Micro Macro Crime City | Review

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Micro Macro Crime City Review | MicroMacro: Crime City includes 16 cases for you to solve. Each case includes a number of cards that ask you to find something on the map or uncover where someone has gone or otherwise reveal information relevant to a case. The city map serves as a map in time as well as space, so you’ll typically find people in multiple locations throughout the streets and buildings, and you need to piece together what happened, whether by going through the case card by card or by reading only the starting card in the case and trying to figure out everything that happened for yourself. Will you be able to answer all questions about the case without fail?

Completion Time: ~4 months
Date Played: Early 2022
Party Size: 1 – 3
Difficulty: Easy – Medium

Micro Macro Crime City is, dare I say it, one of the best things I own. It takes pride of place on my board game shelf, I have been playing it non-stop since I received it as a Christmas present in 2021, and it’s the first game I whip out when friends come round for board game night. Sadly, several months later I have now completed the game. The rest of 2022 is looking bleak and crimeless and I’m already wondering what I’ll do with my life post-Micro Macro.

All jokes aside, it’s a fantastic game and I couldn’t wait to flip over the very final card in the very final mission to be able to say I completed the whole thing. It really took me back to days as a kid where my parents would be at fancy dinner parties and I’d be hiding in a corner somewhere with a copy of Where’s Wally. I haven’t felt that kind of joy since becoming an adult.

*sheds a tear*

 

Image (c) Micro Macro

 

About Micro Macro Crime City

So why are we reviewing the game on The Escape Roomer? True, it’s not really an escape room. But it is a deductive detective game absolutely packed with puzzles and we review plenty of those.

The general flow of Micro Macro Crime City is as follows, you open up a case and read the first card in that case. It has a picture of a crime and a short description of what the crime is, for example a murder or a heist, or some other nefarious deed. Essentially, it tells you what you’re looking for and vaguely where to start, such as the Market Place or by the Pier. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you head to the next card in the deck and you flip that over to find your next question. For example, “where was the victim before they got killed” and then “who was the victim meeting” and so on and so on. Over the course of a number of cards you slowly retrace back in time and put together the pieces surrounding the case. If you prefer more of a challenge, the game suggests that players only read the first card and instead try to figure out the case for themselves.

Each case takes a comfortable amount of time to solve. The earliest in the game, rated 1 or 2 stars by the game’s internal difficulty rating, are easy and take just a few minutes. The most difficult (5 stars) could take 15 minutes and upwards. Towards the end of the game many of the cases take so many delightful twists and turns I found myself using coins and odd objects around my apartment to mark ‘places’ in the map where significant parts of the case occurred, just to keep track.

Because of the structure of individual cases, it’s very easy to pick up and put down – provided you have a large enough playing area of course (29.5 inches x 43 inches). For me, this made it such a fun past time. If I had a spare half an hour on a Sunday afternoon I’d put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, and play through a case or two. When friends came over I’d whip it out and suggest an earlier case. Even if I’d already played them I’d usually forgotten by that time and could play along again. The game is never too demanding, if you want to complete it in one session you could, or you can pace it out like I did over four whole months.

We’d recommend this game for a maximum of 3 players at a time, this is for a purely functional reason – when too many heads are pouring over the map it’s very easy to bump into one another or block each other’s light. The optimal number is probably 1, but I always prefer to play games with friends. It is also worth double-y mentioning that if the name weren’t a giveaway, the theme is definitely not suitable for children under a certain age. I’m not sure what that age is, I’ll let parents make that choice for themselves, but despite the cartoon characters there’s plenty of murder afoot in this city.

 

 

A Modern Where’s Wally Game

What is most impressive about this game is how it does so much with such a limited amount of materials. The only thing you receive is a large map and a number of cases. Thats it, the rest of the game is up to you. No dice, no turns, just you and your friends pouring over a map trying to spot tiny details. And yet it is so unbelievably fun! The artwork in particular is absolutely fantastic and unbelievably detailed. By now I’m sure I’ve spotted every detail, and yet even writing this review when I glance over the map beside me I notice something new.

Since the whole thing is in white line art, I’m impishly tempted to colour it in. Conversely, unlike many escape games this one is easily playable multiple times – you could keep yours pristine and sell or trade on once you’ve finished.

 

The Verdict

Again, I hate to sound like a broken drum but this game? You just can’t beat it. *ba dum dum tsk*

It’s the most fun I’ve had so far this year and sure, it’s only April, but I’m fairly sure Micro Macro Crime City is going down in my personal hall of fame. I never, ever want to get rid of the box and I’m already planning which of my friends I can buy copies for later in the year. It is worth every single penny. For sure, it was a Christmas gift, but going back to it there’s almost no price too high I would have played for this game and at it’s current retail price (~£20) it’s a steal for the amount of fun you’ll have.

Currently Micro Macro are working on new games including a kids version with a little less murdery undertones. The website also has a number of extra content to tide you over until new releases come out, which can be viewed here.

As a final note, I’ve decided to award this game the special The Escape Roomer Badge of Honour, awarded to games we thought were incredible. For it’s sheer innovation, puzzliness, and literal months worth of fun contained in such a small box, Micro Macro Crime City is something very special and I cannot recommend it enough.

 

If you want to purchase Micro Macro, you can head to their store here.

Professor Puzzle: Curse of the Dark | Review

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Curse of the Dark Review | Investigate the mystery of a doomed village and its cursed castle in this thrilling escape room game! You couldn’t resist the allure of Mordengraf: a remote mountain village, overshadowed by an imposing Gothic castle and haunted by a spate of mysterious disappearances. Could there be truth in the hushed whispers of a ‘creature’ stalking the area? As you look for answers, your investigation takes a sinister turn. Captured by an unseen force, you must escape the castle’s dungeon or become the creature’s latest victim. But you only have three hours before the creature resumes its hunt.

Completion Time: 3+ hours
Date Played: 6th May 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

It was only a little while ago that I had the pleasure of playing through Professor Puzzle’s “Danger in the Deep” so when I heard that they had another escape game out but double the length, I jumped at the opportunity. The former is easily one of my favourites of 2022 so far, and I was eager to see how their sequel would perform. It was time to dim the lamps, light some candles, pour some red wine (because of course, vampires), and crack open the game.

The story goes that you, an investigator, receive a mysterious letter from someone known only as “J”. A monster lurks in the castle at the corner of a village and many of the villagers blame the monster for the recent disappearances. Your job is simple: investigate and get to the bottom of the mystery. But before long you find yourself sucked into the castle and soon to become the monster’s next victim. That is, unless you can puzzle your way out!

 

 

How to Play Curse of the Dark

Curse of the Dark is nothing if not very ambitious. Written in large letters on the front of the box is a total play time of “180 minutes” which of course, can (and probably should) be split into two parts at 90 minutes each. Our team of 3-4 players decided that we’d set aside an entire evening to complete the experience. From 6pm on a dark and stormy Saturday evening we sat down to a bottle (okay, maybe two bottles) of red wine, plenty of snacks and spooky music in the background.

180 minutes? Pfft.
We ended up concluding the game with a successful win at around midnight 🤯

This would put the game in more comfortably at 6 hours long, but even I’ll admit that’s a bit silly. The point being is this game, despite the recommendation, be enjoyed at any pace by any sized group and is definitely the most fun when you break it up with wine and snack breaks. So long as your goal is to have fun, you can’t go wrong with Curse of the Dark. So don’t be worried if you take a lot longer than the recommended time.

Where Curse of the Dark differs from *checks notes* pretty much every other escape game I’ve ever played, is it’s fantastic use of space. It’s somewhere between a tile-based, almost “worldbuilding” game with Cluedo, and Unlock! mixed in. As a team of intrepid investigators, you reveal and place new tiles that build up an immense, sprawling castle around your movements as the game progresses. Past the halfway mark and you’ve already strayed into 3D territory with an enormous stained glass window and not one but two brilliant tall towers standing at either edge of the board. Until we flipped each new tile it was impossible to know where our story would take us, but each room was as fantastical as the previous and each twist and turn as exciting as if we were watching a movie.

Visually, this game is gorgeous. Each tile is a top-down view of a specific room, but as mentioned the game occasionally forays into 3D, building up a complete picture of an enormous ‘spooky castle’. I happen to know *taps nose* that each tile was modelled in 3D on a computer and then rendered top-down to create a large but well proportioned environment. The edges of each tile often had an overlap or matched up directly to where the next room was. Only a few times did we need to slide the whole model across because we’d built too close to the edge, but thankfully figuring out how to lay out your castle isn’t one of the puzzles. There’s a handy guide as you go.

