Hackers: The Tomb of the Wandering King | Review

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The Tomb of the Wandering King Review | The find of the century has been uncovered in the depths of Yorkshire – The Tomb of The Wandering King, a mysterious figure, lost to history. But the archaeological team have been silent for weeks. You arrive to find a dig site, long abandoned, and the mouth of the Tomb ajar and aglow. Who – or what – is this Wandering King? And what secrets lie beneath the soil?

Date Played: 8th May 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: ~1 Hour
Difficulty: Medium

Escape rooms and crazy golf... Not something I’d usually pair together, but after seeing how excellently Hackers has accomplished it, a trend I hope to see more of across the country. Add into the mix a well stocked bar and a fantastically enthusiastic bar-tender who was a dab hand at whipping up martinis for us, and you have a brilliant mix, truly putting Billericay on the map as a destination for a thoroughly fun day out.

On one such beautiful sunny Sunday, myself, Karen, Nick, and Nick’s kid arranged to travel in from our respective corners of ‘The South’ to take on not one but two brand new escape rooms. Not just any old escape room either… Two new creations by Time Run and Spectre and Vox alumnus Nick Moran – what a treat!

For many reasons *gestures vaguely*, this will be a difficult escape room to review, as it’s hard not to reveal too much about the game. But trust me when I say, this is a room you want to go into with absolutely no expectations. Expect the unexpected. Expect “ooohs” and “aaahs“. Expect to have your heart strings tugged at. Expect difficult decisions. Above all, remember that this escape room is all about the journey and not the destination and my God, what a journey.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

About The Tomb of the Wandering King

The name of this escape room evokes such strong imagery in my mind… Something between PB Shelley’s Ozymandias poem, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In both cases we, as the audience, are asked the question:

Who, or What is the Wandering King?

This escape room challenges players to find out exactly that. In this way, it’s not your classic “you’re locked in a room and you have 60 minutes to escape.” Actually, quite the opposite. We were never verbally given a time limit and, although we took around an hour to complete it, I didn’t get the sensation of time pressure at any moment at all. We were merely there to investigate and to see where the tides of our investigation might take us.

In this way the focus throughout the experience was less on the puzzles (more about those later) and more on the journey of being there and experiencing the story. The puzzles merely served as triggers to advance the story and uncover new rooms as we ventured along. The strangest thing? I didn’t even mind. Within minutes I was 100% there for the story.

That story! The character development! Ugh, give me more!

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

I met a traveller from an antique land

The story begins with you, an intrepid team sent to investigate an archaeological dig that has gone unusually quiet. Your mysterious benefactor has a financial interest in the dig, but doesn’t mind if you (or the archaeologists) study what they’ve found first. So long as the profit goes straight to him.

You arrive in the first room to an abandoned dig site. Initially it looked like something out of a vintage ‘camp forest’, complete with it’s log cabin, radio dials on the walls, and soft wood chip flooring. How… Curious! We were alone, yes, but a series of video and audio recordings left behind by one of the archaeologists kindly provided us expositional material and got us started on the journey. Having that anchor to a character along the journey was very helpful, and she was all parts charismatic, determined and brave.

Our mission was simple – retrace the archaeologist’s steps and uncover what she was digging up. You probably know the drill: a mysterious (and very well decorated) tomb entrance with an ancient and cryptic mechanic to get inside it. But here, unfortunately dear readers, is as far as I can go into describing what happens.

You’ll thank me later for not explaining any further, even though I’m dying to.

But what follows is an hour (or more) of following our fearless archaeologists steps, finally making contact, and doing some things that shake the foundations of what we know about, well, *gestures vaguely* all of this. If I weren’t with company, I’d probably have cried a little at the ending.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay…

In terms of puzzles, individually they were probably the weakest part of the escape room experience. But even take this with a pinch of salt, the real reason I think you should visit this room isn’t for ‘excellent’ puzzles, it’s for pure atmosphere and story. But since this is The Escape Roomer, we’ve gotta mention them.

In our session, our Games Master kindly let us know that there was one puzzle that wasn’t working correctly so they were going to provide a manual override on it. If we hadn’t been told, I don’t think I would have noticed as it was very easy to bypass, but it was nice of her to let us know.

Of those puzzles that were working, we found this room to be a very high tech room. A lot of screens, buttons, and fancy wiring in the back-end. Not a single lock and key in sight. Okay, well maybe just one. But as a whole this is a high tech room. I’m always a little questioning of very high tech rooms as they tend to be the first to break (our own breakage not withstanding), but since we’re one of the first teams to play it I’m not in a position to judge how they’ll hold up long term.

High tech or not, every single puzzle we encountered worked very well within the environment. Nothing immersion breaking, and some really brilliant moments of mimetic puzzle design that were a delight to play.

There were a few puzzles that were definitely open to interpretation, and there were a few more that were needlessly finnicky. At a point sometimes finnicky puzzles are more about luck than about skill, but we got there in the end after much huffing. There were a few ‘sound’ puzzles which didn’t gel well with us as a team – we’re all completely tone deaf and found these to be more frustrating than anything else. Finally, there were a few puzzles that were quite similar to one another in functionality.

Again, take this with a pinch of salt. If you’re like me and viewed the puzzles more as a mechanic to further the story – then you’ll be fine. But it’s worth mentioning as besides a few standout fun ones, we didn’t enjoy the puzzles as much as we might have done.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

…Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare…

…And right back to the positives. Starting with the decor. The decor was *dramatic chefs kiss* beautiful.

I genuinely felt like it might be the most pretty and awe inspiring room I’d ever experienced. At least until we stepped into Blood Over Baker Street the next room we had booked at Hackers.

The space was huge and no expense spared to make it look, feel and smell realistic. Every detail perfectly encapsulated the theme of the environment and it was a joy to just physically be there. Can Nick and his team please come round and convert my apartment into a super realistic fantasy world? Please and thank you.

 

Team Escape Roomer!

 

…The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Sometimes on The Escape Roomer, and in life in general, I like to describe escape rooms as like films. Only you play the main character. Thriller, horror, magical? It’s always about you and your quest. 90% of the time it’s an accurate description. But after playing Tomb of the Wandering King with it’s intense level of immersivity I’m going to rethink how liberally I give that description to other escape rooms. Few can hold a candle to the level of storytelling and immersivity in this game. It’s like something else entirely.

If my tone of voice and general gushing weren’t obvious, I cannot recommend Tomb of the Wandering King highly enough. It ticked so many boxes for me personally and I am a big fan. For sure, I think the puzzles brought the overall rating down from a 5 to 4, and if you’re an enthusiast who looks for excellent puzzle design before making a trip then perhaps book yourself into Blood over Baker Street instead. But for me? Tomb of the Wandering King is well worth the trip and goes down in my personal hall of fame.

For this, and many other reasons, I’ve decided to award this escape room the “I Believe” badge, awarded to experiences that had us immersed from start to finish.

In terms of accessibility there were some cramped spaces, low lighting conditions, crawl spaces, objects placed quite high up in various rooms, and sound-based puzzles. For those reasons it’s not the most accessible in the world. That said I’d recommend reaching out to Hackers about your specific accessibility needs if that’s a concern.

In terms of recommendation – we had a young lad (Nick’s son) with us. Whilst I’d love to say it’s a great room for kids, being on the longer and more narrative side it is hard to capture a kid’s attention for that long. It’s also fairly scary with some real moments of threat. So I’ll leave that at individual adults’ discretion, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than say, 14.

 

The Tomb of the Wandering King can be booked by heading to Hackers’ website here.

