Escape Plan: Battle For Britain | Review

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Top Secret Mission Briefing 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


Our Verdict

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

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

Hidden City: Moriarty’s Game | Review

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Moriarty’s Game Review | Professor James Moriarty invites you to celebrate the finest minds in London by solving his mysterious challenge, which he has personally prepared. Succeed, and he promises to make you an offer you can’t refuse…

Rating: Fun – but for the best experience, wait until lockdown is over
Completion Time: 3 hours
Date Played: April 2021 ~ April 2022
Party Size: 4
Location: Baker Street, Marylebone, Mayfair

So, I’m probably one of the few people in London who doesn’t generally recommend Hidden City. The company has a very dedicated following of puzzle enthusiasts and most people will recommend them as creators of the very best outdoor walking trails in London. For me, my un-enthusiasm boils down to one very important detail – I played most of Hidden City’s game during the global pandemic.

As I’ll repeat from my other review of The Enchanted Mirror, I had fond memories of playing Hidden City games that involved indoor locations BEFORE the pandemic. These walking games often take you into famous landmarks to discover cool and unusual facts, and pubs and cafes to whisper secret codewords to the staff and receive packs of information. At the end of each Hidden City game players often receive an edible prize. SERIOUSLY AWESOME!

…Except, that during lockdown their trails remained live and bookable, but all of the exciting bells and whistles that make Hidden City so special were removed. For obvious reasons… It was a global pandemic. But without those bells and whistles it became hard to justify the high price on the market. The cost per player was £19, reduced from £25 during the lockdown, which took away the sting a little bit. But, regardless, they’re still on the more expensive side of the London puzzle trail market, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them during the lockdown. Another shame, given the only thing us enthusiasts could do during the lockdown was walk around outside…

All this is to say that after writing a review for The Enchanted Mirror (lockdown version), I decided not to make the same mistake twice. Since I knew in my heart that a mid-lockdown version of the game wasn’t representative, I went ahead and booked Moriarty’s Game TWICE. First in May 2021, and then again in April 2022. It’s simply not fair for me to judge a game at a time when the business hosting the game was struggling the most. Companies still need to make money, and I’m glad that selling their treasure trails, even if they were a reduced version of them, meant that they could survive the pandemic and reopen the original, brilliant experience. But I wanted to mention all this as I have a slightly unique view of the game, and I’m reminded of this quote:

“If you can’t handle me Moriarty’s Game at it’s worse, you don’t deserve me Moriarty’s Game at my best”

So, without further adieu, let’s talk about Moriarty’s Game…

 

About Moriarty’s Game

Moriarty’s Game: The Professor’s Invitation is an outdoor walking trail that sets off from Marylebone and takes around 3 hours to complete. 2 hours if you’re super fast, and up to 4 if you’re not in a rush and want to take in the sights. Beginning outside The Marylebone on Marylebone High Street, the adventure takes teams across London, past amazing sights and down curious little alleyways in an effort to prove yourself worthy to Sherlock’s Nemesis himself, James Moriarty.

To help you out, you have a direct line of contact via text message during the game. I don’t want to give too many spoilers since this game offers several multiple choice elements, but I will say that at any time you’re either talking to Moriarty, Watson, Sherlock, or the Metropolitan Police. That is, depending on whose side in the game you take. This contact is mostly cryptic puzzles for you to solve taking you on a walk. Occasionally your correspondent will send you into a local business:

“Time for you and your team to send the stealthiest of you into the location…”

At each location we would often be handed a physical pack with physical items covered in puzzles to be solved. In our first lockdown playthrough, all of the locations were shut so no packs – all QR codes! In the second, just one of these locations was shut, but a handy QR code sent us a digital version of the physical pack which helped us along our way. We also found ourselves phoning mysterious numbers and speaking or listening to recordings from various characters from the story. All in all, thoroughly immersive. Occasional nods of “make sure you weren’t followed” added an extra dimension of “oh my god those people look suspicious” and hurrying through the shadows.

 

 

One thing I did notice about playing it twice and by noticing some other teams passing alongside us, their noses buried in their phones, is that there isn’t just one route to the game. Notably, a few key places and indoor locations must be visited in order to progress, but the roads that take you between those can (and probably will) be completely different from the next team. Different clues, different sights, and different riddles. This surprised me, but also delighted me – it meant that playing it twice felt refreshing, and I can easily see how great this would be to play in competition with another team.

At one point during the game, the second time we played I mean, something really cool happened. We were wandering around a street and one of us spotted something curious poking out of a hedgerow. It was a business card… Sherlock Holmes’ business card. No, seriously. Whilst I’m now quite sure this was co-incidence, since this was not an item we found at any point on our experience (I believe the place that we would have picked it up was shut, and so instead we had another puzzle to solve) it still added a whole new level of immersion that… No joke… Blew our minds! Props to whoever accidentally, or on purpose left that business card tucked into a hedgerow because it was very cool indeed.

In terms of the route, I don’t want to give too many spoilers so I’ll just speak in very general terms – we started near Marylebone in a lovely location next to a farmer’s market. The route took us around Mayfair and up towards Oxford Street and Regent’s Street, finally ending somewhere near Fitzrovia. In short, it’s a very ‘fancy’ area of London and not one I’d normally hang out in but it was great to explore it with fresh eyes.