 

 

See the Day Turn into Night…

In terms of puzzles, there are 22 in the game, but if that number sounds low I can assure you it is not. Curse of the Dark is big. No, I don’t think you understand. It’s packed with possibly hundreds of pieces, cards, tiles and objects. We found that throughout our experience, objects we’d discovered earlier in the game often didn’t come into play until hours later – resulting in more than a little panicked rummaging throughout the boxes. So a fair warning when we say that this game is big – it’s worth keeping track of what you’ve used and are still to use.

By the end of the game we found that there were a few cards we hadn’t drawn from the deck, but thankfully the game has a very robust clue system to keep you on track if you’re unsure. On only one occasion did we accidentally brute force a puzzle, and only then we realised this because we’d left a card we’d needed to solve the puzzle in the deck without spotting it. This goes to show that the puzzles whilst not too difficult nor too easy, seem well pitched for an enthusiast to comfortably potter through.

Throughout the experience, my favourite puzzles involved anything that was 3D – what can I say? It’s a lot of fun picking up the great big bell tower and pretending you’re King Kong as you push and pull bricks out haphazardly. Other puzzles take you away from the physicality of the game and onto a simple web-based application which worked well, but the bulk of it took place via a system of cards and ’tiles’. As with many games, there were some puzzles we got right away, but plenty more we needed to use hints (a scratch-off system). In each we were looking for a secret hidden symbol to proceed.

 

 

…Through the Darkness, There’s the Light

In terms of the question of age rating and accessibility , Professor Puzzle recommends 14+. In terms of theme, I’m not so sure about that. There’s the odd splatter of blood and an allusion to nefariousness, but it’s ultimately quite a light-hearted, Vampire themed romp and nothing I wouldn’t have loved as a kid. The real question is whether or not somebody is able to sit still for the full 3 hours and remain engaged and interested – so I’ll leave that at the discretion of parents.

There are a few puzzles that involve sound, so someone who is able to hear well is recommended, but I believe it may be possible to solve those with the visuals. Some of the scenes are darker and will involve Similarly there are some moments in the game where colour is referenced, but if I remember correctly, none of the solutions hinge upon being able to identify colours, so it’s also colour-blind friendly.

Unlike previous games in Professor Puzzle’s catalogue, Curse of the Dark comes with a free download of the printable elements of the game. This means that after destroying certain components during your gameplay, you can print them off at the end to reset the game perfectly back to the beginning. In an era of being more environmentally conscious, I commend the creators for making this game not single-use, and encouraging folks to re-gift it on. That said, I won’t be giving up my copy of Curse of the Dark any time soon. Oh no, by contrast I plan to reassemble some of the coolest 3D components and put them on my shelf in pride of place.

 

 

The Verdict

If you can’t tell from my gushing, the verdict is we really did have a great time playing Curse of the Dark. From the fantastically fun puzzles that consistently manage to surprise me, to the beautiful visuals (2D and 3D), to a very spooky vibe that made our board game night perfect. There were a great many “a-ha!” moments, so many I’m sure my co-players got sick of my insisting “wow thats a clever puzzle” by the end of it. For that reason, we’ve chosen to award it our Badge of Honour which is awarded to games that achieve five stars from us across the board, and it’s well deserved too.

For sure it will attract a slightly more niche audience than other games in the Professor Puzzle catalogue coming in at ~3 hours of gameplay. Compared to other ‘escape room in a box’ games you see on the high street, this one is three times the length. But in this way it’s also excellent value for money.

Typically in ‘The Verdict’ I like to recommend who I’d buy this for. The answer for this one is simple: everyone. I could see myself playing this with family members old and young, enthusiasts and newbies alike. I’ve no doubt it’ll be a big hit for Professor Puzzle and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

A big round of applause from me!

Curse of the Dark can be purchased from major retailers, pre-order it here.

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.

Wizards Against Lizards Online | Review

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Wizards Against Lizards Review | You are invited to join the Wizards Against Lizards Remote Intelligence Agency. Teams of WALRIA agents are working together online to investigate, infiltrate and finally defeat the Annunaki Menace! You are welcome to join WALRIA as a passive observer but your team will require at least one active agent, as there are mysteries to be solved, and challenges to be met.

Date Played: 23rd August 2021
Number of Players: 13
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 1hr 45 minutes

I absolutely love finishing an immersive experience and thinking “Woah, what the heck was that?!”

You know the ones I mean… Those once in a lifetime experiences that are met with blank expressions from your friends after you confusingly try to explain them the following day.

“Well err, you know how so many world leaders are actually Lizards hell bent on human suffering, well last Saturday I teamed up with some Wizards on Zoom and we basically infiltrated the Lizard HQ and…”

Okay so maybe it’s better I let the trailer do the talking:

I couldn’t wait to play the cult classic Wizards Against Lizards after picking up a Play Pass at RECON 2021. As part of the fun of the annual Room Escape Convention, there’s an optional Play Pass upgrade which gives you access to a number of live escape room events. Honestly, it was worth it for Wizards Against Lizards alone and I’ve still got heaps more games to play on the Play Pass!

Absurdist, Surreal, Immersive Theatre… On Zoom!

How to describe Wizards Against Lizards? It’s totally bizarre. In a good way. For sure it’s not your typical escape room game, but in amongst the conspiracy theory fun are plenty of puzzles to keep you on your toes. There’s also one theatrical sequence that is very close to an escape room at heart, making it a pretty well balanced game for all audiences.

The story goes that you join the ancient secret wizard organisation WALRIA (Wizards Against Lizards Remote Intelligence Agency) to go up against an equally ancient, but very evil lizard enemy: The Annunaki! Since you yourself are not a wizard (awwww), you’re able to successfully go where wizards cannot and infiltrate their top secret organisation. The first plan of order, pitch a brilliant business idea to one of the lizard leaders and get them on your side. Once you’re in, stop the sacrifice!

Sounds simple? Well, not so fast. Our team ended up with a little more danger than we bargained for – but a no less hilarious and fantastic experience nonetheless.

Our Wizard guides Mildred and Leanne

How to Stop the Lizard People

To stop the lizard people, you have three easy tasks:

  1. Complete your training
  2. Infiltrate the lizards
  3. Stop the sacrifice!

In terms of how the game plays out, it’s all drive via a series of actors (shout out to our host Leanne) on Zoom. The game requires a lot of active audience participation – so many not be the best for a smaller team who prefer to keep quiet. Have at least one person on the team who loves improvising, or some Dutch Courage to help. You never know when being able to talk yourself out of a stick situation with the lizards will come in handy!

In terms of puzzles, hardcore enthusiasts probably won’t be challenged by the game. There are a few very puzzle-y moments in the story but they’re there to serve the narrative and won’t take too long to crack. With the exception of one part that felt very close to a remote avatar escape room, largely players can expect to scour documents and read source material in search of clues.

I particularly enjoyed the moment where we took to Google Maps to discover something new. There’s also one meaty logic puzzle that our sub-team didn’t quite crack in time, but overall nothing too challenging!

The real Fun Factor to Wizards Against Lizards isn’t the puzzles, but it’s those moments of brilliant improvisation and how the actors react to what you say! Early in the game your team needs to come up with a suitably lizard-y pitch to get you in their good books. We got to think of the worst possible business idea, create a presentation, and then pitch it on the fly. Hilarious!

Wizard Training: Perform our best “Lizard Awkward Waving” impression…

The Verdict

Wizards Against Lizards is such a hidden gem and an all round hit escape room experience that’ll go down as a cult classic for sure. What started as a real life adventure played in and around the UK can now be played online via Zoom and the world is a lot better off for it.

It plays on pop culture with just a dash of light-hearted conspiracy theory to create a surreal romp around the lizard world, hosted by several fantastic wizards (and one sinister lizard).

We’ve decided to award it the Badge of Honour (right) for ticking so many boxes and is an absolute “must play” while you still can!

Wizards Against Lizards can be booked directly on their website here.

Ratings

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

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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.

Ratings

Introducing Badges, New Ratings, and a Fresh Coat of Paint!

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been hard at work making a few behind the scenes changes here at The Escape Roomer! Since expanding the team to include Ash & Al of Escaping the Closet, Rebecca of Borderline Puzzler and Russ of RussBuilds, we wanted to make The Escape Roomer easier for our readers to navigate and find the content they need, and more representative of the whole team!

