8 DEMOS & NEW RELEASES to play for free the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase!

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Here at The Escape Roomer we are often recommending various puzzle video games we’ve found, so you can imagine how excited we were when we heard about the upcoming ‘Cerebral Puzzle Showcase‘! Running from the 19th to 23rd May this showcase takes place on Stream and will be full of demos, live streams, and even discounts for plenty of puzzle games that are designed to make you think!

The showcase will feature over 100 puzzle games, so too many to list here. But we’ve searched through the list and picked out 8 extra special new releases and demos that escape room enthusiasts should look out for in the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase.

Unreleased Puzzle Games You Can Demo for Free

Escape Academy

 

Welcome to Escape Academy. Train to become the ultimate Escapist. Solve Puzzles. Hack Servers. Meet the Faculty. Brew the perfect cup of tea. Escape Rooms in single player or co-op with a friend – local or online!

Why we’re excited: This is an escape room as a video game… It should be obvious! The graphics and sets look fantastic, puzzles look intriguing and the ability to co-op both virtually and locally is really exciting!

 

Akurra

Explore ancient puzzle filled islands, meet strange new friends, and unlock epic secrets in an atmospheric world with a retro aesthetic. Experience a creative new take on a classic puzzle genre in the open world puzzle adventure Akurra!

Why we’re excited: The pixel art style is giving us Pokemon Blue vibes and the puzzles are giving Zelda temple vibes. This is taking us right back and we are here for it.

Paper trail

Paper Trail is a top-down puzzle adventure about leaving home, set in a paper world. You must fold and tear your way through a diverse, populated paper world. As you progress, new gameplay opportunities emerge, enhanced by the folding mechanics. Drag objects, shine lights, and push boulders across the paths you create through folding.

Why we’re excited: The puzzle mechanics intrigue us here, as well as the beautiful art style. We bet the story is going to take us on a journey too!

How to Say Goodbye

How to say goodbye is a narrative puzzle game inspired by illustrated books. Move the elements of décor and manipulate reality to help a group of ghosts wandering between two worlds reach the “other side”. But beware of the evil spirits that will try to keep you prisoner…

Why we’re excited: (At the risk of sounding repetitive) The puzzle mechanics seem very intriguing… From an eerie art style, you just know this title is going to be a beautiful and impactful story!

 

Storyteller

With Storyteller you are the one writing the stories! Start with a title, characters and settings and create your own twist on stories familiar and new.

Why we’re excited: The art style looks fun, and although the game play looks simple there are many many different iterations and stories you can create! It’s a recipe for replayability.

 

New Games Launching at the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase

 

Frequency Dissonance

You’ve been stationed on planet Omega for 24 years now, guarding, observing and maintaining the station. Finally, a signal is picked up by the radio. The empire calls. Your cooperation will decide fates.

Why we’re excited: Don’t let the simple art and mechanics deceive you – this game has 6 alternate endings and mysteries to uncover! We can’t wait!

 

We are definitely the baddies

 

The emperor is kicking you out of the planet. But that should worry an evil space overlord such as yourself. Build a huge factory, extract resources, fend off the locals, and escape with all you can grab before the deadline. Create a network of pipes and factories that are likely to be terrible for the environment but great for your pockets.

Why we’re excited: We love the pixelized art style, but intrigued about a game that timeboxes the gameplay to 1hr – just like an escape room!

Jelly is Sticky

Explore a world of colorful jelly blocks that can be deformed and stuck together. Use them in surprising, unexpected ways to build clever contraptions and solve delightful puzzles.

Why we’re excited: This one is more of a traditional puzzle game than others on this list, but it’s still full with lots of fun elements! Not only are you playing with jelly, contraptions and obstacles, but every jelly has a different property which you need to use to your advantage!

You can sign up for all the news about the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase this week by heading to the Cerebral Showcase website

Keep an eye out for our upcoming posts where we’ll be covering the best hidden gems, and more well-known games at the showcase.

Epic Escapes: Escape Room In a Box (Piracy) | Review

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You have just 60 minutes to escape. The clock is ticking. Teamwork, creativity, logic, and attention to detail will be needed to race against the clock.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: For a party

This was our second outing from the Epic Escapes game box and yet again it didn’t disappoint.

What is an Escape Room in a Box?

Just as a quick recap from our first game ‘Crime‘: Initially, the prospect of an “Escape Room in a Box” really got the juices flowing. On our first occasion opening the box, we were immediately blown away with the quality of the contents. The hardware contained within the box is of great build quality and it is evident that a great amount of effort has been put into perfecting the contents. The box also contains a volume of consumable items and a large number of clear to follow, fool-proof instructions. 