 

Team The Escape Roomer stopping for a cheeky drink

 

Is Hidden City Wheelchair Accessible or Dog Friendly?

One of the biggest considerations when playing an outdoor walking game is accessibility. For this, I’m going to mention two things – wheelchair, and dog friendly, since these are two questions we get asked a lot.

On the first point, our particular route was not particularly wheelchair friendly. We encountered plenty of steps, but perhaps if you get in contact with the team they may be able to advise.

On the topic of dog friendly, being able to bring your four-legged friends is one of the biggest pulls about opting to play an outdoor walking trip over say, a physical escape room. Most physical escape rooms in London will not allow dogs in side – so visitors to the city, plan accordingly!

(As a total side note, if any fellow enthusiasts are visiting the city and need someone to shower their dog in cuddles for an hour whilst they’re in an escape room… I’m your girl!)

When we played, we had a dog with us. I wouldn’t say the experience was or wasn’t dog friendly in either way. There are plenty of locations where you are encouraged to take a seat. At some of the places, we took the dossier with us and went along our way, but I don’t think they would have turned us away if we had taken a seat. The final location insists that you take a seat and this place is dog friendly – they even brought out a little bowl of water for our thirsty four legged friend, which was a nice touch!

So is it dog friendly? Yeah, kinda! Wheelchair friendly? Not particularly.

 

 

The Verdict

The first time I played Moriarty’s Game, I didn’t enjoy it. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was very expensive, all of the fun things were shut, and our game actually broke towards the end – our texts started going into a loop and the game randomly sent us to the start. We weren’t able to get in touch with anyone from support until days later. Oof, not good.

However, everyone has their bad day. Sometimes that bad day turns into a bad year when the world plunges into lockdown. So, I chose not to review the game at the time, as it wasn’t representative of what people’s actual experience would be.

It seems like waiting for the pandemic to end was well worth the wait, because the experience we got when we were able to book the game a second time was almost flawless. A beautiful sunny day, perfectly working tech, and getting to meet lovely people in fantastic places. We left the experience with a big ol’ grin on our faces and already made plans to book another.

So the verdict? I really, really enjoyed the game. I really recommend it. Despite everything, I am a fan of the company.

Yes, yes, it is still a really expensive game. Easily the most expensive in the market and about the same cost as an escape room ticket. But for that price you’re getting easily over 3 hours worth of fun and you’re getting some lovely keepsakes and pretty fun prize at the end too!

 

 

Moriarty’s Game can be booked by heading to Hidden City’s website here.

Treasure Trails: Greenwich and the Time Machine | Review

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Greenwich and the Time Machine Review | Ahoy, me hearties! We need pirate adventurers for this self-guided treasure hunt around Greenwich. Hunt high and low through the riverside borough of Greenwich and reveal stories of its rich maritime history (including the famous Cutty Sark – the last remaining tea clipper)! There’s green, there’s mean, and there’s a time-travelling machine!

Completion Time: ~2 hours
Date Played: 23rd April 2022
Party Size: 2
Location: Greenwich
Difficulty: Easy

Looking for a family friendly outdoor puzzle trail in London (or even around the UK for that matter), look no further than Treasure Trails!

Once you’ve done a lot of the puzzle trails in London you’ll know a lot of the themes revolve around things like defusing bombs, catching a serial killer, busting international drug syndicates, or finding the antidote to a deadly poison in the waterways – which are all great in their own right, but sometimes you just want to go on a traditional pirate treasure hunt equipped with a map and eyepatch.

Enter: Greenwich and the Time Machine.

 

 

About Treasure Trails UK

Treasure Trails was founded in 2005 and is a company I have personally grown up with. In fact, no family holiday was complete without my mum downloading and printing a treasure trail booklet to the local town or countryside spot we were visiting. Despite the ever-obscure areas, Treasure Trails was reliably there.

But despite my fond memories, they’re not just for kids. On a sunny Saturday morning Georgie and I got together in Greenwich – a location a short boat ride away for the both of us, to take on one of London’s most popular Treasure Trail to find out what it was like playing ‘as a grown up’. And let me tell you, it was still just as brilliant as the first time, many years ago.

In London there are around 62 Treasure Trails available – either as a printed booklet shipped directly to you, or as a PDF download. One of the most popular London trails is Greenwich and the Time Machine. We opted for the print-at-home version and in just a few minutes, off we were!

 

 

Hunting for Pirate Treasure in Greenwich

Our mission began near the Cutty Sark, an old tea clipper moored in Greenwich. We needed to team up with a time travelling expert, Merri Deehan, to go back in time and rescue an historical ring from an evil, time travelling green witch. The ring, banished somewhere in time and space was our only key to ‘saving the world’ – or something like that anyway. The important thing to know was that we were on the search of treasure lost not only spatially, but temporally too. Along our way we’d be accosted by the green witch and her minions, but not to worry. Georgie and I were on the case!

