Edinburgh Treasure Hunts: Fantastic Creatures | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Edinburgh, City of Hills

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

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

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

 

 

The Verdict

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

 

 

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

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.

Treasure Trails: Kidderminster | Review

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Treasure Trails: Kidderminster Review | Police intelligence has discovered a plot by international carpet thieves to target a unique collection of extremely valuable carpets secured for a charity event. The Midlands Crime Agency has put together a list of suspect volunteers… they need YOU, our best detectives to help catch the Carpetbaggers!

Kidderminster? Where’s That?

I can already hear you asking that question. First off, Kidderminster is my hometown. It is located in the West Midlands approximately 25 miles south-west of Birmingham.

More importantly however, the history and heritage. Kidderminster is historically known for two main things: carpet factories and Rowland Hill, the creator of the first ever postage stamp; The Penny Black.

Today, I have been tasked with undertaking Treasure Trails: Kidderminster. As a Kidderminster native, I have brought a friend (Alakazam) along, who is not from Kidderminster to help me. Is this a good idea? We shall find out!

One more thing… I made sure I was suitably dressed!

 

 

What’s Inside a Treasure Trails Booklet?

The adventure trail is formed as a nice, tidy, A5 size booklet. The first two pages have the introduction, briefing and safety notes, alongside the hint system for when you get stuck.

The objective is to deduct clue-by-clue, who is the Carpetbaggers insider and what weapon they used during the heist. On the back of the booklet are a list of suspects and potential weapons to eliminate.

The hint/answer system is text message based. Each clue in the booklet has a unique reference number to send. There, you receive the answer (up to a maximum of 3) with the details of where the answer lies.

There is also a bonus A3 activity sheet for children to fill in and play with outside of the trail itself, which is a welcome addition; what kid doesn’t like free stuff?!

 

 

The booklet also includes where to begin and where to park your car (if you arrived via car!).

Off we go to clue 1!

 

…Are We Going The Right Way?

Right off the bat with the first clue, we came across a stumbling block. We couldn’t access the area where the answer lay due to the building being cornered off by metal grate fencing. Not to worry we thought, we can at least look through the grating and see if we can find the answer we are looking for…

Again no sadly. The answer was covered by a large amount of wild foliage, it took our eyes to squint really hard to find the answer. See below: I’m not one for giving answers away but this one is nigh impossible to find without using the answer system at this point in time.

 

 

Moving on to clue 2, we had another stumbling block. Namely, this sign.

 

 

Ok so we weren’t drivers per se, but it did make be feel nervous passing this sign to get to the next clue. The answer to clue 2 was a little difficult to find due to erosion, however once we found what we needed we swiftly returned to the public pathway!

 

A Shaky Start But Uphill From Here!

From clue 3 onwards, its was mostly enjoyable. Clues involved walking around Kidderminster’s largest church site (and finding lush greenery round the back that I had never seen before!), walking along a canal and seeing Kidderminster’s oldest secular building. More importantly, both the old carpet factories and Rowland Hill are referenced towards the last half of the trail. In terms of theming and historical research, I can’t fault it. Furthermore, it gave me the gift of standing still and truly taking in the wonderful architectural designs and nuances of Kidderminster’s industrial history.  

The puzzles themselves are primarily observational (sharp eyes are required due to some erosion), alongside code-cracking. These are ideal for families as per the recommendation on the front of the booklet. The route that the trail takes you is mostly linear with the exception of the end…

 

The Last Leg Of The Trail

For the final four clues, the trail changed from being completely linear to more criss-cross. As a result of this, we struggled with where to go/what to look for and used up 2 of our 3 clue/answer limit. I feel that the last four clues could have been rearranged to be completed in a linear fashion and it wouldn’t have caused any problems with the endgame.

 

 

For The Kidderminster Native Or Newbie?

As it says on the trail’s booklet, this is perfect for families to do. It has a small learning curve, you just need to be ok with a look of looking around and occasionally, checking your phone online for some bits of outside knowledge. Furthermore, because there is a competition to win £100 in a monthly prize draw if you submit the correct suspect and weapon, the maximum amount of answers you can get from the clue system is 3. To get around this, I would suggest taking 2 (or more) phones with you to get more answers if required. This is especially important if obstacles like for clues 1 and 2 become more apparent.

