Escape Boats: SOS & Convicts | Review

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You and your team are trapped on an abandoned, crippled boat. Your mission is to gather information, repair the boat and escape – before it’s too late! // You and your team are convicts, imprisoned on the good ship Zorg Ella. Using your wits, intelligence, and teamwork, can you work together to escape before the ship departs for the colonies?

Completion Time: 30 mins // 62 mins (out of 90)
Date Played:
March 2023
Party Size:
2
Difficulty:
Easy

Whenever I go to a new country, or even city, I love to find a local escape room to do, as it’s often very different from what is available near me. Usually, this involves a lot of research on blogs, travel sites, and Facebook, but for our recent trip to Dublin, I immediately knew where I was going to book – Escape Boats. It has been on my list for a while as I’d heard it was an escape room…on a boat…that really utilised the fact it was on the boat.

Luckily for me, since first learning of ‘Escape Boats’ they’ve introduced a second room, so we booked both for the same morning.

 

 

SOS

We started with their original room, the one I heard so much about. We were first lead to the steering cabin (probably not it’s technical name), which is where the GMs monitor the games from, before a door was revealed, leading us to the belly of the ship. This is where we began the game, so right from the start you are fully immersed in ‘boat’ aspect. The concept of ‘SOS’ is that you wake up on a sinking ship, so it was particularly cool that we started next to the actual engine of the boat!

From there we really raced through the room (completing it in half an hour!), as it was totally linear (one puzzle led to the next). For the pair of us this was absolutely fine – we worked on everything together, but for a larger team I can see this being a little frustrating. However, the puzzles were all well thought out and fun to solve, and fit in perfectly with the theme and story. The room really did feel like it was progressing throughout in a natural way – first we had to turn on the electricity, then find a way to communicate and send an SOS message, and then find a way out. It also felt pretty spacious given we were just on a boat, which actually fit two separate escape rooms – they’ve done a really good job of giving you the impression of size via clever tricks and sparse (but still relevant) set dressing.

It’s the final room that really sets this experience apart though. If you don’t want a spoiler I’ll just say…think boat. For those of you who do…

think boat?

To solve the final room you have to flick a lever…which starts filling the room with water! Luckily I had already spotted a couple of pairs of wellies conveniently placed as we had progressed through the room, and made sure we put them on before entering this room!
I was actually very impressed and excited by how quickly the water came in – the room is probably larger than it seems, as although the water appeared to flow very quickly it only made it up to our ankles before we managed to stop it.

Not only was this every exciting (and the reason I had heard about this room in the first place), but it just shows how well this company have designed the room and taken on feedback. Apparently, many early teams had managed to solve the puzzle before, or just after, flicking the lever to trigger the excitement, so didn’t get the full experience. They have therefore modified the puzzle to stop it to only be ‘active’ once it has been triggered, and completely randomised so you can’t figure it out beforehand!

Overall, although this room was a very quick experience for us, we enjoyed it a lot. It was on the easier side, as we didn’t need help at all and only used half the time, but this also meant we were never frustrated. All the puzzles made logical sense and were fun to do, and the room itself was fantastic.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Convicts

It was only natural to book both rooms at the same time, so after a quick coffee break at a nearby cafe we returned for their newer game. This is designed to be a head-to-head game, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do 1-v-1 as I had hoped due to the nature of a couple of the puzzles, so instead we did both sides…one after another. I think this is fairly unique – most head-to-head rooms tend to be mirror copies of one another, but in ‘convicts’ the two sides were similar, with a couple of the same mechanisms used for a different puzzle, but different in a lot of ways. We didn’t feel like we were repeating ourselves at all when we were into the second half – we were still experiencing new things and having to think how to solve certain puzzles. This was also a fairly unique aspect – rather than playing one side through, then the other, the first half lead to the second half before leading to the common final room.

Once more, this room does a fantastic job of feeling big and spacious, when actually it covers any space at all. This was partly achieved via the small rooms packed with puzzles, but also the method of moving between rooms – tunnels. These were great fun for us, but I can see this being a real issue for anyone with mobility issues or spacial concerns. However, I thought it was a really novel idea that meant the rooms themselves could capitalise on more space, and surprise you with your route to the next step.

This room was definitely harder than the last, and we were stuck a few times. There were more puzzles, which were a little trickier but this also meant they were more interesting. Once again, everything was themed really well, and there was less linearity at the start.

We escaped in 61 minutes – I believe we had 90mins available as we were playing both rooms. Technical issues hampered the ending slightly, but this is easily forgiven and explained by a very quick turn around to get us in early after the previous team had finished.

Overall, I’d probably still recommend ‘SOS’ over ‘Convicts’ for the novelty aspect, but why not do both?!

Rating: 4/5

 

Accessibility

Minor spoilers

Vision: Convicts starts in the dark, with near to no light until you complete the first puzzle. There are also a couple of puzzles that are done in low lighting, and one requiring colour recognition. SOS is a little dim, due to the nature of the room.

Sound: Hints are delivered via a speaker, so there will need to be someone who is able to hear to utilise this. There is an audio puzzle in SOS, and a puzzle requiring communication between two (or more) teammates in Convicts.

Physical: This may be one of the least accessible rooms I’ve done! The spaces are very small – it felt crowded at times for even two of us. I could see it easily becoming too cramped and warm with more! There was climbing required for all teammates in both rooms, as well as crawling required for Convicts (for all teammates). Convicts also starts with very low headroom (I am 5ft3 and had to crouch to start), and to access and exit both rooms you need to climb up/down ladders.  I would advise against doing this room if you have claustrophobia, mobility issues, or are unable to fit into small spaces for any other reason.

Location and overall verdict

The location was fairly easy to get to from central Dublin, although we got a bit lost trying to find the boat itself (both

Google and Apple Maps were sending us to the wrong part of the canal). It is based just over the bridge from a handy Caffè Nero and independent cafe, which also have toilets for use.

I think this was a fantastic pair of rooms, clearly designed and ran by people who care. Our GM was really friendly and welcoming, and did a great job of hosting us. We had a lot of fun, and I highly recommend you visit if you are going to Dublin! I am also awarding this our ‘Wow award’ as a I think what they’ve created for both room is very unique and innovative!

SOS and Convicts can be booked on the Escape Boats website here

 

The Complete Guide to Tulley’s Escape Rooms Sussex

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The Escape Room Adventures take you on a journey of discovery as you puzzle your way through the gameplay and unlock the many secrets within. The easiest room is Mutiny, our pirate-themed room, which is ideal for beginners, families, or a group with mixed experience. Our most challenging adventure room is Nethercott Manor – our haunted manor, which is a fast-paced challenge. We would recommend Dodge City, The Outfitters & our newest room SpellCraft for teams that have some previous escape room experience.

Date Played: December 2022
Number of Players: 5
Time Taken: ~40 Minutes each
Difficulty: Expert!

Tulley’s gained its reputation for being one of the best companies in the country a few years ago and has managed to retain it when many others failed to move with the times, or unfortunately closed due to the pandemic. It had long been on my to-do list, but I had been prevented from trying any of their 5 games for a number of factors – namely location, cost, and the necessity to have an expert team to even attempt the rooms!