The box contains three different at home escape room experiences:

  • Crime (reviewed by Mairi & Nick)
  • Piracy (this one)
  • Hijack (next on our list!)

Each game differs slightly in difficulty level and as we had already mastered the “easier” Crime game, this time we went for medium difficulty experience – Piracy. Some of the materials were re-used from earlier games, and some of the materials were brand new. This made for a similar experience between the three games, but each spun in their own unique way.

As a host, you’re in charge of the following:

  • Resetting locks for particular codes
  • Hiding certain items inside the locked boxes they provide
  • Hiding all items for your teammates to find around your room

To help you set up there’s a really handy checklist provided in the Instructions leaflet. This tells the host what to do and in what order, such as “hide this on a windowsill” or “reset this lock to XYZ”. The whole setup takes around 30 minutes, 60 if you’re being very thorough. I didn’t personally want to overcomplicate anything, so I ‘hid’ things in very obvious places such as poking out from behind plant pots or on tables.

Suez Canal Boat Disaster… No, Not That One!

A nice clear challenge card contained within the box sets the story up nicely – passing through the Suez Canal in your merchant navy oil tanker, a last minute captain has locked you and the rest of the crew in his quarters and now it appears the boat is going off course. You remember that the former captain had built an emergency escape mechanism years back. Now you must solve the puzzles in order to unlock the escape hatch and get the ship back on track!

We really like the story and its certainly not one we had seen before – which is very refreshing! Since 2021, the Suez canal has been on the news a lot, but this game predates it by at least a year. But it’s a funny co-incidence. The story was strong yet very different to the first game, Crime – which is very much suited to the home environment, whereas in this story setting up more of a boat theme will only add to the story.

With this in mind, we played the game in a different room in the house, the lights were turned off, and I had soft white led lighting as well as a very loud countdown clock (found on Youtube!) to add tension and compliment the story. Doing it in a different room from the first time we played, meant different hiding places and a real different feel to the game.

The puzzles in this game stick strictly to the theme and really add to the game play – expect to encounter the kinds of objects and documents you would find on an oil tanker hidden around your room. For an escape room at home, we were delighted at the tactility of playing with padlock puzzles and 3 or 4 digital codes. Although there isn’t a huge quantity of puzzles within the game, perhaps 4 or 5 total, they are all very strong – 2 in particular we really liked. We all agreed that the difficultly level of the puzzles was a little trickier than our first Epic Escapes outing and is a great follow on. 

One puzzle threw the team completely, however the box comes complete with a set of handy hint cards. Having a glance at these set the guys back on track and we smashed through the puzzles. A word of warning though – there is a black light puzzle in this particular game. by the time Mairi got round to playing it, her battery had run completely dead in the light provided by the game, meaning that puzzle needed to be skipped.

The Verdict

In times of lock down, a game like this is a real solid substitute to get your escape room fix. The qualify of the product is strong, particularly in terms of design and hardware. The story is very different to others so gives this experience a very different feel to Epic Escapes first puzzle we played. All in all, a really good experience. Looking forward to playing the third instalment from the starter box – Hijack! 

Escape Room in a Box (3 in 1) can be purchased on Epic Escapes’ website here.

Escape Advent Calendars: The Mystery Of The Half Eaten Carrots | Review

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The Mystery Of The Half Eaten Carrots Review | Solve the mystery of the half-eaten carrots. The store has been raided. Question the reindeer; one of them must be the greedy culprit!

Date Played: 26th February 2022
Number Of Players: 2 (+1 cat)
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 1 Hour

But It’s Not Christmas….

Yes alright, I know. But when Mairi offers up an escape game to review with the promise of free chocolate, I’m not going to pass this up, Christmas themed or otherwise.

Plus who loves chocolate more than I do? My wife; and who am I to deprive her of delicious chocolate treats for solving puzzles? Not me I assure you.

Let’s Get Started

We have a copy of the advent calendar. The product is of good quality, is attractive inside and out. It’s nicely compact and everything that is required to complete the entire contents, is either on or in the product itself. The back of the calendar gives simple instructions to get you started; alongside pigpen, braille and tap-code ciphers.

Finally, there is a clue to direct you to which reindeer should be interrogated first. Should you be correct, a chocolate with the number 1 (in flashy art deco font) will appear and another clue will point in the direction of the next reindeer to interrogate. Rinse and repeat this process to interrogate all reindeers in the right order, thus receiving the chocolates numerically and most importantly, success in playing.

Do I Feel Christmassy?

