Mindlock York: Viking Valhalla | Review


Viking Valhalla Review | Your Viking hord have courageously battled foes and awake expecting to be dining with the Gods in Valhalla. Instead, you find yourselves in limbo having not yet completed some critical tasks to earn your place alongside them. Complete these tasks before your time runs out, please the Gods and earn your place in Valhalla. Thor and Odin await your team.

Date Played: 19th December 2021
Time Taken: 48 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Medium

When on a Christmas break to visit my family in York, my go to activity for working up an appetite (for the copious amount of Yorkshire Pudding Wrap I’ll order from the York Roast Co) is an escape room. This year, I asked for a recommendation from co-writers Al & Ash who suggested Mindlock. Of their rooms available, there was one obvious one to try… I mean, when in Jorvik, do as the Vikings.

This is how we found ourselves queuing up at Mindlock York, opposite Clifford’s Tower at opening time, excited to see if we could make it to the Viking afterlife in Viking Valhalla! First, our games master greeted us enthusiastically from a safe covid-friendly distance, then we were led towards our room and the timer started counting down. The game was on!

Photo (c) Visit York

“Fear not death”

The story behind Viking Valhalla is a unique one. In most escape rooms where death is a central theme, you’re escaping being killed. It makes sense. But in Viking Valhalla – you’re already dead. Oops. In Norse Mythology, if you die in battle your soul ascends to Valhalla where you’ll spend eternity wining and dining with the Gods.

But in our case, something went wrong. Perhaps we accidentally let go of our weapons at the moment of death and stuck on some technical hitch, we’re not eligible for Valhalla. But fear not – we were given a chance to prove ourselves with some good old fashioned puzzles. Solve the puzzles, escape limbo and emerge victorious into Valhalla.

It sounds simple, right? And yes, Limbo between life and Valhalla was a fairly simple affair. We emerged into the room to be greeted with a mostly white space adorned with some curious wood carvings on the wall and vines trailing from the walls. In the centre of our room was our first puzzle – the only thing we could do to get started.

I’m not sure what I imagined the limbo state between life and death to look like but I suppose this isn’t far off. But as we worked our way through the room and discovered more secret rooms, the decor got a lot more exciting. Almost like stepping back onto that Jorvik Viking Centre ‘rollercoaster’… Almost!

Image (c) Mindlock York

Ascend to Puzzle-halla

In terms of puzzles, Viking Valhalla had a good quantity of puzzles to work through, with some similar mechanics between them. For a team of three consisting of one experienced player (myself) and two fairly new escape room, it was paced well for us. We completed the whole experience in 48 minutes at a relaxed pace – enough time for a joke or two!

What seemed to be a sparse room quickly revealed itself to have plenty of hiding holes where we discovered even more chests and hints to keep us entertained. The game unfolded in a linear fashion, with one puzzle at any given time keeping us occupied before it unlocked a new space or chest which gave us the clues to solve the next, and so on.

In terms of styles of puzzles, we encountered plenty of locks – consisting of the usual keys, 4 digit codes, and a directional lock too. We also encountered a lot of maths and cipher related puzzles which made sense within the universe. I mean, who doesn’t love deciphering Norse runes? But it was nothing we hadn’t seen before, making it a good introduction to the types of puzzles escape rooms can contain.

One of the things that our team enjoyed the most about Viking Valhalla were the maths puzzles. One of our party was a rather maths-obsessed 11 year old who took a lot of delight putting the in-room calculator aside and doing all the complex calculations on paper. Maths puzzles can be like marmite in an escape room (personally, I can’t solve them to save my life- or my death, as it were), but there’s an audience who enjoy them for sure.

The Verdict

Viking Valhalla is a fun room that’s worth visiting whilst in York purely for the connection to York’s rich Viking history. We had fun playing it on a rainy Sunday morning before taking a trip to the Viking Centre to round off the theme. In particular, we loved the host interaction – buckets of enthusiasm and a fun introductory briefing. The room itself was fairly average and may not challenge an enthusiast, but may be just the perfect place to take your Puggle (Puzzle Muggle) friends in the area.

As a side note: Since we had a dog in our holiday group, it’s worth mentioning that Mindlock at the time of writing does not allow dogs on the premises. There’s no particular reason why it should do, but it’s worth mentioning just in case prospective bookers can’t find the information online. As always we recommend contacting them directly.

Viking Valhalla can be booked at Mindlock York’s website here.


Can You Escape York: Operation H.E.R.O. | Review


Can You Escape York Review | The Force Four superheroes have been captured by the mastermind Möbius! Hermes, Oculo, Torus, and Badger are being held in an unknown location and there is limited time before they are gone forever. The superhero recruitment organisation, H.E.R.O., are looking for the next super squad to help locate the heroes and return them to York before it’s too late. Gather your own squad and see if you’ve got what it takes to save Force Four!

Date Played: 18th December 2021
Time Taken: 52 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Easyish

Ever watched a superhero film and thought “Hey, I could do that!”?

No… Me neither. But somehow playing Operation H.E.R.O. at Can You Escape York makes being a superhero seem easy. In this quirky escape room, four heroes have been captured by the evil mastermind Mobius. But, before the super-computer lets us in to help track the heroes down, we need to prove that we’re worthy successors.

In a series of challenges, our team of three got to prove our strength, our speed, and our intelligence before we could tackle the big finale and save the world! All in a day’s work, eh?

Image (c) Can You Escape York

Honey, Where Is My Super Suit?!

One of the coolest things about Operation H.E.R.O. is the space you’re greeted with when you first walk into the room. We’d been given a briefing by our games master in the adjacent room (which has been lightly decorated to fit the theme), but instructed not to touch anything in the room until the briefing voiceover was complete. This turned out to be a tantalising instruction as this small space is absolutely packed with interesting looking puzzles under the dim neon lights. We couldn’t help but ogle at buttons, switches, mazes and more.

