Trapped Puzzle Rooms: Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery | Review

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Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery Review | Barker Street Detectives… An urgent request has come across my desk and I request you aid me in this investigation. A distressed Ms Barbara Fetcher requires our assistance with the case of The Missing Ruby Bone. Contained in this box you will find evidence gathered from the scene of the Ruby Bone’s disappearance. Identify the culprit of the theft and recover the priceless artefact. A particularly puzzling path awaits you inside…

Date Played: May-June 2022
Time Taken: ~4 hours
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Challenging!

I knew Ruff Bluff would be something special as from the moment I received it I had it sitting in pride of place at the front of my board game shelf. Without fail every single person that visited our apartment in time between then and now, commented on the new addition:

“Ruff Bluff? Haha what’s that?” or “OMG are those dogs playing cards?” to “Furlock Holmes? I love it!”

Cue my whipping it off the shelf and spreading out the materials to gush to my friends and family about my favourite puzzles in the game. Even before the Kickstarter went live and the game was made available to the general public, this game is single handedly causing big ripples in my little community here in London, just by merit of it sitting on my shelf. The box is so appealingly light-hearted and funny with a picture of dogs all sitting round at a card game, and the name ‘Furlock Holmes’ suggests something puzzlingly brilliant.

…And that’s before I even start on what comes inside the box! But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

 

About Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery

Furlock Holmes is the fox character created by escape room company Trapped Puzzle Rooms all the way over in the United States. Creators of Taco Tuesday (oh! I’ve heard of that one), and a whole host of digital, remote avatar and audio rooms, Trapped Puzzle Rooms isn’t as much of a household name here in the UK escape room community as it clearly is in the United States. But after playing their first foray into physical boxed rooms, I’m impressed – and only slightly regretful that this is the very first experience of theirs we’ve played. We missed out not playing all the others in lockdown!

In June 2022, the company put Ruff Bluff up on Kickstarter as a sequel to their existing ‘Furlock Holmes’ mystery, “Furlock Holmes Museum Mystery”. The original game is a web-based point-and-click mystery that follows the titular character Furlock Holmes as he investigates crimes around a fictionalised, vintage London. That said, there’s absolutely no requirement to have played the first game before diving right into Ruff Bluff. They’re completely different!

Ruff Bluff is a 6 – 12 hour mystery game. The complete experience is self-contained within a small box, with a handy answer-checker online. It’s best played over a couple of sessions, and the box is broken up into four parts to make it easy to stop and start between those. As a bonus, the website also saves your answers up until that point so you can pick up wherever you left off!

I took on this mystery over around ~3 days, with a week or so inbetween. I took on Part I at my desk on a funny Friday afternoon. The second part is much longer and much more manual which took a little time over another day. Then I whizzed through the final two parts an afternoon a few weeks later. This super well for me, and I’d definitely recommend taking a similar approach over two or three evenings.

So, the technical parts and the ‘what to expect’ out of the way, here’s how I got on…

 

 

The game is afoot (well… apaw)

This exciting, canine-themed mystery pushes players right into the deep end! There’s been a crime! A priceless Ruby Bone has gone missing from a poker match and it’s up to you, the players, to figure out whodunnit. There are seven suspects: the seven dogs who were sitting around the table playing cards. They are:

  • Austin Fetcher, a Husky with a very boopable nose
  • Pablo Diggbury, a professional Barkeologist
  • Barbara Fetcher, the furriest ball of floof I’ve ever seen
  • Darleen Haskel, a sleek looking Dalmatian
  • Julia Dripping, a very dribbly St Bernard from New Bark City
  • Renaldo Blurri, my personal favourite, a Greyhound with a bowler hat on
  • Richard Ruffington, a pup who shares my birthday!

The game starts with dossiers about each of these dogs. Who they were, where they’re from, and what job they do. Within these dossiers are a number of blanks, and that’s where the player comes in – to fill in the missing information by scouring the clues and looking for details.

This proves an excellent introduction to the game as players are encouraged to really get to know the characters and start making their own assumptions about whodunnit (which by the way, I guessed completely wrong until the very last minute – which is exactly what a good whodunnit should do!).

To help you out, this first portion of the box is absolutely packed with clues. They’re not single use either – throughout the game I found myself constantly referring back to details from the first part and small nudges within the dossiers. From stacks of $700 bills, to a whole deck of playing cards, to napkins, poker chips, postcards and drink matts. It’s an understatement to say there really is a lot going on in this box and I loved it. Each new object seemed to hide so many puzzles, but the game leads you through them gently in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming as you scour the evidence. It’s a real “pin everything up on an evidence board and take a step back” kinda game, and I really enjoyed this.