It’s a good question to ask, especially during the end of February. Theming wise, this advent calendar ticks all the boxes. Fun holiday theme ✅, chocolate in Santa-red-and-gold wrapping ✅, more reindeers than you can shake a stick at ✅. Not much else to say, top marks for this section!

Let’s Interrogate Some Reindeers!

In terms of puzzles, the functionality and logic of them are all sound. The hints system is nicely considered on the Escape Advent Calendars website; each of the 25 puzzles has a good number of progressive hints before the solution is revealed. My only qualm however is that to access the hints, you have to sign up for an account on the website. I’m not sure about the prospect of giving my personal data to access some hints for an escape game that accumulatively lasts around an hour. Maybe a purchase code to unlock the hints (and thus, proving purchase) might be more suitable?

Regarding innovation, the concept behind the game is certainly original. It’s really great to see companies like Escape Advent Calendars, breathing new life into the standard advent calendar. The puzzles I feel, are not that innovative however. Almost all of the puzzles I have seen countless times, in some variation or another in conventional escape games. Puzzle types include but are not limited to; code decipher, directional, colour-coding and observation.

Nelson Strikes Again…

You know who had fun? Nelson my cat. As you can see below, she was very happy rolling around with the puzzle components whilst we did the hard work! In all seriousness, this was a light-hearted and fun way to spend a Saturday evening. Yes, we completed the product unconventionally; I.E.: not doing one puzzle a day, for 25 days, but it didn’t dampen the fun at all.

How Many Carrots To Buy?

The recommended retail price is at £19.99. Considering the overall accumulative time spent playing and the puzzles presented, I feel that this price point is a little too high. I’d recommend looking out for a sale price on The Panic Room Online (where we purchased this copy) or another retail supplier to capitalise on the value.

For The Advent Apprentice Or Expert?

I’d recommend this to families with children and adults who aren’t necessarily into puzzles. The very small learning curve and overall accessibility would be perfect for these player demographics. Based on the price however, I’m not sure if escape room enthusiasts will get enough out of this in terms of challenge.

Rating

Overall this is a suitable and accessible escape-room-advent-calendar which can be enjoyed, especially by families with children. What it lacks in puzzle innovation and the steeper end of sale prices, makes up in overall holiday theming, fun and good quality. If you can find it on sale, out of season, I’d snap it right up ready for the upcoming holiday period… or right now if you prefer!

The Mystery of the Half Eaten Carrots can be purchased for £20 from The Panic Room’s website here.

Professor Puzzle: Danger in the Deep | Review

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Danger in the Deep Review | Using all your secret agent training, you need to navigate your way through the deserted sub, crack the shutdown code, disable the warheads, and locate the enemy agent. All in two hours! There are 14 interactive and interlinked puzzles, and the detailed instructions, helpful hints and easy-to-follow game format ensure that both novices and experts are guaranteed an immersive, high octane experience. Let the countdown begin!

Completion Time: 1.5 hours
Date Played: 24th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

From the moment the postman knocked on my front door and handed me Professor Puzzle’s newest game “Danger in the Deep”, I knew this was going to be something quite special. A great quality box covered in bright poppy colours and themed around one of my favourite ‘settings’ for an escape game: the submarine!

For this reason, it took me a little longer than usual to get round to playing it. Since the box was explicitly one-use I wanted to make sure and gather the A-Team over an evening, pour us some ice cold, suitably submarine themed cocktails, and tackle the adventure together. Danger in the Deep was well-worth the wait and an exciting mid-week excursion for us all onto the Retiarius: A submarine primed and armed to the teeth with nuclear warheads. No pressure, hey!

About Danger in the Deep, the Escape Room Game

The year is 19?? and as the country’s most successful secret agent, you’ve finally tracked down your arch nemesis: Agent Proteus onboard the nuclear submarine Retiarius. But, as your initial mission briefing indicates, it’s a trap and the submarine is being remotely piloted by Proteus. Oops. Your mission is two-fold:

  • Disarm the nuclear warheads
  • Escape the submarine!
  • Track down where Proteus is really hiding

If that sounds like a lot… Well, it is! But you do have up to 120 minutes to complete all your objectives. Though (don’t tell anyone) you’re not actually on a timer, so if you take much longer than this then no stress. But in any case it’s a great rule of thumb to set aside at least 2 hours in your game night and have plenty of snacks handy. Once you’re trapped in the Retiarius, there’s no going back!

Fun Fact: A Retiarius literally translates to “net man” (wow, my Latin classes finally came in use) and refers to gladiators who carry the three-pronged trident.