As soon as our timer began, we were off to a flying start! This escape room, unlike most other traditional rooms requires a varied balance of skills. Each superhero you’re ‘up against’ has a specific skill you need to match – there’s strength, speed, brains, and so on. We enjoyed this a lot and it provided each of our different team members a chance to flex their particular skills. Most of those skills are not ones you’d use in a typical escape room! In fact, most escape rooms discourage you to use strength.

It’s also a very straightforward room. Few rooms have we walked in and immediately understood exactly what to do – but Operation H.E.R.O.’s puzzles are all on display from the moment you walk through the door. What’s more, they’re numbered! Each superhero has 3 puzzles to complete, helpfully numbered 1 – 3. This culminates in one big ending puzzle which combines the skills of all superheros you’ve encountered so far. This too, although not immediately available to play, was fairly obvious from the beginning.

Because of our group size, we tackled each puzzle together and only separated once or twice for a brief moment to look around. A larger or more experienced group could likely cut their room time down to a third by playing each of the different superhero challenges in parallel – but hey, where would the fun in that be?!

Image (c) Can You Escape York

For Escape Room Beginners, or Enthusiasts?

We took on the escape room in a team of three made up mostly of beginners (minus myself). In our annual Christmas trip to see family in York, I’d finally convinced my relatives to try one out. Of all the rooms in York, Operation H.E.R.O. got consistently good reviews and with a few personal recommendations from enthusiasts I trust, we booked right in!

In hindsight, possibly because that was those were the people I played with, I found Operation H.E.R.O. to be a perfect room for beginners. It’s not exactly a traditional escape room experience, but the structured series of fairly recognisable puzzles made it feel very accessible and provide a lot of ‘quick wins’ to players throughout the game. Often I spotted a puzzle (and it’s solution) early on, but encouraged the youngest of our group to try it out, cheering them along. In other places, the puzzle involved strength or skill, and it was a joy to see everyone get hands-on trying to complete the challenges.

We didn’t escape with the best time – a respectable 52 minutes which incredibly still afforded us a leader board spot for December – but everyone came out of the room with a big smile. That’s a huge win for me!

As a final note, Can You Escape York does not allow dogs on the premise. There’s no reason it should do, but since we had a dog in our holiday party and asked, I figure it’s worth mentioning to any prospective future bookers.

The Verdict

Operation H.E.R.O. is an escape room with buckets of charm, and we had a great time playing it. It’s a great room for enthusiasts looking for a different challenge, or absolute beginners who may benefit from a little handholding, with a fun story to boot. It was definitely the right choice of room to try on our trip to York, and if our visit weren’t so short I’d have booked in to play their second room right away! So far I’ve personally played around half of all the escape rooms available in York, and Operation H.E.R.O. is my favourite.

Operation H.E.R.O. can be booked on Can You Escape York’s website here.


Great Scott Escapes: Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe | Review


Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe Review | It is 1937. Late this afternoon Bugsy Marlowe came to the Dunwich Tower Hotel for reasons that are still unclear. He was standing in the lobby chatting with some associates when the elevator door opened. No one got out.  A few seconds later as the elevator door began to close, someone fired a gun from inside the elevator car. The bullet hit Bugsy in the head, killing him instantly.

Everyone in the lobby ducked and ran for cover. the elevator, now closed, had begun moving once again. Several witnesses reported seeing the elevator lights stopping on the fifth floor. Hotel staff immediately disabled the elevator, sealed off the staircases and called the police. The killer was now trapped on the fifth floor. The police arrived at the hotel and immediately began their investigation of the crime scene. Several detectives were then directed to the fifth floor where five guests were staying, each in separate rooms. All five guests were taken to the police station for questioning.

One of them is the killer. Can you figure out who done it?

Completion Time: 1 hour 17 minutes
Date Played: 21st October 2021
Party Size: 3

When it’s my turn at work to pick the office social activity, you best believe I’m choosing an escape room every time! But it’s always a little tricky to ensure it’ll be one I haven’t played, not too enthusiast-focused, and still be fantastic. To make sure I had all those boxes ticked, I asked my friends at Review the Room whether they recommended Bugsy Marlowe – a room that came out quite early in the pandemic but still consistently got good reviews – and received a resoundingly positive yes in reply! Fantastic – Bugsy Marlowe was booked!

It then took a few more weeks to get all my colleagues in the same place at the same time for us to actually play the game, but it was well worth the wait when we did!

Detective, I have a case for you

The point and click, non-hosted version of Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe opens with a 1920s style noire video all in sepia colours of your detective filling you in on the case. He gives you a smouldering look and stares into the distance as he ponders the suspects. Thankfully, he has nothing to worry about because we had our very best on the case – our director, our developer, and well, me.

Originally, this is a real life escape room by Great Scott Escapes in Pennsylvania, USA. Thanks to the global pandemic, the team converted it to a digital format. You could either load the game up in a platform called Telescape, or book a Games Master to guide you through it as a live video escape room. We opted for the point-and-click Telescape version because being on this side of the pond makes it hard to organise a time together.

In Telescape, you get a 360 degree view of all of the physical spaces and can click into anything for a closer look. When you hover over items of importance, they flash up with a magnifying glass icon, encouraging you to look closer. There was also audio, video, and plenty of fun multimedia moments that added to the immersion of the game – so we don’t feel like we suffered anything going for the less expensive point-and-click version.

