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.

Professor Puzzle: Curse of the Dark | Review

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

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

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

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

 

 

How to Play Curse of the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

See the Day Turn into Night…

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

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

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

 

 

…Through the Darkness, There’s the Light

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

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

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

 

 

The Verdict

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

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

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

A big round of applause from me!

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

Detective Mimo | Review

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Detective Mimo Review | There is a bright shining City hidden in the Kingdom of CAT called Shrimp, an amazing place with luxurious facilities such as Cat Beauty Salon, fish café and MEW Bank. Shrimp attracts thieves from whole country. The most mysterious and rich palace called MEW bank is the prime target. One day, a renowned thief proclaimed that he would invade the bank and loot all the gold. Shrimp needs detective Mimo, a policecat who has guarded the city bravely to stop the crime! After conquering obstacles and solving puzzles, Mimo finally met the thief, but, to her surprise, the thief told her another story that will change Mimo’s life forever.

Developer: Omescape
Date Played: May 7th 2022
Console: Mobile
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: ~2 hours

When Detective Mimo first came out, I immediately downloaded it onto my phone.

That was around a year ago, and every single day I opened up my games folder (usually to play through the Rusty Lake series, or more recently the Escape Games with their adorable clay-motion style), the masked Cat Thief would be staring up at me egging me on to open up the game.

I knew that Detective Mimo would be one of those games that would become all-encompassing and all-consuming. I’d also heard on the grapevine that it required some outside the box mobile phone mechanics such as plugging your phone in to trigger an action, spinning and rotating the physical device and so on. A game like that couldn’t just be picked up and put down at will in a doctor’s waiting room. Nope, I wanted to sit down and give it my full and individed attention.

That day came on a Saturday morning spent cooped up at home as I waited for my occasional Player 2 to get ready to go out. I had a couple of hours and felt like immersing myself in a puzzle filled world of detectives… And cats!

 

 

Everyone’s Favourite Policecat, Detective Mimo

Detective Mimo is an impossibly brilliant game to try to explain. If I had to distill the essence of the experience down to just one sentence… I couldn’t. So here’s the long version:

Detective Mimo is a classic mobile point-and-click escape room adventure with some major twists. Players play as Detective Mimo herself, a cat detective on the case to track down and foil the mysterious Cat Thief’s plans to rob the city bank. If you’ve played any puzzle adventure games you’ll probably know the drill – look for items, solve puzzles, give items to characters, combine items, advance the game and so on and so on. But I’m not giving it the “Wow Award” for being extra innovative for this.

Nope, it’s what happens next that is the star of the show. Without going into too many spoilers, a point in the game comes when the player must start all over again. I suppose it’s not too much of a spoiler to admit since this is the part of the game the company’s marketing focuses on the most, for example, in the trailer. But rest assured that this 50% point is when things start to get really, really weird.

Fourth Wall?! What Fourth Wall?

The first part of the game is really just a precursor to the second part of the game, the point from which the fourth wall is broken and the whole essence of “what even is a game” and “what are we doing here” is cracked wide open. From this point, players find themselves dismantling the video game from the inside out, typing code, command strings, sneaking around hidden menus.

The game developers take full advantage of the medium too. The point-and-click style of gameplay becomes redundant at a point, this time you need to really think outside of the box and figure out what your mobile phone device can do. At times I was holding my phone in the weirdest angles, spinning it around on a table, rummaging around looking for my charger to plug it in, and even using the torch light on the back of it to help solve puzzles.

It was a brilliantly wild ride.

 

 

*Miow*

But it’s not all about the puzzles and the quirky gameplay, Detective Mimo is an all round solid game when it comes to the details too. From a lovely, hand-illustrated style of world complete with a whole host of feline characters, to a fun (and often very dramatic) sound track that had my partner asking several times what on Earth I was doing on my phone.

The narrative design is some of the best I’ve seen in any video game for a very long time, and with exciting character arcs condensed into such a short and snappy game, I was hooked from the very first second to the very last.

In fact, I only needed to take one break – at some point my partner was ready to go out and off we went and enjoyed a day of eating nice food and walking around – but the whole time I couldn’t shake that itch of wanting to get back home so I could find out what happened to Detective Mimo. Was she okay in my phone without me? Could I sneak a glance during a bathroom break? This game has that effect on you, and it’s powerful.

As a final note on this game’s extra-gameplay perks, there is a secret level which might just be my favourite puzzle sequence in any game ever. This to say, it’s worth investigating, if you can.

