Natural History Museum: Mystery at the Museum – The Search for Dippy | Review

Mystery at the Museum: The Search for Dippy Review | The year is 1905 and you have been invited to a special preview of the newest display at the Natural History Museum – ‘Dippy the Diplodocus’.  But when you arrive the curators are in a panic and you realise something is amiss – you’ve found a note that tells you several parts of Dippy the Diplodocus are going to be stolen before the display opens!  Follow the clues around the Museum, question the suspects and track down the culprit before the King arrives for the display’s launch. Can you help the curators prevent a national scandal?

Date played: October 2022
Time taken: 90 mins
Number of players: 3
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

 

Night at the Museum

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Which of us wouldn’t leap at the chance to sneak around behind the scenes in a museum after the public have been ushered out and the doors locked behind them? And when that museum is London’s Natural History Museum in South Kensington the appeal is even greater.  London’s museums and galleries have long embraced the idea of late, after dark openings with extra access to exhibitions alongside bars and live music.  But the NHM’s ‘mystery’ evening might be the first time a museum has allowed eager ER enthusiasts and puzzle hunters to roam its corridors in search of suspects and solutions.  Trying to temper my excitement that, at nightfall and behind closed doors, the exhibits might come to life for me as they did for Ben Stiller, I headed down to South Ken to find out if my detectoring skills were up to solving the mystery at the museum.

Impressive Game Space

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

First up, wow.  Just wow.  When we arrive at dusk the Natural History Museum is looking glorious in the gloaming.  It really is a stunning piece of Victorian architecture which lives up to it’s ‘Cathedral of Nature’ epithet.  Entering under the main arch is thrilling when you realise that you’re really about to have this vast space to yourselves for the evening.  Well, you and probably 75 other people.  And only a few of the galleries.  But still.  You still feel… special.

But if there’s anything that’s guaranteed to make you feel insignificant rather than special it’s the humungous skeleton of a blue whale that greets you as you enter the central Hintze Hall.  Suspended dramatically from the ceiling and lit up in startling red, the whale certainly draws your attention.  There’s not much time, however, to feel the vast inferiority of the human species because as soon as you arrive a game card is pushed into your hand and you are whisked off to meet Inspector Lestrade.  The game, it seems, is already afoot.

 

Prehistoric Puzzling

 

One word of warning – although the publicity for this event promotes it as an ‘escape room-like game’, it is most definitely not an escape room.  Arrive expecting an ER and you will be disappointed.  Attempt to rummage around the museum, opening drawers and searching cabinets as you would in an ER and you’re likely to be expelled!  But while it isn’t an ER that doesn’t stop it being a whole heap of fun.

To get started you need to read the game card you were given on arrival.  It outlines the mystery that faces you.  The unveiling of the new exhibition featuring the skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus is due to take place tomorrow.  But a suspicious note has been found, suggesting a crime will take place before the grand opening and which could plunge the museum into unwanted scandal.  The game card also gives you the names and brief bios of six suspects who have been ordered to stay in the museum by Lestrade until the case has been closed.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Lestrade also gives you a copy of the note and your next task is to decipher it.  This is really the only actual puzzle involved in the game and it’s not especially hard but does get you moving around the galleries that surround the main museum hall.  And stopping to ask a few of those suspects some penetrating questions along the way will also help your case solving.

Because this is mostly about interacting with those suspects.  It’s really a traditional ‘whodunnit’ and you will get the most out of your evening and the event if you spend time grilling the suspects (whose period costume makes them easy to spot) and honing your theories.  You can question them as often and for as long as you like, or listen in as other players ask their own questions.  Although they may tell you a few lies, they will also give you some nuggets of truth and if you can unpick their elaborate webs of accusations, fabrications, deflections and evasions, you might just be able to work out, in the words of Mr Sherlock Holmes himself, who had the “means, motive and opportunity” to commit the crime.

 

Dippy’s Dino Denouement

 

Once you’ve solved the opening puzzle, interrogated your suspects and worked out a convincing theory you can take your hypothesis and test it on Sherlock.  Holmes solved the mystery in 17 minutes himself so he’s happy to throw you a bone or two if you’re not quite on the mark.  And if, after a couple of guesses, you’re still not 100% correct, Holmes will take pity on you and give you the full story.  Because no-one wants to go home without knowing who really did design to destroy Dippy’s debut.

 

The Verdict?

 

Overall, if you approach this as a mystery solving game along the lines of a traditional murder whodunnit then you will have loads of fun.  The mystery is sufficiently knotty to keep you questioning suspects and untangling theoretical threads for well over an hour and, for the adults, there’s an in venue bar to keep your whistle wet and your mind sharp.  Full kudos to the actors playing the suspects who handle even the most obscure of questions with aplomb, keep in character throughout and manage to retain details of the multiple narrative threads all while dropping gentle hints and prods to get you moving in the right direction.  And the venue itself, the access to certain areas of it after hours and when it’s empty of tourists, is worth the price of admission alone.

A few minor niggles.  Any expectations of difficult tradition ER puzzling will be disappointed and I think, personally, that they should remove the reference to an ‘escape room-like game’ from promotional material and instead focus on the massive positive of it being a strong mystery-solving evening.   Those ER players who don’t enjoy engaging with live performers will want to steer clear as well.  Talking to the actors throughout is the only way to play this game.

There were also some weaknesses in communication that left us unaware we had to take our final conclusions to Holmes to be checked.  It was only when we eavesdropped on other groups that we realised.  And there’s no satisfyingly dramatic conclusion when the culprit is officially unmasked.  Because the event has a staggered start time with groups arriving and getting started throughout the evening, everyone reaches their final answer at different times.  Once we’d reported to Holmes, that was it.  Game no longer afoot.  So the evening sort of petered out.

We had a fun evening though.  Not too strenuous on the little grey cells, but a nice little mystery to solve in a fantastic location.

 

This event runs for a limited number of days in October and November. Book via the Natural History Museum website here.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

Local Bonus

If you want to get into a suitable detective frame of mind before the game, or want to continue afterwards, then I highly recommend a visit to the Evans and Peel detective agency (about a 15 minute walk away).  A secret speakeasy bar with a fantastic, and inventive, cocktail menu, you need to provide a good cover story before you can gain access.  The more imaginative and bonkers the better.  It’s advised to book.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Ct Rd, London SW5 9BA

 

Phantom Peak | Review

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WELCOME TO PHANTOM PEAK

Welcome to Phantom Peak, known far and wide as the Venice of the West! In this fully-realised steampunk mining town, nothing is what it seems… What is hiding in the vestiges of the mines? What does the charismatic founder of corporate JONACO really seek in this sleepy town? Was the Blimp Crash really just an accident? Dine, shop, play games, go sightseeing, collect clues… explore the town and uncover its mysteries at your own pace for up to five hours in an immersive open-world adventure the likes of which you’ve never seen before!

Time spent: 5 hours
Date Visited:
August 2022
Party Size:
4
Mysteries solved:
7

First of all, an important note! I am not an immersive theatre fan. I have only been to one other Immersive Theatre show in London, and in general, I tend to steer away from anything immersive – I even hate live actors in escape rooms! Therefore this review is from my perspective, as a lover of escape rooms and mysteries, rather than immersive theatre. Keep an eye on our site though, as we will be sure to update this with the review from our resident immersive theatre lovers once they have had a chance to visit!

If you’ve become immersed in the Escape Room Industry at all you’ve probably heard the name “Nick Moran” crop up a few times. Nick is the genius behind “Sherlock: The game is now”, Hackers’ new rooms, and “Spectre & Vox”. Now he joins the creative team behind “Phantom Peak”, so we knew this was easily going to be one of the most mysterious immersive experiences in London, hopefully with the emphasis placed on the mysteries rather than the immersion!

So what is Phantom Peak? Phantom Peak is a cowboy / steampunk town that has recently opened in East London. On one hand, you can go and enjoy the food, drinks and various games around town. However, for the more curious amongst us, there are (currently) 16 different mysteries occurring in this small town, with many more set to come as the town expands in the future.

