Wizards Against Lizards Online | Review

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Wizards Against Lizards Review | You are invited to join the Wizards Against Lizards Remote Intelligence Agency. Teams of WALRIA agents are working together online to investigate, infiltrate and finally defeat the Annunaki Menace! You are welcome to join WALRIA as a passive observer but your team will require at least one active agent, as there are mysteries to be solved, and challenges to be met.

Date Played: 23rd August 2021
Number of Players: 13
Difficulty: Easy
Time Taken: 1hr 45 minutes

I absolutely love finishing an immersive experience and thinking “Woah, what the heck was that?!”

You know the ones I mean… Those once in a lifetime experiences that are met with blank expressions from your friends after you confusingly try to explain them the following day.

“Well err, you know how so many world leaders are actually Lizards hell bent on human suffering, well last Saturday I teamed up with some Wizards on Zoom and we basically infiltrated the Lizard HQ and…”

Okay so maybe it’s better I let the trailer do the talking:

I couldn’t wait to play the cult classic Wizards Against Lizards after picking up a Play Pass at RECON 2021. As part of the fun of the annual Room Escape Convention, there’s an optional Play Pass upgrade which gives you access to a number of live escape room events. Honestly, it was worth it for Wizards Against Lizards alone and I’ve still got heaps more games to play on the Play Pass!

Absurdist, Surreal, Immersive Theatre… On Zoom!

How to describe Wizards Against Lizards? It’s totally bizarre. In a good way. For sure it’s not your typical escape room game, but in amongst the conspiracy theory fun are plenty of puzzles to keep you on your toes. There’s also one theatrical sequence that is very close to an escape room at heart, making it a pretty well balanced game for all audiences.

The story goes that you join the ancient secret wizard organisation WALRIA (Wizards Against Lizards Remote Intelligence Agency) to go up against an equally ancient, but very evil lizard enemy: The Annunaki! Since you yourself are not a wizard (awwww), you’re able to successfully go where wizards cannot and infiltrate their top secret organisation. The first plan of order, pitch a brilliant business idea to one of the lizard leaders and get them on your side. Once you’re in, stop the sacrifice!

Sounds simple? Well, not so fast. Our team ended up with a little more danger than we bargained for – but a no less hilarious and fantastic experience nonetheless.

Our Wizard guides Mildred and Leanne

How to Stop the Lizard People

To stop the lizard people, you have three easy tasks:

  1. Complete your training
  2. Infiltrate the lizards
  3. Stop the sacrifice!

In terms of how the game plays out, it’s all drive via a series of actors (shout out to our host Leanne) on Zoom. The game requires a lot of active audience participation – so many not be the best for a smaller team who prefer to keep quiet. Have at least one person on the team who loves improvising, or some Dutch Courage to help. You never know when being able to talk yourself out of a stick situation with the lizards will come in handy!

In terms of puzzles, hardcore enthusiasts probably won’t be challenged by the game. There are a few very puzzle-y moments in the story but they’re there to serve the narrative and won’t take too long to crack. With the exception of one part that felt very close to a remote avatar escape room, largely players can expect to scour documents and read source material in search of clues.

I particularly enjoyed the moment where we took to Google Maps to discover something new. There’s also one meaty logic puzzle that our sub-team didn’t quite crack in time, but overall nothing too challenging!

The real Fun Factor to Wizards Against Lizards isn’t the puzzles, but it’s those moments of brilliant improvisation and how the actors react to what you say! Early in the game your team needs to come up with a suitably lizard-y pitch to get you in their good books. We got to think of the worst possible business idea, create a presentation, and then pitch it on the fly. Hilarious!

Wizard Training: Perform our best “Lizard Awkward Waving” impression…

The Verdict

Wizards Against Lizards is such a hidden gem and an all round hit escape room experience that’ll go down as a cult classic for sure. What started as a real life adventure played in and around the UK can now be played online via Zoom and the world is a lot better off for it.

It plays on pop culture with just a dash of light-hearted conspiracy theory to create a surreal romp around the lizard world, hosted by several fantastic wizards (and one sinister lizard).

We’ve decided to award it the Badge of Honour (right) for ticking so many boxes and is an absolute “must play” while you still can!

Wizards Against Lizards can be booked directly on their website here.

Ratings

Hourglass Escapes: Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn Official Remote Escape | Review

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Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn Escape Room Review | Seems your leader decided to break into the old Knowby cabin and can’t escape…You and your team must guide him via his ghost gear technology through this misadventure so he can escape and find a way return the evil dead to their realm and escape before the cabin is sucked into the time-space vortex forever.

Date Played: 19th September 2021
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 55 minutes

The nights are getting longer and there’s a definite chill in the air… You know what that means? Spooky season is almost upon us! 💀

I’ve had Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn: Official Escape Room on my to-play list since way back in Spring. But somehow playing a game based on one of the most iconic horror movie franchises in the world didn’t feel right on the eve of summer. So here we are, kicking off the beginning of autumn as we mean to go on: playing a brilliantly chilling game!

Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn Official Escape Room is real life room converted into a remote avatar hosted escape room by the creative geniuses at Hourglass Escapes. One of the common threads in other reviews of the two versions are along the lines of “this was amazing but it would have been even better played in person”. Honestly? I agree! But since we’re not likely to visit the United States any time soon (thanks global panini!), playing wonderful escape rooms from all corners of the globe via Zoom is the next best thing.

The Story of Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn

It is highly recommended you watch the film(s) before playing this escape room! Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely can be played as a standalone spooky experience, but you’ll get so much more out of the experience – such as spotting all the brilliant Easter Eggs – if you watch the film first.