Beginning with… A brand new logo!

The Escape Roomer Logo, August 2021

The Escape Roomer – New Logo

The Escape Roomer has moved away from the pink-blue colour scheme of our previous website towards dark green, a gold accent, and a prominent rainbow flag. The new logo is anchored by the outline of a door – I mean, aren’t we always trying to escape through doors?! And the rainbow flag reflects how proud we are of our LGBTQA+ foundations. Furthermore, the six stars represent our current official and unofficial contributors that bring the special sauce to The Escape Roomer. Finally the whole site rebrand is topped off with vintage, risograph print style – a cheeky nod to our original 80s style website! 💃

This rebrand was greatly needed as we grow and find our identity within the wiser escape room and video game community! We’re a collaborative project created to celebrate this wonderful industry and every day we’re amazed by the support we receive in return. As such we hope the rebrand is the start of something even more amazing, and we can’t wait to fly our colourful new logo high!

Standardised Escape Room Ratings

The second biggest change we’re bringing to The Escape Roomer is a standardised rating system. Historically, we’ve not used stars to rate our rooms, but in 2021 this is changing.

There’s a lot of talk in the escape room enthusiasts community about whether 5 star ratings work or not – but generally there seems to be a consensus that they are helpful for quickly finding good rooms and games to play! We hope this change makes The Escape Roomer more easier to navigate!

At the head of every review, we’ll indicate the following:

Date Played
Number of Players
Console *if applicable
Difficulty
Time Taken

And at the bottom of every review, you’ll be able to find more detailed ratings out of 5 stars on each aspect of the game, including:

Escape Rooms At Home Games Video Games

Theming
Decor
Puzzles
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

Theming
Quality
Puzzles
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

Theming
Puzzles
Visuals
Immersion
Innovation
Fun Factor
Value
Overall

The Escape Roomer Special Badges

Finally… From time to time we come across truly amazing games and want to award them with a special badge on The Escape Roomer. If you’ve spotted a badge on a review, find out what it means on our Awards Page.

In fact… We’ve already awarded our very first Badge of Honour!

Don’t forget, if you ever want to get in touch with questions, concerns, or Morse Code… You can email us on hello@theescaperoomer.com

Until next time, happy escaping!

Diorama: The Vandermist Dossier | Review

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The Vandermist Dossier Review | The Vandermist Dossier is a treasure trove of beautiful, touch-real evidence from an old missing person’s case in a tiny Dutch village. Untouched since the 1970’s, will you follow the clues and figure out what happened to 19-year-old amateur sleuth Abigail Vandermist?

Date Played: 28th August 2021
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Comfortably Challenging!
Time Taken: 1 hour 15 minutes

The Vandermist Dossier is a brand new mystery box by the creative duo behind Diorama, Ruud and Tristan. It follows a missing persons case in a small Dutch town that quickly unfolds into Cold War secrets that could tear the titular family apart. This game officially launches on Kickstarter in September, but we were very lucky to get our hands on an early copy and WOW! Just wow!

Could this be one of the most exciting Kickstarter games launching this year? It might just be.

But let’s get into why…

Het Boekanier Dossier

What makes The Vandermist Dossier special is that it is based on an earlier, Dutch-language game by the same creators: Het Boekanier Dossier (“The Buccaneer Dossier”). Wildly popular in the Netherlands and around the world, the creators have since been hard at work with the help of Manda Whitney translating it into English and have even added several brand new puzzles to the rich world of Het Boekanier Dossier.

This gets a double thumbs up from us, as these tweaks and changes evidently introduce huge improvements on the already popular original game. Where the original averages a neat 8.5 on Board Game Geek, with the wealth of content, brilliant puzzles and engaging story, perhaps this version will push 9 or even 10.

The Vandermist Family and the Backwards Town

The story of The Vandermist Dossier picks up with a mysterious letter and box labelled ‘Vandermist Dossier’ arriving in the post to you. The letter is from a lady named Helena Vandermist who would like to enlist your help in a missing persons case. The missing person: Her sister Abigail.

Though the case is nearly 40 years old and definitely cold by now, Helena never gave up hope of finding her long lost sister and you might just be her last option. In the box, Ms Vandermist has sent you everything she’s found out about the case over the years, including letters from her sister Abigail, newspaper clippings, old passports and some rather curious coded messages.

No detail is spared and everything in the box felt genuine and handmade. What follows is a deep dive into the 1970s tracking down the movements of the young girl as she uncovered secrets of her own family intertwined with the fate of the town. It’s hard not to give anything away, but this game will take you into the heart of the Cold War with some surprising twists of fate.

Crack the Codes, Crack the Case

In terms of puzzles, The Vandermist Dossier has enough content to last between 1 – 2 hours and felt really well balanced the whole way through. The game is clear on where to start and each subsequent piece of evidence has breadcrumbs to lead to the next, and the next, and so on.

It’s also fairly clear which existed in the original game, with a few translations to make them flow more easily in English, and a fair few more which felt fresh. There were two in particular which I couldn’t believe would work… But they did! All in all this game is full of surprises to delight players: A few things I’d never seen before, a few moments of hunting through documents and squinting really hard and a few ciphers I thought I recognised but still managed to say “wow” at.

Overall, in terms of difficulty I’d rate this one as comfortably challenging. As a team of just one, I used a few hints here and there to keep me on track and confirm what I thought I knew already… But better yet if you have any additional players you can bring into the mystery and help bounce ideas and puzzle solutions around!

If you want to make the most out of your copy of The Vandermist Dossier, wait until an overcast evening, brew a strong cup of tea (or a tipple of your choice), and invite a close knit team of your best investigator friends. Since the story centres around two sisters, it would also make a lovely collaborative story to unfold with a close sibling of your own. But since mine is 11 and far more interested in Minecraft, solo play works fantastically too!

The Verdict

“Alexa, what are some synonyms for incredible?”

But seriously, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed The Vandermist Dossier. It ticks a lot of boxes for me personally: The Cold War… And even colder cases! Espionage, Missing Persons, European Small Towns… All packaged in a really neat and high quality box you could complete in an afternoon. The best part? There are two more boxes in this trilogy to come!

What I love the most is how much passion the creators have brought to the project. It’s a labour of love and the culmination of many people who love what they do! Many times when playing “boxed escape rooms” I’m delighted to find one or two keepsakes, such as a cute cipher wheel or a lovely coin. Every single item in The Vandermist Dossier I’d like to take out and frame… Beginning with the hand drawn map and the vintage feeling newspaper.

Back The Vandermist Dossier on Kickstarter

If you want to support Ruud and Tristan to bring The Vandermist Dossier to life further, you can back them on Kickstarter from last September. At the time of writing, a whole month before the launch of the Kickstarter, I have a beautifully high quality copy of the game in my hand. Whilst there may be a few production tweaks between now and fulfilment, this game is gorgeous and it’s ready to go. With such an enthusiastic creator team, it’s sure to be a fun Kickstarter.

The Vandermist Dossier can currently only be purchased by backing the project on Kickstarter. Check out the creator’s website here for more behind the scenes content.

Ratings

clueQuest: cQ Origenes | Review

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In order to stop the Professor from breaching our firewall, you and your team will have to access Mr Q’s old base. The only way in, however, is to shrink down to the size of a mouse with the help of the Shrink’o’Mat. Word of caution, agents: the technology you’ll be exposed to is…a bit unstable and still experimental. You’ll have only 60 minutes to counteract the cyber attack and secure the mainframe before the Shrink’o’Mat’s effect wears off and things get messy.

Image (c) clueQuest

Battling the storm en route to escape!

We played cQ Origenes back in February 2020, just before the pandemic began, which must have been the last time we were in London (wow that feels like a long time ago!).

Our first mission however was actually getting there, as this was during the ‘Storm Dennis’ weekend… Luckily, escape rooms are literally the PERFECT rainy day activity! Although, they are also ideal on: sunny days, snowy days, windy days too.

This trip was our second time at clueQuest. We had previously taken on Operation Blacksheep with the same team and thoroughly enjoyed it, so were very excited to be back to face the slightly more challenging cQ Origenes room. cQ Origenes is one which is always recommended as a top room in terms of the capital’s offerings, and it’s easy to see why. Even clueQuest’s reception area feels special, bustling full with teams. It makes for a very lively pre-escape atmosphere!