Escape Plan: Battle For Britain | Review

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Escape Plan Battle for Britain Review | The day is 18th August 1940 and the Luftwaffe have launched a resurgent attack on Britain, where your air base has been hit by the first wave of heavy bombing. As the only survivors, you must access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain. But with a second attack imminent, can you also save yourselves?

Date Played: April 2022
Time Taken: 34 mins 55 secs

Planes shot down: 70 out of 71
Number of Players: 5
Difficulty: Medium

Whenever that age-old question “What’s the best escape room in London” comes up in ER enthusiast forums, there are a few company names you can guarantee will feature in the answers. Escape Plan is one of them. Currently housed in the Rich Mix arts complex in Shoreditch, Escape Plan have been on the London scene since at least 2015. And their reputation as one of the best in London is well deserved based on their consistent theming, the attention to detail and the sheer number of puzzles their rooms contained.  You can tell from the moment you enter their basement space that people at Escape Plan love what they do.

 

I’d played both of Escape Plans other games, The Adventure Begins and Roll Out the Barrel (which has been hanging onto my top game spot for a while now) previously so it was with a lot of excited anticipation that I arrived with my team of fellow ER nerds to take on Battle for Britain.  Only recently reopened in Shoreditch, the game is already the rave of the ER scene, with glowing reviews and promises of an extraordinary and nail-biting finale.  So with expectation piled up on top of my anticipation could it possibly live up to the hype?

 

Top Secret Mission Briefing 

All of Escape Plan’s games are set during or shortly after World War II and the narrative for Battle for Britain takes place on one very specific date, 18th August 1940.  The Battle of Britain has been raging for a month and on this date, known as ‘the Hardest Day’, the German Luftwaffe made an all out effort to completely destroy Britain’s Fighter Command.  With that historic backdrop, the game makes you members of the RAF and the only survivors of a bombing raid on your airbase.  Under continuing enemy fire your first task is to gain access to the strategic ops room.  Once inside you must then take control of the full force of all available RAF squadrons and push the German planes back out of British airspace.  Your final aim is not to escape, but to shoot down as many aircraft as you can before your time runs out.  It is this last angle that makes Battle for Britain stand out as different to most trad ERs.  You are told from the very start that your goal is not to escape from the room in under 60 mins but to bring down as many of the German planes as possible.  The maximum it is possible to shoot down is 71 – the real number of German losses inflicted on that day in August 1940.

 

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

The game is effectively in two parts, although they aren’t equal in complexity or time needed.  The first part is closer in style to a ‘normal’ ER in that involves solving several puzzles that will allow you to open the door to the strategic ops room.  Escape Plan love a good meaty, physical prop repurposed into a puzzle and this room has you tackling challenges involving bikes, barrels and road signs.  Logic, spatial awareness and code breaking all come into play in this room and every puzzle is substantial and satisfying.

So far so linear.  But once you’re in the Ops room the game becomes much less of a straight line from one puzzle to the next and it’s very easy to split up and figure out several puzzles at the same time.  As in Escape Plan’s other games, the physical puzzles are a real joy.  The set design and build are probably the best in London (IMHO) with the clear love for both puzzles and crafting evident in the high quality, hand built nature of the props.  Why buy in an everyday padlock when you can build your own miniature puzzle boxes?  And as with the first room, there are lots of period props and objects that have been converted into puzzles, some of which are beautifully novel and unlike anything I’ve seen in other ERs.

The puzzles aren’t just beautiful, they are myriad.  There is a lot to do in this second room, with each individual puzzle helping you towards the meta puzzle that is the game’s climax.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  The sheer number of puzzles means that even a big team can split up and work on separate elements, feeding their results back into the bigger picture of the final puzzle.  But it does also mean that you can feel like you’ve only played a fraction of the room.  My team of 5 ER regulars and enthusiasts all left saying that we felt we’d only seen a small proportion of the puzzles.  What we had solved was very satisfying but we felt we’d missed out on quite a lot.  That, however, is the fault of our decision to put five puzzle-addict, ER geeks in the same room at the same time, not a fault of the game itself.

Once the individual puzzles are solved, you are ready to complete the final challenge.  I won’t give away details as part of the joy of the game is the discovery of how the climax happens.  But it is a nail-biting, nerve-jingling conclusion to the game that will make even the most cynical player feel patriotic and proud to have served in RAF colours.  It is inevitable that whoever plays, there will be cheering.


Our Verdict

While Roll Out the Barrel still remains my favourite of their games, Battle for Britain is another string in Escape Plan’s ‘one of the best ERs in London’ bow.  It has all the same loving attention to detail, hand crafted props and vast range of puzzle styles and challenges that have made their other games so popular.  The slight twist on a traditional ER structure makes for an interesting change to the norm, while there’s also enough satisfying individual puzzles to keep even the most experienced of players entertained.  To make the most of the room, I’d advise any ER enthusiasts to play with a max of 2-3 people so you get to see and play as many of the puzzles as possible, while for less experienced players, around 4-6 would make it easier to get everything done.  And as a final piece of advice from a team that managed to shoot down 70 of the 71 planes – double check your workings before committing to the final challenge or that last Luftwaffe bomber might just escape to raid another day.

Battle for Britain can be booked by heading to Escape Plan’s website here.

The Panic Room: Old Father Time | Review

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Old Father Time Review | It’s New Year’s Eve and Old Father Time – The master of the most powerful force of nature – has gone missing! Without him, the clocks won’t reset at midnight and the sands of time will run out – permanently!

The effects have already started – the forest creatures have started turning to stone, and in 60 minutes, the waves of time will cease to ripple and the rest of the world will follow suit! Start a new chapter and work together to explore a beautiful tree cabin straight from the pages of a fantasy novel to discover the secrets inside. A mystical fairy tale escape room awaits where time is more important than ever!

Date/Month Played: March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Completed: 56 Minutes 40 Seconds
Difficultly: Easy/Medium

 

First Impressions?! Wow!

Ok, as ever, lets kick off with that initial gasp of excitement as you walk through that first door – it really was one of them moments! The scenery in here is nothing short of phenomenal. Having read a few reviews about this room before, I knew we were in for something pretty special; and we really were!

Hearing comment of “Disney-like”, I felt that it maybe wouldn’t have stood up to that moniker, but the two of us just took a big intake of breath and soaked it all in. You really could be in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. The attention to detail is expertly done, with every little and cranny tastefully done.

Given a few complexities in the way the game play works, our fantastic GM Myles accompanied us into the room and gave us a few pointers as to things that we needed to be aware of. With in-room briefings the temptation is to start looking all around, however Myles was brilliantly attentive and kept us engaged – even with my very excitable and easily distracted 11 year old trying his best to get a head start in the game!

Following Myles’ briefing, the chimes of the grandfather clock ringing in our ears, we set to work on this beautiful room.

 

So, What’s the Story?!

Old Father Time has gone missing, and with it nature is slowly but surely disappearing. Our task was to try and locate, well, err –  time! This really was something straight out of an animated movie – I could definitely see this story on the big screen! The story really fits well with the remit of having a proper family-feel room. Simple to understand, beautifully narrated (more on than in a mo), and visually stunning. Big box ticked for us here!

Notice the references to “chapter”, “novel” and “fairy tale” in the introduction from the guys at The Panic Room? There’s a massive hint as to how this room unfolds! The whole experience revolves around a beautifully crafted book, which pulls the room together really well. It gives a great central focus to the narrative, especially important given the sheer amount of distractions in this room!

 

Perfectly Pitched Puzzles

Tangible puzzles is the name of the game here. Think lots of things to pick up and move. Lots of cute physical games, observational bits and a quirky audio puzzle which, despite being very musical myself, sent my head on a swivel and made me a little coo-coo!