No time? No worries! Here’s a 5 minute version to catch you up:

Unfortunately none of us had watched the films beforehand (heyy, I’m no good with horror!), but this didn’t hinder our enjoyment of the experience in the slightest. Our host, Seth, was kind enough to give us the full run-through of every hidden detail after the game. It’s evident a lot of love and care has done into making Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn Live Escape Room as true to the original film as possible. Speaking of the story…

Way back in 1987, Ash Williams and his girlfriend visited an abandoned cabin and accidentally summoned a troupe of Kandarian demons (of course!). After one of them swallowed the soul of his girlfriend, Ash went to awesome lengths to defeat the demons using the Book of the Dead. Unfortunately this obliterated the whole cabin and himself…

…Until now! The cabin mysteriously resurfaces in Hourglass Escapes. It’s up to you to help Ash get home. Remotely. Via Zoom of course. It’s Shemp, our funny yet slightly clueless ghost-busting host, doing all the heavy lifting.

Image (c) Hourglass Escapes

Welcome to the Gnostic Research of the Occult, Omens, Vampires, and Yetis… GROOVY!

To get ready to play the Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn live game, you first need to get into character. Yep, just like in The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh, your booking email will contain a link to some character sheets for you and your team. It’s up to you to decide who you’d like to play as, get all dressed up, and perhaps even mix a cocktail or two (yep, your handy pre-game cheat sheet also has some recipes and drinking games to play).

For this challenge, we went as the following:

The Kandarian Historian – Played by Grace, the Kandarian Historian has discovered some information on the Cult of Kandar in her most recent archaeological dig. However she was contacted by G.R.O.O.V.Y. Ghost Hunting company to deal with some Kandarian demons before she could take her research further.

The Psychic – All week the cards were telling me (Mairi) about a foreboding future of hellfire and undeath- but tbh, when aren’t they?! This morning I felt a chilling shift in the integrity of the veil between the worlds. Being a certified medium, of course I followed the trail and discovered a team of ghost hunters.

The Skeptic – Whilst bored at work, Nick found himself scrolling through Craigslist. One day he discovered a job posting that claimed to guarantee interaction with the paranormal. “This ought to be good for a laugh”, Nick thought!

The Ghost Hunter – It’s been three weeks since Rebecca informed everyone online whom they should call if there are preternatural happenings within their community, and yet the business’ phone has never left the proverbial hook. After investigating, Rebecca realised she was being outshined by G.R.O.O.V.Y. ghost hunting company… But hey, they are hiring!

There were two further roles that were available, but since we played as a team of 4 we left them un-claimed: The Detective and The Realtor. Whilst there are 6 characters available, it’s worth knowing that you do not need to play with a party of 6. The benefits each character gets (such as specialist equipment) will actually all be handled by your trusty host, Shemp. So really, these are just for fun!

An Escape Room for Halloween

In terms of scenery, no attention to detail has been spared in the construction of this room. It takes place over several large spaces, closely mirroring (though slightly smaller) the original cabin from the movies. I counted at least 4 unique spaces, and that’s not even including puzzles hidden inside walls, beneath floorboards and so on! Impressive all round!

Since the game unfolds in a non-linear way (meaning any puzzle can be solved in any order), you’ve ample time to explore your surroundings. Supporting the live avatar in Zoom is a simple online interface that allows you to take a closer look at any object. When our avatar found something of interest, he instructed us to input a code, allowing us to view (or manipulate) the object further.

It’s fairly clear the game has been built for a real life audience – so if you ever get the chance to visit in person, you absolutely should! However it’s been converted well for the at-home audience. The more tactile puzzles have largely been simplified to make sense in the virtual world, and any jump scares were slightly numbed by playing the game over Zoom. Despite the changes, it’s still a brilliantly immersive experience and a must-play for any Evil Dead fans.

Photo (c) Hourglass Escapes

The Verdict

It’s a real stand out in the escape room world! With October just around the corner, I expect this one to book out quickly – so if you’re planning on a spooky night in with friends from afar, definitely include the Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn room in your plans and book early to avoid disappointment!

We escapes with around 15 minutes left on the clock and no hints used – though our host’s gentle nudges were greatly appreciated!

If you’re not a fan of horror, check out Hourglass Escape’s Rise of the Mad Pharaoh, or The Navigators and the Call From Beyond games instead.

The Evil Dead 2™ Dead by Dawn Official Remote Escape Room can be booked directly from Hourglass Escape’s website here.

Ratings

Headlock Escape Rooms: The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us | Review

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Headlock Escape Rooms: The Keeper and the Fungus Among Us Review | The Keeper has awakened. This only happens every 1,000 years when the evil Paxillus is released from his mushroom prison. Your team, The Guardians, must help our hero defeat this dreaded Mushroom King and save the people of this land.

Date Played: 13th September 2021
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium
Time Taken: 80 minutes

One day, roughly 10 months ago, Joel (one of the creative geniuses behind Cracking Christmas and The Wizard’s Apothecary) was suddenly struck by the following pun:

I put the fun in fungi

Joel immediately turned to his partner and said, “OK we need to make a musical escape room out of this.

I put the fun in Fungi

The rest as they say, is history! Which is how our team consisting of Mairi, Al, Ash and Tasha came to be playing a remote avatar game curiously titled ‘The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us‘ one Monday evening. We had no idea what to expect, but within 5 minutes we were crying with laughter and within 10 minutes we were singing along to all the musical parts.

Keeper? Fungus? What’s Going On?

The Story of The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us is fairly simple…

In a mysterious land far, far away, the evil Mushroom King Paxillus awakes from a 1,000 year slumber and swears to turn every resident of the peaceful Toadstool Village into mushrooms. But not all is lost! To meet Paxillus’ challenge is a hero for all ages: The Keeper. This millennium, The Keeper is a curious, slightly sassy, five legged spider.

Through this puppet adventure, it was our job as players to guide The Keeper through the trials and tribulations, journeying across the land and solving puzzles.