Luckily for me, the stars aligned at Christmas (well, boxing day) last year – my parter was gifted the day as part of a brand deal, my mum happened to be visiting us (as it was Christmas) and had a car, making transport that much easier, and I had confirmed the availability of the final two members to make us up to a team of 5 experienced players! It may not have been most people’s choice for how to spend their boxing day, but for us it was magical…

Tulley’s has 5 rooms, ranging in theme and complexity, so this is really going to be a whistlestop tour! I also want to highlight their amazing GMs who looked after us throughout the day – Adam, Dan, Ellie, Ed, Jamie, and Tyler – and of course their boss – Sooty the cat.

 

Dodge City

Dodge City in 2127 remains a stronghold of the wild west. The constant tussle between the Sheriff and local gunslingers means there’s opportunity abound for some creative bank robbery for those with wits and courage. As a member of the Notorious ‘Barn Door’ Gang you’ve been caught by the local sheriff breaking into the bank. Locked away with little hope, hired by an unnamed outlaw and facing the ruthless justice of the old west you’re left with only one option. As the sun sets the race is on to break out, reclaim your supplies, pull off the bank job of the century and get out of Dodge City.

Dodge City was our first room…and one of their hardest! Immediately on entering it’s obvious how Tulley’s have earned their reputation – the set design is amazing and extremely immersive, and there are surprises throughout the game. Even as a hardened spotter of fake doors and moving bookshelves, I soon gave up trying to anticipate what was coming next.

This room started with one of my favorite tropes – being separated! We were placed in separate cells, and this obviously required good communication from our newly assembled team, as well as a neat form of contact between us. We then progressed to all things cowboy and outlaw related. I don’t want to give away too much, but the set design and theming were amazing and definitely felt like you were progressing through Dodge City as you progressed through the room. There was only one point in which we were truly stuck, and this was largely due to a breakdown in communication and confusion over who a hint was intended for. Otherwise, this room was one of the most fun rooms we did all day, with some unique puzzles I’ve not seen before (or seen used in a different way), really appealing to different skills. As a team of 5, we only made it out with 4 minutes to spare, which was a great way to get the adrenaline going for the rest of the day!

Rating: 4/5

 

The Outfitters

It’s 1926 here in Chicago, and depression is still rife. Jobs are few and far between and the Prohibition has been in force for six years now. Everyone still drinks, nothin’ has changed. But now the mob control the streets, the supply and the money. The influence of the Outfit is far-reaching. Most of the cops are even under their control. Who can put them in the joint? You can, that’s who. The Commissioner has put together a special task force of straight, trusted cops and you’re on the team. You’ve spent the last few months infiltrating their network and now tonight is the night to get the evidence you need to put them away forever. But it won’t be easy, your cover might be blown! Do you have what it takes?

The natural progression from ‘cowboy’ is ‘mobster’, right? We moved almost straight from the Wild West into a mafia front in Chicago. We entered into an unassuming tailors shop, before discovering all was not what it seemed… The use of space at Tulley’s continued to be a lovely surprise, although the set felt a little more tired and rough around the edges in this room. That’s not to say it wasn’t good though – hidden information was the name of the game for Outfitters (what more could you expect from Gangsters), with themed puzzles and ’20s mechanisms running the room.

In this room, there were a few moments where mechanisms didn’t trigger or triggered when they shouldn’t have, and we were much less active than we had been in Dodge, with only a couple of us solving puzzles at a time. We managed to escape with a respectable 19mins remaining and an eagerness to sink our teeth into the next one (after lunch). Although this wasn’t a bad room, I’d say it was fairly average, and if this was the only room we’d done…I would have been disappointed.

Rating: 3/5

 

Spellcraft

The SpellCraft twins, Evilinda & Spellinda, two witches, two paths, two shops, two worlds, two journeys, their two magical worlds collide, and you find yourself in the middle of their story. SpellCraft will take you on a magical adventure, you’ll need to work together, but in the end there’s always a battle, will you escape and who will win?

Our next room was the newest room at Tulley’s, and the room that has quickly become a favourite of most players (myself included) – Spellcraft! When I first heard it was a magic-themed room my reaction was probably similar to many other enthusiasts – “not another one!”, “How is this going to be any different from all the other magic rooms?” , “why do people love this so much? What’s so good about magic?”

However, it was unlike any magic room I’ve done before, and has truly earned its place at the top of many lists. Firstly, you can tell from the waiting area that the set and story are going to be completely different from any other magic room. There are no “wizard school” or 4 “magical houses” that happen to be primary colours…

Instead, we were once more split into teams – this time “good” and “evil” – and given wands, which stayed with us and were used throughout the game. We were also given cauldrons to collect/carry things with us, which was a nice touch I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Inside the room, the set design was once more delightful and surprising. The set is huge, but of course, you don’t realise this at first. However, there is a truly magical mechanism within the room and we were transported again and again to extremely different settings and places. There were a lot of fun puzzles here too – some familiar, others less so, and the climax of the room brings together the two teams in a fierce battle of good and evil, which we obviously won.

Overall, while I can’t remember (or didn’t see) quite a few of the puzzles the experience itself blew me out of the water with the magic and joy I felt. As a team of 5, we escaped with 16 minutes remaining, and I enjoyed every second. This is an amazing room, one of the best in the country I’d say, and makes me excited to see what they do next.

Rating: 5/5

 

Mutiny

It’s the year of our Lord 1672, and you be right in the height o’ the golden age o’ piracy… After years of sailin’ the high seas, you and your crew have succeeded in your fair share of ambushes, and as a result – your ship is teemin’ with bounty. Yet you’re still suffering beneath the cruel wrath o’ Captain Starling – a notoriously bloodthirsty buccaneer, and your shipmates have decided you all shall take matters into your own hands. After all… you fought for the gold, so the gold is yours for the taking, aye? Once the old seadog has retreated to his berth for the night, you make your move. Get in, get the treasure and get out. You won’t have long before he starts to stir – and Starling shows no mercy to ANY soul…

After that amazing experience we needed to calm down a little, so found ourselves upon a ship in the easiest room. This was again misleading – although our initial perception was that of every other pirate game I’ve played (as we solved it as such, by guessing digits in combination locks and skipping steps), once we were out of the cabin we had clearly been played.

As you might expect for a ship, this game required more physicality than others, but these were more to reveal/solve puzzles than being the puzzle itself. There was one particularly unique feature of this room, which was fun to build and use, but otherwise, this was your average pirate room, just more polished and better executed. Ultimately we escaped with 22 mins left, and we had fun doing so, but we were looking forwards to the final room.

Rating: 3/5

 

Nethercott Manor

The old manor house is entwined with local legend, the living don’t remember the Nethercott’s, the family’s hay day was long ago. Local folk talked, whispers were heard, rumours began, lights were seen within. The Nethercott’s are long gone but something remains, an essence, a smell, a feeling, it’s in the fabric, in the walls, under the floor boards … it ticks, it creeks … take a trip into the past, uncover the family’s many secrets and glimpse their fleeting souls?

Finally, the room that put Tulley’s on the map (for me at least) – their largest and hardest (I think), as I didn’t even see half of the room – more like 1/3! It was also the one I was most nervous before, being a massive wimp and this being a haunted house. Nevertheless, I couldn’t pass the experience up, so I steeled myself and forged ahead. 

