Mindlock York: Viking Valhalla | Review

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Viking Valhalla Review | Your Viking hord have courageously battled foes and awake expecting to be dining with the Gods in Valhalla. Instead, you find yourselves in limbo having not yet completed some critical tasks to earn your place alongside them. Complete these tasks before your time runs out, please the Gods and earn your place in Valhalla. Thor and Odin await your team.

Date Played: 19th December 2021
Time Taken: 48 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Medium

When on a Christmas break to visit my family in York, my go to activity for working up an appetite (for the copious amount of Yorkshire Pudding Wrap I’ll order from the York Roast Co) is an escape room. This year, I asked for a recommendation from co-writers Al & Ash who suggested Mindlock. Of their rooms available, there was one obvious one to try… I mean, when in Jorvik, do as the Vikings.

This is how we found ourselves queuing up at Mindlock York, opposite Clifford’s Tower at opening time, excited to see if we could make it to the Viking afterlife in Viking Valhalla! First, our games master greeted us enthusiastically from a safe covid-friendly distance, then we were led towards our room and the timer started counting down. The game was on!

Photo (c) Visit York

“Fear not death”

The story behind Viking Valhalla is a unique one. In most escape rooms where death is a central theme, you’re escaping being killed. It makes sense. But in Viking Valhalla – you’re already dead. Oops. In Norse Mythology, if you die in battle your soul ascends to Valhalla where you’ll spend eternity wining and dining with the Gods.

But in our case, something went wrong. Perhaps we accidentally let go of our weapons at the moment of death and stuck on some technical hitch, we’re not eligible for Valhalla. But fear not – we were given a chance to prove ourselves with some good old fashioned puzzles. Solve the puzzles, escape limbo and emerge victorious into Valhalla.

It sounds simple, right? And yes, Limbo between life and Valhalla was a fairly simple affair. We emerged into the room to be greeted with a mostly white space adorned with some curious wood carvings on the wall and vines trailing from the walls. In the centre of our room was our first puzzle – the only thing we could do to get started.

I’m not sure what I imagined the limbo state between life and death to look like but I suppose this isn’t far off. But as we worked our way through the room and discovered more secret rooms, the decor got a lot more exciting. Almost like stepping back onto that Jorvik Viking Centre ‘rollercoaster’… Almost!

Image (c) Mindlock York

Ascend to Puzzle-halla

In terms of puzzles, Viking Valhalla had a good quantity of puzzles to work through, with some similar mechanics between them. For a team of three consisting of one experienced player (myself) and two fairly new escape room, it was paced well for us. We completed the whole experience in 48 minutes at a relaxed pace – enough time for a joke or two!

What seemed to be a sparse room quickly revealed itself to have plenty of hiding holes where we discovered even more chests and hints to keep us entertained. The game unfolded in a linear fashion, with one puzzle at any given time keeping us occupied before it unlocked a new space or chest which gave us the clues to solve the next, and so on.

In terms of styles of puzzles, we encountered plenty of locks – consisting of the usual keys, 4 digit codes, and a directional lock too. We also encountered a lot of maths and cipher related puzzles which made sense within the universe. I mean, who doesn’t love deciphering Norse runes? But it was nothing we hadn’t seen before, making it a good introduction to the types of puzzles escape rooms can contain.

One of the things that our team enjoyed the most about Viking Valhalla were the maths puzzles. One of our party was a rather maths-obsessed 11 year old who took a lot of delight putting the in-room calculator aside and doing all the complex calculations on paper. Maths puzzles can be like marmite in an escape room (personally, I can’t solve them to save my life- or my death, as it were), but there’s an audience who enjoy them for sure.

The Verdict

Viking Valhalla is a fun room that’s worth visiting whilst in York purely for the connection to York’s rich Viking history. We had fun playing it on a rainy Sunday morning before taking a trip to the Viking Centre to round off the theme. In particular, we loved the host interaction – buckets of enthusiasm and a fun introductory briefing. The room itself was fairly average and may not challenge an enthusiast, but may be just the perfect place to take your Puggle (Puzzle Muggle) friends in the area.

