Escape Quest: Chapelgate Mysteries: Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe | Review

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Rating: Just….wow!
Completion Time: 53 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2022
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: People of all abilities who want to have a brilliantly satisfying hour of fun!

 

New building, who dis?

At Escaping the Closet we have been fond fans of Escape Quest Macclesfield for a long time, and having completed all of the rooms they had to offer pre-pandemic, we were so excited to hear that they had new stuff in store for 2021, as we weren’t sure what could top what we had already played! They reopened in October 2021 with their shiny new building and their shiny new unique concept- The Chapelgate Mysteries; a series of games set across different periods of time but all taking place in the Chapelgate district. We were delighted with this idea and so excited to finally be able to plan a return to Escape Quest. The first of the Chapelgate Mysteries quests to open is Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe, a familiar name as we had already played this game at their previous premises…. However, FEAR NOT, as although the OG Curiosity Shoppe was brilliant, the new, improved version was 99% new. Trust us when we say, it does NOT matter if you have played the previous version of the game, you will be sure to have to use your head (all the while being WOWED) throughout the game!

 

It’s bigger on the inside!

Upon arriving at Escape Quest, Elaine (side note, the friendliest GM ever) advised us of our mission. Turns out Mr Copplestone was a bit of a genius and actually managed to invent time travel. Unfortunately, in the present day, he’s down to his last Time Echo Crystal (‘what’s one of those?’ I hear you say. They’re what power the time machine, of course, what else?!), but there are Time Echo Crystals a-plenty back in his shop in1873. But, time travel being one of those risky businesses, with the portal only holding itself open for an hour, we were charged with being the ones to head back there and try to gather as many of the Time Echo Crystals as poss. Easy, right?! Well, not when you aren’t sure just how many of them forgetful Mr Copplestone has left behind! Well, at least 8 are required to successfully make it back to present day, so that is the minimum goal, but there could be MANY MANY MORE (spoiler, there are MANY)!

Of course, us being very much up to the challenge, we hopped into the time machine, listened carefully to Mr Copplestone’s advice and jet-set ourselves all the way back from 2022 to 1873 (tbf it was a welcome change to leave 2022). And then there we were on Chapel Street and our jaws literally hit the floor because we LITERALLY were on Chapel Street, home to taverns, pharmacies and of course the target location, Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe. We spent time peering in the shop windows (until we managed to get ourselves in at least), reading the signs and posters displayed on the street and searching high and low for those pesky Time Echo Crystals! There was so much to take in and oh so much to do, we felt like we were in a literal escape roomer’s heaven! The space is vast and yet there is such close attention to detail- everything is there for a reason whether that is for a puzzle itself, or the immersion of the quest, we were astounded by the thought that has gone into every inch of it!

 

Teamwork makes the dream work

It seems we managed to bring the dream team along, with Tasha and Lucy as honorary Escaping the Closet members, as we fell straight into a rhythm of exploring Chapel Street and solving the mysteries it contained. Of course, with so much space to explore and so many potential Time Echo Crystals to find, this is as you would expect, a non-linear game. We split up to make our way around, often switching up the pairings for a fresh set of eyes on a puzzle.

The room integrates the time machine (dutifully holding open the portal for us) with Chapel Street brilliantly, and we did many a dash between a Victorian era shop and the time machine for important Time Echo Crystal related business. We enjoyed this and felt it really added to the fun of the game as it gave a real sense of urgency and accomplishment as we made progress on our mission.

The puzzles are cleverly put together, and solving each one was satisfying. Every time, the solution just made sense (and the importance of that in escape rooms cannot be understated- there’s nothing worse than still not quite getting it, even after you’ve managed to solve something) However, on the contrary, there’s nothing more satisfying than that A-HA moment when you finally work a solution out as all of the parts fall into place, and that happened so. many. times. in Mr Copplestone’s! Multi-layered puzzles, where you have *that* additional step to reach the solution when you find the first attempt was good but not right, observational puzzles, logical puzzles, code-based puzzles, riddles…. the list goes on. And on. AND ON! There really is something for everyone in there, and that meant we as a team often circled round a puzzle, each taking a turn at looking at it and piecing our different perspectives together until… that magic CLICK when the penny dropped and we got it.

As we mentioned, the puzzles make sense, and we had no trouble working out which clues we should be using together for the most part. But if clues are needed, a brilliant AI based inside the time machine is always on hand to give a nudge in the right direction.

 

Something for everyone

As well as having lots of different types of puzzles, Escape Quest have done something brilliant with the mission in Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe, as it has been created as a game which is truly for all abilities. We kind of alluded to this earlier when mentioning that the minimum requirement to successfully complete the game is to retrieve 8 Time Echo Crystals. However, if you’ve managed this and have time to spare, you can collect as many of the crystals as you can (allowing for more trips through time, and who doesn’t want that?!). We understand that the average team will collect a number of crystals somewhere in the teens, but this offers the opportunity for success for the more inexperienced teams, families with young children and party groups, while seasoned experts can challenge themselves to try and find all the possible Time Echo Crystals.

Now, it’s actually classified how many Time Echo Crystals there actually are back in 1873, but we were determined to try our best to find them all, and we impressed ourselves (and Elaine and Mike) by managing to get ALL [CLASSIFIED] Time Echo Crystals with time to spare- for once searching was not our downfall!! Apparently only a few teams have managed to find all of the Time Echo Crystals, and even fewer with so much time left- apparently we came very close to Team Squared (the UK’s RedBull escape room team), so we were very pleased with our effort! 