The atmosphere is obvious from the start, finding ourselves outside the front door of an abandoned house, with an atmospheric soundtrack doing nothing to ease my nerves. The immediate puzzles were fairly easy, clearly luring us into a false sense of security before we entered the manor itself.  Once inside, the set is appropriately dimly lit (until you’re able to find the fuse box at least), with many old-fashioned items of decor and themed puzzles attached. This is also when you get your first taste of the spirits that haunt the house, and it became clear that I was an easy mark for the GM. 

How scary?

For those of you of a similar disposition to me, I will just reassure you that nothing physically jumps out at you, but there are a lot of loud noises, which the GM can, and will, trigger whenever they feel like – especially if you are an obvious target stood next to the item in question.

This first room had the most frustrating puzzle I’ve seen in any room…ever. We found out afterwards that even the GMs will struggle to complete it, so usually, they take pity on the players and allow them to bypass it (ourselves included). Usually, this type of time sink would annoy me, especially in a room as large as this, but we actually addressed most of the room at the same time as this ‘puzzle’, and the GM clearly knew the right time to give us a nudge that gave us a chance of solving it, without feeling frustrated.

From this point, we barely saw each of our teammates again until close to the end of the room. I found myself with my mum solving a series of logic puzzles while being terrorised by the GM ghost. We also encountered a smell test, which worked well given we were in the kitchen. From what we saw afterwards, our teammates were working through similarly well-themed puzzles for their respective rooms, across a large variety of skills. 

The final puzzles were once more of the deductive style (my favourite), before quite a fun/creepy ending (depending on your perspective). We managed to escape with 9.34 left, which is quite an achievement given they used to sell this as an 80-minute room, and I know many people who didn’t manage to escape! This was definitely a great way to end the day, and almost my favourite room.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

Overall experience

The team at Tulley’s were fantastic, and the rooms were large and immersive, while still delivering high quality puzzles. We appreciated the drink offerings, and usually they serve food on the farm too. The introduction videos are also worth mentioning – very entertaining, and slightly unhinged, but they weave into an overall lore, which I’ve only seen a handful of other rooms do as effectively.

This is definitely a must-visit for any enthusiast. Although we could award this nearly all of our badges, we definitely think they’re most deserving of our “I believe” badge, for just how immersive and expansive their rooms were.

Accessibility

Minor spoilers

Audio – nearly all the rooms require some form of communication between players. Spellcraft, Nethercott and Dodge also featured audio puzzles/prompts, although not everyone will need to do these.

Vision – Nethercott, Mutiny and Outfitters all had fairly low lighting at points. Dodge required a small amount of colour identification, as did Nethercott and Outfitters.

Smell – Nethercott has a smell puzzle!

Spatial – In Dodge you start in a small cell, so if you have issues with space I recommend being the only person in yours. There are also some small spaces in Nethercott, Outfitters, Mutiny and Spellcraft, but none require all team members to enter. There are some smoke effects in Spellcraft, as well as Nethercott.

 

 

These rooms can be booked on the Tulleys website here

Scarlet Envelope: Ashes of Persepolis | Review

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Ashes of Persepolis Review | Travel to Ancient Greece to solve a mystery of Persepolis, the priceless Persian city burned to ashes by Alexander the Great. The hero’s secrets are interwoven into an intricate puzzle guarded by Olympian Gods and an all-seeing Oracle. Only the mightiest can read Oracle’s cards to find out what really happened in Persepolis.

Completion Time: 1hr30
Date Played: February 2023
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Hard

I have been waiting a very, very long time for a game that’ll pique the interest of my partner. You see: they’re not really into puzzle games. Their idea of a good time is a museum or two with a pub break in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, that sounds excellent, but after our museum and pub trips I love nothing more than sitting down to a puzzle or two. Anyway, there’s a good reason I play a lot of at-home escape rooms solo. That was until the wonderful duo behind Scarlet Envelope announced their latest game: Ashes of Persepolis.

Historical? Yay! Ancient Greece? Woohoo! Absolutely drop dead gorgeous graphics? Check, check, double check.

But why do I bring up my partner? Well, they studied this very topic at university for their Undergraduate and Masters. In short, I had a veritable expert playing next to me, and one just as enthusiastic for a game as I was!

 

 

History and Mythology Come to Life

In Ashes of Persepolis, we found ourselves completely immersed in the part-fiction, part-truth world of Ancient Greece. Similarly, the story of Ashes of Persepolis spares no detail. Throughout this game we experienced a captivating tale set in ancient Greece that weaved together myth and history to create a rich and immersive, puzzle filled world. The game is based on the mystery surrounding the burning of Persepolis, the Persian city that was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Some Scarlet Envelope chapters are material-light and online-heavy, and others the opposite way around. In this one, there was a perfect balance. The envelope is thick, weighty, and filled with some of the prettiest little things you’ve ever seen. Peculiar, triangular shaped oracle cards, an enormous map of Ancient Greece on one side and stars on the other, and a few other trinkets that come into play as the game progresses. The game spares absolutely no detail, and is so gorgeous looking I’m genuinely considering hanging the map of Ancient Greece on my wall – yes! Really!

This story unfolds not just via the puzzles but also through cinematic content. You see, between each puzzle was a short, well put together video which revealed a little more of our strange quest each time. The videos add a sense of drama and intrigue, and provide a welcome respite between puzzles to sit back and relax. To play this game, we also Googled “Ancient Greek covers of modern songs” and let me tell you there are some fantastic ones out there. In short, the scene was set, candles lit, and we were well and truly immersed.

 

 

It’s all Greek to Me…

Once we got stuck in, we particularly enjoyed  doing unexpected things with the physicality and unique shapes of the oracle cards – though no spoilers here. You’ll have to play the game if you want to see exactly what I mean! My favourite of the puzzles was probably the one involving the aforementioned map of Ancient Greece, or a particular little delight moment whilst on the Artemis card (unsurprising, as they’re my favourite of the Greek gods). Each puzzle felt like a step forward in uncovering the mystery of Persepolis, and the video segments that followed were a great reward for solving them.

In terms of puzzles, well… This game was hard. Maybe the most difficult of the series yet. We also found the game to be slightly front-weighted in terms of difficulty, with the first few giving us the most difficulty. As the game unfolded, we found our rhythm eventually and it mellowed out from “wait, what?!” to a comforting level of challenging. If I had to give exact reasons why I believe we struggled (and I probably should, given this is a review), I’d say the following:

  1. When ordering your Scarlet Envelope you get to choose between easy or difficult. Though I’ve never confirmed with the creators (I fear their answer might be the opposite of what I expect), I assume I’m getting the difficult edition.
  2. Our third player was brand new to not just Scarlet Envelope, but tabletop puzzle games in general
  3. The lighting was low, and this game has a lot of small finnicky parts
  4. We lost one of the parts

Yes… You read that last one right.

Annoyingly, on the very first playthrough we lost a very important item – the item that would take us to the clues page. Emphasis on: We lost. It’s not impossible to solve without it, but we got very, excruciatingly, frustratingly stuck. We managed to bypass the clues page with a little guesswork and a little help from others, but came up against another issue when something else on that missing item proved to be vital to the gameplay. So we skipped that puzzle to the best that we could, and played on.