Danger in the Deep is played in a pretty unique way. At first, I was a little overwhelmed There is a lot in the box for sure! But once you’ve read through the simple, one page explainer it makes a lot of sense. Your box contains:

  • A “How to Play” Guide
  • A “Training Manual” for the Engineering Deck, the Living Quarters and the Control Room
  • Blueprints for the whole ship
  • A deck of cards
  • A UV Torch
  • A field radio
  • A mysterious “do not open until instructed” envelope

You begin the game by drawing a specific card from a deck of cards, the other side of which sets up your first puzzle. From here you move seamlessly between all of the other materials in the box – from the booklets, to the blueprints, to the other objects as instructed in search of the answer. Once you have your answer you’re looking for the corresponding symbol. You then find this symbol on the answers page, scratch off the foil underneath, an the game tells you which card to draw next.

The story unfolds fairly linearly. You begin in a specific area of the submarine and move to the next sequentially as you follow along via the blueprints. It felt pretty immersive to enter each new area and have a peek into the lives of the employees who worked on the submarine through a series of photographs of the spaces, notice boards, lockers and floor plans. All the while we were grounded with a sense of where we were in the ship and what our immediate objective was. I loved that the game was guided by the cards but otherwise you had a wealth of information to pour over (and spread out within your group) to contend with. We never once felt lost or confused.

Solving the Submarine

In terms of puzzles, this is where Danger in the Deep really shone! We’ve put this at the “medium” difficulty level as some of the puzzles really clicked right away, others had us scratching our heads for ages – then eventually looking at the clues, and others were a real “aha! That’s awesome!” moment once we finally got them right.

Difficulty aside, what Professor Puzzle does really well is create high quality and incredibly tactile puzzles. By that, I mean despite beginning with a lot of paper, the actions you make and the things you construct with the paper are so utterly delightful at every turn, it’s hard not to smile the whole game through.

There was a huge range in ‘styles’ of puzzle too, meaning quite literally: there’s something for everyone. Off the top of my head we encountered several different types of ciphers, some really fun logical deduction puzzles, plenty of searching-and-finding, some maths, some folding, some map reading, and so on. Every time one of us picked up a new object from the game box and started leafing through it our minds raced at the puzzling possibilities. Little details we’d spotted in the first 10 minutes suddenly came into play an hour later, and we found ourselves returning to different parts of the submarine armed with new tools and knowledge.

My favourite puzzle in the game came towards the ending of the game. No spoilers here, but we finally got to use a fun item that had been staring me in the face for the whole experience. It had a healthy balance of “roleplay”, forcing you to do an action to solve a puzzle which felt like you were really there in the game, and finally tied up those last unanswered questions in a satisfying way.

Is Danger in the Deep Replayable?

Well, technically no. But I just know this is going to be a “regularly asked question”, so I’ll be super upfront and share my thoughts. For starters, it’s an escape room game so once you’ve solved everything once, you already know the answers! So there’s no fun in playing again, unless you have a really short-term memory!

Secondly, Danger in the Deep requires you to cut things up and semi-destroy other things. Similarly, in order to reveal answers, you’ll need to scratch off little metal panels which cannot be, well, un-scratched.

Is it possible to play without doing these two things? Maybe. Should you? Probably not! To get the best experience, just do what the game tells you to and try not to worry about it. But if you’re dead set on preserving Danger in the Deep (I get it, it’s a beautiful game and I’d love to keep mine too!), then it is possible to photocopy those destructible elements. I’m personally a very careful escape game player and it breaks my heart to destroy anything, so I managed to solve all the destructible parts without cutting up a single thing. The creators don’t recommend it, and in hindsight, neither do I.

The Verdict

I absolutely loved Danger in the Deep! No, seriously, it may just be one of my game highlights of the year so far. It’s got 5 stars almost across the board from me, and I’ve also decided to award it the special “Puzzle Prize” badge for having some seriously cool puzzles in there I’ve never seen before but were brilliant fun to play.

Professor Puzzle’s Danger in the Deep can be purchased on Amazon. Head to this link for Amazon UK.

Hourglass Escapes: NOVA | Review

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Hourglass Escapes NOVA Review | Greetings, crew. Our mission is in great danger. An asteroid storm has disabled our ship–but worse, it damaged the automated drop ship that was delivering the Nova seed. The Nova Seed is needed to terraform Khepri 5, the future home planet of what’s left of humanity! Work together to restore power to your vessel, find the crashed Nova drop ship, and deliver the seed!

Completion Time: 22 minutes
Date Played: 10th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Hourglass Escapes across the pond in Seattle is one of those companies I will literally never stop recommending. From their consistently high quality digital games, to how much fun we have with our host (usually the owner Seth) each time. Their Evil Dead 2 room was easily one of our highlights of 2021!

