Hackers: The Tomb of the Wandering King | Review

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The Tomb of the Wandering King Review | The find of the century has been uncovered in the depths of Yorkshire – The Tomb of The Wandering King, a mysterious figure, lost to history. But the archaeological team have been silent for weeks. You arrive to find a dig site, long abandoned, and the mouth of the Tomb ajar and aglow. Who – or what – is this Wandering King? And what secrets lie beneath the soil?

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

Escape rooms and crazy golf... Not something I’d usually pair together, but after seeing how excellently Hackers has accomplished it, a trend I hope to see more of across the country. Add into the mix a well stocked bar and a fantastically enthusiastic bar-tender who was a dab hand at whipping up martinis for us, and you have a brilliant mix, truly putting Billericay on the map as a destination for a thoroughly fun day out.

On one such beautiful sunny Sunday, myself, Karen, Nick, and Nick’s kid arranged to travel in from our respective corners of ‘The South’ to take on not one but two brand new escape rooms. Not just any old escape room either… Two new creations by Time Run and Spectre and Vox alumnus Nick Moran – what a treat!

For many reasons *gestures vaguely*, this will be a difficult escape room to review, as it’s hard not to reveal too much about the game. But trust me when I say, this is a room you want to go into with absolutely no expectations. Expect the unexpected. Expect “ooohs” and “aaahs“. Expect to have your heart strings tugged at. Expect difficult decisions. Above all, remember that this escape room is all about the journey and not the destination and my God, what a journey.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

About The Tomb of the Wandering King

The name of this escape room evokes such strong imagery in my mind… Something between PB Shelley’s Ozymandias poem, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In both cases we, as the audience, are asked the question:

Who, or What is the Wandering King?

This escape room challenges players to find out exactly that. In this way, it’s not your classic “you’re locked in a room and you have 60 minutes to escape.” Actually, quite the opposite. We were never verbally given a time limit and, although we took around an hour to complete it, I didn’t get the sensation of time pressure at any moment at all. We were merely there to investigate and to see where the tides of our investigation might take us.

In this way the focus throughout the experience was less on the puzzles (more about those later) and more on the journey of being there and experiencing the story. The puzzles merely served as triggers to advance the story and uncover new rooms as we ventured along. The strangest thing? I didn’t even mind. Within minutes I was 100% there for the story.

That story! The character development! Ugh, give me more!

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

I met a traveller from an antique land

The story begins with you, an intrepid team sent to investigate an archaeological dig that has gone unusually quiet. Your mysterious benefactor has a financial interest in the dig, but doesn’t mind if you (or the archaeologists) study what they’ve found first. So long as the profit goes straight to him.

You arrive in the first room to an abandoned dig site. Initially it looked like something out of a vintage ‘camp forest’, complete with it’s log cabin, radio dials on the walls, and soft wood chip flooring. How… Curious! We were alone, yes, but a series of video and audio recordings left behind by one of the archaeologists kindly provided us expositional material and got us started on the journey. Having that anchor to a character along the journey was very helpful, and she was all parts charismatic, determined and brave.

Our mission was simple – retrace the archaeologist’s steps and uncover what she was digging up. You probably know the drill: a mysterious (and very well decorated) tomb entrance with an ancient and cryptic mechanic to get inside it. But here, unfortunately dear readers, is as far as I can go into describing what happens.

You’ll thank me later for not explaining any further, even though I’m dying to.

But what follows is an hour (or more) of following our fearless archaeologists steps, finally making contact, and doing some things that shake the foundations of what we know about, well, *gestures vaguely* all of this. If I weren’t with company, I’d probably have cried a little at the ending.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay…

In terms of puzzles, individually they were probably the weakest part of the escape room experience. But even take this with a pinch of salt, the real reason I think you should visit this room isn’t for ‘excellent’ puzzles, it’s for pure atmosphere and story. But since this is The Escape Roomer, we’ve gotta mention them.

In our session, our Games Master kindly let us know that there was one puzzle that wasn’t working correctly so they were going to provide a manual override on it. If we hadn’t been told, I don’t think I would have noticed as it was very easy to bypass, but it was nice of her to let us know.

Of those puzzles that were working, we found this room to be a very high tech room. A lot of screens, buttons, and fancy wiring in the back-end. Not a single lock and key in sight. Okay, well maybe just one. But as a whole this is a high tech room. I’m always a little questioning of very high tech rooms as they tend to be the first to break (our own breakage not withstanding), but since we’re one of the first teams to play it I’m not in a position to judge how they’ll hold up long term.

High tech or not, every single puzzle we encountered worked very well within the environment. Nothing immersion breaking, and some really brilliant moments of mimetic puzzle design that were a delight to play.

There were a few puzzles that were definitely open to interpretation, and there were a few more that were needlessly finnicky. At a point sometimes finnicky puzzles are more about luck than about skill, but we got there in the end after much huffing. There were a few ‘sound’ puzzles which didn’t gel well with us as a team – we’re all completely tone deaf and found these to be more frustrating than anything else. Finally, there were a few puzzles that were quite similar to one another in functionality.

Again, take this with a pinch of salt. If you’re like me and viewed the puzzles more as a mechanic to further the story – then you’ll be fine. But it’s worth mentioning as besides a few standout fun ones, we didn’t enjoy the puzzles as much as we might have done.

 

Photo (c) Hackers

 

…Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare…

…And right back to the positives. Starting with the decor. The decor was *dramatic chefs kiss* beautiful.

I genuinely felt like it might be the most pretty and awe inspiring room I’d ever experienced. At least until we stepped into Blood Over Baker Street the next room we had booked at Hackers.

The space was huge and no expense spared to make it look, feel and smell realistic. Every detail perfectly encapsulated the theme of the environment and it was a joy to just physically be there. Can Nick and his team please come round and convert my apartment into a super realistic fantasy world? Please and thank you.

 

Team Escape Roomer!

 

…The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Sometimes on The Escape Roomer, and in life in general, I like to describe escape rooms as like films. Only you play the main character. Thriller, horror, magical? It’s always about you and your quest. 90% of the time it’s an accurate description. But after playing Tomb of the Wandering King with it’s intense level of immersivity I’m going to rethink how liberally I give that description to other escape rooms. Few can hold a candle to the level of storytelling and immersivity in this game. It’s like something else entirely.

If my tone of voice and general gushing weren’t obvious, I cannot recommend Tomb of the Wandering King highly enough. It ticked so many boxes for me personally and I am a big fan. For sure, I think the puzzles brought the overall rating down from a 5 to 4, and if you’re an enthusiast who looks for excellent puzzle design before making a trip then perhaps book yourself into Blood over Baker Street instead. But for me? Tomb of the Wandering King is well worth the trip and goes down in my personal hall of fame.

For this, and many other reasons, I’ve decided to award this escape room the “I Believe” badge, awarded to experiences that had us immersed from start to finish.

In terms of accessibility there were some cramped spaces, low lighting conditions, crawl spaces, objects placed quite high up in various rooms, and sound-based puzzles. For those reasons it’s not the most accessible in the world. That said I’d recommend reaching out to Hackers about your specific accessibility needs if that’s a concern.

In terms of recommendation – we had a young lad (Nick’s son) with us. Whilst I’d love to say it’s a great room for kids, being on the longer and more narrative side it is hard to capture a kid’s attention for that long. It’s also fairly scary with some real moments of threat. So I’ll leave that at individual adults’ discretion, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than say, 14.

 

The Tomb of the Wandering King can be booked by heading to Hackers’ website here.