 

 

The Verdict

Detective Mimo, for all it’s charm, has shot up to my personal gold tier of “must play” escape room video games and I’m floored that it isn’t more popular and well known within this community. If you only download one more game on your mobile device ever, make sure it’s this one. My best advice? Don’t be like me and wait a whole 10 months from downloading it to actually playing it – carve out an hour or two and play it right away! I promise you.

With such an impressive game from the Omescape Games team, I just hope they’ll work on another one. A sequel perhaps? I’d love to see more from Detective Mimo and her nemeses. Or perhaps an alternate reality detective genre set in the canine kingdom instead?

Whatever it’ll be, I’m eagerly awaiting returning to the fantastically brilliant puzzle game worlds this company creates.

 

Detective Mimo can be played on all mobile devices. Head to the website to download it here.

Enigmailed: Chocolateral Bars | Review

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A puzzle-wrapped chocolate bar through the post every month? An idyllic village, ravaged with nefarious mysteries? The chance to vote for future flavours and storylines?

It’s a world’s first, people!

Have you ever been sitting there, eating a bar of chocolate, wishing that your experience was a bit more puzzley? Are you like me and want to include puzzles into all aspects of your life… Especially chocolate consumption? Are you slightly more normal and just want to get a cool gift for that puzzle person in your life? Enigmailed have the answer to all these questions.

Okay so those examples are a little extreme, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that British company Enigmailed have been hard at work these past months creating several new experiences, including my very favourite of which: Chocolateral Bars. Put simply, chocolate bars which contain brilliant little puzzles on the packaging!

At the moment, they have the following chocolate bars on offer:

 

 

Both chocolate bars have a mystery to solve – a kind of murder mystery come detective drama. Your job in both is to read the clues and discover a WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW the curious crime was committed. As one of my friends pointed out when I gifted them a bar, “I’m not sure eating chocolate called Fatal Experimint is a good idea”, but I can guarantee, several bars of chocolate later, that they are not poisonous. Just creatively named!

Neither mystery is going to take you any longer than the amount of time it takes to eat the chocolate bar, that’s for sure. But I think that’s part of the beauty of it, making this a fantastic gift for just about anyone in your life – puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike. It’s like playing a sudoku in the morning paper over your cuppa.

 

The Verdict

Honeycomb Sting

Flavour: Honeycomb Milk
Completion Time: 10 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

Both taste and puzzle-wise, Honeycomb Sting was my favourite of the two, but that’s mostly personal preferences as I don’t really like mint all that much. In Honeycomb Sting, you’re introduced to the setting of a palace with a world famous beehive kept on the grounds – but wait, somebody has been stealing all the honey! Eek!

Thankfully, the culprit has left behind clues on the chocolate wrapper. From lightly highlighted letters to curious strings of digits, each separate puzzle points towards a different piece of information, such as the identify of the thief, or where they’ve hidden the honey.

The only question remains whether you’ll catch them before you finish the bar!

 

 

Fatal Experimint

Flavour: Mint Dark
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

The harder of the two, Fatal Experimint adds a little extra tension to the game – Dr. Spears, the dentist has been poisoned! But if you can successfully solve the game, you’ll be able to find an antidote to save his life. In this mini mystery, you’re looking to make an arrest, and fast!

The puzzles differ a lot between the two experiences, with Fatal Experimint utilising more numerical puzzles, and a couple of well known beloved ciphers with an Enigmailed twist. Since I played (and ate) this one second, the chocolate might be getting to my head and making it seem tricker, but I’d definitely rate this one as the more challenging of the two.

 

Excalibar’s Sword

Flavour: Eton Mess
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 19th September 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, a priceless artefact believed to be the Sword in the Stone has been stolen! Once again it’s your job to figure out who thief is, why it was stolen, where it was last seen and what it is being disguised as. As with the other chocolate bars, there’s also a (very tricky) bonus puzzle, for those who want to go the extra mile: How many millions the sword is insured for!

By the time you’ve played the first two, you’ll get the gist of it by now – all over the packaging many small puzzles are hidden. In Excalibar’s Sword you’ll be looking for any letters that seem out of place, ciphers, and hints in plain sight… Among other things!

Of all the flavours (so far) Eton Mess absolutely has to be my favourite. I’m a huge fan of white chocolate and strawberry, so it’s a double thumbs up from me!

 

Toffear Apple

Flavour: Toffee Apple Milk Chocolate
Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 30th October 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, there’s mischief afoot at the Longstocking Orchard. Apple wielding ghosts? Or perhaps just a Halloween prank! It’s the player’s role to find out who is disguising themselves as a ghost, how they’re evading security, what their motive is and where they are hiding out.