 

Entering Phantom Peak

 

 

The first thing to acknowledge is that, from the outside, Phantom Peak doesn’t look like much. Based a short walk from Canada Water station we found ourselves in a rather dusty car park, looking at a wooden fence. However, just before our entry time (11am) a couple of “townspeople” came out (including Nick himself) to give a bit more of an explanation of what to expect inside the town, and get us set up on our phones (which are crucial for this). We then answered a few questions to get our first trail assigned, and we were ready!

Unfortunately, rather than the nice, large double doors you see here, we were let in the smaller side door, which meant there was a bit of a backlog going in. However, once we were in our expectations were definitely met – we were presented with a real life “boardwalk” from the Wild West, leading to a lake, and even a cave. The set design is beautiful and fully realized, with no half-finished sets or rough finishes. There are so many big and small features of the town, it’s so worth just taking some time to look around. The attention to detail is fantastic, and due to the number of mysteries, you never know if or when something will be relevant! It lead to quite a few fun moments when we finally realised what a certain poster was alluding to, or immediately knew where to go next because we’d noticed something previously. The costumes that the cast were wearing were so beautiful without being over the top, and I also loved that a lot of the guests had also committed to the Wild West steampunk vibe – I’ll definitely need to make more effort next time!

 

Starting off on the right foot

 

 

As mentioned, a lot of Phantom Peak relies on following a mystery on your phone. You answer a few questions, get given the name of your trail, your initial story point, and a place to start and you’re off! These trails make use of the whole of the town, moving back and forth and venturing into a variety of locals. Luckily the people of the town tend to stick to their zones (whether that’s propping up the bar, running their store, or canvassing for votes), so once you know who’s who it’s easy to find them.

To unravel the mystery you will need to talk to a range of characters, utilise the various machines around town, and even do a bit of subtle sleuthing. I also want to give a shout out the gender neutrality of the names – the logical side of me knows this is so that actors can be switched in and out for the same character (which also shows how talented these actors are), but the liberal side of me is excited that at no point do you know whether the character you’re searching for is a man or woman, and even the titles are all gender neutral (‘post-person’, ‘supervisor’).

At one point I was scolded by the Saloon owner for saying I loved a ‘lady boss’, and she quite rightly told me it was just ‘boss’, no need to qualify it or bring gender into it! It was points like this that shows how brilliant the actors were – I really enjoyed talking to them, having fun with them, and have proper conversations with them that made it clear they weren’t just following a script. This aspect made them really feel like fully rounded characters.

It would’ve been nice if things you discovered in one trail (or ways you interacted) carried throughout the day, as at points we finish one trail and discover some sort of big twist, but 5 minutes later we’d talk to the same character and it would be as if it never happened. However, with such a large crowd I understand why this may have been a little challenging.

However we did find the phone aspect a little too hand-holdy in parts, particularly where the casts and clues were giving us some clear directions to follow, only to realise we had a few more questions to answer in the phone before we got to that point. However, it was also a nice safety net so we weren’t totally in the dark at any point, and the townsfolk were all very knowledgeable and ready to lend a clue if needed.

 

The Puzzle Posse

At this point, I need to talk about the mysteries themselves, because oh my word they were so much fun! If you are thinking the mysteries will just be about missing hats and rogue bandits you’re so wrong (mostly), and even the ones that started quite meekly had an interesting twist. There’s also one facet of every story that will appear quite quickly, and I absolutely loved this part of the town lore. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but let’s just say the town has a clear mascot, which I adored and found so creative. The way it features in each story and throughout the town was so much fun and so creative.

The mysteries themselves weren’t that hard – for the most part, they involved talking to a townsperson, using one of the machines to find some information, or finding a hidden clue on a poster or in a certain location (which we were mostly guided towards). I would say don’t come into this expecting complex puzzles and the need to be Sherlock Holmes, but that’s ok! It wasn’t until we were discussing our experience for this review that we realised we didn’t really ‘solve’ all that much, but somehow we hadn’t noticed at the time because we were having so much fun. The story building was also thorough and immersive – we always knew why we were going somewhere, and what we were meant to be doing next.

In the end, we managed 7 trails, out of a possible 16 (so far). I’m not sure how you’d get over 8 (due to the nature of the questions), but apparently, I’m metagaming here, as I know some people managed 11 during the 5-hour slot! This included taking plenty of breaks for delicious food, necessary water, and of course a romantic (?) boat ride. You receive a souvenir at the end of each trail, but other than being a keepsake these didn’t appear to have been used for anything. I’d love to see these used for something in the future, or even have some form of souvenir ‘guidebook’ you could purchase to store them in (and therefore see all the uncompleted trails you have yet to do!). I’d also love some sort of specific souvenir to display on your person (such as a badge) so that as you wander around you can see what other people have done, and it might also give the characters more material to play with.

In terms of the machines, they were all fun and easy to use, but by the 3rd or 4th time using them the shine wore off a little. I think this could easily be solved by just not saying which machine needed to be used – we became familiar with what number of letters/numbers led to each machine fairly quickly, and then that would have added a small amount of puzzle solving to the puzzle instead. Either that or potentially making them a little more complex to use. In fact, it might have been nice to have some more complex trails to do – we did one that could potentially be called ‘adult’, but I think it would’ve been easy enough to tone down the content for a family.

Mystery trails aside, there was clearly a larger mystery at work in the town. We worked out enough (from the wider lore and stories) that something was a miss, but never worked out the overall mystery or how to solve it. I absolutely love this. There’s clearly a lot of wider lore that is dropped into each mystery if you pay attention, and many conversations to have. I’m not sure if there’s much ‘hidden’ around the town that wasn’t part of one of the 16 trails, but then again I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.

 

Rooting and Tooting

 

Of course, there is plenty more to do here when you want a break from a puzzle (especially as the time slots are 5 hours). There are 3 food stores (4 including Gelato) as well as a couple of bars. We tried the burgers, chips, and tacos and they were all absolutely delicious. I also have a ‘beer float’ from the Gelato stand, which was perfect on such a hot day.

 

 

As well as food and drink, there’s also a variety of fun carnival games, which are harder than they look, and you’ll need to beat 3 of them to become a real citizen of the town. Unfortunately, I only managed to earn one rosette, so I have no clue what happens when you have all three!

There are also a couple of events that only happen at a certain time, likely to give everyone a chance to explore the town a bit more first. I only took advantage of one of these, but will be sure to do the other next time! You can also browse the variety of shops for your variety of needs (and walk away with some nice souvenirs). The town itself was also completely accessible – everywhere was flat, which ramps up and down where necessary. We didn’t use any stairs and believe all the doorways were wide enough for a wheelchair. We were there for 5 hours, which was actually the perfect amount of time. I was personally getting a bit frustrated by my non-enthusiast friends who were taking lots of breaks, and definitely flagging by the end, but I admit I probably wouldn’t have wanted to stay much longer.

 

This town ain’t big enough…

I absolutely loved our time, and I will absolutely be returning, but there were definitely a few niggles here and there which will hopefully be ironed out as the experience expands. For a start, we heavily relied on my phone, which meant the battery ran down quickly. Luckily I had packed a portable charger, but even then I was down to 30% when we left. For such a phone-heavy experience, I was surprised by the lack of charging stations in the town – I can imagine some rentable power packs would be a big hit here!

The walkways are also quite narrow, so we often found ourselves walking slow behind a queue of people, or waiting a while to get into a shop. This died down at certain points throughout the day (down to events, food breaks, or just people leaving), but it was definitely a bit harder at the start. Staggered start times would solve this, but then of course it would be hard to monitor when people’s 5 hours were up. In a similar vein, there were times we were essentially following another couple doing the same trail, either waiting for them to finish their conversation with a character so we could have the same one, or just listening in. Sometimes this was fine, due to the occasional puzzle that needed some time to solve, but otherwise, we got into the groove of using those moments to grab another drink rather than following on their tail. I’m not sure what the plan is for the expansion, but I’d love to see some bigger areas, perhaps with new characters to talk to and new machines to use!

 

What’s the verdict?

 

 

This is hands down my favourite experience I’ve done in London. I’d even go so far as to say I’d rather come back here than go to another London escape room. At less than £40 for a ticket, which covers 5 hours, it’s a real steal on price too!