Escape Plan: Battle For Britain | Review

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Escape Plan Battle for Britain Review | The day is 18th August 1940 and the Luftwaffe have launched a resurgent attack on Britain, where your air base has been hit by the first wave of heavy bombing. As the only survivors, you must access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain. But with a second attack imminent, can you also save yourselves?

Date Played: April 2022
Time Taken: 34 mins 55 secs

Planes shot down: 70 out of 71
Number of Players: 5
Difficulty: Medium

Whenever that age-old question “What’s the best escape room in London” comes up in ER enthusiast forums, there are a few company names you can guarantee will feature in the answers. Escape Plan is one of them. Currently housed in the Rich Mix arts complex in Shoreditch, Escape Plan have been on the London scene since at least 2015. And their reputation as one of the best in London is well deserved based on their consistent theming, the attention to detail and the sheer number of puzzles their rooms contained.  You can tell from the moment you enter their basement space that people at Escape Plan love what they do.

 

I’d played both of Escape Plans other games, The Adventure Begins and Roll Out the Barrel (which has been hanging onto my top game spot for a while now) previously so it was with a lot of excited anticipation that I arrived with my team of fellow ER nerds to take on Battle for Britain.  Only recently reopened in Shoreditch, the game is already the rave of the ER scene, with glowing reviews and promises of an extraordinary and nail-biting finale.  So with expectation piled up on top of my anticipation could it possibly live up to the hype?

 

Top Secret Mission Briefing 

All of Escape Plan’s games are set during or shortly after World War II and the narrative for Battle for Britain takes place on one very specific date, 18th August 1940.  The Battle of Britain has been raging for a month and on this date, known as ‘the Hardest Day’, the German Luftwaffe made an all out effort to completely destroy Britain’s Fighter Command.  With that historic backdrop, the game makes you members of the RAF and the only survivors of a bombing raid on your airbase.  Under continuing enemy fire your first task is to gain access to the strategic ops room.  Once inside you must then take control of the full force of all available RAF squadrons and push the German planes back out of British airspace.  Your final aim is not to escape, but to shoot down as many aircraft as you can before your time runs out.  It is this last angle that makes Battle for Britain stand out as different to most trad ERs.  You are told from the very start that your goal is not to escape from the room in under 60 mins but to bring down as many of the German planes as possible.  The maximum it is possible to shoot down is 71 – the real number of German losses inflicted on that day in August 1940.

 

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

The game is effectively in two parts, although they aren’t equal in complexity or time needed.  The first part is closer in style to a ‘normal’ ER in that involves solving several puzzles that will allow you to open the door to the strategic ops room.  Escape Plan love a good meaty, physical prop repurposed into a puzzle and this room has you tackling challenges involving bikes, barrels and road signs.  Logic, spatial awareness and code breaking all come into play in this room and every puzzle is substantial and satisfying.

So far so linear.  But once you’re in the Ops room the game becomes much less of a straight line from one puzzle to the next and it’s very easy to split up and figure out several puzzles at the same time.  As in Escape Plan’s other games, the physical puzzles are a real joy.  The set design and build are probably the best in London (IMHO) with the clear love for both puzzles and crafting evident in the high quality, hand built nature of the props.  Why buy in an everyday padlock when you can build your own miniature puzzle boxes?  And as with the first room, there are lots of period props and objects that have been converted into puzzles, some of which are beautifully novel and unlike anything I’ve seen in other ERs.

The puzzles aren’t just beautiful, they are myriad.  There is a lot to do in this second room, with each individual puzzle helping you towards the meta puzzle that is the game’s climax.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  The sheer number of puzzles means that even a big team can split up and work on separate elements, feeding their results back into the bigger picture of the final puzzle.  But it does also mean that you can feel like you’ve only played a fraction of the room.  My team of 5 ER regulars and enthusiasts all left saying that we felt we’d only seen a small proportion of the puzzles.  What we had solved was very satisfying but we felt we’d missed out on quite a lot.  That, however, is the fault of our decision to put five puzzle-addict, ER geeks in the same room at the same time, not a fault of the game itself.

Once the individual puzzles are solved, you are ready to complete the final challenge.  I won’t give away details as part of the joy of the game is the discovery of how the climax happens.  But it is a nail-biting, nerve-jingling conclusion to the game that will make even the most cynical player feel patriotic and proud to have served in RAF colours.  It is inevitable that whoever plays, there will be cheering.


Our Verdict

While Roll Out the Barrel still remains my favourite of their games, Battle for Britain is another string in Escape Plan’s ‘one of the best ERs in London’ bow.  It has all the same loving attention to detail, hand crafted props and vast range of puzzle styles and challenges that have made their other games so popular.  The slight twist on a traditional ER structure makes for an interesting change to the norm, while there’s also enough satisfying individual puzzles to keep even the most experienced of players entertained.  To make the most of the room, I’d advise any ER enthusiasts to play with a max of 2-3 people so you get to see and play as many of the puzzles as possible, while for less experienced players, around 4-6 would make it easier to get everything done.  And as a final piece of advice from a team that managed to shoot down 70 of the 71 planes – double check your workings before committing to the final challenge or that last Luftwaffe bomber might just escape to raid another day.

Battle for Britain can be booked by heading to Escape Plan’s website here.

Enigmailed: Chocolateral Bars | Review

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A puzzle-wrapped chocolate bar through the post every month? An idyllic village, ravaged with nefarious mysteries? The chance to vote for future flavours and storylines?

It’s a world’s first, people!

Have you ever been sitting there, eating a bar of chocolate, wishing that your experience was a bit more puzzley? Are you like me and want to include puzzles into all aspects of your life… Especially chocolate consumption? Are you slightly more normal and just want to get a cool gift for that puzzle person in your life? Enigmailed have the answer to all these questions.

Okay so those examples are a little extreme, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that British company Enigmailed have been hard at work these past months creating several new experiences, including my very favourite of which: Chocolateral Bars. Put simply, chocolate bars which contain brilliant little puzzles on the packaging!

At the moment, they have the following chocolate bars on offer:

 

 

Both chocolate bars have a mystery to solve – a kind of murder mystery come detective drama. Your job in both is to read the clues and discover a WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW the curious crime was committed. As one of my friends pointed out when I gifted them a bar, “I’m not sure eating chocolate called Fatal Experimint is a good idea”, but I can guarantee, several bars of chocolate later, that they are not poisonous. Just creatively named!

Neither mystery is going to take you any longer than the amount of time it takes to eat the chocolate bar, that’s for sure. But I think that’s part of the beauty of it, making this a fantastic gift for just about anyone in your life – puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike. It’s like playing a sudoku in the morning paper over your cuppa.

 

The Verdict

Honeycomb Sting

Flavour: Honeycomb Milk
Completion Time: 10 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

Both taste and puzzle-wise, Honeycomb Sting was my favourite of the two, but that’s mostly personal preferences as I don’t really like mint all that much. In Honeycomb Sting, you’re introduced to the setting of a palace with a world famous beehive kept on the grounds – but wait, somebody has been stealing all the honey! Eek!

Thankfully, the culprit has left behind clues on the chocolate wrapper. From lightly highlighted letters to curious strings of digits, each separate puzzle points towards a different piece of information, such as the identify of the thief, or where they’ve hidden the honey.

The only question remains whether you’ll catch them before you finish the bar!