It was only a whole three days later when I finally found the missing piece. I can only assume it had fallen out when I first opened the envelope, and been brushed underneath a piece of furniture, because boy did we look at the time. Funnily enough the missing item was a coin. Where did I find it? Nestled against a few actual coins. I think my apartment is a ‘coin sink’ and somehow managed to suck in this pretend coin along with it. Hah.

I only mention it as – if it seems like we struggled on this game, it’s probably got more to do with my own losing of a vital piece. But thankfully the support team replied immediately (despite being in a very different time zone) and did their best to help at short notice. But if you’re reading this review and looking for advice before you start playing, my advice is: don’t lose anything.

 

 

The Verdict

Sure, but if we struggled so much – why do we still rate this game so highly? Well, its a very good game. What you get for the price with Scarlet Envelope is second to none, and Ashes of Persepolis might be one of their best looking tabletop experiences yet. I admire everything Scarlet Envelope create, and they’ve once again outdone themselves with Ashes of Persepolis. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

In terms of who we’d recommend this for… Probably only for more seasoned puzzlers – it’s better played as a part of the full Scarlet Envelope series, so by the time you get to this chapter you’re familiar with how the games work. Maybe invite your favourite history buff along (it helps, especially with the Greek language in the game), for the best experience.

In all, another solid addition to the Scarlet Envelope series.

 

Ashes of Persepolis can be purchased by heading to Scarlet Envelope’s website here.

EscapeSC: Break the Internet | Review

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Break the Internet Review | Congrats! Your company’s new social media site, Sincere Screen, is about to get a big update! Nothing could go wrong…right?

Date Played: February 2023
Time taken: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

Escape SC are easily one of the most unique groups of people out there crating escape games because… Well… They’re a university group! Damn, I wish we’d had something like this when I was at university.

As such, it’s always a little hard to talk about the “Escape SC” style, because it changes year on year when new students join the club, and other graduate (hopefully onto a very successful career in game design themselves). But what the group does do consistently is create one, sometimes two new digital games each year, and if there’s one thread uniting all of them, it’s that they’re really, really good.

 

 

Break the Internet

Their latest adventure is called “Break the Internet” and poses you, the player, as an unpaid intern for a website about to launch a big social media campaign. Except, the files are corrupted. Too bad your boss is on holiday and can’t remember her password to the laptop she’s saved all the correct imagery on. It’s up to you to fix everything. Find those photos, fix the issues, or risk your internship. So, no pressure, hey.

The story is light-hearted and contains more than a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour! We’ve all had a dreadful internship like this where your bosses think they can just shunt their problems onto your plate whilst they go off on holiday. I’ve no doubt the students at Escape SC are also creating from the typical student experience of sacrificing a lot to get into university, get the best grades, only to be given the most menial and needlessly stressful job ever. Yeah, I’ve been there too.

Sandwiched between a few other more ARG-like games, my regular team of Escaping the Closet (Al, Ash and Tasha) got together to give Break the Internet a go on a calm Monday evening. I’d just finished up with work moments earlier, and was excited to dive into my second shift internship at Sincere Screen. A call from my new boss? Sitting somewhere sunny and sipping a cocktail. Ugh, the audacity of some people. Haha.

 

Web-solutely Good Fun

In terms of gameplay and puzzles, Break the Internet differs in earlier games by the team such as Science Splice in that we found it a little bit shorter and a little bit easier – but no less fun. We really enjoy the humour and topics they cover, good puzzles are just the icing on the cake. You start at your boss’s desk trying to crack her password based on a number of clues. Then, once you get into the computer, you’ve got to search around for the files to find what you need.

As you can imagine, many of the puzzles revolve around computers – there’s search and find, there’s mathematical puzzles, and there’s a fun amount of interactive ones too. What can I say, I love drawing on the screen. Hidden among those puzzles were memes and gems from the early internet era, neatly tied in with a very realistic “file hunt” game mechanic we enjoyed a lot.

There’s a logical sense of progression and linearity, but at times that linearity is taken quite far. What I mean is, at any given time all of us were working on the same puzzle at the same time. This is part in the way the game is set up, but also in the way that when one person clicks something it redirects for every player. So all of us were, quite literally, on the same page. Without being able to have different players move around different screens at once, we resorted to using screenshots of information from one area to solve another puzzle, and in more moments than not, one person did the bulk of the clicking, whilst the rest of us watched patiently.

If this isn’t an issue for you, then you won’t be bothered by this – and for us, we were doing this room at a more leisurely pace than we normally would, so though unusual, we still found it fun.

 

 

Surfing the Bright and Colourful World Wide Web

One of the things we enjoyed the most about Break the Internet were the visuals. Quite simply, this is a really lovely looking game. There’s a lot of care and effort gone into making it pop, from 3D graphics to illustrations, to a bright and poppy internet interface. As with previous games, Escape SC do a lot with a platform like Telescape, typically used for converting physical escape rooms to a digital format, instead Escape SC take the genre of a play at home escape room and create fictional worlds packed with details. It’s a lot of fun.

The team have also gone to the extra effort of having video portions where you’re introduced to the characters of the game, setting the story and breaking up the puzzle solving chunks.

 

The Verdict

Break the Internet is a fun game. We completed it quite fast – but we still reckon you get a lot of value for your money with this one – at the time of writing, it costs $7 USD to play Break the Internet, but we were kindly provided with a code for free. It would be best played in a smaller group, perhaps even best played solo. Some of the earlier Escape SC games are no longer available, so whilst I don’t know what the team’s plans are for this one – it’s best to play it sooner than later!

 

Escape the Internet is a digital game and can be booked by heading to Escape SC’s website here.

Department of Magic: Prophecies Quest | Review

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Prophecies Quest Review | As the last hope for the magical world you must collect The Prophecies and use them before it’s too late. The Dark Lord has hidden The Prophesies so you must find them in The Department Of Mysteries before using them to defeat him. You need to hurry, The Dark Lord is on his way and only you can stop him.

 

Completion Time: 32 minutes (out of a possible 50)
Date Played: January 2023
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Having moved to Edinburgh a little over 6 months ago, you’d have thought I’d have played all of the rooms here by now? Well, not quite. There are a few that have been on my radar that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Department of Magic was just one of those places, and the occasion of two of our loveliest escape room friends from home in London coming up for a weekend to visit was just the ticket to finally book it.

Sandwiched between the potion mixing cocktail experience at the bar portion of Department of Magic, and a trip round the corner to Cocktail Geeks (currently running a Lord of the Rings themed experience), we had an hour to spend. Without haste, we got ourselves booked into to play the more popular of the two games at this hidden wizard-themed speakeasy: Prophecies Quest.

Wands at the ready, witches and wizards…

 

Let the Magic Begin!

If you think of Edinburgh escape rooms, the chances are Department of Magic isn’t on your radar. But let me tell you why it should be. Located a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle is a mysterious little black door located at the bottom of a little rickety iron staircase. Behind this door is a tavern lifted straight of a storybook. The walls are lined with peculiar magic trinkets, and on each table is a gaggle of magicians brewing the most brightly coloured, bubbling, fizzing and smoking potions- I mean, cocktails.

This is the Department of Magic. It’s best known for it’s ‘pub’ portion. With advance booking, you can grab a table for normal drinks, or one of their special brew-your-own potions, which are fairly reasonably priced for how exciting they ended up being. We did book ourselves into one of their sessions in advance, but it ended up being about the same price as if we’d have just booked for a normal table and ordered off the menu. But in truth, we weren’t really here for the cocktails… We were here foe the escape room out the back.

