Crux Club: Puzzle Rap Star | Review

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Puzzle Rap Star Review | Crank that beat up, grab the mic and show em’ whatcha got! Puzzle Rap Star is a new puzzle book that will challenge you to prove you got what it takes to level up in the rap game. To play, examine the images and text on each page then bend your mind to crack the codes. You’ll use what you learned to crush your competition in complex meta puzzle rap battles. 

Completion Time: ~4 hours
Date Played: May 2022
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium

“Rapping” is not a theme I ever thought I’d encounter here at The Escape Roomer. In fact, I don’t know what category to place this in. It’s also not really a genre I would ever go for myself. For this article I tried to come up with some names of rappers in order to make rap-based-puns, but I got as far as “Eminem” then dismissed him as someone whose peak in the rap industry was a decade before I was born…

…All this to say, I know nothing about rap. But what I do know about is puzzles!

 

 

About the Puzzle Rap Star Book

What began as a Kickstarter by Jan-Luc of Crux Club earlier this year has now come to life in the form of a satisfyingly weighty puzzle book. That’s no joke on the ‘weightiness’, for this puzzle book contains well over sixty puzzles in it spread across six chapters.

The book has a compelling brightly coloured front cover, but is black and white inside. On the one hand, this is great for accessibility (not a colour-puzzle to be found), but on the other hand makes for grey-reading in an otherwise usually quite colourful genre.

At the start of the book you’re offered a QR code with music to listen along to. It’s just the one song with a general hip-hop beat that does help with some of the rhythm based puzzles, but not my cup of tea so I didn’t keep it on long. At the end of the book, you have your hints. This meant that (besides the QR code) the entire experience was self contained. This worked very well, meaning it’s exactly the sort of book you could bring with you on a long trip without internet connection.

 

 

Nothing Rhymes with Puzzle…

The story of the game is told through rhyming couplets- sorry, ‘rap song’. The first few times I encountered this, including in things like the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy, this was novel. Later the style felt more cringe and hard to follow along. For a medium (rap) designed to be spoken aloud, I’m unfamiliar with seeing it written down. Sure, I read poetry, but rap is spoken word, so be prepared to have to say things out loud before they make sense.

I would also say that the language in this book is very much for the American audience. For starters it’s set in Brooklyn, but just the cultural symbols of things like “tater tots” which we just don’t have over here. This proves a problem in a puzzle book as you’re never quite sure what is stylistic rap music language and what is an actual puzzle. Was “tater tot” some kind of cryptic clue I needed to solve? An anagram? A rhyme? Nope, just a processed potato based dish. Whoops! Who knew? Typos aside (for which there were a few I was sure were deliberate, like palendrome instead of palindrome), the language proved exhausting.

The language was a problem for sure, but it raises a bigger problem since most of the book was reliant on specifically slang from a very specific region and era of slang in Brooklyn. If I know one thing about slang it’s that it goes out of date fast. There’s just a few years between my brother and I and the slang we use is very different. I worry that in 5-10 years the sentences in this book I found difficult may become even more so, as they’re removed from the era they were formed in. Or maybe they’ll have a timeless confusion:

“baby-bat saw this bee when taking a spookie dookie. Gotta stay careful cause he couldn’t see, k?”

Whether ten years in the past, the future, or the present, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that that phrase from the book means.

But linguistic quirks aside, the story follows you, a young rap star keen to make their name in the rap scene. Along the way you meet weird and wonderful characters like “Craz” and “Shotz Doc Menace” ** (whose name flipped between the spelling Shots and Shotz interchangably) and “Buttah Thug” who join you on your quest to find the mystical Book of Rhymes which is the holy grail of rap music – a list of perfect rhymes so that you may “spit good bars” (another amusing linguistic quirk I had to google and I’m sure I’m still misusing it).

Your journey goes through the stages from “Sick Flow”, to “Street Cred” through to “Top Player”, “Dope Hooks” and so on, as you climb the ranks in your own personal rags to riches story. All to culminate in a very sweet ending – one I literally said “Aww” out loud when I finally got to.

 

Puzzle Your Way to the Top

I’ve said all I can say about the problems of language in Puzzle Rap Star, but now onto the positives – the puzzles! Where this book really shines is in it’s puzzles.

Being set in the rap music world, there’s an abundance of language puzzles – as there should be. I’m a sucker for good ones that revolve around beats and rhythm, and this experience had buckets of them. But it wasn’t all language, there were spatial reasoning puzzles, logic grid puzzles, mathematical puzzles, creative ciphers, and even puzzles that involved some fun physical manipulation of the book. Each puzzle felt well balanced and fit in it’s respective universe. In short, it made sense why I was solving each puzzle, to what ends, and most importantly: it was fun!

With such a varied range, I never once found myself bored. The best thing about the format is how it’s possible to pick it up and put it down whenever you please with easy breaks in the form of puzzle chapters.

One of my favourite puzzles (and this is no surprise if you’re a regular reader) was the “Murdah Board”. Cringe spelling aside, this was your classic logic grid puzzle but was complex enough to be packing a few delightful surprises in it, and long enough to last one evening’s session as I sat cross legged on my sofa, pencil in hand, puzzling through the whodunnit.

 

 

The Verdict

Puzzle Rap Star is a puzzle book with a very niche theme, but the creators have managed to pull it off with an enjoyable puzzle game. As I say, it’s never a theme I would personally go for and I can’t imagine that the “escape room enthusiast” and “rap music enthusiast” Venn diagram is larger than a handful of people. Add in the hyper-specific “Brooklyn” rap world into the Venn diagram and your target audience is single figures.

But I commend the creator for doing something that had never been done before!

