling a mystery? Deduction puzzles, are they puzzley enough?

But there’s no mistaking Escape Simulator. The clue is in the name. Escape Simulator is an escape room simulator game. The idea is simple: solve puzzles to escape from the rooms. So lets get into it:

About Escape Simulator

Escape Simulator has three themes of escape room:

  • The Labyrinth of Egypt
  • Adrift in Space
  • Edgewood Manor

Each of these settings has 5 rooms to solve which get steadily more difficult as you progress. There’s a time limit of 15 minutes per room – although these serve as more of a ‘time guidance’ as the only thing that happens if you fail to escape is you miss out on extra achievements.

They’re short fire games at 15 minutes each, and it’s very hard to stop ionce you’ve started! The next level is only 15 minutes… Which is how I found myself still up and playing the game in the dim computer light at 3am one night!

Players can move around the 3D spaces and pick up and examine objects closer in their inventory. There are a number of tokens to find throughout the rooms (again, just for extra achievements though), and many tactile puzzles to uncover and solve throughout the spaces.

Since each escape room has it’s own unique personality and flavour, it’s hard to say which are my favourite – but I probably vibed the best with the Edgewood Manor series. What can I say I love Victoriana! But the early Labyrinth of Egypt games were a lot of fun too, the perfect introduction to the experience.

On the flip side, I would mention that when I played the game there was no hint system. This means it’s very easy to get stuck… And I mean really stuck. But once you get through the first few games you begin to get a feel for it. For example, one tip I realised far too late (after about 11 rooms) is that items related to puzzles are indicated clearly in the inventory, and the rest you can toss away.

Co-Op Escape Room Video Game

One of the coolest things about Escape Simulator is that there’s a co-op mode which I loved! Only a few days before I heard of the game I was lamenting to a friend that most good escape room video games (with one notable exception) are single player.

Escape Simulator makes it really easy to play with a friend. You start a game and share a code and voila – the two of you can move around freely within the escape room together!

There are a few caveats however. Firstly, the rooms you can play in co-op are the same as the single player rooms. If you chose to play the game entirely in single player, you can’t then play co-op as you’ll have solved the rooms already. The same is true in reverse. None of the puzzles (which I encountered) were co-operative puzzles, which means that the co-op mode felt slightly like an add on.

Secondly, there is no in-built voice communication in Escape Simulator, meaning you should fire up a call with the person you’re playing with. The key to solving any good escape room is, afterall, communication.

But still, I’m glad they did include co-op, as it’s more fun to play with your friend than alone!

Create Your Own Escape Room

In truth we received our Escape Simulator code a little early for review purposes which was fantastic. We quickly leapt into the escape room immersivity and worked our way through the exciting scenarios to our heart’s content. But instead of posting this review right away on Day 1, we chose to wait a little longer. Why? The very best thing about Escape Simulator is the build-your-own-room feature, meaning the real gem is the long term longevity of the community creations!

Escape Simulator’s Build-A-Room

Kinda like how Skyrim is a great game and 300 hours later you’re like “huh pretty cool” and then you go and open up the Steam workshop and end up spending 1,000 more hours on the mods to the point you no longer remember what was in the original game and what is the glorious creation of a fan-dev.

Escape Simulator is a little like that.

For sure, it helps that my day job is a Game Designer – but I found the escape room workshop pretty intuitive and accessible. Having now created and played plenty of community creations, there’s an almost endless amount of possibilities when it comes to what you can create. You’re given all the objects from the previous four environments, but can combine them in some creative ways to make entirely new puzzles the game developers hadn’t even though of, which I like.

At the time of writing Escape Simulator has been out for about one week and there’s a fair amount in the workshop already. I expect that as the game matures, even more brilliant rooms will be available to play, giving the game some real longevity. I look forward to picking up my controller in a year or more’s time and losing a lot of time in the wonderful world of Escape Simulator…

Keep an eye out for a “Best Escape Simulator Workshop Games” post in the near future!

So what’s the verdict? I really enjoyed it! No surprises there. But honestly, it’s a well rounded escape room video game that’s been long missing in the video game world. I’ll be recommending this to anyone who wishes to dip their toes into the wonderful world of escape rooms – and doubly recommending it to anyone who wants to have a go at designing their own!

With it’s smooth gameplay, relaxing music and bright, poppy graphics, it’s just a lovely game. My only criticism is that I wish were was more of it out the box – more levels, more puzzles, and more world’s to explore! I also think this would be a fantastic VR game, but hey, a girl can dream!

Escape Simulator can be downloaded on Steam.

Ratings

Escape Reading: Kidnapped | Review

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Escape Reading Kidnapped Review | You wake up in a small darkened room. Nobody can clearly remember it all seems so blurry. You realise you have been Kidnapped.

Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: 29th August 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Hard

Ask any escape room enthusiast and they’ll tell you Reading is absolutely packed with escape rooms. Since were in town to play Escape the Chop, we couldn’t resist booking as many more as we could fit in the day. Not quite ready to take on their terrifying, 16+ The Vampire Slayers room, we opted to start our Escape Reading adventure with Kidnapped!