It really is a room where there is a lot of movement and that plays into the surroundings really well. There aren’t long, drawn-out wordplay or mathematical games here. Short, sharp and snappy ones, which keep the gameplay flowing really well.

The target audience would certainly appreciate this approach – there’s nothing worse then just head scratching for an hour and not feeling the excitement of that clock ticking down, and those fantastic ah-ha moment!

Yep, there are quite a number of puzzles in this game, and when all was said and done, I don’t think I’d like to be the GM resetting this game! As well as a great number of tangible games, there are a few padlocks in here too. But, don’t just think basic key locks here – you have to appreciate quite how stunning this hardware is! No basic, Poundland locks here! Ill say no more, but they need to be seen to be believed. I was also introduced to a new type of lock here! Its a rarity to come across a different type of lock given the amount of rooms we’ve played, but it certainly grabbed my attention during the briefing!

 

Stumped?! Never fear, Stumpy is here!

I’ll be honest, I really thought that this would be the first room to defeat my 100% success rate – not because of the difficulty, but given that it was just me and my son. You may have seen in previous reviews that he is a bit of a superstar when it comes to logical puzzles, but this is the first room that we’ve played together as a 2!

I’m never one to be too clue-happy and will try everything before giving in, but here I dropped the guard a little bit and let my son be the one asking for clues! To be fair, he is as stubborn as me, but did wander over to our clue system, (named Stumpy!) on a few occasions. Clues appear on a screen and were beautifully subtle. They gave just enough hint without giving us the answer. Myles had also acknowledged on one occasion where we had gotten a little confused and got us back on track with a little nudge in the right direction.

 

Those A-HA Moment!

Something which needs a special mention, and as a general rule for all rooms we have played at The Panic Room, is those A-ha moment! By that I mean, something that the designers do really well, is actually have a very obvious effect when you have completed a puzzle. For example, you punch in a specific code and a door opens – but here the door REALLY opens, or you get an audio queue showing that you have been successful. I really hate moments in rooms when you know you have been successful in completing something but then you cant find what effect that this has had elsewhere. This room was fantastic in being able to have a strong cause and effect approach.

 

The Verdict

You mean, the glowing review above still has you asking if we liked this room?! Of course we did. Its a cracking combination of outstanding scenery, some great innovate puzzles, brilliant immersion and something which stimulates the senses from beginning to end. Be it grown up, kid, experienced or novice, you really can’t go far wrong with this!

 

Fancy saving time yourself?! Click the link and book Old Father Time at The Panic Room now!…Old Father Time – The Panic Room Gravesend

Pressure Point: The Moonlit Wild | Review

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The Moonlight Wild Review | An ancient story is known that the god of wealth, Eltari, once hid a valuable treasure deep in the jungle. Eltari hid the treasure to protect human kind from the greed, hatred and self indulgence that will be consumed upon possession of this magical artefact. The story goes that those who possess this treasure will be given limitless wealth for eternity. Many explorers have attempted to seize this treasure but no-one has ever been able to solve Eltari’s mythological puzzles that pave the way to the infinite magic that he created.

Do you and your team believe you have what is necessary to take on a god? 

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken: 45 Mins 19 Secs
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

How often do you really get that wow factor from walking into a room? I mean honestly?!

The Moonlit Wild was one of the few escape rooms which really took my breath away! Here’s a summary of why…

 

Outstanding Set Design!

Without doubt, The Moonlit Wild is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing rooms I’ve ever played. The scenery really is that good. I’ve always had concerns over how authentic an escape room can really be when its meant to look like the great outdoors; but this really did tick the box…

Think deep dark forest, leaves, bark covered floors, perfectly set lighting. It is a certain ‘pinch yourself’ type room, where the creativity around the set demonstrates what is sure to be a fantastic room.

As the game evolves, the setting continues to grow more and more impressive, with trees, wildlife, water and so much more; I would question anyone who said that they weren’t blown away by it.

Immersion continues to be the name of the game with this room as (no pun intended) the whole scene is lit beautifully, which provides just an appropriate amount of light. Not too dark to actually read anything but also dim enough to make for a really well done atmospheric adventure.

Finally, the subtle soundtrack. What can I say? This really is a feast for the senses.

For this reason we’ve chosen to award the room our special “Diamond Badge

 

The Moonlit Wild Brings Out My Inner Child!

Of course, we then have the main feature of every escape room; the puzzles. Our team all agreed that the puzzles in this room are really well put together and sit within the theme really well. As opposed to the more obvious “here is a puzzle” stance taken in their other room Murder on the Dancefloor, here we find much more subtle puzzles that are really well disguised, so your search senses are really needed in this room. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Look high and low on this one – there really are puzzles everywhere. So try and question everything you see, and hear! Sure, there are a handful of more blatant games in this room but one of the huge positives is how they have thought long and hard about how the games integrate within the environment.

There are also a huge amount of puzzles within this room – its easy to sit back and think you are progressing at quite a pace in this room, however do not be fooled. The gameplay keeps you on your toes and you’ll find yourself doing both solo and team puzzles galore, so its a wise idea to keep communicating; there are some moments where communication is literally everything, so keep your wits about you!

Expect a real mix of puzzles here too – there’s nothing too physical, generally there is quite a lot of observational based bits going on here, which I personally adore. There a handful of lock bits, but predominately expect very well delivered puzzles, where the electronics have been superbly hidden so the game just flows without any “what the hell do I do now” moments.

In terms of difficultly, I would suggest that this is slightly harder than the Murder on the Dancefloor game, however still has the same level of accessibility – whereby anyone could really pick it up and enjoy a fantastic game.

 

A Game Which Flows as Beautifully as a Freshwater Stream!

Where this game excels over many others is the way in which the game flows. There is always something to do, always something to look at, and there aren’t any real “sticky” moments where things grind to a halt based on someone’s experience or understanding – this is also where having a strong games master came into play.

For this game, Vicky was our games master and she really was a delight. Having done a very thorough and engaging intro to the room (in a very cool looking Moonlit Wild briefing room), she also presented us with clues at just the right time. Clues were always subtle, didn’t give too much away, but often guided us to a potential location within the room where we might have missed something in the beautiful scenery.

As a really amazing side note, showing quite how engaged she was with our game, when we finished playing, she had discussed quite how impressed she was with my son and how good is appeared to be at rooms – so much so that she had written down all the puzzles he had completed himself within this game and listed them off to him – both a proud dad moment, and a smile through gritted jealous teeth from me!

 

What’s the Story?!

Now this might sound really odd, as normally I’m a sucker for having a really strong storyline within a game; but here the storyline really didn’t make that much odds to me. From beginning to end we all appreciated that we needed to locate the hidden golden artefact within the Moonlit Wild, and Vicky had done a great job in introducing the story during our briefing.

However when faced with the outstanding scenery, wealth of puzzles and brilliant immersion, the depth of the storyline feel into insignificance as we were all having far too much fun to really worry! That’s not to take away the great level of detail and depth that has gone into producing this experience  – I think we were just having too much fun to care!

 

Our Verdict

Bloody brilliant! Nothing much more to add than that. The Moonlight Wild ia really fun room, with one of the best sets I’ve ever played in, an array of puzzles which can be accessible to all, a fully engaged GM who clearly cared about our experience and a game play which flows better than most others could dream of. Great job Pressure Point!

 

If you want to book The Moonlight Wild at Pressure Point, head to their website here.