As mentioned in the booklet also, please be advised that the trail has accessibility issues and is not recommended for wheelchair or pram/buggy users.

The trail is priced at £9.99 for approximately 2 hours of activity time plus the additional activity sheet included. This is a good price point overall.

 

 

The Verdict

Whilst I wholly appreciate the input of the trail’s design (ie: setting up the clues, using actual Kidderminster historical information and turning it into clues), there are some sustainability issues that will naturally occur in this town (or any for that matter) where routes can become blocked off, over the course of time. That being said, it is on the whole, a great way to spend 2 hours around a town with a rich depth of heritage.

 

If you want to play the Kidderminster Treasure Trail, head to their website here.

CluedUpp: The Ripper | Review

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CluedUpp: The Ripper Review | Three men have already been struck down by The Ripper and fear is taking it’s grip of this town! The police can’t cope with a case this complex and your help is required to catch the killer. Get your family and friends together for a day of crime-solving fun. Put your sleuthing skills to the test at this exciting outdoor detective event and see if your team has what it takes to crack the case.

Time Taken: 2hrs
Date Played: 20th November 2021
Location: Kensington, London
Difficulty: Easy

CluedUpp games are like marmite in the escape room enthusiast world. About once a month somebody in a Facebook or Reddit forum will ask about CluedUpp and be met with a barrage of “they are dreadful” and “I had the best time ever“. So, going into the experience on a wintery Saturday morning before Christmas, we weren’t sure what to think. Given that the tickets were so inexpensive and the area – Kensington – is somewhere we don’t get to explore much, we went in with an open mind.

For this particular case, I went with our regular outdoor escape room enthusiast team who you may recognise from posts over the lockdown, such as Operation Mindfall. If there’s walking and puzzles involved, we are there!

 

A Team on the case!

 

How do CluedUpp Games Work?

According to their website, CluedUpp “turns cities into playgrounds”, and yeah, I see it! As a concept, it sets itself apart from other outdoor walking experiences in that there’s no set route you need to follow. Instead what happens once you start your game is that you’ll see a sprawling number of “points of interest” on the map. These are witnesses to speak to, or items to collect, or score multipliers to boost your ranking in the leader boards.

Your ultimate goal is to catch the killer – a serial murderer stalking the streets of Whitechapel I mean, Kensington. Seems straightforward, only you’re racing against other real teams! For this reason, CluedUpp events only take place on specific days of the year. Everyone signs into the app on the same day, the clock starts ticking, and everyone must be finished by 5pm.

It’s entirely self guided, so there’s no big start and finish line you have to race towards but it was pretty cool to walk past other teams we bumped into whilst playing and marvel at their costumes.

One more thing that we didn’t realise until after the game was that you don’t need to visit every single point on the map. Actually, if you want to ‘win’ the game and beat your rivals, you probably shouldn’t because there are a lot. Ironically, we actually figured out who the correct culprit was around 30% of the way into the game. Instead of making our guess right there, we agreed to collect everything, then go to a pub and make our decision from there. It probably cost us an hour and a half of our time, but hey that’s not really in the spirit of things eh?

 

How to Solve CluedUpp Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, at each point of interest you encounter you’re presented with a riddle. Occasionally, it makes sense. A copper might be reading a newspaper and asks for a second opinion on one of the questions in the puzzle section. Often, it felt forced and a bit silly. Towards the end we began skipping each character’s preamble and instead grinned at each other – “guys, you’re gonna be shocked at this but Dr so-and-so has a riddle for us”

No wonder the crime has gone unsolved if everyone is spending all their time thinking about riddles!

That said, the riddles themselves were a good way to break up the gameplay with some fun moments that tested us. Some of the riddles involved details from the surrounding environment, and others were fairly well known puzzles you’d find on any escape room’s social media account. You know the ones I’m talking about.

 

So… Who Dunnit?

Haha! That I cannot tell you. You’ll just have to go and book the game yourself!