About Escape Reading

Escape Reading has two locations around Reading town centre, which is worth keeping in mind when you make your booking. The largest of the two sites in Queens Walk houses Kidnapped, The Vampire Slayers, and Blown Away. The smaller of the two sites is over in Audley Street and is home to Ram Raid.

Since Queens Walk is a stone’s throw from the canal (a great spot to grab a meal and a celebratory drink once you’ve escaped!), we easily found it and got to spent a little time in the company’s excellently furnished lobby! Before any game, your briefing is given by a video explaining what to do and what not to do in the room. It was a light-hearted and funny video full of instructions that prompted us to be like “wow what happened in this room that they had to add that rule to the briefing?!”

Whilst you’re there, you can also purchase many Unlock! and Exit the Game boxes, which was a super nice touch.

Our Games Master for Kidnapped was Julia – an all round lovely person who brought buckets of enthusiasm to the whole experience. Each GM at Escape Reading has a room that they’re an expert on, and it really shows! Due to COVID-19, another team in the lobby meant we had to hang around a little longer in our room waiting for their game to start, but Julia expertly showed us around pointing out some little details and Easter Eggs we missed along the way.

You Have Been Kidnapped…

We were recommended to try Kidnapped first, and we weren’t disappointed! It’s a classic “wake up in a strange place” room which started in pitch dark – the only comfort was VO actress Charlie Bond from Deadlocked escape rooms’ voice over the speakers.

After fumbling around a little we eventually found a toilet (yes! really!) Starting in a slightly more sparse space meant we used quite a few clues to get us going at the start, but once we moved from the first room into the next (and the next, and the next… This room is HUGE!), we were off to flying colours.

Kidnapped is best played with a slightly larger group, mainly due to how big it is and how much there is to do! I counted at least 4-5 unique spaces within the room, each packed with puzzles. Our GM explained afterwards that a few of the items we hadn’t used were only part of the room if you booked for a team of 4 or larger. On the one hand, we definitely would not have escaped if there had been even more puzzles. On the other, we did spend a bit of time looking at things which were never used in our, limited game.

Whether or not you play the limited version we did, or the full version for a larger group however, Kidnapped is sure to surprise and delight! With a very simple premise of “get the heck out of there”, the room affords to be story-light and puzzle-heavy. Perfect for those looking to stretch their brains, especially after the long lockdown.

“Can you feel a toilet?”

To comment on the theming and decor of the room would probably be a spoiler, since alongside your goal to escape – your must also figure out what the heck is going on! Who took you, and why?! To reveal what we found beyond the first space would spoil the fun… So instead we’ll just say that of the 5 unique spaces we encountered, they were all themed (and decorated) well for the setting!

Kidnapped, despite the name, is not a scary room. Minus setting off an alarm (which made our time temporarily count down twice as fast), there’ll be no jump scares or encounters with actors. Just you and the room.

Every Type of Puzzle in this Escape Room

In terms of puzzles, there quite literally is one of each type of puzzle – something for everyone! Players can expect to encounter a sound puzzle, some physical puzzles, searching and finding puzzles, cipher puzzles, a touchy-feely puzzle, sorting puzzles, some high tech puzzles and low tech puzzles, and a surprising amount of word puzzles too! The hardest puzzle of them all? Encountering a piece of tech anyone born before 2000 will recognise and we were all stumped by. “How do we turn this thing on?”

Joking aside, there’s a tonne to do, so bring your A-Game and your A-Team!

There were two moments in the game where we… *nervously glancing around* … Brute forced a solution. One time by pure accident – in looking for the last digit of a code we’d accidentally already set the lock to the correct number and it clicked right open on first try. The second time, the puzzle didn’t entirely work for us. I’m happy to admit user error since after being shown the correct solution by our GM, I can’t see how we possibly got it wrong so may times… But it is an interesting note to say that the ‘correct’ way to solve the puzzle would have taken 2-3 people around 5 minutes, but instead 1 of us brute forced it in 30 seconds!

Since that’s just one drop in a huge ocean of otherwise brilliant puzzles which put all our faculties to test, I’m not holding it against Kidnapped in the slightest! As players, with the clock ticking down as fast as it was (is it just me or does time speed up when you’re in an escape room?), let’s just say we ‘thought outside the box’ to crack that particular code and it meant we escaped on time. So win-win!

The Verdict

Kidnapped was a well balanced room in the heart of Reading that would be absolutely perfect for a larger team of 4 or more, perhaps even made up of folks who have never done an escape room before – since it contains a little bit of all the best puzzles you typically see in an escape room! Good puzzles, nicely decorated, and absolutely amazing customer service from our lovely GM Julia!

Our little team of two had a lot of fun, and it was a perfect room to squeeze into our day trip up from London. how soon is too soon to book another room at Escape Reading? We can’t wait!

Kidnapped can be booked at Escape Reading by heading to their website here.

Ratings

Hysteria Escape Rooms: Advent Avenue | Review

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A life-size advent calendar for all the family, 24 puzzle doors and windows to open, can you help save ADVENT AVENUE?

Completion Time: 60 minutes
Date Played: 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Hysteria Escape Rooms based in Rochester is a small, yet perfectly formed escape room location. Based between Rochester and Chatham, the exterior of the building with its blacked out windows and dark paint work, sets the scene for the adventure that is about to follow. 