As a Halloween special, it’s delightful! Of course, Toffear Apple is part of the Chocolateral subscription, but as someone who likes to give Halloween gifts this makes it the perfect treat to give out to guests and adult trick or treaters.

But of course, as with all Chocolateral bars, the puzzles are not particularly easy. No sir. I’m very well acquainted with Enigmailed’s hints page by now. But, since you’re always looking for a word (or a few words), players can expect a bounty of exactly that: word based puzzles! In Toffear Apple in particular I enjoyed turning of the bar over and over on the look out for ghosts, apples, and making the words out of the peculiar things on the paper. Spooky fun, and just what I needed to kick off a Halloween celebration!

 

 

Seasons Eatings

Flavour: Chilli Dark Chocolate
Completion time: approx 30 mins
Date Played: 21st November 2021
Party Size: 2

In this edition of Chocolateral, we’re getting festive! But don’t expect tidings of comfort and joy…at least not straight away. There is something afoot, as someone has snatched all of the snacks which had been left out for Santa and his helpers! As usual, it is up to you to peruse the clues hidden in the packaging to solve the seasonal mystery, and there is plenty to sink your teeth into (geddit?!). Yes, not only have you got to figure out who left their footprints in the snow, when they struck, what they’re doing with their bounty of festive treats and how they managed to evade being caught- you’ve also got the chance to go the extra mile (all the way to the north pole maybe?) to figure out which popstar paid for them in the first place!

Picture this: a chilly but clear Sunday afternoon in the lead up to Christmas, eating delicious chocolate, sipping on festive spiced punch and solving puzzles! What better way to get cosy and in the spirit for the next month’s worth of festivities (oh yes, we looove Christmas!). We really enjoyed the level of detail Enigmailed have gone into- the classic Christmassy red, green and white colour scheme; the seasonal imagery of crackers, santas and presents; and the puns- oh how we enjoy a good pun at the best of times, let alone when Christmas is involved. The puzzles are cleverly interspersed into the packaging as usual, which if you’ve played before you will have come to be quite familiar with. We found some of the puzzles quite quick to solve and others took a bit more thought, which we thought would make this a great little activity to do over Christmastime with the whole family- there’s enough to go around in terms of both puzzles and of course CHOCOLATE (if you don’t mind sharing!)

The chilli dark chocolate flavour of the chocolate was lovely; the chilli wasn’t overpowering but provided a nice warming which felt perfect for a Christmassy bar. And we loved the fact that as a dark chocolate bar this month, it is suitable for vegans, so everyone can get on the chocolatey puzzle solving bandwagon, just in time for Christmas! Seasons Eatings was a perfect festive puzzley treat for the lead up to the big day itself!

 

 

Valentine Brawl

Flavour: Plain Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 6th February 2022
Party Size: 2

What’s the classic Valentine’s Day gift? Chocolate! But, what’s the perfect VDay gift for your escape enthusiast Valentine? Puzzle Chocolate! In this edition of Chocolateral, trouble is afoot at the village Jewellers, Emerald Aisle (yes, we loved that pun) as someone has robbed all their rings, depriving many happy couples of their VDay engagement plans!

While nibbling on our non-engagement related chocolatey Valentine’s treat, we had to figure out the classic W’s- Who, What, Where and Why, oh why, were the rings targeted?! Each time we play we are amazed by Enigmailed’s ability to squeeze in new and different types of puzzle into such a small space and following a consistent format. We enjoyed the variety of puzzles offered and found that each of us had ones that just seemed to click with us instantly. The matter of Why did stump us for a while and we decided to go for a quick look at their handy hint page to help us out with this one and work the puzzle backwards, but we got there in the end! We were also very pleased with ourselves as we also managed to solve the bonus puzzle to find out the name of the owner of the jewellers.

With Valentine Brawl, as with all the Chocolateral bars, we love the feeling that the chocolate is a reward for doing a good job puzzling and, of course, puns-a-plenty is always a bonus to enhance the puzzle solving fun further!

Whether you’re cupid reincarnate, or not so much of a fan of the mushy lovey dovey stuff, Valentine Brawl is a fun option to celebrate or take your mind off the season of love!

 

Simply the Zest!

Flavour: White Chocolate Lemon Meringue 
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 12th April 2022
Party Size: 2

Dun, dun, dun! There’s been a murder, but who dunnit?! It’s the classic soap, a mysterious murder, a woman found dead in her high-rise apartment, the suspicious roast dinner… Hold on, a roast dinner!? We are glad that this did not feature in the chocolate bar flavouring.

Our of all of the bars in this subscription, this one was the most ‘story based’ of the Chocolateral series we have played so far, asking you to find out who has committed the crime, as well as tasking you with identifying those pesky red herrings (ahh yes, enthusiasts will recognise the struggles of red herrings as well!)