As a side note: Since we had a dog in our holiday group, it’s worth mentioning that Mindlock at the time of writing does not allow dogs on the premises. There’s no particular reason why it should do, but it’s worth mentioning just in case prospective bookers can’t find the information online. As always we recommend contacting them directly.

Viking Valhalla can be booked at Mindlock York’s website here.

Ratings

Escape Reading: The Treasure in the Shed | Review

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

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

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

Whats in the Box Shed?

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

So what did we find?

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

How to Solve the Shed

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

The Panic Room: Dead Man’s Chest | Review

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While adventuring across the seven seas looking for treasure, you spot a ship adrift on the horizon.  It appears empty, not a soul in sight…

You decide to board this ghostly ship, and upon exploring the captain’s cabin you stumble across a strange chest, emanating a strange and mysterious feel. You reach out to it, and as your fingers move across the rusting steel, a voice bellows from the ether. 

It is the spirit of the captain himself! 

His disembodied voice tells of his discovery of an Aztec ruin, laden with gold. Yet, an even bigger treasure laid within: A totem of immortality. A totem he claimed to himself hastily, hiding the valuable icon from his crew in a chest only he could open. 

Yet, The totem was not all that it seemed, the captain passed away and awoke inside the chest itself. The totem was cursed! 

You now need to help the pirate by solving all of the exciting puzzles within the chest, breaking the curse and set him free.
Are you up for the challenge?

Date Played: 28th December 2021
Time Taken: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 2
Difficulty: Easyish

All aboard the Ti-Panic…!

Back in summer 2021 (which is now LAST YEAR – when on earth did that happen?!), we won an Instagram competition to help name The Panic Room’s new pirate ship for their upcoming experience: Dead Man’s Chest.

As we are not often down south, we booked in (optimistically) for winter 2021 when we would be travelling down to Ash’s family in Kent. Luckily, the stars aligned and we managed to make it down south without getting infected (never thought we would cheers to a negative lateral flow test but COVID has taught us lots of new things about ourselves!).

So, we got to have a go at this new adventure which takes place inside the Panic Room’s sister shop – Don’t Panic, and we are so happy we finally got to play this escape game!

It’s only one box… Right?!

This adventure steers away from the typical escape experience as players are tasked with breaking into a cursed treasure chest, rather than escaping from a room. We initially thought, ‘this surely won’t take us long at all!’, but wow, we were pleasantly surprised by just how much The Panic Room have managed to squeeze into one (pretty big) box!

There were layers and layers of puzzles with drawers appearing from literally nowhere and secret compartments galore. On more than one occasion, a drawer appeared from somewhere that we did not expect and offered up a whole new section of gameplay. It’s a box full of different puzzles and gentle nudges in the right direction.

From moment to moment we found it fairly easy to figure out what we needed to work on next, but this just goes to show how well The Panic Room have signposted the experience… Especially when you’ve only got one treasure chest to work with!

Aye-Aye Captain!

Obviously, this is quite a linear experience as players are solving one section of the chest at a time, but we really enjoyed tackling this game as a pair. With the help of our spooky pirate ghost man, we worked through all the puzzles together and navigated the mechanics of the game seamlessly. The technology worked wonderfully to provide us with a magical experience of breaking into the treasure chest.

A note on the clue system, as we did get stuck on a couple of occasions and needed to use it. It was in theme and clues were delivered clearly and always for the right bit of the chest we were currently working on!

We would definitely recommend this game for an enthusiast pair to see how you get on. It would also work really well for a group of newbies to introduce the escape room concept (and to get you hooked!).

This cursed treasure chest!

Overall, this was a great game. We thoroughly enjoyed playing the Dead Man’s Chest and especially enjoyed getting to explore the Don’t Panic shop afterwards with a nice 10% off for escaping successfully! The shop is literally the dream for escape room enthusiasts, there are SO many games on offer and we had to resist buying everything…

We will definitely be returning to The Panic Room as soon as well can.