It’s clear clueQuest would be so great to host a big party with lots of people taking on different rooms and all coming back together to discuss times, and inevitably, searching fails!


…Hm, maybe this is something we would do for the big 3-0…?

The Mission Brief

Back to the mission: the briefing for cQ Origenes was consistent with the overarching CQ storyline – our group of ‘spies’ have to break in and retrieve an SD card. However, this is more challenging than it first appears! The first step of the two stage mission requires you to operate the shrink-o-mat to infiltrate the lair – making everything after this point ‘larger than life’!

Beyond this, the room is split really well, with the decoration tying into the storyline allowing for a super smooth puzzle flow. 

Image (c) clueQuest

The cQ Origenes rooms are decorated brilliantly, which is no surprise as the production value on clueQuest’s rooms is SUPER HIGH. This really pays off to create an immersive atmosphere with a humorous twist.

The mission offers great interactivity and clever puzzles to solve: varied, challenging, logical and original… There was plenty to get on with. We were glad that we went in with a strong team of 4, Tilda and Johnny are always super on it for escaping (our favourite kind of friends haha!).

There was even one very special padlock in the room – we’re sure even the biggest padlock-phobe would enjoy opening. 

Good things come in small packages

We absolutely loved the concept of this room, it was so simple but designed incredibly well. We had so much fun exploring all the props and clever, special touches in the space. The props were well designed and pretty much everything really ‘worked’, meaning a great deal of exploring the room pays off, not only for progressing the story, but also for the wow-factor of discovery!

We were particularly blown away by the final puzzle: this really impressed us with its design… But you’ll have to go and play to see what we mean!

Image (c) clueQuest

Alas, we did hit a hiccup at the end and spent around 10 minutes stuck on one (tiny, tiny…) piece… However, our overall escape time came in at just over 56 minutes, successfully returning to full size! That said, looking at the photo it looks like Johnny is full size and the rest of us are still slightly shrunk haha! 

cQ Origenes is great for enthusiasts or large groups of newbies looking for a challenge! We definitely hope to return to help Mr Q face Blacksheep again next time we return to London.

Which room would you recommend we try our hand at next?! Check out our reviews for clueQuest’s other games here.

cQ Origenes can be booked on clueQuest’s website here.

Ratings

Margate: the Summer of ‘21 – a triumphant return to real-life Escape Rooms!

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As mentioned in our introductory post, we are big fans of the escape rooms available in Margate, Kent (UK) and as Ash has family here, we make the trip at least a couple of times a year, giving us plenty of opportunities to explore the rooms in the sunny seaside town (and surrounding towns within a ~45 minute drive hehe).

After 18 months (looking @ u covid), we finally got to make the journey again, and of course, we booked in as many games as possible.

Instead of reviewing each room separately, here’s a ‘showcase’ of rooms we got to play this past week, in the hope that it might be useful for anyone planning a ‘staycation’ this summer. We’ve played a lot of (very good) rooms in this area in the past couple of years, so we will include our previous reviews too, to keep all the information together for you – sort of like a very niche ultimate escape room tourist guide.

A Guide to the Best Escape Rooms in Margate

Ash, Al and Mairi finally in person together!

Ctrl Alt Esc (Margate)

Complete puzzles and unravel the mystery in a highly themed, real life game that’ll have you laughing and making memories with your friends and family!

As Ctrl Alt Esc were the first company we (literally) stumbled upon, we figured this was a good place to start. In a previous life (pre-2017) before we had discovered the wonders of escape rooms, we had walked past this place on the sea-front, and wondered what it was all about. Little did we know, housed in that building was an entire Spaceship, and Frankenstein’s monster! These rooms are wonderful; hand-crafted and obviously built with a lot of passion and ingenuity. The company feels very friendly, with a great team spirit, and hugely enthusiastic GMs. We played their two original games, Spacescape and Frakenscape back in 2018, and after loving those, there is a lot of excitement at word of new adventures from them- first with Detention and now with their upcoming Quick-E-Mart game (which we are buzzing to try on our next trip!). 

Frankenscape ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

‘Scatty professor Alec Smart has gone missing in the midst of a very important experiment.The storm is coming and the lightning is key. You must take his place or forfeit losing his groundbreaking research!’

CAN YOU FINISH WHAT HE STARTED?

This room was brilliant! You begin by descending a flight of stairs, with thematic lighting and music. Ctrl Alt Esc does an amazing job of immersing you in the world of Frankenstein right from the off. The first puzzle you face is outside the main ‘room’, as you need to work to gain access to the laboratory in order to continue Alec’s research. We like rooms that begin in this way and find that it helps ramp up the excitement, as who knows what is to come!

The space itself is HUGE – and definitely fills up the 75 minutes allocated. We loved exploring the space that has been created, and the decoration was fantastic. There was a good range of puzzles (one featuring the use of a mallet and another using bellows, which were veeeery fun), including some that we haven’t come across before. The room stays true to its theme throughout, as you are tasked with rebuilding Frankenstein’s monster in time to awaken him! The ending was absolutely superb, and felt very ‘complete’ (and definitely made some of the scaredy cats of the room jump).

Photo courtesy of Ctrl Alt Esc (so were the hats…)

Spacescape ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

You and your crew are on a voyage to a newly discovered planet, but now the spaceship’s lights are flashing and alarms are sounding. Surely you can just turn off the warnings and forget about it, or maybe you need to prepare the escape pod…

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

This room was reminiscent of returning to the Wacky Warehouse (do people know what this is – or is this a strange Northern place?!), as players are brought into a legit (it felt very legit) spaceship to complete this room. Standout features of this experience include:

  1. Having to replenish and restock oxygen levels throughout the experience, again ramping up the immersion!
  2. Each player is assigned a particular role. We LOVED this aspect, everyone has their own little ability, which works really well alongside the ship theme. Plus, you get your own little jacket!
  3. There are some places which open up in this room that we would NEVER have guessed. Forget the wardrobe door in the corner with some sneaky hinges showing, we had to be given a couple of nudges to explore some places we thought couldn’t possibly be part of the game (but, wonderfully, they were!) 
  4. The ENDING. Oh wow – the ending! We can’t give this away here, but rest assured, this will be an ending like no other you’ve ever experienced. 

We played this game as a three (Al, Ash and Ash’s mum) – and had an absolute (excuse the pun) blast. We would definitely play this again, just to watch other players’ faces as they find out just how much Spacescape has to offer. 

Having a blast (photo courtesy of Ctrl Alt Esc)

Detention ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Take your seats. Sit up straight. Don’t answer back… As a misbehaving student you’re where you belong, but the teacher has just left the room and you have better things to do…

ARE YOU TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL?

As two very well behaved children, we went into this room ready to pay attention and follow the rules, but, obviously, things weren’t quite that clear…! This room is full of energy and humour, with an absolutely cracking soundtrack and some really amusing attention to detail. We played this game as a large group (6) and had a great time exploring the space together. We were a range of ages too, with Ash’s grandma joining us for the game (and having a great time throwing it back to school!). 

The room itself was very well themed, with the Game Master taking on a brilliant role, allowing Ctrl Alt Esc to pitch the room perfectly for various audiences. We ended up with a particularly ‘lively’ version, which was very entertaining. We have never come across a ‘school’ themed room before, and this was executed very well. 

We are really looking forward to seeing what games Ctrl Alt Esc go on to deliver. We will definitely make sure that we visit when we return to Margate! 

Photo courtesy of Ctrl Alt Esc (and the big pencil)

The Escapement (Margate)

The Escapement is located towards the ‘old town’ side of Margate, tucked away, ready to be discovered! We can’t believe we ever visited Margate without doing one of their rooms, but once we had the joy of playing, we played all three in pretty quick succession. One of the nicest touches the Escapement has is the tokens that are given to players following completion of a room – we’ve got all three of ours proudly displayed (we can’t wait to get some more!). What are these wonderful rooms, and what did we think of them?

The Pit ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Do you have what it takes to save the planet in this journey to the center of the earth?

From the moment you descend below ground, the room provides complete immersion. We played this with four people, and there was plenty to keep the 4 of us busy and the puzzles were mostly very “hands-on”, which totally suited the scenario and also were a lot of fun! We always love it when a room has something we haven’t seen before and plenty of the puzzles here were completely new concepts to us, which we loved!

We really enjoyed the authenticity throughout, including the clue system which although is not totally unique, suited the situation perfectly!