Escaping the Closet being extremely proud of their success with finding the Time Echo Crystals

The Verdict

Elaine and Mike have outdone themselves with their first quest in the Chapelgate Mysteries and we are already so excited for what’s in store in the next chapter (which we believe is travelling to an early C20th Chapel Street, although what mission awaits us there we are not so sure…). It’s safe to say we will be booking back in for the next mission as soon as it is available!

Mike and Elaine have thought about absolutely EVERYTHING in the room, and the attention to detail is impressive. The immersion has been created to the finest level, and we are still so amazed that they have created a full street and can’t wait to visit it through time! To top it all off, they are the most lovely, welcoming hosts, and you can absolutely see their passion and love of what they do in every aspect! We are very much looking forward to returning to visit them again.

The puzzles are brilliant and varied; the space is visually stunning; we had one of the most fun escape experiences we have ever had with this room; Mike and  Elaine have created a super original; innovative concept with this room; the game is exceptionally immersive and we can’t think of another room quite like it! As they are outstanding in every category for which we award, we have decided to award Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe a Badge of Honour, our highest award, which we think is incredibly well deserved for the hard work and love Mike and Elaine put into their rooms.

 

The Chapelgate Mysteries can be booked here.

Emergency Exit: The Studies of Dr. Becker | Review

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The Studies of Dr. Becker Review | You are invited to spend an hour with the famous Dr. Becker at Boleskine Lodge Practice. He is currently with another patient and will be with you shortly. In the meantime make yourself at home and enjoy his hospitality and his study – a beautiful place decorated with his bizarre collection of strange and wonderful things. But do not dig too deeply as things are not always as they seem in this place, after all it is well known that some of his previous guests are still there after volunteering to help with his studies. Dr. Becker has a past which is questionable at best and not everyone agrees with his methods.

Completion Time: About 1 hour
Date Played: January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

What’s your favourite scary movie?

What’s everyone’s favourite thing about horror movies? Scream…Halloween.. the many, many Friday 13ths!…Yes, it’s the sequels! Everyone loves returning to that creepy place they have become so familiar with from the original film that sparked the cult following. Well, what Emergency Exit have created with ‘The Studies of Dr Becker’ feels very reminiscent of this. Dr Becker is the third part of what is now a trilogy of escape games focused around Crowley Manor, the infamous house of Aleister Crowley.

Now, you may or may not know the name Aleister Crowley. In case you don’t, he was a real English Occultist in the 20th Century, and boy did he enjoy dabbling in creepy stuff! The lore around his mysterious life is a fittingly creepy setting for a series of scary escapes. The trilogy centres around Crowley Manor where the In:Theory investigators decide to sneak in to snoop around and find out what’s going down, and unfortunately find themselves WAAAAAAY in over their heads!

We came across Emergency Exit while we were in lockdown during COVID last year when everyone was looking to virtual means to get their escape fix, and The Beast was receiving rave reviews from the escape community. We managed to convince our friends Tasha and Mairi (aka the scaredy cats) to join us for this scary adventure (after all how bad can a virtual scare be?!) and we all loved the thrill of it (despite the varying degrees of fear we experienced). Since lockdown easing, Emergency Exit have reopened their doors to in-person bookings and created the third part of the trilogy, The Studies of Dr Becker. While we were super keen to return to the Crowley Manor story, we wanted to continue the story with the team we started out with. Therefore we were excited to find out that Dr Becker has recently been made available to play online too, and got the gang back together (virtually)!

Online games work well for us as a team still as geography does not favour in-person rooms. With us in the North, and Mairi based in London, we love to still plan in a regular escape in the online world. Recently it’s been a lot of Telescape rooms, which we love. But what better way to brighten up a gloomy Friday evening that by dabbling in the occult. The hosted virtual game, played through Zoom, is really immersive and arguably offers even more than the in-person experience. Not only do you get to play the room in full, but you get the additional fun of working with the In:Theory team to solve the room.

Previously on…

Emergency Exit have put a lot into putting on a show in their rooms; hosting the game on Zoom requires 2 people who you interact with (the In:Theory team) and the story is extremely important. While each of the games are playable as a standalone, the overarching story is really cohesive and adds an extra layer of enjoyment knowing the backstory.

Previously in Crowley Manor: The In:Theory team managed to accidentally summon Surgat, Demon of Locks (very apt). Woopsie! Let’s see what happens to them next…

What happens to them next? They find themselves in Boleskine Lodge Practice, under the care of creepy Dr Becker, who is ‘treating’ them to help them forget their experiences in Crowley Manor. However, Dr Becker’s practices are…questionable….and there’s more to why he wants you to forget the demonic apparitions. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well, you’ll have to play to find out more, but let’s just say, Boleskine Lodge Practice ever so conveniently happens to be attached to Crowley Manor. That is to say, the In:Theory team STILL haven’t managed to escape Crowley Manor yet!

Lights, camera…is that someone’s BUM?

This is where you rejoin the In:Theory team as the voices inside your host’s head. Interacting with the hosts is one of our favourite parts about the Emergency Exit rooms (a bit because if any bad stuff were to happen in the room, it was happening to them and not us). But they really MAKE the experience; not only do you get to explore the room and solve puzzles, instructing your host as to what they should look at or do next, but the story is really brought into it’s own by James and Liam. James was our main host, and Liam is the dedicated cameraman. And boy is he dedicated to his role, ensuring that no matter what the occult throws his way, you always have a clear view of what’s going on around the space you’re in. And they’re funny! A bit of light relief from bantering with your hosts works really well to lighten the mood after a period of tension.