 

 

Fatal Experimint

Flavour: Mint Dark
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 11th July 2021
Party Size: 1

The harder of the two, Fatal Experimint adds a little extra tension to the game – Dr. Spears, the dentist has been poisoned! But if you can successfully solve the game, you’ll be able to find an antidote to save his life. In this mini mystery, you’re looking to make an arrest, and fast!

The puzzles differ a lot between the two experiences, with Fatal Experimint utilising more numerical puzzles, and a couple of well known beloved ciphers with an Enigmailed twist. Since I played (and ate) this one second, the chocolate might be getting to my head and making it seem tricker, but I’d definitely rate this one as the more challenging of the two.

 

Excalibar’s Sword

Flavour: Eton Mess
Completion Time: 15 minutes
Date Played: 19th September 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, a priceless artefact believed to be the Sword in the Stone has been stolen! Once again it’s your job to figure out who thief is, why it was stolen, where it was last seen and what it is being disguised as. As with the other chocolate bars, there’s also a (very tricky) bonus puzzle, for those who want to go the extra mile: How many millions the sword is insured for!

By the time you’ve played the first two, you’ll get the gist of it by now – all over the packaging many small puzzles are hidden. In Excalibar’s Sword you’ll be looking for any letters that seem out of place, ciphers, and hints in plain sight… Among other things!

Of all the flavours (so far) Eton Mess absolutely has to be my favourite. I’m a huge fan of white chocolate and strawberry, so it’s a double thumbs up from me!

 

Toffear Apple

Flavour: Toffee Apple Milk Chocolate
Completion Time: 20 minutes
Date Played: 30th October 2021
Party Size: 1

This time, there’s mischief afoot at the Longstocking Orchard. Apple wielding ghosts? Or perhaps just a Halloween prank! It’s the player’s role to find out who is disguising themselves as a ghost, how they’re evading security, what their motive is and where they are hiding out.

As a Halloween special, it’s delightful! Of course, Toffear Apple is part of the Chocolateral subscription, but as someone who likes to give Halloween gifts this makes it the perfect treat to give out to guests and adult trick or treaters.

But of course, as with all Chocolateral bars, the puzzles are not particularly easy. No sir. I’m very well acquainted with Enigmailed’s hints page by now. But, since you’re always looking for a word (or a few words), players can expect a bounty of exactly that: word based puzzles! In Toffear Apple in particular I enjoyed turning of the bar over and over on the look out for ghosts, apples, and making the words out of the peculiar things on the paper. Spooky fun, and just what I needed to kick off a Halloween celebration!

 

 

Seasons Eatings

Flavour: Chilli Dark Chocolate
Completion time: approx 30 mins
Date Played: 21st November 2021
Party Size: 2

In this edition of Chocolateral, we’re getting festive! But don’t expect tidings of comfort and joy…at least not straight away. There is something afoot, as someone has snatched all of the snacks which had been left out for Santa and his helpers! As usual, it is up to you to peruse the clues hidden in the packaging to solve the seasonal mystery, and there is plenty to sink your teeth into (geddit?!). Yes, not only have you got to figure out who left their footprints in the snow, when they struck, what they’re doing with their bounty of festive treats and how they managed to evade being caught- you’ve also got the chance to go the extra mile (all the way to the north pole maybe?) to figure out which popstar paid for them in the first place!

Picture this: a chilly but clear Sunday afternoon in the lead up to Christmas, eating delicious chocolate, sipping on festive spiced punch and solving puzzles! What better way to get cosy and in the spirit for the next month’s worth of festivities (oh yes, we looove Christmas!). We really enjoyed the level of detail Enigmailed have gone into- the classic Christmassy red, green and white colour scheme; the seasonal imagery of crackers, santas and presents; and the puns- oh how we enjoy a good pun at the best of times, let alone when Christmas is involved. The puzzles are cleverly interspersed into the packaging as usual, which if you’ve played before you will have come to be quite familiar with. We found some of the puzzles quite quick to solve and others took a bit more thought, which we thought would make this a great little activity to do over Christmastime with the whole family- there’s enough to go around in terms of both puzzles and of course CHOCOLATE (if you don’t mind sharing!)

The chilli dark chocolate flavour of the chocolate was lovely; the chilli wasn’t overpowering but provided a nice warming which felt perfect for a Christmassy bar. And we loved the fact that as a dark chocolate bar this month, it is suitable for vegans, so everyone can get on the chocolatey puzzle solving bandwagon, just in time for Christmas! Seasons Eatings was a perfect festive puzzley treat for the lead up to the big day itself!

 

 

Valentine Brawl

Flavour: Plain Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 6th February 2022
Party Size: 2

What’s the classic Valentine’s Day gift? Chocolate! But, what’s the perfect VDay gift for your escape enthusiast Valentine? Puzzle Chocolate! In this edition of Chocolateral, trouble is afoot at the village Jewellers, Emerald Aisle (yes, we loved that pun) as someone has robbed all their rings, depriving many happy couples of their VDay engagement plans!

While nibbling on our non-engagement related chocolatey Valentine’s treat, we had to figure out the classic W’s- Who, What, Where and Why, oh why, were the rings targeted?! Each time we play we are amazed by Enigmailed’s ability to squeeze in new and different types of puzzle into such a small space and following a consistent format. We enjoyed the variety of puzzles offered and found that each of us had ones that just seemed to click with us instantly. The matter of Why did stump us for a while and we decided to go for a quick look at their handy hint page to help us out with this one and work the puzzle backwards, but we got there in the end! We were also very pleased with ourselves as we also managed to solve the bonus puzzle to find out the name of the owner of the jewellers.

With Valentine Brawl, as with all the Chocolateral bars, we love the feeling that the chocolate is a reward for doing a good job puzzling and, of course, puns-a-plenty is always a bonus to enhance the puzzle solving fun further!

Whether you’re cupid reincarnate, or not so much of a fan of the mushy lovey dovey stuff, Valentine Brawl is a fun option to celebrate or take your mind off the season of love!

 

Simply the Zest!

Flavour: White Chocolate Lemon Meringue 
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 12th April 2022
Party Size: 2

Dun, dun, dun! There’s been a murder, but who dunnit?! It’s the classic soap, a mysterious murder, a woman found dead in her high-rise apartment, the suspicious roast dinner… Hold on, a roast dinner!? We are glad that this did not feature in the chocolate bar flavouring.

Our of all of the bars in this subscription, this one was the most ‘story based’ of the Chocolateral series we have played so far, asking you to find out who has committed the crime, as well as tasking you with identifying those pesky red herrings (ahh yes, enthusiasts will recognise the struggles of red herrings as well!)

We got stuck into this bar quickly (the puzzles we mean…of course…) and found ourselves with 4 of the 5 puzzles solved relatively quickly. They were all logical and had strong sign-posting, something which always impresses us as Enigmailed managed to squeeze this so much onto such a small chocolate bar wrapper! 

The final, trickier puzzles left us scratching our heads though. We could not figure out the WHEN of our murder mystery. In this case, finding out the ‘when’ was the the bonus puzzle of this chocolate bar, so the answer is not on the website. So, dear readers, if anyone knows the WHEN – please do get in touch and let us know! We promise we will pay you in chocolate (if there is any left…) 

All in all, another great entry into the Chocolateral series, and we cannot wait to see what fantastical flavours and puzzles the creator dreams up next.