We don’t want to spoil the enjoyment of discovering all the room has to offer but we have to say the way of getting from one section to another was a highlight and we were guilty of wasting some time enjoying the fun of this instead of ploughing on with the next puzzle 😂 this is one of those rooms you really don’t want to be over and we found ourselves taking our time, rather than pushing for an amazing time (not having a countdown in the room also helps with this, as well as the authenticity of the room) to maximise our enjoyment!

Honestly, we’re just sad we’ve already ticked this one off as it was a joy to experience! However, we’ve got our lovely Escapement token to commemorate our successful escape proudly displayed with those from their other rooms and look forward to expanding the collection and seeing what other marvellous adventures the Escapement will be offering when they reopen post-covid! One of the best!

Photo courtesy of The Escapement (unfortunately the big torch isn’t ours either)

Egyptian Exodus ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

All of you. Against a God. You must help the pharaoh pass onto the afterlife but…

Think sand – real life, authentic sand…(we wonder if it’s from the beach!?), some excellent decor and one of the most exciting doors to an escape room we’ve seen. These things combined throw players straight into Egypt, and into the very real wrath of a God. We have done a few games with this theme, but this one definitely stood out in terms of the quality of the puzzles (which all stay on theme throughout the gameplay!). Players need to rely on one of the lesser used 5 senses in this game, no spoilers, but we had fun with this part!

We played this game as a four, with Ash’s grandma and mum joining us on travelling into the dusty tomb, and hoping we wouldn’t end up in a sarcophagus. All of us had a great time in this game, we had heard that it was the most difficult of the three that the Escapement offer, so we were super chuffed to escape in a reasonable 37 minutes.

The end of the game was particularly exciting, with the wrath of the Gods closing in. This helped ramp up the excitement, and we were all relieved once we managed to escape from the tomb unharmed! A great game for families, there’s lots of fun physical things to do, but plenty to offer a solid challenge. 

Photo courtesy of The Escapement (and the Egyptian Gods)

Pirates of Polaris ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Are you pirate enough to navigate a ship on the high seas through thunder and lightning? Only time will tell…

We know this is a super common theme among Escape Rooms, but wow! We were so impressed with what the team had managed to put together. The floorboards, the walls, the ceiling, everything was creaky in the right places, and really made you feel like you were on a real life ship…OH WAIT – are those genuine artefacts from a real life 130 year old pirate ship called Polaris?! Yes, yes they are. 

The game began with us locked away in jail, and we had to work together in a small space to get into the rest of the game. We enjoy starting like this, as these puzzles are often a nice way to warm-up before the main event. Despite the size of this initial space being quite small, there was enough to keep all 5 of us busy! 

Once we did make it onboard, and into the ship, we were so impressed with the attention to detail. The room felt so real, and the puzzles were seamlessly intertwined with the space, making it feel as though we really were trying to get back to steering the ship, before the storm got the better of us. 

There were numerous rooms within this experience, and we had to work together (and hard!) in order to successfully navigate our ship to safety. This was one of the most ‘authentic’ rooms we’ve had the pleasure of playing, and we would definitely recommend – even if you tire of the pirate theme, you won’t be disappointed here!

Al looks so small…Photo courtesy of The Escapement

And the Escapement are due to soon be opening their eagerly awaited second branch over at Broadstairs. Keep an eye out for their announcements about this! We can’t wait to come back as soon as we can after they open and try them all out!!

Escape in the Towers (Canterbury)

If you are after a unique company who are running games from places with genuine historical value, then Escape in the Tower is definitely for you! All the games are set within England’s largest surviving Medieval gateway built in 1380, in the heart of Canterbury. Escape in the Towers have really brought history to life, using rooms that have never been opened to the public before, to host immersive (and challenging!) escape games.

We have been wanting to try these games for SO LONG. We’ve had our eye on them since we started escaping, reading many solid reviews and seeing the various accolades that the company has been awarded, it was only a matter of time before we made the short trip over to Canterbury to give it a go!

The Comms Room ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

You’re thrown in at the deep end to replace the recently deceased former Air Raid Warden Mr Parsons. Your job is to defend Canterbury from a barrage of air attacks by deploying air defences and performing your duties, all the while unravelling the mystery of an unknown traitor sabotaging your every step.

It took us a bit of time to decide which room we wanted to experience first, but logistics seemed to sort that out for us, and we booked the Comms Room – ready to try our hand at defending Canterbury! The first thing we have to mention is the set. The room is set in a genuine WW2 comms room and you can feel the authenticity as soon as you step through the door. It takes place in one room, but this space is jam-packed with so many puzzles, you wouldn’t have time to go anywhere else.

There was a bit of searching, but luckily with a team of 5, we managed to stumble across everything eventually (apart from one key, damn you key!). The puzzles were thrown at us from all angles (literally), as we explored parts of the room we did not expect to access in our escape. There were a lot of physical touches, including the use of a spanner, which helped increase the realism further. The clue system was brilliant – and tied into the storyline – which was SO clever. We loved this.

The finale of the room was so EXCITING. The music, the atmosphere, the story! Everything came together to a head, in a super intense finale which required teamwork and communication, bringing in some of the intensity that must have been felt in this room’s past. We cannot wait to go back and explore some more of the towers. A nice side note: the company offer free entry to the Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint as part of the Escape Room purchase, which we didn’t have chance to do, but looked fun!

Other games available: THE CRIME & PUNISHMENT LAB, MAGNA CARTA MURDER

A blurry escape courtesy of One Pound Lane: Escape the Towers

Escape Kent (Canterbury)

Kent is the gift that keeps on giving! Escape Kent is yet another brand we’ve discovered on our adventures in the South and we are pleased to say that it also offers some top quality escaping (we are very pleased there are a lot of rooms here as it gives us plenty of Escape Rooms still to play!). We originally chose to play ‘The Haunting’ room, however, we got about 6 minutes into the experience before the host informed us that the tech had unfortunately broken in this particular room. However, we will definitely be trying that room again. We were teased with some excellent decorations and some suitably creepy looking curtains…

Escape Kent were quick and professional, and offered us an alternative straight away. Shout out to some excellent customer service here. We crossed the road, and ended up losing our minds…

The Asylum (previously named Vice Versa) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Trapped inside The Asylum with nothing but your own troubled thoughts. It is down to you to control your mind, unveil hidden compartments and solve the interactive puzzles that stand in your way of freedom….Of course you will want to do so before your competitors do! After all, no-one likes to be second best.  

We HAVE to talk about the theming. What a strange and surreal concept. There was no decoration, no objects, no props, just 5 bewildered people and 4 white walls. However, it soon turned out that this room had SO much to offer. We are going to have to be vague to prevent any spoilers, but there was absolutely loads to do in here. We discovered puzzles after puzzles, all different kinds, and had our work cut out trying to finish them all.

Despite the lack of decoration, the game manages to immerse you well, as players are faced with a huge variety of hidden puzzles, and the open nature of the gameplay meant anyone could be solving anything at any time…which made for some intense puzzling! It works well for larger groups, as everyone has their own strengths, and some puzzles that one person thought “no thanks I hate it”, another person took one look at and solved immediately. The room tells you a lot about yourself! We got out in 40 minutes, which we were super stoked with. We are really glad we got to play this game, definitely a positive spin on an unfortunate technical glitch!

Other games available: Missing, The Haunting, Pirates of the Stormy Seas, Jail Break, Raider of the Lost Tomb, Kidnapped, Missing at Christmas 

Some very white walls.. Photo courtesy of Escape Kent

Real Life Games (Ramsgate – now closed)

Feline Fiasco [kitties now rehomed] ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Do you and your colleagues have what it takes to restore balance to Calico Village by finding and rescuing all of the missing cats?

This room was totally different to anything we have come across before, with a unique theme, and a completely original setup. The decor was wonderful, and featured a vast space that opened up alongside the story, really fitting the storyline and setting of the escape, as well as being very aesthetically pleasing- everything had clearly been carefully considered and was there for a reason.

The puzzles were a mix of traditional padlocks/solving as well as the clever use of items/objects from the room. The theming was strong throughout, with the narrative developing to a fun and well thought out conclusion. The props used in the room were brilliant, we spent a lot of time laughing at the developments and found ourselves thoroughly enjoying all aspects of this room.

This is a room that will cater to newbies and enthusiasts alike, giving you a 70 minute goal to free as many cats as possible! We squeezed out in a jam packed 69:30 minutes, aided by Chris kindly providing us with helpful nudges throughout to ensure we escaped with a few seconds to spare, while remaining fully immersed! 