There are some pre-recorded sections which are transitioned into smoothly and which helped to accentuate the story with dramatic ‘cut scenes’. This includes an extremely dramatic conclusion to the story, which we enjoyed. While we’re sure the in-person experience is equally fun to play, we really feel like the Emergency Exit team have NAILED the online hosted escape room! The way it runs feels so reminiscent of a horror movie, but with the added element of choosing the decisions the characters make and, of course, what we all came here for in the first place- puzzle solving! For this reason, we’ve decided to award it the Immersion Badge!

The puzzles are all well-fitting with the theme and add an element of mystery, as they are well-integrated into the demonic, occultish storyline. Fear not, there is plenty to do in terms of puzzling in this room, you just also get the added bonus of a suspenseful horror movie setup!

The Verdict

We would really recommend playing The Studies of Dr Becker (and its predecessors if you haven’t yet). We are sure that an in-person visit would be equally fun but we can’t stop raving about the online hosted experience. At £20pp (for a four player team), this is a great way to spend your Friday night.

Please note that there are some creepy sections and mild gore, but these are generally not too scary so don’t let this put you off. We mentioned afterwards that we felt this was less scary than The Beast, but we enjoyed it just as much!

The Studies of Dr. Becker, either the live or remote avatar version, can be booked by heading to E-Exit’s website here.

Escape Reading: The Treasure in the Shed | Review

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The Treasure in the Shed Review | Almost everyone has a place where they store the old and strange things in their home, sometimes a cupboard, or the attic. In your house, it’s a shed.

Date Played: 17th October 2021
Time Taken: 20 minutes
Team Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

On our weekly (or slightly less than weekly these days as the world eases out of lockdown) digital meetup, team Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha, and myself pick a digital escape game to play together. On this date, we’d finished our first choice quickly and so looked for a short and sweet free game to try out. Escape Reading’s “The Treasure in the Shed” seemed perfect. So into the shed we went…

Whats in the Box Shed?

The story of this short, play at home escape game isn’t about escaping from anything… No, you need to solve the puzzles to break into something. Specifically, a shed. The story goes that your parents and grandparents were avid collectors of antiques. Each fantastic new item for their collection went into the shed – a room you were never, ever allowed into. Skip forward to the future, when you’ve got control of the house. One day you discover a key and immediately recognise it as the shed’s key. At last! It’s your time to finally see what is inside the shed…

So what did we find?

Well, exactly what you might expect from a shed that’s had decades and decades of collectable items shoved into them. The whole vibe of the game reminded me a lot of “hidden object” style of games where you’re presented with a huge amount of information and you’ve got to correctly identify items within to complete the puzzles.

How to Solve the Shed

Treasure in the Shed is a browser based escape game, meaning everything takes place over a series of web-pages. It’s a little more complex than your average “input password to go to next page” style of game, but doesn’t offer as much interactibility and multiplayer support as escape games built in Telescape.

For our team of 4, we all hit ‘start’ at the same time, and worked collaboratively within our own system. What this meant was that if one of us solved the puzzle, all of us would have to input it on our own screen to progress.

Each stage of the puzzle game offers several interactive elements within a puzzlescape of intriguing and curious items in the shed. It wasn’t immediately obvious which were clickable or not – but this quickly became part of the fun. Clicking around the trying to work out which items you could interact with and which were just part of the decor.

Once we found each object, these would pop out onto a new screen offering a wealth of puzzles to get digging into. There were sound based puzzles, digit codes and padlocks, some ciphers, and some very fun map puzzles. One of the great parts were that although we were all playing from our separate screens, the puzzles definitely involved more heads than fewer to solve. On more than one occasion, all four of us were working on different screens but collaboratively solving together, which was a really nice touch. It elevated the game from being a fairly average browser game to something that has had a lot of thought and love gone into it!

The Verdict

For a free play at home escape game – we can’t fault it! The graphics were great, the puzzles were challenging and it’s an all round brilliant little escape game to play solo or in a small group, especially when stuck in lockdown and missing in-person games. Since this game first launched, the sub-genre of “at home” escape games has certainly come a long way, but Treasure in the Shed still has buckets of charm and will keep an enthusiast group busy for at least half an hour, if not longer!

The Treasure in the Shed can be played for free by heading to this link here.

Monopoly Lifesized | Review

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Monopoly Lifesized Review | All the most well-loved elements of a classic Monopoly gameplay have been translated into an exciting 4D experience on a full-sized board that teams of players will move around, participating in challenges as they go in order to acquire properties, earning money as they pass go, go to jail, picking up a chance card and maybe getting lucky landing on free parking…?

Monopoly Lifesized is an immersive, on-your-feet version of the world’s favourite family game brand. Compete in one of a kind challenges for your chance to buy properties. Experience the thrill of trying to stage a heist in Mayfair, competing against a clock to build some of London’s iconic buildings, solving a baffling murder mystery and stepping into the world of codebreakers.

Date Played: 29th November 2021
Board Played: City

Ever intrigued by the phrase “the best of the Monopoly game but with added escape room and team challenges”, we booked ourselves in and secretly hoped we’d be thrown in jail… Just so we could spectacularly escape!

What we actually experienced when we visited Monopoly Lifesized was frankly, something unlike anything else you’ll experience in London. The creators, Hasbro Inc. and Gamepath have converted the old Paperchase HQ building on Tottenham Court Road into an enormous immersive Monopoly themed world. Spread across the multiple stories are several game boards teams of up to 24 players can take on. To call it simply a ‘team challenge’ is underselling Monopoly Lifesized – no, it’s a thrilling, past paced 4D board game experience that has literally everything. Like Monopoly, but bigger and hosted by a fleet of actors playing each of the board tokens.