 

 

Fool’s Errand

Flavour: Banoffee Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 4th April 2022
Party Size: 2

So, we definitely should have played this on April Fool’s Day – we missed a trick there! But alas, we sat down to see whether we would be made fools of, or whether we could work out who was clowning around trying to set up poor Uncle Fumble? We are currently playing the month-long puzzle offered by Enigmailed – also named “Fool’s Errand” – so it was felt apt to tackle this game to check our puzzling skills were ready to challenge the enigmatic “Leaderboard”! Also, after playing one of the more recent games, we realised we could have used our chocolate bar to complete one of the challenges…double Fool’s Errand (can we have a shout out on the leader board if we manage to link the puzzles?!)

We found this bar one of the more challenging ones. We couldn’t seem to click with the puzzles in the same way as some of the others. However, we think this may be a good way to showcase how different each of the bars manage to be. Some we find we can solve in ten minutes, others we keep coming back to over a series of days to see if we can finally get that a-ha moment (and steal a piece of chocolate as a reward hehe). In this way, you can savour the puzzles in the same way you can savour the chocolate (well, if you want to…).  There was one stand out puzzle on this bar though that we did click with (after the hype around a particular word based game which we play religiously every day) – it must be all that practice. It was a really clever way of translating the puzzle concept onto paper, and we appreciated the effort that had been made to showcase a new puzzle type. 

If you’ve not checked out the month long puzzle that Enigmailed are running, definitely pop onto their website! It’s a great way to get your puzzling in, whilst providing that competitive edge so many of us puzzlers enjoy. You can find lots of fun challenges, and plenty of ways to work up an appetite (although who needs to work up anything to eat a delicious banoffee flavoured treat – banana, toffee, chocolate…it’s a dream combo!).

 

 

Crime Caramel

Flavour: Creme Caramel Milk Chocolate
Completion time: approx 20 mins
Date Played: 7th May 2022
Party Size: 2

Uh oh! There’s been a robbery! Lizzy (very aptly named) has had her most fabulous lizards stolen, and it is up to you to find out the WHO, the WHEN, and the WHY. Oh, and to add to the mix, one of the lizards suffers from a skin condition, and you need to figure out which one so you can get the lotion to them ASAP (an excellent way of adding a bit of pressure). We went for a pic of our lovely pet here (any excuse to put in a pic of Tilly – she was not helpful in solving Lizzy’s predicament)

As we play more of Engimailed’s wonderful Chocolateral series, we are beginning to learn a bit about the different puzzling styles featured on the bars. We are getting better at seeing patterns, and playing these games regularly is definitely helping to give our puzzling skills ticking over. However, that definitely does not mean that we are now finding these easy – there was one puzzle in particular on this game that we found especially challenging – and brought a wonderful A-HA moment when we finally solved it. We clicked with this bar better than the previous one and managed to get through all the puzzles without looking for a hint (although, when we did go to check the answers, we got stumped trying to find those (wink wink!)). 

We were stoked to also manage to solve the extra challenge of finding out HOW MANY lizards were taken. It would be creme-inal not to mention the excellent pun use in this bar. We are so here for some fun word-play and always enjoy Enigmailed’s humorous blurbs and storylines. 

We shared this chocolate bar with Ash’s mum to spread the love (and also because we had recently ordered a huge amount of reduced Easter chocolate oops). We’ve had some excellent feedback from her on the taste “very creamy, very caramel, perfect for a sweet tooth” so I think we may have another Enigmailed fan on our hands! These bars would certainly make such a good gift for anyone you know who likes chocolate (and who doesn’t?!), and enjoys a bit of puzzling. 

 

Tilly Enjoying Crime Caramel Chocolateral

 

About the Chocolate

The chocolate manufacturer is Kernow Chocolate, created and hand-packed in Cornwall, UK. If you need any evidence of all the love and care gone into creating this chocolate, just look at the list of ingredients! I’ve never seen a shorter ingredient list in my life – it’s all totally natural, not a chemical in sight.

Even without the puzzles, I already find myself browsing the manufacturer’s website to see what else they sell. It was that tasty, and I feel great about supporting a local UK business.

 

 

You can purchase a Chocolateral Bar over on Enigmailed’s website here, and also use the promocode MAIL10 for 10% off an order of Undeliverable!

 

The Panic Room: Old Father Time | Review

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Old Father Time Review | It’s New Year’s Eve and Old Father Time – The master of the most powerful force of nature – has gone missing! Without him, the clocks won’t reset at midnight and the sands of time will run out – permanently!

The effects have already started – the forest creatures have started turning to stone, and in 60 minutes, the waves of time will cease to ripple and the rest of the world will follow suit! Start a new chapter and work together to explore a beautiful tree cabin straight from the pages of a fantasy novel to discover the secrets inside. A mystical fairy tale escape room awaits where time is more important than ever!

Date/Month Played: March 2022
Number of Players: 2
Time Completed: 56 Minutes 40 Seconds
Difficultly: Easy/Medium

 

First Impressions?! Wow!

Ok, as ever, lets kick off with that initial gasp of excitement as you walk through that first door – it really was one of them moments! The scenery in here is nothing short of phenomenal. Having read a few reviews about this room before, I knew we were in for something pretty special; and we really were!

Hearing comment of “Disney-like”, I felt that it maybe wouldn’t have stood up to that moniker, but the two of us just took a big intake of breath and soaked it all in. You really could be in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. The attention to detail is expertly done, with every little and cranny tastefully done.

Given a few complexities in the way the game play works, our fantastic GM Myles accompanied us into the room and gave us a few pointers as to things that we needed to be aware of. With in-room briefings the temptation is to start looking all around, however Myles was brilliantly attentive and kept us engaged – even with my very excitable and easily distracted 11 year old trying his best to get a head start in the game!

Following Myles’ briefing, the chimes of the grandfather clock ringing in our ears, we set to work on this beautiful room.

 

So, What’s the Story?!

Old Father Time has gone missing, and with it nature is slowly but surely disappearing. Our task was to try and locate, well, err –  time! This really was something straight out of an animated movie – I could definitely see this story on the big screen! The story really fits well with the remit of having a proper family-feel room. Simple to understand, beautifully narrated (more on than in a mo), and visually stunning. Big box ticked for us here!

Notice the references to “chapter”, “novel” and “fairy tale” in the introduction from the guys at The Panic Room? There’s a massive hint as to how this room unfolds! The whole experience revolves around a beautifully crafted book, which pulls the room together really well. It gives a great central focus to the narrative, especially important given the sheer amount of distractions in this room!

 

Perfectly Pitched Puzzles

Tangible puzzles is the name of the game here. Think lots of things to pick up and move. Lots of cute physical games, observational bits and a quirky audio puzzle which, despite being very musical myself, sent my head on a swivel and made me a little coo-coo!

It really is a room where there is a lot of movement and that plays into the surroundings really well. There aren’t long, drawn-out wordplay or mathematical games here. Short, sharp and snappy ones, which keep the gameplay flowing really well.

The target audience would certainly appreciate this approach – there’s nothing worse then just head scratching for an hour and not feeling the excitement of that clock ticking down, and those fantastic ah-ha moment!

Yep, there are quite a number of puzzles in this game, and when all was said and done, I don’t think I’d like to be the GM resetting this game! As well as a great number of tangible games, there are a few padlocks in here too. But, don’t just think basic key locks here – you have to appreciate quite how stunning this hardware is! No basic, Poundland locks here! Ill say no more, but they need to be seen to be believed. I was also introduced to a new type of lock here! Its a rarity to come across a different type of lock given the amount of rooms we’ve played, but it certainly grabbed my attention during the briefing!

 

Stumped?! Never fear, Stumpy is here!