Not ‘Mush Room’ For Error

In terms of game structure and puzzles, The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us follows the loose format of:

  • Exciting video introducing what is happening
  • An area of gameplay, with about 1-5 linear puzzles to solve
  • Collect some cool and unique items which’ll be used later
  • A (more often than not) musical outro

The types of puzzles players will encounter vary, but they’re also brilliantly creative and not something you’d encounter in a typical escape room style game. We found ourselves navigating puzzles which felt a lot more at home in an adventure RPG video game, such as rotating cubes in specific orders, or attacking a gang of street fighters in a very specific combination to ensure they could all be defeated in the right order and that you also wouldn’t run out of health.

It’s like the creators have taken a genre of video game, added puzzles, transposed the experience onto a miniature scene, and run the whole thing as a 90 minute escape room! And so many unique sets all built in a very small area no less! To call it creative would be the understatement of the year.

World’s Most Unique Digital Escape Room?

…Yeah, we’d say so.

There’s quite literally nothing quite like this on the market, and believe us – we’ve played a lot! It’s a cross between an adventure video game, a Dungeons and Dragons one shot campaign, a musical like Rocky Horror Picture Show, a hand puppet performance, and a kids TV show from the early 00s. If you like any of the aforementioned media, you’ve got to book this. Seriously, you won’t regret it. Go in with an open mind and an ambivalence towards mushrooms.

Joel and his partner have built the experience themselves from scratch and make use of several unique sets and a lot of wonderful video trickery to produce an all round fantastic immersive experience-come-show. At the end of our adventure, he took us behind the scenes showing us not only a few of the endings we didn’t unlock, but also exactly how much love and toil goes into setting up such an amazing set.

This is what good puzzle games are. They’re created by folks who love the escape room industry and put their absolute everything into making fun content for the rest of us to enjoy. Joel has nailed it, and The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us will go down in cult escape room history for may years to come. Make sure you book it while you still can, you’ll kick yourself some day, decades down the line when Joel has retired, if you don’t.

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us can be booked by heading to Headlock Escape Rooms’ website here.

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us Ratings

Mystery Mansion Regina: Night Terrors | Review

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After finding one of his childhood drawings, Alex is suddenly plagued by nightmares of the “Sleepyman”. Seeking to rid himself of these nightmares, Alex turns to a hypnotherapist. Playing the role of his subconscious, you will need to help Alex figure out what is causing his nightmares… before it’s too late.

Ratings

Theming: 5/5
Puzzles: 4/5
Decor: 4/5
Immersion: 5/5
Difficulty: 3/5

Overall: 4/5 ⭐

The Scariest Sunday of the Summer…

So, it’s one of the HOTTEST Sunday afternoons we have had in the UK for a while. Outside is bright, sunny and warm. But inside, we are just beginning our 5 hour escape room adventure with Mystery Mansion Regina, an escape room company based in Regina, Canada. Night Terrors is the first part of the ‘Sleepyman’ trilogy (click here for our review of D’Viles Curio Shoppe and Sleepy Man). Players are introduced to Alex, a boy plagued by mysterious nightmares, and your mission is to find out what is causing these strange disturbances. 

The Game

You are tasked with playing Alex’s subconscious, guiding him through the room to solve puzzles and riddles, each taking you a step closer to discovering what is going on, and finding out who is the mysterious figure plaguing Alex’s dreams. This works particularly well on the online platform, with the first-person view of the gamesmaster tying in nicely with the idea that you are in Alex’s mind. Mystery Mansion Regina have cleverly set up the game to really play on this idea, with special catchphrases and an ingenious clue system: it’s definitely unique! 

The room is pitched at a solid ‘creepy’; there are unsettling stories of children disappearing, and allusions to a slenderman-style villain tip-toeing behind every locked door. We really enjoyed the atmosphere created in the room – the background music supplied in the Telescape software worked really well alongside the live zoom call (this is definitely a game to play in headphones!). The puzzles themselves are spread across the live call and the Telescape software, with parts that players can manipulate and other parts that you rely on Alex putting together for you. We liked this – the combination of the two platforms is quite seamless, it certainly didn’t feel clunky switching between the two. 

Image taken from Mystery Mansion Regina (https://mysterymansionregina.ca/online-escape-rooms/)

The puzzles themselves were the right level of challenging and there were plenty of them! We love a room with variety, and we were not disappointed with what Night Terrors had to offer. We are particular fans of puzzles that appear to players at the start of a room (almost teasing you to solve them!), but do not become clear until later in your gameplay. This leads you to some proper A-HA moments, as you finally realise what it is you’ve been looking at for so long!

There was one particular puzzle at the end of the game that really stood out to us all. The interaction between Telescape and the Zoom call is used wonderfully, to create an intense and extremely immersive atmosphere, which can be difficult in a virtual room. It certainly had us looking over our shoulders to double check that no-one was creeping up behind us.

The Story

The storytelling across the trilogy is immense, we got thoroughly pulled into the ‘Sleepyman’ saga. Night Terrors does a good job at introducing you to the Sleepyman universe, channeling some strong Buffy vibes. One of our party ,Tasha, noticed a niche reference to ‘Sabrina’ during our gameplay, which the host informed us was the first time anyone had noticed the link! We think this says more about Tasha than it does about the room (haha!) – although it did make it it feel more ‘real’. Always good fun in a horror themed room.

The end of Night Terrors leads very nicely onto the second and third games. As a side note, we strongly recommend that you play all of these in order as it makes it SO much better. In fact, doing them all back-to-back, as we did, is definitely the optimal way to experience the trilogy.

Of the four of us, two of us had nightmares after this game, which I think says a lot about the experience that we had!

The horror, the decoration, the technology… It all clicked together so well! Night Terrors does a brilliant job of sucking you in, and leaves you eager to find out what happens next. When we think back to this Sunday, it’s been one of our favourite online experiences and definitely scratched the escape room itch: we were thoroughly immersed! If you get the chance, it is so worth giving these a go. 

After all, it’s only a dream, right?