We got stuck into this bar quickly (the puzzles we mean…of course…) and found ourselves with 4 of the 5 puzzles solved relatively quickly. They were all logical and had strong sign-posting, something which always impresses us as Enigmailed managed to squeeze this so much onto such a small chocolate bar wrapper! 

The final, trickier puzzles left us scratching our heads though. We could not figure out the WHEN of our murder mystery. In this case, finding out the ‘when’ was the the bonus puzzle of this chocolate bar, so the answer is not on the website. So, dear readers, if anyone knows the WHEN – please do get in touch and let us know! We promise we will pay you in chocolate (if there is any left…) 

All in all, another great entry into the Chocolateral series, and we cannot wait to see what fantastical flavours and puzzles the creator dreams up next.

 

 

Fool’s Errand

Flavour: Banoffee Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 4th April 2022
Party Size: 2

So, we definitely should have played this on April Fool’s Day – we missed a trick there! But alas, we sat down to see whether we would be made fools of, or whether we could work out who was clowning around trying to set up poor Uncle Fumble? We are currently playing the month-long puzzle offered by Enigmailed – also named “Fool’s Errand” – so it was felt apt to tackle this game to check our puzzling skills were ready to challenge the enigmatic “Leaderboard”! Also, after playing one of the more recent games, we realised we could have used our chocolate bar to complete one of the challenges…double Fool’s Errand (can we have a shout out on the leader board if we manage to link the puzzles?!)

We found this bar one of the more challenging ones. We couldn’t seem to click with the puzzles in the same way as some of the others. However, we think this may be a good way to showcase how different each of the bars manage to be. Some we find we can solve in ten minutes, others we keep coming back to over a series of days to see if we can finally get that a-ha moment (and steal a piece of chocolate as a reward hehe). In this way, you can savour the puzzles in the same way you can savour the chocolate (well, if you want to…).  There was one stand out puzzle on this bar though that we did click with (after the hype around a particular word based game which we play religiously every day) – it must be all that practice. It was a really clever way of translating the puzzle concept onto paper, and we appreciated the effort that had been made to showcase a new puzzle type. 

If you’ve not checked out the month long puzzle that Enigmailed are running, definitely pop onto their website! It’s a great way to get your puzzling in, whilst providing that competitive edge so many of us puzzlers enjoy. You can find lots of fun challenges, and plenty of ways to work up an appetite (although who needs to work up anything to eat a delicious banoffee flavoured treat – banana, toffee, chocolate…it’s a dream combo!).

 

 

Crime Caramel

Flavour: Creme Caramel Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 7th May 2022
Party Size: 2

Uh oh! There’s been a robbery! Lizzy (very aptly named) has had her most fabulous lizards stolen, and it is up to you to find out the WHO, the WHEN, and the WHY. Oh, and to add to the mix, one of the lizards suffers from a skin condition, and you need to figure out which one so you can get the lotion to them ASAP (an excellent way of adding a bit of pressure). We went for a pic of our lovely pet here (any excuse to put in a pic of Tilly – she was not helpful in solving Lizzy’s predicament)

As we play more of Engimailed’s wonderful Chocolateral series, we are beginning to learn a bit about the different puzzling styles featured on the bars. We are getting better at seeing patterns, and playing these games regularly is definitely helping to give our puzzling skills ticking over. However, that definitely does not mean that we are now finding these easy – there was one puzzle in particular on this game that we found especially challenging – and brought a wonderful A-HA moment when we finally solved it. We clicked with this bar better than the previous one and managed to get through all the puzzles without looking for a hint (although, when we did go to check the answers, we got stumped trying to find those (wink wink!)). 

We were stoked to also manage to solve the extra challenge of finding out HOW MANY lizards were taken. It would be creme-inal not to mention the excellent pun use in this bar. We are so here for some fun word-play and always enjoy Enigmailed’s humorous blurbs and storylines. 

We shared this chocolate bar with Ash’s mum to spread the love (and also because we had recently ordered a huge amount of reduced Easter chocolate oops). We’ve had some excellent feedback from her on the taste “very creamy, very caramel, perfect for a sweet tooth” so I think we may have another Enigmailed fan on our hands! These bars would certainly make such a good gift for anyone you know who likes chocolate (and who doesn’t?!), and enjoys a bit of puzzling. 

 

Tilly Enjoying Crime Caramel Chocolateral

 

About the Chocolate

The chocolate manufacturer is Kernow Chocolate, created and hand-packed in Cornwall, UK. If you need any evidence of all the love and care gone into creating this chocolate, just look at the list of ingredients! I’ve never seen a shorter ingredient list in my life – it’s all totally natural, not a chemical in sight.