You can book the Dead Man’s Chest experience at The Panic Room’s website here.

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party | Review

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The Enigma Fellowship – The Dinner Party Review | Enrico Fabricci, a vintner has been missing for months. The disappearance happened at the same time as The Scattered Cards kidnappings. He was never found. The Fabricci ancestral estate, including the impressive Castello Di Dolcci in Italy, is embroiled in legal battles. Now, his heirs and the court appointed caretaker of their Castle in Tuscany have received mysterious invitations.

Can you find out what happened to Enrico and help save a legacy in peril?

Completion Time: Around 120 minutes
Date Played: 20th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Enjoyable and challenging

For two hours, you will be immersed in the Castello De Dolcci and its expansive grounds – searching through evidence and solving cryptic clues to try and find out what has happened to the vinter Enrico Fabricci.

About Dinner Party

This being my first Enigma Fellowship adventure, I didn’t really know truly what to expect with The Dinner Party. As soon as I opened the unassuming white envelope and its opulent contents spilled out onto our table, I knew we were in for a treat.

The first thing that caught our eye were the invitations to the main event itself – the Dinner Party at the Castello Di Dolci, with some beautiful print work and eye-catching ribbon. But once we got stuck into the game, we realised that it was more what didn’t catch our eye that was important, with observation being a key part of affairs.

The scene was set by some excellent voice acting and I found myself, throughout the game, wishing I could experience it in person, the wine cellars, the library, the vineyard, all vivid in my imagination.

The Challenges

The puzzles in The Dinner Party are varied and enjoyable, with a mix of the mathematical, the verbal, the observational and the logical.

What I really enjoyed about the game was the way that progression was controlled and how the goals of the game were set. When embarking on a puzzle we always knew what we were aiming for – a 6 digit code, an 8 letter word – I personally always find tabletop games to flow better when I have a sense of direction, and The Dinner Party consistently offered me this reassurance with a neat online system.

The first section of the game really set the scene for what was to come, with some elements of spatial observation that used the paper elements in a really interesting way. Every piece of paper was essential, whether it was to enhance the plot or used for a puzzle.

We made it into the first of the ‘locked’ envelopes and discovered that there was so much more content inside. Each step of progression gave us more to read, more to unravel and more to puzzle.

Another feature that I really enjoyed about the design of the game was the extremely comprehensive  clue system. As much as me and my playing partner enjoy the more tricky puzzles, we are definitely not ones to struggle for longer than we deem necessary. We also; however, don’t like being told the answers immediately. This leads to a tricky balance for a clue system to manage, but the clue system for The Enigma Fellowship was fantastic in this regard, with incremental help that really assists you in a non-overbearing way.

Was The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party fun?

When reviewing an experience I feel like this is always the most important question. Was it fun? Did we have a good time? Would I recommend it?

We decided on a few spoiler-free highlights:

Firstly; a maths-based puzzle in the middle which required both history and mathematics in a wonderful combination. The nice feature of this puzzle was that no outside knowledge was required, everything you needed to know was provided in the envelope.

Another of our highlights was a particular element in the game which combined the physical and the logical together to give a neat solution. I don’t want to say too much about this, but at the start we suspected that this physical element would turn into a puzzle, and the designers didn’t disappoint, with a clever solution providing an essential answer.

It wouldn’t be a highlight section without another nod to the great voice acting in the game. The voice clips were a lovely method to set the scene of the game, breaking the story to the players in an exciting way and also reducing the amount of reading in the game, which although not a deal-breaker for me and my partner, can be for some tabletop players.

Summary

Overall I think that The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party was a tabletop escape game experience that hits all the notes that people who enjoy tabletop escape games will appreciate.

I think my only criticism would be that it doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to tabletop escape games. But that’s not necessarily a bad quality. Dinner Party knows what it is and owns it – it has a nice storyline and some clever physical paper puzzles. You know what you’re getting in for when you set out to play and if you enjoy tabletop paper-based games then you’re in for a fun evening.