For me personally, sitting in my apartment on the other side of the world in London, UK with a google search history packed with bizarre slang terms, American cultural icons from the last few days, playing Puzzle Rap Star was… Really weird. I learnt a lot about the culture of rap music.

But the puzzles were a lot of fun. Like, a lot of fun! They were creative and delightful and there were some brilliant moments of “a-ha!”. In particular I loved the use of beats and rhythm. I would absolutely love to see the creators apply the same level of puzzle creativity to a different, more universally accessible theme. Which, apparently the have already with the “Mob Treasure” game I’m very, very much looking forward to.

As a final note, the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon US. Shipping to the UK incurs an additional VAT and Shipping Fee.

Head to the Crux Club website to support the team and purchase the game for yourself.

StreetHunt Games York: Colombia’s Finest | Review

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StreetHunt Games: Colombia’s Finest Review | Can you spill the beans on what’s happening in Jim Robusta’s coffee company? Jim works alongside people with a shady past and has asked you to sniff out evidence of crime amongst the caffeine.

Time Taken: 2-3 hours 
Date Played: 
9th April 2022
Location: 
York
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: 
Medium

To read our review for Colombia’s Finest London, head here.

An endearing feature of York is that it often smells of chocolate. It’s the nearby Nestlé factory that’s responsible for this as it routinely burps out wonderful aromas and – if the wind catches them right – the whole city gets to indulge. Nasally, at least. However, on the day we took on StreetHunt’s York debut it was equally easy to catch a whiff of coffee on the breeze.

The city’s kind-of-famous Coffee Yard was our mystery’s starting point. At 67 metres, it’s York’s longest snickleway and within spitting distance of numerous coffee servers who keenly cater to those who aren’t quite ready for a pint yet. It’s an apt beginning for a hunt named Colombia’s Finest – a mystery walking tour that charges you with both revealing a murderer and uncovering a drug ring that’s operating within a local coffee company owned by one Jim Robusta.

 

Getting Started with Colombia’s Finest York

To get things rolling you are able to familiarise yourself with the format and key characters of the game via a short introduction that takes place off the clock. It’s far from complicated and each team member is encouraged to use their own device so everyone can be equally involved. The core of this experience is an interactive map that gradually populates with your network of contacts (or Yorkies) who you need to locate, meet and solve environment-based puzzles for. In return they spill their secrets and help you solve the case.

 

 

At the start these ‘Yorkies’ drop onto the map one at a time, easing you into the routine of travelling to their location and scouring the surrounding area for whatever nugget of information they’re demanding as proof of your presence. After a handful of encounters, though, multiple contacts drop onto the map at once, forcing you to form your own logical route to meet as many of them as possible within the 90-minute time limit.

Fortunately, your tipsters place themselves reasonably conveniently. An efficient path to hoover up their info isn’t too tricky to plot and you’re soon systematically ticking them off the list. The puns come thick and fast, and each informant brings with it another aptronym, causing titters and groans in equal measure, but the puzzles that gatekeep the information at each location maintain an impressive level of creativity throughout. Even those of us who felt we had decent knowledge of York’s quirks were occasionally stumped and introduced to minor details that had been successfully ignored for the best part of a decade.

 

Get a move on

An hour and a half is quite a long time. I certainly thought so, anyway. However, the sun was out and it was the weekend, which meant the narrow streets of York were cluttered with people who seemed to be queuing to join the longer queues that would eventually lead them into a tearoom or wizarding shop. This meant some of the more obvious routes from A to B were slower than their longer alternatives. Throw in a real-life run-in with an overly casual barista – who clearly didn’t share our urgency for catching the killer – and it soon became apparent that we needed to pick up the pace to have any hope of success.

Once we’d focussed ourselves, we made decent progress. The software itself is slick and intuitive. Presentation is clear and Robusta himself gets in touch occasionally, asking you to confirm what you’ve discovered so far (presumably to help fix some key details in your brain). A suitable break is suggested just beyond the mid-way point where you can pause the game for as long as you need without penalty and enjoy lunch, drinks or just have a break from weaving between bodies waiting to sample fudge.

Once time is up you are prompted to find somewhere comfortable you can sit and converse before triggering the final 15-minute countdown. This is your opportunity to pull together the information you’ve uncovered and bicker with your team about possible motives before embarking on some official finger pointing. The details you’ve collected throughout the day are simple to review and neatly compiled into categories in-game so, as long as you have a fair number of clues available, piecing together the full picture is relatively straightforward yet still satisfying.

 

The verdict

York is the perfect location for such an activity and if you make a full afternoon of it, take in the sights, and stop for a spot of food along the way then it’s easy to allow yourself to have a great time. Nothing here is going to really tax serious puzzle-solvers, but if taken as a fun day-out with friends or team building exercise then I can wholly recommend it.

If you’d like to book Colombia’s Finest in York, head to this link.

They have also kindly provided me with a promo code for 20% off for The Escape Roomer readers: “THEESCAPEROOMER20”

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

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

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

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

Elementary, my dear Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Orange Pips- I mean, 5 unique spaces!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game (Is Now)

What of the game itself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Game for Sherlock Fans

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

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

Is 221B Worth the Price?

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

However, I personally thought it was worth the money.

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

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

If inconvenient, go anyway.

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

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

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

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

Accessibility Notes

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

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

The Verdict?

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

TL ; DR

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

Cons; Cost, hype, hint system

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

Royal Museums Greenwich: The Cursed Collector | Review

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The Cursed Collector Review | Someone is trying to break into The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre. Is it a thief, and if so, what are they trying to steal? As an undercover investigator you will help the curators find out what is going on and take action … and fast!

An anonymous tip has revealed that a person already known to the Museum is the potential perpetrator. We need to convince Security that the threat is real!