When your game session begins, a mysterious wizard in a long dark cloak approaches you and asks if you’re the chosen ones here to save the world.

“Yessir!” we exclaimed, before following her through the door in the back and into the briefing area.

 

 

Fortune Favours the… Wise!

Before entering the escape room, we allocated a captain, and that captain looked at four great wizarding traits – Wisdom, Bravery, Cunning, and… Well, I forgot the fourth one, as people often do. We chose wisdom, and were given a special item for it, which would come into use later.

Them, in a flurry of magic, the bookcase swung open and we were off to a flying start!

Prophecies Quest is an unusual escape room for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a multi-room experience, but you have full run of the area. You don’t need to complete any particular room in order. Secondly, there are no locks. Everything is done with magic. Impressive – but probably a lot of work for our games master listening out for us saying the exact correct spell, or performing the exact correct action!

Beyond those two details, the room was your standard magical room. Players can expect potions, spell casting, dragons, dark wizards, the whole shebang. Just like in a pirate room I hope to see treasure maps and chests and the odd skull here and there, by now we’re familiar with rooms set in the wizarding world, and Prophecies Quest was a classic, well executed example. Notably, one that took good care not to tread too heavily on any particular well known IP. Kudos to them!

 

A celebratory drink for afterwards!

 

A Spellbinding Escape?

The room’s uniqueness was also it’s strength. We were very, very fast out of the room (almost record breaking in fact, there were just a few seconds in it), but I think on reflection it wasn’t really a room designed for competitive folk trying to break a record. It was a room all about fun. And on that note, it succeeded.

I absolutely love rooms that make you hop around on one foot and hum your favourite song, or make you flap around like chickens and crouch down on all fours. I love rooms that make you roleplay what you’re actually doing, so that you live and breathe and feel what you’re doing. Prophecies Quest did that really well, and it’s a shame it’s an 18+ room (well, the whole venue is) because this would be an excellent one for families.

Ultimately, this escape room is best played between a round of cocktails. I would expect 99% of players to go into this room having just come from the bar, so none of the puzzles are incredibly puzzling. Many of them require physical actions and working together in a silly way. So whilst it won’t necessarily challenge the most hardcore escapers, it will encourage you to have fun, and that’s a double thumbs up from me.

 

 

The Verdict

Well worth visiting! I’m surprised Department of Magic isn’t more popular. Not that it isn’t, just that I hadn’t heard any other enthusiasts recommend it on a visit to Edinburgh – but I want to change that right here and now. Add Department of Magic onto your trip, and for extra fun, book yourself in for their cocktail brewing experience for a perfect, photo finish to your evening.

Finally, a shout out to our host for the escape room, who was the fantastic Hannah. She let us know that she usually runs their other room (which we’ll definitely be returning to play), but today she ran our room instead and never once broke character, providing fantastic help, encouragement, and a thorough brief and debrief after. Escape rooms can sink or swim by their team’s hosting ability, and Hannah did a superb job!

 

Prophecies Quest can be booked at Department of Magic in Edinburgh.

Hunt a Killer: Whodonut | Review

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Fred Jackson Jr., the co-owner of Do Not Not Donut was killed behind the counter while opening up the shop. You will assume the role of a deputized detective trying to finish the work of ace investigator, Detective Frage. Along the way, you’ll put the pieces together to reveal the crime scene, answer the lingering questions in the Detective’s Notebook, and choose the right pieces from the Answer Board to fill in the blanks and solve the case.

Completion Time: 4 hours
Date Played: November 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Moderate

Fun fact about me: I love jigsaw puzzles!

Although, having been in the escape room industry for some time, I’m beginning to think that’s not so uncommon around here. Entering into the great unknown, hunting through a large amount of information, following your unique method for success, ‘competing’ as a team and ultimately solving the ‘puzzle’? It can sound a lot like what happens inside an escape room and I am here for it.

So when Hunt a Killer reached out about their new murder mystery jigsaw puzzle, I was intrigued. The concept wasn’t new, but I’d never tried one myself. Jigsaw puzzles AND solving puzzles?! Sign me up.

 

 

What is an Escape Room Jigsaw Puzzle?

In Whodonut, the gameplay officially begins when you open the box and spill out all the jigsaw pieces onto your table.

The jigsaw part, for me at least, was 99% of the gameplay, and took me several hours over a couple of days. Made extra difficult due to the fact you have no reference picture, your only knowledge was that it was a scene from within a donut shop moments after a horrific crime had taken place. By piecing together the puzzle, the clues would slowly reveal themselves and you’d be able to crack the case.

Except, on successful completion of the game, we realised some of the pieces were blacked out. Oh no! Vital information missing. This was where our detective notebook came into play. In Whodonut, the detective’s notebook explains the case and, at the end of each section, asks a question. The answer to the question could be found in the jigsaw we’d constructed, and gave us a single letter answer: A, B, C, D and so on. This then corresponded with an additional section hidden in the jigsaw box with push-in windows. For behind each of those doors were those missing pieces.

The goal is therefore quite simple: Answer the questions to get a letter, to push open a door, to get the missing piece. Rinse and repeat.

For sure, it’s not as puzzle-y as say, Ravensburger’s Jigsaw Puzzles (which, after playing this one I immediately rushed out to purchase as I wanted to experience more of this kind of puzzle and jigsaw cross-over), but it does provide many hours of satisfying gameplay. If you’re a fan of puzzles anyway, why not add a little murder mystery into the mix to make the whole thing more exciting?

 

 

Cracking the Case, One Piece at a Time

As mentioned, the gameplay split was around 99% of the time spent constructing the jigsaw and 1% of the time solving the case. For the first half, my player two flitted in and out of the game, occasionally helping to construct. As such, it’s a game best played solo or in a couple who have the time to dedicate over a couple of days. In short, just like a real jigsaw is.

Once the jigsaw was constructed, the game was over in a matter of 30 minutes or less. The reason for this was a combination of it being a fairly straightforward case, and having just spent so much time staring at the pieces, most of the questions we were able to figure out quite quickly from noticing small details.

We had a little back and forth, trying to decipher some nuance with exact wording in the notebook, but nothing overly challenging. Searching through the completed image was also a fun experience, as the scene is rendered in a beautiful visual illustration complete with delicious looking donuts… And a lot of blood!

The real question: Was Whodonut fun? Absolutely yes. I really enjoy jigsaws, and I doubly enjoy jigsaws when I don’t have a reference image, and I triply enjoy jigsaws when theres a final step after the final piece is placed in.

 

 

The Verdict

Hunt a Killer’s Whodonut was a delightful surprise that offered a lot of fun over a couple of days. They add their own unique twist to the “escape room jigsaw” genre and show off their strengths in creating a fun murder mystery that is also accessible to relative newbies to the genre.

Given the nature of this being a ‘murder’ mystery I wouldn’t recommend it to younger folks. There are some dark themes and even darker images that might just put people off their donuts for a while.

But overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another and give it as a gift to either the jigsaw lovers or puzzle enthusiasts in my life. Hunt a Killer have done an excellent job and I look forward to what else they make in the future!

 

To purchase Whodonut for yourself, head directly to Hunt a Killer’s website here.