 

 

The second part of the game however was my absolute favourite. I don’t know why I’m so easily impressed by a jigsaw puzzle mechanic but hey, what can I say? I’m just a simple gal who likes complex jigsaw puzzles. The one in Ruff Bluff was absolutely brilliant. It’s the kind of puzzle in a game that even though your partner doesn’t want to take part they can’t help but slide over to help you put a piece or two into their place. Whats more, it fit so well with the story too!

With box one and box two out of the way, the final two chapters were the home-run in terms of puzzle solving. By this point, you know the characters and you know what’s what. All that’s left to do it solve the case.

Even though I literally just said one paragraph ago that the jigsaw was my favourite… I lied. The puzzle that came directly after the jigsaw puzzle was my favourite. This time definitely no spoilers because it was so much fun to open that Box 3 and realise what the game wanted me to do. So I’ll just leave it by saying it was a logic puzzle at it’s absolute finest. More games should include puzzles like this. No, seriously. Designers take note!

In short, if you can’t tell by my enthusiasm – I had a lot of fun with the puzzles in this game. I found them to be genuinely enjoyable to solve which is at it’s heart what all games should do. For sure, I used a couple of hints. Okay, okay maybe more than a couple of hints… But despite this the whole thing felt well balanced in terms of difficulty.

 

 

When you’ve eliminated the possible…

Puzzles aside, let’s talk about the theme. Ruff Bluff’s unique selling point is… Well… Dogs.

If you’re a cat person, look away now. This game is set in the canine universe and is not for you. In fact there aren’t many other animals at all, other than a pesky squirrel, and the occasional off-handed mention of a dog’s owner. For example, my favourite part in the whole game:

“My human recently dug up a part of my back-yard and put in some new plants. I didn’t feel like they did a very good job digging. So I spent the whole afternoon digging several dozen holes all of the yard. Not only did my human not appreciate my hard work, they got upset! – I Can Dig It”

“Dear Dig It, Humans never really understand all the hard work we do for them. Whenever they accidentally vacuum our fur off the couch, we have to take the time and shed more all over it. Whenever a jogger passes by our house, we bark and bark until they keep doing by. This is important work. My advice is to keep digging holes. Eventually you’ll dig one they like and they will reward you with lots of treats.”

As a dog person. In fact, possibly one of only two ‘dog people’ here at The Escape Roomer *grumbles at all the cat enthusiasts here*, I appreciated putting our four legged canine friends at the front and centre of an exciting mystery like this one.

And what a plot it is too. It’s exciting, has twists and turns, and more dog puns than you can shake a stick at. Again, this game is FUN.

 

 

The Verdict

I had a lot of fun playing Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery and I’ve no doubt this one is going to go down as a ‘favourite’ of a lot of folks out there.

For me, the very best thing about the whole experience were the puzzles. I saw some delightful ones I’d never quite experience before and genuinely had fun solving them throughout the whole game. When the box first said it would take 6 – 12 hours, I don’t mind admitting I groaned a tiny bit. Now, having finished the game, it turns out 12 hours is not enough. I want more of the Furlock Holmes universe. Give me sequels! Give me more puzzles! For this reason I’ve chosen to award this game the coveted Puzzle Prize here on the Escape Roomer, for outstanding puzzle design. It’s well deserved.

My particular copy was an early access, pre-Kickstarter copy. As such some of the materials weren’t ‘final’ quality, there were one or two missing bits, and a few corrections to keep in mind. However this doesn’t affect the review whatsoever, since the creator was so helpful in explaining what to keep an eye out and these are things which are planned to be fixed by the time of publication. That’s why I’ve absolutely no hesitation in recommending this game to other players.

In terms of accessibility – it ticks the boxes with no puzzles reliant on colour or sound that could restrict accessibility for any players. The only thing to flag is that in one puzzle you may find yourself looking very closely for details, so potentially not for folks who might be hard of seeing. But otherwise appears to me to be a very accessible game all round. With easy to understand puzzles, I also have no qualms about saying it would be a great game for a family audience. It’s packed with dog puns and so long as you don’t mind the themes of gambling / drinking at a poker game, then you’ll be golden with Ruff Bluff.

 

Presently, Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery can be purchased by backing Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ Kickstarter here.

If you want to see what other games they have available, check out their website.

Hackers: Blood Over Baker Street | Review

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Blood Over Baker Street Review | Sherlock Holmes is missing. You are a group of journalists from The Strand magazine, sent to interview the world’s most famous detective. But you discover the remnants of a scuffle – his usually fastidious Victorian lair is in disarray. But there are clues that something is afoot, a nefarious game that pulls you into the depths of London and beyond. 

 

Date Played: 8th May 2022
Time Taken: ~1 hour
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

 

An Escape Room? Nope… An Adventure Room!