The game requires a printed out piece of paper – or the booklet – and follows 18 clues around Greenwich, each split into “Directions” and “Clue”. At the end of each “Directions” we’d find ourselves at a new location, then had to solve the “Clues” to get a location. This location could be found on a map that was handily included at the back of our booklet. Every location you cross off is a location the treasure is definitely NOT buried at. Leaving you with the true location by the end of the trail. Don’t forget to bring a pen to cross off each location as you go!

 

Merri Deehan… Wait, why does that name sound significant?

Greenwich is famous for a lot of things but above all it’s famous for being the home to the Meridian Line. You know, Greenwich Mean Time, the solar time at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. I’m no historian, so I’ll let Wikipedia do the explaining on this one:

As the United Kingdom developed into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was considered to have longitude zero degrees, by a convention adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884. Synchronisation of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, led to GMT being used worldwide as a standard time independent of location.

Point being, if you’re interested in the history of time, then this is a fantastic place to explore. We spotted a lot of cool clocks and even got to stand on the meridian line itself, how fantastic?!

 

Georgie standing on the Meridian line in Greenwich

 

But beyond the historical significance, Greenwich is a really lovely area of London and one I’m not used to exploring. It was a beautiful sunny way with boats floating lazily up the river, and a fantastic view of London in all directions. The houses we passed were gothic and dramatic, and the food at the various markets and pubs delicious. Treasure Trails or not, visiting Greenwich is a must-do for anyone visiting London, and we can’t think of anything better than to spend your time there solving puzzles.

 

For Kids, or Adults?

The whole thing errs on the side of fairly easy, and definitely won’t challenge an escape room enthusiast – but the real joy to playing a Treasure Trail isn’t being stuck in with difficult puzzles and riddles, it’s being able to take the route in your own pace and see the sights. We particularly loved being able to stop at any cafe we liked along the route and even take a detour into some of the fantastic museums. In fact, if you wanted to you could break this walking trip up into several days. There’s nothing stopping you and that’s nice.

With that in mind, we’d definitely suggest this is a game more targeted towards young people. We both remarked that it would be good for kids aged 6 – 12. A great way to introduce little ones to the wonderful world of puzzling but definitely still fun enough to capture the interests of players up to 12. On the route we spotted several other teams also playing the game and most of those also had young kids with them. Between us we were mid-20s, and we loved it though, so it just goes to show!

 

 

Although to say it’s easy would also be slightly unfair as we did get a little stuck on a few moments. However this was largely on the “Directions” side rather than the “Clues”. We also finished the Treasure Trail with *gasp* two locations un-crossed-out on our treasure map, meaning we couldn’t definitively decide where the treasure was buried. Whoops – we’d missed a clue! But thankfully taking plenty of photos of all the spots got us back on track to the correct answer.

A word of advice to prospective players – the locations tend to be quite close together, so if you go too far down one route and don’t come to a solution, it may be worth doubling back on yourself!

 

The Verdict

Anything by Treasure Trails is pretty much guaranteed to be fun. You know exactly what you’re getting – several ours of exploring a fun location packed with puzzles and little clues that revolve around the local landmarks.

In playing the Greenwich trail, I see why it’s the most popular. Some of the sights it took us around were lovely – brilliant coffee shops, a bustling market, a fantastic view of the city, and even some stops for museums. It was quite literally a perfect day out. We’d never have walked that particular route together if not for the trail and for that I’m super grateful. It’s reliably good fun for kids and adults alike and I’d definitely recommend it.

 

 

The Greenwich Treasure Trail can be purchased as a PDF or booklet by heading to Treasure Trails’ website here.

The Tomb Raider Live Experience | Review

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This summer London comes alive with a whole host of brand new not-quite-escape-room immersive experiences. From the Gunpowder Plot, to The Burnt City, and now the very latest: Tomb Raider the Live Experience. This week we were invited along before the doors officially open to try our hands at being Lara Croft for ourselves.

It was time to put on our shorts, tie our hair back, and leap into the action!

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

What is Tomb Raider the Live Experience?

First and foremost, what actually is Tomb Raider the Live Experience? To be sure, it’s not an escape room. Well, not quite anyway.

You and a team of up to 8 intrepid explorers (note, non-exclusive bookings) join Professor Lara Croft on an adventure that’ll take you quite literally around the world. You’re part of her university course and as her top 8 students, the fate of the world is in your hands! But beware, there are nefarious forces working against you.

Starting in Professor Croft’s study, you’re sucked in a whirlwind of adventure, first travelling to an icy cabin in Finland, then into a dangerously sinking ship, before disembarking (by portal, of course) into the heart of the jungle in Costa Rica. Throughout your adventure your goal is quite simple: Recover as many ‘Relics’ as possible. These relics are small orbs that fit within the palm of your hand. The maximum you can get is around 16.

In our particular team, including us at The Escape Roomer and our new friends at Scare Tour, we managed to complete the challenge with a respectable 8 relics in the bag. Enjoyably, we also managed to complete several ‘hidden’ tasks, which was a very nice reveal by our host at the end – but no spoilers as to what those are, you’ll just have to wait and see! 8, or 16… It’s no easy feat! Different relics pose different challenges and some of those quite challenging indeed.

The main way players obtain relics is by solving escape-room style puzzles. Here at The Escape Roomer, we were big fans of these. We only wish we had more time in those sections of the game! Players can also expect to find them hidden around in odd places, as well as the chance to complete physical challenges to obtain those oh-so-shiny relics.