Opening the door, you are met with a warm welcome with a small, yet practical reception area with comfortable seating, toilets and a handful of lockers. 

All games commence with a briefing from a member of the team, who are very clearly passionate about their customer service and the experience that is about to begin.

The entrance doors to all rooms are within the reception area – particularly impressive here, is the fact that even the entrances to each of the rooms have also been lovingly decorated to give you a taste of what to expect inside. These also provide for a good photo opportunity after your escape, without giving any hint of a spoiler. 

ADVENT AVENUE

Feeling the need for a little Christmas cheer?! Doing this room in the middle of February might not be everyones idea of fun, however this room really hits all the right spots when it comes to seasonal entertainment! In terms of story line, the magic of Christmas has been lost and releasing the magic held only in Advent Avenue will send magic around the world! 

Walking through the door of this room, hits you with overwhelming festive cheer. The theme is brilliant and although clearly evident of what tasks lie ahead of you, this non-linear room can send you down multiple different avenues! (pun intended). Festive music, snow, robins, presents, candy canes, gingerbread men. You name it, its inside! For what is a small play area, the volume of puzzles contained within the room is phenomenal. Every puzzle is strong and varied, and a few puzzles we certainly hadn’t seen before. Most puzzles were relatively easy to appreciate with a couple that had some well placed curve balls. Im a big fan of more physical challenges within a room and this room has some really good ones. 

The room is highly entertaining and you wont stop smiling from beginning to end (even when you are hit with a few slightly more frustrating puzzles!). All in all, this is a great room, with brilliant use of space, masses of puzzles and a real sense of enjoyment. This is guaranteed to be an experience you wont forget – particularly the room finale which is a great addition, rarely seen at other escape rooms. 

Would I recommend this room?

Yes. Brilliant room. Great theme which is different to any other “seasonal” room, which are often too similar in nature

Who would I recommend it to? 

Beginners and experienced player alike would all love it.

How many players would I recommend?

I would recommend this to be a 4 player game for optimum game play. 

Suitable for Children?

Yes. From around age 6 would love the theme, however some of the puzzles would not suit that age range so I would suggest from age 8/9 would really enjoy this. 

Unfortunately Advent Avenue has now retired, but you can check out and support Hysteria Escape Rooms here.

Ratings

Quest: Mission Impossible Breakout | Review

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Quest: Mission Impossible Breakout Review | It’s present day Egypt, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to locate and disarm a dirty bomb targeting the nation and its ancient past. The clock is ticking to save yourself, save Egypt and save History.

Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 16th August 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: Everyone!

The number of people I’ve met that have visited Jersey, even fewer of which who have played an escape room on the island, I can count on one hand… Which is why I couldn’t wait to book ourselves into Quest to try out their games!

No, literally… I couldn’t wait! We flew in at 9pm and after receiving the “All Clear” from our COVID-19 PCR tests, we booked in for the very first slot to play Mission Impossible Breakout the following morning. It was all the more special that our games master Steve turned out to be the designer of the Mission Impossible Breakout room at Quest himself.

*excited escape room noises*

Whenever travelling somewhere ‘off the beaten track’ in escape room terms, you have to ready yourself to either find an incredible hidden gem, or be disappointed. I’ve had both.

About Quest Jersey

Quest is located near the waterfront in St. Helier, Jersey’s capital. It’s located in the same building as Arcadia and can be found by following the signs for the arcade. I mention this as it did take us a few times to actually find the correct entrance, but once you’ve figured it out you’re golden.

It’s home to three escape rooms:

  • Mission Impossible Breakout
  • Space Quest
  • The Secrets of Horus

The first two are standard, 50 minute rooms and the latter is a shorter 30 minute game aimed at a younger audience.

Photo (c) Quest Jersey

Ancient Egypt Meets Mission Impossible in this Escape Room

Mission Impossible Breakout has a really unique theme! It’s Mission Impossible, with an Ancient Egypt twist. Now I’ll caveat and mention I’ve never seen any of the Mission Impossible films, but I’m 99% sure they aren’t set in Ancient Egypt.

When you first open the door to Mission Impossible Breakout you enter a dusty old Egyptian tomb complete with hieroglyphs, ancient mummies, sphynxes and dusty old research tomes piled high. The idea is you’re deep underneath Cairo in a site of historical importance and your mission is to find and locate seven bombs hidden around the world. If you get them correct it’ll reveal the location of the final one – here in Cairo! It’s primed and ready to wipe out the pyramids and all this history, so you’ve got just 50 minutes to find the bombs, disarm them, and make it out alive!

It’s a pretty unique twist on two common themes and despite my doubt about how such a theme could work, Quest really do nail it with a beautiful and realistic theme of both the ancient and modern aspects. The whole thing works together well, allowing for a difference pace and completely different vibe to each section of the game. Whilst you may have time to rummage through some old books and decipher hieroglyphs in the first part, you’ll have to quickly disarm a beeping bomb in the second!

Photo (c) Quest Jersey

Crack the Code, Disarm the Bomb

In terms of difficulty, Mission Impossible Breakout felt really well balanced. It’s a 50 minute long room and we tackled it as a team of two (one of us experienced, the other less so) and managed to escape with less than 5 minutes on the clock!