Mission: Breakout: Underground 2099 | Review

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Underground 2099 Review | May 2027, the world was turned into a blazing hell. Nuclear weapons launched by our national leaders set all cities aflame in minutes. There were no winners, only losers. Humanity was plunged into chaos in which morality, solidarity and dignity burned. London 2099, 72 years have passed since the Great Fire; among the radioactive debris of this once-great city, rats have survived and transformed, trying to take the lead in this new disfigured world. Your mission is to thwart the plot of their leader, King Rat, hidden within the depths of the London Underground.

Date Played: 7th April 2022
Number of Player: 4
Time Taken: ~60 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium

How better to welcome a new player to The Escape Roomer team by taking on an escape room together!? No sooner than we brought the lovely Karen onboard, we all headed down to Mission: Breakout’s brand new room – Underground 2099. In this case, we were joined by two friends. On a previous visit Mairi had enviously noticed other players in the briefing room getting kitted out with very cool looking futuristic backpacks and neon green glasses, but other than that we weren’t sure what to expect.

So, without further adieu, here is Karen and Mairi to talk about the exciting new escape room, Underground 2099…

 

Team The Escape Roomer

 

Karen: If nothing else Mission: Breakout can certainly lay claim to having one of the quirkiest and most original locations for an escape room in London.   Based in an actual, real life, genuine, honest to god abandoned tube station, to play their games you must head into the underground bowels of the old South Kentish Town Station.  Trains only ran from this ghost station between 1907 and 1924 but there is still much of the old station’s infrastructure in place and built directly into their games.  Transport fans (I’m looking at Mairi here) will love it.  Those of a more claustrophobic nature might be a little less enthusiastic although I’m honestly not a lover of confined spaces and I didn’t find it a problem because it’s just so much darned fun.

 

Mairi: Yep! If anyone spotted in an earlier review for The Lost Passenger, you’ll know the thing I love the most about Mission: Breakout is the environment. An old disused train station? SIGN… ME… UP! It makes it the perfect location for an escape room like The Lost Passenger about descending into the bowels of an old train station in search of a missing person (and finding ghosts instead). But this new room, Underground 2099, has a completely different theme. It’s sci-fi with a little dash of time travel in it. But this isn’t your “mom and pop” time travel escape room, as the future that awaited us was dystopian and depressing. In other words, the dark vaulted caverns of the train station made it a perfect place to travel to.

 

Karen: Mission: Breakout’s other games definitely trade in on the historic setting – Lost Passenger tells the spooky story of a missing commuter doomed to wander the tunnels forever, while Codebreakers recalls the station’s use as an air raid shelter during World War 2.  Underground 2099 heads in totally the other direction.  To the future.  A future in which a nuclear winter has devastated most of the world and a time-travelling scientist needs help to stop a race of irradiated mega-sized mutant rats overrunning London through the tube network.  Imagine a nightmare version of ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh’.  It’s like that.  But with puzzles.

 

Photo (c) Mission: Breakout

 

Karen: Once the team have been kitted out with energy back packs which are needed to trigger the start of the game (no spoiler – your GM tells you this right from the start), it’s off to your time-travelling shuttle where, ensconced under what is obviously one of those 1960s old fashioned hair dryer hoods, your puzzling begins.  From the start the game is fairly linear with the team passing from one game space to another as puzzle solutions open doors, but in most cases there are enough elements to figure out that the team can split up to work on different puzzles simultaneously.  I say in most cases because there were a couple of points where a team member or two was left spinning their wheels while others worked on the main puzzle.  As a team of four that didn’t happen often enough to be a major annoyance, but a bigger group, especially of enthusiasts, might find it more of an issue.

 

Karen: Mission: Breakout’s use of the limited space amidst the existing tube station infrastructure is impressive.  This game takes place mostly in the old elevator shafts, with satisfyingly curvy walls, and although there are a couple of pinch points where a bigger team might find it a bit of a squeeze (or an opportunity to get to know each other better) for an underground bunker it’s surprisingly roomy and Mission:Breakout have even managed to build in some larger scale physical puzzling.

 

Mairi: I agree, in terms of space, Underground 2099 felt simultaneously a huge escape room and sometimes a very cramped space. This is due to the limitations of the physical space – taking place in the old engineering tunnels and lift shaft, the designers are limited by the physical space. But by contrast, there are a LOT of rooms to discover in this escape room. I counted at least 8 distinct and unique spaces in this whole experience. In some of those, we split up, but most of the time we were all together and with so much stuff to do we almost ran out of time!

 

 

Karen: Just as Mission Breakout blends old and new, history and future, into the themes of their games, they manage the same blend with their actual puzzles.  While some feature nicely modern tech which will satisfy the gamers and the lovers of little shiny lights (or is that just me?), others offer more old school, practical, hand built puzzles, including one particularly tactile game that I had never seen before and found particularly joyful to complete.

 

Mairi: Post-game, we all remarked as a team that there were several puzzles in this escape room that we’d never seen before. Between us, we’ve probably played in the region of 400 escape rooms, so that’s no small praise to say we encountered very unique puzzles. Otherwise the types of things players can expect to encounter include plenty of physical puzzles – be prepared to put your hand inside holes, pull levers, reattach mechanical equipment and operate big machinery. 

 

Karen: The varied puzzles offer tests of dexterity, memory, communication, teamwork (and miming ability!) with a few little jumps and a bit of theatricality thrown in for good measure.  The basic narrative, that you need to stop the mutant rats’ leader, King Rat, before he overruns London is simple enough to keep in mind throughout play and builds to a satisfyingly comic climax.

 

Mairi: The puzzles may have been slightly easier if not for an absolutely terrifying rat king that kept popping up when I least expected it. In escape rooms, I like to dawdle. This means I frequently found myself the last to leave a room, only to turn around to find a giant rat monster lurking out of the corner of my eye. Cue screaming. I assume if you don’t like scary rooms you could ask the hosts to tone any jump scares down. But honestly? I loved the host-I mean, the king rat interaction.

 

 

Mairi: Speaking of our host – a note on our games master Georgina, who was absolutely fantastic by the way. From the first briefing to the last, she ran our room brilliantly. I always love it when a games master really cares about you and your team, and Georgina was super knowledgeable about the room, our team, and the specific ways we solved each puzzle (even if some of them were slightly bizarre, haha!). It’s only my second time at the site, but I just got such a really nice feel from all the people from all the people at the venue both times.

 

The Verdict

Mairi: Mission: Breakout is very quickly going down in my personal hall of fame of “escape rooms you must visit if you’re in London” and Underground 2099 is another fantastically quirky and fun adventure in their catalogue. It’s well worth checking out for the physical location alone. At the risk of sounding like The Escape Roomer resident train enthusiast (a moniker I’ll wear proudly), I love the architecture and heck, there aren’t many places in London you can go and experience a period building so beautifully integrated into an escape room. If the company’s earlier rooms erred on the side of ‘slightly too easy for enthusiasts’, I’d implore those same enthusiasts to come back and try Underground 2099. The designers have levelled up the difficulty comfortably and players will get well over an hour’s worth of challenging puzzles and creative brilliance. Whats more, the team themselves are a thoroughly wonderful bunch of people, so make sure you set aside extra time to have a chat with your Games Master in the briefing room afterwards.

 

Karen: I’m totally with Mairi on this one.  If I’m honest my previous experience with Mission: Breakout’s ‘Lost Passenger’ game wasn’t as positive as Mairi’s had been.  It was just one of those games that left me frustrated.  So I went into Underground 2099 with lower expectations.   But boy were those expectations exceeded.  It was such fun from start to finish.  Venue, theming, puzzle build, puzzle quantity and complexity, GM engagement were all right on the money.  Definitely a fab addition to London’s ‘must play’ games.  Wonder if they can squeeze in one more game down there?