Ok, so, where to begin?! Lets start at the beginning.  The rooms are also located within the same building as a really cool bar and beautifully themed adventure golf course – all run by Hackers. Its safe to say, we were all salivating whilst waiting to check in at reception, given quite how phenomenal this downstairs area looked. Making our way upstairs to the ‘adventure room’ area, we were greeted by an awesomely large waiting room packed with stacks of games to play whilst waiting for your game session. This certainly kept us entertained!

We were also greeted very warmly by our two hosts and first impressions always count so we knew we were in for something special!

Now onto the experience itself…

 

Walking through the first door, the initial area, although simplistic in nature given its Victoria London roots, gives the players just small glimpse of what is to come. Its safe to say, when Hackers themselves bill their rooms as “Adventure” as opposed to ” Escape”, they couldn’t be more honest! This room whets the appetite for adventure like nothing we’ve played before.

Sherlock Holmes has gone missing, and Dr. Watson… Well… He’s been replaced with a robot for reasons made very clear you you in a quirky and light-hearted video at the start. Your first challenge is to work out primary suspect behind Sherlocks disappearance. This was a really novel way of starting any escape room: the normal pressure of time didn’t feel as if it weighed heavy on our shoulders and it gave a nice, steady start into the experience with something for everyone to do in the room.

As ever from me, NO SPOILERS, however, we’d recommend you pay close attention to your briefing from the gamemaster. The way in which you deduct suspects is really clever and although we didn’t make mistakes in our deduction approach, it is very easy to slip up, so pay attention! It’s a clever display of modern technology merged with an exceptional Victorian theme, and expertly done in this first area.

 

But Then… Things Take a Bit of a Dark Turn

This room features a pretty spectacular storyline – so all we can say here is: Expect the unexpected!

Whereas other rooms put their puzzles are the centre of their escape room experience and then build a storyline up around it – Blood Over Baker Street takes the opposite approach. A rich and complex storyline with multiple characters and locations, with each puzzle serving as a mechanic to further the storyline along.

Yep, there are some dark moments (in both theme and atmosphere) but nothing that is there to scare or shock. In fact, my 11 year old came along and there were a few moments where he was a little on edge but nothing that would keep him awake at night!

Again, although we very much wish to stay away from spoilers, perhaps a few of the images from Hackers’ own website will give a sense of that eeriness we encountered…

 

 

Do You Need to be a Detective to Solve this Mystery?!

The short answer…. No!

All the puzzles in this game are short and sharp and won’t push the brain cells to work on overtime. This sits really well with the family approach that Hackers are taking! There is no need for any outside knowledge, if anything there are a number of puzzles in this game which are physical in their nature. With these physical puzzles, it certainly gives everyone there time to shine.

By that train of thought, don’t expect an overwhelming volume of ciphers, combination locks, taxing mathematical equations. Sure, there are a few, but the more physical, tangible style of puzzle takes precedence here. A refreshing break from the norm!

 

An Epic Adventure for the Eyes

Aesthetically, this room is certainly up there as one of the very best. The outstanding combination of attention to detail, lighting, sound effects, and some really inspired room transitions, mean it won’t be one we will forget in a while.

The experience starts in modest style, with a Victorian room as you would expect. Just don’t get too comfortable! As this game carries on, the design just seems to get more and more impressive. Every time we swung open a new door, or got down on our hands and knees to crawl to a new space, inevitably one of us (the first into the new room) would audibly say “Wow!”.

The puzzles also sat brilliantly within theme. Although the storyline definitely takes a few twists and turns and veers off in a direction none of us where expecting, the puzzles sit well within their environment. Not once was there any thinking of “hmm, not sure brightly coloured plastic balls were likely to sit within Sherlocks era”.

Care had really been taken to ensure that everything kept tightly on theme and it felt great!

Something that I found slightly different here to other rooms, is that is does have a very, very linear approach. The opposite would be a multi-faceted approach of giving team the opportunity to work on different puzzles at the same time – this wasn’t the case here. Beyond the first room, it was very much one puzzle after the next, after the next. Although there were a few moments where as a team we were bunched up working on each puzzle together, I actually didn’t mind as it gave me the opportunity to take in the love that had gone into designing this experience and really take stock of the phenomenal detail on show.

 

A Big (and Unexpected) Finale

This experience features no clock at all, so it is really difficult to keep track of time- although there is no actual allocated time to try and escape in. With this in mind there isn’t the normal escape room time pressure, however slowly but surely you could definitely feel some kind of pressure. This mostly came from the storyline ramping up dramatically as we went along. How would it end?! By the final section of Blood Over Baker Street, the tension had increased to a palpable state and clearly the four of us knew it was time to get our game on, and really push on.

Lets just say, discovering the culprit was half the battle, saving Sherlock was a whole-nother game!

 

The Verdict

A beautifully structured game, which, was not only visually stunning, but also had a really strong storyline and varied puzzles which were certainly different to the norm. An experience which would suit the whole family, and one where enthusiasts can get lost in an experience which doesn’t quite fit the normal “escape room” genre.