So is it an escape room? No, not really. You’re not escaping, you’re going on a scripted adventure. In some rooms there are puzzles to solve and goals to complete, but it’s a lot more than an escape room. Let’s get into that further.

 

Photo by Us

 

Crawling, Zipping and Leaping!

The best thing about Tomb Raider the Live Experience is the physicality of it. There are very few other experiences that require you to get quite so ‘down and dirty’ than this one- and yes, I mean that quite literally! I’m still brushing off sand from my knees and finding bits of bark in my hair a day later! Each time we rounded a corner and found a new, exciting looking physical challenge, my heart fluttered a little. What would they expect us to do next? Jump from a high height, fire another weapon, or get down on the floor?

For this reason however, there’s a big ol’ note on accessibility to mention. Whilst the best source of information is their own FAQ, our impression is that the experience as a whole isn’t suitable for folks with accessibility needs, or folks who might be pregnant. If any player does have any accessibility need and would like to to skip a section the actors are on-hand to help a player through or bypass it for them entirely. So, yes, you could skip whole sections. But since this is the centrepiece of the whole experience, you would be missing the star of the show!

Still unsure? From the main lobby there’s an enormous window overlooking the most physical part of the experience and all but a few of the ‘most physical’ challenges are visible before you even take part. So you could decide ahead of time what you’re comfortable with and what not.

For a spoiler free list of what physical challenges to expect – highlight the below:

  • A zipwire (~2m tall, 20m long)
  • A leap of faith, forwards or backwards (~2m tall)
  • An army-style obstacle course involving crawling and climbing
  • Ducking and crouching
  • Firing a bow and arrow
  • Crawling through a pitch black tunnel with stairs

Photo by Us!

 

…And Solving Puzzles?

As this is The Escape Roomer, we’re always looking out for fun puzzles to solve. Tomb Raider the Live Experience has plenty of them. In fact, too many puzzles as there was definitely not enough time to solve everything.

For the average escape room enthusiast, this may leave a slightly bad taste in your mouth. Since this is a timed event you’ll be able to spend no more than 10, maybe 15 minutes in each location and after interacting with the actor(s) in the room, there’s not much time left for solving puzzles. Each location can cater for up to 8 players at once, so whilst the spaces are large, a lot of people may be crowding around one thing.

Over the course of the entire experience, I solved one puzzle in it’s entirely. It was a great feeling. There were a further three that I was able to engage with but did not have enough time to solve. At one point I held a 4 digit lock in my hands and was just about to enter the last digit when the actor came over, took it from my hands, and hurried me along. Noooooo- I stare wistfully at the relic in the box just seconds away from me claiming it. For this reason I mention again, it may leave a slightly bad feeling for escape room enthusiasts, because we are enthusiasts because we love to solve puzzles. Being shown puzzles and having them whisked away wasn’t as fun as it could have been.

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

“Everything lost is meant to be found”

I am sure that fans of the Lara Croft franchise will love this experience. Personally, I’ve never played any of the Lara Croft games and so I don’t mind admitting that a lot of the story was lost on me. At any given moment, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on – and I could tell that I wasn’t alone. In our team consisting mostly of strangers there were more than a few blank looks as the actors asked us a question and we weren’t sure what or how to reply. Simple things like who we can trust and who we were up against might have done with a little more explaining – but as I say, hardcore fans familiar with the ins and the outs of the franchise likely won’t have that issue.

Part adventure game, part scripted – there’s a lot of actor interaction and each person we met along our journey played their role with gusto and enthusiasm! One or two actors perhaps a little too enthusiastically as increasingly aggressive orders were barked at us when we weren’t sure what we were supposed to do, but I’ll not fault the actors for teething issues on the first night.

 

The Verdict

Overall, we did had fun at Tomb Raider the Live Experience. It is a very physical experience with an on-site bar in a prime London location, making it a good spot for teambuilding activities or birthday parties. Tomb Raider the Live Experience comes in at £77 – £99 per person, though if you’re lucky you might just nab a “super off peak” ticket for £66.

Since we are ‘The Escape Roomer’, we have to ask whether we’d recommend it for escape room enthusiasts and to that I would say probably not. It’s a very fast-paced experience where teams are herded through impressive physical spaces, but that doesn’t leave much time for solving puzzles. There’s few things more dissatisfying in an escape room than not solving all the puzzles, but unlike a real escape room there’s no games master to explain ‘what you missed’ after. For every ‘yay’ moment of taking part in something physical, there were many more moments of confusion and dissatisfaction.

That said, if you’re looking for something ‘a little different’ and enjoy running, jumping and hopping around through the jungle, then this might be for you. In particular, we really enjoyed taking part in activities outside of our comfort zone. It’s not every Thursday night I get to climb ropes and leap off things backwards with my eyes shut. And hey, no matter what anybody says, I didn’t scream that loud. Okay, maybe a little bit loud.

For now, I think I’ll stick with Lara Croft on my video game consoles, but I’m excited to see if and how the experience will evolve in the future.

 

If you wish to try Tomb Raider the Live Experience for yourself, head to their website here.