I’ll be honest, I really thought that this would be the first room to defeat my 100% success rate – not because of the difficulty, but given that it was just me and my son. You may have seen in previous reviews that he is a bit of a superstar when it comes to logical puzzles, but this is the first room that we’ve played together as a 2!

I’m never one to be too clue-happy and will try everything before giving in, but here I dropped the guard a little bit and let my son be the one asking for clues! To be fair, he is as stubborn as me, but did wander over to our clue system, (named Stumpy!) on a few occasions. Clues appear on a screen and were beautifully subtle. They gave just enough hint without giving us the answer. Myles had also acknowledged on one occasion where we had gotten a little confused and got us back on track with a little nudge in the right direction.

 

Those A-HA Moment!

Something which needs a special mention, and as a general rule for all rooms we have played at The Panic Room, is those A-ha moment! By that I mean, something that the designers do really well, is actually have a very obvious effect when you have completed a puzzle. For example, you punch in a specific code and a door opens – but here the door REALLY opens, or you get an audio queue showing that you have been successful. I really hate moments in rooms when you know you have been successful in completing something but then you cant find what effect that this has had elsewhere. This room was fantastic in being able to have a strong cause and effect approach.

 

The Verdict

You mean, the glowing review above still has you asking if we liked this room?! Of course we did. Its a cracking combination of outstanding scenery, some great innovate puzzles, brilliant immersion and something which stimulates the senses from beginning to end. Be it grown up, kid, experienced or novice, you really can’t go far wrong with this!

 

Fancy saving time yourself?! Click the link and book Old Father Time at The Panic Room now!…Old Father Time – The Panic Room Gravesend

Pressure Point: The Moonlit Wild | Review

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The Moonlight Wild Review | An ancient story is known that the god of wealth, Eltari, once hid a valuable treasure deep in the jungle. Eltari hid the treasure to protect human kind from the greed, hatred and self indulgence that will be consumed upon possession of this magical artefact. The story goes that those who possess this treasure will be given limitless wealth for eternity. Many explorers have attempted to seize this treasure but no-one has ever been able to solve Eltari’s mythological puzzles that pave the way to the infinite magic that he created.

Do you and your team believe you have what is necessary to take on a god? 

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken: 45 Mins 19 Secs
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

How often do you really get that wow factor from walking into a room? I mean honestly?!

The Moonlit Wild was one of the few escape rooms which really took my breath away! Here’s a summary of why…

 

Outstanding Set Design!

Without doubt, The Moonlit Wild is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing rooms I’ve ever played. The scenery really is that good. I’ve always had concerns over how authentic an escape room can really be when its meant to look like the great outdoors; but this really did tick the box…

Think deep dark forest, leaves, bark covered floors, perfectly set lighting. It is a certain ‘pinch yourself’ type room, where the creativity around the set demonstrates what is sure to be a fantastic room.

As the game evolves, the setting continues to grow more and more impressive, with trees, wildlife, water and so much more; I would question anyone who said that they weren’t blown away by it.

Immersion continues to be the name of the game with this room as (no pun intended) the whole scene is lit beautifully, which provides just an appropriate amount of light. Not too dark to actually read anything but also dim enough to make for a really well done atmospheric adventure.

Finally, the subtle soundtrack. What can I say? This really is a feast for the senses.

For this reason we’ve chosen to award the room our special “Diamond Badge

 

The Moonlit Wild Brings Out My Inner Child!

Of course, we then have the main feature of every escape room; the puzzles. Our team all agreed that the puzzles in this room are really well put together and sit within the theme really well. As opposed to the more obvious “here is a puzzle” stance taken in their other room Murder on the Dancefloor, here we find much more subtle puzzles that are really well disguised, so your search senses are really needed in this room. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Look high and low on this one – there really are puzzles everywhere. So try and question everything you see, and hear! Sure, there are a handful of more blatant games in this room but one of the huge positives is how they have thought long and hard about how the games integrate within the environment.

There are also a huge amount of puzzles within this room – its easy to sit back and think you are progressing at quite a pace in this room, however do not be fooled. The gameplay keeps you on your toes and you’ll find yourself doing both solo and team puzzles galore, so its a wise idea to keep communicating; there are some moments where communication is literally everything, so keep your wits about you!

Expect a real mix of puzzles here too – there’s nothing too physical, generally there is quite a lot of observational based bits going on here, which I personally adore. There a handful of lock bits, but predominately expect very well delivered puzzles, where the electronics have been superbly hidden so the game just flows without any “what the hell do I do now” moments.

In terms of difficultly, I would suggest that this is slightly harder than the Murder on the Dancefloor game, however still has the same level of accessibility – whereby anyone could really pick it up and enjoy a fantastic game.

 

A Game Which Flows as Beautifully as a Freshwater Stream!

Where this game excels over many others is the way in which the game flows. There is always something to do, always something to look at, and there aren’t any real “sticky” moments where things grind to a halt based on someone’s experience or understanding – this is also where having a strong games master came into play.

For this game, Vicky was our games master and she really was a delight. Having done a very thorough and engaging intro to the room (in a very cool looking Moonlit Wild briefing room), she also presented us with clues at just the right time. Clues were always subtle, didn’t give too much away, but often guided us to a potential location within the room where we might have missed something in the beautiful scenery.

As a really amazing side note, showing quite how engaged she was with our game, when we finished playing, she had discussed quite how impressed she was with my son and how good is appeared to be at rooms – so much so that she had written down all the puzzles he had completed himself within this game and listed them off to him – both a proud dad moment, and a smile through gritted jealous teeth from me!

 

What’s the Story?!

Now this might sound really odd, as normally I’m a sucker for having a really strong storyline within a game; but here the storyline really didn’t make that much odds to me. From beginning to end we all appreciated that we needed to locate the hidden golden artefact within the Moonlit Wild, and Vicky had done a great job in introducing the story during our briefing.

However when faced with the outstanding scenery, wealth of puzzles and brilliant immersion, the depth of the storyline feel into insignificance as we were all having far too much fun to really worry! That’s not to take away the great level of detail and depth that has gone into producing this experience  – I think we were just having too much fun to care!

 

Our Verdict

Bloody brilliant! Nothing much more to add than that. The Moonlight Wild ia really fun room, with one of the best sets I’ve ever played in, an array of puzzles which can be accessible to all, a fully engaged GM who clearly cared about our experience and a game play which flows better than most others could dream of. Great job Pressure Point!

 

If you want to book The Moonlight Wild at Pressure Point, head to their website here.

Pressure Point: Murder on the Dancefloor | Review

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Its 1978 and your evening at the 2P’s nightclub has ended in disaster! You hear rumours that the ‘King of Groove’ has been murdered!  With all your belongings inside, there is no way for you and your friends to get home. You find another way in and you can’t help but have a snoop around. Your curiosity gets the better of you. What you are about to find inside is not groovy…

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken:  47 Minutes 13 Seconds
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

 

It really was time to get our groove on with this 1970’s disco extravaganza. A team of four of us were feeling funky so we headed on down to Ashford to see what the noise was all about. Safe to say, we came away feeling as high as Simon Cowell’s waistband!

Greeted warmly by our host, we were first escorted to a funky little briefing room. This clearly is where the fun begins. Yep, there is the normal health and safety stuff and “here is how a padlock works”, however the briefing also had a certain comical charm about it. As ever, no spoilers, however the tongue in cheek aspect works a treat, with little disco references thrown in for good measure, plus a certainly little prop which made us all giggle. This was certainly one of the more memorable briefings we’ve had the pleasure of that’s for sure.