In terms of accessibility, there are some moments of crawling, and some steps to achieve the full experience. Get in touch with Hackers directly if you have any concerns.

In the worlds of a certain famous detective, booking this experience is elementary my dear Watson!

 

To book this experience, visit the Hackers Billericay website…
Hackers | Adventure Rooms – Escape Rooms – Mini Golf – Billericay, Essex

 

Hidden City: Moriarty’s Game | Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Moriarty’s Game

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Team The Escape Roomer stopping for a cheeky drink

 

Is Hidden City Wheelchair Accessible or Dog Friendly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Time Run Presents: Sherlock: The Game is Now | Review

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Sherlock the Game is Now 221B ReviewLondon needs Sherlock. Instead, it has you. Sherlock is absent. As a rash of break-ins ripple across the capital, one thing is clear: his brilliance is required. Mycroft Holmes has put out the call. The Network seeks recruits: volunteers with sharp eyes, keen wits and a hunger for adventure. Can you step into the shoes of the legendary detective? Good luck: The Game Is Now.

Completion Time: 52 minutes
Date Played: 2019 – 2020
Party Size: 5 – 4

Please Note: This escape room was played by Georgie in 2019 as a team of 5, and Mairi in 2020 as a team of 4. This review is written jointly to reflect both experiences!

Elementary, my dear Watson

I am a huge Sherlock fan. Before that I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. Before that, I was an Agatha Christie fan.

Basically, I like mysteries (no surprise I like escape rooms then).

When it was announced that team from the amazing Time Run escape rooms (RIP) were teaming up with the writers of Sherlock (Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss) I may have fangirled a little. Just a bit… Massively.

The Sherlock escape room would be combining two loves of mine, with the most amazing teams behind it. The question is, did it live up to the Hype?

Definition of elementary: of, relating to, or dealing with the simplest elements or principles of something.

Okay so if I had to choose one word to describe this escape room, you know I couldn’t resist the great detective’s own catchphrase “elementary”! But I must preface, The Game is Now was far from simple!

Five Orange Pips- I mean, 5 unique spaces!

First things first; the set. The room is in the W12 shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London. This is the smaller shopping centre close to Westfield, and I believe there is already another escape room there.

When you arrive, this looks just like an optometrist from the outside – it’s brilliant. Looking in, the walls are lined with glasses and the staff are all dressed in their lab coats and name tags. There are even posters on the windows advertising eye tests – truly the attention to detail, and dedication to the ‘front’ was brilliant.

I don’t want to give too much away about the room that hasn’t already been told, but most people are already aware you visit 221B. I believe they consulted the fabulous set designer, Arwul, for this – and it was amazing. It did genuinely feel like we were in 221B – lots of props from the show, including the Persian slipper, headphones on the bison, and game of Cluedo.

However…you don’t actually stay there for long. It’s just pass of the initial pre-game briefing.

The actual game rooms were…ok. I’d say they were just like good quality escape rooms, honestly. Some clever tricks here and there.

In our briefing we were told we’d travel around London very fast. They weren’t wrong! What starts as a very unassuming opticians shop quickly becomes an exciting briefing at 221B Baker Street (the iconic residence of Sherlock Holmes). We then rushed off to a series of fantastic locations from the TV series such as St. Barts Hospital, Mycroft’s office, and a brilliant (if a little creepy!) museum of medical instruments.

Each one of these rooms I’ve just mentioned was as large as any regular escape room. Furthermore, the attention to detail was practically perfect, giving a real sense of immersion. Despite never leaving the building, I really did feel like I was exploring a whole new location from the TV show each time. Wonderful!

I’ve already touched on the pre-game experience, but I do really want to emphasise how fantastic the staff were prior to the game. It was the most entertaining pre-game experience I’ve had, with some really super staff.

Post-game, you get a debrief, which was quite nice too. You get given your time (55mins for us), a brief rundown of how you performed, highlighting anything particularly clever (or stupid) that you did, and get handed a nice little souvenir. You then get to go into the bar, which again is fabulously themed, with friendly staff.

The Game (Is Now)

What of the game itself?

The reason I thought it important to mention when we went was because there had been teething problems when it first opened. However, I think this is the case for any new room, this one just happened to be more high profile, and therefore they were scrutinised more and their mistakes were more public.

However, by the time we went I think most of these issues were ironed out. We only had 2, at most 3 issues with the room, and it sounds like one of the issues only happened to us.

In terms of puzzles, it has a brilliant variety. There’s a great mix of looking for things, solving puzzles, connecting clues…it was your classic escape room.

However, one of the first puzzles we encountered was probably my favourite puzzle I’ve done in any room. I don’t want to spoil it, but it was very Sherlockian, fitting with the theme perfectly.

It was mostly non-linear, which you need with a team of 5.