Image taken from Mystery Mansion Regina (https://mysterymansionregina.ca/online-escape-rooms/)

You can play Night Terrors with Mystery Mansion Regina for a cost of $25.00/person (plus tax). They recommend 2+ players, aged 14+. You’ve got 75 minutes to find out who is haunting Alex’s nightmares…

https://mysterymansionregina.ca/online-escape-rooms/

Mystery Mansion Regina: D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe | Review

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Local paranormal Youtuber, Estelle Jacobs, was searching for her missing boyfriend, Alex. Shortly after visiting D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe, Estelle vanished without a trace. It’s time to venture inside the Curio Shoppe through a live video feed and find out the truth about Estelle’s disappearance…

Rating: Creepy!
Completion Time: 67 minutes
Date Played: 13th June 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Horror fans! (14+)

Things are getting creepier and creepier in the Sleepy Man trilogy at Mystery Mansion Regina…

*shudders*

In what was one epic sugar-fuelled horror game marathon, team Escaping the Closet and I took on the Sleepy Man trilogy – a series of remote avatar games centred around their fictional nightmare, the Sleepy Man. The games in this series in order are:

The Story So Far…

In Night Terrors, the first in the series, we played as Alex’s subconscious – one of the victims who mysterious vanished after complaining of nightly Sleepy Man visits. In D’Viles Curio Shoppe we continued the story alongside streamer Livestreamer1337 (Sam) after hearing the mysterious rumours of Alex’s disappearance. Alex’s girlfriend Estelle was last seen at the mysterious Curio Shoppe and in a jovial ‘Buzzfeed Unsolved’ kinda way we came along for the ride with one goal in mind: capture some ghosts on camera!

…Wait, wait, sorry. Seems like I missed the brief. Our goal was to of course bring the missing people home.

But I wouldn’t say no to helping Livestreamer1337 go viral on Twitch either.

The Experience

D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is played via a combination of:

  • Controlling a live avatar on Zoom, and
  • Your inventory system and 360 degree view of the room on Telescape

You’ll need your sound turned on (and up!) for this game, as both the live avatar and the Telescape work together to create a creepy, almost surround-sound experience. For the large part, Telescape played a supporting role allowing multiple players to be looking at different things at once. Personally, playing over two devices anyway, I spent more time on the Zoom call than rummaging through my inventory, but it was very helpful to have both handy.

Occasionally the Zoom call broke into an almost seamless video transition using Telescape and every single time I had to half close my eyes expecting a massive jump scare but thankfully this remote avatar room’s currency is creepy-scare, not necessarily jump scare. Unless you count– oh wait, I won’t spoil that! You’ll know it when you see it 😉

The Theming

D’Viles Curio Shoppe is the only game in the trilogy that exists in the real world too. What I mean is, it’s a live escape room at Mystery Mansion Regina which can be played at their physical location.

This is worth mentioning as the other two games in the trilogy are actually at a different, remote-avatar only location located at another site. There’s a few noticeable differences between D’Viles Curio Shoppe due to the fact this room has to cater to both audiences, but nothing suffers for it! It’s more of an interesting detail, and very cool that the company have adapted the existing and new experiences to work seamlessly together.

In terms of theming of this room, your host Sam takes you into a very curious looking shop – Estelle’s last known location. It becomes quickly very clear that this is no ordinary shop. Or should I say… Shoppe! From the mysterious tarot cards plastered on the wall to the decidedly creepy fortune teller box in one corner. On the shelves I spotted nothing less than a real monkey’s paw, some cursed trinkets, skulls, and other absolutely horrifying things that I definitely want to purchase for Halloween.

The whole room is also bathed in a rather mysterious purplish light that sets a very creepy shadow on otherwise innocuous items. There’s real tension in the air. Anything could happen. It also doesn’t help that everywhere are warning signs not to touch anything, and yet touch everything we did!

Definitely cursed now. Yep.

We were delighted and surprised to discover that this is not just a one-room experience. But the less I say about how the second space is discovered, the better. This room is packed with surprises and it’s best to go in with an open mind!

The Puzzles

In terms of puzzle difficulty, D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is slightly more difficult than Night Terrors. That said, we didn’t need to ask for any clues, but our host Sam (real name Owen) was helpful enough to gently nudge us in the right direction when we needed it.

Players can expect to encounter puzzles involving ciphers, keys, number locks, and some very interesting use of tarot cards too! None of the puzzles were stand-out brilliant and I did get the impression that a lot of them would be best experienced in the live room, but I think the true enjoyment of the room is the narrative storytelling and hosting, rather than interrogating the puzzles. We weren’t playing it to be dazzled by mechanical puzzles, we were playing to be spooked- and it succeeded!

Overall

D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe is a brilliantly spooky game that has near-mastered the art of creating tension and a sense of unease in all the players! I (Mairi) am not a horror game fan typically, but D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe was a perfect balance that left me feeling like:

…Without actually making me scream or cry. Bravo!

Of the three in the trilogy, it’s not my favourite, but it NOT to be missed if you want the full experience, start to finish. Oh, and good luck getting to sleep after this one!

D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe (virtual) can be booked for $25 CAD pp on Mystery Mansion Regina’s website here.

Mystery Mansion Regina: Sleepy Man | Review

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It’s time to face your fears and end the nightmare.

Rating: Brilliant!
Completion Time: 73 minutes
Date Played: 13th June 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Horror fans! (14+)

Be careful, children… The Sleepy Man is coming.

*shudders*

Mystery Mansion Regina knocked it out of the park with their brilliant ‘finale’ to the Sleepy Man trilogy and, despite the swelteringly hot weather we had in the UK this weekend, horror games never fail to send a shiver down my spine! We were also super excited to have booked for the opening weekend…. Which I suppose makes us one of the first teams to take on the evil demonic entity that is The Sleepy Man!

In this case thank goodness we did a good job banishing him. I was worried he might make a surprise appearance in my dreams last night. It’d be a funny explanation as to why I can’t make it into work the next day:

“Ahh sorry I was dragged to hell hope that’s okay see you Tuesday instead.”