Behind each of the property doors on the Monopoly board is a challenge for you and your team to take on. For this reason no two teams – even playing the same board – will have quite the same experience. The luck of the roll means that each team will land on different property pieces and tackle different challenges. For example, we managed to avoid many of the most escape room-y type games and instead found ourselves having a dance-off, playing a modern spin on guitar hero, and assembling 3D jigsaws. It was… Wild.

Image (c) Monopoly Lifesized

How does Monopoly Lifesized Work?

When we took on this ultimate Monopoly challenge as a team of 4, we picked the Thimble token to represent us and accordingly, gave our team the name Thimbley Chalamet. It felt appropriate. Our Thimble token was played by Ben, an exceptionally enigmatic and funny host who was quick on the auction round and filled with sassy comebacks towards our rivals.

The game works in a series of turns:

  • Dice Roll Turn
  • Strategy Turn

In the Dice Roll turn, two teams got to roll their dice and move around the board. Whatever properties they land on, they get to take on the challenge behind the door. If the property is unowned, it is theirs to keep, and if the property is owned, they’ll have to pay a fine. Meanwhile the other two teams got to take part in a Strategy Turn. In a Strategy turn, a Chance Card is drawn, and then teams have the opportunity to build houses, hotels, or enact special actions against their rivals.

Sounds complicated? Eh, a little bit at the start, but having a host-per-team really helped. They’ll be guiding you around the board and through the game. They’ll also be helping you out… In a manner of thinking! So be sure to be extra nice to your token.

Team Thimbley Chalamet For the Win!

Monopoly Lifesized: The Experience

When we play any experience as The Escape Roomer, we have to ask ourselves how it compared on an escape room level. The truth is, we didn’t get to experience most of the puzzle related challenges. Jail being one of the obvious ‘escape rooms’ – we were lucky enough to never land on that foreboding ‘Go to Jail’ token. Instead most of the properties we picked up were tactile, musical, and quite silly. That’s the luck of the roll!

In two of the property locations we did land on, there were some puzzle games. In one, a pure maths puzzle involving a cipher that had been reskinned to look like a hacker’s apartment. This one we complexed in around 30 seconds of the available 5 minutes. Another property involved rearranging objects on a shelf according to logic rules (X cannot be next to Y, and so on), which we solved just in the nick of tie with a little help from Thimble.

In both cases, the puzzles had more mass-market appeal, and wouldn’t necessarily challenge the hardcore enthusiast – but that’s okay. In a game like this you’re not meant to fail. You’re meant to succeed even after a couple of drinks. So it’d be a perfect game to take your Puggle (Puzzle Muggle) friends to dip their toes into.

Overall, we had an absolute blast playing the game. There was something for everyone on our team and I don’t think any one of us stopped smiling, even for a second.

I suppose you’re wondering how Team Thimbley Chalamet did?

Well… We won! 🎉

An Immersive Dining Experience at the Top Hat Bar

Situated on the ground floor of Monopoly Lifesized is the ultra immersive and really quite swanky Top Hat Restaurant and Bar. With a menu packed with Monopoly-themed meals and brightly coloured cocktails, the presence of the bar elevates the fun experience into an all night affair.

Photo (c) Monopoly Lifesized

We tried out the Top Hat’s brand new Winter Menu and enjoyed sliders of pigs in blankets, and stuffing balls dipped in gravy on skewers. In short, heaven on a plate. But, the real pièce de résistance of dining at the Top Hat has to be the cocktails. One, above all, stole the show:

The Mayfair Royal Sours

Inspired by the original ‘May Fair’ that took place in the 16th century in the now famous, affluent district of Mayfair. The ingredients include Laurent Perrier Brut Cuvée Champagne syrup, Courvoisier VSOP, Lemon, Ms. Better’s Bitters, Edible Gold, and is topped off with a £50 note made from sugar.

For me, this one cocktail encapsulated the splendour of the whole event – there’s nothing quite like earning (and spending) millions of pounds on property, destroying your rivals, then clinking glasses in the Top Hat to celebrate afterwards.

The Verdict

We had no idea what to expect when we booked in to play Monopoly Lifesized, but even if we’d gone in with high expectations, I’m pretty sure they’d have been blown out of the water. Monopoly Lifesized is all about the glitz and the glamour and the sheer budget hat’s gone into every single aspect of the game is outstanding. It’s such a high quality experience.

Of course, this does come with a big price tag: Ticket prices range from £27.50 to £35 for the Junior Board and from £59 to £74 per person on Classic, City and Luxury Boards, depending on the date and time of day you book for. Food and drink are extra, and there’s also a gift shop on site which you’ll definitely want to spend some time browsing. In all, for the full experience you’re probably looking in the region of £100+ per person.

That said, I do think it’s worth it. For a special occasion or for a teambuilding event with work *cough* if you can get the boss to pay for it, it’s absolutely not to be missed. The best part, it’s completely replayable. With many boards to choose from and so many different challenges, no two games will be the same. Mark my words, we’ll be back!

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: Santa’s Sleighcation | Review

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Santa’s Sleighcation Review | Everyone needs a break from time to time, and Santa is no exception. It has been a very busy year, and Santa is taking a little holiday to restore his energy for Christmas Eve. But Santa enjoyed the sunshine so much, that he decided not to return to the North Pole for Christmas! He told the elves to deliver the presents themselves this year. But… Santa has the keys to the Magic Sleigh with him! No one can deliver that many presents on Christmas Eve without the Magic Sleigh!​

Completion Time: 30 minutes
Date Played: 27th November 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easier

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Oh yes! One of my favourite times of the year. Made all the better for all the festive escape rooms that pop up around this time. Which is why when we heard Online Escape Rooms Ireland had made a Christmas game, we couldn’t wait to get cracking on it!