So whenever we hear that Hourglass Escape is releasing a new game, you bet we’re first in the virtual queue!

This month the Hourglass Escapes team announced a new ‘play any time’ sci-fi game game: NOVA. In a similar vein to The Navigators and the Call From Beyond, up to 6 players all log on and are immediately transported across the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Our mission, simple! We’re here to rescue the legendary Nova Seed needed to terraform humanity’s new planet. So err, no pressure!

Let’s go where no man has gone before…

Disclaimer, I am a huge sci-fi fan. There’s a reason my username is mairispaceship (that reason being that at the age of 7 I accidentally legally gave myself the middle name “spaceship” but that’s a story for another time). But for this sci-fi loving reason, I’m a big fan of the story of NOVA. It’s probably my favourite thing about the game.

Not a lot of details are given. All we really know is that it’s set in the far future on a spaceship that’s in peril. Cut to sweeping views of your shuttle ship which looks like a cross between The Expanse and Star Trek, and it well and truly affirms your place in the great unknown universe.

Impressive Production Value

I don’t know why on Earth I’m surprised given their track record, but let me just say it again: NOVA had an incredible production value! It was almost like they’d built an entire spaceship from scratch complete with many rooms, hidden passages, and beautiful sweeping views of the cosmos. Walking around- or rather, pointing and clicking in the handy Telescape platform– felt much more like we were playing a multiplayer video game than playing a simple, browser-based escape room.

As a video game designer for my day job – I appreciate that a lot! But it’s also great to see how much love and care the designers have put into the world building. Kudos!

On the topic of ‘Telescape’, the in-browser technology has improved since we last played another point-and-click at Hourglass Escapes. This time our video chat was inbuilt into the system (hooray! No more Facebook or WhatsApp calls in the background!). This ‘Jitsi’ plugin meant that we could see each other and hear each other from within the browser at all times.

One Small Step For Man…

In terms of puzzles, we found NOVA to be quite easy. According to the playtesting, most teams take around 60 minutes to complete, with enthusiast groups coming in around 40.

*pause*

We took 22 minutes!

But I can explain – NOVA is a very non-linear, collaborative game. In each new area you reach there are a number of panels and screens dotted around, each with their own puzzle. With our team of 4 we immediately got into a rhythm of splitting up and solving in parallel. So whereas a room with 4 unique puzzles may easily take 20 minutes (5 minutes each or more), we all solved about one each and raced through each room in no time.

The flip side to that was that we didn’t all experience the same puzzles, which is a downside because the ones I did were a lot of fun and what can I say? I want more!

Each of the puzzles I did encounter all felt very mimetic in the sci-fi universe they’ve created. In short, exactly the kinds of things you would be expected to do on a space ship. Reading radio wave read outs, flicking switches and rewiring the hardware, analysing chemicals, and so on. Nothing challenged us for more than a minute or two and overall – the whole thing felt fun to solve! So no complaints on the difficulty here.

The Verdict

NOVA is another really solid game from Hourglass Escapes and one I’ll definitely be recommending. It’s probably not my favourite game from the company. No, that award goes to Rise of the Mad Pharaoh, but it’s still an all round fun experience with a lot of snazzy graphics and unique puzzles. Those puzzles probably won’t challenge a larger team, but for a beginner room it’s spot on, so definitely one to introduce to your Puggle (puzzle muggle) friends.

NOVA can be purchased and played at any time from Hourglass Escape’s website here.

Puzzaroo: The Corporation | Review

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Puzzaroo’s The Corporation Review | The Corporation have tried to contact you through covert means. They are looking to recruit you to their agency but unfortunately they have had trouble with their subtle ways to contact you. With one last ditch attempt they’ve collated all covert communications in one envelope to send to you and are expecting you to meet them in a secret location, the whereabouts of which you need to figure out.

Completion Time: ~1 hour
Date Played: 17th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

Way back in the summer of 2021 (it feels like a lifetime ago now), Bianca and I went to visit Escape Entertainment. It’s little inner-city escape room tucked away a short walk from Bank, and also not too far from my apartment. Besides the localness, Escape Entertainment has a special place in my heart firstly as I drink from my commemorative Escape Entertainment mug daily, but secondly because we had such a great interaction with the host!

It was to my absolute delight that our very same host (the enigmatic Paul) reached back out to us at The Escape Roomer with a new, independent project he’s been working on: Puzzaroo!

*round of applause*

So excited to get into the game, I sat down with my regular Player 2 and gave Puzzaroo’s premier game “The Corporation” a go the same evening. So how did we get on?