Catch the Culprit, Close the Case

In terms of gameplay, Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe is a really unique escape room. Namely because the goal of the game isn’t to escape – it’s to find the suspect. In a Cluedo-esque logic grid, you’re presented with 5 suspects, 5 drinks, 5 weapons, 5 rooms and 5 countries of origins. As you explore the room you’ll uncover evidence that will connect these pieces of information and eventually be the key to cracking he case.

To help you out, on one of the walls in the first space is a very large logic board with each piece of information on a draggable image. It’s advised that every time you receive a new piece of information, such as Mr. Smith likes to drink orange juice (he doesn’t, it’s just for illustrative purposes), that you rush over and log the information on the board.

When we played, we must have missed something because we got something wrong. I think this comes with a lot of players working together and perhaps moving and changing things on the board, but we reached the final puzzle of the game and thought “oops, that can’t be right”. Thankfully, the game is merciful and doesn’t punish you for taking too long. We were able to clear the board and try again!

Right or wrong, we had a lot of fun cracking the case though. The puzzles, for once, felt truly quite mimetic – meaning they fit so well in their environment it made sense that doors would be locked and you’d need to uncover the maid’s key card first, and so on. Every time one of us found an item it added to everyone’s inventory so we could all play along at the same time. There’s something extra exciting about digging around in people’s private rooms to evidence and I love a good murder mystery. This certainly is a good murder mystery!

For sure, there is a lot to find. Compared to other escape rooms of the same length, I think there is at least double the average number of hot spots to click on. Attention is key, else you’ll lose track of what you’ve found so far.

The Verdict

Whenever I play really good digital/at home games that are adapted from real life rooms, I feel a little sad that I’ll never be able to play in person – but Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe doesn’t make me feel that way because it so beautifully translates to the digital format, I feel as if nothing is lost from the experience at all.

Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe definitely lives up to the ‘hype’ and my only regret is that I didn’t play this sooner! I absolutely love 1920s noir, murder mysteries, and escape rooms, so Bugsy Marlowe is a double thumbs up from me. I hope that at-home games like this one will be around to stay for a lot longer.

Who Killed Bugsy Marlowe can be booked on Great Scott Escape’s website here.


Ultimate Quest: The Last Pyramid Sands of Time | Review


The Last Pyramid: The Sands of Time Review | Your guide will send you and your team deep into the heart of an ancient pyramid floating in space in order to solve a plethora of puzzles, stop the clocks and bank time that you will use to break out of the pyramid’s vaults and search for the treasures within. Once your adventure is complete, your host will trade your treasures for Earth-based physical and digital prizes which will be delivered to you in the real world!

Date Played: 6th October 2021
Time Taken: 1 Hour
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Prepare to go on a journey like no other

We certainly weren’t!

But this adventure is certainly one which you are unlikely to forget in a hurry.

So we saw the words “pyramid” and “sands of time” and ultimately thought that it must be some kind of online Ancient Egyptian style escape room… Ahh, but how wrong we were! Sure, there is a pyramid and yes, the sands of time are ticking. Instead what we played was about as futuristic as online escape room experiences get!

Floating through space, many years in the future, we found ourselves inside The Pyramid. Here we encountered a series of strange catacombs and eerie laboratories, packed with innovative (and often highly pressurised) games! The aim of the adventure is to bank time by completing these games in as quick as time as possible, which will ultimately lead you to the vault where the banked time is used to answer a series of quick fire puzzles. As you do so, you actually get real life gifts as a reward!

So not only do you have a great hours worth of entertainment, you get something as a keepsake to remember your journey! We loved this as it’s a really clever way of having something tangible to remember your experience. So far in lockdown, such a nice touch has been greatly lacking for online escape room games!

How does The Sands of Time work?

Jumping aboard a Zoom call, the three of us (Mairi, Rebecca and myself) were met by a clever holding screen giving us a countdown to our adventure. At the end of the countdown, our enigmatic host, Ee, joined the call. Ee was a slightly haphazard agent from the far-far future, who kept us on track throughout the experience as we explored this labyrinth of mini-games. Despite our obvious frustration at some of the puzzles, our GM kept us thoroughly engaged!

Screenshot (c) Ultimate Quest

A Live Avatar… Or a Video Game

One of the most unique things about The Last Pyramid: Sands of Time is how much the game looked and felt like a video game. From the cracking audio and visual elements, to our host guiding us around the maze of rooms to take part in mini games such as a modern version of whack a mole, or remembering sequences, or solving rapid maths puzzles.

Regular readers will note that I have a real soft spot for audios and visuals to help increase immersion, and this game has this in abundance! Luckily there are no videos of our collective dancing in some of the cut-scenes of this game!

The puzzles of the game were very intriguing; don’t expect tradition cypher or combination code style puzzles here. You are met with fast-paced punchy games, which could be easily accessible to gamers both new and experienced!

The designers have cleverly acknowledged the the purpose of this game is to gain time to get into the vault, so everything is generally quite snappy. At the end of each mini game – no more than a minute or two long, you bank a number of seconds added onto your end score. It adds a lot of excitement and pressure, but it also means that if you fail hard at some of the mini games, you’ve plenty of time to redeem yourself later.

The main thing? It’s so much fun! The hour absolutely flew by, aided by the 25-ish puzzles we packed in. But they weren’t all puzzles and the game required a lot more from us than just sitting on our backsides for an hour. Have a phone, pen, Google, and be ready to jump up from your seat at a moments notice to look for items in your area or hide from a Squid-game-esque enemy.

Screenshot (c) Ultimate Quest

The Verdict

When all was said and done, with our brains every so slightly frazzled, its safe to say that we had an absolute blast and left with smiles on our faces. The combination of a great host, some very innovative games, some cool use of audio and visual elements, all add up to experience which we will not be forgetting in a hurry! 