It took me and my partner about 120 minutes to complete the game and I would say that above all it is excellent value. We enjoyed solving the puzzles and were fully immersed in the plot of finding what had happened to Sig. Fabricci.

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party can be purchased here

Sara Lee Trust: The Detectives That Saved Christmas! | Review

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The Detectives That Saved Christmas Review | The elves radio beacon is in the shape of a star and when the time has come, they climb the tallest Christmas tree they can find, place the star at the top and await the reindeer. The elves stored the star in the community centre but when, after the twelfth week in Great Snoring they went to pick it up it was gone. Only a dozen people have a key to the community center and as there were no signs of a break in it must have been taken by one of them.

After comparing the naughty list with the list of key holders the elves have made a list of the 6 suspects. Can you help the elves find their star? Pull yourselves together and walk a mile in their pointy shoes!

Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 28th November 2021
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Easy

This time last year Play Helps in partnership with the Sara Lee Trust released a charity escape game for Christmas: The Detectives that Saved Christmas! I was slightly gutted to have missed it- I mean, I’m a little bit obsessed with Christmas. It’s totally normal to be updating The Escape Roomer in a Santa hat in November, right? Anyway…

I was very excited to hear that this game is making a comeback this year – bigger and better than ever, 100% of the proceeds for the game go directly to charity. Wahey! Take my money!

There’s something a little magical about doing what I love – playing escape rooms – and knowing you’re doing it for good and the money you spent is going to a really, really good cause. The Sara Lee Trust are a local charity in Hastings that look after those affected by cancer. The charity was chosen after the game’s designer (Shaun Shrubsall) was helped by them, and it’s his way of giving back!

For this reason, we are generally very favourable about the game because we believe as many people as possible should go out and purchase it. For sure, your average enthusiast will not be challenged by it – as it’s not a difficult game at all – but look at it this way: Since it’s got such a family focus and a wide market appeal, this could be just the game to introduce to your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends to get them hooked on whodunnits.

About The Detectives That Saved Christmas

The Detectives That Saved Christmas is a classic whodunnit game. Rather than being in a physical room, the game is played looking top-down at a table with all the suspects and the evidence spilled out upon it. Since the game was built in Telescape, I’m used to 360 views of rooms, so it was really creative to see the escape game platform used in a different way.

Your goal is simple: find the elf that did the crime. This can be done by eliminating each of the elves’ alibis. Six elves and one crime committed in the sleepy town of Great Snoring. You start the game with just the descriptions of the elves, and as time ticks along more and more evidence appears on your desk. Each time a new piece of evidence appears, a little jingle bell sounds. The first time this happened I had my volume set to maximum and nearly screamed. The second and third time was a lot more gentle and festive! As each piece of evidence appears, you can click and drag them to each relevant elf and mark their portraits with a cross to eliminate them or a tick if you think they’re the culprits.

A Winter Whodunnit

In terms of pure puzzles – there aren’t a lot, as this game’s beauty is in logical deduction. If this, then that, which means that elf could not have done it. However I did particularly enjoy using a lot of maths to calculate the exact timings to figure out whether it was technically possible if an elf could have driven to the crime scene in time. Thankfully you’re provided with Google maps, but I like to whip out the calculator too!

It’s not particularly challenging, but I reckon that in a bigger group there’d be a lot of fun debate. This game is nothing if not fun, and when it’s not packed with hilarious elf puns and light hearted jokes, it causes you to question and chat out loud about what you’re solving. In short: making it a perfect family game to get everyone involved in.

Another of my favourite parts was at the very end of the game. once you’ve made your choice, the time skips forward and the credits roll with a funny “where are they now” montage of all the suspects you didn’t chose as the criminals. In a silly kind of way, I was very emotionally invested in these elves and was glad to see they all lived happily ever after… Well, perhaps not all of them.

The Verdict

The Detectives That Saved Christmas is fun, but don’t expect the world of it. After all, its’s a game designed for mass market appeal, to bring the family together – wherever they are in the world – to solve a Christmas mystery. Any game where the proceeds go towards charity is worth grabbing a ticket for!