You can be as immersed as you want to, but the characters don’t necessarily approach you or force you to put on an accent if you don’t want to, which was great for my friends who were less sold on this aspect. The mysteries were just really fun stories, and although the puzzles weren’t that complex I don’t think you’d be disappointed because so much else is going on.

I will be recommending this to anyone and everyone, and cannot wait to return to Phantom Peak.

Tickets for Phantom Peak can be booked on their website

Layered Reality: The Gunpowder Plot | Review

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The Gunpowder Plot Immersive Review | London, 1605. A city divided. The fuse of rebellion is lit. The peace of the nation balances on a knife edge… Step into a world where spies and informants hide in every shadow. Your mission is to go undercover and unmask the mysterious figures behind history’s most infamous plot. But when you’re surrounded by ‘traitors’ who can you trust?

Date Visited: 17th July 2022
Number of Players: 3
Time Taken: ~120 Minutes

Remember, remember the 5th of November… Gunpowder, Treason and Plot! For I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.

The Gunpowder Plot Immersive is London’s newest immersive experience created by the award winning team behind War of the Worlds Immersive, and located in the iconic Tower of London vaults. From the very moment the experience was announced months ago, we were very excited. Layered Reality have built up an excellent reputation of blending immersive theatre, actors, jaw-dropping set design, all to tell brilliant stories.

As such, it’s not really your ‘typical’ escape room experience, but since most of us are big fans of the immersive, anything with Layered Reality’s name stamped on it is well worth checking out. Layered Reality experiences differ from other immersive theatre as your experience is guided by a series of actors around an environment and the story plays out around you as mostly-passive viewers. But unlike regular theatre, you’re thoroughly in the thick of it. Take care to notice all the little details and interact wherever you can. You won’t regret it.

But how did their newest immersive experience, Gunpowder Plot fare? In this joint review between Georgie, Mairi and Karen we’ll pick apart what worked, and what might not have worked so well, and who we recommend this for.

Let’s Dive into the Past…

 

Mairi: If in doubt where Gunpowder Immersive is located, look out for the enormous Tower of London. Yep, that one! This experience is located quite literally underneath, and accessible via a well-signed doorway near the All Hallows by the Tower church. It’s conveniently located right near a train station, many bus stops, and plenty of other iconic tourist attractions, cementing itself squarely on the “must see” list if you’re a tourist visiting London who also wants to sample some of the local history.

Georgie: From the moment we walked in, Gunpowder Plot felt immersive – we made our way down some stairs into the start of the vaults, where we were offered lockers and guided to the dungeon-esque themed bar. Once our group was called we were led to the ‘briefing room’, which is where the experience begins. Our host launched into a partially themed- partially factual briefing about who we were, where we were, and what to expect. She did a fantastic job of separating the initial, ‘admin’ information from the more dramatic introduction. This introduction really set the scene for the experience to come, and even as someone who knows the history fairly well, I learned some new facts about the context of the plot, and some of the reasoning behind it.

 

Remember, Remember…

Georgie: We were then guided through the experience by ‘the wick of rebellion’, which is in fact a firey-themed light that surrounds the doors to move through. Helpful to know where to go and this fitted really well with the theme in the dimly lit corridors!

From the first room, it is obvious what is meant by ‘immersive theatre’ – we found ourselves in the cells of the tower, meeting a prisoner and hearing his tale. He told his story through words, action, and the environment. Although you are not expected to be particularly active (which suited me well) and were largely there to observe.

This first room did an excellent job of laying out the story, why we were there and giving us a taste of how the rest of the experience would pan out. It was also a great introduction to the live actors, who were superb throughout. I will also say that despite all the many warnings we read in the waiver, there were no jump scares or unnecessary scare tactics, which I greatly appreciated!

Mairi: And what a story it is too! As we explored each environment in a larger group of around 12-20 people, the story of the Gunpowder Plot diverged a little from what I had expected, with brilliant consequences. We won’t go too much into the actual tale since there’s an element of choose-your-own adventure and some delightful moments of surprise, but we really enjoyed the story aspect of the experience. Characters flitted in and out of the experience and much later we’d be reunited by characters we thought we’d abandoned earlier.

 

…The 5th of November

Georgie: Throughout the experience the low lighting, small spaces and eerie soundtrack keep the sense of atmosphere and immersion. The actors did a great job of flawlessly handing over the narrative to subsequent characters, keeping the story moving and never leaving us alone for too long. The story was really engaging and fascinating as it developed, and they did a fantastic job of showing both sides of the story (and their rationale). The location itself is huge, with seemingly endless corridors and vaults to move through, with authentic sets and surprises round every corner.

Mairi: If the experience sounds large, I’d add that it is well paced! With a bar at the start, the end, and one right in the middle, the whole experience is broken up into ‘bitesized’ chunks. In particular, I loved the middle ‘rest’ area, a much needed break. Players were sorted into various tables made up of your own friends and family, and total strangers. We quickly realised there was no such thing as a stranger in this experience however, as we all jumped right into conversation, speculating about what would happen next and what had already been. With a plot this thick with backstabbing an intrigue, there’s a lot to mull over a pint (or two, if you have the time).

The Past meets The Future

Georgie: One of the features that sets this experience aside from others is the use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. At 3 separate points we were asked to put on a VR headset to experience a facet of the story which would be hard to create otherwise, removing the headset to find the room somehow transformed or a new actor appeared. I have previously felt motion sick when using VR, but fortunately didn’t feel anything like that here, so I was able to full enjoy the experience.

The first two Virtual Reality segments are accompanied by a moving element, and again there were no fake scares, just excitement. The final experience allowed us to free roam a little more, although this wasn’t made clear so anyone not familiar with VR may not have known to do this. The VTs also featured an amazing performance by Tom Felton, who has proved what an incredible actor he was. In reality, and in the virtual space!

Mairi: Agree! Virtual Reality is something Layered Reality does really well! Unlike War of the Worlds Immersive however, I found there to be slightly more VR. Where Layered Reality’s first experience often creates more physical sets, like slides, or moments where you have to jump, due to the physical limitations of it’s location, Gunpowder Plot leans more into the VR. No bad thing – just a consideration! If any player struggles with VR, they can bypass these sections quite easily.

Finishing the Tale

Georgie: Just to jump back to the story, we’re going to attempt to talk about the ending without giving away too many spoilers, although given this story is over 400 years old I think you probably know what happens. The final room features the peak of the drama, followed by the final dramatic VR. From here we were guided to the exit, with a really excellent video explaining the factual and fictional aspects of the experience. I really enjoyed this little wrap up, and nod to the story.

Again, they did a great job of highlighting the contrasting moralities and beliefs at play, whilst mainting the elements of mystery we still don’t know about. There is a classic photo opportunity too, although this will cost you a little extra.

Mairi: One thing players may not be expecting however is that you are given a choice at one point in the game. I’m unsure how much this choice actually affects the ending – probably not at all since, well, we all know what happens. But convincing the rest of your team to make the ‘right’ choice will certainly ease your conscience, so you can emerge back into real life afterwards knowing that you did all you could.

“Poor old England to Overthrow”

Georgie: I had a great time, but there were a few small parts I didn’t like as much, which it’s worth being aware of ahead of time.

Firstly, there was little in the way of interaction – most of the time a character might ask you a simple yes or no question, or tell you something which you also immediately tell another character. It felt more like watching an (admittedly amazing) play than taking part ourselves. Where there was a decision, it definitely wasn’t unanimous and I think the cast could have done a better job of ensuring this was (something like raising hands, giving our group of strangers more than a minute to decide, or even just realising the signs for it not being unanimous). Even then, as Mairi mentions, I’m not convinced the decision had any bearing on the experience other than maybe a line or two spoken by an actor.

Mairi: Also, since this is The Escape Roomer, we have to mention the puzzles. There was also only one ‘puzzle’ in the whole experience so don’t go into this thinking it’ll be puzzly! Although, to be fair, that is one more puzzle than you’ll get in The War of the Worlds. For me, The War of the Worlds still takes the cake as my absolute favourite immersive experience in London, but Layered Reality have taken the same formula and done something slightly different to a different effect here.