Even without the puzzles, I already find myself browsing the manufacturer’s website to see what else they sell. It was that tasty, and I feel great about supporting a local UK business.

 

 

You can purchase a Chocolateral Bar over on Enigmailed’s website here, and also use the promocode MAIL10 for 10% off an order of Undeliverable!

 

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

The Secret City: Murder on the Don | Review

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The Secret City: Murder on the Don | A local resident has been found dead after playing a mysterious game. The only way to catch the killer? Joining the next round. Solve cryptic and sinister tasks as you work with Sherlock Holmes to try to figure out the identity of the game’s murderous creator. Fail, and you might be their next victim.

This outdoor escape game offers an engaging new way to experience Sheffield. Explore the historic city, its pubs, statues and street art, as winding clues lead you to the heart of a deadly mystery. Will you be able to catch the killer, or will you be forced to survive by other, less heroic means… 

Completion Time: 1 hour 42 minutes (plus a couple breaks as recommended by Sherlock)
Date Played: 17th April 2022
Party Size: 3 + a bulldog!
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Difficulty: Medium

We struck gold with the BEST weather we could ask for to take on The Secret City’s ‘Murder on the Don’ outdoor experience. It was also the vegan market in the centre of Sheffield, so it was a double win-win for us to be out and about exploring the city! 

Prior to heading down to town, Ash received clear instructions from the Secret City team instructing us how we would access the game and what to expect. We’ve never used the Telegram app before, and we were really impressed with how well it functioned! It helped boost the immersion with ‘real-time’ messages and clues that progressed alongside the storyline, helping to give the experience, that ‘buzz’ of adrenaline that can be sometimes hard to capture outside of a physical room. 

The game began at Devonshire Green. We were called upon by our friend, Sherlock Holmes, to assist him with a recent murder case. From there, we were thrust into a race against time to play along with the mysterious ‘murder game’ that had been involved with some recent homicide cases (just some light-hearted Easter fun!!! It was a bit more time-pressured than your average Easter hunt).

Initially, I must admit that we were all very sceptical of Sherlock’s role – could we trust our favourite detective?! 

 

So far managing to stay ahead of Sherlock….

 

One Sunny Day in Sheffield

The puzzles were great. We were looking at our city through new eyes! It was a combination of following directions (which were often given to you in riddles), noticing things around the area and then applying these to a ‘puzzle’ to work out a solution that was input into the Telegram app. It was really handy that we were given the total number of tasks at the start, so we could easily see our progress, and how much we still had to complete (side note, the bulldog managed about 18 of the 23 tasks – Maggie was a 10/10 companion, although she did mean we took way longer as everyone understandably wanted to give her fuss and attention).

The game itself had in-built breaks which were very welcome, and recommended local businesses nearby to try out – very much a win-win!

 

Taking a much needed pit stop at one of the great bars recommended to us!

 

We should caveat our commentary on this game with the fact that all three players are very familiar with the city of Sheffield (although despite living here all her life Tasha can still get lost hehe). However, we managed to visit places we had never been before, which was amazing! The scope of this game was great, it took us all throughout the city, visiting the classic spots such as the cathedral, the Riverside, the steel works at Kelham Island before finishing at the beautiful Victoria Quays!

For people who are new to the city, or those that are steel-city legends themselves, this is definitely one to play. 

 

Tasha seeing our city in a whole new light!

 

The Verdict

The ending was delivered well – it was dramatic and provided a satisfactory finale to our playthrough. A nice touch was the list of recommendations for nearby pubs etc that the game gave us (big shout out again for this, what a good feature!).

We will definitely be keen to check out the other games on offer by The Secret City. What a fab activity for the upcoming summer months and such a brilliant way to discover somewhere new or get a new perspective of a well-loved city!

 

Murder on the Don can be booked for Sheffield by heading to Secret City’s website here.

If you wish to play at another location, a similar story is also available in New York and Sydney.

The Detective Society: Trouble in Folklore Falls 1 | Review

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Trouble in Folklore Falls Review | Discover the darker side to your favourite folklore characters as you work with the ‘big bad’ wolf to crack the case, in this interactive boxed mystery. A story filled with twists, turns and some laughs thrown in for good measure. A play-at-home mystery adventure, perfect for date-nights, team building, board gamers, crime solvers, mystery fans and everyone in who loves a good mystery story!