Urban Missions: Bomb Disposal Lambeth | Review

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Bomb Disposal Lambeth Review | The Agency has got wind of a possible plot to detonate an explosive in central London. They have identified some suspects and need your help to interrogate them, find the criminal mastermind behind the plot and dismantle the bomb.

Completion Time: 1hr 30
Date Played: 16th April 2022
Party Size: 4 + a dog!
Location: Lambeth, Parliament
Difficulty: Easy

At this point I’ve done so many outdoor puzzle games in London, yet I still love them to bits. Most of us here at The Escape Roomer each have a particular sector in the puzzle game world they specialise in and for me, I cannot get enough of anything that gets me in my walking shoes and exploring quaint and curious alleyways around London. I mention it as this point I feel like I can quickly recognise a good outdoor puzzle game when I see one! For me, Urban Missions hooked me from the very first clue in the game, and I knew this was something special.

 

You have 45 minutes to defuse the bomb…

Eek! No pressure!

Bomb Disposal: Lambeth starts at the iconic Leake Street Arches – a place where artists from all over the UK come to celebrate street art, eat fantastic food, and take part in indie immersive festivals. This is the perfect place to start an exciting puzzle hunt like this, and a place I was equally surprised to learn my co-players (my parents, brother, and our family dog, Shovell) had never visited before. But we had no time to stop off and take in the sights, as we had a bomb threat to track down and (hopefully) defuse!

Once you meet at the start location, each of us had to text a number to join our team. From there, each member of the team received updates and texts as the game progressed meaning we were all on the same page at the same time. To begin with, the puzzles started slightly more deductive. Actually, the very first puzzle was one of my favourites I’ve ever experienced in an outdoor walking tour, as we were encouraged to retrace the steps of several suspects in order to identify any inconsistencies. Afterwards, the route took on slightly more of a traditional take, giving a series of cryptic clues that we had to follow to each new location. At each location, we had details to look for and hidden codes to decipher, as well as a number of video and audio segments to keep the story on track.

As a team, we all remarked that we found the game to be slightly on the easier side. That said, we still did rack up a fair few penalties at the end for incorrect answers and almost ran out of time. So I suppose, not that easy! The puzzles themselves weren’t too tricky – it’s the type of thing where you receive a clue and it doesn’t quite make sense until you turn a corner and easily spot what it’s referring to. We didn’t get lost at any time and didn’t trip up. That is until the final segment of the game. At the end, there’s a dramatic timer counting down and each incorrect answer knocks more time off it. This time it became less about the location and more about finding numerical codes, which was very exciting. Here the difficulty also ramped up, resulting in a fair few incorrect answers from us as that ever-present clock ticked down.

 

A Modern Whodunnit

In terms of the story, Bomb Disposal Lambeth was fun and full of tension. There is a bomber on the loose hell bent on destroying a particular London landmark and it’s up to you – the eyes and the ears on the ground – to track down the individual and stop them before they can hit the trigger button! The story is told via the texts, but most importantly through a series of video and audio messages, which was a nice touch. There are at least two characters to encounter and it was always fun to see a new video message pop through from one or the other.

It was a simple story, for sure, but why improve up on “there’s a bomb and you’ve gotta stop it”. It’s tried and tested and leaves nothing to the imagination, allowing us to take in the sights and enjoy ourselves with the puzzle rather than thinking about a complex plot.

 

 

Lambeth, Houses of Parliament… And Beyond!

Conveniently the start location for this game is very centrally located, just a stone’s throw from Waterloo and the River Thames. It’s also fully accessible for wheelchair or buggy users, as we never once encountered any steps. Similarly, since all locations are outdoors and even includes a few walks through green spaces, we found the trip to be dog friendly too. All important considerations when picking a walking trail in London!

One thing I would say when playing this game however is to use discretion. No, seriously. If you’re like our team- loud and enthusiastic- you’ll be walking around watching the video content and listening to the audio content on full volume. The theme of the game is defusing a bomb. Well, in Central London saying the word “bomb” out loud is a big no no and we got a lot of looks from police, especially when the route took us near Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. I’d recommend using a code word, like Ice Cream… Quick everyone, we’ve got to get to the ice cream before it melts. Works just as well especially on a sunny day, and you’ll get a lot fewer funny looks.

If you choose to meet for food before you start, I’d recommend wandering down Lower Marsh street for some food. In particular, Balance Cafe is a fantastic spot for salads, cakes, and absolutely gorgeous coffee. Vaulty Towers is another brilliant spot for a drink or a bite to eat, as you can hang out in the treehouse. Though Note: Hidden City’s Cheshire Cat also takes players to this location, so you’ll bump into more than a few other teams on the mobile phones playing a different game. If you prefer to eat afterward, the route ends near the Houses of Parliament. I know this area less, but I would say that there are some lovely sunny parks round there – so perhaps packing a picnic to share on Big Ben’s lawn in front of the river is the way to go. Apparently players can stop the game at any time and take a break, but we weren’t aware and didn’t utilise this feature.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, we enjoyed the game a lot! In particular, I loved how the route took us through some parts of London I’d never, ever been to before, and pushed me to notice details about my surroundings that I’d normally pass by without a second’s glance. It’s reasonably priced for London, and even better when you consider you’re going to get up to 2 hours worth of fun, wandering around this gorgeous city solving puzzles out of it. We played on a very sunny bank holiday weekend, clocked in a comfortable 12,000 steps, and at the end of the day after enjoying an ice cold drink and a slice of cake, I remarked that it has easily been one of the nicest days of 2022 so far.