One of my only criticisms for this room was the hint system. Although it was slightly different, fitting the theme for each room, we found the hints were a bit hit and miss. Most of the time we were getting hints for things we’d already done, or they came at points when we didn’t need them…or they were coming too late…I think we ultimately only used one of the hints we received.

The Perfect Game for Sherlock Fans

At this point I should maybe mention that I am personally a big fan of Sherlock. This effects my review of course! It’s not just the BBC adaptation I’ve got all the books, and gobble up every TV adaptation as fast as they come out. How on earth it’s taken me this long to visit The Game Is Now is in fact, beyond me.

If you are also a fan, The Game is Now will give particular joy of brand recognition. For the first time in my life I could stand in Sherlock’s room in 221B and look really, really closely at the books on the shelf. Suddenly, the screen flickers and Mycroft himself is talking… To me! Wooo… All the good kind of chills!

Is 221B Worth the Price?

This cost £54 each, which is quite a bit more than the usual rooms I go to.

However, I personally thought it was worth the money.

Admittedly, some of this price tag is based on the name (for me, both the Sherlock name and Time Run name). Yet, when you consider you’re effectively getting 2 hours of entertainment (at least), it’s really not much more. The room was excellent, and I had a really fantastic time.

This is definitely a room I would urge you to visit if convenient.

If inconvenient, go anyway.

I think it’s fairly understood that The Game is Now is possibly one of the more expensive escape rooms in London? I don’t have the statistics immediately to hand, but for our team of 4 players on the specific day we visited, it came in around £38 per person. On top of that, you have to pay an extra £10 if you want to purchase your digital photo. Then, there is the (extra brilliant and actually definitely worth it) upsell of “The Mind Palace” – a bar at the end of your experience to relax and talk puzzles with your team. Which yes, costs even more money. Possibly a lot more, depending on how thirsty you are.

I only really mention the price in this review because the full experience could end up costing around £60 + per person, depending on a few factors!

But that’s the big question: “Mairi, is it worth it?” Here’s my answer: Yes!

Especially if you’re a fan of the show. But non-fans will get a particular kick too. At the core, it’s more than just an escape room, it’s an immersive experience from start to finish. You can’t put a price on sneaking up to an unassuming opticians for an eye test, speaking to your favourite actors, then travelling to immaculate sets from the show where you quite literally get to become Sherlock.

Accessibility Notes

From an accessibility point of view, the room and venue were entirely flat, and I do believe there would be enough room for a wheelchair to move around comfortably, and access pretty much all of the puzzles. There was a place to sit in every section except the last.

You will need one team member who can hear, and one who is fully sighted. The majority of the experience is well lit, bar one section, which is fairly dim (and later, dark). I also found the atmospheric music a little loud at points, but not deafening, and I’m sure you could ask for it to be lowered.

The Verdict?

My team and I genuinely had a great time. For that, I have to give it an almost flawless mark. Sure, I could spend a long time picking apart each puzzle, talking about customer service, decorations, locations etc. Since originally writing this review I’ve had some negative interactions with the company, but those are for another review. At the end of the day I’m in the business of having fun and that’s what I’m looking for. Was I immersed? Did we leave this experience smiling? Yes, yes and yes.

TL ; DR

Pros; Set, Staff, Pre & Post experience, puzzles

Cons; Cost, hype, hint system

The Game is Now is located in Shepherds Bush, London, W12. Tickets start at £30 per person. The Game is Now can be booked on their website: www.thegameisnow.com

The Panic Room: Sherlock Holmes Detective Story | Review

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Sherlock Holmes Detective Story Review | The year is 1912, the location: London town. You and your group think yourself to be a top-notch group of detectives and are itching to take on your first big case. What better start than a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve? You’ll need your wits about you, a keen eye for detail and don’t forget to take notes! Time to bring out your inner detective, with this brilliant online game, with classic styling, challenging puzzles and great story telling. 

​Date Played: 2020
Time Taken: ~ 1 hour

The year is 1912. The location, London Town. Think yourself to be a crack team of detectives? What better than to work on a case that Sherlock himself has been trying to solve! Try and catch up with Sherlock and crack the case of the missing Mrs Haversham.

As stories goes, this is a classic and it hit all the right notes. As the story evolves there are also some great twists, which aide in providing a great sense of reality.  Once again, the Panic Room team have it nailed with an overarching simplistic story, coupled with some outstanding in game detail, which give the characters depth and realism.  

The game starts with a brilliant, black and white stylised video which sets the tone beautifully, It is evident from the get go that this game has a very different feel to the great CSI series of games by The Panic Room. The tension and urgency is replaced by a classic, stylised game which is more fitting to the era in which the game is set. It combines the feel of of their My Dearest Emily game with the detective puzzles of the CSI series- a real match made in Heaven!   