So, tick boxes completed, we strutted our stuff down to the room itself.

 

 

Time to Get Our Groove On

As ever, the first thing that I look at within a room are the aesthetics.  The initial room where you commence the game is a subtle understated affair which plays into the game perfectly. The puzzles are well hidden within the room, yet you have just enough to get you moving. But don’t be fooled – areas like this are often trickier than they appear. And this was one of them.

Worth knowing that there is a slightly different clue system within the first part of the game. Sadly we didn’t actually use it (insert my smug face here!), however I now wish we had, as it looked really cool, if a little disconcerting – but no spoilers, you’ll have to play the game itself to know what I mean here.

Something that we loved about this game in its entirety is the game play and flow of the room. At no point will you find yourself bunching up and having to all try and resolve a puzzle all together. There is a lot going on in this game and the designers have really cleverly been able to utilise this non-linear, multi-puzzle approach.  At no point did we get the dreaded escapees block, where you just look blankly at one another and have absolutely no idea what to do!

 

 

Give me that Night Fever, Night Fever…

As you’d expect from me, music plays a huge part in how I review a room – safe to say we were humming the tunes from this room all the way home! The audio set up works really well. All the time you aren’t in the “main room”, you can here the subtle thump thump of the disco music playing in the background. Once you reach the disco however, expect to be singing and dancing along. Luckily, I am reliably informed that a recording of my dodgy dad dancing hasn’t been kept for future reference/abuse, however, the three adults in the team embarrassed my son somewhat!

The feel in the main area of this game is a real feast for the senses both audibly and visually. Music, lights – this makes for a very happy Nick!

Time to get our Puzzle On!

Now onto the puzzles. Where to begin?! There a lot of them and they all fitted the theme really well. Clearly when designing, the creators have thought long and hard about how to integrate as many disco and 70s themed props into the game; and they’ve done a cracking job in doing this.

What really sets the game apart from others is the way in which the puzzles integrate with the room. The joys of being set in a 70s disco means that everything is big and flashy and in your face – and that’s exactly how the games worked too. Don’t expect subtle “where do I find this” search the room-style puzzles here. You’ll see a lot to start off with, although be warned, you might not be able to access it straight away!

And when it comes to difficulty, we all agreed that this is a game which would be accessible to new comers and experienced players alike. For the first timers, the user-friendly game play, coupled with fantastically light hearted theming (although there has been a murder), and some really enjoyable puzzles, is a winner. Likewise, those that are a little more experienced would enjoy a room which doesn’t take itself too seriously. (There are also a few little Easter eggs to keep your eyes peeled for, which may reference a few other escape rooms!)

 

But Who Was the Murderer?!

Obviously I’m not going to tell you that! I can sort of tell you how we worked it out though; a number of the puzzles reveal specific traits about the murder. As you build an understanding of the suspects and their motives, slowly but surely you get to eliminate some until you reach your final verdict.

Having played murder style games before, you can often get to a verdict quite quickly – this wasn’t the case here – and in fact, you don’t know how to pin point and announce the murderer until you have solved the very final puzzle.

The game builds into a strong crescendo and this is where the team work really comes into play. Where the game play for this room allows you to separate for much of the game, paying attention to your team mates is imperative. Its easy to miss a clue so communication is key!

 

So did this Game Strut our Stuff – Yeah Baby!

(Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Austin Powers there!)

We all really enjoyed this one. A combination of strong theme, varied and well planned games, a solid flow and of course the light-hearted tongue in cheek approach, makes this a solid option for puzzlers new and experienced, young and old.

 

You wanna get your groove on?! Click the link below to book it for yourself… Pressure Point Escape Rooms, Ashford, Kent

 

Edaqa’s Room: Office | Review

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Edaqa’s Room Office Review | As a long day draws to a close, you look forward to going home. Just submit your work report and you’ll be done. Maybe one last cup of coffee is on order.

Date Played: April 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Here at The Escape Roomer we absolutely love Edaqa’s Room. Just like many other people in the world have spent their lockdown making sourdough starters, or playing Wordle – we’ve been getting together regularly and diving into the wonderful world of Edaqa’s Room. Each time a new game is released, team The Escape Roomer made up of Mairi, Al, Ash and our friend Tasha get together to puzzle it out of a Sunday night. Playing the latest game, Office, was no exception!

If the name weren’t a giveaway, this time Edaqa’s Room has created an escape room throw back to office life. It’s been years since I’ve personally been in an office and I won’t be going back to one any time soon, so it was extra curious playing a digital puzzle game set in one where your sole goal is to make a cup of coffee. Like technology of bygone days, stepping foot into a virtual office felt like foreign territory. Equal parts nostalgic and curious “hey, what is this machine? a photocopier? what’s that?!”

In short, the perfect environment for an escape room. Here’s how we got on…

 

 

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy the Coffee!

Office by Edaqa’s Room takes place inside an office setting. As I’ve come to really enjoy about all of this company’s games, there’s a charming cartoon style of artwork that accompanies the point-and-click gameplay mechanic. Tap around the environment to poke, point and prod at the decor and in real-time you’ll see your other team members doing the same.

At first players spawn in front of their office desk, complete with pots of pens and pencils, your computer monitor, and very cryptic notes in front of you and on the pin-board. As you progress through the game you can explore other areas of your office and come up against other office-y quirks. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in this experience, just like 90s point-and-click video games (a comparison I’ve made more than once about Edaqa’s Room), you often find yourself clicking random things just for the amusement of seeing the reaction.

From it’s consistently fun graphics, to reliably upbeat humour, to simple story that doesn’t leave too much to the imagination… You always know what you’re getting with Edaqa’s Room an I absolutely love that! It was a well-deserved puzzlingly good evening after a long week, ironically, at work.

 

 

Puzzling Through the Office

But one of the things that really stood out to me about this game however was the puzzles. It’s not often our team of four take a full hour to complete a game but really – there was just so much to do and each puzzle was so challenging! Whilst you can solve the game solo, it’s a lot more fun in a team. Occasionally the game will require you checking between two disparate pieces of information which is where having a team comes into play.

Thankfully, no matter how big sized your team is, everyone is on the same page. Throughout the game pop ups will appear at the top of your screen letting you know what your team mates are up to.

“Alice has solved the post-it note puzzle” and “Tasha has added a cup to the inventory” and so on. Great for keeping on track, and eliminates the oh-so-common “hey has anyone solved this thing yet?” question.

One of my favourite puzzles I’ve ever played in an Edaqa’s Room game also occurred in Office, and I’m still grinning thinking about it as I write up this review days later. Amusing then that this was the puzzle I personally spent the longest on throughout the whole game, and it was eventually solved by Ash not me! This was the post-it note puzzle, and when you know, you’ll know!

 

 

The Verdict

I can’t compliment the creators enough, they’ve got a formula to make ‘good escape room games’ and they consistently nail it every single time. Above everything, what I loved about Office was how fun it was. Office is light-hearted, silly, humorous and… FUN! From a carnival, to your first day on the job, to a curious old lady, to a quest to make a cup of coffee… I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

I’d recommend this game for anybody reeling from spending too much time in their office, friends, family, or even co-workers will enjoy playing this together.

 

Office by Edaqa’s Room can be booked and played by heading to this link here.

The Detective Society: Trouble in Folklore Falls 1 | Review

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Trouble in Folklore Falls Review | Discover the darker side to your favourite folklore characters as you work with the ‘big bad’ wolf to crack the case, in this interactive boxed mystery. A story filled with twists, turns and some laughs thrown in for good measure. A play-at-home mystery adventure, perfect for date-nights, team building, board gamers, crime solvers, mystery fans and everyone in who loves a good mystery story!