Completion Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Date Played: 18/03/2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

 

 

I think I was one of the only play at home mystery game fans who hadn’t experienced The Detective Society, so when Trouble at Folklore Falls landed on my doorstep I was excited to rip it (gently) open. First impressions were positive, the envelope itself was really high quality and the materials provided have been successfully designed to immerse you in the story. We’re talking flyers, newspapers, notes, food packaging – all of which are so professionally made. Please see the photo below, but note – I haven’t included all of the contents in photos to ensure no spoilers!

 

 

The story itself is based on characters from folklore, with favourites such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Humpty Dumpty all under suspicion of kidnapping the community’s beloved pets. Here at The Escape Roomer, we love our pets very, very much. How could they?!

It’s our job to use the evidence provided to compile a suspect list, and deduct who is behind the crimes in Folklore Falls.

 

A trustworthy narrator?

Our guide through the investigation is none other than the Big Bad Wolf, who keeps in regular contact via SMS, email, radio and telephone calls. In fact, this is the best example of using automated communication I’ve experienced. It’s been really cleverly designed so we can speak to suspects, and the most impressive part came in a phone call where what we specifically said dictated different responses from the character.

 

A Puzzling Mystery

The main puzzles you will experience in Trouble in Folklore Falls are logic based. Who was where at what time, and could they have committed a crime? That’s not all though, there are word searches, hidden messages to decipher, fold and cut style puzzles, passwords to hack and podcast episodes to analyse. A little bit of everything to suit all different types of puzzlers, held together with a strong logic puzzle.

This feels like it might be the first Detective Society game where you could get your kids involved. Previous mysteries have been based on more adult themes, and although there may be references for the grown ups only I can see a young adult audience enjoying the puzzles, hearing from familiar characters and really appreciating the experience.

 

A game to keep you guessing until the last moment…

The storyline is brilliant, and keeps you guessing the entire time. You’re never quite sure who to trust, but you’re provided with a great evidence form for note taking. What I particularly enjoyed was that once you’d figured out the suspect, the game wasn’t over. You are directed towards more puzzles to solve and an exciting ending which of course, leads you towards episode two.

The jokes are a particular strong point, though be warned you’ll be cringing!

 

 

The Verdict

This is one of the best play at home mysteries I’ve ever played. The attention to detail is incredible, the mix of media and physical evidence means you’re constantly entertained, the storyline is the perfect mix of crime and humour – I could go on and on.

At the time of writing there are currently 4 available mysteries to solve and the reviews have been brilliant across the board. Trouble in Folklore Falls has done it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to finish this case and try the others.

If you want to get started with Trouble in Folklore Falls yourself, head to The Detective Society’s website here.

 

Escape Quest: Chapelgate Mysteries: Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe | Review

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Rating: Just….wow!
Completion Time: 53 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2022
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: People of all abilities who want to have a brilliantly satisfying hour of fun!

 

New building, who dis?

At Escaping the Closet we have been fond fans of Escape Quest Macclesfield for a long time, and having completed all of the rooms they had to offer pre-pandemic, we were so excited to hear that they had new stuff in store for 2021, as we weren’t sure what could top what we had already played! They reopened in October 2021 with their shiny new building and their shiny new unique concept- The Chapelgate Mysteries; a series of games set across different periods of time but all taking place in the Chapelgate district. We were delighted with this idea and so excited to finally be able to plan a return to Escape Quest. The first of the Chapelgate Mysteries quests to open is Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe, a familiar name as we had already played this game at their previous premises…. However, FEAR NOT, as although the OG Curiosity Shoppe was brilliant, the new, improved version was 99% new. Trust us when we say, it does NOT matter if you have played the previous version of the game, you will be sure to have to use your head (all the while being WOWED) throughout the game!

 

It’s bigger on the inside!

Upon arriving at Escape Quest, Elaine (side note, the friendliest GM ever) advised us of our mission. Turns out Mr Copplestone was a bit of a genius and actually managed to invent time travel. Unfortunately, in the present day, he’s down to his last Time Echo Crystal (‘what’s one of those?’ I hear you say. They’re what power the time machine, of course, what else?!), but there are Time Echo Crystals a-plenty back in his shop in1873. But, time travel being one of those risky businesses, with the portal only holding itself open for an hour, we were charged with being the ones to head back there and try to gather as many of the Time Echo Crystals as poss. Easy, right?! Well, not when you aren’t sure just how many of them forgetful Mr Copplestone has left behind! Well, at least 8 are required to successfully make it back to present day, so that is the minimum goal, but there could be MANY MANY MORE (spoiler, there are MANY)!