Clues were available by speaking with the Games Master, and we used one or two… Plus a couple of nudges in the right direction when we strayed way off the ball. In hindsight, we probably didn’t need the clues we asked for, but it’s better to escape with clues than not escape at all!

There’s a good variation in puzzles in this room, and players can expect to encounter a number of locks requiring 3, 4 and 5 digit codes or keys, a few logic puzzles, many search-and-find, and an element of geographical knowledge too. Though on that last part, don’t worry! Everything you need can also be found within the room. Overall, there were plenty of things I’d never seen before in any other room, and plenty of puzzles powered with some clever machinery.

Personally, we loved how much rummaging around there was in the room. It felt authentic – so much to discover! It was the type of room where you thought you’d found everything then suddenly spotted a secret compartment, or an object out of place. I love a room with plenty to do, and Mission Impossible Breakout had it all. As a team of two we escaped just in time, but a larger team would likely zip through this game faster than we did.

After exploring the ancient Egyptian area, we finally unlocked the ‘ending room’. I don’t want to give too many spoilers about what to expect in this room, but here we found the bomb and a rather brilliant laser maze you’ll definitely want to get down on all fours and try to navigate.

The Verdict

We spent the rest of our Jersey trip telling everyone who would listen how great Quest was – the hotel attendant, waiters, the captain of a boat..! I stand by this verdict even now, a few weeks later once we’ve returned to London. It was a real hidden gem of a game and any escape room enthusiasts visiting the Channel Islands must visit Quest.

Not only a brilliant room, but fantastic customer service too. On finishing the game we were walked around the room and several Easter Eggs and fun details we may have missed were pointed out. It was a joy meeting the creator, someone so passionate about escape rooms himself, and we both walked away smiling to celebrate in style at the local waterfront pub.

Mission: Impossible Breakout can be booked on Quest’s website here.

Ratings

Escape the Chop | Review

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Escape the Chop Review | Local men are vanishing… Someone at Burghfield Barbers thinks they know why… Do you have what it takes to work out who’s behind the disappearances and Escape The Chop?

Completion Time: 43:39
Date Played: 29th August 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Moderate

Located in the small town of Burghfield, just outside of Reading, is a small barber shop at the side of the main road. For all intents and purposes it’s a quaint and sleepy little village. But don’t let it’s appearance deceive you… This is actually the site of a string of very mysterious disappearances. Men from all over Burghfield and Reading are popping down to the barbers for an appointment and are never seen again.

About Escape the Chop

Escape the Chop is Reading’s newest escape room experience located a little off the beaten track around a 20 minute drive from Reading station. If you’re like us and don’t own a car, there are plenty of bus routes or a taxi costs around £15.

It’s born of a whole lot of love and enthusiasm from first time escape room designer, Alex – who ran our room for us! The origins story goes that Alex was having his hair cut at the barbers and thought “hey it would be really cool to have an escape room here“. The owner thought about it and after a little while said “sure, we’ve got a room back here you can have.”

The brilliant thing about this story is that I didn’t actually hear it from Alex himself, but from the next escape room in Reading we visited, where the team were very excited to hear we’d played Escape the Chop. This was then affirmed that evening by chatting on my personal account to another Reading room manager, who excitedly told me Escape the Chop was next on his list. One thing is for sure and that’s Reading has an amazingly supportive network of escape rooms who are all out to sing each other’s praises. Escape the Chop is the latest grassroots room joining this community and not to be missed if you’re in the area!

“Hi, we’re here for Pirelli’s miracle hair treatment”

From the very first moment you walk through the door, you’re immersed in Escape the Chop. The game begins when you approach the barbers and ask for Pirelli’s Miracle Hair Treatment. A nervous young barber approaches and takes you to the back room as if preparing you for a hair cut. It’s only when the door closes behind him that he explains why you’re really here: to help get to the bottom of the disappearances. Wait, that IS why you’re here, right?

Between the front room (a real life barber shop) and the back room (the escape room in disguise) there’s very little thematic difference. It’s only when you look closely you realise that all the cupboards are locked shut and not everything is quite as it seems here.

The ‘briefing’ is delivered completely in character as your GM cautiously explains that his boss (the kindly looking barber who we’d just walked past) is up to something really sinister and he fears for his life. As a player you’re not really sure what you’ve stepped into, but whatever it is you don’t have a lot of time before the barber’s next appointment. A nervous ‘good luck’ and out the GM steps leaving you alone!

A Modern Day Sweeney Todd

In terms of the storyline, it loosely follows the classic horror tale of Sweeney Todd but with a modern twist…

…Or at least, that’s one way of looking at it!

It could also be seen a heartwarming story of a Turkish barber assimilating into the local Reading society and taking a particular interest in British cuisine! Pies! The speculation that they may or may not be made out of people is neither here not there.

What you actually experience is a very classic two-room escape room that goes from a “oh what a cool barber shop setup” to “oh my god what have we discovered?!”

Despite the theme, the room isn’t too scary. According to the website it’s recommended for players aged 10 and above and apart from one quite funny jump scare, the room is more creepy than scary. There’s a little bit of ‘light gore’. If you don’t mind the occasional fake squishy body parts here and there, you’ll be fine.

√-1 2^3 ∑ π …And it was delicious!