All the kitties! Us in our element.

Extinction [now Extinct] ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

You and your friends having recently contracted the virus have been selected as ideal test cases for Dr Ruoff Nevesorezenin’s NV31 antidote but when you arrive at the surgery it becomes apparent that an unfortunate set of circumstances has occurred.

Can you and your team figure out how to get your hands on everything required to save humanity…

Unfortunately, this room is no longer in action, but we did enjoy it when we played, and thought we would leave a few thoughts about it! The decoration was quite minimalist, but went along nicely with the theme. As the space opened up, the game got more exciting as we discovered new places, which really helped to ramp up the excitement. One of our distinct memories of the room is a plant, and the dreaded searching! This was definitely something that slowed us down in this game – especially as we tackled it as only a team of two. We would have recommended this room to newbies to the escape world, but alas, it appears it is now…extinct (which is very sad, Real Life Games were lovely hosts with a passion for Escape Rooms).

Interesting that Al has the scarf on here but Ash has it on the other picture…

The Panic Room (Gravesend)

When we realised that we were driving DIRECTLY past Gravesend on our journey down the UK, we got very excited. Escape Room enthusiasts around the country have all heard of the Panic Room, and their HUGE breadth of games that they offer. But not only that: all of the games are designed with passion and ingenuity. There are so many to choose from, and so many unique themes, visiting Gravesend definitely feels like an enthusiasts’ dream come true, especially with their new shop opening (we had never seen so many Exit Games!!!).

If you are ever within 1, or 2…or 3 or 4 hours drive from Gravesend, get yourself booked in (you can literally make a day, or two days even of it!). You won’t be disappointed; we certainly haven’t been, and we’ve only played a few! 

Loop ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Be the first to test a pioneering new technology, in an experiment that will change the course of human history.

Welcome to Frontier Engineering — a private research and development company working on nuclear transmutation, quantum tunnels and the applications of dark energy.

This room is genius. The gameplay starts off very typically, as you solve puzzles and progress through switching on the three lights required to start the ‘portal’. We settled into our puzzling, enjoying the range of both physical and technical puzzles on offer, and making steady progress through the room. Then, SOMETHING HAPPENED. We can’t say what, but what a twist! We spent the second half of the room feeling a huge time pressure, and infinitely more immersed than we spent the first half. The gameplay that has been set up by the Panic Rooms feels so simple, but it is so, so effective. On reflection, it’s interesting to think about how we performed and communicated differently in the first half of the room compared to the second – you could do some fun science experiments playing on this concept!

We managed to escape in a solid time of ~45 minutes, and we were filled with relief to know that we had not just escaped, but SUCCESSFULLY escaped (there is quite a big distinction between the two in the room, you’ll have to play to find out what we’re talking about!). We really enjoyed what the team has created here, and this was an additional layer to the escape that we have never come across before. Definitely one for your bucket lists!

Going Loopy (too cheesy?) – Photo Courtesy of the Panic Room

Wizard of Oz ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Follow the yellow brick road, make your way into the Emerald City and step into the Wizard’s shoes! You’ll be sure to make some friends along the way, so work together to fix your hot air balloon before time runs out! Are you ready for the flight of a lifetime?
This review has been written by Mairi when we all FINALLY managed to meet in person (YAY). Please see here for the review (we love Mairi’s writing so definitely best to read it in her words)!

Dino Land [also now Extinct!] ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Our state-of-the-art facility is looking for new Rangers! However, it seems you may have a tough first day of work… The Dinosaurs have escaped! Time for drastic Jurassic measures! Can you get to safety and restore the park’s security? Or will it be a Triassic triumph for these rampaging reptiles?

We had heard amazing things about this experience (definitely an experience rather than a typical ‘escape room’ – but not to its detriment).We took a big group as everyone was keen to get involved (and we had bigged up this room for a long time!). Upon arrival, our ranger, Lucy, welcomed us and got us ready to enter Dino Land!

The experience starts as soon as you walk through the gates of Dino Land; the theming and decoration is incredible, with the whole place immersing you with the dinosaurs right from the beginning. The puzzles were on the easy side, and our ranger guided us through these to progress the storyline. At times this felt like a departure from the normal feeling in an escape room of ‘hmm…what do we need to tackle next’ as we were often told what the current task was. However, this is an experience to give yourself over to and you can have so much fun immersing yourself in the game.

Although the puzzles were not the most challenging we have come across, they were varied and tied in well with the action going on in the park- there were some extremely fun physical elements which made everyone feel like they were in an action movie! 😊We were rushed from room to room, admiring set after set, and watching the story progress, and even coming face to face with some escaped Dinos!! 😬

Love the attention to detail, check the number plate! (Photo courtesy of the Panic Room)

Bonus content: Sacrifice ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

You and your friends have been kidnapped! A satanic cult has been stalking you for a while now, and you’re due to be sacrificed in just 25 minutes to the one they call Mother. That is, unless you can work together and escape the van before your time is well and truly up!

Mother is great! All praise Mother!

It was about 8pm that we finished Dino Land, and the escape room adrenaline rush was so real! We pulled in Ash’s uncle and brother to play another game with us, as we weren’t quite done with The Panic Room just yet…Luckily, we managed to squeeze into Sacrifice (is it lucky to be kidnapped…?) to try our hand at one of the shorter games offered by The Panic Room.

We’ve never played an escape room in a van before, but this was really fun! We were on it for puzzling, we must have been energised from our time in Dino Land, as we managed to escape in a super quick time of around ~10 minutes! Obviously there are less puzzles on offer, so this wasn’t too bad, we still felt like we had worked for our win. This concept seems like a great idea for hosting escape rooms on a more fluid basis, at festivals or events. We would definitely try another!

The blurriest of photos.. I feel like you can tell it was nearly 10pm! Courtesy of the Panic Room

Other games available: there are SO many. Too many to list…head to the website to see the lowdown! 

There’s our rundown of what we have experienced (so far) of the escape rooms that Kent has to offer. There is literally TOO MUCH to choose from. We love our trips here and the variety of rooms that we can easily access. If anyone is taking a staycation this year – Margate would be an excellent choice! Let us know what other games there are to play in Kent…we are always on the look out for more!

Cryptology: The Complete Guide

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Cryptology goes beyond just an escape room, this is an immersive experience. Search for secrets, discover clues and hints, then solve puzzles to reach the unique goal. Every game at Cryptology is different with tailor-made themes and bespoke challenges. With fantastic game flow, handcrafted set design, and unique puzzles – their games are admired by enthusiasts, gamers, families, and friends alike. Their games are immersive and rewarding and they pride themselves on great customer service and banter too.

Why Cryptology?

We at Escaping the Closet are HUGE fans of the Cryptology Rooms, and can proudly say that we have played all of their rooms across both locations as well as previous rooms that are now decommissioned (boo 😭 ). Cryptology rooms combine unique themes, innovative puzzles and exciting use of technology to provide some of our favourite escape experiences we have come across among all of the hundreds that we’ve played!

As we have so much to say about Cryptology, we thought it would be best to bundle it all into one big review to showcase just how amazing Cryptology is and why, if you haven’t already, you should check them out for what we can guarantee to be a brilliantly immersive escape experience!

So…we thought long and hard about how best to do Cryptology justice when writing this (almost felt like a puzzle in itself!! – can we collect dream keys for this?). We decided that we just have to tell you about the highlights from each and every room of theirs to date- we can promise that there is something in there to suit everyone’s preferences!

Overall

In their own words…”Before the boom of escape rooms across the country, Cryptology opened in Nottingham city centre in July of 2015. It was conceived after playing mediocre escape games across the country and recognising a niche in being able to stand out.”

Cryptology currently has two branches open: their flagship in Nottingham, and one very conveniently in our hometown of Sheffield. They previously also had a branch in Barnsley, which is unfortunately now closed (think that’s more to do with Barnsley not exactly being a hub for escape rooms than anything else…), but LUCKILY we managed to pop over to Barnsley and play both the rooms which were on offer before it closed.

Mark and Simon, the owners of Cryptology, are just the kind of people you want to be creating escape rooms- enthusiastic, imaginative, creative and also practical. You can tell from their rooms and all the clever tech that they know what they’re doing! They are also a lot of fun (we have had some very funny moments in all the games they have run for us) and have a team around them that reflect their own values and enthusiasm for good escape rooms, meaning that the calibre of the experience is equally high every visit!