If you’re looking for a reliably good outdoor puzzle trail, Urban Missions is a great choice. It might not be the most challenging for hardcore enthusiasts, but I guarantee there isn’t anything quite like it, nor on that particular route. Just don’t say anything about a bomb too loudly next to the local police, and you’ll be golden.

 

If you’d like to book Bomb Disposal: Lambeth for yourself, head to Urban Mission’s website here to get started.

Mission: Breakout: Underground 2099 | Review

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

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

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

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

 

Team The Escape Roomer

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Photo (c) Mission: Breakout

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

The Verdict

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.

Breakin’ Escape Rooms: Blackwing’s Cave | Review

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Blackwing’s Cave Review | Holy padlocks, Blackwing! The evil games-master Doctor Drakker has broken out of jail and is on the loose in Knightsbane City, swearing revenge on his arch nemesis – Blackwing, dark crusader of justice. Drakker’s goons have tracked down the location of Blackwing’s secret base and riddled it with an onslaught of fiendishly twisted puzzles, trapping you – Blackwing’s trusty sidekicks – inside. They’ve hacked the security systems against you and planted an explosive surprise in the darkness… Time is running out. Blackwing cannot battle Drakker alone. Outwit the booby-traps, defuse the bombs, escape the cave and reunite your superhero family. So don your capes and pull on your masks – you’ll need every skill in your utility belt to defeat the villain and save the city!

Completion Time: 37 minutes
Date Played: 2019
Party Size: 3

This was another one of those rooms which we booked on a whim. Having done one of their other rooms previously (Sherlock’s Despair) I was interested in what their other rooms would be like, particularly going with a smaller, slightly more experienced group.

 

The set

The theme of this room is a superhero’s lair, and it is more than obvious which superhero this is meant to be. They did a pretty good job with the room – they managed to pack a lot into a small space, and I was pretty impressed. I only had two quibbles – firstly, the set itself caused us to stumble a little with some puzzles.

In my opinion, when it comes to puzzles, you should never be confused between whether you’re doing something wrong, or something is broken. Here, the set did cause us a little confusion at one point.

My second quibble was the exit method – I won’t go into too much detail, but the method to exit the room was a puzzle in itself, which I don’t think quite worked.

 

 

The game

The game itself started off quite interesting – you’re thrust into the dark, and you get a nice little voice over. I’m really not a fan of this – I’d rather get the brief before going in – once inside I just want to get started!

The room was very linear – there were only 3 of us there, and most of the time 2 of us were doing nothing. I strongly advise you don’t go with any more than 3 – there really would not be enough to do!

That being said, a lot of the puzzles were quite interesting and mostly unique concepts I haven’t seen before. Quite a few were co-op puzzles, and there were also a fair few technology puzzles. I think technology puzzles can be a little hit and miss, and this room was no exception – there were still a few parts where the technology wasn’t seamless, or felt like it was going on a bit long.

The hint system didn’t help things either – if we asked for a hint we had to get the GM up to speed with where we were first. It was also done via walkie talkie, which I often struggle with being able to understand.

I realised whilst writing this that I am coming off quite negative about the room, which was not my intention. I do think this was a good room, but I think we got lucky with our team. Any more than 3 people and we would have been too bored, especially if we were all experienced. I also think this would have been too hard for any novices. That being said, I did enjoy myself for the majority of the time we were in there, and would have put this on my list of places to return to, if not for the customer service…

 

Outside the room

The major flaw in our experience was the customer service before and after the room. When we arrived we were shown to their lovely big waiting area, with sofas etc, but then left alone with no indication about what was happening. We were told to lock our bags away, but there were no lockers available, meaning we took everything into the room with us.

When the ‘GM’ arrived she didn’t introduce herself at all or even attempt any sort of conversation about us, our experiences etc. We were pretty much frog marched to the room, with a brief pause in a doorway to point at a few different lock types (one of which wasn’t even in the room). We found her ‘brief’ lacked any enthusiasm or energy, and I was already getting not great vibes.

When we escaped the room, we were stood alone for a couple minutes until someone on the walkie talkie evidently realised we were out and sent someone to greet us. This was a different girl than before, and she was lovely, but it was apparent she hadn’t watched our game. She offered to explain anything we didn’t understand but had no comments about how we had done, or even our time. She took a photo for us, and then disappeared – again leaving us alone in the waiting room.

At this point we got the message and decided to leave.

I actually spoke to the manager via email after posting this review elsewhere and was assured this wasn’t the norm. However, it has made me think twice about visiting again.

A good escape room experience starts the minute you walk into the building and doesn’t end until you’ve left. I’ve done average rooms that I’ve thought are brilliant, thanks to the customer service we received. This room was the opposite; a pretty decent room that has been let down by the staff on the day.

 

Was it worth the money?

We paid around £28 each for the room.