About Puzzaroo’s The Corporation

The format of The Corporation is a fairly straightforward one: A mysterious envelope arrives in the post packed with puzzles to be solved. Each puzzle outputs a letter or a number, and those characters must be strung together, ‘solved’ and popped into a password box on the Puzzaroo’s secret link to verify and finish the game. In this way, it’s similar in format to games like Puzzle Post, or Post-a-Puzzle – and totally accessible to enthusiasts and puggles (puzzle muggles) alike.

In this case, it seemed a mysterious shadowy organisation had been trying to test my skills over the past few weeks by putting secret codes in everyday objects and leaflets. Me, ever un-observant, had missed them all. But not to fear, my future-handler wanted to give me one last chance so they gathered up all the clues, bundled them into an envelope, and popped them through my letterbox.

My goal was simple: Solve the puzzles, find the secret location to meet my handler.

Ooooh ~ exciting!

Finding Puzzles in Everyday Objects

☝ It’s a topic I’m fascinated by. Like when you’re in a Doctor’s waiting room and the unusual wallpaper is ripe for a puzzle. Or an accidental pattern somewhere must be Morse code, right?

The genre of: puzzles in normal items hiding in plain sight is something Puzzaroo does really well in this game. Here are the items you’ll find inside our Puzzaroo envelope:

  • A flyer for a betting shop
  • A number of playing cards
  • A newspaper
  • A photograph
  • Some business cards
  • A tube map
  • A lottery ticket
  • An old receipt
  • And so on…

If you didn’t look closely, you wouldn’t suspect anything is wrong about these items. It’s only on second glance (or third, on some of the harder puzzles) that you begin to spot irregularities.

What I really liked about everything in this game is that it was all of fantastic quality! When I say it’s a tube map, it looked and felt just like a tube map. No detail was spared on the design and print quality!

In terms of types of puzzles encountered, it was mostly fairly recognisable types of puzzles – no, no, not the dreadful car parking spaces puzzle which I see 8 times a week – more like creative reimaginings of familiar mechanics. There’s a little folding, a little maths, some fun wordplay puzzles… And so on. Between two players we found it to be a medium level of challenging. Not too difficult, but certainly a challenge! We used clues on 3 puzzles in total, and on one extra puzzle received some clarification from the creator directly – the answer for which was brilliant I might say, we’d just not spotted it in our playthrough!

The Verdict

Overall, we really enjoyed playing The Corporation. For sure, it wasn’t ‘perfect’ (whose first game design venture ever is?!), but it still impressed us! If this is the company’s first game of this style, then we’re very very excited to see what they come up with next. More stories, more envelopes, more more more please!

We’d recommend the game for anyone wishing to dip their toes into puzzle solving. It’s a really well priced and lovely looking gift filled with mystery and intrigue.

In the mean time, the creator is also one of the game designers at Secret City Trails – so until they launch another game, we might just have to go and play all of his outdoor walking trails to scratch that puzzle itch!

The Corporation can be purchased from Puzzaroo’s website here. Currently, they ship to the UK only.

Emergency Exit: The Studies of Dr. Becker | Review

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The Studies of Dr. Becker Review | You are invited to spend an hour with the famous Dr. Becker at Boleskine Lodge Practice. He is currently with another patient and will be with you shortly. In the meantime make yourself at home and enjoy his hospitality and his study – a beautiful place decorated with his bizarre collection of strange and wonderful things. But do not dig too deeply as things are not always as they seem in this place, after all it is well known that some of his previous guests are still there after volunteering to help with his studies. Dr. Becker has a past which is questionable at best and not everyone agrees with his methods.

Completion Time: About 1 hour
Date Played: January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

What’s your favourite scary movie?

What’s everyone’s favourite thing about horror movies? Scream…Halloween.. the many, many Friday 13ths!…Yes, it’s the sequels! Everyone loves returning to that creepy place they have become so familiar with from the original film that sparked the cult following. Well, what Emergency Exit have created with ‘The Studies of Dr Becker’ feels very reminiscent of this. Dr Becker is the third part of what is now a trilogy of escape games focused around Crowley Manor, the infamous house of Aleister Crowley.

Now, you may or may not know the name Aleister Crowley. In case you don’t, he was a real English Occultist in the 20th Century, and boy did he enjoy dabbling in creepy stuff! The lore around his mysterious life is a fittingly creepy setting for a series of scary escapes. The trilogy centres around Crowley Manor where the In:Theory investigators decide to sneak in to snoop around and find out what’s going down, and unfortunately find themselves WAAAAAAY in over their heads!