So onto the main attraction- the rooms!!!! We are going to break this down by location, and then the order in which we played the rooms.

Sheffield

Our first experience of Cryptology was in Sheffield when we got super excited to hear that a new escape room brand was just opening right in the middle of West Street! (5 mins walk from uni?! Incredible! Let’s get booked in IMMEDIATELY!!!!).  And boy are we pleased to have such a brilliant brand of escapes right on our doorstep!

First Contact

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The game that introduced us to Cryptology- and what a game it was! We played this with our friends and regular escape companions, Tasha and Rach, and all four of us LOVED it! There was simply so much to do! In this game, you are tasked with boarding the TRSS Caelus to find out what happened to the crew of the spaceship orbiting Mars whose communication has ceased…

What Cryptology does brilliantly is immersion, which you’ll soon see as a common theme from all of the games. In this case you really do leave Earth, truly feeling like you are on board a spaceship. The set, tech and lighting all contribute towards this, offering a vibe that fits somewhere between Dr Who and Red Dwarf! Of course this room is super high tech. It’s amazing how well the space is used, and how all the puzzles make sense with the theme and storyline, which of course is the best way to make a game totally immersive!

Now for our favourite aspect- the timer and clue system is so perfectly integrated into the room (part of the crew, part of the ship…. I know that’s a pirate ship reference rather than a spaceship reference, but it kinda works here…). The timer countdown is completely congruous and the clue system is so interactive, you can fully have a conversation with your game master through the ship’s computer, adding to the fun! When you reach a certain point in the mission, you are faced with a choice- this enables three different final puzzle sequences of varying difficulty. We’d recommend making your choice based on the time you have left on the clock, as this enables a satisfying ending for most teams to be able to complete the game at an appropriate difficulty level. We opted for the most challenging ending and, thankfully, managed to complete the full mission and make first contact (YAY!)

We thought this was such a good game to showcase the fun of an escape room that Ash even replayed it! She chose this as the room to take a group of escape newbie friends to when they came to visit! (Don’t worry, there was no cheating to snatch a new record time- Ash held back on solving anything, leaving that to her pals so they could get the full enjoyment and take the full time!) One of the great things about this room was the sheer volume to get done, as well as the decision making aspect leading to a multi-choice ending, meaning that Ash had a chance to focus on different puzzles than the first time around when she played!

The Mysterious Case of Hugh Dunnitt

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This was a room we were eagerly awaiting the opening of- after playing First Contact and gushing about how much we had enjoyed it, Simon told us about the plans for Sheffield’s second room, Hugh Dunnitt. So it was on our list before it had even been built, and we got in to play it within a few weeks of its opening! Suffice to say that it did not disappoint, and offered more of the brilliance we had become accustomed to from Cryptology’s rooms.

A murder mystery with a fabulous twist, this room offers a great mix of puzzle solving and ‘things to do’. The storyline is a big part of the room and unfolds as you progress through, so you know more at the end than the mystery you start off with.

This is a really fun room with the ‘things to do’ element of the room meaning everyone can get really stuck in and feel properly involved. The clue system, as with Cryptology’s other rooms, is interactive and funny, and perfectly designed to fit in with the room’s story and theme, making it a thoroughly immersive experience. Additionally, as you progress through the room the pressure ramps up to encourage you to get everything solved in time. This is cleverly done and Hugh Dunnitt is a really enjoyable and commendable room!

We managed to escape in time, and set the fastest escape time at the time (we know we played shortly after it’s grand opening so it may well have been beaten several times over by now!) 

Side note- we recommended this room to a couple of different escape newbie friends of ours in Sheffield and both groups managed to escape in time, thoroughly enjoyed their experience and already want to do more escape rooms, so success all round- and let the addiction commence!😉

Welcome to your Afterlife

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Afterlife is a room which was originally run by X-it games, based in Shipley, and we had been meaning to venture up there…then COVID happened of course, scuppering our plans! However, during the lockdowns Cryptology announced the exciting news that they would be opening Afterlife right here on our doorstep in Sheffield! Opportunity knocked, and of course what could we do but get ourselves booked in for as soon as we possibly could upon its opening?! (but you’ve just spent the past however many months being locked in and the first thing you want to post-lockdown is lock yourself in somewhere?! HELL (and purgatory and heaven) YES!) Our lovely friend and regular escaping companion, Tasha, kindly treated us to play Afterlife as a joint birthday present, and boy was it a great way to celebrate our birthdays!

As a mortal, to enter your afterlife, you must first die. How you die is your choice but all must enter through the void of transcendence. Only the brave will follow the light, crawl out of the grave and go to hell and back. Logical thinking and teamwork is what you need to ensure that when your hour is up your name is found in the Book of Life.

In Afterlife, a brilliant journey through purgatory, hell and then heaven has been created, and the set is completely immersive; through the amazing decor you are authentically transported to each setting; each being completely different in style, surroundings and the overall vibes.

Starting as it means to go on is a unique setup to throw you straight into the confusion that is the Afterlife. Led into the Afterlife by the Grim Reaper herself, and greeted by a creepy companion advising you of what has happened once locked into the otherworldly realms that come with death, you have to listen carefully in order to move on and find out what happens next…

Purgatory sets you up with a multi-faceted puzzle, combining elements from all around the room in order to successfully get ourselves out of purgatory. You have to combine riddles, logic, physical and mathematical puzzles in order to find the solutions needed to escape purgatory… just watch out for those red herrings(!)

Unfortunately, escaping purgatory leads you straight into the pits of hell! And the puzzles in this section seemed to almost be tailored to our own personal escape room hell- SEARCHING! However, we managed to overcome the puzzles in spite of our demons and successfully solved the spooky puzzles. We did end up brute forcing one part of a puzzle, through the process of elimination, when our searching skills failed us. But we got there which was a relief, since after hell comes heaven!

YES! But, before you can enter and sign your name in the Book of Life, it turns out you’ve been locked out of heaven and have to prove your worth by showing off your puzzling escape room skills! We did have a moment of hesitation here, unsure whether we were cut out to be angels when we couldn’t manage to unlock the pearly gates, but fortunately we figured it out and managed to get our hands on the coveted Book of Life, and proudly sign Escaping the Closet’s name where it belongs!

Afterlife was brilliantly atmospheric and a triumphant return to Cryptology Sheffield. We managed to successfully make it out with 25 mins to spare (Our lovely host, Robyn, told us that this was the record so far, which we were pretty chuffed with!) We’re pleased that we weren’t left to wander the Afterlife for all eternity…plenty more time for plenty more escapes YAY!!

Nottingham

Nottingham is only about an hour’s journey from where we live in Sheffield, and makes for a great day out as it’s filled with great food places (a big + for us, shout-out to the Pudding Pantry), and loads of escape room opportunities! It’s therefore one of our favourite go-to day trip spots! We’ve done all their rooms here, and had a blast every time.

Dreamscape

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

After loving their Sheffield and Barnsley (😢) rooms, we decided to pay a visit to Cryptology Nottingham and were highly looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.

Our host, Sam, met us at the door, dressed suitably for a slumber…we were introduced to the game, told to expect a very fast-paced and frantic experience, especially with only two of us, to manage the mammoth task of collecting up to 20 dream keys across 5 dream rooms!!

The rooms were incredible – Dreamscape plays out like an escape room fan’s actual dream, with a huge volume of puzzles, all focussing on different strengths, and a great flow between each of the dreams! Each dream was so different from the previous and the types of puzzles in each room were SO cleverly tied into the feel of the dream you find yourself in. We spent most of the game working separately to try and tackle the volume of puzzles we were faced with – but we did come together a few times for some particularly tricky bits! We tried to separate according to our strengths (but in hindsight it was probably whoever got to the puzzle first! 😅). 

There are also some more overarching puzzles that come together for the end of the experience to make your final escape – we loved the finale and were really impressed with how Cryptology brought everything together for a cohesive and satisfying finish. Overall, a jam-packed experience, with no quiet moments and the most puzzles we have EVER seen! The theme itself and the gameplay was completely original and unique, we would highly recommend making the journey to play. Sam was also a lovely game master, who did a great job of making the experience immersive from start to finish!