The Story

Sleepy Man is the final part of the a three-room story that is told through multiple characters interacting with the same space (both physical and err, astral). The first two games of the series are:

In Night Terrors, you play as Alex’s subconscious – one of the victims who mysterious vanish after complaining of nightly Sleepy Man visits. In D’Viles Curio Shoppe you continue the story alongside streamer Livestreamer1337 (Sam) after hearing the mysterious rumours of Alex’s disappearance. Alex’s girlfriend Estelle was last seen at the mysterious Curio Shoppe and in a jovial ‘Buzzfeed Unsolved’ kinda way, your team and Sam hop along to investigate.

The game Sleepy Man comes in after… You guessed it… Sam also goes missing. This time his producer Jesse is hot on the trail. You’d think Jesse would know better, huh? I’d probably just call the police but hey! Then we wouldn’t get to go on such a fun adventure.

This is where the story sets up for the scariest game in the trilogy.

The Experience

Sleepy Man is played on two screens via Zoom and Telescape. On Zoom, you control your life avatar as they navigate the room: “Pick up this please Jesse”, “Put your hand into that dark hole”, “Poke the severed tongue please.” You know, just normal escape room stuff. On Telescape, you have access to your inventory – anything you’ve picked up along the way, and a map of the rooms.

The experience will flick between both Zoom and Telescape several times throughout the game. For example, the host may say “here let me take a quick video and send it to you for a close up”, or they may take a photograph of something that you can examine more closely in your own time.

This was surprisingly immersive and worked well, but it does mean you’ll want to play on 2 screens or devices for the best experience – and be sure to mute yourself if you don’t have headphones!

Another interesting thing about the experience, which I haven’t seen done in any other live avatar escape room game yet, were the fact there are two hosts in this game. We were hosted by Elijah and Owen, playing Jesse and Sam respectively.

At a few points in the story you’ll be looking at 2 live camera feeds – each with half of a puzzle on it. This means directing two hosts to complete tasks and even more information to take in. At other points both hosts will be on the screen at once interacting with each other and the environment together. I really enjoyed this – it was creative and clever, fitting well within the story Mystery Mansion Regina have created.

The Theming

Mystery Mansion Regina have two sites – one on Albert Street and another in a building they only use for remote avatar escapes. Sleepy Man is located in the latter and with such a large space to explore we practically had virtual free run of the whole site. Parts of the game take place outside, parts inside the ‘escape room’ and parts in the in-between liminal spaces joining the game together.

As there are no customers in this location, I found a lot of the props were very good quality and things that wouldn’t work if you had customers going through the environment daily worked beautifully here. An example is to compare it to D’Viles Curio Shop which is a real life escape room you can play on-site at Mystery Mansion Regina. Many of the more valuable and fragile items are behind glass (well, it makes sense! It is a curiosity shop!). In Sleepy Man, you could break things, squeeze into small places, and interact with hyper realistic body parts- yes! Really!

This experience has around 5 or 6 distinct ‘spaces’. To explain what those spaces are would be a spoiler, but you can be sure that the creepy atmosphere and decoration is consistent throughout. I’m fairly sure I’ve had nightmares that resemble the interior spaces of this escape room.

*shudder*

The Puzzles

Of the three games in The Sleepy Man trilogy, the titular game (this one) is probably the most difficult. However, I preface that with mentioning that we chose to play all three games back to back from around 4pm – 9pm… So, it could have been tiredness.

The style of puzzles in this game differs from Night Terrors and D’Viles Curio Shoppe – in this game it’s less about finding keys and cracking digit code locks, and more much intuitive:

“OK so we’ve found this item, what could we do with it that makes sense?”

Another style of puzzle which, although present in the earlier games, really came into it it’s own here was the idea of castling spells. You find many spells as you explore the area and by the end you’ll need to cast every single one of them. Each requires items and secret spell words, so we generally knew what we were looking for at each point. I also think magic puzzles just work so much better via Zoom than in a real life escape room and there were done very well too!

Besides these, players can expect to encounter a range of puzzles that’ll challenge the whole team. There’s ciphers, sorting puzzles, locks and keys, search and find puzzles… And so on, and so on. With 90 minutes on the clock, you’ll have plenty do to! But hurry – the Sleepy Man is coming.

Overall

We really enjoyed Sleepy Man. It was an excellent conclusion to the horror trilogy and despite my ‘not being good’ with scary escape rooms, this one was easy to digest on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Each game in the series brings a fresh level of creativity and I love that they can be played from anywhere in the world! I hope more escape rooms continue the trend of designing for ‘play at home’ in the future.

Sleepy Man can be booked for $25 CAD per person on Mystery Mansion Regia’s website here.

Ratings

Emergency Exit: The Beast | Review

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There’s a cabin in the woods with a legend of the supernatural. Long abandoned, there have been strange sightings and many people have disappeared, as reported in the news over the years, never to return. You should NOT enter! The question is… can you escape parts 2 and 3 of the Crowley Manor story? There’s lots of puzzles to solve before you can.

Rating: Terrifying!
Completion Time: ~90 minutes
Date Played: 14th May 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Playing by anyone late at night with all the lights off

I don’t like horror… Ohhhh no no no no no. But a horror escape room via Zoom? Yeah I was willing to give it a go. I mean if you’re sitting behind a screen it’s hard to be too scared. Right? Right?! Hahah, I kid! But seriously this was brilliantly terrifying and I had a lot of fun, despite my fears. Emergency Exit gets a lot of good reviews and has even won awards for it’s Exorcism (the prequel) and The Beast (this one) games and it’s very easy to see why.

I took on The Beast with team Escaping the Closet on a spooky (well as spooky as you can get in May) Friday evening with all the curtains drawn, my lights turned to ‘red’, and most importantly – home alone. Which I made the mistake of saying early on into the game, followed later on by this conversation:

Host: It’s a good job you’ve got people there with you Mairi
Me: No, I’m home alone
Host: Wait what, who’s that behind you then?