Completion Time: 21:49
Date Played: 17th February 2022
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy

Personally, I love it when museums enter the ‘escape room’ space. Museums are packed with history, fascinating stories and curious collections ripe for converting into an immersive mystery just like this one. I actually hope that more museums will do it in the future – it’s just such a fantastic way to get the general public to engage in a meaningful way with the past and I love that!

The Cursed Collector is the latest in museum-escape room collaboration. It’s also a funny story, because my partner (occasional player 2 in my reviews and UK museums professional) heard about this game’s launch long before I did. We bounce around ideas for museum themed escape rooms from time to time, but one day he turned to me and asked “Hey, have you played the Royal Museums Greenwich one yet?”

Wait what? A brand new digital escape room experience that I’d never heard of?! Well, that had to be fixed at once! And so, pulling together a fantastic team of Al, Ash and Georgie, we booked ourselves in right away.

About The Cursed Collector Escape Room

The Cursed Collector is a timed digital escape room experience. You’re given a specific time slot and a Zoom link to join 5 minutes before. At your allocated time, you all hop onto the call and are greeted by your host, then in no time at all the adventure begins.

The whole game then takes place over a series of websites which one member of the team is encouraged to share their screen so that all players can play along. The narrative weaves seamlessly between fictional websites, for shady security firms and secret societies and real websites including the Royal Museums Greenwich actual collections! Various pages have audio files, and password protected sections which must be unlocked to progress.

The game centres around a fictional story inspired by those collections, but it does a great job of forcing you to interact with the real exhibits which you can then go and see in person. What a fun blurring of story and truth together! We worked together and dug through layers of maritime history in search of lost treasure. Why? To break a curse, of course!

The whole thing should take an average team around 60 minutes to complete. We were on particularly good form and took just 20 minutes, but equally I’m not sure enthusiasts are the target audience of the game so we may be outliers there.

Introducing, Our Museum Guide!

In our case, the host (in our case named Victoria) was one of my favourite things about the whole experience. Bearing in mind it’s just a museum (and not say, an escape room company with games masters who have trained for years), our host was full of enthusiasm from the first moment to the last. Due to the nature of the gameplay, we interacted with her only during the intro briefing and the outro, as for most of the game she took a very hands off role. A good thing, I suppose, as we didn’t require any hints! But even at the last moment it felt like she cared a lot about our experience, asking all the right questions about what worked and what didn’t work and what feedback we had. A lovely touch to feel listened to!

I do feel that for an experience like this it is unusual to have a host. Since the whole thing was digital and fairly self-contained, we easily could have played without an intro or outro video (say, just a pre-recorded video and a web-page with hints if we needed them). I mainly mention it because there are only 2 slots offered per evening, but the whole game could easily be a “play anytime” game if players were allowed to start and finish at their own pace without needing to book into a slot. The more players who get to experience this game, the better, right? But hey, that’s just my two pence on the matter! I appreciated getting to meet our lovely host, but the presence of any host was not necessary for the gameplay.

Cracking Codes and Hacking into the System

In terms of puzzles, whilst they may have been on the easier side, it certainly was fun to whiz through the internet hacking into various login pages and security systems to access information. For the best experience, whilst one person will be sharing their screen – other players should open up the same URLs and have a dig around at their own pace. You never know what you may find.

Some of my favourite moments included ‘hacking’ into a real email address’s inbox, and finding many cool pages on the internet that you’re never quite sure are real or fictional.

There’s a lot of ‘guessing the password for this page’ with a few clues pointing on various web pages. Though these people seriously need to up their security! Haha!

If you enjoy more deductive, mimetic puzzles like that, then it’ll be right up your street.

The Verdict

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to grade this escape game as we traditionally do for each review. Subjectively, not my favourite escape room experience. But would I recommend it? Sure!

I think it comes down to the technology. Playing The Cursed Collector reminded me a lot of playing the very earliest games in the Isklander series – that is before they revamped them all into a trilogy. What I mean by that is that it reminded me of the kinds of games that game out in early 2020. Isklander won a lot of awards when it first came out because nobody had seen anything quite like it. If they launched now… Meh.

So what I’m trying to saying a roundabout way is that the style and ambition of The Cursed Collector already feels dated, which is a slight shame given the wealth of resource material a museum like The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre has. They could have done a lot more with it.

But here’s the thing, why on Earth would I expect a museum who has never made an escape room before to compete with the established escape rooms that have spent the last 2-3 years fine tuning and honing the digital escape room craft? I wouldn’t. Museums do not have a lot of money, made even worse by the drastic cuts faced in the UK as a result of the pandemic. People aren’t visiting museums as much anymore, and museums need to do whatever they can to secure more income and bring more excited people through their doors – especially young people!

So am I thrilled that RMG created this escape room? Heck yeah!

Should you play it and support them? Absolutely.

I hope that this is just the first of many immersive experiences the team go on to create and I hope they inspire other museums across the UK to follow suite and create their own games.

The TLDR; Verdict

The Cursed Collector is fairly engaging and has a great host who guides you through the RMG Collections in search of missing items in order to break a curse. Sure, it’s not the most impressive escape room, feels a little dated compared to other digital escape rooms you can play today, and it definitely won’t challenge enthusiasts, but it’s important to support museums if you can. We’d recommend this for families and kids** who cannot visit the collections in person but want a fun and educational way to engage with the RMG. For the best experience, why not play first, then go visit those very same objects you were working with in the game!

** please note, the website recommends it for ages 14+. We think this game would be fine for players much younger, but do get in touch with them directly to discuss!

The Cursed Collector can be booked by heading to Royal Museums Greenwich’s page here.