Compendium: UI-55 | Review

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Compendium UI-55 Review | A German U-boat named UI-55 was found in the river Thames. Have you and your team got what it takes to sneak aboard and retrieve all of Britain’s wealth before the German soldier’s return?

Date Played: March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: ~50 Minutes
Difficulty: Expert!

When we were planning our mini-break to the North we chose Manchester due to the escape rooms. I had heard such fantastic things about UI-55 that it was a bit of a no-brainer. This room has actually won multiple awards, and (spoiler alert) is one of the few rooms I’ve done that I think is well deserving of the hype!

 

All Aboard UI-55!

The premise of UI-55 is that you have discovered a German U-boat, hoarding plenty of British treasure, and you only have an hour to recover as much as possible. The first thing you’ll realise upon ‘boarding’ is just how massive this room is. For context, it fills an entire floor and is apparently the size of two normal escape rooms put together! However, if you’re worried that this looks like a big rectangle, don’t be! It’s very much structured as a submarine, with long corridors and windy passageways to traverse. I loved the general size, and the attention to detail in that every nook and cranny reads as ‘submarine’. I had great fun running up and down, as the puzzles absolutely cover the space, and you will need to get elements from each area to complete some.

The other thing to be aware of is the sheer amount of puzzles, especially given the 60-minute time. In a normal room, you might expect to complete 10-15. Here there are nearly 30 to complete alone, which each give you a task to complete and then a key to use to retrieve some loot (depending how quickly you locate the right locker). Luckily, you don’t need to complete all of the puzzles – from memory, you only need to complete 21 within the time, with a very clear (and very fun) indication of when you should really move into the final phase of the room (the loot grabbing).

 

Baffles

As you might expect in a room with such a large variety of puzzles, they are all completely different with a fantastic variety. If one puzzle isn’t your forte (*side eyes the dexterity puzzle*) that’s ok! There is always another puzzle to do instead. Some of these puzzles are available upfront, some require you to complete others to gain the materials you need. It’s fairly obvious which bits go with which puzzles, and what you need to do. There are also clues scattered all over the place in the decor, and even some answers which are available to you right from the start! Completing a puzzle gives you a code, which you use to get some tokens, which are then used to gain keys, which are then used to unlock lockers. Luckily, as a duo the ‘gaining keys’ stage can be skipped, as I can see that this would take quite a bit of time, and personally, I feel is a step too far for any team.

I can only remember what a few of the puzzles were in the game, as I was very much running around like a headless chicken, completing one puzzle and then moving on, but I know I’d love to redo the room just to have the same experience again! I also know I only saw around half the puzzles, with my mum clearing half the sub by herself and me clearing the other half. If you or your teammates are the sorts of people who want to know what everyone has done so far or how they’ve reached their conclusions…this is not the room for you. We had to trust that we each had a grip on what we were doing and that we would call for help if needed, or if there was a puzzle we couldn’t figure out. Even when it came to the co-op puzzles we were so aware of the time we just trusted each other’s instincts, and if we ever found objects we weren’t sure of we checked in with each other to see if they had an idea. Honestly, it’s probably the best teamwork we’ve ever had as we didn’t have time to argue!

Normally I would talk about flow, but honestly here there is so much to do in so little time we were never stuck, bored or frustrated. The team are so slick with their clues too – they know exactly when to give us a nudge, what sort of nudge we needed and clearly could tell what we were each working on.

This room is also an example of my favourite type of room – the type where you don’t need to 100% complete it, but if you have the time and skill you can. This meant we were determined to grab all the loot, so really pushed the time at the end to get all the lockers unlocked and money in the bags.

I could go on and on about this room, but it’s honestly the best room I’ve ever played, and I could easily go and replay it (especially as I know there are a lot of puzzles I didn’t even see the first time!).

Accessibility (spoilers!)

As I mentioned in my previous review for the other Compendium rooms, there are some steep stairs to reach the room. However, there are chairs to sit on inside the room itself. It’s a bit dim in places, with lots of reading and colour requirements. There are a couple of puzzles requiring hearing, and some requiring dexterity. No crawling in this one though! You should also be fine if you’re concerned about claustrophobia, as although this was set on a submarine it was actually pretty spacious.

The Verdict

This is a short review because the verdict is simple. This is a must-play room, and we are awarding it our highest award; The Badge of Honour.

I’ve played many of the top rooms in the TERPECA and ‘Escape the review’ lists, but this is hands down my favourite. It’s going to be a long time before this gets knocked out of number one for me!

UI-55 can be booked by heading to Compendium’s website here.

Natural History Museum: Mystery at the Museum – The Search for Dippy | Review

Mystery at the Museum: The Search for Dippy Review | The year is 1905 and you have been invited to a special preview of the newest display at the Natural History Museum – ‘Dippy the Diplodocus’.  But when you arrive the curators are in a panic and you realise something is amiss – you’ve found a note that tells you several parts of Dippy the Diplodocus are going to be stolen before the display opens!  Follow the clues around the Museum, question the suspects and track down the culprit before the King arrives for the display’s launch. Can you help the curators prevent a national scandal?

Date played: October 2022
Time taken: 90 mins
Number of players: 3
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

 

Night at the Museum

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Which of us wouldn’t leap at the chance to sneak around behind the scenes in a museum after the public have been ushered out and the doors locked behind them? And when that museum is London’s Natural History Museum in South Kensington the appeal is even greater.  London’s museums and galleries have long embraced the idea of late, after dark openings with extra access to exhibitions alongside bars and live music.  But the NHM’s ‘mystery’ evening might be the first time a museum has allowed eager ER enthusiasts and puzzle hunters to roam its corridors in search of suspects and solutions.  Trying to temper my excitement that, at nightfall and behind closed doors, the exhibits might come to life for me as they did for Ben Stiller, I headed down to South Ken to find out if my detectoring skills were up to solving the mystery at the museum.

Impressive Game Space

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

First up, wow.  Just wow.  When we arrive at dusk the Natural History Museum is looking glorious in the gloaming.  It really is a stunning piece of Victorian architecture which lives up to it’s ‘Cathedral of Nature’ epithet.  Entering under the main arch is thrilling when you realise that you’re really about to have this vast space to yourselves for the evening.  Well, you and probably 75 other people.  And only a few of the galleries.  But still.  You still feel… special.

But if there’s anything that’s guaranteed to make you feel insignificant rather than special it’s the humungous skeleton of a blue whale that greets you as you enter the central Hintze Hall.  Suspended dramatically from the ceiling and lit up in startling red, the whale certainly draws your attention.  There’s not much time, however, to feel the vast inferiority of the human species because as soon as you arrive a game card is pushed into your hand and you are whisked off to meet Inspector Lestrade.  The game, it seems, is already afoot.

 

Prehistoric Puzzling

 

One word of warning – although the publicity for this event promotes it as an ‘escape room-like game’, it is most definitely not an escape room.  Arrive expecting an ER and you will be disappointed.  Attempt to rummage around the museum, opening drawers and searching cabinets as you would in an ER and you’re likely to be expelled!  But while it isn’t an ER that doesn’t stop it being a whole heap of fun.