Georgie: In terms of the VR, there could’ve been a bit more of a briefing about how to use it. For example, in the last area, you could move around – but none of us knew this fact and stayed rooted to the spot, potentially missing a part of the action.

Finally, Tom Felton’s performance was amazing, but all virtual. This wasn’t exactly surprising, knowing he’s currently appearing in a different play in the West End, but as he played such a key character it obviously presented a conundrum. Rather than subbing in a different actor and asking us to suspend our belief, we are instead presented with someone covering their face and using a speaker to broadcast Felton’s voice. Unfortunately, the effect was more of a robotic-cowboy-scarecrow rather than a heroic-villainous character, and it could have been handled better. It also got in the way of the final scene a little, which already felt fairly chaotic without this.

 

 

A Note on Accessibility

Mairi: If anyone has any hesitation on accessibility, Layered Reality have produced a full access guide here. Whilst the base experience doesn’t feel like it would be accessible to folks in a wheelchair for example, it’s worth noting they do offer special performances which are geared towards accessibility, such as the wheelchair performance. For any other requirements, they encourage players to reach out to them directly.

Mairi: There are a lot of stairs and small spaces to fit into, so a reasonable level of physicality is necessary. Most of the experience is dimly lit, with an atmospheric sound track. Most of the actors project well, although I admit I, as someone with hearing impairments, missed a few things I wouldn’t say this was necessarily essential. Given it was an extremely hot day, the rooms were nice and cool.

 

The Verdict

Mairi: Gunpowder Plot Immersive is a really unique experience. For me, it’s impossible not to compare it to The War of the Worlds which, I’ve said before and I’ll say again, is my favourite immersive experience in London. By contrast, Gunpowder Plot has a more mass-market appeal. From tourists wondering what Guy Fawkes night is all about, to locals who want to be immersed in history in an iconic building. It’s target audience is clear. Whilst that target audience might not necessarily be the overlap between escape room enthusiasts, I personally had a great time!

Georgie: Once I realized there would be no jump scares or unnecessary scares I was able to relax and enjoy myself. I had a really fun time – it was very immersive, did a fantastic job of bringing the characters and story to life, and was a very pleasant way to spend some time in a historic location. I’m not sure I would’ve felt the same had I paid the full price (around £70 per ticket), but then again I’m not sure what the average immersive theatre ticket goes for in London, and I imagine I enjoyed this more than I would enjoy them!

 

The Gunpowder Plot Immersive may be booked by heading to this website here.

From now until 30th September 2022, use code ESCAPE10 for £10 off your tickets!

Breakin’: The Flying Dutchman | Review

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The Flying Dutchman Review | Avast ye! Tell me, shark-bait, have you heard the legend of The Flying Dutchman? That dreaded ship captained by the sea-devil Davy Jones and his undead pirate crew? You’d best start believing in ghost stories… you’re in one! After your ship sinks in a great tempest you awake aboard the Dutchman. If you don’t escape before sunrise you’ll be trapped aboard her forever. Legend tells of a mythical diamond – the Heart of Calypso – which can break the curse. It’s hidden somewhere on the lower decks. The sun rises in an hour. So shiver your timbers, swash your buckles, and batten down the hatches. You need to discover the diamond to escape the ship and a watery doom!

Date Played: May 2022
Number of Players: 6
Time Taken: <30 Minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

My favourite thing in the whole world is introducing new friends to escape rooms. My second favourite thing in the whole world is when they love the escape room and spend the whole time laughing and having an absolute blast.

For me, The Flying Dutchman at Breakin’ Escape Rooms was a perfectly ‘okay’ escape room. For the friends I took with me to play this one, 4 people who had never ever played any escape room before, they loved it. This makes The Flying Dutchman a fantastic ‘entry level’ room to bring your puggle friends to. It perfectly encapsulates what an escape room is with a mix of physical and mental puzzles, but isn’t in the slightest bit challenging meaning that even the most beginner of teams will ace through it and feel extra smart.

 

A Pirate’s Life for Me!

The story of The Flying Dutchman is your classic pirate ship escape room game. You play as a team of pirates who find themselves trapped on the dreaded ghost ship – the Flying Dutchman, captained by Davy Jones. Your ship has sunk and you’re trapped on this one with just one hour to try to escape or else you’ll find yourself in a watery grave too. Nothing like a little pirate themed peril to get the excitement going.

The setting was a large and well-furnished pirate ship. Think wooden floorboards, cannons and cannonballs, ropes draped from the ceiling and a big ol’ pirate ship wheel in the middle of the room. At first glance, especially compared to someone of the other escape rooms at Breakin’ you might think “this is is” but there’s a couple of sneaky extra spaces hidden around the environment making it slightly larger than you first expected. Though be warned – some of those extra areas are very small and very cramped!

Your goal is the simplest: Escape. And what follows is a somewhat linear series of puzzles to get you from A – locked in the ship to B – escaped!

 

Pirate Puzzles

For me, I’d definitely put this room in the category of “very easy”. We took zero hints and didn’t pause for even a single second. When taking new people into a room I’m always a little worried about solving things and jumping ahead with prior knowledge, so resigned myself to taking more of a backseat role. But in The Flying Dutchman this wasn’t needed, the rest of my team flew off to a flying start with no nudges from our Games Master, or even no need for me to step in and put my “escape room hat” on.

As mentioned, there was a mix of different puzzle types. They were all fairly well themed within the pirate universe, and a mix of ones that we triggered ourselves, and ones that we could tell the Games Master triggered for us. One puzzle, towards the latter end of the room was a very dexterous, manual puzzle which was a bit of a bottleneck for our very large team. With only two people able to complete the puzzle at one time, and multiple steps and chances to go wrong, the other four of us found ourselves standing around a little bit longer than we might have liked. But after 10 minutes (1/3 of our whole game time) passed, I spotted a sneaky hack that got past the slightly more boring part of the puzzle and skipped us closer to completion. Do I feel guilty? Yes, yes, a little bit. But if a puzzle is meant to be un-hack-able, it should be designed as such.

Besides this, the game was enjoyable from a puzzling point of view. There was a distinct absence of padlocks. Instead the room was surprisingly a lot more high tech than expected for a pirate themed room. Though that said, high tech comes with some downsides and we encountered one technological hitch with a puzzle where a door sprang open a little too early, giving us the final piece we needed to escape before we’d actually finished the game. I don’t think the rest of my team noticed so much though, and all was well that ended well since it ensured we broke out of the room with record time to spare.

If we had any issues along the way (we didn’t), in true Breakin’ form, we were given a walkie talkie that our Games Master could give us a code via. The code was input into an iPad on the wall and a hint would be displayed. This is the same as in all of their rooms, and a mechanic we are fairly used to by now. Though again, we didn’t need to use it.

 

Team The Escape Roomer escapes!

 

The Verdict

I had a good time playing The Flying Dutchman. Again, it’s not my favourite room in all of Breakin’ but it did the job and introduced a new group of friends to escape rooms. For a room best suited for a new team – the verdict is yes, that new team had a blast. For me? I found it much too easy, and a little wear and tear (to be expected after opening 5+ years ago) caused some hiccups with the tech and ease of brute-forcing a few puzzles. It’s probably what the enthusiasts call a “Gen 2” escape room. It’s a very early one, but it’s moved away from padlocks and codes as the primary source of puzzling into something much more atmospheric and immersive.

Add in a beautiful, well themed set, and it’s still a winning escape room. For the best experience, don’t bring any more than a team of 3 into the room. There just simply isn’t enough for a larger team to do. If you do choose to go in an enthusiast team, expect to escape in around 30 minutes as we did – and why not book yourself into a second room whilst you’re at Breakin? I’d recommend Wizarding School or Heist Plan.

 

The Flying Dutchman can be booked by heading to Breakin’s website here.

Mazer Zone: Star Struck | Review

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Mazer Zone Star Struck Review | The year is 2220, wars and natural disasters have ravaged the Earth. Humanity, clinging to survival in orbit, has one last hope – a scientific genius and his revolutionary formula for starship fuel. Alas, the powers that be will not relinquish their grip on the human race. Shortly after being recruited by the good professor, he suddenly disappears leaving the fate of mankind in the hands of you and your crew. Do you have what it takes to solve the mystery and save the human race?