With the Christmas tree up earlier in the day, Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha and myself logged in to try and see if we could save Christmas.

A Summer Santa

Santa’s Sleighcation isn’t your typical Christmas game. There’s no snow in sight. Instead it’s set in somewhere hot and tropical like Barbados. Santa has been on holiday and doesn’t want to return, so it was up to us to find the keys to the sleigh. I think a fair few of the decorations may have been borrowed from Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s other room, Beach Bar, but it worked so well! More margaritas anyone?

As with many of the company’s other escape room experiences, Santa’s Sleighcation is based on a real life physical space at their site. With the use of a 360 camera, the creators have digitalised the space so that anyone from anywhere in the world can play it. The best part is it’s built in Telescape so you’ve got a 360 degree view of all the rooms, can see all your fellow player’s mouse points on the screen, and work together collaboratively.

Since the theme of the game is Christmas in a hot tropical climate, there’s a real mix to the decor. Tiki bars decorated with tinsel and baubles and a shining tree in the corner next to a couple of flamingos and talking parrots. I was also particularly tickled to find that Santa would be wearing a brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt!

Crack the Codes, not the Coconuts

Santa’s Sleighcation is adapted from a real life room and therefore those playing the digital version can enjoy a very tactile feel to the game. There’s plenty for a large team to get on with – we felt that us at 4 players was the sweet spot for everyone to be busy. You’ll encounter padlocks and 3 and 4 digit codes, and plenty of times will find yourself running- I mean, clicking your way across the room to cross-reference objects. There’s a handy inventory system to keep track of what items you still need to use. And, conveniently, objects will disappear when you’ve completed them.

Our favourite thing about digital games from Online Escape Rooms Ireland has to be the intro and outro video however. They are simple videos, but the stock videos of different Santa’s doing increasingly bizarre things always makes us laugh. It’s also always nice to be reminded, with a message from the creators, that by playing their games you are supporting local businesses. Dare I say it one of the only good things to come out of lockdown is the emergence of digital escape games – I can now enjoy real life rooms from exciting places around the world from my rainy flat in London (thanks lockdown travel ban!).

The Verdict

Overall, Santa’s Sleighcation is a really fun, lighthearted game. We completed it in just under 30 minutes and found it on the slightly easier side, compared to for example Spirit Seekers Ireland but I’m a big believer in not overdoing it at Christmas. So, I like it a lot. If you’re three boozy hot chocolates in and there’s a festive film in the background, this game would be a fantastic respite that’ll scratch that escape room itch over the festive period but not leave you bamboozled hours.

Santa’s Sleighcation can be booked from Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s website here.

Ratings

No Escape: The Haunted Toy Store | Review

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The Haunted Toy Store Review | An abandoned toy store looms over an otherwise charming village. People tell stories of weird noises and strange happenings, toys found in odd places and children going missing. Nobody has been brave enough to attempt to solve the mysteries of the toy store that is, until you…

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 29th October 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy-ish

I’ve got a reputation on The Escape Roomer for being a little bit of a scaredy cat… Dark Spaces? Ghosts? Asylums? No thank you.

I listen in horror as Al and Ash chat about all the UK’s scariest games they’ve played and instead ‘reminisce’ about the time I went to the London Dungeon and had to be escorted out because I got too scared and started crying. It would be a funny story if I’d been a child… Only I was 17 at the time!

But when our group committed to playing a scary escape room over Halloween, I figured what the heck – if you can’t get scared witless on Halloween, then when can you? No Escape, bring it on!

A Hauntingly Good Halloween at No Escape

For No Escape’s special Halloween weekend, we went for what sounded like the least scary game they run: The Haunted Toy Store. Somehow ghosts feel more manageable than walking into a blood splattered cutting floor- which made being greeted at the entrance by a terrifying butcher in full character, sporting a human ear necklace all the more chilling.

For one weekend only in 2021, each of No Escape’s escape rooms at both of their London sites had a live actor in the room with the teams. It’s important to note that normally, their rooms are not live actor rooms, but given the circumstances I think The Haunted Toy Store was vastly improved with the presence of a creepy clown throwing red herrings our way. The creepy clown was an actor, Nicole, and just outside the room our games master was Holly.

We resolved to enter the room and pretend as if we wouldn’t be scared and in the end I think we made the right decision. I think without the live actor the room itself would have been fairly average and not too scary- but if you’re into creepy cursed dolls and children’s toys coming to life, then you’ll probably enjoy it all the same! No jump scares in the original, but plenty in the Halloween special! So a huge shout out to Holly and Nicole for that!

Pitch Black… Cackling Laughter

We began our briefing being told that this was a mysterious toy shop. The day before a boy had come into the room and cut himself quite badly, but when they’d returned to clean it up all the blood had mysteriously disappeared. Creepily, so had the boy – not a trace of him since.

The doors then swung open and we were in pitch darkness. As cackling laughter rose out of the corner, we quickly realised we were not alone! Our first actor interaction began in this room, which I feverishly tried to ignore, rushing past them to start busying myself with anything else. A word of warning: It’s quite hard to try to look for a light switch when you have your eyes closed.