The Last Pyramid: The Sands of Time can be booked at www.ultimatequest.co.uk


Escape Hub: The Laughing Lair | Review


Escape Hub: The Laughing Lair Review | Locked away in ‘The Laughing Lair’, you have been given the chance to escape, but you will have to work together to get out before he changes his mind. Can you escape this villain’s lair?

Completion Time: 52 minutes
Date Played: 2018
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Escape Hub is located within the Royal Star Arcade on Maidstone High Street. Conveniently situated in the town centre, easy to get to yet a real hidden gem.

Occupying much of the upper floor of the shopping arcade, Escape Hub’s large glass frontage gives a great first impression. It comfortable seating area and friendly staff put you right at ease. For the competitive escape room players among you, the reception area also sports a leader board for each of the room – so time to get your competitive juices flowing before the game!

Photo (c) Escape Hub

We’ve always found that all members of the Escape Hub team are very welcoming, and it’s clearly evident that they care a lot about their customer’s needs. Players will be escorted to the entrance of their room, and from here the friendly host will give you a quick briefing on what is about to begin.

In our case that was…

Creepy Clowns & Funfair Lights!

I can fully understand people’s worry when I say it’s a “clown and funfair” themed escape room – I know a lot of people who suffer from coulrophobia (phobias of clowns). By contrast, one of the many joys of The Laughing Lair escape room is that you don’t need to worry about them!

The theme of The Laughing Lair is that you and your team have been captured by a clown-like villain, but after waiting in it’s lair long enough, you finally see an opportunity to escape. The villain will be returning to it’s lair within an hour… Giving you and your team just 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles and escape!

Clues are delivered via a speaker system by your Games Master, who is on hand for any hints should you need them!

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

I would suggest that my overriding hint for this whole room for all players would be “TEAM WORK”. Particularly at the start of the game team work and communication are vital. It’s worth mentioning that The Laughing Lair is a room that starts unlike any other and it’s brilliant!

Overall, a hugely enjoyable room and every moment of your experience sticks to the funfair theme. Players can expect a combination of fast-paced puzzles, logic riddles, and physical challenges, all mixed together to form this masterpiece of a room! Fans of padlocks will also be pleasantly surprised in this experience, as there was quite a few to be grappled with. Players will be provided with a torch to get them started, but from there it’s all up to you to escape with your wits!

The sense of tension, brought on by such a strong theme *shudders*, is fantastic. It all adds up to a very eerie feel.

This room is a must for all!

The Laughing Lair can be booked at Escape Hub by heading to their website here.

Escape Hunt: Escape the Wild West | Review


Escape Hunt: Escape the Wild West Review | You’ve struck gold but word got out and now the vultures are circling. Step into the Wild West, where the tiny frontier town of East Victoria is celebrating the discovery of gold.But the celebrations turn sour when news arrives that the bloodthirsty Bill French Gang are on their way to claim the gold – and kill everyone in East Victoria for good measure!

With no sheriff around and no cavalry riding to the rescue your only hope is a rusty old locomotive that hasn’t worked in years – but with just one hour to get it going and escape with your lives, you need to think fast and work even faster.

There isn’t a second to lose.

Completion Time: 53:21
Date Played: October 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Easier

Once upon a time, if you can believe it, the thought of going into a global pandemic was unimaginable! It is back to these innocent days I’m casting my mind to, in order to write about Escape Hunt’s Escape the Wild West. A day trip to Oxford in October 2019 with two colleagues and we were off to try out the Oxford equivalent of Operation Mindfall, the escape room The Fourth Samurai and to round off a perfect day – Escape the Wild West too.

Finding Escape Hunt Oxford

Whilst Escape the Wild West is available at many of the Escape Hunt sites across the UK, we chose to play at Escape Hunt Oxford due to it’s convenience from London – just a short train trip away, and an even shorter walk up from the station. Escape Hunt Oxford is located within the Westgate shopping centre and surrounded by delicious restaurants and things to see and do.

A Classic Non-Linear Escape Room

On the day of the escape, I felt a little unwell (hey, probably ate too much for lunch! In any case, not recommended!), but the non-linear nature of the escape room meant that I could take a little bit of a step back and root around for clues in amongst the cowboy memorabilia whilst the meatier puzzles were solved by my team mates! We took on this whirlwind wild west adventure in a team of 3 puzzlers with varying escape room experiences under our belt.

Essentially, your goal is to escape on a steam locomotive! However, along the way you’ll find plenty of hidden gold bars. You can collect these as you go for an even more spectacular escape, or you could flee the scene of the crime with nothing at all. Collecting gold bars comes with a price however. The more gold bars you collect, the heavier the train is and the more coal is needed.

In short – its a delicate balancing act, and how you choose to escape is up to you! If you find yourself with too much gold and aren’t able to power your train, you can always throw them out. This means the escape rate, practically speaking, must be very high. Thankfully we found 100% of the gold bars, and 100% of the coal to fuel our train. All in a days work for these cowboys, eh?

Photo (c) Escape Hunt

Welcome to the Wild West

One of the room’s most redeeming features is how well it’s been themed! Escape hunt’s rooms are nothing if not well themed to their genres, and Escape the Wild West is no exception with it’s 3-room space. First players must break into the station, and finally must break onto an old rusty locomotive.

Yes, you heard that correctly! There’s a whole train in this escape room that from the very first moment you look at it, you can’t help but want to beak into it.

I’m not familiar with what the actual Wild West is like, but I reckon it’s a lot like this. There are barrels and boxes scattered everywhere, and of course a lasso and several cowboy hats hanging on the walls. With real wood walls, it felt authentic. Musty and full of life and tension.

Plenty of Padlocks to Keep the Gold Locked Up!