In respect of puzzles, these are really strong. Cleverly,  all the games have a similar theme throughout, by using both a visual and audio clue for each puzzle and working on locations around the streets of London. Trying not to give away spoilers –  it amazes me how well this game has been designed in spite of these features – it adds to the realism of the game and makes it feel like a proper detective case.  

When it comes to difficulty, I would suggest that these sit in the medium to hard range. First timers might struggle on a handful, but don’t be dismayed – a great on screen clue system is in place which provides just the right level of helping hand without spoiling things. Firstly you can choose a more cryptic clue and then if that doesn’t guide you well enough, a clearer clue then follows. If worst come to worst you can reveal the answer – try not too though – everything is achievable. Just put your mind to it, sit back and think of the obvious!   

This game has a real sense of charm brought on by some brilliant interviews with the characters, including some nicely inserted subtle musical aspects. The combination of the charm and the strong puzzles makes this a really enjoyable prospect. 

In spite of the less pressurised experience, the finale of this game culminates nicely, bringing together all your evidence gathering skills and naming the culprit. 

We really enjoyed this game, in particular with the slightly more relaxed feel, some really strong puzzles, brilliant theme and awesome story telling!  Playing this game is Elementary my dear Watson! 

Sherlock Holmes: Detective Story can be purchased from The Panic Room’s website here.

Ratings

ImmerCity: The House of Irene Adler | Review

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The House of Irene Adler Review | Irene Adler has disappeared under highly suspicious circumstances and Sherlock has nothing but a cryptic note to go on. Will you venture into the spiders lair? Will you make it out again unscathed? Will you find her before it’s too late?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 12th December 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Hard

The House of Irene Adler is an escape room by every traditional definition of the word, but we were ever intrigued by the signs around the space that indicated what we were about to experience was very much a show. One hour long, and leaving through one of the exits would end the show early… How curious!

For a limited time, The House of Irene Adler has popped up down an unassuming cobblestone alley in Kentish Town. When Bianca (of Shiny Life For Me) suggested we try out this new part-theatre, part-escape room on the opening weekend, I couldn’t hit “book now” fast enough. But what exactly is The House of Irene Adler..?

About ImmerCity, The House, and Irene Adler Herself…

An new, interactive, immersive mystery from the company that brought you “Silhouette in the Smoke” and “The Unholy Marriage of Slice and Sweetly”

ImmerCity is the brain child of director Rosanna Mallinson (who on this occasional also hosted our game – and someone I am 100% sure I’ve crossed paths with before in the escape room world, but can’t quite put my finger on where!). The company is best known for putting on immersive theatre like no other and pushing the boundaries between what is fiction and real.

In their latest show, players are invited to step into Sherlock Holmes’ London – but rather than meeting the man himself, we found ourselves hot on the heels of Holme’s accomplice, Irene Adler. Miss Adler has gone missing and left nothing but a cryptic note in her wake. The police have been and gone, finding nothing suspicious. Now, it’s your turn.

We arrived at the location and were invited into The House of Irene Adler by Adler’s housekeeper. She insisted there was nothing left to find, but let us have a look anyway. From here, we were led into the dresser room, the door closed behind us, and we were off.

Photo (c) The House of Irene Adler

Take a Trip to Victorian England

One of the most impressive things about The House of Irene Adler is the decorations. It’s a Victorian parlour that has been entirely sourced dressed from objects found in charity shops and it’s impressively authentic.

After a fairly plain lobby space of a normal office building, the first room in the game was by far the most impressive of all of the different environments and was a joy to open the doors and emerge into. From gorgeous period clothing, to trunks of treasures and dainty fans. Beyond this space the environment became a little more rough around the edges but – if you look closely enough – this trend of authentic objects from the era continues. The ‘secret’ living quarters of Irene are decorated with an 1800s cot, and there’s a few really lovely items of furniture.

As your average escape room players, we’re used to picking up every object in a room and handling it from all angles to see what it does. By contrast, The House of Irene Adler doesn’t require a lot of ‘search and find’ and the objects are very, very old. As such, players should afford to be a little more delicate with what they do find.

Another really impressive facet of The House of Irene Adler by far was the presence of hidden rooms. This game contained some of the most brilliant room reveals we’ve seen in a long time. Let’s just say I love it when a whole wall gives way.

Image (c) The House of Irene Adler

When you have eliminated the impossible…

Decor aside, your goal as players is to solve the mystery of Irene Adler. To do that, you must work together as a team internally, and communicate well with the outside world too. You can book for any sized team from 2 – 6 and honestly? A team size of 2 was perfect.

Whilst there are puzzles to be solved and hidden rooms to be discovered, the game is far less about the puzzles and more about the story. There’s a mystery at the heart to be cracked, but you can’t do that by solving ‘puzzles’ alone – you’ve got to think logically about all the evidence you collect over the hour and make a verdict.