But I will say that if CluedUpp’s weakness is the puzzles, then their strength is definitely the storytelling. In just a few words with each character, a rich network of witnesses and informants unfolded in front of us. It was easy to forget we were just interacting with an app and not a real person in front of us. And, in the end, the conclusion was very satisfying. It felt like being the main character in your own, London based thriller.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, we’ve definitely classed this one on the easier side – and I can see why it’s marmite to a lot of enthusiasts. It’s not a particularly challenging game. But CluedUpp never pretended to be challenging – they’re mass market appeal murder mystery games and put the emphasis on you and your team exploring a new part of the city, dressing up, and having a laugh.

We played a specific version of The Ripper in Kensington on a special event day. Since the game is available at so many places around the world, it’s hard to say if our experience is representative of what everyone will have when they sign up – but honestly? We enjoyed ourselves.

We would caution enthusiasts not to have too high expectations when it comes to the puzzles, instead this would be a great game to take along your puggle (puzzle muggle) friends for a lighthearted day out. For us, booking and playing was really just an excuse to hang out and I wouldn’t hesitate to book another!

 

The Ripper is available at countless cities across the world. To find your nearest and book in, head to CluedUpp’s website here.

Ratings

Foxtrail: Lancelot Trail | Review

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Join the amazing urban treasure-trail experience that’s taking the world by storm. Explore the city in a way that’s exciting, fun and utterly unique.

Rating: High Production Quality!
Completion Time: 5 hours
Date Played: 16th May 2021
Party Size: 6
Location: St. Pauls, Southbank, Tower of London
Recommended For: Teambuilding Activities, Bachelor/ette Parties, big groups of friends who want to spend a whole day in London

What Foxtrail does, they do really (really) well, and I’m not kidding. It’s actually the first company I’ve seen to successfully integrate aspects of the environment into their outdoor walking trails. You’re not just looking for some abstract answer to a question, you’re looking for physical objects – lock boxes with items to collect inside, carefully concealed buttons that project laser pointers onto public art, giant treasure chests hidden in pubs, and even public art installations that send coded messages to you when you text a certain number. Oh, and did I mention there’s a boat in this game?! You literally have to get on a boat and travel to another part of London. My mind is blown.

It makes sense though, Foxtrail is a hugely popular company from Switzerland with a major presence running immersive outdoor trails in many parts of Central Europe. It was only a matter of time before they came to London and hit the ground running.

One of my good friends invited me and a team of 5 to play the Lancelot Trail on a Sunday afternoon – one of those UK days where you get all four seasons in one day. Well, except snow. But hail is pretty close for winter. Despite the bad weather, we had an absolute blast playing it and I wholeheartedly recommend Foxtrail to absolutely anyone in London – tourists and residents alike.

Just be sure to pack an umbrella just in case, and set aside at least half a day so you can stop and take in the environment. After all, this game isn’t timed, which is how we come to mark this as a 5 hour experience. Inbetween stopping at pubs 4 times, waiting in queues for food, and generally taking our time, we weren’t in a rush to finish Foxtrail.

The Route

Lancelot starts at the visitor information centre neat St. Pauls. To actually begin the trail, you need to go into the centre and collect some stuff. We sent the two most outgoing of our group and 5 minutes later they returned with armfuls of lime green lanyards, boat tickets, and some very exciting items which wouldn’t make sense until much later in the puzzle.

From here, you journey South along and eventually across the River Thames through to one of my favourite parts of London – past the Clink, the Hinde and into Borough Market. The day we did the trail a lot of the market stalls were sadly closed, so it wasn’t as vibey as we’d normally expect from the area. However – it meant queues were shorter! In this area we made two (yes, two!) pub stops for takeaway drinks and I paused for a box of doughnuts from Bread Ahead and a sandwich from one of the open stalls.

The next part of the trail took us towards The Shard and back along the river all the way along to the Tower of London. From this area, the ‘boat’ portion of the trail started and we were taken all the way back to where we started – St. Pauls! I actually love it when a trail starts and ends in the same location. It makes it a lot easier to plan your day.

According to my step counter I did about 15km. The whole route should take no longer than 3 hours. We took 5 hours.

*awkward pause*

Moving on…

The Experience

Lancelot is unique in that is doesn’t require a mobile phone… Well, not really anyway, but it’ll help to have someone on your team who can text a number, and look up a video on YouTube. I say it doesn’t require a phone though because these parts of the game were so minimal, mostly what you need you have in your hands or you can pick it up from one of the secret lock boxes along the way!