In terms of puzzles, Escape the Wild West involved a lot of padlocks. This is not common for Escape Hunt games, which largely involve more outside the box puzzle solving and remote GM activation. But the number worked really well in the Wild West setting. I mean, why wouldn’t the Bill French gang have locked up their gold behind padlocks? I believe it.

Besides the padlocks, there’s a range of fun puzzles to do and they can be done in any order. These include some physical dexterity puzzles, some switchboard puzzles, and one slightly frustrating logic puzzle inside the train, the solution trigger for which needs to be triggered by the GM. But overall, each puzzle made sense within the Wild West. Nothing felt too contrived, and there was a good mix of things that each member of the team could work on separately or collaboratively!

Photo (c) Escape Hunt

The Verdict

At the time of writing, I’ve played every one of Escape Hunt’s escape rooms and I can safely say that Escape the Wild West is my favourite, followed by Blackbeard’s Treasure. If you’re looking for a family friendly day out and are in one of the many cities Escape Hunt is located in, Escape the Wild West is worth checking out.

Finally, a shout out to our Games Master Chris who provided a fantastic American accent to get us into the theme of the game up front. Yeeehaw!

You can book Escape the Wild West at a number of Escape Hunt venues.


Meridian Adventure Co.: The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg | Review


The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg Review | In the unlikely event something goes awry, you’d probably be embroiled in a comedy conspiracy across the town and its websites, cooperating with your group in live games, puzzles, and challenges and maybe even saving the world.

Date Played: 9th September 2021
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 1hr 30min

On a quiet, rainy Thursday evening here in the UK our team (consisting of Alice, Nick and Mairi) all logged in to our virtual tour of the small town of Little Sodaburg. Little Sodaburg is a relaxed seaside town, home to a beautiful castle ruin, a great river, and the factory of the universe’s most popular soda drink (that’s fizzy pop to us Brits).

In this self-described Choose-Your-Own-Advent-Tour, we could explore any part of the town we wanted, hosted by our enigmatic Sodaburg tour guide (Jessica Lachenal). So off we ventured, fully expecting to enjoy a fun hour long walk around the town then return home in time for tea. What could possibly go wrong?

The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg

Little Sodaburg was founded in the late 1300s and prides itself in it’s town slogan of “The Town With the Effervescent Essence“. This reputation comes from the largest employer in the area: Wahoo Fizz! The factory sits proudly in the North East of the town, truly putting this whole area on the map! Folks just can’t get enough of Wahoo Fizz!

Little Sodaburg also famous for having a very small, cute and fluffy dog mayor, who got to wave at on our tour!

Hello there Little Arfarf! 👋

But hold on a moment. I hear you asking:

This isn’t actually just a tour of the town, right?!

No! This is a brand new at-home escape room experience from the geniuses at Meridian Adventure Co.

Time Travel is Fishy Business

Your true goal in The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg is to uncover a terrible secret about the town and if you can, reverse it and save the world. To help you, you have the power of time travel. Sounds strange. Bare with me on this one.

What begins as a lovely tour around a peaceful town quickly devolves into a web of fishy conspiracy spanning hundreds and thousands of years. We found ourselves plunged into an immersive, theatrical experience like no other! We raced through history to find clues and other details on a series of detailed web pages and interactive online elements, all whilst chatting to a cast of quirky characters including a cleaning robot and some fishy world leaders.

Beyond this, the less said about The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg the better. The experience is utterly wacky! We had no idea what to expect going in, and at every moment in the story no idea what could possibly happen next. To an extent… Whatever would happen next was up to us! It’s a Choose-Your-Own-Advent-Tour, remember!

On the one hand, for sure it’s a linear story with a neat beginning, middle and end. But considering, it felt very unscripted. If we’d suddenly done something unexpected, Sodaburg would have adapted around us. Perhaps its one of the best examples of interactive fiction (or at least, simulated so) in the at-home escape room industry today!

GIF (c) Meridian Adventure Co

Getting Around Little Sodaburg

Let’s talk about the technology for a moment. To create this whirlwind adventure, Meridian Adventure Co have built a browser based digital interface and wow – it’s robust! The game offers inbuilt video chat, and each activity automatically adjusts to support the number of players (2-6, in case you were wondering).

There are a number of components to the gameplay. As well as your video chat, players have multiple text inputs, and the game provides a series of links all players must visit. At first I assumed these were just static links we all had to look at separately. However, as the game progresses it becomes apparent that these links we’re given are completely collaborative!

The whole feeling of the game, with it’s choose-your-own direction, interactive elements, and unique web pages had the feeling of an adventure played out on Roll20. There were realtime maps with characters moving around the screen, and clickable interfaces that sent items and keywords to one another via otherwise regular looking websites. The cherry on top? This game involves Time Travel. Revisiting a website which I’d assumed we didn’t even need anymore reverted it to a different era version of the site. What a fun Easter Egg!

For sure, if I’m putting my cynical hat on for a second, this is a Games Mastered game. There’s probably a little bit of smoke and magic going on behind the scenes that us players don’t see. But this experience was nothing if not utterly immersive and delightful at every turn.

Puzzler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg

In terms of puzzles and difficulty, we found The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg on the easier side. This works perfectly for a game like this however, giving players time to easily move through puzzle-roadblocks and get into the brilliant narrative and gameplay. In short, the puzzles serve the gameplay and are at a level accessible to all rather than being difficult for difficult’s sake.

Typically in our review we’d give a couple of notes about what sort of puzzles to expect, so you know to look out for in case of accessibility. But again, to admit any of the puzzles here would be spoiling the fun. So we’ll say this: expect to work together in your team. Expect to hack and dig through the internet. Expect interactivity at all times. But most importantly expect to really enjoy yourself.

The Verdict

The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg is easily one of the best games we’ve played. Period.