In terms of puzzles, there was a good mix and at a good level of difficulty throughout the room! We were told, in full character, that if we needed hints our GM may be able to tell us some more about the barber as a person. We did end up needing one or two hints which were offered freely when we strayed too far down the wrong path.

In terms of what to expect, the goal of the room is to find proof of who is behind the disappearances. With this in mind, you must find out everything you possibly can about the people who work at the barber shop. You can do that by unlocking all the cupboards and rummaging through their stuff, but this is where it gets tricky… A lot of locks for a lot of cupboards!

Players can expect to encounter a wide range of puzzles. Everything from searching and finding, to tracking down codes, some physical manipulation, some maths, some black light, plenty of number and colour puzzles… There’s a lot! One puzzle in particular we loved was one of the ones we needed a clue on. It was also the puzzle most true to the barber shop theme – safe to say I’d never seen a puzzle quite like this in any other room – but then again, I’ve never done a hairdresser or barber themed room before!

The Verdict

Escape the Chop was a real hidden gem! It’s built with buckets of love and it really shows in every little detail from how fun the game was to how brilliant the customer service is from start to finish.

It’s also just such a brilliant little room – well balanced with fun puzzles and massively immersive. If this is creator Alex’s first room, I cannot wait to see what the future brings!

If you’re living in, or visiting Reading, you have got to put Escape the Chop on your list… It’s a must play!

Escape the Chop can be booked by heading to Escape the Chop’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Entertainment: Bank Heist | Review

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In this adventure, we ask you to rob the crown jewels from the bank. We have hacked their security cameras, providing you a small window of opportunity. Find the clues and solves the puzzles to get one step closer to breaking into the vault! 60 minutes…the clock is ticking.

Completion Time: 39 minutes
Date Played: 7th August 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a fun and (relatively) inexpensive escape room in Central London!

“Hey! At least rainy days are perfect for escape rooms”, I say as Escape Entertainment buzzes Bianca and myself through the door, absolutely soaked to the skin by the uncharacteristically rainy weather!

We found ourselves at Escape Entertainment after seeking out a relatively inexpensive escape room the two of us could play to add a little jazz to the fact we’d a stack of boxed games to trade. After a quick Google, Escape Entertainment popped up as a Central London company situated just a short walk from my apartment – how on earth it had flown under my radar for long is a mystery! It’s tucked down the old Victorian alleys surrounding bank and now occupies the building Escape Hunt’s London branch once was.

The Best Escape Room for Team Building

Escape Entertainment is best equipped for corporate team-building days… And yeah! It makes sense. There are in fact 6 identical “Bank Heist” rooms in the building, allowing for up to 36 players to simultaneously go head to head. On the rainy Saturday morning we’d chosen, the site was deserted.

On the one hand, the two enormous lobbies felt eerily empty but on the other hand we had plenty of time to chat to our GM… Oh, and plenty of time taking 16 photos on the selfie machine. Nice.

I’m mentioning the games master so early in this review as honestly, he made it. Absolutely full of life, enthusiastic to be there, and a hardcore escape room fan who we chatted to for a very long time after about the various experiences in and around London. A bad GM will rarely be mentioned in our reviews (unless there’s some kind of endemic issue there). A good GM on the other hand? I’m going to shout his praises from the roof!

Photo (c) Escape Entertainment

Your Mission: Rob the Bank

Bank Heist may just be one of the most over-used themes of escape room out there. Escape Entertainment doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what they lack in ‘wow this is totally new’ they make up for in ‘yeah this was a fun interpretation’.

Hidden deep within the vault of this particular bank are the crown jewels and you’re part of a criminal syndicate whose goal is to steal them! Because… Why not?

What follows is a fairly non-linear, three room experience starting in the security guard’s office, into the main bank, and finally into the high security vaults. For two players this felt like the sweet spot with us both feeling busy and engaged with every part of the game – but I think the slightly non-linear nature of the experience means that there’s something for everyone. If you can get a bigger team together, you may as well give it a go.

The room isn’t the most impressive set design I’ve ever seen, but I suppose it comes with the territory or needing to rapidly spin out 6 identical versions of the same space. Never once did I actually feel like I was inside a high security vault, but I’m happy to suspend disbelief for a game that kept me so occupied with other aspects, such as the puzzles, for so long. Sure, the ceilings were pretty ‘office-y’ but who has time to look at ceilings when you’re cracking open vault doors, eh?

How Difficult is Bank Heist?

Bank Heist, as mentioned, is definitely geared towards the corporate audience, meaning it’s on the slightly easier side. Our team of two completed it at 39 minutes on the clock. Towards the start we got very hung up on one of the earlier puzzles, but once that was out of the way we were on a roll. Players will need to move seamlessly between the three rooms to rapidly solve each puzzle the game throws at them.

Beyond our early hiccup (which we solved in a very unconventional way), the rest of the game felt seamless, even solving a puzzle or two later in the game tat most teams tend to brute force.

Players can expect a large quantity of keys – which fit very well within the room – and some other more delightful logical puzzles. Early in the game you’re also given a calculator, so if you’re planning on taking on Bank Heist player beware – there’s maths involved! I was also impressed to see a pressure plate puzzle and some fun uses of magnets.