We came across Emergency Exit while we were in lockdown during COVID last year when everyone was looking to virtual means to get their escape fix, and The Beast was receiving rave reviews from the escape community. We managed to convince our friends Tasha and Mairi (aka the scaredy cats) to join us for this scary adventure (after all how bad can a virtual scare be?!) and we all loved the thrill of it (despite the varying degrees of fear we experienced). Since lockdown easing, Emergency Exit have reopened their doors to in-person bookings and created the third part of the trilogy, The Studies of Dr Becker. While we were super keen to return to the Crowley Manor story, we wanted to continue the story with the team we started out with. Therefore we were excited to find out that Dr Becker has recently been made available to play online too, and got the gang back together (virtually)!

Online games work well for us as a team still as geography does not favour in-person rooms. With us in the North, and Mairi based in London, we love to still plan in a regular escape in the online world. Recently it’s been a lot of Telescape rooms, which we love. But what better way to brighten up a gloomy Friday evening that by dabbling in the occult. The hosted virtual game, played through Zoom, is really immersive and arguably offers even more than the in-person experience. Not only do you get to play the room in full, but you get the additional fun of working with the In:Theory team to solve the room.

Previously on…

Emergency Exit have put a lot into putting on a show in their rooms; hosting the game on Zoom requires 2 people who you interact with (the In:Theory team) and the story is extremely important. While each of the games are playable as a standalone, the overarching story is really cohesive and adds an extra layer of enjoyment knowing the backstory.

Previously in Crowley Manor: The In:Theory team managed to accidentally summon Surgat, Demon of Locks (very apt). Woopsie! Let’s see what happens to them next…

What happens to them next? They find themselves in Boleskine Lodge Practice, under the care of creepy Dr Becker, who is ‘treating’ them to help them forget their experiences in Crowley Manor. However, Dr Becker’s practices are…questionable….and there’s more to why he wants you to forget the demonic apparitions. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well, you’ll have to play to find out more, but let’s just say, Boleskine Lodge Practice ever so conveniently happens to be attached to Crowley Manor. That is to say, the In:Theory team STILL haven’t managed to escape Crowley Manor yet!

Lights, camera…is that someone’s BUM?

This is where you rejoin the In:Theory team as the voices inside your host’s head. Interacting with the hosts is one of our favourite parts about the Emergency Exit rooms (a bit because if any bad stuff were to happen in the room, it was happening to them and not us). But they really MAKE the experience; not only do you get to explore the room and solve puzzles, instructing your host as to what they should look at or do next, but the story is really brought into it’s own by James and Liam. James was our main host, and Liam is the dedicated cameraman. And boy is he dedicated to his role, ensuring that no matter what the occult throws his way, you always have a clear view of what’s going on around the space you’re in. And they’re funny! A bit of light relief from bantering with your hosts works really well to lighten the mood after a period of tension.

There are some pre-recorded sections which are transitioned into smoothly and which helped to accentuate the story with dramatic ‘cut scenes’. This includes an extremely dramatic conclusion to the story, which we enjoyed. While we’re sure the in-person experience is equally fun to play, we really feel like the Emergency Exit team have NAILED the online hosted escape room! The way it runs feels so reminiscent of a horror movie, but with the added element of choosing the decisions the characters make and, of course, what we all came here for in the first place- puzzle solving! For this reason, we’ve decided to award it the Immersion Badge!

The puzzles are all well-fitting with the theme and add an element of mystery, as they are well-integrated into the demonic, occultish storyline. Fear not, there is plenty to do in terms of puzzling in this room, you just also get the added bonus of a suspenseful horror movie setup!

The Verdict

We would really recommend playing The Studies of Dr Becker (and its predecessors if you haven’t yet). We are sure that an in-person visit would be equally fun but we can’t stop raving about the online hosted experience. At £20pp (for a four player team), this is a great way to spend your Friday night.

Please note that there are some creepy sections and mild gore, but these are generally not too scary so don’t let this put you off. We mentioned afterwards that we felt this was less scary than The Beast, but we enjoyed it just as much!

The Studies of Dr. Becker, either the live or remote avatar version, can be booked by heading to E-Exit’s website here.

Society of Curiosities: The Glasshouse Ghost | Review

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The Glasshouse Ghost Review | Investigate the strange events at the Winchester Mystery House and solve the case of The Glasshouse Ghost! You can start your mission right away! This game can be played completely online.

Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 8th January 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

Our first play-at-home escape room of 2022 goes to Society of Curiosities’ exciting new release: The Glasshouse Ghost. And hey, it’s good to be back playing with Escaping the Closet and our friend Tasha. If this game teases anything for what the landscape of escape games will look like in 2022, then Society of Curiosities have set the bar very high. Every time I think I’ve seen it all in at-home escape rooms, something delightful comes along and surprises me! The Glasshouse Ghost is one of those games. Narrative driven, deductive puzzles, and talking to ghosts via mysterious radio waves – spooky!