How did we do? Not great. But, the more I think about the experience, like any good murder mystery, the more it all fits into place.

There was one dexterity puzzle in the middle of the game that took us a lot longer than we should have done – we definitely feared we’d broken it, but by a stroke of luck we managed to pull it off in the last second. No, the majority of the game was spent reading and pouring over details in letters or telegrams in order to make our verdict. As the time was ticking down we were no closer to the truth, but helpfully hints and theatrical moments from the host weren’t far.

The House of Irene Adler: The Verdict

Even though this experience plays a lot like an escape room, we can’t judge it as an escape room – for those differences are what makes The House of Irene Adler so different. Not a few hours later I was having a discussion with a game designer about ‘social deduction puzzles’ in escape rooms, and The House of Irene Adler was on the tip of my tongue as a game that is all about that. To solve the case, rather than solve puzzles, you have to analyse evidence and communicate with a host of ‘characters’ to succeed.

There were a few teething issues that come with opening weekend and a few immersion breaking moments and a slightly disappointing ending that hadn’t been built up to properly – but many more very satisfying moments of brilliant theatre that make this game stand out. I’ll be thinking about this experience for a long time.

Overall, we had good fun. It’s a shame the experience is only available for a limited time and I would love to see this pop up as a permanent game. But, since it’s only on for a little while longer, it’s definitely worth checking out – whilst you still can!

The House of Irene Adler can be booked for a limited time in December 2021 – January 2022 by heading to their website here.

Escape Live: Moriarty the Last Stand

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The infamous Professor James Moriarty has finally been detained by none other than Detective Sherlock Holmes. Whilst Moriarty was being detained, the evidence linking him to his crimes – his revolver – disappeared. Sherlock believes it to be hidden in Moriarty’s office.

Rating: Fun
Completion Time: 25:45
Date Played: 13th December 2020
Party Size: 6
Recommended For: Beginners

Moriarty: The Last Stand by Escape Live was a classic Zoom escape room. An avatar, a room, and a series of puzzles to solve with a clear ‘end goal’ in sight. In the case of this game – you’re looking for evidence to link the dastardly Moriarty to a series of crimes: A revolver!

The room is a re-imagining of Escape Live’s real life escape room Dr. Wilson’s office. Whilst it’s set in the same location, the puzzles differ quite a lot – so definitely replayable if you’ve already given the real life escape room a go.

First, you enter the Zoom room and are greeted by an enthusiastic and enigmatic escape room host. In our game, we had the lovely games master Chloe (shout out to her!). First, the scene is set, then you get a sweep of the room with the various locks identified, then (to quote Sherlock Holmes) the game is afoot!

For me, the Games Master was easily the best thing about this game. Ours had buckets of enthusiasm and acted swiftly and efficiently on our every request as we rummaged through drawers and looked underneath things.

In terms of difficulty my team of 6 absolutely smashed it in 25 minutes – so I want to put this around the ‘beginner’ level of difficulty. For sure, it’s very accessible (and probably one of the best games to introduce your non-escape room friends to), but a veteran will probably whiz through it!

The game also relies strongly on locks. You’ve got your 3 digit, 4 digit, 5 digit, colour locks, directional locks, and word locks. Locks, locks, locks. Good job I actually (guilty secret) love a good lock or two in an escape room. So largely most of the puzzles will give you a numerical answer, or a word. Making it slightly easy, and again very accessible.

Overall, good fun for a Sunday afternoon.

Moriarty: The Last Stand can be booked for £10 – £25 per player on Escape Live’s website.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

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Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective casts you and your friends as the investigators working to solve 10 cases in Victorian London. Pore over a map of the city, consult Watson’s journals and the day’s newspaper for clues, and rush around London to investigate key locations and interview persons of interest. Follow your leads and put together the truth – only you can collect the proof needed to stop whomever is manoeuvring in the darkness.

Rating: Fiendish!
Completion Time: 2 hours +
Date Played: 30th August 2020
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Murder Mystery Fans, Board Game Fans

Wait what? What is this? It’s a NEW CATEGORY on my website for Board Games? Yep! As you can see, I’ve played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective back in August and I’ve been holding off writing about it. “It’s not an escape room” I hear you say? No, but it’s very, very close. You’ll have to utilise the same logic and puzzle solving skills in order to crack the case.

Please Note: This game has 10 cases to solve, each taking at least 1 – 2 hours. I have decided to write this review based on the first case only (The Munitions Magnate). Whilst the experience of playing differs from case to case, I feel that this ‘introductory’ case is representative of the experience of playing the game as a whole. If there’s any sort of demand I’m happy to write separate reviews for each case.