Play The Detectives That Saved Christmas here.

Ratings

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: Santa’s Sleighcation | Review

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

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

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

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

A Summer Santa

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

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

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

Crack the Codes, not the Coconuts

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

Ratings

Puzzle Post: The Scandal | Review

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Puzzle Post – The Scandal Review | Femi Banuve, a sports photographer, has stumbled across a story of match-fixing and blackmail at the Marseille Tennis Championships. A bank of files and documents are being used to threaten a leading tennis star and Femi needs your help to disrupt the plan.

Completion Time: 70 minutes
Date Played: November 2021
Party Size: 2(+2)
Difficulty: Medium
Recommended For: A dinner party with a twist!

I am a huge fan of Puzzle Post – so when I found out they had a new (and quite unique) experience out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! The Scandal differs from every other Puzzle Post game (such as The Split, The Secret Service and The Missed Flight) in that this one is not personalised. Rather than working on a code which unlocks a secret message for your lucky recipient, The Scandal is a game for groups to play together for a common goal.

Finally – I can stop buying these games as ‘gifts’ for other people then immediately asking to borrow them so I can solve it too!

Because it’s a group game, the envelope is packed with not one but two copies of the entire game. Doubles of everything. In particular, the creators suggest playing it over a dinner party – and I’d agree! With the addition of multiple copies in one go you can spread out and work together. With Christmas around the corner, it’s an impressive game that slims down to an A4 envelope that you could bring to your next celebration.

So What is The Scandal?

The scandal part of The Scandal takes place at the Marseille Tennis Open. The usual – blackmail, match fixing, and some very scandalous revelations. Some interested parties have got their hands on the information and stored it in a secure safe… The code for which, as I’m sure you can guess, is hidden behind juicy puzzles. It’s a fun spin on their usual formula where the sender hides their own message for the recipient to unlock!

Despite tennis being something we know absolutely nothing about, the puzzles that got us to the solution were fairly accessible. Each puzzle in the game is self contained and, hidden somewhere inside the game, is a meta puzzle which reveals the order.

I’m always particularly delighted when regular, almost ‘household’ items are included in puzzle games too. In The Scandal, on opening the envelope a full Raffle Ticket booklet fell out, as well as plenty of business cards, some stickers, leaflets, betting slips and menus. Each item is printed on different styles and qualities of paper but the whole thing felt incredibly genuine. In short, pretty much all the things you might accumulate if you were hanging around the Marseille Tennis Open.

Most of the puzzles are offline with the exception of one that will require you to use the internet. The ending too is digital, as you need to collect the codes from each puzzle and enter them to see if you’re correct. We used a couple of clues and again had to hop online for this – though the whole thing was mobile optimised, so no dinner-party-immersion breaks here!

At the end of the game we found ourselves with a very exciting decision to make. One that, amusingly, we could not agree on! It’s traditional to have at least one argument per dinner party, right? I particularly enjoyed that ours was over our escape game choice (and not the best method of cooking potatoes – I’ll die on the ‘mashed potato’ hill).

The Verdict

I am completely here for this new direction of Puzzle Post games that you buy for yourself rather than a gift, and The Scandal is a fantastic first entry in what I hope is a new series. Everything the company produces is super high quality, really accessible to puzzlers of all ages and demographics, and feels so exciting. All round reliably good games.

There’s a reason they were one of the first puzzle-game creators to get me into the genre and hey, look at where we are now!

The Scandal can be purchased on Puzzle Post’s website here.

Ratings

Doors: Paradox | Review

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Doors: Paradox | Review | For as long as we can remember we’ve been walking on the thin edge between chaos and order. Until one day a mysterious portal was opened and chaos prevailed. Now it’s up to you to bring back order…but it is not that simple!

Developer: Snapbreak Games
Console Played On: Mobile
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Difficulty: Easy
Number Of Players: 1

Doors: Paradox had no business being this good of a game! And of course, I mean that in the Gen-Z way of saying “damn, this game was brilliant”.