The Haunting of Winchester Mystery House

The story of The Glasshouse Ghost follows you, an intrepid team of ghost-hunters, sent in to the Winchester Mystery House – which is a very real place – to find out what is going on. You’re greeted at the start of the game by Taylor, the historian at the Winchester Mystery House. This is of course a chatbot, but in the moment it’s thoroughly immersive and feels like you’re speaking with a real person.

Taylor explains that during recent construction works, secret documents and hidden compartments were found. But with uncovered secrets, come restless spirits. Surely the construction cannot continue until the ghosts are found, identified, and exorcised- wait, that’s probably too strong of a word. In any case, the ghosts need to go.

Remember… Ghosts are all about unfinished business!

But fear not – you’re not alone on your ghost-hunting adventure! Through a straightforward, top-down desk interface, you have access to a number of documents, your in-game mobile phone and most importantly… A radio!

The aim of the game is to find the following:

  1. The name of the ghost?
  2. What happened to them?
  3. What do they want now?

As we discovered each new item within the house – a myriad of exciting documents like photographs, letters, and scribbled notebook entries – our page would update with the new document. Ever the trigger happy one of the group, I spent a lot of time tuning into various radio stations. Occasionally we would find static, but sometimes I would encounter music too. A correct answer gives the correct radio station where the invisible hand of the ghost would guide the words to form a sentence – a little like watching an episode of Buzzfeed Unsolved.

…But in ghost hunting, it’s not quite as simple as ‘input a correct answer’. No, one of the best things about The Glasshouse Ghost was the nuance and subtlety. For starters, the chatbot takes a wide variety of inputs and responds very humanly to them. At no point during the game did we feel like we were just solving puzzle after puzzle – no, we were detectives!

The Glasshouse Ghost takes you on a journey via a winding narrative that has twists and turns and of course, plenty of puzzles along the way. It’s refreshing and entertaining.

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night

One thing to note is that The Glasshouse Ghost does require audio. So don’t be like me and show up to game night without headphones! If you opt to play together via Zoom, you will need to have your PC volume up (to the maximum to catch some of the subtler noises) which doesn’t lend itself to talking out loud. It’s a fine line to balance – but in this particular play through I made do by muting my browser for most of the time, then unmuting it when I needed to follow along with a puzzle.

There are a number of sound-related puzzles in the puzzle, including but not limited to listening for clues, tapping, musical notes, and tests of how well you were listening! For the dialogue, the game offers a written transcript after any major dialogue is spoken. You can get by with the transcript, but for the best experience, listen to everything!

The other thing to note is that if you are playing via Zoom or another video message service, each player will need to input their own codes on their own screen – the game does not automatically update for everyone. This also meant that throughout our four players we all received a different score at the end of the game. Since I spent an embarrassingly long time trying different radio stations and talking nonsense to Taylor, I received the lowest score. The conclusion I draw is that the game will penalise for incorrect answers… That or the ghosts just weren’t very happy with me!

But despite these two small warnings about the tech, The Glasshouse Ghost otherwise ran perfectly well. We played a couple of days before public release – so expected to encounter a few hiccups, but instead had a smooth experience from start to finish.

The Verdict

Overall, we had a lot of fun with The Glasshouse Ghost. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a game like this, but it didn’t disappoint. As we wove our way through the different spaces and uncovered more secrets, a story slowly unfolded in front of us. Everything felt natural and realistic, the back and forth between you and your guide, and the sensitive history we engaged with.

I can’t help but feel like The Glasshouse Ghost is packed with many more secrets we didn’t yet find – and that’s a really exciting feeling. I actually kinda want to play it again. I want to try more radio stations, and I want to spend more time in the Winchester Mystery House trying different things and poking into dark corners.

Society of Curiosities have created something really special. It’s hard to call it a ‘hidden gem’ because it’s no secret this US-based company is one of the most consistently brilliant escape room creators out there – but over here in the UK we were surprised and delighted by what we found within the walls of the Winchester Mystery House. We’re looking forward to (hopefully) future installations!

The Glasshouse Ghost can be played by heading to Society of Curiosity’s website here.

Escape Reading: The Treasure in the Shed | Review

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

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

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

Whats in the Box Shed?

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

So what did we find?

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

How to Solve the Shed

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party | Review

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

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

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

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

About Dinner Party

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

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

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

The Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

Was The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party fun?

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

We decided on a few spoiler-free highlights:

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

The Enigma Fellowship: Dinner Party can be purchased here