Completion Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Date Played: 18/03/2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

 

 

I think I was one of the only play at home mystery game fans who hadn’t experienced The Detective Society, so when Trouble at Folklore Falls landed on my doorstep I was excited to rip it (gently) open. First impressions were positive, the envelope itself was really high quality and the materials provided have been successfully designed to immerse you in the story. We’re talking flyers, newspapers, notes, food packaging – all of which are so professionally made. Please see the photo below, but note – I haven’t included all of the contents in photos to ensure no spoilers!

 

 

The story itself is based on characters from folklore, with favourites such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Humpty Dumpty all under suspicion of kidnapping the community’s beloved pets. Here at The Escape Roomer, we love our pets very, very much. How could they?!

It’s our job to use the evidence provided to compile a suspect list, and deduct who is behind the crimes in Folklore Falls.

 

A trustworthy narrator?

Our guide through the investigation is none other than the Big Bad Wolf, who keeps in regular contact via SMS, email, radio and telephone calls. In fact, this is the best example of using automated communication I’ve experienced. It’s been really cleverly designed so we can speak to suspects, and the most impressive part came in a phone call where what we specifically said dictated different responses from the character.

 

A Puzzling Mystery

The main puzzles you will experience in Trouble in Folklore Falls are logic based. Who was where at what time, and could they have committed a crime? That’s not all though, there are word searches, hidden messages to decipher, fold and cut style puzzles, passwords to hack and podcast episodes to analyse. A little bit of everything to suit all different types of puzzlers, held together with a strong logic puzzle.

This feels like it might be the first Detective Society game where you could get your kids involved. Previous mysteries have been based on more adult themes, and although there may be references for the grown ups only I can see a young adult audience enjoying the puzzles, hearing from familiar characters and really appreciating the experience.

 

A game to keep you guessing until the last moment…

The storyline is brilliant, and keeps you guessing the entire time. You’re never quite sure who to trust, but you’re provided with a great evidence form for note taking. What I particularly enjoyed was that once you’d figured out the suspect, the game wasn’t over. You are directed towards more puzzles to solve and an exciting ending which of course, leads you towards episode two.

The jokes are a particular strong point, though be warned you’ll be cringing!

 

 

The Verdict

This is one of the best play at home mysteries I’ve ever played. The attention to detail is incredible, the mix of media and physical evidence means you’re constantly entertained, the storyline is the perfect mix of crime and humour – I could go on and on.

At the time of writing there are currently 4 available mysteries to solve and the reviews have been brilliant across the board. Trouble in Folklore Falls has done it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to finish this case and try the others.

If you want to get started with Trouble in Folklore Falls yourself, head to The Detective Society’s website here.

 

Urban Missions: Bomb Disposal Lambeth | Review

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Bomb Disposal Lambeth Review | The Agency has got wind of a possible plot to detonate an explosive in central London. They have identified some suspects and need your help to interrogate them, find the criminal mastermind behind the plot and dismantle the bomb.

Completion Time: 1hr 30
Date Played: 16th April 2022
Party Size: 4 + a dog!
Location: Lambeth, Parliament
Difficulty: Easy

At this point I’ve done so many outdoor puzzle games in London, yet I still love them to bits. Most of us here at The Escape Roomer each have a particular sector in the puzzle game world they specialise in and for me, I cannot get enough of anything that gets me in my walking shoes and exploring quaint and curious alleyways around London. I mention it as this point I feel like I can quickly recognise a good outdoor puzzle game when I see one! For me, Urban Missions hooked me from the very first clue in the game, and I knew this was something special.

 

You have 45 minutes to defuse the bomb…

Eek! No pressure!

Bomb Disposal: Lambeth starts at the iconic Leake Street Arches – a place where artists from all over the UK come to celebrate street art, eat fantastic food, and take part in indie immersive festivals. This is the perfect place to start an exciting puzzle hunt like this, and a place I was equally surprised to learn my co-players (my parents, brother, and our family dog, Shovell) had never visited before. But we had no time to stop off and take in the sights, as we had a bomb threat to track down and (hopefully) defuse!

Once you meet at the start location, each of us had to text a number to join our team. From there, each member of the team received updates and texts as the game progressed meaning we were all on the same page at the same time. To begin with, the puzzles started slightly more deductive. Actually, the very first puzzle was one of my favourites I’ve ever experienced in an outdoor walking tour, as we were encouraged to retrace the steps of several suspects in order to identify any inconsistencies. Afterwards, the route took on slightly more of a traditional take, giving a series of cryptic clues that we had to follow to each new location. At each location, we had details to look for and hidden codes to decipher, as well as a number of video and audio segments to keep the story on track.

As a team, we all remarked that we found the game to be slightly on the easier side. That said, we still did rack up a fair few penalties at the end for incorrect answers and almost ran out of time. So I suppose, not that easy! The puzzles themselves weren’t too tricky – it’s the type of thing where you receive a clue and it doesn’t quite make sense until you turn a corner and easily spot what it’s referring to. We didn’t get lost at any time and didn’t trip up. That is until the final segment of the game. At the end, there’s a dramatic timer counting down and each incorrect answer knocks more time off it. This time it became less about the location and more about finding numerical codes, which was very exciting. Here the difficulty also ramped up, resulting in a fair few incorrect answers from us as that ever-present clock ticked down.

 

A Modern Whodunnit

In terms of the story, Bomb Disposal Lambeth was fun and full of tension. There is a bomber on the loose hell bent on destroying a particular London landmark and it’s up to you – the eyes and the ears on the ground – to track down the individual and stop them before they can hit the trigger button! The story is told via the texts, but most importantly through a series of video and audio messages, which was a nice touch. There are at least two characters to encounter and it was always fun to see a new video message pop through from one or the other.

It was a simple story, for sure, but why improve up on “there’s a bomb and you’ve gotta stop it”. It’s tried and tested and leaves nothing to the imagination, allowing us to take in the sights and enjoy ourselves with the puzzle rather than thinking about a complex plot.

 

 

Lambeth, Houses of Parliament… And Beyond!

Conveniently the start location for this game is very centrally located, just a stone’s throw from Waterloo and the River Thames. It’s also fully accessible for wheelchair or buggy users, as we never once encountered any steps. Similarly, since all locations are outdoors and even includes a few walks through green spaces, we found the trip to be dog friendly too. All important considerations when picking a walking trail in London!

One thing I would say when playing this game however is to use discretion. No, seriously. If you’re like our team- loud and enthusiastic- you’ll be walking around watching the video content and listening to the audio content on full volume. The theme of the game is defusing a bomb. Well, in Central London saying the word “bomb” out loud is a big no no and we got a lot of looks from police, especially when the route took us near Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. I’d recommend using a code word, like Ice Cream… Quick everyone, we’ve got to get to the ice cream before it melts. Works just as well especially on a sunny day, and you’ll get a lot fewer funny looks.

If you choose to meet for food before you start, I’d recommend wandering down Lower Marsh street for some food. In particular, Balance Cafe is a fantastic spot for salads, cakes, and absolutely gorgeous coffee. Vaulty Towers is another brilliant spot for a drink or a bite to eat, as you can hang out in the treehouse. Though Note: Hidden City’s Cheshire Cat also takes players to this location, so you’ll bump into more than a few other teams on the mobile phones playing a different game. If you prefer to eat afterward, the route ends near the Houses of Parliament. I know this area less, but I would say that there are some lovely sunny parks round there – so perhaps packing a picnic to share on Big Ben’s lawn in front of the river is the way to go. Apparently players can stop the game at any time and take a break, but we weren’t aware and didn’t utilise this feature.