For a few months now I’ve not really had any mobiles games to get me excited. Usually I’ve got a couple on the go, and besides one game from about a decade ago which I have to use an emulator for, my ‘game’ folder on my phone has been severely lacking!

Then along came Doors: Paradox, with it’s intriguing trailer, bright poppy graphics, and mysterious undercurrent of a story. Oooh… Tell me more!

Chaos and Order

In Doors Paradox, vast space with a floating island in front of you. Each island is built around a door, but piled high with puzzles to solve before that door will open. You can rotate your camera around the island and tap into almost anything for a closer look, all while collecting objects and combining curious things to reach a puzzle’s solution.

It sounds simple, but the reason why introduces an arcing narrative of chaos and order told through the medium of small scrolls hidden in each level, and a mysterious black cat who beckons you into each doorway and transports you to a new world. It’s a tale as old as time: Chaos versus Order, and somehow your presence in this dimension, following the cat and solving puzzles, will save everyone. At the end of the game you’re presented with a choice and a powerful final puzzle to solve. I have no idea if I made the right choices, but I had a lot of fun doing them.

Doors: Paradox

Puzzlescapes and Floating Islands

I suspend my disbelief on the story, because Doors: Paradox’s strength isn’t really in the narrative, it’s in the puzzlescapes each level presents. Escape room enthusiasts will be familiar with some of the themes – there’s a pirate episode, a haunted house episode, a cyberpunk style episode – even some strong steampunk elements running all the way through. But the developers manage to inject a feeling of freshness to each world they create to create visually impressive graphics and a brilliant soundtrack to boot.

Each of these little worlds is a whole escape room in of itself. You can expect about 5 – 10 minutes of gameplay for each, with a few stand out levels which really got my brain cogs whirring to solve. There’s a huge mix of puzzles in this game and the feel of each new world is so unique that each time I picked up my phone (whilst waiting for the bus, or waiting for some pasta to cook) I felt a sense of familiarity and surprise at what the next level presented.

For sure, there were a few puzzles I recognised from other video games and escape room games, but that likely comes with the territory of their only being a finite number of types of puzzles out there. In particular there were a few I recognised from The Room series, and one or two from old platformers I grew up with. but then, there were also many I’d never seen before which were fantastic. Some stand outs include fixing a motorbike in a cyberpunk future world, casino slots, fighting a cat over a box of sushi and angling the sun’s rays to destroy a vampire.

The majority of the puzzles are solved by tapping your finger to find, combine and use objects, but occasionally a more complex puzzle presents itself where a series of rotating dials must be tweaked to the rigth angle, some reflex action as you fire objects through small spaces, or a classic connecting wires puzzle. In any case, the breadth of what types of puzzles you’ll encounter is vast, so expect to be kept on your toes!

As well as solving the puzzles, there are gemstones to collect and scrolls to discover if you wish to follow the narrative. These are offered as collectables, but play an important role as you’ll need the gemstones to unlock the final, Epilogue levels too.

An Immersive Atmosphere… In Your Pocket!

No review of Doors: Paradox would be complete without mentioning the sound. I almost never play mobile games with the volume up – mostly because I’m playing on the go, in public, or listening to something else in the background. But Doors: Paradox is one of those games worth taking the extra effort to listen as you play. From moody sound scapes to relaxing music and satisfying jingles when a correct answer is inputted… The developers have done a brilliant job in bringing their world’s to life with sound!

Combined with the graphics, this makes Doors: Paradox an unexpectedly relaxing game. Like watching an escape room themed “lofi beats” on repeat for hours on Youtube, Doors: Paradox manages to create a perfect zen atmosphere. The puzzles can be tricky, but there’s nothing taxing in this game. It’s more about your journey through the worlds.

Of course, if you get stuck you can skip a puzzle with no detriment to the game at all – another nod to the fact the developers want you to really take your time and enjoy yourself here.