Date Played: 2nd July 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: ~30 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Mazer Zone is one of London’s newest escape rooms and at the time of writing has only been open for a couple of weeks. Presently, there are two rooms available with a third coming soon. And well, you know me, I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi room so we couldn’t wait to get ourselves booked in to play.

Despite being located very centrally in Camden, Mazer Zone is an escape room that’s a little hard to spot. In fact, we walked past it a few times before realising it was there. Tucked away in a residential estate, an unassuming building that looks like it could be an apartment building opens up into a very clean and clinical basement with a very low ceiling – tall people be warned (though not a problem for me at 5 ft 1). On the outer door was a 4 digit padlock, and we assumed this might be the first puzzle – but thankfully after knocking a few times our host came up to pick us up.

As you go down into the main area, there’s no lobby to speak of, so be sure to arrive exactly on time. We kept our belongings with us and, after a quick briefing with the usual “this is a padlock, don’t brute force, if it’s above head height ignore it“, we were led to a mysterious door. A message appeared to us from a very cool sci-fi delivery pipe containing all the information we needed to get started and then whoosh! We were off to a flying start!

 

Image (c) Mazer Zone

 

Beam me up, Scotty!

What followed was a series of physical spaces (around 3 unique rooms to be exact), that followed the story of the mysterious disappearance of a spacecraft engineer and scientist. You see, we were space travellers in the far distant future trying to preserve humanity by colonising the stars. But we can’t do that without valuable starship fuel. Our mission was to investigate what happened to the scientist and recover his secret stash of starship fuel. Presumably so we could synthesize more, or perhaps we just wanted to use it to power our own ships and fly away. Either way, we had a mission and we stuck to it.

The room played out like a “museum of humanity“. Early in the game we found a tablet-like device which enabled us to scan any codes we found around the room. There were many of them. On the one hand, red herrings? On the other, just quirky distractions adding to the overall story. There were plenty of things in the room we never used, and plenty more things we did use which I couldn’t believe were even relevant to the game, but provided some fun moments of delight when they were.

There was one puzzle I enjoyed the mechanic of so much I even laughed out loud, inviting my other players crowd around just to watch it. But mostly, the puzzles were straightforward – easy to spot, easy to solve. Yes, we absolutely whizzed through the room and broke the record (although for a room that’s just opened that’s less impressive than it sounds), but we did have fun solving the puzzles. Everyday objects were used in innovative ways and there were some very fun moments of technology.

On the topic of red herrings however, there were definitely more red herrings than we were comfortable with. I counted around 5 digit padlocks we discovered which we ended up never using, and plenty of things that seemed so obviously like they were part of the game but then never ever used. There’s a lot of discourse in the escape room world about whether red herrings are good or bad, and it’s too detailed to get into here, but we at The Escape Roomer generally fall in the camp of “they’re not great”.

Having too many things in the room that feel unfinished leads to an anti-climactic ending in which you can’t help but wonder if you’re actually finished or not. Star Struck toed this line, as many of the ‘red herrings’ were quirky and part of the story. For example, informational pieces about the universe and objects which felt like they should have had a purpose, but didn’t in the end. When we finally unlocked the last door, we all couldn’t quite believe it. “But wait, we didn’t use ‘thing’?”, to which our host explained that we didn’t need to. So the jury is out on that one.

There was one puzzle in the experience which could potentially be a health and safety hazard. Not naming any names as I don’t wish to spoil anything, but there was definitely a moment we could have (but didn’t) hurt ourselves… Which brings me to the realisation that we weren’t asked to sign a waiver. It’s one of the first escape rooms I’ve ever experienced that hasn’t, which is interesting. Potentially just an operational oversight since the company itself is in it’s infancy, and hopefully an issue they’ll fix quite quickly.

As a final note, since we didn’t ask for any hints, we can’t judge how these are delivered – but we were given a walkie-talkie at the start of the experience in case we needed to communicate with our host.

 

Image (c) Mazer Zone

 

An Escape Room Set on a Spaceship

One of the things we enjoyed most about the room was the decor. It really did feel like a sci-fi spaceship and there’s some impressive technology in there that really added to the feeling of immersion. It was high-tech in all the best ways, with sensors and scanners a-plenty, plus all that tech worked perfectly well. Which makes sense, since the room is brand new.

On the topic of decor, the room very much feels homemade but in the kind of way that it’s been built with a lot of love. I’ve since found out that unfortunately it is a room that was open for some time in another country, before being sold to Mazer Zone and opened up here in London. That said, they’ve still done a good job the start-up resources they have available.

Just a note on accessibility, unfortunately the environment and the building itself being located down a long flight of stairs – so this room is not wheelchair accessible. There were also several puzzles that involved listening to voice-overs without subtitles, so a word of warning for folks with hearing difficulty.

 

The Verdict

Overall, our team did enjoy playing Star Struck at Mazer Zone. If anything, it was just a shame it didn’t last longer, I’d have loved to spend 60 minutes in the room rather than 30! We had an enthusiastic host, which brings about it’s own kind of charm, and we enjoyed chatting to them for a while after. The room itself featured some fun decor and unique technology, as well as puzzles that made us think outside the box in ways I haven’t experienced before. As, at the time of writing, they’re a brand new company so there are some big operational oversights which we’ve given feedback on, but I think it has a lot of potential.

Presently tickets come in around 30 – 50 pp, depending on how large your team is and when you visit. For this price it makes it one of the more expensive escape rooms in London. Do we recommend it at full price? Probably not. Especially given we escaped in around 30 minutes. But if you can get tickets at off-peak prices, then definitely worth giving them a go.

Mazer Zone are hard at work on their new and upcoming rooms. I hear the second and third rooms are better than the first, so it’s onwards and upwards from here.

 

Star Struck can be booked by heading to Mazer Zone’s website here.

Gourmaze: The Sweet Escape | Review

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Gourmaze: The Sweet Escape Review | General Tasty is in a bit of a pickle. His regiment are leaving Europe in the next few hours and he’s been left behind! Luckily they’ve dropped a trail of breadcrumbs for the General to follow. Escape across the city, uncovering delectable desserts to fuel the stomachs of you, your crew and General Tasty. Be speedy, or he’ll just be another one to bite the crust!

Date Played: 3rd June 2022
Time Taken: 60:36
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Soho, Russell Square

Laughing at all the cheesy desert puns and humming along to the Gwen Stefani song of the same name, this week team The Escape Roomer took on ‘Gourmaze’, a brand new delicious puzzle trail in the heart of London. The sun was shining, we were just a few days away from my birthday, and the streets were full of people celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. Our very hungry ace team consisted of Grace, Mairi and our two +1s. Between us we had a good level of experience solving puzzles and looking for clues, but the thing we had the most experience of? Eating delicious food.

At it’s heart, that’s exactly what Gourmaze is all about! This makes it… Quite possibly… A one of it’s kind in the whole of the UK.

 

Team The Escape Roomer take on Gourmaze’s Sweet Escape

 

The premise is deliciously simple:

  • You receive a series of clues sent to your phone
  • Each clue gives you directions to a new place of interest
  • Along the way you’ll stop and visit not just one but three dessert places, saying a secret code to the waiter each time and receiving a treat for each member of the team

As well as three dessert spots, there were also two optional pub stops. We made full use of both locations, stopping for glasses of prosecco to toast to our success.

 

Meet Gourmaze’s Hero: General Tasty

The story behind A Sweet Escape was an one absolutely perfect for packing in food related puns. It all started when we met our leader by text, General Tasty. Our mission was to escape across Europe finding hidden deserts to fuel our stomachs whilst we helped General Tasty return to his regiment. General tasty was in a bit of a pickle and it was a race against against time to ‘ketchup’ with his regiment before they left.

As stories go it was silly, light-hearted, and nothing too serious. We had a lot of fun engaging with General Tasty and hearing about his wild antics along the route. What’s more, General Tasty was always ready with a fact or two about our environment – whether it be about a statue, a blue plaque, or just general food-themed London tidbits.