 

Underground 2099 can be booked by heading to Mission: Breakout’s website here.

 

Post-Script: As with many rooms it is likely this one will be tweaked further before the creators settle on the perfect flow that’ll suit every team. Whilst we had a fantastic time, it’s possible the experience may change slightly. For a comparison, please do check out GATAPAE’s review here. who played a week after we did.

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.

Mission Breakout: The Lost Passenger | Review

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Mission Breakout: The Lost Passenger Review | Based on the true story of the lost passenger in South Kentish Town tube station in 1924. In 1924, soon after South Kentish Town was closed down, a train stopped at the station by mistake, and a man absentmindedly alighted. The train departed, and Mr Brackett disappeared in the darkness. No one knows if he ever escaped. Are you brave enough to step down into the Ghost tube station and investigate the paranormal activity?

Date Played: 27th March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 47 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy

My personal escape room Kryptonite that I absolutely melt with joy when I experience in a room is authentic theming and props. An escape room themed around the building it’s set in? Tick! Original equipment and props from the era and time? Double tick! Being allowed to press buttons and pull levers from old timey 1920s railway train control rooms that by all right should probably be in a museum behind a glass window? Triple tick. YES! PRESS ALL THE BUTTONS!

Mission: Breakout is located in South Kentish Town Station. It’s in the classic tiled redbrick style of many stations around London, but unfortunately was closed down in 1924 due to low passenger numbers. The building sat there for a very long time gathering dusts… And ghosts!

 

…And he was never seen again!

We booked in to play The Lost Passenger at Mission: Breakout after a very, very long lockdown. My family are long-time fans of urban, abandoned building exploration. Our idea of a fun weekend out is putting on hard hats and descending into the old abandoned railway stations of London (on guided tours of course, we’re not breaking any laws here!). So one Christmas I knew just the gift to get them – a voucher for us all to play this escape room, set in the old disused train station in Kentish Town.

Unfortunately, that Christmas was Christmas 2020 and it took us almost 2 years until we were actually able to redeem the voucher. Even then, the day before we were all due to play, half our party tested positive with covid. After deliberating, the remaining 2 decided to go ahead with the booking – we lost the other two places on the booking but it was still worth it, if we didn’t play now, we may never have gone!

In The Lost Passenger, you descend into the depths of the station in search of a passenger who alighted from the train when it mistakenly pulled up at the abandoned station. Based on a true story, this passenger seemingly stepped off the train, walked into the darkness of the station and vanished into thin air and was never seen again.

 

The Lost Passenger. Photo (c) Mission: Breakout

 

Mind the Gap

Arriving at Mission: Breakout was exciting. It quite literally, is inside an old train station. I’m not sure what I’d expected, but we couldn’t contain our smiles at the details,

“Wow look this bench is an original Great Western Railway bench OMG!”

and

“Look at the tiling here, it’s from the 1910s!”

Our GM who came to greet us in amongst our cries of exclamation was Elza, who explained that it was of the very first escape rooms she’d run. She did a fantastic job – and even managed to tease us with a few jump scares during the game too. She led us down several corridors through the dim lights and past curious features of the abandoned railway station, until we arrived at the escape room. From here, we were shown into the lift that was to take us into the bowels of the train station from whence we may never return.

So, a full disclaimer, this room can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We didn’t know it going in but apparently you can ask for a certain level of scariness and the host can dial it up or tone it down accordingly. Since we didn’t ask, I imagine we got an ‘average’ level of scariness. I scream easily, and my screams probably terrified my co-escaper more than the original jump scares did, but it was all light hearted fun. The kind of ‘doors closing behind you’ and ‘what’s that lurking in the shadow’ scares. No live actors, but a general level of creepiness for sure. If in doubt, just ask them to tone it down and I’m sure they will!

 

Can you read a train map?

In terms of difficulty, The Lost Passenger is definitely on the easier side. This makes it a good room for smaller groups, kids, or people who are mostly there because they love abandoned train stations. For once, I am in the last group. Although, despite it being ‘easier’, it’s still a vastly big escape room space with no fewer than 6 separate rooms, and many of those containing stairs and cool passageways. So it certainly won’t be a quick room to escape from.

One thing to flag (and it’s important to mention for accessibility reasons), is that some parts of this escape room are in the dark. Very, very dark. Almost pitch black. These rooms involve puzzles where you have to feel around for things and then try to solve them in the dark. In the escape room industry as a whole, there’s a little bugbear among enthusiasts about ‘darkness’ being a puzzle in itself. I can see why it (has to) work in this room, and it fits well with the environment – why wouldn’t you be crawling in the dark?

There are also several moments where players must crawl around on all fours in cramped spaces. Again, this is likely just the way that the original site was built, a lot of the rooms in this are workers shafts and tunnels leading between control rooms – but it’s another consideration.

In terms of puzzles beyond “dark and small spaces”, players can expect to encounter plenty of searching and finding, some jigsaws, finding objects to use in other places, and a few very fun cerebral puzzles involving operating the heavy machinery. Largely, the room is less about using your brain and more about pushing and pulling things. It’s a very physical room, and there’s more than a little trial and error to get particular puzzles working, but we liked it. My favourite thing about this escape room was that it really does use all the original equipment, and there’s something very exciting about pushing buttons and pulling levers on machines from the 1920s to make escape room puzzles work.

 

 

The Verdict

The Lost Passenger was a really fun room and well worth the long wait in lockdown. It won’t challenge enthusiasts, but that’s okay – I think the real reason to book and play this is to experience an exciting an adventure in such an impressive physical location. We loved that it was based on a true story, but what we loved the most was the setting, the theme, the creaky equipment, and the general ghostly vibes as we scrambled around the depths of an abandoned station looking for puzzles to solve. Furthermore, Elza did a great job as our host and made us feel really welcome (and more than a little bit scared).

 

The Lost Passenger can be booked at Mission: Breakout in London by heading to their website here.

Time Run Presents: Sherlock: The Game is Now | Review

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Sherlock the Game is Now 221B ReviewLondon needs Sherlock. Instead, it has you. Sherlock is absent. As a rash of break-ins ripple across the capital, one thing is clear: his brilliance is required. Mycroft Holmes has put out the call. The Network seeks recruits: volunteers with sharp eyes, keen wits and a hunger for adventure. Can you step into the shoes of the legendary detective? Good luck: The Game Is Now.

Completion Time: 52 minutes
Date Played: 2019 – 2020
Party Size: 5 – 4

Please Note: This escape room was played by Georgie in 2019 as a team of 5, and Mairi in 2020 as a team of 4. This review is written jointly to reflect both experiences!

Elementary, my dear Watson

I am a huge Sherlock fan. Before that I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. Before that, I was an Agatha Christie fan.

Basically, I like mysteries (no surprise I like escape rooms then).

When it was announced that team from the amazing Time Run escape rooms (RIP) were teaming up with the writers of Sherlock (Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss) I may have fangirled a little. Just a bit… Massively.

The Sherlock escape room would be combining two loves of mine, with the most amazing teams behind it. The question is, did it live up to the Hype?

Definition of elementary: of, relating to, or dealing with the simplest elements or principles of something.

Okay so if I had to choose one word to describe this escape room, you know I couldn’t resist the great detective’s own catchphrase “elementary”! But I must preface, The Game is Now was far from simple!

Five Orange Pips- I mean, 5 unique spaces!

First things first; the set. The room is in the W12 shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London. This is the smaller shopping centre close to Westfield, and I believe there is already another escape room there.

When you arrive, this looks just like an optometrist from the outside – it’s brilliant. Looking in, the walls are lined with glasses and the staff are all dressed in their lab coats and name tags. There are even posters on the windows advertising eye tests – truly the attention to detail, and dedication to the ‘front’ was brilliant.