ClueAdventures: Jet 2 Space | Review

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If Space is the final frontier then Jet2Space is a full-frontal fictional frenzy. It’s 2199 and you and your game partner have made the mistake of buying the cheapest tickets to space on the market. Not long after takeoff, you’ll realize that WheezyJet have cut every corner on Flight 069.

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 3rd February 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Easy

If you’re anything like me you tend to save escape rooms until you have friends visiting, or until you can do them with someone who will really appreciate them, or even just feel a little bit of guilt in doing one as a pair. However, ClueAdventures has noticed this niche and created not one, but two two-player only games! I played their first game, “2 Tickets 2 Ride”, at least 3 years ago and it was great, so I was very excited when they announced ‘Jet 2 Space’! I did decide to save it for a special occasion, so moving flat seemed like as good a reason as any!

On a mission to Uranus

When we booked this room we didn’t realise we had actually booked a trip to space, although as this was with the budget space company “WheezyJet” we probably should’ve known what we were getting into. It doesn’t take long before things go wrong, and thanks to certain economies we were left in charge to figure out how to take control of the ship and find somewhere to land safely.

In general, the set was very tactile – there were lots of things to see, do and interact with – any areas that seemed shabby felt purposeful, and I was able to feel immersed in the experience. The decor of the room was a hybrid between an airplane cabin and a rocket ship, with plenty of easter eggs sprinkled about. If it isn’t obvious from the fact you are on flight 069 to Uranus, this game has quite a few adult themes, but I’d describe them as loving and silly, rather than trying to be actively dirty. They also have plenty of very geeky references spread everywhere in a similar style, making this the perfect mix of not knowing whether you’re about to be excited over a Sci-Fi reference, or groan over some sort of phallic pun.

Use the force…(or don’t)

We all know the first rule of escape rooms is that usually force is not required. The same applies to this room, although you are encouraged to “use THE force”…brain force that is!

*insert groans here*

Seriously though, I love the geeky aspect of this room, and it shines through everything they do. The puzzles in the room were all fairly simple and linear – following one after another – so the challenge came not from figuring out what the puzzle was, but from figuring out the solution (imagine a Suduko – you know what to do, but you still need to work to find the solution). Fortunately for us, there was an onboard magazine available (for a small fee) that contained quite a few valuable pieces of information.

Being a small space there were very few hidden objects, so our powers of observation and attention to detail were testing more than our hide & seek skills. There were also no keys and only a very small amount of number locks, because of course, they won’t exist by 2199.

Bumping uglies

Being quite a small space we found ourselves bumping into each other quite a bit, so teamwork and communication are an absolute must. There are a few puzzles that require overt teamwork, and ClueAdventures do a great job of making sure you are switching positions so you don’t get one person doing all the grunt work. I would have liked to see more of this though – many of the puzzles were solved single-handedly, which I think is a shame. Perhaps if they release a third 2-player room they could make it entirely based on teamwork!

We managed to navigate most of the room without incident, which is a shame as I was looking forward to using the help phrase (“Obi Wan, you’re my only hope!”). The hint would (apparently) pop up on the on-board monitor, but otherwise we were left to fend for ourselves.

Accessible boarding

ClueAdventures is based above “The Coach & Horses” pub in Leyton, so while it is great for a pint it isn’t great for accessibility needs. Stairs will need to be navigated to reach the room, and once inside it’s quite a small space, so please check before booking if you have any claustrophobia or concerns about space/temperature. It was well lit, with no loud noises. Hearing and colour perception are both necessities for this journey, although as someone with hearing impairments I coped fine as you just need to be able to communicate with your fellow passenger. There were a few puzzles that required physical dexterity too, although only one team member needs to take on this burden.

The price of a good time

We know that escape rooms can be expensive, and it’s a question within our community about whether it is fairer to price per player or a flat rate per room. Unfortunately, teams of 2 are often disadvantaged by either model which is what has put me off booking a room for two previously.

Despite the fact this room was designed for 2 players only, the price of £35 each still felt quite steep, given most times I’d expect to pay less than £30 when playing with a larger team. It was also a little disappointing as I might expect that from larger rooms with a flat rate (e.g £70 a game regardless of team size), but not one which has been specifically designed for a smaller team.

Even taking away the monetary side and thinking about value…it still feels a little steep. We had a really fun time, but ultimately it was very linear and I didn’t feel I had my money’s worth.

The Verdict

Overall this is a fun and entertaining room, but not complex or engaging to those who are more experienced. I think if you’re still embarking on your escape room journey this is a great room for you, and possibly cheaper and more manageable than other London rooms not designed for 2. However, in the future I would probably suck it up and pay for other rooms in London, knowing I’d feel more challenged and the price would be justified a little more.

Jet 2 Space can be booked at Clue Adventures Leyton here

Behind the Frame | Review

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Behind the Frame Review | Guide brush strokes and solve a variety of puzzles to help an aspiring artist complete her masterpiece amid her brusque neighbor’s gaze and his pesky cat. As her painting starts to take shape, uncover an emotional tale of chance and artistry revealed behind unrelated yet familiar moments.

Developer: Silver Lining Studio
Date Played: December 2021
Console: PC
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 1 hour

From the moment I first heard the phrase “escape room puzzles in a Studio Ghibli-esque world” I was sold. A game like this deserved my full attention, so I patiently waited until Christmas 2021 when I’d have more time to spare before downloading it. The cosy evening of the 23rd of December was the perfect time. A time when the wind and rain howled outside, for me to make a big mug of tea and dive behind the frame into a peaceful and wholesome world.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

The story centres around you, an aspiring young artist living in a small studio apartment who dreams of of exhibiting her work in New York. Opposite, an elderly painter living with a tabby cat is occasionally glimpsed in a series of dream-like animated sequences. Each day you rise, make eggs on toast, pour a cup of coffee, and work on your painting. To your dismay, each time you power on your laptop you find your application to go to New York has been deleted, and your painting seems further from completion than ever before.