For an automated bot, General Tasty was enigmatic and funny!

 

Gourmaze dessert no.2 being prepared

 

Gourmaze: The Maze Part

Since this is The Escape Roomer, the thing we were looking out for most in The Sweet Escape was the latter part of that portmanteau: The Maze.

In terms of style of puzzles, Gourmaze is nothing wholly new. It errs slightly on the easier side, but that makes sense, being hungry for your next sweet treat makes for harder puzzle solving. There were somewhere in the region of 5 puzzles between each food stop. Of those puzzles, we were usually looking for a detail somewhere in our environment. Something you couldn’t figure out unless you were standing right there in front of it. Cryptic notes about street signs and zebra crossings a-plenty, with the odd anagram or two to force our thinking caps on.

If any team gets stuck along the way, it would have been easy to skip a puzzle. We were presented with two options to type at any time during the game:

  • Decode Directions – to write out the specific directions of where to go
  • I just want food! – to skip the next part of the puzzle

Thankfully we didn’t use any, but we did get one incorrect answer which incur a small time penalty.

 

Melt in your mouth good

 

Gourmaze: The Gourmet Part

The real reason we recommend Gourmaze has got to be because of the food. No, seriously. Escape room enthusiasts won’t be overly challenged by solving puzzles, but if you want a brilliantly fun day out with friends or family… Look no further.

There were three dessert spots on our trail, but we’re under strict instructions not to reveal the company locations or the types of food. So I’ll be suitable vague and say that there was something light and fluffy and delicious, something liquid and warming, and finally something perfect for the sunny weather we found ourselves in! All three were absolutely delicious. Melt in your mouth good, and well balanced enough that you still felt great by the end of the walk – not too sweet, not too bitter. Just perfect.

Of the three dessert places, all three were small family owned businesses which felt fantastic. None were particularly off the beaten track, but they were all ones I’d never heard of before and will definitely, definitely be returning to soon. That was one of the nicest touches of the whole game, at each place we learned about the people who run it and the history of the dessert and the venues. Not only fun and tasty, but educational too!

 

 

The Verdict

Gourmaze was absolutely fantastic. A brilliant puzzle game addition to London and one I hope goes on to expand across the UK and even across the world too. So far they have the Sweet Escape trail and one other, The Talisman Treats, themed around Asian food. If you like delicious food with your puzzle games, then you’re probably going to love this one.

In terms of pricing, A Sweet Escape was very reasonably priced. At under £30 per person, you get three very well sized desserts, fun puzzles to solve, and an excellent walk around some lovely areas of London. Other outdoor puzzle game companies charge similar but don’t include dessert. Why no dessert? I hope all my future puzzle trails include snacks!

In particular, I’d recommend booking a Gourmaze trail for a special occasion, such as a birthday as we did. It’s a great trail for kids, families, friends, colleagues, or anyone… Anyone who likes sweet food at least. The website mentions it not being suitable for those in a wheelchair due to steps, but otherwise there were no low light or audio puzzles to be aware of. So long as you can read text messages, your accessibility needs should be met. But, definitely check with the organisers if you have any concerns.

 

The Escape Roomer takes the win!

 

Gourmaze can be booked in London by heading to their website here.

Lollipop: The Grid | Review

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The Grid Review | Enter the offices of evil startup Neosight and defeat their AI technology to help humanity from extinction. You will go through multiple rooms while you are there, posing as a volunteer to help them programme their machines. In fact you are fighting for a bigger cause! While you are in the Neosight’s office, please make sure no one knows that you are undercover. You may also meet people who are not members of The Grid. #ActNormal

Date Played: 1st June 2022
Time Taken: 1hr 45
Number of Players: 2 (+4)
Difficulty: Quite Easy

It’s safe to say we had absolutely no idea what to expect in The Grid. Part escape room, part immersive experience..? Actors, cocktails, wacky set design? But when my best friend came down for my birthday weekend, it was first on her list to book, and I jumped at the exciting opportunity. The Grid represents everything I love distilled into one 2 hour experience in London Southbank. We arrived at the mysterious Neosight building in London Southbank, donned a pair of wacky metallic jackets, and off we were into ‘the grid’ to save the world, and save ourselves along with it.

The first important thing to mention is that I would definitely class The Grid as an escape room. Perhaps a controversial opinion, since it’s also sort of not an escape room. But at any given time we were locked in rooms and were given escape room puzzles to escape. We were searching for things, using cool devices, moving around, squatting, running, jumping our way to success. It is an escape room in every traditional sense of the world, and so we’ll grade it accordingly.

Unlike an escape room, you’re allowed to take photos of absolutely anything you like. Also unlike normal escape rooms, The Grid is that they are non-exclusive bookings which is fairly uncommon in the UK. In the US it’s standard – and don’t get me wrong, I totally get the need to sell more tickets per session – it just took us by surprise. So keep that in mind when you book! Add in the theme of drinking, and you could potentially be put in with a rowdy bunch who have all just come from the pub. *long pause* Which is pretty much exactly the kind of group we were put in with, a team of 4 rounding off an evening birthday bar crawl. But hey, it takes all kind of people to solve the puzzles and save the world.

 

 

Meet AIDA, your AI Companion

The story of The Grid follows you, a team of test subjects attempting to take down the evil start-up Neosight who are hell bent on taking over the world. You’re undercover and at the mercy of an unhinged A.I. robot called AIDA. We weren’t supposed to draw her attention to the fact we were undercover agents, so we had to act normal. Very normal. Normal for us was slow dancing around, singing happy birthday and trying to solve one of the trickiest and fastest IQ tests.

That was until we accidentally ingested some highly deadly nanotechnology in the form of a glass of prosecco… Whoops! Suddenly it became a race against time to find, and in some cases create, each part of the antidote to save ourselves before the nanobots ate us alive from the inside. No pressure, hey.

After solving the first room’s worth of puzzles, we were off to a flying start, descending into the bowels of the building to join and undercover robot resistance, meet a cast of curious characters, and ultimately escape from the complex unhurt.

 

Team The Escape Roomer preparing to enter The Grid

 

The Grid: Escape Room Vs Immersive Experience

The Grid has two ‘escape room’ locations in it, two ‘sitting down’ portions, and one absolutely fantastic slide right in the middle which I might have definitely screamed rushing down it. It was potentially one of the most fun escape rooms you can possibly play. I mean, I love a cocktail and I love a slide.

But to be sure, it definitely falls on the ‘easy’ side. With teams expected to be drinking along the way, they trend towards getting easier and easier over the course of the experience. At the start, all of us were working together to search and find key things. Later, the game provided an opportunity to split up and tackle different puzzles at the same time, before coming back together for the big finale.

More important than the puzzles were the audience and actor (well, sometimes actors, sometimes AI) participation. We found ourselves singing, dancing, making silly drawings, and convincing the AI to help us out rather than outright solving puzzles. But those were a lot of fun. What The Grid lacks in difficulty, it makes up for with it’s quirky moments. We could tell that there was a group ahead of us, and a group behind us, only by the occasional scream. Whilst I’m sure the Games Masters were carefully staggering our time in each room to ensure that the experience flowed smoothly, you couldn’t tell. In short, each area was well-weighted for teams to complete at the same time. Too fast? And you’ll have to banter with the AI. Too slow? The AI will help you and hurry you up.

 

 

The Grid: A Sci-Fi Wonderland

My absolute favourite thing about The Grid was the set-design. Seriously, how cool can this be? Each room we encountered was a feast for the eyes (as well as the taste buds when we discovered a cocktail waiting for us). From a bleached white laboratory room complete with skeletons and sci-fi iPads, to a thrilling slide emerging into a secret underground lair, to a room that I can only describe as looking like we were inside a computer’s mainframe. The whole thing glowed in shades of green and blue, making for excellent photographs throughout.

 

 

The Verdict

We absolutely loved The Grid! It was truly something special, so conveniently located, brilliant fun and impressive sets to boot. It’s only slightly more expensive per person than your average London escape room, but this one has… Cocktails!