I don’t want to give too much away about the room that hasn’t already been told, but most people are already aware you visit 221B. I believe they consulted the fabulous set designer, Arwul, for this – and it was amazing. It did genuinely feel like we were in 221B – lots of props from the show, including the Persian slipper, headphones on the bison, and game of Cluedo.

However…you don’t actually stay there for long. It’s just pass of the initial pre-game briefing.

The actual game rooms were…ok. I’d say they were just like good quality escape rooms, honestly. Some clever tricks here and there.

In our briefing we were told we’d travel around London very fast. They weren’t wrong! What starts as a very unassuming opticians shop quickly becomes an exciting briefing at 221B Baker Street (the iconic residence of Sherlock Holmes). We then rushed off to a series of fantastic locations from the TV series such as St. Barts Hospital, Mycroft’s office, and a brilliant (if a little creepy!) museum of medical instruments.

Each one of these rooms I’ve just mentioned was as large as any regular escape room. Furthermore, the attention to detail was practically perfect, giving a real sense of immersion. Despite never leaving the building, I really did feel like I was exploring a whole new location from the TV show each time. Wonderful!

I’ve already touched on the pre-game experience, but I do really want to emphasise how fantastic the staff were prior to the game. It was the most entertaining pre-game experience I’ve had, with some really super staff.

Post-game, you get a debrief, which was quite nice too. You get given your time (55mins for us), a brief rundown of how you performed, highlighting anything particularly clever (or stupid) that you did, and get handed a nice little souvenir. You then get to go into the bar, which again is fabulously themed, with friendly staff.

The Game (Is Now)

What of the game itself?

The reason I thought it important to mention when we went was because there had been teething problems when it first opened. However, I think this is the case for any new room, this one just happened to be more high profile, and therefore they were scrutinised more and their mistakes were more public.

However, by the time we went I think most of these issues were ironed out. We only had 2, at most 3 issues with the room, and it sounds like one of the issues only happened to us.

In terms of puzzles, it has a brilliant variety. There’s a great mix of looking for things, solving puzzles, connecting clues…it was your classic escape room.

However, one of the first puzzles we encountered was probably my favourite puzzle I’ve done in any room. I don’t want to spoil it, but it was very Sherlockian, fitting with the theme perfectly.

It was mostly non-linear, which you need with a team of 5.

One of my only criticisms for this room was the hint system. Although it was slightly different, fitting the theme for each room, we found the hints were a bit hit and miss. Most of the time we were getting hints for things we’d already done, or they came at points when we didn’t need them…or they were coming too late…I think we ultimately only used one of the hints we received.

The Perfect Game for Sherlock Fans

At this point I should maybe mention that I am personally a big fan of Sherlock. This effects my review of course! It’s not just the BBC adaptation I’ve got all the books, and gobble up every TV adaptation as fast as they come out. How on earth it’s taken me this long to visit The Game Is Now is in fact, beyond me.

If you are also a fan, The Game is Now will give particular joy of brand recognition. For the first time in my life I could stand in Sherlock’s room in 221B and look really, really closely at the books on the shelf. Suddenly, the screen flickers and Mycroft himself is talking… To me! Wooo… All the good kind of chills!

Is 221B Worth the Price?

This cost £54 each, which is quite a bit more than the usual rooms I go to.

However, I personally thought it was worth the money.

Admittedly, some of this price tag is based on the name (for me, both the Sherlock name and Time Run name). Yet, when you consider you’re effectively getting 2 hours of entertainment (at least), it’s really not much more. The room was excellent, and I had a really fantastic time.

This is definitely a room I would urge you to visit if convenient.

If inconvenient, go anyway.

I think it’s fairly understood that The Game is Now is possibly one of the more expensive escape rooms in London? I don’t have the statistics immediately to hand, but for our team of 4 players on the specific day we visited, it came in around £38 per person. On top of that, you have to pay an extra £10 if you want to purchase your digital photo. Then, there is the (extra brilliant and actually definitely worth it) upsell of “The Mind Palace” – a bar at the end of your experience to relax and talk puzzles with your team. Which yes, costs even more money. Possibly a lot more, depending on how thirsty you are.

I only really mention the price in this review because the full experience could end up costing around £60 + per person, depending on a few factors!

But that’s the big question: “Mairi, is it worth it?” Here’s my answer: Yes!

Especially if you’re a fan of the show. But non-fans will get a particular kick too. At the core, it’s more than just an escape room, it’s an immersive experience from start to finish. You can’t put a price on sneaking up to an unassuming opticians for an eye test, speaking to your favourite actors, then travelling to immaculate sets from the show where you quite literally get to become Sherlock.

Accessibility Notes

From an accessibility point of view, the room and venue were entirely flat, and I do believe there would be enough room for a wheelchair to move around comfortably, and access pretty much all of the puzzles. There was a place to sit in every section except the last.

You will need one team member who can hear, and one who is fully sighted. The majority of the experience is well lit, bar one section, which is fairly dim (and later, dark). I also found the atmospheric music a little loud at points, but not deafening, and I’m sure you could ask for it to be lowered.

The Verdict?

My team and I genuinely had a great time. For that, I have to give it an almost flawless mark. Sure, I could spend a long time picking apart each puzzle, talking about customer service, decorations, locations etc. Since originally writing this review I’ve had some negative interactions with the company, but those are for another review. At the end of the day I’m in the business of having fun and that’s what I’m looking for. Was I immersed? Did we leave this experience smiling? Yes, yes and yes.

TL ; DR

Pros; Set, Staff, Pre & Post experience, puzzles

Cons; Cost, hype, hint system

The Game is Now is located in Shepherds Bush, London, W12. Tickets start at £30 per person. The Game is Now can be booked on their website: www.thegameisnow.com

Escape in Time: Escape from the Golden Hinde | Review

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Escape from the Golden Hinde Review | Escape From The Golden Hinde is an interactive adventure on a historic 16th century galleon in the centre of London! The Golden Hinde is a perfect reconstruction of the ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world in the 1570s. The reconstructed ship also sailed around the world in the 1970s. It is haunted by ghosts from both journeys. So, the ship holds an unhappy mix of spirits – like a dodgy Rum Mojito. (Which, legend has it, was invented by Drake.) You will be locked on the ship with these ghosts. You will have 60 minutes to escape. You’ll also learn some history. But don’t let that stop you.

Date Played: 11th February 2022
Time Taken: 40 minutes
Number of Players: 5
Difficulty: Easy

Just a few days after we announced Georgie was joining The Escape Roomer, the two of us metaphorically “smashed the bottle against the boat”, by playing an escape room together… Quite literally on a boat! Not just any boat either, the iconic Golden Hinde in Central London, Sir Francis Drake’s original ship that has sailed around the world twice.

We were joined by Bianca, a new friend Jojo, and partner Keian who was celebrating his 100th room! First, we met up at The Old Thameside Inn opposite for a drink (or two) to get our sea-legs in ship shape before heading onboard with a triumphant cry: “We pledge to save to captain!

Team Scurvy Scallywags for the win!

Escape Room Versus Immersive Theatre

Mairi: Escape From the Golden Hinde isn’t an escape room exactly. Sure, it technically ticks the boxes (you’re in a room, you have to escape), but it’s actually a lot closer to immersive theatre. It has a certain mass-market appeal which means the puzzles aren’t overly challenging, and instead most of the enjoyment of playing this game comes from listening to the actors and putting your all into appreciating the historical setting and your pirate captains.