Of course, us being very much up to the challenge, we hopped into the time machine, listened carefully to Mr Copplestone’s advice and jet-set ourselves all the way back from 2022 to 1873 (tbf it was a welcome change to leave 2022). And then there we were on Chapel Street and our jaws literally hit the floor because we LITERALLY were on Chapel Street, home to taverns, pharmacies and of course the target location, Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe. We spent time peering in the shop windows (until we managed to get ourselves in at least), reading the signs and posters displayed on the street and searching high and low for those pesky Time Echo Crystals! There was so much to take in and oh so much to do, we felt like we were in a literal escape roomer’s heaven! The space is vast and yet there is such close attention to detail- everything is there for a reason whether that is for a puzzle itself, or the immersion of the quest, we were astounded by the thought that has gone into every inch of it!

 

Teamwork makes the dream work

It seems we managed to bring the dream team along, with Tasha and Lucy as honorary Escaping the Closet members, as we fell straight into a rhythm of exploring Chapel Street and solving the mysteries it contained. Of course, with so much space to explore and so many potential Time Echo Crystals to find, this is as you would expect, a non-linear game. We split up to make our way around, often switching up the pairings for a fresh set of eyes on a puzzle.

The room integrates the time machine (dutifully holding open the portal for us) with Chapel Street brilliantly, and we did many a dash between a Victorian era shop and the time machine for important Time Echo Crystal related business. We enjoyed this and felt it really added to the fun of the game as it gave a real sense of urgency and accomplishment as we made progress on our mission.

The puzzles are cleverly put together, and solving each one was satisfying. Every time, the solution just made sense (and the importance of that in escape rooms cannot be understated- there’s nothing worse than still not quite getting it, even after you’ve managed to solve something) However, on the contrary, there’s nothing more satisfying than that A-HA moment when you finally work a solution out as all of the parts fall into place, and that happened so. many. times. in Mr Copplestone’s! Multi-layered puzzles, where you have *that* additional step to reach the solution when you find the first attempt was good but not right, observational puzzles, logical puzzles, code-based puzzles, riddles…. the list goes on. And on. AND ON! There really is something for everyone in there, and that meant we as a team often circled round a puzzle, each taking a turn at looking at it and piecing our different perspectives together until… that magic CLICK when the penny dropped and we got it.

As we mentioned, the puzzles make sense, and we had no trouble working out which clues we should be using together for the most part. But if clues are needed, a brilliant AI based inside the time machine is always on hand to give a nudge in the right direction.

 

Something for everyone

As well as having lots of different types of puzzles, Escape Quest have done something brilliant with the mission in Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe, as it has been created as a game which is truly for all abilities. We kind of alluded to this earlier when mentioning that the minimum requirement to successfully complete the game is to retrieve 8 Time Echo Crystals. However, if you’ve managed this and have time to spare, you can collect as many of the crystals as you can (allowing for more trips through time, and who doesn’t want that?!). We understand that the average team will collect a number of crystals somewhere in the teens, but this offers the opportunity for success for the more inexperienced teams, families with young children and party groups, while seasoned experts can challenge themselves to try and find all the possible Time Echo Crystals.

Now, it’s actually classified how many Time Echo Crystals there actually are back in 1873, but we were determined to try our best to find them all, and we impressed ourselves (and Elaine and Mike) by managing to get ALL [CLASSIFIED] Time Echo Crystals with time to spare- for once searching was not our downfall!! Apparently only a few teams have managed to find all of the Time Echo Crystals, and even fewer with so much time left- apparently we came very close to Team Squared (the UK’s RedBull escape room team), so we were very pleased with our effort! 

Escaping the Closet being extremely proud of their success with finding the Time Echo Crystals

The Verdict

Elaine and Mike have outdone themselves with their first quest in the Chapelgate Mysteries and we are already so excited for what’s in store in the next chapter (which we believe is travelling to an early C20th Chapel Street, although what mission awaits us there we are not so sure…). It’s safe to say we will be booking back in for the next mission as soon as it is available!

Mike and Elaine have thought about absolutely EVERYTHING in the room, and the attention to detail is impressive. The immersion has been created to the finest level, and we are still so amazed that they have created a full street and can’t wait to visit it through time! To top it all off, they are the most lovely, welcoming hosts, and you can absolutely see their passion and love of what they do in every aspect! We are very much looking forward to returning to visit them again.

The puzzles are brilliant and varied; the space is visually stunning; we had one of the most fun escape experiences we have ever had with this room; Mike and  Elaine have created a super original; innovative concept with this room; the game is exceptionally immersive and we can’t think of another room quite like it! As they are outstanding in every category for which we award, we have decided to award Mr Copplestone’s Curiosity Shoppe a Badge of Honour, our highest award, which we think is incredibly well deserved for the hard work and love Mike and Elaine put into their rooms.