 

 

The Verdict

Overall, we enjoyed the game a lot! In particular, I loved how the route took us through some parts of London I’d never, ever been to before, and pushed me to notice details about my surroundings that I’d normally pass by without a second’s glance. It’s reasonably priced for London, and even better when you consider you’re going to get up to 2 hours worth of fun, wandering around this gorgeous city solving puzzles out of it. We played on a very sunny bank holiday weekend, clocked in a comfortable 12,000 steps, and at the end of the day after enjoying an ice cold drink and a slice of cake, I remarked that it has easily been one of the nicest days of 2022 so far.

If you’re looking for a reliably good outdoor puzzle trail, Urban Missions is a great choice. It might not be the most challenging for hardcore enthusiasts, but I guarantee there isn’t anything quite like it, nor on that particular route. Just don’t say anything about a bomb too loudly next to the local police, and you’ll be golden.

 

If you’d like to book Bomb Disposal: Lambeth for yourself, head to Urban Mission’s website here to get started.

M9 Games: Vereda | Review

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Vereda Review | Vereda is a 3d escape room puzzle adventure. Play as a secret agent assigned a mission to recover a secret dossier set in an unusual town. Explore areas and take in your surroundings. Use all of your puzzle solving skills to make your way through the town and recover the missing dossier. As a secret undercover agent used to adventure and mystery you are tasked with your latest mission to infiltrate a town guarding a top secret dossier. What the dossier contains is not known, your sole focus is just to find and recover it. What you are not prepared for is the lengths the dossier has been protected. It’s down to you to use all your experience to solve the puzzles and contraptions that block your way.

Developer: M9 Games
Date Played: 1st April 2022
Console: Steam
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 49 minutes

April first?! Wait, that’s April Fools! In an effort to hide myself from all of the April Fools’ jokes floating around, I booted up my PC and sat down to play a brand new escape room game from indie game developer M9 Games: Vereda. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d seen a few reviews doing the rounds in the escape room community, so was excited to try out the game for myself at last.

Vereda takes a single player on a short (probably less than an hour) escape room puzzle adventure. You play a secret agent and your one goal is to recover a mysterious dossier. That mysterious dossier is locked behind doors and doors worth of increasingly curious puzzles. Pushing mysterious switches to make giant pillars in a back alley move, and rearranging cards on tables to unlock doors… It’s, interesting! Certainly a game to get the cogs moving.

 

 

Meet the Developer, Chris at M9 Games

The most important thing to know about Vereda is that it is a passion project of solo game developer Chris, who got in touch with us at The Escape Roomer with an invitation to try the game. Since the lockdown, Chris has turned his hand to creating video games full time – from early point and click and 2D exploration games, Vereda is M9 Games’ first fully 3D escape room adventure for PC and (we hope soon) console. Presently, it can be downloaded on Steam (where I played) or on mobile devices. For the full and most up to date list, check the website here.

Okay, okay so enough background. How was it? Vereda was… Decent! I don’t think it will be winning any awards, but as a game developer myself I admire the drive and creativity that has gone into pulling this fun experience together, and I hope it’s the first of many Chris and his studio creates. Take it from me, making a video game is REALLY HARD. It’s hard enough when you have a whole studio made up of narrative designers, puzzle/level designers (oh hey that’s my job), 3D and 2D artists, programmers, and so on. So when I heard that Chris was doing this all by himself, I had nothing but a huge amount of respect.

 

 

Enter Vereda, a Noir World of Secret Agents…

In terms of visuals, I love the whole back-alley, dark and dirty, vintage vibe of video games like L.A. Noire, Overboard, or Inspector Waffles. For me, Vereda had that feel and it was very exciting to move through the unique spaces in search of puzzles and… A way out!

After a cinematic sequence where a mysterious grey car drives through deserted street after deserted street, players spawn into a locked room with a few desks and scraps of paper on the desks. There are drawers to be unlocked, documents to read, and a big door tantalisingly waiting for me to find a key for it! Ooooh boy, I love a mysterious setup.

The assets were largely store-bought, but it would be grossly unfair of me to call it an asset flip. No, everything that was put into the game was put in with purpose and felt right at home. I would have preferred to see original art, of course. The setting was ripe for something a little more unique, but the developer did well with the resources he had available to himself. The game came together visually consistently and definitely managed to create a dingy atmosphere of a seedy criminal underworld.

 

 

 

Secret Agents, and Puzzles!

In terms of puzzles, there’s a lot of discourse in the escape room world about mimesis and diegesis which I won’t go into here, so instead I’ll regurgitate the words of Errol Elumir,

A puzzle is diegetic if it fits the theme and reality of its game universe. A puzzle is mimetic if its existence and its solution reflect the reality of its game universe.

 

There were many types of puzzles in Vereda, and largely they seemed to follow a trajectory of diegetic at the start, fizzling out towards neither mimetic nor diegetic at the end. But that’s not to say they weren’t fun!

At the start of the game I began looking for tools like screwdrivers, or missing buttons in order to fix panels to unlock gates. Exciting! Towards the middle of the game, there were some riddles and colour puzzles and a very unique puzzle involving levers and giant pillars in the middle of an alleyway. Which is… Well, I suspend my disbelief.

As the game came to it’s climax, I encountered puzzles that I’d call neither diegetic nor mimetic, such as piecing together jigsaw puzzles to get puzzles that look like a pigpen cipher, to mysterious tarot cards being placed on an electrical panel, to an infuriatingly tricky picture slider puzzle, and something about phases of the moon.

 

 

Okay, okay I don’t want to sound harsh – because the puzzles were fun! But this is all to say I enjoyed the first half of the game a lot more, but as the game progressed the puzzles felt slightly more detached from the context of the game and felt like they were in there to provide unique things to solve. But in truth, I would have been happy to keep looking for broken panel buttons, or deciphering mysterious graffiti, because those made sense in the world. There’s no hard and fast rule about what puzzles a video game should have in them and of course, loads of fantastic games have puzzles in them that have no relation to the environment at all. But for me there was a slight disconnect between the puzzles and the environment that the creator had so carefully set up.

In terms of difficulty, Vereda comes in on the easier side. It’s a short and sweet game that is possible to complete in around 20 minutes if you’re feeling speedy. 40 minutes if you play through comfortably with a glass of wine in your hand *glances down at hand*

This puts it at about the same length of time a real life escape room takes, but this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the price. And since it’s a video game that is out on mobile or PC, you can play it in your pyjamas. Win win.

 

The Verdict

For all of the reasons above, I’ve given it a 3 stars out of 5. For the average escape room enthusiast, that might be a little generous, but I thought it was a really promising game with some ‘noire’ vibes. Vereda had all the makings of being something special, and for a solo game dev project I am seriously impressed. Sure, it felt a little rough around the edges and felt slightly short on a few points but nobody comes into any industry fully formed. If Chris and M9 Games continues to create puzzle games with the same enthusiasm in the future then I have absolutely no doubt that the company will do well. The world needs more escape room games.

My lasting thought is that after playing the game I would honestly love to see this designer build a physical escape room. Vereda in video game format was a decent indie escape room game. Vereda in a real life warehouse? Take my money now!

If you want to purchase Vereda for yourself or keep up with M9 Games, you can check out their website here.