For sure, it’s not particularly difficult to solve. Escape room enthusiasts will not find themselves terribly challenged, but I think that’s not too much of a problem. I don’t think anybody is reasonably booking The Grid to have their brain wrung out. You’re going for fun, and in our booking slot, they absolutely nailed ‘fun’. I really appreciated how well the drinking tied into the storyline. In finding out that a new shot or drink was our antidote, I didn’t even blink twice before downing every liquid I discovered.

We would recommend this for escape room enthusiasts and immersive experience enthusiasts. It sits comfortably between the two genres and is something special in it’s own right. Since most escape rooms absolutely do not let you drink, The Grid is a different class of “escape room perfect for also playing as a stag or hen or birthday party”. I’m super glad to see the day that I can play an escape room as part of my pre-drink routine before going out for the night.

In terms of accessibility, there are some physical moments that definitely wouldn’t be suitable for anyone who had mobility issues. There were also several sequences of low lighting, and some mild ‘terror’ and ‘dread’ throughout. In terms of age rating, whilst you can opt for non-alcoholic versions, the event is strictly 18+. I’d also highly recommend trying to book out the whole slot with you and some friends rather than risk being put in with strangers – it’s always more fun drinking with friends, after all.

 

The Grid can be booked by heading to their website here.

Mamma Mia! The Party | Review

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Mamma Mia! The Party: Review | Feel transported to the island of Skopelos to dance, dine and have the time of your life! As the sun sets, you’ll take your seats at Nikos’ family-run taverna where you’ll enjoy a delicious four-course Greek meal before dancing the night away at a glittering ABBA disco. Plan your getaway with family and friends to Mamma Mia! The Party for the ultimate Greek holiday experience to remember.

 

Mamma Mia! Here we go again…

A few need-to-know facts about me which may inform this review:

  • I am in the top .5% of ABBA listeners according to my Spotify wrapped
  • The first dance at my wedding will be “I Do, I Do, I Do”
  • I think Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again is one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of the last decade

 

Needless to say, I am the prime target audience for Mamma Mia: The Party. And I am pleased to report that my time in Skopelos more than lived up to my expectations.

My biggest shout out of the evening is the incredible staff who are working throughout the immersive experience. Every person I encountered was friendly, genuine, and quick on the trigger when asking if you’d like them to take a picture of you at the many photo opportunities. This is the perfect place for a night out that you can later post on Instagram. It comes as no surprise that this is a perfect and popular destination for hen-do’s.

We had fantastic seats right on the stage, so we enjoyed our fair share of attention from the performers. But from my perspective, it seemed like every seat in the house had an incredible view and were interacted with at some point. Even your waiter will be a talented performer who joins in on the song and dance.

 

 

We love dinner theatre

The ticket comes with a three course meal. As a serial theme party-thrower, a big pet peeve of mine is when a theatrical-dining experience does not have food that fits the theme. Luckily at Mamma Mia: The Party the delicious menu is straight out of Greece. From the mezze platter starter to the lamb (so good!), the food was delicious. Out of the entire menu, the only thing I didn’t absolutely love was the Lemon Cake which was served with yoghurt, but I’m not a yogurt fan, so your mileage may vary! I’d actually highly recommend getting the Vegan dessert option, donuts, which my friend ordered. They were delicious!

 

Mamma Mia: The Show

Let’s be honest, it’s Mamma Mia, we’re here for the ABBA, not the plot. There is a forbidden lovers storyline which served the many opportunities for song and dance well (we can’t always be finding our long lost father out of three potential candidates). There are various characters and a few side plots and diversions, my favourite of which was an invocation to Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, that happens in a stunning sequence in the dark with an aerial artist. The aerial work in the show, done by Allie Ho Chee, is truly stunning. Her character Bella also has a really fun dance number earlier in the show. Bella and her partner Nina, played by Jessica Spalis, were highlights of the cast for me. They both brought great energy and immense physical talent to Skopelos!

The best part of the theatrical experience of Mamma Mia: The Party was the immersion. I really enjoyed setting “The Party” on Skopelos, the island where Mamma Mia! was filmed. There’s a nice, uncomplicated meta-ness to the parameters of the world. You’ll find a series of informational posters by the complimentary coat check (as they said, it’s Greece so you’re going to be warm!) that include ferry times, maps and concert posters taking place on the island which was a lovely touch of immersion. 

 

Interactivity & World Building in Mamma Mia! The Party

While there’s no escape or puzzle elements to the show (unless you want to escape the music of ABBA and then we can’t be friends), the interactivity is some of the best I’ve experienced. Part of that is the ingeniously simple structure of the night: it is genuinely like you really are just attending a really great Mamma Mia themed party. Despite there being only a few set-up interactive moments, the way the show functions is that every interaction, be it with your waiter, the front of house, or the performers passing by, feels like an experience.

Overall, Mamma Mia: The Party was one of my favourite immersive experiences ever. The ticket prices are steep, but it’s a great value for an amazing and well thought out night out. And it’s certainly the closest I’m going to get to Greece this year!

 

Mamma Mia! The Party can be booked by heading to their website here.

‘The Boys’ Get the V | Review

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‘The Boys’ Are Back in Town

The Boys Get the V Review | To launch season 3 of the explosive comic book adaptation ‘The Boys’, streaming platform Amazon Prime and UK based immersive theatre big guns Swamp Motel team up for “a f**king diabolical immersive experience”. Warning – this one’s “not for pussies”. An immersive experience that might just literally blow your head off. It’s your chance to help Butcher and The Boys infiltrate Vought’s London HQ to smuggle out some contraband Temp V. Unless you get caught, in which case – you’re f*cked.

 

Date Played: 31st May 2022
Time Taken: 25 minutes
Number of Players: 2

 

 

Ultra-gory, scabrously sexy and liberally littered with expletives, the Amazon Prime adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s ‘The Boys’ comic books has pushed buttons and boundaries since it started streaming in 2019.  Now back for a third series (with the first episode due to drop on Fri 3 June, then eps following weekly), this is a darkly cynical, gloriously grotesque and twisted take on the superhero genre and for just a few days London is playing host to an immersive version of its particular brand of death and debauchery. 

 

But what’s it all about?

At the heart of ‘The Boys’ is a gang of superpowered All American heroes, known as ‘the supes’ who regularly save the day, to the delight of an adoring public who lap up the media frenzy that surrounds the shiny, super-suited idols. But underneath the Supes sleek surface is a corrupt heart. These heroes are the manufactured products of the Vought Corporation who pump the Supes bodies full of a superhero serum known as V, and pump their already inflated egos to bursting point. The Supes may look like the good guys but in reality they’re a bunch of dark-hearted whack jobs who don’t care how many bodies they trample over in pursuit of sex, power and a dose of V.

Only a few people know the truth and this is where the real heroes, ‘The Boys’ come in.  Led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban on his best beardy, sweary form) these guys have made it their personal mission to bring the Supes and the Vought Corporation to their knees.

 

And Why Do I Care?

Because to launch season 3 Amazon Prime has teamed up with immersive theatre geniuses, Swamp Motel, to create an experience which promises to be explosive. And very possibly bloody. And almost definitely sweary.

As a huge fan of the TV show and as an even bigger fan of Swamp Motel (whose trio of online ‘Isklander’ games were a highlight of 2 years of lockdown and whose immersive show/escape room ‘The Drop’ was a beautifully built thrill ride) I couldn’t wait to see what they’d concocted.

 

What’s the Plan, Stan?

Billy Butcher is in town and needs your help. He’s got intel that our very own Foreign Secretary has teamed up with the Vought Corporation to smuggle in doses of ‘temp V’ – a version of the Supe drug that’ll give anyone superhero powers for 24 hours. Butcher knows that getting hold of the temp V could even up the playing field as he and the boys take on those dangerous Supes. But he needs a local squad to break into Vought’s secret London base. He needs brave souls. And very probably dispensable ones too.

 

Inside Job

So after receiving a an email mission briefing from Butcher himself, me and a few brave/foolish/expendable (delete as applicable) teammates arrived at Vought’s London HQ to find there’d been an incident. A very gory incident. A random body parts and bloody puddles incident. A security guard with his intestines hanging out kind of incident. And when our ‘handler’ also met an explosively sticky end it was up to us to figure out how to infiltrate Vought’s security systems, navigate our way around some mutant Supes and get our hands on some samples of temp V. Severed hands and bloodied eyeballs might have played a part.