Your goal is to solve enough puzzles to discover more colours to finish your painting in time for the exhibition. But oddly, the details around you never change. The calendar on the wall displays the same date. But, as you play through this short game you quickly discover there’s a greater story unravelling around you in the stillness of art. Your life flits in and out of reverie and darker secrets bubble to the surface.

Who is the old man who lives opposite? More to the point, who are you?

Puzzles in Paintings

Behind the Frame is a puzzle game – and a point and click escape room at that – but it’s also a very narrative, emotionally heavy story. With each new chapter you learn a part of the whole story, but each time it feels like you’re scrambling to recover memories of the bigger picture.

In the escape room world really good storytelling is often missing from physical rooms and puzzle games. With just an hour’s time limit, it’s hard to write detailed narratives. The developers of Behind the Frame on the other hand have started with the story first, and then woven the puzzles throughout the game to support and advance the narrative – and it shows! It’s an incredibly moving story told through satisfying art-based puzzles.

In terms of puzzles, the setting dictates a lot of what can and cannot be done, and most puzzles centre around memory. Players will be shown a detail, and will later need to recreate it in their artwork to progress. In other sequences, players will encounter something in their environment and will need to recreate it on a wooden block puzzle they find in their home. In both cases, the game requires you to pay attention and use your artistic skill to solve the mystery.

At other times, you’ll discover hidden objects around your room and sketch or assemble them like jigsaws in your handy notebook. At no point during this game did I feel any of the puzzles were particularly challenging – but that’s part of the beauty. Behind the Frame is best played in one sitting, and each puzzle will take seconds to solve as not to disrupt the flow of the story.

Studio Ghibli, Eat Your Heart Out

…Haha, I’m kidding. Nothing can surpass a Ghibli film. But Behind the Frame comes close.

There’s a good reason this video game keeps being compared to the infamous Japanese film producer, despite the two having nothing to do with each other. Behind the Frame uses a combination of animated sequences and point and click gameplay. both of which feel lovingly hand drawn and perfectly in place with the style we see in many vintage anime films of the Studio Ghibli era.

What’s more, the story is heartbreaking and full of a sense of loss for a time we aren’t sure we ever knew. Players are encouraged to find the joy in every day life through the peaceful sound of coffee cups clinking and brushstrokes on paper. I am at once immediately at home playing Behind the Frame.

The Verdict

Behind the Frame is a magical puzzle game like nothing else I’ve ever played. It’s a marriage of my two favourite video game genres: escape room and wholesome, and this is a game I’ll be returning to over and over whenever I need a break from reality.

The game is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices – however I’d recommend playing it on PC or Nintendo Switch to get the most out of your artistic journey.

The only issue? it’s far too short. At six chapters long, the game is playable within 30 to 60 minutes. I went back and played it twice in order to collect 100% of the Steam achievements – another unchallenging pursuit – and still felt I needed a little more. More paintings, more stories from the girl’s life, more of everything. I need more of the magical whimsy Behind the Frame sprinkled into my life on a cold December evening.

To play Behind the Frame, head to the developer’s website and choose your platform here.

Ratings

Mindlock York: Viking Valhalla | Review

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Viking Valhalla Review | Your Viking hord have courageously battled foes and awake expecting to be dining with the Gods in Valhalla. Instead, you find yourselves in limbo having not yet completed some critical tasks to earn your place alongside them. Complete these tasks before your time runs out, please the Gods and earn your place in Valhalla. Thor and Odin await your team.

Date Played: 19th December 2021
Time Taken: 48 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Medium

When on a Christmas break to visit my family in York, my go to activity for working up an appetite (for the copious amount of Yorkshire Pudding Wrap I’ll order from the York Roast Co) is an escape room. This year, I asked for a recommendation from co-writers Al & Ash who suggested Mindlock. Of their rooms available, there was one obvious one to try… I mean, when in Jorvik, do as the Vikings.

This is how we found ourselves queuing up at Mindlock York, opposite Clifford’s Tower at opening time, excited to see if we could make it to the Viking afterlife in Viking Valhalla! First, our games master greeted us enthusiastically from a safe covid-friendly distance, then we were led towards our room and the timer started counting down. The game was on!

Photo (c) Visit York

“Fear not death”

The story behind Viking Valhalla is a unique one. In most escape rooms where death is a central theme, you’re escaping being killed. It makes sense. But in Viking Valhalla – you’re already dead. Oops. In Norse Mythology, if you die in battle your soul ascends to Valhalla where you’ll spend eternity wining and dining with the Gods.

But in our case, something went wrong. Perhaps we accidentally let go of our weapons at the moment of death and stuck on some technical hitch, we’re not eligible for Valhalla. But fear not – we were given a chance to prove ourselves with some good old fashioned puzzles. Solve the puzzles, escape limbo and emerge victorious into Valhalla.

It sounds simple, right? And yes, Limbo between life and Valhalla was a fairly simple affair. We emerged into the room to be greeted with a mostly white space adorned with some curious wood carvings on the wall and vines trailing from the walls. In the centre of our room was our first puzzle – the only thing we could do to get started.

I’m not sure what I imagined the limbo state between life and death to look like but I suppose this isn’t far off. But as we worked our way through the room and discovered more secret rooms, the decor got a lot more exciting. Almost like stepping back onto that Jorvik Viking Centre ‘rollercoaster’… Almost!

Image (c) Mindlock York

Ascend to Puzzle-halla

In terms of puzzles, Viking Valhalla had a good quantity of puzzles to work through, with some similar mechanics between them. For a team of three consisting of one experienced player (myself) and two fairly new escape room, it was paced well for us. We completed the whole experience in 48 minutes at a relaxed pace – enough time for a joke or two!

