Department of Magic: Prophecies Quest | Review

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Prophecies Quest Review | As the last hope for the magical world you must collect The Prophecies and use them before it’s too late. The Dark Lord has hidden The Prophesies so you must find them in The Department Of Mysteries before using them to defeat him. You need to hurry, The Dark Lord is on his way and only you can stop him.

 

Completion Time: 32 minutes (out of a possible 50)
Date Played: January 2023
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Having moved to Edinburgh a little over 6 months ago, you’d have thought I’d have played all of the rooms here by now? Well, not quite. There are a few that have been on my radar that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Department of Magic was just one of those places, and the occasion of two of our loveliest escape room friends from home in London coming up for a weekend to visit was just the ticket to finally book it.

Sandwiched between the potion mixing cocktail experience at the bar portion of Department of Magic, and a trip round the corner to Cocktail Geeks (currently running a Lord of the Rings themed experience), we had an hour to spend. Without haste, we got ourselves booked into to play the more popular of the two games at this hidden wizard-themed speakeasy: Prophecies Quest.

Wands at the ready, witches and wizards…

 

Let the Magic Begin!

If you think of Edinburgh escape rooms, the chances are Department of Magic isn’t on your radar. But let me tell you why it should be. Located a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle is a mysterious little black door located at the bottom of a little rickety iron staircase. Behind this door is a tavern lifted straight of a storybook. The walls are lined with peculiar magic trinkets, and on each table is a gaggle of magicians brewing the most brightly coloured, bubbling, fizzing and smoking potions- I mean, cocktails.

This is the Department of Magic. It’s best known for it’s ‘pub’ portion. With advance booking, you can grab a table for normal drinks, or one of their special brew-your-own potions, which are fairly reasonably priced for how exciting they ended up being. We did book ourselves into one of their sessions in advance, but it ended up being about the same price as if we’d have just booked for a normal table and ordered off the menu. But in truth, we weren’t really here for the cocktails… We were here foe the escape room out the back.

When your game session begins, a mysterious wizard in a long dark cloak approaches you and asks if you’re the chosen ones here to save the world.

“Yessir!” we exclaimed, before following her through the door in the back and into the briefing area.

 

 

Fortune Favours the… Wise!

Before entering the escape room, we allocated a captain, and that captain looked at four great wizarding traits – Wisdom, Bravery, Cunning, and… Well, I forgot the fourth one, as people often do. We chose wisdom, and were given a special item for it, which would come into use later.

Them, in a flurry of magic, the bookcase swung open and we were off to a flying start!

Prophecies Quest is an unusual escape room for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a multi-room experience, but you have full run of the area. You don’t need to complete any particular room in order. Secondly, there are no locks. Everything is done with magic. Impressive – but probably a lot of work for our games master listening out for us saying the exact correct spell, or performing the exact correct action!

Beyond those two details, the room was your standard magical room. Players can expect potions, spell casting, dragons, dark wizards, the whole shebang. Just like in a pirate room I hope to see treasure maps and chests and the odd skull here and there, by now we’re familiar with rooms set in the wizarding world, and Prophecies Quest was a classic, well executed example. Notably, one that took good care not to tread too heavily on any particular well known IP. Kudos to them!

 

A celebratory drink for afterwards!

 

A Spellbinding Escape?

The room’s uniqueness was also it’s strength. We were very, very fast out of the room (almost record breaking in fact, there were just a few seconds in it), but I think on reflection it wasn’t really a room designed for competitive folk trying to break a record. It was a room all about fun. And on that note, it succeeded.

I absolutely love rooms that make you hop around on one foot and hum your favourite song, or make you flap around like chickens and crouch down on all fours. I love rooms that make you roleplay what you’re actually doing, so that you live and breathe and feel what you’re doing. Prophecies Quest did that really well, and it’s a shame it’s an 18+ room (well, the whole venue is) because this would be an excellent one for families.