The Verdict

The first 8 levels in Doors: Paradox are free, after which you can pay a small amount to upgrade to the full game. For me, it’s well worth upgrading. If you enjoy the first 8 levels, then the whole game offers more of the same (and then some).

I personally really enjoyed playing it, and if I had just one criticism it would be that there isn’t more of it. I could have played 100 more levels and wouldn’t have been bored for a single moment. If you’re looking for a visually gorgeous, ‘pick up and play’ any time style mobile game that scratches that escape room itch, look no further.

If you want to play Doors: Paradox for yourself, download it for free on the Google Play Store or Apple Store here.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files | Review

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Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review | This gripping paranormal horror adventure revolves around Hermitage, the sinister bookstore that attracts most unusual customers – all of whom seem to be involved in mysterious cases bordering on the paranormal.

Developer: Arrowitz
Console Played On: PC
Time Taken: 20+ Hours
Difficulty: Medium
Number Of Players: 1

Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a really unusual game to review here on The Escape Roomer, and for this review we have to put on our “detective” hat rather than “escape room hat”. Of course, there’s a big argument to say that they’re both very transferrable skills. But Hermitage: Strange Case Files, although an interesting game, is definitely more suitable for an audience who enjoy length murder mystery novels.

In the words of my co-writer Russ, who normally reviews video games:

Do you like lengthy detective novels?

Do you prefer to deduce than solve puzzles?

Are you interested in the paranormal?

If so, then this game might be for you.

Welcome to the Hermitage Book Shop

The story centres around the Hermitage Book Shop, it’s owner who never leaves, and the curious customers who visit. Broken up into several chapters, each chapter offers a new case to investigate. Along the way you acquire more books that hint at the occult, Lovecraftian world beyond the book shop’s front door…. Absolutely magical!

The elephant in the room is that this game is well over 30 hours if you want to complete the whole thing. It’s not a puzzle game sprint, it’s a narrative marathon.Thankfully the game helps you out by highlighting the most important parts – the clues – in red which you can add to your notebook. But even with this, buckle in because you’re in for a long game!

Inbetween the dialogue, we get to the juicier part of the game: the investigation! Whether looking online for clues, communicating with characters via your phone or, you guessed it, checking in the books – this game is all about solving a series of mysterious cases. As the game unfolds we also learn more about the manager, and the owner of the shop.

There is also an element of choose-your-own-adventure to this story. Occasionally different dialogue options will be presented that change the way the case, or even the whole game pans out, which is an interesting addition too. Choose badly and you’ll get a bad ending, but save regularly and you can always go back and replay segments if you wish to try again.

The Artwork

Story aside, my favourite thing about Hermitage Case Files was without a doubt the moody artwork and atmosphere. For a visual novel, this game is *chef’s kiss* The art style is similar to an anime film, or manga book, yet it still evokes a beautiful feeling of noir dark academia. There’s something really wonderful about working in a dusty old book shop filled with otherworldly books and each new character that joined the story expanded the rich world even further. There was something a little Studio Ghibli about the game that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I loved it.

The Verdict

Overall, it’s a really hard game to judge. In conclusion, I did personally enjoy this game but we (since a few of The Escape Roomer team played parts of Hermitage: Strange Case Files) struggle to recommend this to your average escape room audience. Like a lengthy detective novel, this game will last a long time and take players through thousands of lines of dialogue before the end credits roll. If that’s something you enjoy, then give it a go! But if you’re expecting more puzzle solving, then this game might not be for you.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files can be played on Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, iOS, Android.

Ratings

Escape Hunt: Day of the Dead | Review

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Escape Hunt Day of the Dead Review | Tonight, it is the Day of the Dead and amongst the festivities, music and colour, lies a legendary challenge: the chance to be reborn. Have you got what it takes to lead a skeleton crew of expert thieves into the most heavily guarded building in the whole underworld? For one night only, the walls between the real world and the afterlife have come down and the greatest prize of them all sits inside a secure vault somewhere inside the palace, waiting to be taken by someone bold enough to try.