So to begin this review, there are a few things to know about Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective:

  • The game is completely narrative based. If you don’t like reading a lot of text, this isn’t for you.
  • I’m calling it a “board game” but there actually isn’t a board.
  • It’s really, really difficult. It took me 3 or 4 cases before I realised it was possible to actually solve a case 😉
  • You can’t beat Sherlock Holmes’ score, don’t even try.

With that out of the way, I’ll explain the game!

This game is best played co-operatively in a team of 2 – 6 players. You could definitely play solo if you like, but any more than 6 players and I reckon it might get out of hand. Actually a few weeks after we played the first case, we had a couple of friends round for wine and board games (within our strict social bubble, I’ll add). 3 bottles in and someone suggests we give it a go. It did not end well. So my second piece of advice would be to be on your absolute a-game when you give this one a go.

You start with a map of London, a case book, the day’s newspaper and a London directory. That’s right! No board, no dice, no meeples. Your case book is the game, it’s in here that the scene is set and the clues are to be found.

Once you’ve heard the case and Watson’s advice, you may quite literally move anywhere on the map in any order! Points are given based on the ‘fewest moves’. When I played with Player 2 I think we were up to 30 locations before we tried to give our verdict of the case. A lot of points = A low score.

In terms of those points, technically you’re up against Sherlock Holmes himself. Beat his score and you ‘win’. But I wouldn’t take this too seriously. He’s super-human and frankly impossible to beat. Fight me if you disagree, haha.

*shakes fist at Baker Street*

I mentioned at the start that this is a review for Case 1: The Munitions Magnate, so a few notes on this. The case is quite simple – it’s a murder. The head of a munitions company is shot and robbed. You interview a connection to the victim and then, the game is afoot.

Plenty of place names and people are mentioned in this introduction, so it’s up to you to choose wisely and follow up the relevant leads.

How did we do? TERRIBLY. We followed false leads, asked for help from irrelevant people, never investigated 2 key places, and eventually condemned the wrong person to prison. Then of course, when Sherlock Holmes explains the true solution it all makes sense. I was reminded of this meme:

But was the game fun? Oh ABSOLUTELY! It’s like nothing else I’ve ever played and is such a refreshing experience. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a detective (or Sherlock Holmes himself!) give this a go. It’s completely cerebral, you’ll have to quite literally solve the case and absolutely nothing is going to be handed to you easily.

Even though you may get a lot wrong and wander down the wrong alleys, it is possible to solve a case. And those you don’t solve, you learn a lot from.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders can be purchased for between £30 – £50 from any good board game shop, like this one.

Breakin’: Sherlock’s Despair

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21st of October 1891, London. A dark silence hangs over 221B Baker Street. The great detective Sherlock Holmes has been discovered dead, washed up in the gutters outside a seedy East End opium den. Without his nemesis, the wicked Professor James Moriarty plots world domination from the shadows. You – Sherlock’s oldest friends and faithful assistants – are now the only hope of stopping him.

Rating: Good Fun!
Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: October 2018
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Budding sleuths and Sherlock enthusiasts!

** PLEASE NOTE the time between visiting and writing this review was more than 1 year. **

Sherlock’s Despair was my very first escape room with Breakin’ and it was also the escape room I used to introduce a whole new team to the genre! For this reason, it has a special place in my heart.

If you ever browse Breakin’s website, or ask them which is the hardest – they’ll say this one. For that reason when we arrived we were given the choice of swapping to another room if we wanted … Even with that tiny doubt in my mind that we might not make it out in time, I’m so glad we didn’t swap. Instead, this group of motley beginners, absolutely nailed it. Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out!

Sherlock’s Despair as a game has really cool theming. It really feels on brand (to the Sherlock Holmes vibe, I should say) and like you’re stepping into the detective’s own study. I find it hard not to compare to the last escape room I reviewed (Sherlock: The Time is Now – I do a lot of Sherlock rooms huh?), but where that one was modern and based on the TV show, Breakin’s was vintage and Victorian in all the right ways. Magnifying glasses? They got em! Dusty tomes, cool looking lamps? Check and check! Gimme a deerstalker hat immediately!

And the puzzles? A good mix. There are mathematical puzzles, word puzzles and logic puzzles a plenty – I actually LOVE a logic puzzle, and what better for a Sherlock Holmes room? The room is quite padlock heavy, if that’s you’re thing – so there’s quite a bit of hunting, searching and solving to find a key, or suss out a code. Not only this, but with the most number of puzzles compared to all other Breakin’ rooms – there’s more than enough for the whole team to do.

I’ll admit, this room isn’t as fresh in my memory as my other recent reviews, but I’ve a crazy huge backlog of rooms I’ve been needing to put up on my blog and I might as well start with this. Why? Because I just remember it being so much fun. Smiles all round and a good time to become an escape room fanatic.

Sherlock’s Despair can be played at Breakin’ Escape Rooms in Holloway, London. Prices are currently between £23 – £35 pp. All photos in this review are (c) Breakin’ except the final one.