To get started you need to read the game card you were given on arrival.  It outlines the mystery that faces you.  The unveiling of the new exhibition featuring the skeleton of Dippy the Diplodocus is due to take place tomorrow.  But a suspicious note has been found, suggesting a crime will take place before the grand opening and which could plunge the museum into unwanted scandal.  The game card also gives you the names and brief bios of six suspects who have been ordered to stay in the museum by Lestrade until the case has been closed.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

 

Lestrade also gives you a copy of the note and your next task is to decipher it.  This is really the only actual puzzle involved in the game and it’s not especially hard but does get you moving around the galleries that surround the main museum hall.  And stopping to ask a few of those suspects some penetrating questions along the way will also help your case solving.

Because this is mostly about interacting with those suspects.  It’s really a traditional ‘whodunnit’ and you will get the most out of your evening and the event if you spend time grilling the suspects (whose period costume makes them easy to spot) and honing your theories.  You can question them as often and for as long as you like, or listen in as other players ask their own questions.  Although they may tell you a few lies, they will also give you some nuggets of truth and if you can unpick their elaborate webs of accusations, fabrications, deflections and evasions, you might just be able to work out, in the words of Mr Sherlock Holmes himself, who had the “means, motive and opportunity” to commit the crime.

 

Dippy’s Dino Denouement

 

Once you’ve solved the opening puzzle, interrogated your suspects and worked out a convincing theory you can take your hypothesis and test it on Sherlock.  Holmes solved the mystery in 17 minutes himself so he’s happy to throw you a bone or two if you’re not quite on the mark.  And if, after a couple of guesses, you’re still not 100% correct, Holmes will take pity on you and give you the full story.  Because no-one wants to go home without knowing who really did design to destroy Dippy’s debut.

 

The Verdict?

 

Overall, if you approach this as a mystery solving game along the lines of a traditional murder whodunnit then you will have loads of fun.  The mystery is sufficiently knotty to keep you questioning suspects and untangling theoretical threads for well over an hour and, for the adults, there’s an in venue bar to keep your whistle wet and your mind sharp.  Full kudos to the actors playing the suspects who handle even the most obscure of questions with aplomb, keep in character throughout and manage to retain details of the multiple narrative threads all while dropping gentle hints and prods to get you moving in the right direction.  And the venue itself, the access to certain areas of it after hours and when it’s empty of tourists, is worth the price of admission alone.

A few minor niggles.  Any expectations of difficult tradition ER puzzling will be disappointed and I think, personally, that they should remove the reference to an ‘escape room-like game’ from promotional material and instead focus on the massive positive of it being a strong mystery-solving evening.   Those ER players who don’t enjoy engaging with live performers will want to steer clear as well.  Talking to the actors throughout is the only way to play this game.

There were also some weaknesses in communication that left us unaware we had to take our final conclusions to Holmes to be checked.  It was only when we eavesdropped on other groups that we realised.  And there’s no satisfyingly dramatic conclusion when the culprit is officially unmasked.  Because the event has a staggered start time with groups arriving and getting started throughout the evening, everyone reaches their final answer at different times.  Once we’d reported to Holmes, that was it.  Game no longer afoot.  So the evening sort of petered out.

We had a fun evening though.  Not too strenuous on the little grey cells, but a nice little mystery to solve in a fantastic location.

 

This event runs for a limited number of days in October and November. Book via the Natural History Museum website here.

 

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum London

Local Bonus

If you want to get into a suitable detective frame of mind before the game, or want to continue afterwards, then I highly recommend a visit to the Evans and Peel detective agency (about a 15 minute walk away).  A secret speakeasy bar with a fantastic, and inventive, cocktail menu, you need to provide a good cover story before you can gain access.  The more imaginative and bonkers the better.  It’s advised to book.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency, 310c Earls Ct Rd, London SW5 9BA

 

Please, Don’t Touch Anything VR | Review

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Please, Don’t Touch Anything VR Review | Covering for a colleague taking a bathroom break, you find yourself in front of a mysterious console with a green screen monitor showing a pixelated live image of an unknown city. Also present is an ominous red button with the simple instruction to not touch anything! Push the red button once or press it many times. Your choices and actions will lead to outrageous consequences and over 30 unique puzzle endings.

Developer: Four Squares, BulkyPix
Date Played: June 2022
Console: Oculus
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: ~2 hours

Every time I saw a warning on this game that read “Not for the faint hearted” I thought “Hah! How bad can this be?! It’s just a game where you’re sitting in front of a console pressing buttons.” Then I found myself worshipping Satan, being scared out my mind by demon standing behind me, and watching the human race get wiped out… Repeatedly.

That said, I still wouldn’t describe it as a horror game. I’d describe it as a fixed perspective escape room game. Which is a fancy say of saying “button pushing simulator”. It’s just you and the console, and a lot of different outcomes. Where most escape rooms just have one (you escape), this has multiple. But the idea is the same, you’re solving puzzles and performing actions in a small 2x2m room to achieve them all. And let me just say… It was some of the most fun I’ve had in VR in a long time!

 

 

About Please, Don’t Touch Anything

The original “Please Don’t Touch Anything” was a short pixel art game released by a Russian indie studio Four Squares for PC way back in 2015. It received a large amount of praise and the studio, in collaboration with Escalation Studios then went on to release a 3D version of the experience just a year later with virtual reality support. Later the game was launched on Nintendo Switch, and has continued to be met with praise for many years since.

Skip forward to 2022, and I’m idly scrolling through the Oculus store with a 30% off voucher in hand looking for a new title to try out. I wanted something short, fun, puzzley, a little bit creepy. After punching those filters into the search engine, there was one title that kept coming back to me: Please, Don’t Touch Anything. Well, of course I wanted to immediately touch it.

 

 

“I’ll be right back, don’t touch anything!”

The game begins with you in a small room with a large console in front of you. Your colleague appears at the door and says he’s popping out for a quick bathroom break and for the love of god, he implores you not to touch anything on the console. With a wave, he’s gone. It’s just you and the room. Oh, and a giant red button.

Amusingly, on my first playthrough I didn’t touch anything. My colleague appeared back from the bathroom and thanked me for being so diligent, and the game ended. I was immediately respawned into the room and it begun again. This time, I hit the big red button and triggered a nuclear apocalypse…

So far so good.

If you can tell from that brief description, Please, Don’t Touch Anything is a game of many many endings. Thirty endings to be exact. It’s best played with no expectations – you walk in, you press buttons, or you don’t, and you get a curious ending. The game restarts and you’re immediately hooked on a need to uncover every single one. What happens if you push this button? How do you get the hammer? Is that a UV blacklight? With each playthrough a new facet of the world reveals itself. How will you destroy civilisation this time? Or will you simply press a switch 50 times and nothing will happen. Perhaps you’ll make it your mission to clean up this (very messy) room. All valid game choices all with unique endings.

It’s also a game packed with many pop culture references. From TV, from films, and from other video games. Delightful nods to puzzlers past and some very creepy moments I’d only seen on the silver screen suddenly brought to live in VR. I love it!

 

 

Button Pushing Simulator Now in VR!

If you’re familiar with the original 2D version, there are enough changes in the VR/3D version to make the game feel innovative and fresh. Endings are different and things have been added. For the whole part, it’s a game that works well in both 2D and 3D but as a big fan of virtual reality I think it works really, really well in this medium. For starters, you’re pushing buttons and toggling switches and this feels extra immersive in virtual reality. Want to pick something up? You can simply bend down in real life and pick it up and manipulate it in real life.