From here, we were off to a flying start. The Haunted Toy Store is essentially a two-room escape room that pretty much looks and feels exactly like a toy shop from everyone’s worst nightmare. Plenty of dolls staring out at you from shelves, and plenty of toys that have had heads and limbs ripped off. So many distorted faces, dark corners and eerie sounds!

*shudders*

How did we escape the Haunted Toy Store?

The puzzles in this escape room were fairly straightforward and we managed to escape with a respectable time that put us right at the top of the Halloween leader board. I’d probably pitch the general puzzles at an easier-than-average level, but that’s not to say we didn’t get immensely stuck from time to time! No sir. The presence of a creepy clown made it all the harder.

There was a bit of searching and finding, plenty of children’s toys, some of which had clues and others were just for display, as well dials to turn, things to count and a few 3 and 4 digit codes. This all led to a meta puzzle which combined lots of the room and took us the longest to get right! There were also a few red herrings in the game which are usually a no-no in escape rooms, but we all felt they worked pretty well in a room like this. Red herrings can go a long way to building up atmosphere and forcing you to spread out (and away from the safety of numbers!)

Over the course of The Haunted Toy Store we asked for two hints. One of these was delivered via a screen in the room, and the other was given by the live actor in the room. Since this room is not usually available with a live actor, I don’t mind telling you that she had us all holding hands and singing ring-a-ring-a-roses followed by lots of screaming in order to receive the clue. I still have nightmares!

The Verdict

Overall, we had a lot of fun! We screamed quite a few times – but thankfully not as many as the butcher room next door to us, so I think we made the right choice!

There are a few ‘meh’ reviews of the company and the room out there, and I can see that without a live actor it probably wouldn’t appeal to hardcore enthusiasts as much. We were there for a good time, a couple of screams, and that’s exactly what we got – so no complaints.

For the special Halloween edition, we paid £35 per ticket which is also fairly expensive, even for London, but we’d still recommend the experience for the right team. Especially at Halloween.

The Haunted toy Store can be booked on No Escape’s website here. Please note, this review is of their special Halloween version of the room available from the 28th – 31st of October 2021. This involved a live actor in the room, which is not typically available.

Ratings

CluedUpp: The Ripper | Review

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CluedUpp: The Ripper Review | Three men have already been struck down by The Ripper and fear is taking it’s grip of this town! The police can’t cope with a case this complex and your help is required to catch the killer. Get your family and friends together for a day of crime-solving fun. Put your sleuthing skills to the test at this exciting outdoor detective event and see if your team has what it takes to crack the case.

Time Taken: 2hrs
Date Played: 20th November 2021
Location: Kensington, London
Difficulty: Easy

CluedUpp games are like marmite in the escape room enthusiast world. About once a month somebody in a Facebook or Reddit forum will ask about CluedUpp and be met with a barrage of “they are dreadful” and “I had the best time ever“. So, going into the experience on a wintery Saturday morning before Christmas, we weren’t sure what to think. Given that the tickets were so inexpensive and the area – Kensington – is somewhere we don’t get to explore much, we went in with an open mind.

For this particular case, I went with our regular outdoor escape room enthusiast team who you may recognise from posts over the lockdown, such as Operation Mindfall. If there’s walking and puzzles involved, we are there!

A Team on the case!

How do CluedUpp Games Work?

According to their website, CluedUpp “turns cities into playgrounds”, and yeah, I see it! As a concept, it sets itself apart from other outdoor walking experiences in that there’s no set route you need to follow. Instead what happens once you start your game is that you’ll see a sprawling number of “points of interest” on the map. These are witnesses to speak to, or items to collect, or score multipliers to boost your ranking in the leader boards.

Your ultimate goal is to catch the killer – a serial murderer stalking the streets of Whitechapel I mean, Kensington. Seems straightforward, only you’re racing against other real teams! For this reason, CluedUpp events only take place on specific days of the year. Everyone signs into the app on the same day, the clock starts ticking, and everyone must be finished by 5pm.

It’s entirely self guided, so there’s no big start and finish line you have to race towards but it was pretty cool to walk past other teams we bumped into whilst playing and marvel at their costumes.

One more thing that we didn’t realise until after the game was that you don’t need to visit every single point on the map. Actually, if you want to ‘win’ the game and beat your rivals, you probably shouldn’t because there are a lot. Ironically, we actually figured out who the correct culprit was around 30% of the way into the game. Instead of making our guess right there, we agreed to collect everything, then go to a pub and make our decision from there. It probably cost us an hour and a half of our time, but hey that’s not really in the spirit of things eh?

How to Solve CluedUpp Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, at each point of interest you encounter you’re presented with a riddle. Occasionally, it makes sense. A copper might be reading a newspaper and asks for a second opinion on one of the questions in the puzzle section. Often, it felt forced and a bit silly. Towards the end we began skipping each character’s preamble and instead grinned at each other – “guys, you’re gonna be shocked at this but Dr so-and-so has a riddle for us”

No wonder the crime has gone unsolved if everyone is spending all their time thinking about riddles!

That said, the riddles themselves were a good way to break up the gameplay with some fun moments that tested us. Some of the riddles involved details from the surrounding environment, and others were fairly well known puzzles you’d find on any escape room’s social media account. You know the ones I’m talking about.

So… Who Dunnit?

Haha! That I cannot tell you. You’ll just have to go and book the game yourself!

But I will say that if CluedUpp’s weakness is the puzzles, then their strength is definitely the storytelling. In just a few words with each character, a rich network of witnesses and informants unfolded in front of us. It was easy to forget we were just interacting with an app and not a real person in front of us. And, in the end, the conclusion was very satisfying. It felt like being the main character in your own, London based thriller.