I would say the room itself would be about average, but (as mentioned) the customer experience let it down. For that reason, I would say it was worth the money, but not the return trip.

 

Accessibility

From what I recall there was one step into the venue, but the rest was flat. The room was spacious, although you do need 2 physically abled team members. There is nowhere in the room to sit down, but you will not need to navigate any obstacles.

The room starts in the dark but soon becomes lit. However, it is still dim. I would recommend having at least one fully sighted team member.

You do not need to have full hearing for this room, although it would be beneficial to hear the briefing inside, and communicate via walkie talkie for hints.

 

Do you recognise us under these masks?

 

TL ; DR

Pros; Technology, uniqueness, resourceful set

Cons; Customer service, hint system, difficulty level, linearity

 

Blackwing’s Cave can be booked by heading to Breakin’s website here.

Komnata: Doctor Frankenstein | Review

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Komnata Doctor Frankenstein Review | Some say that the inspiration for the character of doctor Frankenstein came from Johann Conrad Dippel, a German scientist, who was born in the Frankenstein castle. Could they be right? In the mystical world of steam machines and airships, you have only one hour to revitalize a homunculus and unravel Frankenstein’s mystery. You will follow in the mad scientist’s footsteps to complete his final experiment and attempt to reanimate the body of Frankenstein’s Creature!

Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: February 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Komnata is (apparently) one of the highest rated companies in the US, but for some reason, it seems to be overlooked here in London. I myself was guilty of ignoring them – they didn’t even feature on my wishlist.

However, when I was given about 2 days notice to find an escape room in central London, that had space during a Saturday, and was suitable for someone under 14…I wasn’t really left with many choices.

However, even though I perhaps went into this room a little reluctantly, and apprehensive, I am glad I did. Like most rooms, it has good points and bad points, but I left feeling like more people should know about it.

So…here you go! Here’s me telling more people!

The Set

The room we did was “Doctor Frankenstein”. It was a wonderfully done set – it really did transport us with extremely well-done decoration and set design. The theme was excellent – without giving too much away, it cleverly subverted pretty much all Frankenstein tropes I’ve come to expect. Pretty much as soon as we were in the room I realised I needed to leave my preconceptions about the room at the door.

The Game

As mentioned, I chose this room as my team consisted of 2 newbies, one of which was 12. However, that doesn’t mean this room was easy. There were some really simple, but clever, puzzles in there. I wouldn’t say there was anything new here, but then again I wouldn’t say there was anything familiar either. There were enough red herrings to be interesting without being frustrating; engaging without distracting.

The room was mostly linear, but to its credit, it didn’t feel like it. It was very well done – I only realised afterwards that really there was only one, at most two, puzzles to solve at a time. Most of the puzzles felt satisfying to solve, and there was one in particular towards the end which used a unique concept I haven’t encountered before.

One of my favourite things about this room though is the fact that, for a few puzzles, there were multiple ways of solving them. I think this was a really nice touch and was a nice way to balance out the difficulty depending on different skill sets.

However, I can’t mention the pros without the cons. The hint system here wasn’t ideal. You are essentially given a guide to the room and puzzles early on, which was a blessing and a curse. Having what was practically a walkthrough ruined a little bit of the mystery/satisfaction from working it out, as well as causing some confusion. There were also additional hints…and again I felt the timing was slightly off. We received hints after already completing what they were hinting for, and as they were given over a speaker system I found it quite hard to understand (given my hearing difficulties).

The team rocking our new glasses

Outside the room

The staff were friendly and welcoming and did a decent brief. I really appreciated how they set up the story (which I sometimes take for granted). We didn’t really get much of a debrief though, and I felt a little rushed to leave.

Was it worth the money?

I mentioned at the start that Komnata has been overlooked a little here in London, and I think that’s probably down to cost. These cost ‘from’ £27 a person, but you’re looking at £35 ahead on a weekend at least. It cost me £42pp to book for 3 of us.

When you consider a lot of London rooms charge around £25 ahead, regardless of the number, that’s quite a considerable difference.

So, was it worth it?

I don’t know. It was a really good escape room, and if it was £25 I would definitely put it on my list as somewhere to return to. However, I can’t deny the price does make me hesitate. There wasn’t particularly anything here that justified that extra cost to me. I’ve done cheaper rooms with puzzles that were just as good, or better. I’ve done rooms with just as fantastic themes and sets. Everything here was good, really good, but not exceptional or deserving of that extra £20, in my opinion.

If you’re not too worried about the money aspect, then I definitely think it’s worth the trip. However, if you’re new, or a little warier of how you spend your money (like myself) I think there are other rooms in London I’d visit above this.

After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I congratulate Komnata on a beautiful room and just hope too many people aren’t dissuaded by the cost.

Accessibility

The venue is wheelchair accessible, but the room isn’t (due to a few steps) and there isn’t really much of a waiting room. There is a chair within the room to sit on, and it is a large, wide room.

The room is initially dark, then dim, then fully lit, with good lighting throughout.

There isn’t a necessity to hear, although this may help with the hint system. There is also a section with some smoke (the smoke effect kind), but you can stay out of this if you have issues.

There is a radio playing old-timey songs as you play, but you could ask to be turned down/off if required.