In terms of controls, it’s not perfect, but that’s to be expected for an early VR experience. My hands in the game didn’t always move to where I wanted them to be and I found it was often quite tricky to stretch over objects and reach things. For the best gameplay, you need a large space to play in at home so that you can move around freely. You can play this standing up or sitting down. It might be slightly more immersive (and easy on your legs) to sit down, but I played it largely standing up. If you don’t have a large space, you can stay rooted to one spot and use the in-game mechanic to teleport around fairly easily too. No motion sickness here!

 

 

Where are the Puzzles?

Like any good puzzle game the primary ‘puzzle’ is figuring out what to do. Then figuring out how to do it to get the output you want. For sure, there are plenty of ‘classic’ puzzle mechanics the escape room enthusiast will recognise, like Morse Code or binary inputs, but it’s largely a game of sequence memorizing and inputting a variety of data pieces into your console creatively. You might find a 4 digit code on one playthrough that you suddenly remember 10 playthroughs later and input it. You might spot a symbol which ends up being a map to guide you around a grid of buttons. There are a few ciphers, and some very fun uses of black-light, and so on and so on.

In short, I think it’s a fantastic game for the escape room enthusiast to play. It’ll push everything you know about solving escape rooms to the limit, and then some. A unique game that doesn’t quit fit into any category box, but definitely one I think you, dear reader, will enjoy. Puzzles a-plenty.

 

 

The Verdict

I really, really enjoyed playing Please, Don’t Touch Anything. It’s tongue in cheek humour was the perfect setting for a quirky little puzzle game like this. When writing about any VR game I like to consider whether such an experience would be possible in any other medium other than VR. There’s nothing in it that wouldn’t necessarily be possible in another medium – the example being that it’s also available as a non-VR title, but it’s so much better in VR.

I’d not hesitate to recommend this to any other escape room enthusiast and I think it’s got a rightful place in the Oculus catalogue as a game puzzle fans should definitely check out.

Please, Don’t Touch Anything can be purchased for Oculus Quest 2 on the Oculus store page here.

Breakin’: The Flying Dutchman | Review

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The Flying Dutchman Review | Avast ye! Tell me, shark-bait, have you heard the legend of The Flying Dutchman? That dreaded ship captained by the sea-devil Davy Jones and his undead pirate crew? You’d best start believing in ghost stories… you’re in one! After your ship sinks in a great tempest you awake aboard the Dutchman. If you don’t escape before sunrise you’ll be trapped aboard her forever. Legend tells of a mythical diamond – the Heart of Calypso – which can break the curse. It’s hidden somewhere on the lower decks. The sun rises in an hour. So shiver your timbers, swash your buckles, and batten down the hatches. You need to discover the diamond to escape the ship and a watery doom!

Date Played: May 2022
Number of Players: 6
Time Taken: <30 Minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

My favourite thing in the whole world is introducing new friends to escape rooms. My second favourite thing in the whole world is when they love the escape room and spend the whole time laughing and having an absolute blast.

For me, The Flying Dutchman at Breakin’ Escape Rooms was a perfectly ‘okay’ escape room. For the friends I took with me to play this one, 4 people who had never ever played any escape room before, they loved it. This makes The Flying Dutchman a fantastic ‘entry level’ room to bring your puggle friends to. It perfectly encapsulates what an escape room is with a mix of physical and mental puzzles, but isn’t in the slightest bit challenging meaning that even the most beginner of teams will ace through it and feel extra smart.

 

A Pirate’s Life for Me!

The story of The Flying Dutchman is your classic pirate ship escape room game. You play as a team of pirates who find themselves trapped on the dreaded ghost ship – the Flying Dutchman, captained by Davy Jones. Your ship has sunk and you’re trapped on this one with just one hour to try to escape or else you’ll find yourself in a watery grave too. Nothing like a little pirate themed peril to get the excitement going.

The setting was a large and well-furnished pirate ship. Think wooden floorboards, cannons and cannonballs, ropes draped from the ceiling and a big ol’ pirate ship wheel in the middle of the room. At first glance, especially compared to someone of the other escape rooms at Breakin’ you might think “this is is” but there’s a couple of sneaky extra spaces hidden around the environment making it slightly larger than you first expected. Though be warned – some of those extra areas are very small and very cramped!

Your goal is the simplest: Escape. And what follows is a somewhat linear series of puzzles to get you from A – locked in the ship to B – escaped!

 

Pirate Puzzles

For me, I’d definitely put this room in the category of “very easy”. We took zero hints and didn’t pause for even a single second. When taking new people into a room I’m always a little worried about solving things and jumping ahead with prior knowledge, so resigned myself to taking more of a backseat role. But in The Flying Dutchman this wasn’t needed, the rest of my team flew off to a flying start with no nudges from our Games Master, or even no need for me to step in and put my “escape room hat” on.

As mentioned, there was a mix of different puzzle types. They were all fairly well themed within the pirate universe, and a mix of ones that we triggered ourselves, and ones that we could tell the Games Master triggered for us. One puzzle, towards the latter end of the room was a very dexterous, manual puzzle which was a bit of a bottleneck for our very large team. With only two people able to complete the puzzle at one time, and multiple steps and chances to go wrong, the other four of us found ourselves standing around a little bit longer than we might have liked. But after 10 minutes (1/3 of our whole game time) passed, I spotted a sneaky hack that got past the slightly more boring part of the puzzle and skipped us closer to completion. Do I feel guilty? Yes, yes, a little bit. But if a puzzle is meant to be un-hack-able, it should be designed as such.

Besides this, the game was enjoyable from a puzzling point of view. There was a distinct absence of padlocks. Instead the room was surprisingly a lot more high tech than expected for a pirate themed room. Though that said, high tech comes with some downsides and we encountered one technological hitch with a puzzle where a door sprang open a little too early, giving us the final piece we needed to escape before we’d actually finished the game. I don’t think the rest of my team noticed so much though, and all was well that ended well since it ensured we broke out of the room with record time to spare.

If we had any issues along the way (we didn’t), in true Breakin’ form, we were given a walkie talkie that our Games Master could give us a code via. The code was input into an iPad on the wall and a hint would be displayed. This is the same as in all of their rooms, and a mechanic we are fairly used to by now. Though again, we didn’t need to use it.

 

Team The Escape Roomer escapes!

 

The Verdict

I had a good time playing The Flying Dutchman. Again, it’s not my favourite room in all of Breakin’ but it did the job and introduced a new group of friends to escape rooms. For a room best suited for a new team – the verdict is yes, that new team had a blast. For me? I found it much too easy, and a little wear and tear (to be expected after opening 5+ years ago) caused some hiccups with the tech and ease of brute-forcing a few puzzles. It’s probably what the enthusiasts call a “Gen 2” escape room. It’s a very early one, but it’s moved away from padlocks and codes as the primary source of puzzling into something much more atmospheric and immersive.

Add in a beautiful, well themed set, and it’s still a winning escape room. For the best experience, don’t bring any more than a team of 3 into the room. There just simply isn’t enough for a larger team to do. If you do choose to go in an enthusiast team, expect to escape in around 30 minutes as we did – and why not book yourself into a second room whilst you’re at Breakin? I’d recommend Wizarding School or Heist Plan.

 

The Flying Dutchman can be booked by heading to Breakin’s website here.