The Verdict

Overall, we’ve definitely classed this one on the easier side – and I can see why it’s marmite to a lot of enthusiasts. It’s not a particularly challenging game. But CluedUpp never pretended to be challenging – they’re mass market appeal murder mystery games and put the emphasis on you and your team exploring a new part of the city, dressing up, and having a laugh.

We played a specific version of The Ripper in Kensington on a special event day. Since the game is available at so many places around the world, it’s hard to say if our experience is representative of what everyone will have when they sign up – but honestly? We enjoyed ourselves.

We would caution enthusiasts not to have too high expectations when it comes to the puzzles, instead this would be a great game to take along your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends for a lighthearted day out. For us, booking and playing was really just an excuse to hang out and I wouldn’t hesitate to book another!

The Ripper is available at countless cities across the world. To find your nearest and book in, head to CluedUpp’s website here.

Ratings

Escapologic Leicester: Reactorvate | Review

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Escapologic: Reactorvate Review | Your Great Uncle was once a leading scientist known for developing state of the art nuclear technology. In central Europe, during the late 1970’s, one of his experimental reactors went into meltdown as soon as it was activated, causing one of the most catastrophic disasters in modern history...

Your only option is to break into an abandoned power plant located in rural Russia, find a second inactive reactor and start it up. If it is fully functional then you may just have the evidence to free an innocent man. If your Great Uncle is lying, then you may need to run for your life!

Completion Time: 31:27
Date Played: 11th September 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

First up on our long awaited road trip was to take a step into an abandoned nuclear reactor. Our mission was to find out what REALLY happened all those years ago in the 1970s… A totally normal activity for the first time Mairi, our friend Tasha and ourselves were all in person together, right?

We were very much looking forward to seeing how our team functioned in real life. After a long lockdown of playing countless digital escape games together, would the addition of a third dimension to our normally 2D team throw us off? Would being able to see how tall our team members actually are be too big a distraction..?!

Read on to find out…

WOW – Are we actually in the 1970s?

The first thing you notice stepping into this room (well, any of the Escapologic rooms to be fair) is their impeccable attention to detail. We entered a very realistic looking ‘reactor’, complete with the classic 1970s computer vibes, colourful lights and even featuring an on theme chilly room temperature!

Those first few puzzles we encountered in the room were great at introducing us both to the game and to each other. As an introduction space to Reactorvate, it had a fantastic flow. After initially hitting a bit of a hurdle with one of the beginning puzzles, we started to get out stride as we moved into the second space on offer. From here, we split up into two teams of two to tackle the wide range of challenges on offer.

We did have one quite hefty obstacle to get around first though…

Guys, is that your hand touching me? Where are the WALLS?

Before we entered this room, our games master Courtney warned us that at one point we would be in complete darkness. And that point came quite quickly into the game and they weren’t kidding – boy was it dark!

It was the sort of dark where you can’t see your own hand in front of you, and naturally we were all quite unnerved by this. We were quietly hoping that the evil spirit, Mr Moon, who haunts Escapologic’s other game (The Gateway) had not found their way into our room!!! Thankfully no ghosts, which just left the task in hand. Once we figured out where the four corners of the space were that we were in we were on a roll. But first, where the heck is the light switch?!

Science! We’re doing SCIENCE

The technology Reactorvate uses is great. You get to do physical puzzles, mental puzzle, observation puzzles…and you get to DO so much. We love a room that offers players the opportunity to really feel as though you are ‘doing’ the puzzling, rather than simply solving notes scribbled on a page. The whole thing had such a tactile feel as we lifted heavy objects and manipulated strange contraptions we’re all too young to know the true purpose of.

There was one particular stand out element of the room that provided just the right amount of shock value it’s still seared into our memory today. Although, we still can’t figure out if it was triggered by the Games Master, by our actions, or if the course we followed was inevitable – but that’s all good theatre!

We had a great time moving around and discovering this space. It was an impressive room and one we clicked with quite well.

Overall…

We really did have a great time in our first ever in-person escape room altogether. We are glad we chose such a vibrant, exciting and impressive room to play together for the first time.

Escapologic is great too in what it offers players after they’ve (hopefully) successfully escaped – there is a HUGE wall of tags signed by 100s of teams who have made their way through one of the four games on offer. It was a lot of fun looking through these and finding recognisable names, or even finding our own one from playing Chronos what feels like a loooonggg time ago.

Reactorvate can be booked at Escapologic Leicester by heading to their website here.

Ratings

Ultimate Quest: The Power of Four | Review

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Ultimate Quest: The Power of Four Review | Designed to be played by a group of four (remotely or in person), a series of seven puzzles have been split into four parts. You must work together and describe what you see in front of you in order to solve them! 

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 17th October 2021
Party Size: 5
Difficulty: Medium

Four is a powerful number… Especially in the escape room world! It’s pretty much the perfect team size. This is one of the reasons I get very excited when I see an escape game for exactly 4 players. In our weekly play-at-home escape room session, team Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha and I thought we’d try something a little different: The Power of Four.

The Paper Labyrinth

The Power of Four was born of the 2020 lockdown and is a spin-off game connected to Ultimate Quest’s Paper Labyrinth series.

Flick from page to page as you try to complete the riddles and puzzles of The Paper Labyrinth.
One book-wide adventure. Can you complete it?

The Paper Labyrinth is our best selling book series and a collection of puzzles and riddles that are all interconnected in some way, be it leading you to another page within the book, or being a component of a puzzle you are already working on. The series comprises of two main parts; ‘The Paper Labyrinth’ and ‘Return to the Paper Labyrinth’, as well as a spin off activity ‘The Power of Four’.
 