What seemed to be a sparse room quickly revealed itself to have plenty of hiding holes where we discovered even more chests and hints to keep us entertained. The game unfolded in a linear fashion, with one puzzle at any given time keeping us occupied before it unlocked a new space or chest which gave us the clues to solve the next, and so on.

In terms of styles of puzzles, we encountered plenty of locks – consisting of the usual keys, 4 digit codes, and a directional lock too. We also encountered a lot of maths and cipher related puzzles which made sense within the universe. I mean, who doesn’t love deciphering Norse runes? But it was nothing we hadn’t seen before, making it a good introduction to the types of puzzles escape rooms can contain.

One of the things that our team enjoyed the most about Viking Valhalla were the maths puzzles. One of our party was a rather maths-obsessed 11 year old who took a lot of delight putting the in-room calculator aside and doing all the complex calculations on paper. Maths puzzles can be like marmite in an escape room (personally, I can’t solve them to save my life- or my death, as it were), but there’s an audience who enjoy them for sure.

The Verdict

Viking Valhalla is a fun room that’s worth visiting whilst in York purely for the connection to York’s rich Viking history. We had fun playing it on a rainy Sunday morning before taking a trip to the Viking Centre to round off the theme. In particular, we loved the host interaction – buckets of enthusiasm and a fun introductory briefing. The room itself was fairly average and may not challenge an enthusiast, but may be just the perfect place to take your Puggle (Puzzle Muggle) friends in the area.

As a side note: Since we had a dog in our holiday group, it’s worth mentioning that Mindlock at the time of writing does not allow dogs on the premises. There’s no particular reason why it should do, but it’s worth mentioning just in case prospective bookers can’t find the information online. As always we recommend contacting them directly.

Viking Valhalla can be booked at Mindlock York’s website here.

Ratings

Retrospective Holiday Special: Portal | Review

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Portal Review | Set in the mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories, the game is designed to change the way players approach, manipulate, and surmise the possibilities in a given environment. Players must solve physical puzzles and challenges by opening portals to manoeuvring objects, and themselves, through space.

Developer: Valve
Console Played On: Steam
Number Of Players: 1

Disclaimer! This is a retrospective review. This means it is reviewed based on the gaming expectations of the present day and the relevancy for escape room enthusiasts.

Do you enjoy silent protagonists? Check ✅

Are you enticed by mind-bending physics? Check ✅

Do you prefer your comedy to skirt the line between hilariousness and existential dread? Check ✅

Well if so, this puzzle game might be for you.

Well, You Found Me. Congratulations. Was It Worth It?

If you saw my introductory interview with Mairi, I mentioned Portal 2 as being one of my favourite puzzle games. After playing it, I spoke to friends about how much I enjoyed it. My “PC gaming” friends often responded something along the lines of…

“It’s good…but not as good as the original”.

After many, many of these encounters; I vowed to find a copy of The Orange Box (a Valve compilation of games including Portal), on the PS3 (I didn’t own a decent PC at the time); however it was sold out everywhere. When I eventually found a copy, it was at an extortionate price. That was in 2011.

10 years later I still find myself, never having played the original title. Well dear TER friends, that ends today – it can be bought on steam; on it’s own.

So welcome, to my retrospective holiday special.

A Complimentary Escape Hatch Will Open In 3… 2… 1…

You play as Chell, a silent protagonist who is a test subject for Aperture Laboratories. You wake up from your isolation pod and are instructed by GLaDOS, a dry, shade-throwing AI system, to undergo various physics based puzzles using the portal gun, an experimental tool used to create two portals through which objects can pass. As a concept, the theming is simple but still to this day, highly effective. Furthermore, it can’t be ignored that it has inspired the theming and narrative of many other games; puzzle and non-puzzle alike. We owe a lot to this.

The visuals are simple but polished, and successfully project the image of a cleansed, futuristic dystopian world. There are no other human characters to interact with, just a series of mechanisms and a sassy AI with a frenemy attitude. There were many times where I found myself chuckling away at GLaDOS’s insults via deadpan delivery as I progressed further and further.

Let’s Be Honest. Neither One Of Us Knows What That Thing Does.

Is Portal an immersive experience? I’d be inclined to say yes. Its not hugely story-rich, there isn’t any narrative to initially invest you and the character dialogue is one-sided. But the theming and puzzle-depth allow the player on many occasions to forget themselves and subconciously dive into the minimalistic elements presented.

Do Not Submerge The Device In Liquid, Even Partially

You’ve really got to hand it to Portal for their puzzles and overall innovative contributions via Valve’s physics mechanics; through the use of the famous portal gun. It blew player’s minds back then, and even now it’s still very strong in both areas. The learning curve is brilliant and wholly organic, each puzzle set piece has thematic, visual signposting (see below) to help you progress and the puzzles themselves are still impressively innovative and satisfying to complete. During the back half of the game, there are puzzles that involve the player to be dexterous with their control input. This can be frustrating for some, but because there is no penalty for trying and trying again, once you do accomplish a tricky set piece, you are rewarded not only by the accomplishment, but the visual stimuli of gracefully flying through the air in the first-person.

Quit Now And Cake Will Be Served Immediately

I’ve noticed that if a game from the 2000s is remastered/re-released for present day, it’s highly likely that the controls require some from of standardisation. This can be the ultimate difference between a playable, nostalgic dream vs an unplayable mess and waste of money. Thankfully, Portal utilises a keyboard and mouse set up that is futureproof and still allows great playability in 2021. I am disappointed however, that considering how popular and iconic this game is; gamepad compatibility has not been patched in. Especially, when I can believe that many players including myself, was introduced to the series via the sequel on a console that would use a gamepad, subsequently love the experience, and then be forced to use a different control method when playing the original.