…Sharply moving on from that! Let’s get into the review:

The Story

We did not play Exorcism before taking on The Beast, so I’ll have to admit there was a bit of plot that was lost on me. The Beast picks up exactly where Exorcism leaves off after your camera man Liam was taken by… Well, something sinister and awful I’ve no doubt. The host decides he’s got to go back into the room and try and rescue Liam, but it quickly goes very south from there.

The whole vibe reminded me a little bit of “Britain’s Most Haunted”, but this time we’re not taking on ghosts, we’re taking on evil demonic spirits. The setting: Crowley Manor. There were a lot of references to the dearly departed residents of of the manor, such as Alice (who shared a name with one of our team!). As we skipped Exorcist, I feel like I didn’t fully follow the first half plot… That or I was too busy hiding behind a pillow!

As you work your way throughout the escape room you’ll go from the main room into a creepy cabin out back and from here the plot takes an even creepier twist. I don’t want to spoil it as it’s twisty and packed with “woah!” moments that are integral to the characters, the house and the history, but rest assured it’s a great room if you love narrative.

The Theming

In terms of theming, The Beast absolutely shines! There are two ‘areas’ to explore which are built around two of the real life escape rooms at Emergency Exit. They’ve got absolutely everything you want from a creepy house with an even creepier cabin. Everything I say? Yes! Even a cursed doll. Literally. It’s cursed. I thought the lock was part of the puzzle but no it’s locked in there with a Bible to keep people away.

*shudders*

The first location is cold and grimy with centuries old cots, cabinets and creepy children’s toys scattered everywhere. Much of the room has been defaced with paint.. Or is that blood? Anything you give you a double take and send shivers up the spine.

The second location is slightly cosier, as candlelit cabins are but that’s no consolation when the poor host has to crawl into small spaces and uncover creepy Satanic objects.

In both rooms there are a good deal of really impressive special effects that add to the mystery. Again, I do not wish to spoil anything, but this game utilises things that I never thought I’d see an escape room do and I am impressed!

The Host

The hosting of this room also get’s it’s own separate section as I can’t help but mention how brilliant our two hosts were – Liam (the camera man) and Ronnie (the host in front of us)! The camera man’s control of the room was absolutely brilliant. I know some people are concerned about motion sickness but there’s none of that in this room, everything was smooth to a T. Most of the time you’re chatting to Ronnie but at one part you’ll ‘control’ Liam instead and the transition was as seamless as it was fun.

Ronnie on the other hand brought the whole thing to life with his character and personality. He felt like an extension of our own team, interacting with us in a real and humorous way. We’d have to coax him into unlocking certain things and heck, it makes sense, this room is terrifying! I wouldn’t want to reach into that creepy dark place and pull out God knows what either!

Together the two host team worked super well and is the absolute icing on the cake of this already brilliant experience.

The Puzzles

Players can expect a more or less non-linear flow of puzzles but a linear progression through the story to reach the ending… Which is a confusing way for me to explain that there is a lot to do and I think we did it in a fairly random order but still made it to the end!

The first part is a bit of ‘searching and finding’. Your host finds himself locked in and you’ve gotta first guide him to finding everything in the room that might come in use. Just watch out for the horrifying creepy dolls.

As with all good Demon themed rooms- I’m kidding, this is my first because I’m a scaredy cat- the second area features plenty of supernatural puzzles! It was a delight to see things like candles, ouija boards, haunted dolls and tarot cards all playing a strong role in the puzzle solving! I also really personally enjoyed the puzzles that involved solving ciphers. Give me some cool demon language any day!

The Tech

A quick note on the tech, The Beast is played entirely in Zoom. This means everything you need is right in front of you – no inventory system, no point and click to get a closer look. This works really well for this room as it means you need never break immersion. In particular, the hosts can capture and hold your attention for some very well timed jump scares and seamless video transitions!

Overall

This game was brilliant and absolutely lives up to the hype. From about 3pm on Friday all the way until our 8pm booking I was working myself up into a frenzy – “What if it’s too scary?! Should I skip dinner?“, but despite my worries there was no way to prepare for the thoroughly creepy and immersive experience that it was.

It’s also worth noting that the experience can be scaled up or down in scariness – to a certain extent! If you chose to play this with kids, the hosts ‘read the room’ and don’t go too dark. A team of 20 something year olds they went all out though and I screamed my apartment down at least twice. But you know what, despite my aversion to horror, I had an amazingly fun time.

My only regret? Not playing The Exorcist first! But rest assured, we’ve got that one booked soon.

Oh I also regret that we sacrificed Tasha’s soul to the devil but I’m sure she’ll be ok.

The Beast can be booked for £100 per team on Emergency Exit’s website here.

Agent Venture: B.A.D. Side of the Moon | Review

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This is it, the grand finale. Confront Bozo on his Moon base, and foil his evil plans once and for all. The fate of the Earth is in your hands.

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 58:20
Date Played: 10th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: A well balanced (in skills) team of 4-5 players!

We’re back, Secret Agents! The dream team is reunited for the grand finale in the Agent Venture online series. After playing the previous Cyborg Island way back when in October 2020, we finally made time to journey to the moon! Just in time by the looks of it, the evil supervillain Bozo has been hiding out all this time just waiting for an intrepid team of secret agents to take him down.

This time round we were joined by our fantastically funny host, Agent Grace who really brought the experience together! So how did we do? Let’s get into it:

The Story

In a dramatic exit from Cyborg Island, Bozo escapes our clutches and goes to hide out… On the moon? That’s right, there’s a super evil base up there and an even eviler mega laser beam primed and ready to destroy the world. Or at least, I think that was the story. It’s important not the sweat the details, we were mainly here to arrest him.