Ultimate Quest

Although, as a spin-off game, The Power of Four is no less packed with puzzles. For a game on the shorter and more straightforward side, it still took our team around 40 minutes to puzzle through the whole thing and we had a lot of fun doing so!

Essentially, The Power of Four is available as a short book, or a zipped folder of 4 PDFs which are essentially direct scans from the physical paper based version. We opted for the latter and purchased the digital download version. Where the book encourages you to draw on pages, we made use of Microsoft Paint to work our way through the book collaboratively.

Visually speaking, the game is quite plain – but then again it quite literally is just a PDF from a book. There isn’t a lot of room for creative graphics, what you see is what you get.

Each Player Has 1/4 of the Puzzles

Each PDF has 10 pages in it, and each person has 7 distinct puzzles to solve in the game. However, if the gname weren’t a giveaway these are all collaborative puzzles. Meaning each player has a 1/4th of the puzzle and you should all work together closely to solve them.

As a game, this makes it quite similar to other collaborative multiplayer games such as SCRAP’s Escape From The Two Base Stations, or Lee Ballan’s The Pyramid. But where those are for 2 and 3 players respectively, The Power of Four is for 4 players.

To explain the types of puzzles players will encounter would borderline on spoilers, so I’ll instead just say that the only way to solve them is by carefully describing what you see on your sheet and then working together to piece the information. The difficulty comes in not knowing what everyone else can see, but it’s good fun working together to crack the codes. Of course, there is also a meta-puzzle spread out over the individual puzzles which reveals itself at the ending.

The Verdict

Where we normally reserve our weekly escape game session for Telescape or live avatar games, The Power of Four was refreshingly different. Whilst the PDF version was fun, I imagine purchasing the book would make the experience even more tactile and special – but we still enjoyed getting together over a Zoom call to puzzle through the experience.

One more thing to mention is that we’ve rated The Power of Four as 5 stars for value. This is because the digital download version of the game is only £3.49 and since it’s a four player game this puts it as one of the cheapest hour’s worth of escape game fun on the market: Just 87 pence per head!

If you opt for the physical copy of the book, you’ll also receive a discount code to download digital copies too for free, in case you want to play with people online. It’s a nice business model all round!

The Power of Four can be purchased as a digital download PDF or as a paperback book on Ultimate Quest’s website here.

Ratings

Enigmailed: Pouroborus Deluxe Coaster | Review

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The London Pouroboros takes in some of the very best of these; each soaked in history, and somewhere we promise you will form incredibly happy memories. It being London, we also expect you will discover a live band along the way too at some point. This really will be like taking a pub tour of London with a local, just without the kebab at the end of the night.

Time Taken: ~1 hour +
Played On: 6th November 2021

The ouroboros or uroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail… Therefore the Pouroboros game, set in London pubs, must be about drinking a never ending, infinite amount of beer, right? Well I need no excuse!

Ahead of the Kickstarter Pouroborus campaign run by Enigmailed, the creative genius behind Undeliverable and Chocolateral, we were sent a copy of the Pouroborus ‘Deluxe Coaster’. This is an add-on to the key campaign, but fairly representative of what the finished product will look like. That said, as with any early access copy please take our review with a pinch of salt, as the final product may be slightly different.

In this edition we’re playing, the answers are not pubs but famous iconic UK landmarks. That said, we couldn’t resist actually playing the games in pubs because, you know, never-ending beer.

Now that’s out of the way… How did we get on?

Puzzles in Pubs

This game was played over three beautiful quality drinks coasters with cork backing. We decided to give the game a go over a couple of rounds of drinks at our local. Despite the drinks, the coasters held up really well, making them lovely keepsakes to take home once your pub shenanigans are over. They were even eye-catching enough that some of the bar staff asked us about the game we were playing – perhaps puzzle coasters like this will become a staple of pubs in the future, eh?

On each coaster, we had three puzzles to solve. Each puzzle gave a single word which, when combined together gate a What3Words code with an iconic UK location on it.

In terms of types of puzzles, our coasters had a wide ranging mix of different things to suit different players – so our recommendation would be to bring a team on the bigger side when you want to play this, as more heads are better than one.

We encountered some familiar puzzles, such as word association, missing letters, nonograms and anagrams, and some less familiar puzzles that involved twisting and turning the coasters around and thinking outside of the box. Overall, we did find the experience on the harder side, but we’ve found that many of Enigmailed’s experiences are a learning curve – so the Pouroboros Deluxe add-on is definitely one for seasoned puzzlers!

But on the flip side, that’s one of the reasons Pouroboros sets itself apart from other London scavenger hunt type experiences. It’s a level up in difficulty, sure, but the creators have done a lot with such a small space on a drinks coaster. Players will be truly challenged!

Since we were playing an early access version there were no clues available. But, the day after we checked our answers with the creator and it all fell into place. Only a few wrong answers (yep, I’m embarrassed to say!) but that’s what happens when you drink and puzzle. Those playing the live version will of course have a hints page to check their answers against, lest they put the wrong What3Words and up in the ‘wrong part of London’. Wherever that is. I’ll leave that one up to your imagination.

The Verdict

A challenging experience to elevate your new pub crawl around London with mates. We had a lot of fun, and I got to combine two of my favourite activities: solving puzzles with hanging out at the pub with friends of a weekend. If you want something a little different, especially as we come out of lockdown, it’s well worth a try.

To play Pouroborus, or the Deluxe Coaster version we have here, you can back Enigmailed‘s latest Kickstarter here.