Date Played: October 2021
Time Taken: 1 Hour 2 Mins
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Easy

Bright, colourful, yet slightly spooky

Its no surprise that I am a big fan of the print at home games produced by Escape Hunt over the last year or so. Everything is of the highest quality, with some outstanding graphic design and solidly thought out themes and puzzles. And this game is certainly no exception.

The theme grabbed me instantly. I have real love for all things based on Dias De Las Muertos and I am surprised that its a theme that isn’t more widely used in the escape room community. The combination of traditional family values, beautifully colourful painted faces and the more ominous death factors give some real endless opportunities for puzzle designers – and the guys at Escape Hunt have certainly gone to town with this theme, and grasped the challenge with both skeleton painted hands!

Sensory overload?! You bet! But my eyes were buzzing with the amazing colours involved in this game. Obviously, your printer might not enjoy it, but your eyes certainly well. But don’t worry, the guys at Escape Hunt have you covered – the opening page of the PDF file clearly shows what you need to print to make the game a little more pocket-friendly on your printer!

Strike up the band, Amigos

Getting a sense of immersion from a print at home game will always prove difficult. One way that is always a winner for me, is the use of sound and music. With Day of the Dead, the website gives you the opportunity to strike up the Mariachi band and indulge in the sounds of Mexico. And whilst the soundtrack does get somewhat repetitive, it really adds a nice touch and a little bit of atmosphere often lacking at print at home games.

My favourite subject – puzzles! Now whilst I’d suggest that the majority of the puzzles are relatively simple, don’t go thinking you’ll just sail on through without too much to test you. There are some common puzzle themes which you may have likely seen before, but what Escape Hunt do really well, is give these a subtle twist. There are around 10 puzzles within this game and all are accessible to any level of player – the kids will love how they look graphically, and can certainly get involved without question. The more experienced players would likely love this as a solo or duo game.

The game is broken down into three distinct sections – as ever, no spoilers, however Escape Hunt have cleverly placed page blockers into the game to make sure that you don’t accidentally turn the page to the next puzzle and ruin your journey to secure what’s hidden within the vault. And whilst the game is linear in nature, there would be no harm in separating away from each other during each of three sections to play games as individuals and then pulling together when required.

The game also ties itself together well, by using a set of bones which are found early on in the process. These have some odd encryptions on them which need to be referred to on a number of occasions throughout the game. This is a really solid way of not making the gameplay feel too sporadic.

As with all the Escape Hunt games, there is a very trusty online guide available. As you progress through the series of puzzles, should you find yourself up the Mexican creek without a paddle, here you can find a selection of hints. The first hint for each puzzle tends to be rather cryptic but gives just enough of a nudge to push you forward. If this still isn’t enough there’s a secondary hint for each game which is much more obvious. And whilst I wouldn’t expect many players would need them, you can also find the answers for each puzzle too. It should be noted that this online guide is just as beautifully colourful as the printed documents and is a real treat for the eyes.

Cutting skills at the ready!

Don’t forget your scissors for this game though amigos! Two major puzzles (and I’d probably also suggest my favourite of the entire game), need you to put your cutting skills to the test. I often worry that you lose your flow when having to stop to cut things up when playing printed games, which can often a frustration. And whilst one of the two games did require me to put my expert arts and crafts skills to the test, it actually gave a much greater sense of achievement when I completed it. Instead of just reading through material, having these more interactive factors, were a perfect addition.

The finale of this game is very clever. The answers to your final puzzles just appear to be a bit of a muddle; I was certainly questioning whether I had messed up, but I shouldn’t have feared! Make use of the printed decoder tool and you’ll soon find how to complete your mission! Head online to enter your secret password and find if you can what secrets there are to unveil.

The Verdict

When all was said and done, this is certainly a very solid outing from Escape Hunt. The combination of some well designed puzzles (both with and without the requirement of my trusty scissors!), possibly the most beautifully created graphics for a print at home game I’ve played, and a really cracking theme, make this one of the games I am unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Sounds like fun right? If you think so head on over to the Escape Hunt website at this link.

Ratings