It’s hard to still be impressed this far into lockdown, hundreds of ‘at home escape games’ later… And yet every single element of Little Sodaburg was delightful and innovative. It’s funny, it’s light-hearted, and it’s packed with hidden details. There’s also a strong element of self awareness. For all the fun in the game, it leaves you with an important message about the global climate crisis too.

If you only play one more at home game ever again in your whole life, make sure it’s The Traveller’s Guide to Little Sodaburg.

Thanks for reading our The Traveler’s Guide to Little Sodaburg review.
The game can be booked directly on their website here.


Dark Park: Witchery Spell | Review


Witchery Spell Review | While playing Witchery Spell you will meet 5 young witches. One of them recently turned 23 and mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to her and does the same horrific fate await the others? As young girls, they performed a ritual from an ancient book they found. Now it turns out that this seemingly innocent child’s play may be their downfall. The problem: only someone who is not a witch himself can lift the spell, but what are the consequences? Are you brave enough to unleash the powerful ancient magic once again?

Rating: Spooky
Completion Time: 1hr30
Date Played: 1st August 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Small groups on dark nights

Witchery Spell is one of those games. You know the ones I mean… Everybody is talking about them.

If the at-home escape room industry had a ‘game of the year’ award, Witchery Spell would probably be up for nomination in every category there is. Which is why I’m surprised to be writing that I don’t know if it quite lived up to the hype. But don’t get me wrong – it was still a brilliant game. But that’s the problem with hype, isn’t it?

So all hype aside, we’re going to discuss the game’s merits with one cautionary note: Don’t me like me and place Witchery Spell on a (literal) pedestal in your office and wait over a year to play it because you were too worried about ‘wasting it’ on a regular board game night.

Just play it now! You won’t regret it.

Solve the Puzzles, Save the Witches

Dark Park have created a really well rounded boxed game that is equal parts surprising and delightful in Witchery Spell. At it’s core, Witchery Spell is a story about a group of witches being hunted by a modern day witchfinder organisation. One of their party had recently turned 23, which is the age their original protection spell wore off. Before they’re all found and killed, they turn to you for help. You see- there’s another protection ritual that they desperately need in order to evade detection, but apparently witches can’t actually perform this type of magic themselves. How inconvenient!

What follows is a non-linear style game to figure out a number of things:

  • What happened to the missing witch? And,
  • How we could perform the ritual ourselves?

To help you out, you’ve got a big cardboard box full of stuff, and the internet.

Really Impressive Puzzle Components

What makes Witchery Spell such a special game is the sheer high quality of it’s components. However I’ll caveat that by saying it does come in a very ordinary, and very degradable cardboard box. The box was pretty scuffed up when it arrived in the post *shakes fist at the postal system*, but thankfully the material inside was in tact, packed up tightly with straw.

The components include:

  • Curious jars and vials of ingredients, such as Arsenica, Ivory and Salt
  • Equipment that looks right out of an apothecary
  • A candle, a feather, and some magical stones
  • A small deck of Tarot Cards
  • Several rolled up scrolls
  • Something that can only be described as a “demon summoning mat”
  • Photographs, case files, and other oddities about the witches in question

…But that’s not all, Witchery Spell also has a very large online component, guiding you through the experience and providing guidance and puzzles along the way too. For a two hour experience, it really is an immersive and in-depth game.

Each one of these components I’ve mentioned ended up being used in really delightful ways. There’s one moment in the game, and I’ll try not to spoil anything here, where we suddenly spotted that an earlier item we’d put aside was now doing something very unexpected. Yes ‘doing’. Cue some very excited screams!

So I guess you could say it’s about as close to magic as it’s possible to get.

How Difficult is Witchery Spell?

Our team of three completed Witchery Spell in around one hour and thirty minutes with no hints. We did accidentally skip one or two steps in the game – reaching the next part without fully following how we’d made the jump, but overall this game flows well and doesn’t throw anything super difficult at you!

This means that in terms of difficulty, I’d rate it ‘comfortable’. It’d be a great game for beginners to fall in love with the wonderful world of at-home escape rooms, but still provides enough brilliant ‘wow’ moments and unexpectedly exciting puzzles for veterans. I can also guarantee that even players on their 1000th game will experience something very new in Witchery Spell!

That said, there is a ‘choose your own adventure’ element to this game. I mention this as the ‘other path’ may have wildly changed the difficulty in this game, but I may never know!

Halloween Activity? Look No Further

As mentioned, I had this game on my shelf for literal months. When one of my closest and most enthusiastic escape room buddies visited after a long lockdown, I figured it’d be the perfect game to try out with her. The sun was already beginning to set, we switched up the lighting to red, lit some candles and got stuck in.

In hindsight, October 31st 2020 was one of those days Witchery Spell sat on my shelf gathering dust, and I regret not playing it then! It’s so atmospheric and genuinely puts the player on edge, feeling like they’re inside a world of black magic and witches perfectly. But October 31st 2021? I might just put that refill kit to good use and invite a small team around to give this another go – it’s just that perfect of a game for October.

In particular, I’d recommend this for a team of up to 5 players sat around a table. Better still with candles, and better even still with some kind of witchy playlist in the background.

Overall, a brilliant game. Sure, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, but it’s still absolutely worth the price and I can see how impressive it is in the at-home genre. Go in with an open mind and a sense of delight and wonder and you won’t be disappointed. Especially don’t let this one gather dust on your shelf 😉

Witchery Spell can be purchased for around £55 on Dark Park’s website here. We’d recommend purchasing a refill kit.

Epic Escapes: Escape Room In a Box (Crime) | Review


You have just 60 minutes to escape. The clock is ticking. Teamwork, creativity, logic, and attention to detail will be needed to race against the clock.