When The Testing Is Over, You Will Be Missed

Originally, Portal was only available as part of Valve’s The Orange Box; available on PC and 7th generation consoles such as Xbox 360. Now it can be bought on steam by itself for £7.19. For that, you will get around 2 to 5 hours of game time plus bonus maps outside of the main campaign. Valve are one of the biggest game development companies out there, therefore I’d argue that this is at just about the right price.

Rating

Initially, Valve considered Portal to be merely filler for The Orange Box; unexpectedly gaining wide spread popularity and acclaim when released in 2007. Fast forward to 2021 and its still a highly playable, engrossing puzzle challenge that is poignant and comedic. It’s a shame there isn’t gamepad compatibility, but there is more than enough here for escape room enthusiasts to get stuck into, during this holiday (or any) period.

Portal can be purchased on steam here.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive | Review

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It’s not theatre, or cinema. It’s not an escape room, theme park ride or VR game. Yes, there are pyrotechnics, projections, holograms and special effects. But this is quite different to an arena show (there are only 8-12 tickets per performance). As London’s multi-award winning, top-rated “immersive night out,” this event combines them all.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience

In an unassuming period building on Leadenhall Street, just a short walk from Bank Station and dwarfed by nearby skyscrapers, a whole new world can be discovered. This building houses Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Immersive Experience, but until you stick your head through the door and notice the enormous Martian towering over the bar, you’d never have believed it!

This live immersive experience has been in London since 2019 but thanks to the pandemic (an event not too dissimilar from the death and destruction the story itself tells), it’s been shut for most of 2020 and 2021. The moment tickets came back on sale, we re-downloaded the album and started getting ready for our very own Martian adventure.

Photo (c) Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive

What to Expect at War of the Worlds Immersive

There’s no denying that Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive is a huge experience, and bookers should be prepared to have their socks blown off over the course of the 2 hour event.

For starters, there are 24 unique scenes. Typically when reviewing escape room experiences, we mention how many unique spaces, or ‘rooms’ there are in an experience. I didn’t think I could be any more impressed after 221B’s five spaces, but The War of the World’s Immersive Experience has 24 unique spaces in it.

Players are guided through each of these 24 scenes, scattered through time and space, to tell the story of the Martian invasion of Earth. You’ll find yourself running through trenches with huge robots up above, slipping down slides, scampering across rickety bridges, entering VR areas such as on a boat or up in a hot air balloon. This thing is huge.

The Earth Under The Martians by Fluid based on originals by Peter Goodfellow, Geoff Taylor and Michael Trim

Of all the areas, the VR sequences were definitely some of the most impressive and they worked well to transport players from one area into another seamlessly. For example, at one point you sit down in a boat, don your headset, and off the boat gentle sails through London. By the time you emerge at the other end of this VR sequence (a bit wet and rather terrified), a clever lighting change gives the impression of being in an entirely different location. Quite clever, really!

According to the creators (Layered Reality) populating the immersive world they’ve created are 17 live actors too. These actors dip and out of your experience, setting the scene and guiding you along the way.

On the day we attended, it was this particular batch of actor’s final show day – and it was a lovely (albeit unexpected) treat to be joined by the bar after our experience by the actors themselves, who were absolutely fantastic.

Photo (c) Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive

Our Experience of the Apocalypse

Currently, you can only book The War of the World’s Immersive Experience in a team size that’s a multiple of 2 – so 2, or 4, or 6 etc. We went as a team of 4 on a quiet Sunday evening and were 8 other players for the show.

The show sizes are small and intimate, and it felt like the team had gone to good lengths to ensure everyone’s safety… Especially in light of the global pandemic. Masks were worn at all times and there were plenty of places along the experience to sanitise your hands, as well as regular cleaning of the equipment inbetween every group.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but what few expectations we did have were totally blown out of the water. Equal parts terrifying, and tense and thrilling, the experience jumped from scene to scene to scene in a fast paced retelling of the War of the Worlds. The story has been lovingly recreated by the Layered Reality team and stunned us from start to finish. Even now, days later, I’m still thinking about it and remembering some small detail in one of their amazingly intricately designed sets.

Was it fun? Oh yes, absolutely! It was incredible.

Was it worth the price? Well, this part is a little bit trickier to answer. The website says tickets start at £40, but we were unable to find any session in the next few months for less than £70 per person. This likely due to Christmas, and peak times – but we can’t help but compare it to escape rooms! This comes in at around double the cost of an average escape room. At this price point, it’s still absolutely worth it. So far, so good, except the experience is definitely geared towards making you spend even more. With two bars on-site that you are required to spend time in, and your team photo costing an extra £12, this puts the price more on the £100 per person range. Slightly cost prohibitive, but they have gone above and beyond making it worth the price. The verdict? Definitely worth it!

…And yes, we definitely did order a drink before to calm our nerves, and a celebratory drink afterwards… Or two… Or three!

Team The Escape Roomer about to enter The War of the Worlds Immersive

The Spirit of Man Bar & Restaurant

We’ve mentioned that there are two bars on this immersive adventure, and with both stocking a fantastic range of delicious cocktails, they’re well worth the trip! In the first, The Spirit of Man, customers are greeted by an enormous Martian towering over the tables pumping coloured steam into the dining area on a rotation times to the music.

The second bar is appropriately named The Red Weed Bar and is located at the 50% mark of your immersive experience. At this point, the Martians have truly taken over the world and those humans left are in hiding… Hiding in the sickly red world the Martians have created. Creepy!