Overall, it was a well rounded room in terms of difficulty. No puzzle too insurmountable and no task too great for our little team!

The Verdict

Actually I was really pleasantly surprised by my whole Escape Entertainment experience. I’d gone in with fairly low expectations, after reading a couple of ‘meh’ reviews online, I figured what the heck let’s give it a try. It’s so close and I’ve nothing to lose. Instead I came out with a huge smile on my face, vowing to return and try their other room (for 7 players!) as soon as possible. Bank Heist is fun! Plain and simple.

On completing Bank Heist, we were greeted with not only medals but also a mug each! Double score!!

But in all seriousness, it’s this kind of customer service that left us walking away glowing after an otherwise regular escape room experience. As I write this review, I’m sipping tea from the very same mug, though not wearing the medal.

Overall, Escape Entertainment is a hidden gem in the heart of London. A fun enough room with a brilliant team behind it who genuinely love what they do.

Bank Heist by Escape Entertainment can be booked on Escape Entertainment’s website here.

Ratings

EXIT the Game: The Sunken Treasure | Review

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Setting sail for dangerous waters, you embark on a treacherous quest for the legendary treasure of the Santa Maria. While investigating a mysterious shipwreck, something goes terribly wrong and you are trapped deep underwater! Can you solve the riddles of the wreck and recover the treasure before your time is up? In this The Sunken Treasure Review we take a deep dive into the game.

Rating: Fun!
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 7th July 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: A beginner escape room in a box with a fun theme!

When I look at my board game shelf it’s at least 60% EXIT the Game boxes… But hey, at least my shelves look colourful and mysterious, eh?

For our weekly board game night, my player 2 picks a game the first week, then I get to pick the second week, which is how we come to be making our way through the brilliant EXIT the Game series. Starting with: The Sunken Treasure. It’s a little box covered in brilliant illustrations of the ocean and rated a respectable 2 out of 5 stars in difficulty. In short, this makes it a perfect starter ‘escape room in a box’ for someone who may not be familiar with their gameplay yet.

A Board Game Where you Dive for Lost Treasure

Playing The Sunken Treasure is about as close as you can get to taking a real trip out on a boat, strapping into a scuba kit and diving for treasure. That is of course assuming that underwater shipwrecks are usually covered in puzzles, and you have a handy cipher wheel to help you. I mean, I’ve never been scuba diving. I have no idea.

But jokes aside, I really enjoyed the theme, and the story, of The Sunken Treasure. It’s fairly simple: Whilst on a holiday in the Caribbean you pay a street vendor a few dollars and receive a cool old nautical chart. But what you thought was just a fun trinket from your holidays turns out to me a long lost treasure map. So out you venture onto a boat and arrive where ‘X marks the spot’.

You and your crew of puzzlers descend into the water in search of the old wreckage and luck have it, you discover it. But after so many years of being under the depths there’s a few challenges before you can retrieve your riches. What’s more, you’ve only got an hour’s worth of oxygen left so you’d better make it quick!

The Sunken Treasure: An Escape Room in a Box for Beginners

Personally, I did find The Sunken Treasure to be on the easy side, although our little team of two did use one hint and an answer for one of the puzzles I’m still not totally sure I understand how to solve (but I largely blame the bottle of wine we’d opened by that point).

One stand-out feature of The Sunken Treasure is how linear the gameplay is. Guiding you along your journey is a book that paces the story out with approximately one puzzle per double page spread. As each page clearly indicates a new card to be drawn and the previous to be discarded, it makes for a very clean play area.

For The Sunken Treasure it makes sense as you progress from your ship to diving down to finding the wreckage and so on. Never once are you presented with a room where there are several doors you can choose from, it’s instead a regular story with a beginning, middle and end.

In terms of puzzles, there’s a good mix in this game and nothing too challenging. My only advice would be to go in with an open mind and expect to have to destroy things and use the box in very creative ways. If you’ve played any of the other EXIT The Game games, you’ll probably know the drill by now – but it’ll be a delightful surprise to those who haven’t.

On the subject of it’s destructibility, I own a second-hand copy of The Sunken Treasure, kindly gifted by Escaping the Closet. Whilst EXIT The Game are known for being impossible to re-gift as a result of needing to destroy elements of the game, I think taking a little bit of care with The Sunken Treasure will make it replayable to an extent. There are a few puzzles where you have to cut things up, but on the bright side seeing that my co-writers had already done this I viewed it more as a “yay one less step” rather than being game breaking. So take that with a pinch of salt!

How to Play EXIT The Game

In all EXIT the Game board games we’ve played so far, there’s a fairly similar setup, which we’ll describe below:

  • Riddle Cards – These are given a letter and generally speaking are worked through in ABC order
  • Answer Cards – These have a corresponding letter to the riddle cards and, you guessed it, they give the answer if needed
  • Help Cards – Each help card is denoted by a symbol which you can find on the puzzle you’re working on somewhere (often it’s quite hidden – so look closely)
  • A Book – This sets the scene and guides you through the story
  • A Cipher Wheel – To check your answers, a cipher wheel is used. In The Sunken Treasure this cipher wheel is covered in cute sea critters – very sweet!
  • A bunch of cool looking misc. items – in The Sunken Treasure, you get a whole host of cool things including some very shiny looking gems!

