Escapologic Leicester: Reactorvate | Review


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

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

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

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

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

Read on to find out…

WOW – Are we actually in the 1970s?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science! We’re doing SCIENCE

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

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

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


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

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

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


Diorama: The Vandermist Dossier | Review


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.


Fox in a Box: Virtual Bunker


Early 80’s, the peak of the Cold War… a nuclear launch sequence has been started by accident. The whole world is about to end. You are a team of special agents sent to find out who did it and to stop the launch at any cost. You are our last hope, and if you fail, the whole world will end.

Rating: Exciting
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Folks missing escape rooms in lockdown!

Virtual Bunker is Fox in a Box London’s adaptation of their real life escape room of the same name, minus the ‘virtual’ part of course, and they adapt the game for an online audience in a really creative way! For starters, they use both a live actor via Zoom and a digital online interface (Telescape) to collect, log and examine various areas of the room up close.

I played this experience with an absolutely awesome team comprised of Borderline Puzzler and Al & Ash from Escaping the Closet. I could not have asked for a better team… WE ACED IT! Unfortunately 35 minutes didn’t quite get us on the leaderboard, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try again at one of Fox in a Box’s real life escape rooms just as soon as lockdown is over.

The Setting

The setting for Bunker is your classic Cold War themed escape room. You (or rather, Alex, our enigmatic boots on the ground) awake in a mysterious bunker with a missile poised to launch and countdown blaring in your ears… This whole place is about to go nuclear! That’s right, you guessed it… You’ve got just 60 minutes to guide your host around the room, crack open the puzzles, unlock the locks, and stop the nuclear fallout. It’s a theme I’ve played a lot but it doesn’t make it any less exciting stepping into a room with the fate of the whole country on your hands.

Fox in a Box have also themed the room well for the setting; it’s ruggedly simple, everything you’d expect from an underground nuclear bunker. For example, there’s camo on the ceiling, and a vintage looking desk and set of phones right out of the second world war. Oh, and dotted around the room you’ll also find large crates (locked of course) and some very cool looking ammo boxes – all ready for cracking open with a code or two!

The Experience

Acting as our host in the room and Games Master we had Alex and Abdullah from the Fox in a Box team. Our mission was simple: To guide Alex around the room, directing them to examine objects and unlock things as each puzzle was solved. Every time we discovered something new, a little *pling* notification would let us know it’s available in our Telescape inventory to examine further.

One of the biggest challenges for escape rooms (in general) this lockdown is how to translate the escape room experience into Zoom. *stares outside forlornly*

With only one host and multiple participants, there’s bound to be a little bit of talking over each other. That said, I think having an online inventory system really mitigates that as it gives each participant the breathing room to look at something closer at their own pace. Which is something Fox in a Box does well! I’ve played games solely on Telescape (no host), and games with a host and no inventory system, but IMO this way works best. Whilst one party is busy asking the host to open every single possible cupboard they can find (*cough cough* me – sorry Alex!), other players can quietly take a closer look at the more important details.

Fox in a Box experiences can be booked for up to 8 participants (wow!), but we were very comfortable with just 4. Plus, as an experienced team of 4 we had almost no problem co-ordinating the host (and ourselves) to success!

The Puzzles

Personally, I found Virtual Bunker to be *slightly* on the easier side, despite it’s real life equivalent being listed as “Hard” on the website. If anything, this just means it’s extra accessible to a wide audience! Having not played the real escape room Bunker, I can’t tell how many puzzles are the same and what has been changed for a digital audience. In any case, this’d be a great one to bring your non-escape room friends to.

There’s a lot in the room you can find quite quickly, but the puzzles must be solved in a linear format with 4 distinct ‘stages’ to the room as a whole. There’s definitely a wide range to the types of puzzles we encountered in Virtual Bunker. From the (expected) Cold War style puzzles including Morse Code and vintage maps, there were also some very cool puzzles rooted in technology – can you get the wiring right and adjust the dials to the correct settings? Frequently we were looking for a 3 or 4 digit code to unlock a lock – which felt totally natural in the environment (and hey, I know lock puzzles are going out of fashion but I still really love them, sue me!). In particular, I really enjoyed the visual puzzles anything where a *cough* different light reveals something… As you can tell, trying not to give away any spoilers here – but there’s easily enough of a mix of puzzles I could talk for several more paragraphs!

So at risk of giving way too much detail, I’ll round off the review by talking about whether we enjoyed it? OF COURSE WE DID. I was a little nervous about playing with strangers – only to join the call and realise they’re not strangers at all! Escape room gals gotta stick together *barf I can’t believe I just said that*.

An extra shout out to our two hosts, Abdullah and Alex who both set the scene wonderfully from the first briefing to our every interaction in the room. It’s that special touch from the games masters, and playing with a great team that makes an experience a good one, so if you’re reading this review and thinking about booking this game – do it! But bring your A Team with you when you do!

Virtual Bunker can be booked for £80 – £140 per team, depending on number of players by heading to Fox in a Box’s website here. You can also book their real life game at the London branch here.

Russ Builds: Endgame

Step back in time to 1991, the Cold War is coming to a close and peace spreads across Europe … But will a deadly plot bring about World War Three, or will you be able to stop the missile launch in time?

Rating: Charming
Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: 14th August 2020
Party Size: 2

How to talk about Endgame? It was … So much fun! I should probably admit that this is actually the first escape room in the “remote” category I’ve played. I’m a little awkward on camera and I’ve never managed to get either of my escape room teams together at the same time to play one of these. But, we were pleasantly surprised! The concept is simple, you take control of an avatar who performs the actions for you. I’m sold.

Furthermore, this setup fit perfectly with the theme. Cold War, spies, stopping a missile launch. There’s absolutely no reason this experience WOULDN’T happen this way, sitting in a war room in our little flat in London, trying to disable a detonation before it causes World War Three. I believe it!

It’s also just really creative and obviously built with love! Endgame is the second ‘built at home’ escape room designer Russell Tolley has created. Russ introduced himself to me as an amateur, but honestly having played the game it’s easily better than a lot of ‘professional’ escape rooms out there. Amateur or not, this room (and the designer) is worth investing your time and energy into!

In particular, there’s one piece of tech in Endgame I found very impressive! I don’t wish to spoil the puzzle at all, so lets just say it involves chess and a hidden mechanism.

In terms of gameplay, you join a Zoom call and the scene is set. Before you on the table are three contraptions, there’s a chess board, a locked briefcase, and a large red button (locked, of course!). The game progresses through a series of padlocks. There’s number locks, word locks, those twisty dial locks (which in the moment, I completely forgot how to use!). The only type of lock that isn’t in this game are ones involving keys, which makes sense! To help you out, you have access to a dossier of information. Think maps, old newspaper clippings, coded messages, and more … Very Cold War!

If this sounds up your street, playing Endgame is completely free! Donations are absolutely encouraged though (, with all the money going towards supporting escape room #3 which is in the works. At the time of writing, to book you need to get in contact with Russ directly (email and link below).

Endgame can be booked by email ( or by contacting Russ on Instagram @russbuilds