TL ; DR

Pros; Great set design, the variety of puzzles, difficulty

Cons; Price, hint system

Doctor Frankenstein can be played at Komnata London by heading to this link here.

The best escape rooms in London for work socials and teambuilding

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There are a whole lot of escape rooms in London (TripAdvisor currently lists 103 “room escape games” and experiences), so sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. It can be even harder when adding extra considerations to the mix, such as age, team size, or type of player!

Luckily for you, we’ve put together this handy guide of our top picks for escape rooms to play when that dreaded question of “what shall we do for our work team social this week?” comes to you.

What we’ve considered

When thinking about rooms to play we colleagues there are some key differences that may be important for colleagues, but less important for other team types:

Firstly, many work socials involve a pub (in my experience at least), so rooms near a pub are always great, especially if they’re also near a station for easy commuting.

Secondly, companies that can accommodate larger teams for bigger team events are great, especially if these include some sort of team element.

Finally, I also want to give a nod to outdoor experiences, which may be more fun as the weather heats up.

Rooms near pubs

If you’re familiar with the escape room scene in London you can probably already guess which escape room ‘near’ a pub I’m going to recommend, but you may not have realised there’s a second!

My first pick would naturally be Lady Chastity’s Reserve (previously reviewed). This fantastically spooky room is based above The Hope pub in Farrington – perfectly situated for both drinking and commuting! This is an 18+ room, with a bottle of wine as the price, so is sure to engage those who enjoy a bit of adult humour, as well as fans of spooky atmospheres without being a full-out ‘horror’ room. Although the room only takes 6 at a time the slots run fairly late (later than many rooms) and the pub beneath is a great way to pass the time!

My second pick would be ‘Gangster’s treasure’ by ClueAdventures. This one is further out than Lady Chastity, all the way in Leytonstone (east London) and a little walk from the station. However, it is above The Coach and Horses pub, and boasts two 2-player rooms as well as this 6 player room. I haven’t played this one myself, but can heartedly recommend the 2 player rooms so I’m sure this would live up to the same standards!

Rooms with competitive elements

When it comes to competitive elements there are a few companies that offer the ‘vs’ format, but I’ve picked out 2 who I think do it really well.

First up is ‘ClueQuest‘ near King’s Cross. It’s no secret that we’re a fan of this company, but I didn’t realise until writing this post that they offer an excellent corporate package! For your more formal work social they can cater for up to 66 players, offering extras such as food, drinks and an all-important trophy! Even if you don’t go the official route, their booking system makes it easy to book up to 4 copies of the same room at once (depending on the room) so you can still have a head to head of the same game, as well as also offering a VR experience. The rooms themselves are excellent quality so make a great impression on new players and are well balanced for mixed teams.

Mairi at a Team Social at ClueQuest in 2018

My second choice of a competitive style room would be Secret Studio near Aldgate East station. What I appreciated most about the rooms at Secret Studio is that they are the same but different – although most of the core puzzles are the same, the decor and puzzle specifics are slightly different for each team and they are also able to change certain puzzles. This makes it great for replayability – they talk quite a bit about returning visitors on their site, and even give them the chance to get involved (in more ways than one);

When we played previously as a large group my team finished quite a bit before our friends, and I loved being able to watch them and even interact. I think this also opens the doors for excess players to have fun too, or those who are uncertain about playing.

Outdoor experiences

There are quite a few outdoor experiences in London, although I’m not sure how these may have changed since the early days of the pandemic. However, I’m sure the core elements will be the same and I know they’re great for splitting teams up a bit!

Playing The Enchanted Mirror in 2021

My personal top pick would be a Hidden City ‘treasure hunt’. My first experience with these style of games was playing ‘The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat’ and I still maintain it was one of the most impressive games I’ve played. For a colleague perspective these games are perfect – they can host up to 300(!), stagger teams start times, have in-built (pub) breaks (often with discounts) and have a final leaderboard at the end. They even offer a virtual hunt for remote workers! The treasure hunt itself is amazing fun – you go into places you never knew existed, as well as those you never think to go into, and hunt for things in plain site. There are also in-built story trees, so you could make one decision and a different team may make another, sending you in different directions.

If you’re after a more traditional escape-room style experience I recommend AIM escape‘s outdoor experience. Although I wasn’t hugely impressed by their indoor offering, I found their outdoor experience to be one of the best I’ve played. Rather than using phones each team is supplied with a kit and must undertake ‘challenges’ (puzzles) at various locations. Unlike other outdoor experiences which challenge you to follow precise directions, AIM instead gives you a map and lets you decide where to go and how to get there, really giving the teams freedom (and the chance to plan strategically). They also provide different routes and staggered starts, so teams won’t be constantly following each other. There are 3 pre-built routes, but also the offer to create your own!

Also I personally haven’t played this one, Mairi tells me I’m missing out with Colombia’s Finest by Street Hunt, a new player to the walking puzzle game genre in London. It’s another route perfectly suited for large teams as different people can take completely different routes in this race to catch the criminal. In a less touristy area of London that is packed with office buildings (Temple, St Pauls area), there are several pubs and cafes on this walk making it a great one for a team social of any size.

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments!