Mission Breakout: The Lost Passenger | Review

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Mission Breakout: The Lost Passenger Review | Based on the true story of the lost passenger in South Kentish Town tube station in 1924. In 1924, soon after South Kentish Town was closed down, a train stopped at the station by mistake, and a man absentmindedly alighted. The train departed, and Mr Brackett disappeared in the darkness. No one knows if he ever escaped. Are you brave enough to step down into the Ghost tube station and investigate the paranormal activity?

Date Played: 27th March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 47 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy

My personal escape room Kryptonite that I absolutely melt with joy when I experience in a room is authentic theming and props. An escape room themed around the building it’s set in? Tick! Original equipment and props from the era and time? Double tick! Being allowed to press buttons and pull levers from old timey 1920s railway train control rooms that by all right should probably be in a museum behind a glass window? Triple tick. YES! PRESS ALL THE BUTTONS!

Mission: Breakout is located in South Kentish Town Station. It’s in the classic tiled redbrick style of many stations around London, but unfortunately was closed down in 1924 due to low passenger numbers. The building sat there for a very long time gathering dusts… And ghosts!

 

…And he was never seen again!

We booked in to play The Lost Passenger at Mission: Breakout after a very, very long lockdown. My family are long-time fans of urban, abandoned building exploration. Our idea of a fun weekend out is putting on hard hats and descending into the old abandoned railway stations of London (on guided tours of course, we’re not breaking any laws here!). So one Christmas I knew just the gift to get them – a voucher for us all to play this escape room, set in the old disused train station in Kentish Town.

Unfortunately, that Christmas was Christmas 2020 and it took us almost 2 years until we were actually able to redeem the voucher. Even then, the day before we were all due to play, half our party tested positive with covid. After deliberating, the remaining 2 decided to go ahead with the booking – we lost the other two places on the booking but it was still worth it, if we didn’t play now, we may never have gone!

In The Lost Passenger, you descend into the depths of the station in search of a passenger who alighted from the train when it mistakenly pulled up at the abandoned station. Based on a true story, this passenger seemingly stepped off the train, walked into the darkness of the station and vanished into thin air and was never seen again.

 

The Lost Passenger. Photo (c) Mission: Breakout

 

Mind the Gap

Arriving at Mission: Breakout was exciting. It quite literally, is inside an old train station. I’m not sure what I’d expected, but we couldn’t contain our smiles at the details,

“Wow look this bench is an original Great Western Railway bench OMG!”

and

“Look at the tiling here, it’s from the 1910s!”

Our GM who came to greet us in amongst our cries of exclamation was Elza, who explained that it was of the very first escape rooms she’d run. She did a fantastic job – and even managed to tease us with a few jump scares during the game too. She led us down several corridors through the dim lights and past curious features of the abandoned railway station, until we arrived at the escape room. From here, we were shown into the lift that was to take us into the bowels of the train station from whence we may never return.

So, a full disclaimer, this room can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We didn’t know it going in but apparently you can ask for a certain level of scariness and the host can dial it up or tone it down accordingly. Since we didn’t ask, I imagine we got an ‘average’ level of scariness. I scream easily, and my screams probably terrified my co-escaper more than the original jump scares did, but it was all light hearted fun. The kind of ‘doors closing behind you’ and ‘what’s that lurking in the shadow’ scares. No live actors, but a general level of creepiness for sure. If in doubt, just ask them to tone it down and I’m sure they will!

 

Can you read a train map?

In terms of difficulty, The Lost Passenger is definitely on the easier side. This makes it a good room for smaller groups, kids, or people who are mostly there because they love abandoned train stations. For once, I am in the last group. Although, despite it being ‘easier’, it’s still a vastly big escape room space with no fewer than 6 separate rooms, and many of those containing stairs and cool passageways. So it certainly won’t be a quick room to escape from.

One thing to flag (and it’s important to mention for accessibility reasons), is that some parts of this escape room are in the dark. Very, very dark. Almost pitch black. These rooms involve puzzles where you have to feel around for things and then try to solve them in the dark. In the escape room industry as a whole, there’s a little bugbear among enthusiasts about ‘darkness’ being a puzzle in itself. I can see why it (has to) work in this room, and it fits well with the environment – why wouldn’t you be crawling in the dark?

There are also several moments where players must crawl around on all fours in cramped spaces. Again, this is likely just the way that the original site was built, a lot of the rooms in this are workers shafts and tunnels leading between control rooms – but it’s another consideration.

In terms of puzzles beyond “dark and small spaces”, players can expect to encounter plenty of searching and finding, some jigsaws, finding objects to use in other places, and a few very fun cerebral puzzles involving operating the heavy machinery. Largely, the room is less about using your brain and more about pushing and pulling things. It’s a very physical room, and there’s more than a little trial and error to get particular puzzles working, but we liked it. My favourite thing about this escape room was that it really does use all the original equipment, and there’s something very exciting about pushing buttons and pulling levers on machines from the 1920s to make escape room puzzles work.

 

 

The Verdict

The Lost Passenger was a really fun room and well worth the long wait in lockdown. It won’t challenge enthusiasts, but that’s okay – I think the real reason to book and play this is to experience an exciting an adventure in such an impressive physical location. We loved that it was based on a true story, but what we loved the most was the setting, the theme, the creaky equipment, and the general ghostly vibes as we scrambled around the depths of an abandoned station looking for puzzles to solve. Furthermore, Elza did a great job as our host and made us feel really welcome (and more than a little bit scared).

 

The Lost Passenger can be booked at Mission: Breakout in London by heading to their website here.

Society of Curiosities: The Glasshouse Ghost | Review

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

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

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

The Haunting of Winchester Mystery House

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

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

Remember… Ghosts are all about unfinished business!

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

The aim of the game is to find the following:

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

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

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

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

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

Dark Park: Witchery Spell | Review

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Witchery Spell Review | While playing Witchery Spell you will meet 5 young witches. One of them recently turned 23 and mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to her and does the same horrific fate await the others? As young girls, they performed a ritual from an ancient book they found. Now it turns out that this seemingly innocent child’s play may be their downfall. The problem: only someone who is not a witch himself can lift the spell, but what are the consequences? Are you brave enough to unleash the powerful ancient magic once again?

Rating: Spooky
Completion Time: 1hr30
Date Played: 1st August 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Small groups on dark nights

Witchery Spell is one of those games. You know the ones I mean… Everybody is talking about them.

If the at-home escape room industry had a ‘game of the year’ award, Witchery Spell would probably be up for nomination in every category there is. Which is why I’m surprised to be writing that I don’t know if it quite lived up to the hype. But don’t get me wrong – it was still a brilliant game. But that’s the problem with hype, isn’t it?

So all hype aside, we’re going to discuss the game’s merits with one cautionary note: Don’t me like me and place Witchery Spell on a (literal) pedestal in your office and wait over a year to play it because you were too worried about ‘wasting it’ on a regular board game night.

Just play it now! You won’t regret it.

Solve the Puzzles, Save the Witches

Dark Park have created a really well rounded boxed game that is equal parts surprising and delightful in Witchery Spell. At it’s core, Witchery Spell is a story about a group of witches being hunted by a modern day witchfinder organisation. One of their party had recently turned 23, which is the age their original protection spell wore off. Before they’re all found and killed, they turn to you for help. You see- there’s another protection ritual that they desperately need in order to evade detection, but apparently witches can’t actually perform this type of magic themselves. How inconvenient!

What follows is a non-linear style game to figure out a number of things:

  • What happened to the missing witch? And,
  • How we could perform the ritual ourselves?

To help you out, you’ve got a big cardboard box full of stuff, and the internet.

Really Impressive Puzzle Components

What makes Witchery Spell such a special game is the sheer high quality of it’s components. However I’ll caveat that by saying it does come in a very ordinary, and very degradable cardboard box. The box was pretty scuffed up when it arrived in the post *shakes fist at the postal system*, but thankfully the material inside was in tact, packed up tightly with straw.

The components include:

  • Curious jars and vials of ingredients, such as Arsenica, Ivory and Salt
  • Equipment that looks right out of an apothecary
  • A candle, a feather, and some magical stones
  • A small deck of Tarot Cards
  • Several rolled up scrolls
  • Something that can only be described as a “demon summoning mat”
  • Photographs, case files, and other oddities about the witches in question

…But that’s not all, Witchery Spell also has a very large online component, guiding you through the experience and providing guidance and puzzles along the way too. For a two hour experience, it really is an immersive and in-depth game.

Each one of these components I’ve mentioned ended up being used in really delightful ways. There’s one moment in the game, and I’ll try not to spoil anything here, where we suddenly spotted that an earlier item we’d put aside was now doing something very unexpected. Yes ‘doing’. Cue some very excited screams!

So I guess you could say it’s about as close to magic as it’s possible to get.

How Difficult is Witchery Spell?

Our team of three completed Witchery Spell in around one hour and thirty minutes with no hints. We did accidentally skip one or two steps in the game – reaching the next part without fully following how we’d made the jump, but overall this game flows well and doesn’t throw anything super difficult at you!

This means that in terms of difficulty, I’d rate it ‘comfortable’. It’d be a great game for beginners to fall in love with the wonderful world of at-home escape rooms, but still provides enough brilliant ‘wow’ moments and unexpectedly exciting puzzles for veterans. I can also guarantee that even players on their 1000th game will experience something very new in Witchery Spell!

That said, there is a ‘choose your own adventure’ element to this game. I mention this as the ‘other path’ may have wildly changed the difficulty in this game, but I may never know!

Halloween Activity? Look No Further

As mentioned, I had this game on my shelf for literal months. When one of my closest and most enthusiastic escape room buddies visited after a long lockdown, I figured it’d be the perfect game to try out with her. The sun was already beginning to set, we switched up the lighting to red, lit some candles and got stuck in.

In hindsight, October 31st 2020 was one of those days Witchery Spell sat on my shelf gathering dust, and I regret not playing it then! It’s so atmospheric and genuinely puts the player on edge, feeling like they’re inside a world of black magic and witches perfectly. But October 31st 2021? I might just put that refill kit to good use and invite a small team around to give this another go – it’s just that perfect of a game for October.

In particular, I’d recommend this for a team of up to 5 players sat around a table. Better still with candles, and better even still with some kind of witchy playlist in the background.

Overall, a brilliant game. Sure, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, but it’s still absolutely worth the price and I can see how impressive it is in the at-home genre. Go in with an open mind and a sense of delight and wonder and you won’t be disappointed. Especially don’t let this one gather dust on your shelf 😉

Witchery Spell can be purchased for around £55 on Dark Park’s website here. We’d recommend purchasing a refill kit.

A/Maze: Ghost of Pointe-à-Callière | Review

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According to an old legend, a mysterious ghost has been known to appear within the walls of Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal’s archaeology and history complex. For years, people have tried to make contact with the spirit to learn its reasons for haunting the premises—alas, without success. No one knows for sure whose ghost it is. While some think it’s that of an old sailor abandoned by his crew, others believe the lonely soul is none other than that of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, Canada’s most renowned privateer!

Rating: Educational!
Completion Time: 54:12
Date Played: 10th June 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Ghost Hunters, people who would like to visit the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex

As much as I really want to, I’m unlikely to visit Montreal any time soon.

*cries in global pandemic*

You’ll be surprised to hear that the number one thing I like to do on holidays is NOT escape rooms – it’s visiting museums! So being able to virtually visit Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex all the way from the UK is a dream come true in these troubling times. We got to explore the museum, learn the local history, solve puzzles AND look for ghosts? Heck yeah!

The Story

The tale of the Ghost of Pointe-à-Callière is equal parts eerie and spooky: a mysterious ghost has been plaguing the walls of the famous museum in Montreal for decades. To be honest I’m not surprised, walking through the beautifully lit sewers and hidden nooks. If I were a ghost I’d want to live out my eternal damnation here too.

In the footsteps of many paranormal investigators past, it’s your turn to see if you can uncover the Museum’s mysteries. Who is this ghost? What are they doing in the Museum? Will you be able to make contact and put it’s soul to rest. You’ll need to explore the artefacts of the museum and retrace the rich history if you’re to uncover the real reason the ghost is still haunting this spot.

The Museum

Whilst this is a collaboration between A/Maze and Brain Race, the real star of the show for me was how wonderful the museum itself is! I’ll say it again, but it’s brilliant being able to experience this physical space from anywhere in the world and the puzzles made the ‘educational’ aspect of the gameplay a joy.

It’s no joke to say we learned a lot. From the evolution of grain, to local history, to details of artefacts found in the area. Also putting my ‘architecture’ hat on for one moment, the physical space really lent itself to the multi-layered maze-like quality that is vital to a good escape room experience.

There’s a whole area down at the bottom of the map with a ever-stretching sewer-come-cave, illuminated in colourful lights, and a criss-cross perspex glass walkway running through the middle. It’s a really nice location just to be inside of.

The Tech

Ghost of Pointe-à-Callière is played via your web-browser in teams of up to 6 players. You’ll also want to arrange a video conferencing app to communicate with your team mates as you play. Team Escaping the Closet and I typically use a Facebook video chat for ease of access, but you do you.

Almost like a real ‘Museum Information’ board, you can see a 3D map of the whole museum space. This makes navigation of such a large escape environment fairly easy – you can find what you’re looking for on the map and click into it to jump right there. If you prefer to walk around ‘on foot’, the 360 degree spaces will also facilitate this in an interface similar to Google Street View.

Above and below your 3D map on the web page were the puzzles themselves – you’ll probably know the drill: Password boxes, images, riddles. It’s your job to navigate the museum and find what you’re looking for in order to progress through the experience.

As a piece of tech, it was super robust and enjoyable to use. Only one player needed to input the passwords and everyone could contribute and see previous incorrect guesses on their own screen. For sure, we got a little lost from time to time, trying to vaguely describe where each of us was in the map:

“Do you see the giant pig? I’m like 100 paces from that!”

But this was mainly due to just how large the spaces were! Larger spaces = more puzzles to solve!

The Puzzles

Speaking of puzzles… Let’s get into the juicy part of this review!

Ghost of Pointe-à-Callière is a 90 minute escape room experience and it means business. It’s not particularly easy but there’s plenty enough content to keep a group busy and puzzling away for a long time. We managed to complete the experience in just under an hour and didn’t use any hints, but according to the creators, the average team takes much nearer the full 90 minutes.

A lot of the puzzles I’d describe as being close to riddles in style – a cryptic message from the ghost and you need to search and find throughout the museum to figure out what comes next. Many more rely on finding small details in your environment that relate back to the riddle at hand – such as a small detail out of place of an unusual pattern.

There were no lock and key style puzzles, every step of the way we were encouraged to use the content of the museum to the maximum and thus really pay attention to what we were seeing – but I liked this a lot! It is such a creative way to engage with a museum in a fresh way.

Overall

At the time of writing we are in 1st place! Woooooo!! 🎉

Though I’ve absolutely no doubt we’ll quickly be bumped down the list as more players discover this hidden gem and hit the ground running.

Prize or no prize, we really enjoyed playing Ghost of Pointe-à-Callière though. It’s opened up a whole world of opportunity of more escape room and museum collaborations, though this one will be very hard to beat in style and brilliance.

Ghost of Pointe-a-Calliere can be purchased for $50 CAD on A/Maze’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

Online Escape Rooms Ireland: O’Brien’s Cottage | Review

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Eddie O’Brien bought a plot of land in the hills of West Clare. Against the advice of then locals, Eddie chopped down an old Hawthorn tree to make room for his cottage. His neighbours warned him that the Hawthorn tree was a Faerie tree and a curse would befall anyone who cut it. Since then, every generation of O’Briens to live in that cottage has suffered a sudden and unexpected death. It happens always on a night with a strange and sudden storm, and the locals report hearing the wailing of a woman in the wind.

Rating: Quaint and Curious!
Completion Time: ~35 minutes
Date Played: 8th May 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: People missing escape rooms in lockdown!

The first thing to explain about O’Brien’s Cottage is that it is available in three formats:

  • A real life escape room in Ennis, Ireland, which you can book in person once they’ve reopened!
  • Remote Avatar, where the host guides you around the room and performs actions on your behalf
  • Digital (Telescape), where you get a 360 degree view of the room and each interaction triggers a video

We played the latter style of game! No live host, but a room we could explore at our own pace and a pretty nice inventory system to boot.

I tackled this digital game on a dreary, rainy morning with Escaping the Closet! Our usual 4th team member was away for the weekend and so we got together for a back-to-back escape room marathon, starting in Ireland with O’Brien’s Cottage.

The Story

The story of O’Brien’s Cottage is spooky to say the least! After chopping down a mysterious old tree and placing his cottage on the site of it, a curse befell the O’Brien house passing down from generation to generation… A banshee curse! One cold and spooky night the locals hear wailing from the cottage and it’s up to you to go and investigate.

What you find inside is a mysterious series of locked cupboards and shelves and a major spooky vibe – tied in with local history, historical photographs, and eerie paintings. It’s up to you to see if you can figure out the mystery of O’Brien’s cottage and break the curse once and for all… woooooooOOOOOOOooo 👻

The Experience

As mentioned, we played O’Brien’s Cottage entirely in a piece of software called Telescape. What this means is that we logged in, could see each other’s mouse on the screen, and were able to seamlessly navigate around a 360 degree view of the real life escape room. At various points in the game you can zoom in on items and click them to examine them further. This is how you might find locks, or hidden items to add to your inventory. It also lets you take a closer look at items you might need to read or physically manipulate.

As a step away from remote avatar hosting, once we successfully completed a puzzle we were presented with a short video of us ‘solving’ that. E.G. Inputting a correct code, or twisting a lock to open a door. The game also had some interesting physical manipulation of items and puzzles, for example good use of the click and drag and drop functionality in Telescape, triggering correct answers once successfully solved.

The Theming

When you first enter O’Brien’s Cottage, if not for the eerie intro video, you’d think it were actually quite a warm and cosy environment to be. You’ll find yourself face to face with a cosy arm chair, some interesting pictures on the wall, some cupboards and shelves – essentially, everything you’d normally find in a real cottage living room. Just don’t look behind the- ARGHHH!

The Puzzles

O’Brien’s Cottage was a kind of hybrid between linear and non-linear. You can read that as: I don’t remember if we did things in a particular order, but that’s what happens when you play with the powerhouse Escaping the Closet team (haha!) we all just kind of jump in and start tackling puzzles head on.

What you can expect though is that there are a good amount of codes and keys. If I counted correctly, around 5-6 padlocks to unlock and behind each of those were items you needed to collect and tidbits of information to be used to solve the next puzzle.

Overall the puzzles weren’t too difficult and, with the exception of a puzzle about wheels, we weren’t tripped up! In particular, I really enjoyed a puzzle that reminded me of a jigsaw, and I loved a logic puzzle they included too! Gimme a logic game any old day! Woohooo!

The Company

A new heading I don’t normally use in my reviews *gasp*. But this company deserves it! I wanted to highlight that one of the best parts of the escape room experience was the customer service we received. From the first point of contact, through to playing, to listening to feedback (and constantly improving their games), it was an absolute joy to chat to and get to know Sarah, the owner. Props to escape room owners who love what they do and care!

Overall

Such a delightful room to play! I pictured myself in the eerie cottage perfectly – as the wind howled and rain fell outside my own window here in London! This game has buckets of charm and really scratches that escape room itch whilst we’re all still stuck at home in lockdown. I’d recommend this game to anyone!

O’Brien’s Cottage can be booked on Online Escape Rooms Ireland’s website here.

Scarlet Envelope: Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri | Review

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Mr. Ferri, the extravagant animal lover and the owner of the creepiest mansion in town, has suddenly passed away. The word on the street is that he was killed…by his own lion! But…was he really? And why is his wife hiring you to get him back home, while his son is talking to Ferri’s spirit through the ouija board? Looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands!

Rating: Unique!
Completion Time: 1:45
Date Played: 3rd May 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: Curious folks who want to unravel a unique narrative mystery!

📢 ANNOUNCEMENT 📢

You can win a copy of Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri from now until May 5th by heading to our competition page. Good luck!!

Woohoo, we are back with Chapter 5 (I feel like I’m really powering through these lately!) in the Scarlet Envelope series. Inching ever closer to ‘the truth’, AKA finding out more about your mysterious Scarlet Envelope master and why, oh why has he been sending you throughout time to solve mysteries?

Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri is unique in every sense of the word! It’s true, this game sticks with the general ‘mystery’ theme but steps away from the crime-y / whodunnit vibe of Breakfast for a Serial Killer and Cabaret in Lapin Blanc. Instead, you have a lot of information to sift through in what feels more like a scavenger hunt and a ‘grand finale’ minimal online interface that rounds out the story nicely. It’s more narrative heavy than I expected and we spent a lot of time with each individual character understanding who they are. Despite the lack of murder, I felt like I was on the set of the film Knives Out, complete with colourful and eccentric characters!