I think at each chapter the plot gets a little more bizarre. We went from a regular, run of the mill heist, to an island that turns out to be a secret cyborg factory to, well, the moon. Kinda like your classic platformer video game from the early ’00s, you’ve gotta have a moon level, right?!

The Experience

You and your team play the ‘eyes in the sky’ guiding a secret agent on the ground (or rather, in space). Each of you will have a specific role:

  • The Hacker – responsible for ‘hacking’ doors open and obstacles in people’s way by solving series of quick fire puzzles on their screen.
  • The Researcher – they’re given the most information and must quickly sort through a lot of red herrings to figure out what information is needed for each level
  • The Navigator – this person is your maps guy, they see the base in all it’s detail and have the main responsibility for guiding Agent Venture around their environment
  • The Communicator – this person’s job is to lie and blag their way through social situations, armed with emails and phone records, they can phone ahead and spin a tale that grants entry
  • The Co-Ordinator – this person oversees everything!

In this game I took on the role of The Researcher. I like reading and I suck at a lot of other things, like making phone calls, reading directions or maths puzzles. So it worked out well!

All play at home Agent Venture games are played in Zoom, but unlike a lot of ‘remote avatar’ games you aren’t controlling an avatar per-se, in fact it’s all done via audio description, like an incredibly intricate and awesome TTRPG. This means there’s a huge element of choose-your-own-adventure and what’s more there’s a good amount of subjectivity with both the environment, and the puzzles that involve interacting with the host. I enjoyed this a lot though! No correct way of doing things, only YOUR way which will be completely unique from every other group who has played the game.

In this particular game, there’s two distinct parts. The first part you’re doing a series of ‘long’ puzzles to help disable alarm systems and make the end game easier. The second part is where the pressure ramps up by 5,000% – the more you solved earlier the easier this bit will be.

We’d solved about 4 puzzles before the end game, giving us at least 50% left to solve, but it worked! With some speedy collaboration and everyone working as fast as they could – we did it!! We made it out in time.

I rated the first in the series one of my all time favourite games, I didn’t do the same for #2 – likely down to the fact we didn’t escape in time. But I really felt like B.A.D. Side of the moon was the most polished of the three games and that’s why it’s back up to 5* in my books. Oh, escaping in time did help!

The Puzzles

Overall the puzzles rely a lot on collaboration. There’s no one puzzle that just one person can solve, unless of course you count the mini-puzzles the hacker takes care of. What I mean is, you’ll have one part of the information, another player will have another part, and so on. Some puzzles involve ALL team members, whereas the large majority involve only two.

The good thing is, you can choose which puzzles to do and they’re labelled in advance with which role will have to play the biggest part.

As the Researcher, the puzzles I encountered largely revolved around ‘search and find’ e.g. get a large amount of text, split over a few documents, and sift through to find the relevant part, often fragmented. One puzzle in particular that was one of the puzzles labelled as Researcher-heavy, stumped me a little. But then again it involved ratios and maths and a lot of text. But, you’re encouraged to share your screen when stuck so that everyone can weigh in.

Overall

Good fun, honestly! Of the three, I think The Heist was still my favourite, but I’d put this down to the format being super novel and us acing it as a team. It’s absolutely true the games have improved over time, so the series is best experienced in it’s totality and I’m super glad we all made it to the end (and saved the day!).

Agent Venture, before lockdown started, did real life immersive experiences and I’m hoping that some day post-lockdown they’ll bring those back. If the online experiences are anything to go by, I reckon they’re one to watch!

Agent Venture can be purchased for £12+ per player on Agent Venture’s website.

Russ Builds: CITIZEN | Review

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Four crime scenes, one thief at large, a race against the clock. Can you catch them in time?

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 28:54
Date Played: 10th April 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Everyone!

Russ Builds is BACK! Following the success of Airlock and Endgame, in comes CITIZEN – a brand tabletop remote avatar game that I was super excited to play last week. Joined by the A-Team of Escaping the Closet, we took on CITIZEN this Saturday and (at the time of writing on Monday) are joint 1st in the leader boards with a respectable score of 14 points! Woohoo!

I really enjoy the games Russ makes because, as mentioned before on this site, they’re built with a lot of love. As a part time hobby, Russ uses donations from the previous game to improve on the next one and builds these tabletop escape room experiences from his own home. They’re delightfully clever and impressively high tech and more often than not- fiendishly difficult! Although that said, this one is slightly easier than any previous in this series – that, or we were on tip top form during our game session.

The Story

Setting the scene is an introductory audio file from your host Russ, who remains perfectly in character the whole way through the experience. The story goes that you, an intrepid team of detectives, have one chance to catch a mysterious super criminal known only as “CITIZEN”. Think Moriarty to your Sherlock Holmes. You’ve never been so close to catching him, in fact, he has laid a series of clues for you… Solve them, and he’ll hand himself over to the authorities. Fail, and he’ll disappear forever, your one chance to catch him gone up like a puff of smoke.

The Experience

CITIZEN falls into a category I think I made up, but that I like to refer to as “tabletop escape rooms”, meaning everything you need is on top of a table in front of you. No need to stand up, no need to look underneath the table. It’s all there before you. Via Zoom, you control the host to act out anything you’d like him to do- take a closer look, push a button, lift something up, and so on.

To help you, you’re also given a password protected PDF, the password for which you’ll find somewhere on the table in front of you. Within this PDF contains all the real juicy puzzles and clues you’ll need to find in order to ‘escape’ in time. I personally recommend you use two screens, or at least split your screen so you can see everything at once – oh, and a notebook would be handy too!

Some added elements to CITIZEN also include a playlist which is perfectly curated to ‘guide’ you through the mood of the whole 60 minute experience, ramping up in excitement towards the end- eeek! Another delightful addition is the audio file I’ve mentioned previously. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say this is also important to the game, so listen up!