Rating: Immersive!
Completion Time: ~45 minutes
Date Played: 16th July 2021
Party Size: 2 (+1)
Recommended For: For a party

Mairi’s Review

Get in lads, we’re gonna do some crime.

Sitting in pride of place on my board game shelf is Epic Escape’s Escape Room in a Box. It’s a huge box packed with not just one but three play at home escape rooms designed to turn any room into an escape room experience. Any room…? I muse to myself, wondering if I could feasibly host this in my bathroom.

Locked in a Panic Room

The first of the three games in Epic Escape’s mega box of epic proportions is called “CRIME”. If there were any doubt as to which one this it, the envelope is indicated by a rather shady individual on the front cover!

The story goes that you’re house-sitting for a friend who has gone away to Italy. You know, just watering plants and ruining their Netflix “For You” suggestions by watching trash TV… When suddenly armed aggressors! Arghhh! Your apartment is surrounded and they’re demanding the money they’re owed by your friend. Thankfully, you quickly discover that your friend has a panic room you can hide out in. The only problem is – you’ve accidentally locked yourself inside and you’re running out of air!

It’s up to you to figure out why there are so many angry people after your friend and figure out a way to escape and save yourselves… No problem. Right?

How to Set Up an Escape Room at Home

Epic Escapes are quite adamant that the host cannot play along. This is one of the main reasons we took so long to play – I love escape rooms, my partner not so much. He didn’t want to ‘host’ and spend the 30 – 60 minutes required to set it up, and I didn’t want to ‘host’ for a lukewarm audience of one. So we waited, and waited for lockdown to end so we could invite an unsuspecting friend round for board game night on one sunny Friday evening mid-July.

Welcome to board game night- SIKE! You should this was Monopoly? Surprise! We’re all trapped in a panic room and you’ve got one hour to escape before you run out of air.

But this is where it gets interesting:

Even though I set up the game Crime, at no point did it tell me how to solve any of the puzzles. Sure, I had to reset number locks to specific codes, and I decided where things were hidden, but all this was so easily forgettable! In short: I also got to play this game!

As a host, you’re in charge of the following:

  • Resetting locks for particular codes
  • Hiding certain items inside the locked boxes they provide
  • Hiding all items for your teammates to find around your room

Here’s how I set up Crime:

Spoiler Warning for contents


Unboxing EPIC ESCAPES triple escape room in a Box (it’s it’s heavy 🥵) Part 2 coming soon! #escaperoom #boardgame #boardgames #boardgametok #epic #fyp

♬ original sound – The Escape Roomer

To help you set up there’s a really handy checklist provided in the Instructions leaflet. This tells the host what to do and in what order, such as “hide this on a windowsill” or “reset this lock to XYZ”. The whole setup takes around 30 minutes, 60 if you’re being very thorough. I didn’t personally want to overcomplicate anything, so I ‘hid’ things in very obvious places such as poking out from behind plant pots or on tables.

Ideally you want a totally empty room, but I think that’s impossible for most people. So just be sure that when you hide things you don’t mind your players rummaging around in your personal belongings:

“Hey, is this sock a clue?”

Since finding all the items took just a few minutes, everything that came after I was able to join in with and the three of us spent most of our hour sat around a table examining clues, cracking codes, and solving puzzles.

Overall, I completely understand why Epic Escapes do not suggest the host plays, but secretly I think it’s totally fine. If you have any concern about buying an Escape Room in a Box and then not being able to play it yourself, don’t be! If you’re still worried about it, you can always set up the escape room, as they recommend, 1+ day in advance and try and forget everything you know.

Solve the Crime, Escape the Room

Crime is the easiest in difficulty of the three escape rooms in Epic Escape’s Escape Room in a Box and it’s a great introduction to the series. It definitely sets the vibe of what to expect in the series, without being overly difficult! In our team of three we managed to breeze through most of the puzzles. There were a few I recognised, and a few more which were delightfully original. The only time our team struggled was right at the end with the final puzzle. It could have been signposted better, but that’s what the hints are for.

Here’s a video of how we got on:

With any game like this, you’ll get out what you put into it. For us, we put on some Italian music, cracked open some beers, and aimed to have a laugh. For one of our party, it was his first ever escape room experience and I think it did it justice! It’s about as close to a real life escape room as you can get from the comfort of your own home. I reckon we’ve done a good job converting him to the hobby!

It’s £99 for the whole box. At first, this feels a little pricy, but in hindsight I don’t think it is when you consider the quality of the materials you get. This box is HUGE for starters, and packed with all manner of delightful locks (even one hidden inside a dictionary) and high quality clues to hide around your house. Many components are reusable, and you’ll get at least three hour-long escape room experiences. Just be sure to clear a lot of space on your board game shelf to make way for this one!

Mairi’s Verdict

We had a lot of fun playing Crime! Easy to set up, visually impressive, and fun puzzles to boot. I absolutely can’t wait to get stuck in to the second and the third games inside this box. My only regret? Waiting so long before playing this one! But it’s definitely a game best played in a big group – so invite all your friends round and get stuck in.

Nick’s Review

The prospect of an “Escape Room in a Box”, really got the juices flowing, and it is safe to say the guys at Epic Escapes did not disappoint. This game type is certainly an emerging market in the escape room world, and with this being the first time of playing a proper “at home” room, I didn’t really know what to expect. 

Opening the box, the first thing to say is that I was blown away with the quality of the product. Without any spoilers, much of the hardware contained within the box is of great build quality and it is evident that a great amount of effort has been put into perfecting the contents. The box also contains a volume of consumable items and a large number of clear to follow, fool-proof instructions. 