 

The Chapelgate Mysteries can be booked here.

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.

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: Spirit Seekers – The Dullahan | Review

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The Dullahan Review | The Dullahan was the original “Headless Horseman”, and not the cute pumpkin-headed variety from the Disney movie!  The Dullahan is a grotesque and horrible creature who claims souls (kills people).  He carries a whip made from a human spine and he uses it to blind anyone who sees him (gross!).  Can you find a way to rid the village of the Dullahan before he returns at nightfall?

Date Played: 13th March 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 35:40
Difficulty: Medium

Online Escape Rooms Ireland is one of those companies that when I hear they’ve announced a new game, I’m first in the digital queue to play. When we first got out hands on a link, an ill-timed holiday meant we had to push playing back a few weeks, but it was well worth the wait. The Dullahan is another fantastic instalment in the Spirit Seekers series and one that is even better than the first.

About Spirit Seekers Ireland

Spirit Seekers Ireland is a series of escape rooms from the creative duo Connor and Sarah of Online Escape Rooms Ireland and their physical site, Escape Rooms Shannon whose video on their About Us page is one of my favourite things on the internet. The idea behind Spirit Seekers Ireland was to pay respectful homage to local landmarks and legends of interest in Ireland through the medium of escape rooms. You play as ghost hunters sent to explore a number of real life locations through the interface (Telescape) and… You guessed it… Catch ghosts!

In The Clare Abbey, you explore a church which is riddled with various ghosts. Armed with a ghost hunting kit and various tools (EMPs, audio recorders etc.) you must catch evidence of ghosts on camera. In this game, The Dullahan, the experience takes a slightly creepier turn as you’re in hunt of a very specific local legend: a Dullahan.

The Dullahan *Shudders*

According to local legend, a Dullahan is essentially a headless horsemen – the kind you see across cultures and ghost stories for centuries. What makes him unique to Ireland is the myth that he uses a whip made of the spine of humans as a weapon, and that he can claim people’s souls by calling out their name. It’s said that when the dullahan stops riding, a person will die.

So it’s no surprise that we needed to stop this once and for all, we can’t have any more people dying in this village, so team Al, Ash, Tasha and myself were put on the case to catch him. If we needed any help we could consult the SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE (love it!). He’s cute, but he’s only there for emergencies.

“OMG! I’ve found a pig”

…A statement I think I said several times whilst playing this game because of how excited I was to whip the 360 degree camera around and come face to face with a sweet little piggie.

But jokes aside, The Dullahan is a great game that takes place on Telescape – meaning you’ve a 360 view of a number of locations and a map you can use to guide yourselves through the game. What I loved about this was that it really is based on a real location and one I kinda want to visit myself if I’m ever in the area just for how quaint the cobbled paths and dry stone walling is. We explored the church ruins and cemetery, a stone cottage, a white cottage, a school, a pig sty, a blacksmith and a caravan – each place more delightful and fun to explore than the previous.

In terms of puzzles, The Dullahan isn’t perfect, no – I always take some small issue with found puzzles (of which there were a few), mainly because I never ever remember to bring my headphones along to a digital escape room and tend to spend the whole thing muted. This game was no different and we encountered several sound-based puzzles which I handed the reigns over to Al & Ash to solve in tandem.

But whatever issue I have with sound puzzles, it’s all but made up by how much fun the puzzles were to solve overall. In my opinion, Online Escape Rooms Ireland does “fun” very well and it’s always a joy to hear they’ve a new escape room experience launched. Players can expect to encounter typical escape room puzzles such as digit codes, moving options to make patterns, listening to sounds and translating them, some cool ciphers, matching puzzles and so on. Nothing breaks the mould but that’s okay.

The Verdict

Another really sold escape room experience from Online Escape Rooms Ireland, and another nail in my “I really want to visit this part of the world post-pandemic” coffin. Despite the ghostly and supernatural themes, this wasn’t a scary game in the slightest. There are some spooky vibes, but I don’t think particularly young players would be put off. Most young people I know would love the idea of a whip made of bones… Me though? *shudder*

Accessibility Notes: In terms of accessibility, as there are some sound puzzles you’ll need one person who is able to hear clearly, but to my best knowledge there aren’t any other accessibility flags to raise at this stage.

We’d recommend this experience for just about anyone but particularly folks who want to engage with beautiful places in Ireland and local Irish folklore through the medium of puzzles. Through brilliant games like this I’m learning more about the folklore of my own near-ancestral home, but I think I’ll probably make my granny shriek if I start talking about dullahan over our next tea party.

The Dullahan can be booked by heading to Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s website here.