To play, you get up your game with your Help Cards stacked according to symbol, and your Riddle / Answer cards in their own stack. The book guides you through the story to solve each puzzle, find the correct symbols, run it through the cipher wheel and progress.

The Verdict

Really good fun! The Sunken Treasure is a great beginners game and introduction to the EXIT The Game series that will challenge and delight in equal measures. It’s a high quality game with great components – especially those gems *ooh shiny*. I’d recommend this game for a smaller group, with 2 or 3 players being the sweet spot!

The Sunken Treasure can be purchased from most major online retailers..

Enchambered: Together Apart | Review

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Play with a friend! Can you decipher enigmatic puzzles that require constant communication between you and your teammate to solve? Your escape is dependent on how well you work together to find your way through gadgets and clues to solve the puzzle. Using two separate devices, play with a friend on the couch or even all the way across the globe on the phone or video chat!

Rating: Brilliant
Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 23rd June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a great 2 player browser escape room game

One game down, two more to go in the Enchambered series! After the success with Alone Together, my co-puzzler, Borderline Puzzler and I immediately hopped into playing Together Apart the same evening. What can we say, it’s just such a winning gameplay format we couldn’t resist but to re-enter the curious, puzzling world Enchambered have created.

Together Apart picks up where Alone Together left off, if you could really call it a sequel. There isn’t too much for a story in these games, but the world with it’s strange torn up notes and steampunk tech is consistent between the two games and leaves you feeling like you’ve re-entered a familiar space. Unlike the first game, the second comes with an optional price tag – pay anything over $5 USD to play. Frankly, that’s still an absolute bargain for the quality and length of game you get to experience!

The Fortune Teller or the Clockmaker?

As you open the game, you’ve a very important choice to make. Will you play as the:

  • Fortune Teller or the
  • Clockmaker

For this game, I opted for the Fortune Teller whilst my co-puzzler chose the clock maker. What this means in reality is that you’ll see a very different desk space and one half of a series of unusual puzzles to solve. Whilst I can’t speak for the Clockmaker, as the Fortune Teller I encountered a series of tarot cards, crystals, a bowl to mix potions in, and some very creepy looking skulls. The Clockmaker on the other hand sees slightly more mechanical looking puzzles – metal and cogs a-plenty!

Whilst the game is designed for 2 players (also the optimal amount, in my opinion) this interface of ‘choose a team’ makes it easier for more players to join from further afield – just pick a side and get puzzling.

Screenshot cropped to avoid spoilers

Communication is Key

As with the earlier game in the series, communication is key! Unlike the first game, there are clues in this one which we did not use. Largely, by over-explaining everything on your screen, you can eventually come towards a delightful conclusion to each puzzle, thus revealing the next hidden thing on your desk to interact with. It’s also a lot of fun trying to describe funny looking symbols, or sketching them on tiny post-it notes to hold up for your Player 2 to read off the Zoom camera.

At one point we got quite stuck figuring out what to do next – a sort of bottleneck where the logical thing to do next wasn’t triggering a thing. At another point, I definitely accidentally brute forced the final part of a puzzle – kinda like when you have 3 out of 4 digits for the code and so rapidly just try all the other combinations until you hear that satisfying click!

At another point, we each had our own trial-and-error style slider puzzle to combat, prompting a good 15 minutes of quietly mumbling “ugh this is so difficult I’m so sorry to make you wait”. This was the closest the both of us got to rage quitting the game, but the thing is I actually quite like slider puzzles. I don’t mind spending a bit longer on a particularly tricky one.

An Immersive, Puzzle World

Again, my favourite thing about the Enchambered series has got to be their world-building. I can’t claim to understand what is actually going on – there’s not too much of a plot to speak of, other than a brief intro letter telling you what to do. But the graphic design and illustration is second to none. It’s like stepping back into an alternate world of wonder where magic and clockwork work together. Yep, I’m living out all my steampunk fantasies whilst playing Together Apart and it’s fantastic!

The Verdict?

Overall despite our hiccups with the game, we both had an absolute blast of a time and it’s clear that Together Apart is a very special, if a little tricky, game. The price, combined with some fantastically ingenious puzzles and gorgeous interface makes Together Apart a ‘must play’.

You can book Together Apart for $5 USD on Enchambered’s website here.

Enchambered: Alone Together | Review

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Can you decipher enigmatic puzzles that require constant communication between you and your teammate to solve? Your escape is dependent on how well you work together to find your way through gadgets and clues to solve the puzzle. Using two separate devices, play with a friend on the couch or even all the way across the globe on the phone or video chat!

Rating: Creative!
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 23rd June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a brilliant (and free) 2 player browser escape room game

I wasn’t sure what to expect when loading up Alone Together, but I’d heard great things! When Borderline Puzzler and I hop into a Zoom call for our semi-regular puzzle game sessions… Usually on a Wednesday after work, and usually with a piping hot mug of cocoa… We’re typically on the look out for inexpensive two player games. Most recently, we played the video game Tick Tock: A Tale for Two together and from the beautiful graphics to unique 2-player mechanics, Alone Together seemed like a logical sequel for us.