Sure, there were a few moments of “ooh how do we solve this?”, and without such a good team with me I’d probably have been quite stuck in a few places, but overall we whizzed through it in 40 minutes – record breaking speed!

Georgie: I think you hit the nail on the head for me there – I went in expecting an escape room, which it very much wasn’t, so had to temper my expectations pretty quickly! As a traditional escape room, I would say it was pretty underwhelming – the puzzles were very linear and easy. I think I personally solved one puzzle throughout the whole experience, and spent a lot of the time sat idly by watching other teammates complete the one or two puzzles in that area. However, I loved being on the ship and overall felt pretty immersed in it!

Addendum: Since writing this review, we’ve discovered that there are different difficulty levels of Escape From the Golden Hinde available to players. At full launch of this escape room later in the year, players will be able to choose!

The Golden Hinde | Photo (c) Georgie

Escape From Francis Drake’s Original Galleon

Mairi: Escape From the Golden Hinde uses the entire ship, which was very cool indeed. There are at least 4 unique spaces in this ship and the whole thing feels very ‘spacious’. Before heading in I was aware that they could take up to 3 teams at a time, but unsure of the specifics of how this works. Now I can confidently say that this would be achieved by staggering the start times. First team goes in, then 15 minutes later when that team is out of the first room, the second team goes in and so on to a maximum of three teams on the boat at any one time.

We were a very fast team and there was nobody else playing at the same time as us, so it’s hard to say how well this works at peak times. But the games masters *cough* I mean ghosts and pirates were fantastically savvy, I daresay they’re able to speed up or slow down a team as needed in each space to keep the pacing correct.

Georgie: I’m not sure I’d agree about ‘spacious’! I’d say the hard-hats we were given were definitely necessary – I’m only 5ft3 and felt pretty uncomfortable throughout most of the game – if you’re on the taller side I would definitely advise you to be prepared! I think it’s smart on their side to take the staggered approach, as in theory you should be able to gain more business that way, and each section was pretty easy to get through.

I worry about what might happen with, say, a novice group directly in front of an experienced group. How would they slow down that group without them feeling frustrated or bored? Or how would they speed up the others without them feeling spoon-fed or robbed? I suppose the rooms were pretty simple so there may not be much chance of that, but it’s definitely a thought.

Mairi: In terms of the story and using such an awe-inspiring historical ship, whilst I’m usually terrible at paying attention to the plot (“Hey does anyone remember what we’re meant to be doing?”) I did love that I left the ship feeling like I learned something new by the end! I’ve got a new found interest in the history of the Golden Hinde that two previous visits to the Golden Hinde museum hadn’t taught me. Escape rooms are educational!


Georgie: This is where I think they may be taking on too much at once. I love history – I’m a big history nerd so I was expecting to eat this up – but I actually felt like I didn’t learn much about the ship or got that sense of awe I was hoping for! I remember in the pub (the Old Thameside Inn opposite) afterwards I was confused about what was fact vs fiction, and I think parts of the story definitely passed me by.

I think perhaps it might have been nice to just have a little bit of a story ahead of each section, so it was more as though you were then experiencing a re-enactment of that. Instead, I didn’t really follow the thread of the overall story (if there was one) and the different sections felt quite disjointed – ultimately we just found the puzzles, solved them and moved on.

Meet Gooselegs & Jack(ie)

Mairi: My favourite thing about Escape From the Golden Hinde was the actor interaction. From the moment we first stepped onto the ship and were greeted by two very enthusiastic pirates, I knew we were in for a treat. But this interaction turned out to only be the beginning, for we were greeted by a further four unique actors during the course of the game. This cast of characters included historical figures, and sailors on the lash dancing around a disco room. It was nothing if not very fun!

Georgie: Yes, the actors were my favourite part too! The two crewmates who greeted us (Jack(ie) and Gooselegs) were absolutely superb. I was immediately drawn into the experience and having a good time. They had such a natural flow about them and were so witty and quick to interact with each other I could’ve watched a how show just with them! The other actors were pretty good too – nicely in character and friendly, but I felt we didn’t get as much time with them or build that rapport. I think this was really noticable when at one point we’d met a character, then another, and then suddenly asked to make a decision with not much to go on from either the story or our interactions!

Dubloons and Pieces of Eight (AKA The Price!)

Mairi: In terms of price, there’s no beating about the bush. Escape From the Golden Hinde is really, really expensive. At £43~ a ticket at peak times, it’s easily one of the most expensive escape rooms in London, if not the United Kingdom. It’s a conversation that comes up frequently within The Escape Roomer team – how do we measure value? What is a good price for an escape room? Personally I (Mairi) don’t think that any single escape room (at 60 minutes in length) should be priced at over £35 per person. A few exceptions here and there for ultra immersive, or extra long rooms. But that said, I can see how this price is justified in Escape From the Golden Hinde.

For starters, there are a number of live actors whose salaries must be paid. For seconds, you do get a cheeky drink (a small one, mind!) in the middle of this game included, which was a fun touch. It’s also an incredibly iconic location that most people wouldn’t normally be able to visit. When you play an escape room in a special location, I’ll admit that does come at a premium price (for example my previous “woah this is really expensive but cool and historical” at the Jersey Wars Tunnels for £150 for any sized team).

Was the Golden Hinde worth it? Maybe, kinda… Yes. We personally had a fantastic time and I like to say that if I had a great time then of course it’s worth it, right? But it’s hard to say if we could have physically afforded to pay full price, which for 5 players at £43 each would be £215. But if you can afford it, then by all means it’s well worth it for the unique-ness factor!

Georgie: I’d agree – we had a great time, but it did leave me itching for a ‘real’ escape room, and if we’d paid full price I would be feeling very short changed! Even if I switch to viewing it more as an experience, I would’ve wanted longer on the ship and more education/story aspects. I think this might be worth it if you want the experience of being on board the Golden Hinde, but if you’re looking for an escape room there are better rooms in London for a lower price.

However, I would gladly pay that premium price if I could just spend the whole hour watching Gooselegs and Jackie – they’re the real stars here for me!

A Note on Accessibility

Georgie: A quick note on accessibility from me – this is a historical ship, so unsurprisingly it wasn’t very accessible! There were lots of stairs, cramped spaces for the majority of it, dim lighting and loud sounds/puzzles requiring some hearing. If you’ve played “Secret Studio” you may be worried about jump scares, but let me assure you that there are no “scares” here!

The Verdict

Escape from the Golden Hinde is at an incredibly unique location in the heart of London and it’s quite unlike anything else we’ve played! Part escape room, part immersive theatre, there’s a lot of love gone into this room and it shows. In particular, we really enjoyed interacting with our hosts, Jack(ie) and Gooselegs, as well as the cast of fun characters we met along our adventure. At present, the high price point may be a barrier to play, and enthusiasts will probably not be challenged by the puzzles. But it’s still a delightful pirate-themed romp around one of the most iconic seafaring vessels in British history, and that’s pretty special!

Just like those explorers who claim to visit the furthest reaches and climb the highest mountains simply “because they are there”, I think playing this escape room should be done because it’s there. Escape from the Golden Hinde is an escape room that will not be around forever, and if you’ve ever wanted to don a funky hat on, talk in pirate-speak, and get very hands-on with an awesome piece of history, then now is your time.

It may not be our favourite escape room in London, but I’m really glad we did it and we had a great time. Decades in the future I’ll be walking around London with my grandkids and be like “I was once a pirate on that ship” and I’ll describe how I ran around the deck and hooked ropes, solved puzzles, hoisted the sails, and drank grog beneath a disco ball… And my offspring will be like “sure grandma lets get you home“. But I’ll have those fun memories!