We were also super pleased to get the fastest duo time of 52:20 and 15 dream keys! This was our first ever 5⭐️ rated room and Ash reckons this is her favourite room EVER! 😁

Cypherdyne v1.5

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You and your team have been selected to take part in a legendary Cypherdyne interview. A challenging and disarming hour-long interview that is rumoured to not just separate the wheat from the chaff but discard the chaff entirely. Unsure what to expect, the promise of a great job in this dire economy is enough for you to face whatever escape challenge the CEO has set for you. Your career may be unlocked and explode with opportunity!

A brilliant birthday present from Al to Ash was a Cryptology voucher and when the opportunity finally arose for us to be able to return to escaping, we booked in a mammoth escape-a-thon to play out the remaining Cryptology rooms we had; Cypherdyne, Rameseize and Daylight Robbery. We thought Daylight Robbery would be the showstopper so saved that for last, and dove straight in with Cypherdyne v1.5. After all, what would you rather be doing on a day off from work than a job interview?!

Cypherdyne’s interview felt like what those ‘think outside the box’ questions Oxbridge candidates get challenged with in their interview processes… there was no obvious interview task, that was for us as the candidates to figure out as part of the process. We had to crack security codes, find hidden doorways and mess with the computer hardwiring to stand a chance of being hired by Cypherdyne.Thankfully we had our heads screwed on and managed this all!

Although the room starts off appearing rather innocuous, there are the usual high-tech touches  that Mark and Simon are so great at including in their rooms, which enable their puzzles to stand out from other escape rooms we’ve played. Although this is not our favourite Cryptology room, it is still commendable and well worth playing when you pay Cryptology a visit! Overall we’d give Cypherdyne v1.5 a 3.5/5 rating.

Rameseize

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Next up in our Cryptology-a-thon was Rameseize, which we want to give an award to for the best name for an Egyptian themed room! As you may expect, with this room you are tasked with ransacking Rameses’ tomb to ‘seize’ three ancient relics before your rival treasure hunters catch you up and bury you alive in the tomb to claim the treasure for themselves. As usual, no pressure then hey!

Rameseize has a great variety of puzzles that are all completely in keeping with the Egpytian theme, and the immersion is top notch as always thanks to Cryptology’s high standards of decoration for their games.

There were some very cool and clever elements to this room! We were given a number of items at the start of the game to help us with the challenges ahead and liked how important these were to get us going, and keep coming back to throughout the game. Communication was key in this room, in particular for a puzzle near the end of the tomb heist! Playing as just a pair, we were very grateful of how well we work together in these kinds of situations as we needed to be on our game- Rameseize is the sort of room that can be played by large group sizes due to the size and volume of puzzles to get through in the time.

We enjoyed the challenge and liked how the tech used in this room worked to make the space feel like a booby-trapped tomb this time- even though it was very clever modern-day tech, it made us feel transported to a cursed tomb! A really fun game and although Egypt is a common escape room theme, it feels really fresh in Rameseize, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it no matter how many other Egyptian escape rooms you’ve previously played (plus you get to carry round a very cool staff!)

Daylight Robbery

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Onto the final Cryptology Nottingham room in existence (we are waiting for the scary room that we hope is to come…!), and our second heist of the day. This time, it wasn’t a cursed pyramid, but a high-security bank.

Cryptology are always great at creating a really immersive, authentic space for their rooms, but Daylight Robbery is SOMETHING ELSE! The Nottingham Cryptology HQ is in an old bank and so the brilliance of Daylight Robbery is that this bank heist takes place in an ACTUAL BANK VAULT.

Similar to Dreamscape, Daylight Robbery is a room which can cater to teams of all sizes and abilities as this is another ‘collect as much as you can’ challenge! Only this time it’s not dream keys we’re after, but as much valuable swag stowed away in the bank as possible! You can keep track of how much you have managed to get your hands on throughout the game by scanning each item before bagging it up for a quick getaway, to keep a running total value.

But before you can start nabbing other people’s valuable possessions, you have to infiltrate the bank to reach the vault. This involves a series of puzzles before negotiating the classic laser trigger alarm system- one of the most fun sections to encounter in any room and make you feel like you’re in your favourite spy film (or St Trinian’s- we won’t judge if this is your fave film using laser alarms!).

Again, as just a pair, in a room that can cater to large group sizes, we had our work cut out for us, and although we feel we made a valiant effort, there were some internal vaults we didn’t even manage to get into- testament to just how vast this game really is! The separate vaults were all thematically grouped so there was an opportunity for everyone to be able to puzzle to their strengths! These included music, logic, maths, spatial awareness, searching, physical puzzles, using technology and much more, and often the swag itself was a clue to help solve a puzzle! There was simply so much to do that even the most experienced, full-sized, team is not likely to manage to take home the FULL jackpot!

We managed to retrieve over ¾ of a million pounds, so we feel that although we aren’t the best robbers in the bank, we could make a reputable name for ourselves… then again ‘Robbing the Closet’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as ‘Escaping the Closet’, so maybe we’ll stick to our day job (we WISH escaping was our full-time day job! We can dream….!)

Mark was our host for Daylight Robbery and once we’d completed the game, he did a brilliant debrief with us, showing us how we could’ve accessed the vaults we didn’t make it into and the puzzles within this, and even showing us a really well-hidden easter egg in the room! If anyone has played Daylight Robbery and successfully found this themselves during their gameplay we would love to hear from you! He also told us about the potential plans for a future room which we are INCREDIBLY excited about and can’t wait for news on this development!

Barnsley (branch now closed)

Although the Barnsley branch is now closed and so it’s no longer possible to play these rooms, we couldn’t leave them out as both were brilliant and deserve the recognition too!

HMS Cypher

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We played this one knowing the Cryptology brand having played a few already and therefore expecting good things! We took a group of friends to join us for this one, and we were all kept really busy on board HMS Cypher!

HMS Cypher, takes you on board a WW2 battleship, and as always, you get fully immersed, feeling as if you are on deck of the ship from both the setting and the puzzles. In terms of the puzzles, think morse code, maps, co-ordinates and walkie talkies, everything makes sense that it is there. You know that you are deciphering messages being sent to the ship, following instructions to set the right course for the ship, all to keep everything ship shape.

We really enjoyed this game and while it isn’t one of their showstopper rooms, it was a lot of fun and really demonstrates the solidly good rooms we have come to expect from their brand. We’d give HMS Cypher a solid 3.5/5 and we were very sad to see it close!

Insanctuary

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Last but by no means least is Insanctuary. Although Insanctuary no longer exists, we hold it very fondly in our memories as it was such a brilliant game. In Insanctuary, you were tasked with exploring an abandoned facility to try to find out what has happened to everyone. This was a creepy theme and it was executed brilliantly; the decor was really creepy and effective, black gunk creeping through the cracks in the walls, giving the room IMMENSE Stranger Things vibes. This set Al and our teammate Rach on edge, leaving Ash to be the brave one- always the first to be pushed into a room in case anything scary jumped out at us (it didn’t!).

You had to piece the various clues together, get into all of the patients’ abandoned rooms and log into the corrupt scientists’ computer system to find out just what was going on! Turns out there was a rift between different worlds and the disappeared people had ended up being sucked into the other world. So, like no big deal… But seriously, this final room was spectacular- the decoration was so effective in creating an otherworldly sci-fi/horror vibe and although this room was not scary, it felt like the kind of room that could easily have been made terrifying if that was the intention!

We had a great time playing Insanctuary, and hope that Simon had fun hosting us; we had a lot of banter with him through the room’s clue system (which certainly gave some comic relief to scaredy cat Rach to help her through the game!). At one point, UV lighting was used and it highlighted some shoe graffiti Alice had lovingly added to Ash’s SHOES in UV security pen without her knowing! In the most escape room-y way possible, the hidden message of ‘I <3 escape rooms’ was written boldly on Ash’s trainers so Simon got to see the extent of our escape room addiction! Definitely lost any remaining street cred at that point…but we saved the world from the otherworldly portal rift, so who are the real winners, hey!

We loved this room and were very sad to hear that the Barnsley branch had closed and with it, Insanctuary! It truly is a shame that no more teams get the opportunity to play it! But it really is a commendable room and one that we will always remember fondly!

So, that’s it- all of the Cryptology rooms on offer (and then some). We have loved all of our experiences playing Cryptology’s games and we hope to see lots more of the same clever, immersive, high-tech, story driven games from them in future! We will be first in line for any and every new game they bring out, because they are one of the most reliably good brands we know! 

So what are you waiting for? Get booking your very own Crypt-athon, you won’t regret it!

You can find out more and book to play Cryptology’s games