Communication is Key

Alone Together is a completely free game by the creative company Enchambered that is played in-browser. The idea is incredibly simple – two links, player 1 or player 2. The game is all about co-ordination and communication though. Unlike other multiplayer at home games, what player 1 does will not trigger an answer on player 2’s screen. The game is instead about communicating what you see on your screen to help you both to solve the puzzles.

Beyond understanding the premise though, you’re on your own. There are no clues available for this game *alarm klaxons sound in the distance* …I repeat: No clues available!

I want to say you probably wouldn’t need any clues, but that’s not to say it’s an easy game. I’ve got friends who played and gave up, and know others who raced through the whole thing in under 15 minutes. The key to success is in communication. Literally: communicate every single thing you can see, and you can’t go wrong.

Borderline Puzzler and I tackled this one from other ends of the country and it was a very good way to play it. We used hand gestures and badly drawn squiggles on post-it notes to communicate with one another via a Zoom call, and it worked well. The game took us out of our comfort zone and most importantly made us laugh.

A Moody Atmosphere, as if Stepping Back in Time

One of the things I enjoyed most about playing Alone Together was the graphic design of the game. Both players have a different view of a stylised realistic desk space, littered with curious items. The whole atmosphere is moody, like you’ve stepped back in time into a parallel universe, like a high tech 1920s.

Player one starts with a clock, some cryptic notes scratched into the wood, notes on phases of the moon, and some vintage news articles and adverts for unusual concoctions.

Player two on the other hand has a barometer surrounded by scraps of paper, playing cards, blinking lights and flashing buttons, and a light bulb.

At first, nothing makes sense, but as each item is examined and used it will disappear leaving new objects to examine and new puzzles to decipher.

Image cropped to avoid spoilers

For a Free Game, Alone Together is Brilliant!

Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the game, it would get a pass for being free… But that’s the brilliant thing, I enjoyed it A LOT! It’s longer, meatier, and more creative than a lot of other play at home escape rooms I’ve done throughout lockdown for 0% of the price.

It’s good to see that since launching Alone Together there are two further games in the series available very inexpensively: Together Apart and Together At Heart. These two operate on a “pay what you want” basis which I love because it opens up the world of at-home puzzles to those who may not be able to afford (this frankly very expensive) hobby!

I’m already itching to go back into the Enchambered world of puzzles with Borderline Puzzler, and can’t wait to see what the company does in the future too!

Alone Together can be played for free on Enchambered’s website here.

Mobile Escapes: The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa | Review

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Race to escape! University of Ottawa and Mobile Escapes challenge you to escape from the campus’s haunted tunnels in less than 60 minutes!

Rating: Educational
Completion Time: 55:18
Date Played: 28th June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Ottawa Residents, University Students

On a sunny Monday afternoon, one of the loveliest people in the world (shout out to Helen!!) invited me to play a lesser known escape room she’d come across earlier in the year: The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa. This game was a partnership between the University of Ottawa and escape room company, Mobile Escapes designed to show folks around the campus in a time of global lockdown. It’s a charming little game, ideal for new students exploring the city, or those who want to learn more about the local history. For us, it was a fun in-browser game to get to know each other and hang out over our shared love: escape rooms!

Explore your new university through puzzles

The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa is a browser-based game in every sense of the word. On every page you must solve a puzzle and then input your answer into a box at the foot of the page before you can advance. To track your progress, there’s a handy map around the campus detailing your footsteps and which buildings are still to explore.

For us, playing in a team of two, we opted to play with one player sharing their screen and the other co-solving puzzles. I don’t know if this method would work for a much larger team or if it would be better for all players to have their own link – but the more you know the better you can plan your own escape!

At it’s core, this game is an exploratory one. As you navigate around the environment you’ll bump into a number of ghosts whose role is to challenge and guide you through a series of university inspired puzzles. You’ll find yourself scouring alumni records, engaging with uOttawa’s social media accounts, watching old sporting matches from the football team, and so on.

A ghostly cast of characters

In particular, the ghost characters themselves were absolutely delightful – especially the names! With a running theme of being named for your department, see if you can guess which departments the following ghosts belong to:

  • Professor Juridik
  • Professor Curee
  • Professor Creato
  • Professor Anthropaul

Just brilliant!

Note to Self: Buy a Canadian phone

The only issue we experienced with The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa was one puzzle towards the very end that required phoning a Canadian telephone number. Helen and I are both based in the UK, so to help us out we had to reach out to the brilliant David Ma of District 3 (you’ll remember him as our host for Something Brewing and Haunted). David quickly dialled the number for us and relayed the message so we could get on with our adventure. A huge shout out to him!

The Verdict?

A fun little game that serves a specific purpose – to introduce people to the university campus and the history there, but may still be enjoyed by a wider audience. I don’t want to mark it down for a number not working internationally, as I do appreciate the game isn’t particularly for a team playing from the UK, but we had a lot of fun regardless. I’ve learnt a lot, had a good laugh, and reckon I could definitely impress my Canadian friends and family when I next visit with my vast knowledge of uOttawa alumni (and ghosts!)

The Haunted Tunnels of uOttawa was a collaboration between Mobile Escapes and uOttawa that ran from December 15, 2020 to August 10, 2021. It can be booked via Eventbrite, and you can support Mobile Escapes here and the University of Ottawa here.