 

 

 

This brief immersive foray into the world of the Supes vs The Boys is just that, brief. We were in and out in 25 mins. And this definitely isn’t an escape room or puzzle hunt – apart from a couple of short-lived searches for security codes and/or information, the immersive element mostly involves walking round blood-splattered offices, picking your way over copious corpses and being shouted at and abused by Vought operatives, who, fair play to them, threw themselves into the roles with both gusto and a varied vocabulary of insults.

This is immersive action very much in the vein of the show – gory, darkly funny and rude. Very very very rude. Those of a sensitive disposition should stay well clear but fans of ‘The Boys’ will revel in the show’s standard level of sheer filth brought to technicoloured life. Even for a short-lived pop-up promo Swamp Motel’s high quality production build is as evident as ever, and the sheer scale of the enterprise is impressive with multiple sets spread throughout a roomy office block.  And the cast is committed, fast-witted and brave. Staged fight choreography is hard to pull off at close quarters but Swamp Motel’s team give it a game go at the event’s climax and the … erm … appendages, that some of the cast are asked to lug around takes supe-level chutzpah to carry off.

 

 

Despite being an official Amazon Prime season launch promo and an event that will inevitably appeal mostly to the show’s fan base, there was surprisingly, and disappointingly, little footage from the show itself featured.  A video briefing from Butcher or an abusive warning off from top Supe (and sleaze) Homelander would have been a nice touch.  A little more time to free roam the various sets and admire the details and Easter eggs that fans enjoy would also have been welcome, but with only 4 days of shows and very limited tickets it’s maybe no surprise that you find yourself unceremoniously dumped out on the street fairly quickly, insults still ringing in your ears.

 

The Verdict

Direct comparisons with Swamp Motel’s superb ‘Isklander’ and ‘The Drop’ games are probably unfair as ‘Get the V’ is a very different beast both in intent and execution.  This is very much a guided journey with limited scope for audience autonomy.  But it is also still a filthily funny immersive adventure into the gory, grimy world of ‘The Boys’, where expletives, exploding heads and dick jokes are common currency.  And while we might never get to sample the infamous ‘V’, this is a satisfyingly bawdy appetiser for those of us who are frothing at the mouth at the thought of season 3. 

The Boys is running for a limited time and can be booked by heading to their website here.

13 of the best outdoor puzzle trails to play in London

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Inspired by Georgie’s recent article on great team building experiences in London, I found myself looking back on all the outdoor puzzle walking trails I’ve done in London in search of the hidden gems I’d recommend above all others. Being the capital means there’s a hub of fantastic puzzle game creators using the rabbit warren of tight alleyways, historical buildings and local curiosities as their blank canvas for creating innovative and exciting games. I myself even designed a game for the (unfortunately) now-retired company Locked City back before lockdown.

 

London Outdoor Puzzle Trails by Area

If you’re in London and looking to get your puzzle fix whilst sightseeing, look no further! Here we have split each of our favourite walking trails by geographical area.

 

West

Hidden City – The Enchanted Mirror

Start Location: South Kensington Station Arcade
Areas Covered: Kensington
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 4 Miles

Website

The story of The Enchanted Mirror is a classic fairy tale of good vs evil in a quest to discover a mysterious enchanted mirror. The Queen sets you a challenge to best her. A challenge of your wits and cunning but, since so many before you have failed and disappeared, you’ll need more than a little help if you’re to best her and save the land once and for all.

 

The Escape Roomer plays The Enchanted Mirror

 

Secret City Trails – Hampstead

Start Location: Belsize Park Train Station
Areas Covered: Hampstead
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 2.5 Miles

Website

This playful walk across London’s Hampstead sharpens your senses and encourages you to appreciate the most wonderful – and often hidden – details around you.

 

Hidden City – Moriarty’s Game

Start Location: 93 Marylebone High Street
Areas Covered: Marylebone, Mayfair
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 1 Mile

Website

Moriarty’s Game is a must for fans of Sherlock Holmes. Follow in Sherlock’s footsteps as you go into physical locations, discover hidden clues, choose your allegiance, and crack the case Watson has given you. Hidden City is immersive like no other outdoor game you can play in London and is well worth playing.

 

Treasure Trails – London’s Little Venice

Start Location: Paddington
Areas Covered: Little Venice
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

Treasure Trails is fantastic if you’ve got kids, and the best part is the whole thing is completely offline. You’ll be sent a booklet ahead of time packed with puzzles to take you from location to location. If you solve the whole quest, you’ll be entered into a monthly prize draw too!

 

Londons Little Venice

 

Central

Hidden City – The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat

Start Location: 91 The Strand
Areas Covered: Strand, Charing Cross, Waterloo
Length: 3-4 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat is the walking puzzle tour that made me discover my new favourite pub in all of London – but no spoilers, you’ll just have to play the whole thing yourself to find out where that is! Follow the cat through London’s alleyways, going into landmarks and cafes to speak secret codes and find secret items along the way.

 

AIM Escape – Operation Mindfall

Start Location: Temple
Areas Covered: Temple
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: ~

Website

 

 

Secret City Trails – Picadilly Circus

Start Location: Criterion Theatre
Areas Covered: Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament
Length: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
Distance: 1.3 Miles

Website

This playful walk across London’s vibrant neighbourhoods sharpens your senses and encourages you to appreciate the most wonderful – and often hidden – details around you.

 

The Secret City – Secrets of the Squares

Start Location: Picadilly Circus
Areas Covered: Picadilly Circus, Soho
Length: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Distance: 2.8 Miles

Website

A cryptic trail through the bustling parts of central London and a great spot for tourism, shopping, and eating out.

 

East

Street Hunt – Colombia’s Finest

Start Location: Shoe Lane Library
Areas Covered: Blackfriars, Temple, St. Pauls
Length: 2 hours
Distance: ~

Website

One of my personal favourites on the list, Colombia’s Finest is a fantastically unique walking puzzle game from up and coming Street Hunt games. If you like your coffee with a dash of sinister organisation, illicit drug trade, and of course murder, then it’s a great day out!

The Escape Roomer takes on Colombia’s Finest

 

AIM Escape – Operation Mindfall

Start Location: Monument
Areas Covered: Monument, Tower of London
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: ~

Website

Operation Mindfall is without a doubt in my mind one of the most creative and high-tech outdoor games on the market. AIM Escape’s version in particular takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of London but through the eyes of the super secret spy organisation W.I.S.E. It’s perfect for tourists and locals alike!

 

Treasure Trails – A Tale of Two Bridges

Start Location: Tower Bridge
Areas Covered: Tower Bridge, London Bridge
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

Treasure Trails is fantastic if you’ve got kids, and the best part is the whole thing is completely offline. You’ll be sent a booklet ahead of time packed with puzzles to take you from location to location. If you solve the whole quest, you’ll be entered into a monthly prize draw too!

 

Honorary Mentions

CluedUpp – The Ripper

Start Location: Multiple!
Areas Covered: Multiple!
Length: 2-3 hours
Distance: 3 Miles

Website

CluedUpp gets an honorary mention on this page because it’s not tied to one specific location. In fact, you can play CluedUpp from practically anywhere in the world. There are a number of ‘events’ running at a number of cities where teams are encouraged to dress up, solve puzzles, and crack cases. We played The Ripper at Kensington and had a great time (although it probably wouldn’t challenge enthusiasts).

 

Team The Escape Roomer taking on The Ripper

Foxtrail – Lancelot

Start Location: St. Pauls
Areas Covered: St. Pauls, Borough
Length: 4+ hours
Distance: 5 Miles

Website

Foxtrail is now sadly retired but was easily my favourite outdoor adventure game in all of London, and I keep it on the list in the hopes that it will one day return! Foxtrail is easily the most ambitious walking trail, with boxes and interactable hidden across the capital. Your ticket also includes a boat ride and several stops, making it a must-do!

Team The Escape Roomer plays Foxtrail

 

That’s all for our list! Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.