Ultimately, this escape room is best played between a round of cocktails. I would expect 99% of players to go into this room having just come from the bar, so none of the puzzles are incredibly puzzling. Many of them require physical actions and working together in a silly way. So whilst it won’t necessarily challenge the most hardcore escapers, it will encourage you to have fun, and that’s a double thumbs up from me.

 

 

The Verdict

Well worth visiting! I’m surprised Department of Magic isn’t more popular. Not that it isn’t, just that I hadn’t heard any other enthusiasts recommend it on a visit to Edinburgh – but I want to change that right here and now. Add Department of Magic onto your trip, and for extra fun, book yourself in for their cocktail brewing experience for a perfect, photo finish to your evening.

Finally, a shout out to our host for the escape room, who was the fantastic Hannah. She let us know that she usually runs their other room (which we’ll definitely be returning to play), but today she ran our room instead and never once broke character, providing fantastic help, encouragement, and a thorough brief and debrief after. Escape rooms can sink or swim by their team’s hosting ability, and Hannah did a superb job!

 

Prophecies Quest can be booked at Department of Magic in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Treasure Hunts: Fantastic Creatures | Review

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Edinburgh Treasure Hunts Review | Professor M has arranged for you a day of creature-hunting. It’s all about using your special map wisely and keeping your eyes peeled. There’s so many secrets hidden in the beautiful Old Town.

Completion Time: ~2 hours
Date Played: 17th July 2022
Party Size: 2
Location: Edinburgh Old Town
Difficulty: Moderate

I (Mairi) have just moved to Edinburgh from London and I wholeheartedly insist that the very best way to explore a new city is to immediately book yourself in for an outdoor treasure trail. What’s not to love?! New sights, hidden alleyways, history, and most importantly… Puzzles!

One of the most, if not THE most loved treasure hunt company in Edinburgh is the aptly named “Edinburgh Treasure Hunts“. A solo-run and operated business by your incredibly awesome host Sabi who, as a part-time tour guide, is an expert in all things Edinburgh. The company is also one of the first to start running games of this kind with many of their trails being well over 5 years old and host to thousands and thousands of players over the years.

In particular, Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a hugely popular game to play during the Edinburgh Fringe. They take you right past many of the largest and most popular venues as well as plenty of popular landmarks on lesser trodden streets. Being self guided, there’s also no need to hurry. You can take the trail at your own leisurely speed (well, within reason!), so breaks to see the fun sights of the city are encouraged.

Over our very first weekend in the city, Rebecca and myself decided to book ourselves into two of the trails: Fantastic Creatures, and Sherlock. Let me just say, we were not disappointed! Let’s get into why…

 

 

Fantastic Creatures (and Where to Find Them in Edinburgh!)

If you’re into witches, wizards and magical places, then the Fantastic Creatures trail will be your cup of tea. At the Chamber arches on the Royal Mile, we met up with Sabi- or should I say, the Professor’s Assistant Sabi who set us off on our lesson in magical creatures around the city. We were first sorted into a magical house (House of the Haggis, if you were wondering what our team went for), then given a tote bag filled with curious objects including a bestiary, an old locked box, and a map of the city with carefully labelled locations.

Our ultimate goal was to find the fabled Unicorn, a rare creature from history with mythical properties. We had a sub-goal of finding (and I suppose, rescuing) our teacher, the Professor, who had a terrible accident. Our tertiary goal was to have a lovely day out and enjoy ourselves puzzle solving. Tick, tick, tick all round.

Unlike Sherlock, Fantastic Creatures had a web-app counterpart we could load on our phones. The broad structure of the game was that we followed a physical map around the city and at each marked point we had a challenge to complete – locate a particular mythical creature in the environment from our bestiary, read about it, and answer a location-based question. The experience was challenging on a few levels. Firstly, we had to find the actual location designated a single letter on the map. A task easier explained than done for a team of players new to the city, who aren’t yet familiar with it’s little hidden alleys. Then, we had to look very closely at our surroundings, taking care to stand exactly on the right spot, before we could answer the questions.

…And listen, this game was surprisingly educational! Yes, yes, the creatures are fantastical. Yet I learned a lot about their myths, legends, relationship with Edinburgh and more. It was very well done!