Ahead of time, we printed out our pack of information which was a very respectable 2 sheets long (double sided). We were also given some additional material from the St. Pauls Visitor Centre. Early on in the game too, you’re able to unlock a box which will give you a map of London and some very helpful cipher translators.

Our impression of the experience as a whole was overwhelmingly positive. In short, we had a really good time – despite the rain. Every single step along the way was an unexpected delight. Even at the 4 hour mark I was like “ok nothing can surprise me now” and yet surprised I was. Even after such a long time starting to feel a little tired, the ‘grand finale’ perked us all up immediately.

Most walking puzzle hunts in London are like “get a text, follow a clue, text a reply”. Don’t get me wrong that’s still great fun… But Foxtrail was so different it blew me away. In particular, how much it actually relied on the environment was awesome. Climbing inside fountains to reach for hidden compartments with messages, huge pirate chests with concealed buttons to press in certain orders, spotting fox themed Easter Eggs on physical maps in the environment. Incredible!

The Story

If you’re looking for a super rich story, this is the only thing Foxtrail doesn’t do quite so well. The story is very simple – you’re following a fox. Why? I’m not sure. It didn’t really matter, so long as you knew to look out for lime green footprints here and there.

On the one hand this makes the experience slightly one dimensional, but on the other hand it does mean this game has universal appeal and infinitely translatable across groups. You could play with work colleagues, you could play with drunk people, you could play with small kids – it’s all the same, everyone understands what they have to do… On second thought, maybe don’t play with drunk people because it would be a waste not to experience the game with full focus!

The Puzzles

Finally, the puzzles! They were actually quite challenging which again is quite rare for an outdoor walking tour. On more than one occasion we had to hang around a particular location trying to figure something out.

In particular, the game made us do a lot of searching at locations. It wasn’t always so easy to find what you’re looking for. Things were often hidden underneath things, or in peculiar places you wouldn’t think to look. In particular, something was written upside down and backwards in a place we couldn’t see – so we had to use our camera in selfie mode to find the message. In other locations, we’d have to climb up onto something and look in a certain direction making bridges, or roads line up. In another location, we found a secret coded message and needed to use the cipher – and in others this went a step further in that the key for the cipher was also in the environment as well.

Each puzzle was very well thought out and made wonderful sense within the environment, and that’s a stand out for me! I’m impressed!

Overall

About 15 minutes into this game I knew it was the easiest 5* mark I’d ever give… Then the game got even better from herein! I’m absolutely stoked that we played it and despite the fact it rained and it rained and it rained, we had such a laugh. Given a little more press and publicity now that Foxtrail is officially open, I’ve no doubt this company is on track to being the best outdoor experience in London and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

I’ll leave you with a video which condenses 5 hours of laughing and puzzle solving into just 60 seconds:

Foxtrail can be booked for £19.99 and includes a boat ticket from their UK website here.

AIM Escape: Operation Mindfall

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We are W.I.S.E.: an independent, international intelligence organization, operating at the highest level of secrecy to protect the world from danger. Our sources report that the secret research company, Spider Technologies, has developed a virus for mind control and has already infected 20% of the world population.

Rating: Exhilarating
Completion Time: 2hrs 10 minutes
Date Played: 11th August 2020
Party Size: 4

Operation Mindfall is without a doubt in my mind one of the most creative and high-tech outdoor games on the market. I’m just so impressed by the tech! 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!

If you’ve read my earlier review of Curse of the Covent Garden, you’ve probably heard this before … But I believe outdoor, walking treasure trails are the best antidote to this post-lockdown era in the UK. Escape rooms are beginning to open up, yes, but if you’re not quite yet comfortable heading into a locked room, I can’t recommend one of these enough. Enjoy fiendishly brilliant puzzles, search for clues, and learn more about your city, at your own pace in a comparatively safe environment.

Operation Mindfall is completely open air. You never once need to enter a building (unless of course you’re like me and want to grab a cheeky coffee along the route – hey! Super spies need caffeine too!) and you can go at your own pace however your personal comfort level allows. In fact, even your briefing takes place in an open environment at a safe distance which is a nice touch. We had our briefing in the shadow of the Monument to the Great Fire of London by a super secret (and friendly!) agent wearing red sunglasses. The briefcase too was clean and sanitised, so all in all a very low contact way of getting your escape room fix!