The Puzzles

CITIZEN is a non-linear game, meaning you can tackle anything you like in any order! Awesome! At this point, this is probably my favourite style of escape room, or online game – it essentially means everyone has got something to do at once! One team member solving a cipher? Well you can move onto the next puzzle and save a bit of time. Of course, two (or three) heads are better than one and I think throughout CITIZEN we definitely needed to work together. In fact, there wasn’t a single puzzle that someone solved alone, there’s always a bit of conferring. What can I say? Team work makes the dream work. *cringes that I just said that*

Players taking on CITIZEN can expect to encounter a range of puzzles. In front of you on the table are around 5/6 distinct ‘areas’ to be solved, so there’s plenty to get stuck on. There’s a directional puzzle, a few ‘search and find’ puzzles, some codes to be found and solved, some wires to (very carefully) cut, and so on. Absolutely no locks anywhere in sight – another cool thing about this experience, not that I have anything against locks.

Overall

CITIZEN is a really fun game! Everything Russ Builds has made has been a step up from the previous and CITIZEN is exactly the same. I’m always excited to hear each time there’s a new game in the works and if you can find the time you should give this one a go before it’s gone forever!

In particular, I really enjoyed playing with Escaping the Closet. The previous two experiences I brought my partner, Player 2, who enjoyed them a lot but overall isn’t really an escape room enthusiast. I think the bigger the team and the more people to puzzle it over with, the better.

Another super important point is that CITIZEN is completely free to play! Donations are hugely appreciated of course, and any money donated gets immediately put into the next escape room project which is very cool too. So if you enjoy it, consider

CITIZEN can be played for free (donations encouraged) by getting in contact with Russ Builds directly.

District 3: Something Brewing | Review

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You and your friends head to a coffeehouse before the celebration. You soon find out that something is brewing, and your evening takes a turn for the worse. What crucial decisions will your team need to make, and what major outcome will that lead to?

Rating: Impressive!
Completion Time: 53:06
Date Played: 9th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Everyone!

I *LOVE* District 3’s remote avatar experiences, if that weren’t obvious from the fact I’m playing this just one week after Haunted. So much fun! For Something Brewing, I was invited to play alongside Borderline Puzzler, Shiny Life, and the super cool Kelly from Maple Apron (if you’re in the UK go check out her Canadian cakes!)

Something Brewing is a step up from Haunted in terms of difficulty, but also a huge step up in “wow factor”. To put it shortly I DID NOT expect where this escape room took us, and with a big choose-your-own-adventure element there’s a lot of replayability here too. From experience, all the games I’ve played at District 3 are highly rated real life escape rooms that translate so well to a ‘remote avatar’ format, so whether local or online, they’re worth checking out… *glances at calendar to see how long till I can book one for my birthday*

The Story

Since Something Brewing starts out in a coffee shop, I really don’t want to spoil the ‘what happens next’ at all. So I’ll just say that the game will take you on a bit of a roller coaster!

You start out walking into a coffee shop at 11pm. The member of staff (our fantastic host David) working their shift lets you know the coffee shop is about to close and that you should make your order quickly- why the hurry? It’s New Years Eve and he’s got a party to get to at midnight. In fact, until you wandered in he was getting ready to shut up shop but one last order won’t hurt? Right?

BAM! Something then suddenly happens that causes you to stay, something so surprising (and delightful) I’m pretty sure the whole team gasped. But if you, dear reader, want to find out what that is, you’ll just have to book the game!

The Experience

Something Brewing takes place via Zoom and Telescape. On the one hand you’ve a direct channel of communication with your host via Zoom, who occasionally has the camera on POV, and occasionally puts the camera down to move around the room with greater context. Telescape is an online web interface that allows you to have a 360 degree view of the room, click into things for more information and access an inventory system. The two systems work well together as it means everyone has something to do and can spend time looking closely at stuff whilst other team members shout directions at the host.

The most stand-out thing about our experience has to be the hosting! This time we were joined by David who, completely in character, plays a slightly clueless yet charming barista at the cafe who really just wants to finish up his shift. When things happen in the room he is just as surprised as you are, making it seem like he’s just a part of your team.

In particular, I love how natural it was to ‘enter’ the game. Rather than a lofty “you’re here to save the world”, you’re just here to grab a quick bite to eat and a coffee (coffee at 11pm? Yeah don’t ask!).

As mentioned, Something Brewing is a real life escape room you can play at District 3, so a few things have been tweaked to convert it from real-location into the online format, but the game suffers nothing in the process. The only example I can think of is a moment in the game where, if you were playing the real version, members of your team would become separated. In the online version this doesn’t happen as their’s only one host. Instead, something else happens – just as cool though!

The Puzzles

Something Brewing is one of the hardest games at District 3 but we still smashed it! At the time of writing, 9th on the leader boards (as Team Escaperinos) and zero hints used isn’t bad! I think I’d agree that yes, it is hard but this is largely because there’s a lot to do! You’ve got to think on your feet and make quick decisions.

Players taking on this experience can expect to encounter puzzles including (but not limited to) black light puzzles, a cipher puzzle, Roman numerals, logic grid puzzles, a few key and numerical locks, sorting things into sequences, and so on… In short, there’s a lot and a big mix too!

This room also contains a bonus, Easter Egg puzzle which, whilst it does not contribute to your winning or losing, will earn you a pretty cool achievement if you correctly solve it.

Overall

Another, stand-out 5* experience from District 3! I genuinely can’t recommend checking them out enough, especially as Regina in Canada has just gone back into lockdown (my sympathies from the UK where we’re still in total lockdown from before Christmas), now’s a good chance to secure an online game booking.

Everything from the space itself, to the host, to the story with it’s exciting elements were brilliant and I’ll be keeping a super close eye on all their future remote avatar games to be the first in line to book in and play!

Something’s Brewing (Remote Edition) can be booked for $15-$22 CAD per person via District 3’s website, but you can get 30% off this April!