The box contains three different at home escape room experiences; Crime, Piracy and Hijack. Each differing slightly in difficulty level. To get us off to a steady start, we opted for the easiest of the three, Crime, as our first. 

So, the story… You are house sitting for a friend who has gone away to Italy. All seemed to be going well until people started angrily banging on the door in the middle of the night. It turns out the friend you are house-sitting for owes these people money. You have found your way into his panic room and your mission is to escape and find why he owes these people money. 

A nice simple story to follow, which actually fits very well with the “at home” theme. I decided to be the game master for this occasion so hid the clues and locks etc for my family to locate and find answers to. We all agreed that the puzzles for this are very well put together, they flowed particularly well, and it was evident that a clear path needed to be followed in order to escape. 

The panic set in with a few members of the team when they couldn’t find some answers, however the box also includes some hint cards. These came in very useful on the final challenge, when they simply couldn’t fathom the answer – a subtle hint in the right direction proved essential and the team escaped with around 20 minutes to spare. 

Nick’s Verdict

A really well designed, high quality, at home product, with a clear story and flow. Brilliant for first time escape roomers as the puzzles were well structured and understandable. Likewise, experienced gamers would also find this a great starting point. Really looking forward to playing Piracy and Hijack shortly – watch this space…

Escape Room in a Box (3 in 1) can be purchased on Epic Escapes’ website here.

The Panic Room Gravesend: The Wizard of Oz | Review


Are you ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime? It’s time to visit the incredible land of OZ. Follow the yellow brick road and make your way into the beautiful Emerald City, perhaps even meet the wizard himself!

Rating: Magical!
Completion Time: 28 minutes
Date Played: 14th July 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: For a theatrical and brilliant escape room, and fans of the Wizard of Oz

If there’s no place like home… And home is where the heart is… Or so the phrase goes? I think?

Point being, Wizard of Oz was the first physical room we (all three writers at The Escape Roomer) played together, and my heart is bursting with love for my fellow teammates and with pride at how well we did! If home is where the heart is, my heart is sitting in a hot air balloon basket in Gravese- I mean, Oz.

We came to play Wizard of Oz on this sunny Wednesday afternoon after work as the three of us found ourselves conveniently near Gravesend. Mairi in London, and Al & Ash visiting Margate. In the middle lies Gravesend: the home of The Panic Room, one of the most well-loved escape room companies in the country.

With a few hours to spare, we used their handy ‘last minute booker’ to see what was available and booked in to play The Wizard of Oz! Score!

Photo (c) The Panic Room

Here’s how we got on:

Once Upon a Time in the Land of Oz…

Fans of the original book or film will be absolutely delighted by this escape room as both the decor and the story are very true to the original! Or at least, I think they are. It’s been a good 15 years since I’ve watched the film and *gasp* I’ve never read the book.

This room puts you, and your band of adventurers, into the heart of Oz as you land your hot air balloon slap bang in the centre of the yellow brick road. Up ahead, majestic green gates, and what follows is a journey through all the famous locations of Oz up to the terrible Wizard’s inner sanctum.

No points for guessing that your goal in Wizard of Oz is to find three rather valuable items:

  • A heart
  • A brain (eww squishy!)
  • Courage

Along the way you’ll meet a cast of characters and fantastic puzzles that exist perfectly in the fictional universe The Panic Room have built upon. But will you be able to find your own way home, back across the rainbow? That’s the question!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City

I think after mentioning that the story follows the plot of the film it’s not so much of a spoiler to say that Wizard of Oz is a multi-room experience. So now that it’s out of the way, a note on the theming of this escape room:


That’s it, that’s the note! I’m kidding. But really, this game is beautiful for fans of the original Wizard of Oz and complete newbies alike. With the exception of one slightly cheesy pantomime video sequence, The Panic room have really nailed that whimsical, fantastical feeling of being whisked away to a faraway world. This room has so much love and attention poured into it.

My favourite of the spaces where the curious shops and alleyways of Emerald City itself, being able to hunt around and interact with what felt like a real street with it’s own shop windows was magical.

Our host Sam was involved in the escape room at the start, doing a brilliant job to setting the scene in character before we stepped out into the big unknown by ourselves. It’s the little touches, such as ‘arriving’ into the room in a hot air balloon’s basket (rather than just walking through a door) with an enthusiastic balloon pilot by our side. A round of applause for Sam!

Recommended For?

Wizard of Oz seems to pitch itself at a family audience… Or does it? Kids these days largely haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz. I mean, the film did come out almost 100 years ago.

It was also, for all intents and purposes, a slightly dark (story-wise) room with complex puzzles that be bound to frustrate younger players. On the flip side, there are some search-and-find puzzles and more than a few fun places to put codes into, but never once did I get the impression it was a ‘family’ room in the slightest. Just a really brilliant fantasy room.

An (Almost) Record Breaking Attempt

I didn’t want to write a review for Wizard of Oz and not mention the fact that we managed to escape in the second fastest time the company has ever seen… 28 minutes!

Beaten only by the current Red Bull Champions. For a first time team comprised of Al, Ash and myself (we’d never even met in person before let alone played a real life escape room), I’m impressed! I say bring on the Red Bull Escape Room Championship 2022!

Sometimes you play an ‘easy’ room and the puzzles don’t click. The Wizard of Oz was the opposite – everything clicked seamlessly for us, and the teamwork was infallible, making the whole thing an absolute breeze with zero hints… Well, one nudge, and one clarification.

The Wizard of Oz: The Verdict?

Loved it. It’s set the bar for other rooms at The Panic Room Gravesend really high, but I’m already counting the days till I can go back and play another. Highlighted in my memory by fantastic teammates, a great host, and an all round unexpectedly lovely Wednesday afternoon out.

The Wizard of Oz can be booked at The Panic Room Gravesend.