Escape from the Golden Hinde can be booked by heading to Escape in Time’s website here.

Houdini’s: Lady Chastity’s Reserve | Review

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Lady Chastity’s Reserve Review | Enter the lair of the deranged Lady Chastity as you pit your wits against her mysterious belongings and strange contraptions. Those who prove themselves worthy will whoop their way through an hour of surreal gaming, leaving with Chastity’s fabled bottle of aphrodisiac wine.

Completion Time: 50 minutes
Date Played: 15th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

Through fits of uncontrollable laughter after a pint downstairs, we stumbled into the famous (or should I say, infamous) Lady Chastity’s Reserve. Tucked away above The Hope in Farringdon, it’s a venue I literally pass every day of my life and never once realised an escape room was hidden within. But that’s how we found ourselves, in the earliest week of January we could get our team together, excitedly buzzing with anticipation that we finally secured a Lady Chastity’s Reserve booking.

[cue more giggling and excited noises]

What Happens in the Lady’s Parlour… Stays There!

So first things first, let’s clear the air. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is an 18+ room. Some of the reasons for this, we assume are:

  • Themes of a sexual nature (she’s not that chaste after all – are you offended by light-hearted references to Victorian orgies?)
  • The prize of a bottle of wine (tantalising!)
  • The location of the escape room being above a pub (it’s unlikely kids are allowed in after a certain time!)
  • It’s a little bit spooky. You may encounter a dead body.

For those reasons, the owners have slapped on a strict 18+ rating. Whilst we reckon in theory the game could be toned down for a 16+ audience, we mention the reasons why both as a content warning, and to ensure other bookers avoid disappointment. Keep the kids at home for this one!

So with that aside, let’s get into the light-hearted spooky debauchery that is Lady Chastity’s Reserve…

Lady Chastity is a woman who is well known for her… Errr… Parties. Her aphrodisiac wine is a big hit and brings all the ladies and gentlemen to her parlour for some fun. After suffering heartbreak, the lady hosts one final lavish party but- oh no! Disaster strikes! A candle left unattended tips over and sets fire to a curtain, engulfing the building. Whilst all the visitors manage to escape in various states of undress, Lady Chastity is never seen again. Rumour has it at the first sign of fire she ran to her cellar and locked up her last bottle of aphrodisiac wine, but didn’t make it out in time.

This is where you come in. The house has been refurbished by the ever-dutiful Gabriel. Her housekeeper turned inheritor. But he’s never found that bottle of aphrodisiac wine. Can you follow in The Lady’s steps, figure out what happened to her, and claim that bottle of wine?!

Creepy Corners, Candlelight, and Curtains for Days

One of the stand-outs for us in Lady Chastity’s Reserve was the decor of the room. We didn’t have to ‘suspend disbelief’ even for a second… It really felt like being inside a Victorian parlour! The whole space was lit with candlelight – torches were provided, which was a nice touch for an otherwise very dark room – and the furniture, curtains, wallpaper and decor felt lifted directly out of the Victorian era.

Darkness is marmite in an escape room. It makes it harder to solve puzzles. But for me, Lady Chastity’s Reserve was dark for a reason. It’s lit by candlelight, and it really works! None of the puzzles were hindered by it, it only added to the ambience. Dark shadows darted around in our peripheral vision, and when a sudden loud noise rang out from somewhere you were never quite sure where it came from.

Even the smell of the room was authentic. It feels funny to praise an escape room for having a good smell – but the slightly smoky, musty smell felt brilliant.

What I’m trying to say, is full marks for the decor. A lot of folks will be put off by a darker room, but I propose that instead players treat the darkness as an extra character. It really adds to the story.

Photo (c) Lady Chastity’s Reserve

What of Lady Chastity’s Puzzles?

So you see how I said I liked the darkness and they didn’t hinder the puzzles – well not strictly true, as this room does rely on a lot of search-and-find especially at the beginning. Just be sure to shine that torch everywhere!

The whole room follows a linear format. There’s a clear goal, and each puzzle leads onto the next seamlessly. You’re guided not only by clues from your host, Gabriel (of which you can claim just 3 of them over the course of the game), but Lady Chastity herself will often ring out from the darkness and the gloom. Listen to her carefully for she often gives big clues in subtle ways.

Players can expect to encounter quite a few padlocks and 4 digit codes (hey, this Lady is trying to protect her wine from thieves like us!), and some ingenious uses of physical manipulation, smoke and mirrors. For sure, there were a lot of puzzles to get through, but some of them were so utterly delightful I can’t help but still smile about them days later. Conversely, there were some that other members of my team solved so efficiently that I didn’t even see how.

Cue my “Woah look at this, you can do that!” to everyone replying in unison, “Yep we’ve solved it“. Haha, oops.

We were warned that the room was a little on the harder side, but managed to escape with 10 minutes left on the clock after using 2 clues. I think I’d still agree that it’s hard – but not impossible. For a team of 4 fairly experienced enthusiasts, some of whom on our third pint of the evening, we didn’t do too badly! We’d definitely recommend aiming to play with a similar sized group, but don’t be put off if you go in with a smaller, or brand new team!

Team ‘Lamb Sauce’ Achievements

How much does Lady Chastity’s Reserve cost?

For London, it’s not the cheapest escape room for sure. But it’s also not the most expensive. And hey, how many rooms let you take home a bottle of wine if you win?

This is a conversation we regularly have on The Escape Roomer. How do we measure “value” when different regions are priced so differently? There’s no right or wrong answer, so we try instead to ask “was it good value?” In all this room costs a flat fee of £30 per person – regardless of team size (therefore it’s £60 for a team of two, and £180 for a team of 6). Originally this escape room was also non-exclusive, meaning you might get put in with strangers. Whilst this is common in the United States, it’s unpopular in the UK. It seems like in recent times this policy has been scrapped and bookings are exclusive. Phew.

So, with this in mind, did we get a good value? Oh yes, absolutely!

Once upon a time, the original creators of Lady Chastity’s Reserve, Handmade Mysteries, closed down and for a while we thought the escape room would disappear forever. Whenever I asked other enthusiasts about their favourite room, I’d hear this one mentioned so often. Too bad it had closed down! Argh, the heartbreak.

But when the news that Houdini’s had purchased the game and was bringing it back – no price was too high for me to book this. It so happened that we got extra lucky with a Black Friday discount and didn’t pay full price between the four of us. But honestly? I’m just glad I survived the pandemic long enough to see this gem reopen.

The Verdict

*chef’s kiss*

Lady Chastity’s Reserve absolutely lived up to the hype for us, and I’m thrilled that we chose it for our very first escape room of 2022. Start the year as we mean to go on, eh?

It’s creepy, musty, sordid, manic and above all, just so much fun. We also in particular want to shout out our Games Master at The Hope Farrington for his fantastic portrayal of the caretaker Gabriel. From start to finish he never once broke character – all the way from a perfect intro briefing, to scaring us quite a few times, to presenting the bottle of The Lady’s Reserve to us at the end of our game.

After some deliberation in the pub downstairs, The Hope, we’ve decided to award this game our Fun Factor badge – awarded to all escape rooms that are just that extra bit of fun. Lady Chastity’s Reserve takes itself seriously yet still managed to balance the hilarity and silliness that we love in a room. We were all smiles and laughter from start to finish, and it’s certainly going to be a room I’ll remember for a long time.

I would highly recommend Lady Chastity’s Reserve to anyone wanting something a little different to play. At the time of writing, the Farringdon version of the game is the only one available on Houdini’s website (aww), but well worth the trip into London.

Lady Chastity’s Reserve can be booked at Houdini’s in Farringdon here.