In terms of gameplay, Operation Mindfall places you (a team of super secret spies from the W.I.S.E. agency) against an evil corporation called Spider Tech intent on a programme of nefarious mind control. You must journey to locations undetected, find hidden data stores, unlock safes and interact with your surroundings.

At most stages, you must input a password. The password can often be found in your surroundings, or by using something in your W.I.S.E. backpack. Towards the end, as you collect enough intel, you must create (and mix) an antidote and put it into the groundwater. An act I should mention that looks more than a little dodgy in Central London, but we styled it out with our spy ways! Definitely got a couple of funny looks as we ran around clutching test tubes – but it was all good fun!

One of my favourite puzzles involved logging into Facebook and interacting with a mysterious local company that from the outset seems like nothing, but actually is an elaborate infiltration into a Spider Tech. This gave us players so much joy – unexpected and exciting! It added so much depth and gravitas to this world AIM Escape has created, and I love it!

The basic game (and tech) behind Operation Mindfall is developed by another company called Cluetivity and is available in … Well, most cities in the UK I believe! AIM Escape really outdid themselves with their version in a very creative and in-touch-with-the-city way. The puzzles were BRILLIANT!

If you choose to play Operation Mindfall in another part of the UK, you’ll find the plot the same but many of the puzzles not – meaning it is (to an extent) also replayable! I absolutely have to congratulate AIM Escape for their version of the game and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. In fact – I’m already looking at dates to come back and play their other two outdoor games The Magic Portal and Einstein.

Operation Mindfall can be booked for £20 pp on AIM Escape’s website.

Locked City: The Curse of Covent Garden

Legend speaks of a curse haunting the inhabitants of Covent Garden and turning them to stone. Follow the cryptic trail and lift the curse before it is too late…

Rating: Great Fun!
Completion Time: 1hr15
Date Played: 19th of July 2020
Party Size: 3

The Curse of Covent Garden … Something is afoot in the West End! A mysterious curse turning people across Covent Garden into stone? Spooooooky!

For me at least, outdoor games are the perfect remedy for the slowly-coming-out-of-lockdown season (that’s a mouthful!). It’s sunny out, summer has arrived – and if you’re not yet comfortable going back into an escape room, it’s a good way to reconnect with friends in an environment you can control.

So in all, what better way to spend a friend’s birthday than running around a gorgeous area in London, hunting for clues, and learning genuinely interesting facts? There is no better way, Locked City’s Covent Garden experience is fantastic!

In terms of gameplay, The Curse of Covent Garden has you solve 19 clues and travel to 19 locations within a small area in London. The clues range from spotting things in your environment, to some quirky local knowledge (nothing you couldn’t figure out though!), to cipher shift puzzles, to anagrams, and of course directional puzzles too. There’s a little bit of everything in this game.

The walk comes in at (my guess) 2 – 3km and it starts and ends in roughly the same location which is perfect. Without giving any spoilers away, you’ll have to walk down to the river at some point, see some very cool art at another point, and pass some very cool looking places to eat!

Compared to all of the other outdoor hunts I’ve played, I’d probably pitch this on the easier end of the scale? We didn’t get stuck at any point (zero penalties – woop!) and, apart from doubling back on ourselves just once, the route was easy to follow. For the seasoned puzzler, you’ll whizz through like we did (in fact, here’s a challenge – can you beat our leaderboard score?!).

For the more relaxed crowd, this game is perfect. I’m recommending this one for a family group in particular! The kids will love fighting over the mobile phone and reading clues… With plenty of cafe and pub stops, honestly you can afford to take it easy, look at the sights, stop for an ice cream or two … Or even pose in front of the giant rainbow currently outside Covent Garden 👇

All in all, a really good time. Honestly, I just had a lot of fun! I cannot wait for Locked City to expand their hunts to more areas of London … More, more, more, please!

The Curse of Covent Garden can be purchased for £25 a team on Locked City‘s website. You can start at any time from purchase, so does not need to be booked in advance.