Unlike Sherlock, we finished Fantastic Creatures in a comfortable amount of time – around 2 hours. However despite it being on the easier side, more appropriate for family groups, we still managed to get a lot of questions incorrect. So some advice from us: read the question very carefully to figure out what it’s asking before wasting guesses (and points) on incorrect tries.

Any team that manages to score 25 points or above will win a special bonus prize. I say bonus as we were delighted to find that on discovering the final location for our trip a little treat waiting for us behind a lock. But then, as our host scootered over to collect our bags from us we were presented with a further prize for scoring a coveted 29 points!

 

 

Edinburgh, City of Hills

One of the things we loved the most about Fantastic Creatures was the trail itself. Although, ‘trail’ is a strong word as it’s largely self-guided and with just a map to guide you, you can take any route you like. On the one hand, at times we were worried we’d taken a wrong turn. On the other, we were glad to not be wedded to a specific route around the city, as it gave us a chance to stop off for a snack, a drink, and an ice cream cone. Which, if you’re interested, we recommend lunch at the tiny, family run Olly Bongos and ice cream at Alandas Gelato, both en-route around the trail.

Edinburgh truly is a really beautiful city though. No matter which specific road on the map you choose to take, you’re sure to discover a new hidden gem, or a beautiful sight around a corner at the top of a hill. In fact, the trail starts right up near Edinburgh Castle, which is the perfect tourist spot for snapping lovely photos of the surrounding area. It ‘ends’ nearer Underbelly, making it again, an excellent place to springboard you into an Edinburgh Fringe show, or to round off the day after one.

The only thing that we felt could have been improved about the route was that occasionally we doubled back on ourselves. Not because we’d answered anything incorrectly, but because the route required us to. Towards the end, you find yourself in an area of town, and are sent back to the start of your route. Only to walk back up the long street and need to turn right back around to head even further in the other direction. It was a curious choice! It didn’t bother us too much as, being new to the city, find every little alleyway delightful, but we definitely saw the same few streets multiple times over.

 

 

The Verdict

We really enjoyed Fantastic Creatures. After playing Sherlock’s Secret Challenge the day before we had high hopes and once again Sabi and her company absolutely outdid our expectations. For sure, there were some minor bits that didn’t completely click with us – a few difficult puzzles we struggled to get the answer for for example. But overall we had a fantastic experience once again. Edinburgh Treasure Hunts is a super hidden gem in the city and will be the first place I recommend folks new to the city book themselves into.

 

 

All of Edinburgh Treasure Hunts’ games can be booked by heading to their website here.

Edinburgh Treasure Hunts: Sherlock’s Secret Challenge | Review

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Edinburgh Treasure Hunts Review | Arthur Conan Doyle has left you a letter. Not just a letter! A challenging puzzle that could reveal to you the secret behind his famous character: Sherlock Holmes. That is, if you prove to be a puzzle-solving mastermind first.

Completion Time: ~3 hours
Date Played: 16th July 2022
Party Size: 3
Location: Edinburgh New Town > Edinburgh West End
Difficulty: Moderate

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for over 12 years, so you’d think I’d have explored the whole city by now, right?! Wrong!

It turns out treasure hunts are now my favourite way to discover the hidden secrets of your surroundings – and you get to do it whilst solving puzzles and getting some steps in! The games from Edinburgh Treasure Hunts are the highest rated hunts in Edinburgh, and I’d like to tell you why this is a spot they deserve.

The brains behind the operation is the incredible Sabi, company director, game designer and Edinburgh tour guide. Their knowledge and passion shone through when we met them outside the Conan Doyle pub, gazing over at the street where the creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle was born. It was an apt setting for the journey ahead of us, and hearing some of the history of a street I walk by weekly was an exciting start.

 

Team Escape Roomer takes on Sherlock’s Challenge

The Challenge

Out task was to channel Sherlock Holmes and master the power of deduction to find the secret that lies behind his character. To do this, we were handed a locked backpack, a beautifully illustrated map and a mysterious letter from beyond the grave. You’d better believe spooky voices were used to narrate the tale! We were then left to solve the first puzzle, and our walking adventure begins!

Now, it was 9am so it did take a while for our brains to wake up and figure out the first challenge – but once we clocked it we were on our way to unlocking the backpack and discovering the next puzzle, all of which are hidden in various containers. Once you’ve solved a puzzle, you’ll be directed by the clues to your next location. The game was really easy to navigate due to the numbered clues and the fact that certain items weren’t unlocked until they were needed for the puzzle in front of you.

 

Help! We Need a Hint!

Am I going to continue blaming the fact I’m not an early riser for my slow puzzle solving skills that morning? Probably. But we did get super stuck. There was an amazing moment when we realised half of what we had to do, yet we still completely overthought to the point we were googling different cypher types. We should add that Google is not needed at any point in the game.

Lucky for us, this meant we got to experience the hint system which was me calling Sabi and sheepishly asking for help. My biggest tip for this hunt is

Easier said than done though, so we got a response immediately, and proceeded to kick ourselves to the next clue.

 

 

Once You Have Eliminated the Impossible…

In terms of puzzles, there were 2 styles of padlock to unlock: The familiar 4 digit combination and a date lock which I’d never seen before!

The puzzles were a really nice mix which tested everything from your observational skills to decoding hidden messages. My favourite involved a few steps to find a particular piece of text in your surroundings and use that to unlock some cyphered text. I also loved the navigational aspect, it encouraged you to spot things you wouldn’t have thought to look at otherwise. Overall, they were quite difficult, so I recommend that if doing this with a family to take slightly older kids, 13+ I’d say would keep the game enjoyable for everyone. For a game aimed at a much younger audience, definitely try out Edinburgh Treasure Hunts’ other trail, Fantastic Creatures.

 

 

The Case of the Final Problem

I loved the location of the end of the game. It felt like everything came together really nicely and you discover some really interesting history about the story of Sherlock Holmes. There’s a really nice touch which I imagine is quite satisfying by the end of the day. You’re then directed to a safe place to drop the backpack near the end location and the centre of town so you can rest your legs and debrief!

I will say, it’s quite the walk and towards the end we clambered up a big hill.

In the end, we took just over three hours to complete the game (but we did stop for a cold drink as it was so warm!)

 

 

It’s almost Fringe time!

The festival is almost upon us, and we’re all ready to grab our highlighters and circle our top picks of the programme – Sherlock’s Secret Challenge should be one of them! Why? The City of Edinburgh is your venue, and you’re in charge of making sure the story unfolds. If you’re visiting Edinburgh for the Fringe, I’d really recommend taking half a day to pop on your deerstalker to take a stroll and discover some hidden gems.

 

All of Edinburgh Treasure Hunts’ games can be booked by heading to their website here.

Escape Reality Edinburgh: Machina | Review

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Machina Review | A team of high-tech scientists and programmers have assembled to perform ground breaking experiments in developing the first instance of true artificial intelligence known to man. You have just been accepted onto the team of scientists and have arrived at their headquarters. After a few days you realise that scientists are suddenly leaving and that these robots are showing scarily human-like emotions. You decide that you need to leave as quickly as possible as something peculiar is happening, but all of the doors have been locked trapping you and the rest of the team inside. Can you all escape before you reluctantly become a part of the experiment?

 

Date Played: 20th March 2022
Time Taken: 48 Minutes 39 Seconds
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: Mathematics Enthusiasts

 

Located at the start of the Union Canal in Edinburgh, the location of Escape Reality Edinburgh is perfect for a sunny Sunday. We took a calming stroll along the water, preparing ourselves for one of the more difficult rooms on offer, Machina.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by hands down the most enthusiastic Games Master I’ve ever met, DJ. His passion for escape rooms shone through, and we were impressed by his storytelling and brief explanation of the rules for our group of more experienced escape room players.

The room was very dark, and we were provided with two torches. The darkness did slow us down at points as we waited for a torch to be free, but it was a successful in increasing the sense of time sensitivity in the room as we yelled for light. The room has recently received a lick of paint with some new features added, so it felt up to date and well maintained.

 

Wake up!

I’m not sure whether our walk was too relaxing, because we were very slow off the mark to begin with. We tried to solve the first combination locks as a team, which was likely our downfall as the design of the room has changed recently to allow players to separate and solve multiple puzzles at once rather than a previous linear approach. This is a great move, and as soon as we split up, the padlocks started opening and we found our groove.

This isn’t to say we weren’t initially frustrated, and in sheer desperation we accidently took apart a prop which we thought we had justification for but it turns out we became the dreaded escape room vandals who left a trail of destruction in their path. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been superglued together by now…

 

 

Do you know any mathematicians?

A lot of the puzzles require calculations, so make sure you’ve got someone who loves numbers on your team! Our phones were locked away, so calculators were sadly not an option. I’m awful with dates, so I found some of the puzzles extremely difficult but I was able to excel at the sequence spotting elements of the room. The experience has been upgraded to include a laptop, so there’s some password hacking to do as well as essential information to discover allowing you to progress.

As well as padlocks, there were puzzles which required keypads and also some more physical tasks to complete to find solutions. Some of these triggered some exciting reveals, which is always one of my escape room highlights.

 

Need a hint?

The hint system at Escape Reality is one of my favourites.  You are given an iPad which you use as your timer, but you can also scan various QR codes throughout the room to receive a hint. We used one hint, after which you are locked out of using another for 10 minutes. This feels like a really fair way of getting a nudge in the right direction without receiving time penalties, and you also have the option of pressing a button to summon your games master if required.

 

 

The Verdict

The games at Escape Reality are always guaranteed to be great quality, and I’m so pleased that customer feedback has been taken on board to improve Machina. A non-linear approach is great for teams who prefer to separate, and some upgraded features succeed in increasing the immersion of the room. I didn’t quite experience my beloved frantic attempt at solving the final puzzle as it was a lot easier than most of the previous solutions, so it was all over quite fast – but all in all this is a great room, perfect for teams who have a bit of experience and know what to expect.

Machina can be booked at Escape Reality Edinburgh on their website here.

Locked In: The Space Academy | Review

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The Space Academy Review:  You will be aware of the huge achievements of NASA. The lesser known Scottish project, SASA, has been under development for 2 years. Built at Port Edgar Marina from sheet metal and Scottish girders. SPACE CADETS form an orderly queue, we are ready to blast off on our first training mission. Will you be brave enough to volunteer?

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 28th October 2022
Party Size: 3 + a dog
Difficulty: Medium

You’ve all heard of NASA, now get ready for SASA. The Scottish version! *distant bagpipes playing*

The Space Academy is the newest game from Edinburgh based escape room company, Locked In. Locally regarded as one of the best in Edinburgh, if not the whole of Scotland, any new room opening is big news – and none quite as big newsy as Locked In. So, when my family came up to visit me in Scotland for a weekend I couldn’t wait to book.

 

Pre-Space Flight Checks

Now, a note on context. I LOVED this room. But I went in expecting I might not. It’s important to understand why, and therefore why my ‘this is excellent’ rating is so warranted.

Despite Locked In’s popularity, I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to book anything at Locked In. Mid lockdown, we were visiting family in Edinburgh and had a booking in place for a different room. This was the time of masks and disinfectant and covid. Whilst I can’t now remember if we’d actually caught covid or not on our trip to Edinburgh, we suddenly felt very, very unwell. It’s always better to cancel if you’re feeling under the weather. The last thing you want is to cough all over an escape room. But (understandably) since we gave less than 24 hours, we weren’t able to move the booking or receive a refund. And honestly? I get it. It’s a rough situation for both the business and the customer. But, since we lost the money at a time when we really couldn’t afford to lose money (I’m looking at you, Global Pandemic), the whole thing always left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve since moved to Edinburgh and we’ve played many rooms, but because of the whole situation, the games at Locked In were no longer at the top of my list.