The Story

The rich old Mr. Ferri, an animal lover and owner of an almost certainly haunted mansion, sadly passes away. The only problem? Nobody really believes he’s actually dead. Every year Mr. Ferri sets up an audacious prank for his family members- a scavenger hunt if you were. The winner each year gets a larger portion of the Will.

Even with no body found, a very satisfied lion and scraps of clothing is enough for the detectives to call this an accidental death-by-lion. But you’re hired to figure out what really happened. Could it be possible Mr. Ferri is dead, or is this just some elaborate ruse? The game is afoot!

I love it! It’s light hearted, funny, and utterly charming. If he were real, I reckon I’d be great friends with Mr. Ferri.

The Experience

Almost everything you need to complete Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri is in the envelope! Unlike the previous games, this one I believe relies the least on an online interface, and besides an introductory voicemail, I only used my laptop at the very end of the experience to input my final answer.

The game, in a slight twist I haven’t seen in another escape room experience STARTS with a logic grid puzzle. I say I’m surprised because I’ve played (and designed, hah!) a few which use logic grids as the anchor but usually end with the successful completion of your grid. Instead, Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri begins with the completion of the logic grid. You can’t even begin to solve the puzzles until you’ve done this step.

The reason being, one of the key ‘pranks’ Mr. Ferri plays is that he’s assigned each member of his family a totem animal. But until you figure out who is who, you can’t do a lot with the information!

Once this IS out of the way, you then must work methodically examining each of the totem animal puzzles one after the other and solving the tasks that have been set for them. The bear, the crow, the snake, the cat and the horse. Each puzzle solved gives a solution, which when taken together gives another solution which completes the game! It’s a nice structure and again, a cool concept!

I had a minor tech issue at one point – specifically the web interface which requires you to assign each family member their animal, but this was quickly solved by finding a link in the clues page.

The Puzzles

I found this game… Really hard! I think whizzing through Breakfast for a Serial Killer lured me into a false sense of security because this one was fiendish! Sure, sure, I think I’m playing on “difficult” mode, but heck I also think I used a hint on almost every puzzle *hides with embarrassment*

The part I enjoyed the most was the logic puzzle. The game gives you a table, but I chose to draw out the full grid myself. After all, if a logic grid is going to be done properly, you may as well draw the whole thing out! And actually, it was a good shout! I needed it. There’s a lot of information (I believe 6 separate categories to track), and only so much you can do without drawing it out.

Another puzzle that was a lot of fun involved some physical manipulation of paper, but I’m not talking about cutting or folding! One of the items in the envelope, when solved correctly, gives a hint at what you should do with it next. I spent a good 15 minutes being like “surely not”, before checking the hints and realising oh yes, I literally have to do this thing. It’s hard to explain without spoilers, but put it this way – it’s a quirky use of printed material I’ve only ever seen in one other play at home escape room and I am very impressed!

Besides these two puzzles, the rest of the pack was typical Scarlet Envelope: “Wow this is so difficult to solve” to an immediate “Oh wow!!” when you finally do crack it. Players can expect to encounter a wide range of things to do and mysteries to solve in this game.

Other Cool Things

  • To access the clues page, you must always first solve a puzzle. This one was actually pretty tricky, in a good way! I almost gave up and emailed the creators and them *boom* I suddenly saw the solution that gave me the access to the hints.
  • There’s a playlist! Yay! I love a game that comes with a good Spotify playlist and this one really set the mood.
  • Another nice touch was that I was super pleased to see see some minority representation in this game. I may be wrong but I think it’s the first game in the Scarlet Envelope series to feature a POC main character

Overall

A brilliant little game that really challenges the brain! I’d recommend this one to anyone who wants to play something a little different. It’s funny, good for a small group, but it’ll still really challenge you and provide some wonderful “aha!” moments. When playing by myself I tend to request clues sooner and faster, but I reckon this game might be their longest yet and could easily give you 3 hours of fun!

Don’t forget, I’m hosting a contest with Scarlet Envelope right now where you can win a game of your choice! Enter here! But if you can’t wait that long, you can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope for $20 CAD (~£12) per month on their website.