Presently, the bar is offering it’s Christmas menu complete with themed food and cocktails. Whilst we were there we tried:

Christmas Eve of War

The Christmas Eve of War

A delicious concoction of: Dry vermouth, cointreau, disaronno, lemon juice & blackberry syrup. This comes in a martini-style glass and is decorated with blackberries and raspberries. This is one of their winter exclusive cocktails.

The Martiantini

Martiantini

Available all year round, the Martiantini contains Vodka, melon liqueur, green apple liqueur, lime, sugar & cherries.

Not into cocktails? Fear not – both menus also sport a range of regular beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages too.

The Verdict

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds Immersive is like nothing else you can experience in London right now and I’m still humming along to the tunes and remembering small but delightful moments days later. My only real regret is not going in the first few months – oh why did I wait so long! *shakes fist at the global pandemic*

It’s a great experience for families, couples, or for a special occasion for that sci-fi fan in your life.

How soon is too soon before I can book another ticket, eh?

Tickets for Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds Immersive Experience can be purchased on their website here.

Rating

No Escape: The Haunted Toy Store | Review

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The Haunted Toy Store Review | An abandoned toy store looms over an otherwise charming village. People tell stories of weird noises and strange happenings, toys found in odd places and children going missing. Nobody has been brave enough to attempt to solve the mysteries of the toy store that is, until you…

Completion Time: 40 minutes
Date Played: 29th October 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Easy-ish

I’ve got a reputation on The Escape Roomer for being a little bit of a scaredy cat… Dark Spaces? Ghosts? Asylums? No thank you.

I listen in horror as Al and Ash chat about all the UK’s scariest games they’ve played and instead ‘reminisce’ about the time I went to the London Dungeon and had to be escorted out because I got too scared and started crying. It would be a funny story if I’d been a child… Only I was 17 at the time!

But when our group committed to playing a scary escape room over Halloween, I figured what the heck – if you can’t get scared witless on Halloween, then when can you? No Escape, bring it on!

A Hauntingly Good Halloween at No Escape

For No Escape’s special Halloween weekend, we went for what sounded like the least scary game they run: The Haunted Toy Store. Somehow ghosts feel more manageable than walking into a blood splattered cutting floor- which made being greeted at the entrance by a terrifying butcher in full character, sporting a human ear necklace all the more chilling.

For one weekend only in 2021, each of No Escape’s escape rooms at both of their London sites had a live actor in the room with the teams. It’s important to note that normally, their rooms are not live actor rooms, but given the circumstances I think The Haunted Toy Store was vastly improved with the presence of a creepy clown throwing red herrings our way. The creepy clown was an actor, Nicole, and just outside the room our games master was Holly.

We resolved to enter the room and pretend as if we wouldn’t be scared and in the end I think we made the right decision. I think without the live actor the room itself would have been fairly average and not too scary- but if you’re into creepy cursed dolls and children’s toys coming to life, then you’ll probably enjoy it all the same! No jump scares in the original, but plenty in the Halloween special! So a huge shout out to Holly and Nicole for that!

Pitch Black… Cackling Laughter

We began our briefing being told that this was a mysterious toy shop. The day before a boy had come into the room and cut himself quite badly, but when they’d returned to clean it up all the blood had mysteriously disappeared. Creepily, so had the boy – not a trace of him since.

The doors then swung open and we were in pitch darkness. As cackling laughter rose out of the corner, we quickly realised we were not alone! Our first actor interaction began in this room, which I feverishly tried to ignore, rushing past them to start busying myself with anything else. A word of warning: It’s quite hard to try to look for a light switch when you have your eyes closed.

From here, we were off to a flying start. The Haunted Toy Store is essentially a two-room escape room that pretty much looks and feels exactly like a toy shop from everyone’s worst nightmare. Plenty of dolls staring out at you from shelves, and plenty of toys that have had heads and limbs ripped off. So many distorted faces, dark corners and eerie sounds!

*shudders*

How did we escape the Haunted Toy Store?

The puzzles in this escape room were fairly straightforward and we managed to escape with a respectable time that put us right at the top of the Halloween leader board. I’d probably pitch the general puzzles at an easier-than-average level, but that’s not to say we didn’t get immensely stuck from time to time! No sir. The presence of a creepy clown made it all the harder.

There was a bit of searching and finding, plenty of children’s toys, some of which had clues and others were just for display, as well dials to turn, things to count and a few 3 and 4 digit codes. This all led to a meta puzzle which combined lots of the room and took us the longest to get right! There were also a few red herrings in the game which are usually a no-no in escape rooms, but we all felt they worked pretty well in a room like this. Red herrings can go a long way to building up atmosphere and forcing you to spread out (and away from the safety of numbers!)

Over the course of The Haunted Toy Store we asked for two hints. One of these was delivered via a screen in the room, and the other was given by the live actor in the room. Since this room is not usually available with a live actor, I don’t mind telling you that she had us all holding hands and singing ring-a-ring-a-roses followed by lots of screaming in order to receive the clue. I still have nightmares!

The Verdict

Overall, we had a lot of fun! We screamed quite a few times – but thankfully not as many as the butcher room next door to us, so I think we made the right choice!

There are a few ‘meh’ reviews of the company and the room out there, and I can see that without a live actor it probably wouldn’t appeal to hardcore enthusiasts as much. We were there for a good time, a couple of screams, and that’s exactly what we got – so no complaints.

For the special Halloween edition, we paid £35 per ticket which is also fairly expensive, even for London, but we’d still recommend the experience for the right team. Especially at Halloween.

The Haunted toy Store can be booked on No Escape’s website here. Please note, this review is of their special Halloween version of the room available from the 28th – 31st of October 2021. This involved a live actor in the room, which is not typically available.

Ratings