I realise this was a mistake however, from the first moment we stepped into the room. Locked In absolutely deserves it’s top title and balancing out the universe – I don’t mind paying twice to finally get a chance to come and play there. After all, a policy is a policy, and the customer support we received (especially when trying to book in with our dog) was impeccable. We were made to feel incredibly welcome at every step of the visit, and they went above and beyond to accommodate us. My only regret? Not booking sooner! Locked In is a must visit.

 

 

To Infinity & Beyond!

Now, onto the juicy part. The Space Academy is a fantastic room at Locked In. Located at the back of the Summerhall building (enter through the main entrance, go to the courtyard at the back, and head to the back right hand corner). There your Games Master, in our case the enigmatic Alex, comes to greet you at your booking time and take you to the room.

In The Space Academy, you are a team of intrepid space explorers learning the ropes at a new space shuttle. It is of course an exercise in learning, so your invigilators have left plenty of clues of what to do. But your goal is simple, get the spacecraft off the ground. You are sorted into different roles. I took on the role of the Commander, whilst my other two players took on the Engineer and Navigator role respectively. Our dog Shovell got to be the Commander’s assistant, but he was anything but assisting!

From here, the first ‘twist’ comes when you first enter the room – so I won’t spoil it. Instead I’ll just say that from the moment the doors close behind you, you’re in the game. Exciting!

And what a game it is! Unlike other escape rooms at Locked In, this one relies more on technology than physical locks. You emerge into a room that looks straight out of a film set in space, with a large wall covered in buttons and levers and strange screens. Scattered throughout the spaces are clipboards, locked boxes, and other tantalising machinery that you just know you’ve got to get into. It’s a feast for the eyes and the hands. Not to mention it’s a non-linear flow too, meaning past the intro puzzle, you can tackle things in any order you like.

 

 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

In terms of gameplay, The Space Academy is all about teamwork. Seriously. We were able to book as a team of 3, not counting the dog, but realistically given the amount of content in there you’d want to play with at least 4 I reckon. For the puzzles that require four players (there are at least one!) your AI will help you override the missing person. But more than anything else, there’s a lot of puzzling to figure out. 4 heads are better than 3, or so the saying goes.

For much of the game, two halves of the same puzzle are split across different locations, so there’s also a strong element of teamwork needed there. We found ourselves passing objects and clipboards back and forth as we puzzled through, and splitting up across the space to solve things collaboratively. At some times you also need quick reflexes to perform actions at opposite ends of the spacecraft.

In terms of difficulty, we didn’t find the room to be too tricky. Between the three of us we’ve played a lot of escape rooms, and we were just shy of the leaderboard. I think had we not brought a dog along with us, we’d probably have done a lot better, but the dog needed plenty of cuddles to stop from barking. A dog friendly room yes, but perhaps our dog isn’t escape room friendly. He hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on, but with so many fun flashing lights it was all so exciting.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, I really enjoyed the room. I see now why Locked In has the reputation for being the best, or one of the best at least, in Edinburgh. We had a blast. And, after my family returned home from their holiday up to visit me in Scotland, they all agreed it was their favourite moment of the whole trip.

I’d recommend this game for pretty much everyone. Folks expecting locks and keys will be pleasantly surprised, and even escape room veterans will be delighted by some of the fun surprises in the game. Plus, the venue is dog friendly. Win, win.

A note on accessibility – apparently this room is wheelchair accessible, but between you and me I don’t see how. There is a strong element of climbing / physicality involved. There’s also several things which are high up, and a moment where you’d need to be able to move from a wheelchair into another seat quickly. I suppose it’s possible for someone with limited mobility to not take part in the climbing part and skip all those other bits, but they’d miss a lot of the game. As such I probably wouldn’t recommend it for someone with limited mobility, but as always – be sure to call the venue and check with them directly!

All in all, well deserving of it’s high rating, and a true hidden gem room.

A big shout out to our Games Master Alex for making us feel so welcome, and for Jackie for accommodating a last minute booking!

 

The Space Academy can be booked by heading to Locked In’s website here.