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.

Escape Hub: Inbound | Review

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Escape Hub: Inbound Review | Word from France, you have one hour to get TOP SECRET British intelligence to safety. Axis air strikes are INBOUND. Climb and Crawl through the rubble of this bombed street of York.

Date Played: 2019
Time Taken: ~1 hour

Please note, this review was originally posted on Kent Escape Room Reviews.

About Escape Hub

Escape Hub is located within the Royal Star Arcade on Maidstone High Street. Conveniently situated in the town centre, this is a real hidden gem.  

Occupying much of the upper floor of the shopping arcade, its large glass frontage gives a great first impression. It comfortable seating area and friendly staff put you right at ease. The reception area also includes leader boards for each of the rooms and some puzzles, so get your competitive juices flowing! 

All members of the team here are very welcoming and its clearly evident that they care about their customers needs. Escorting you to the entrance to your room, your host gives you a quick briefing on what is about to begin. 

So without further adieu, here’s what to expect from Inbound:

On the Brink of War – Inbound

This room, summed up in one word – AWESOME!

Now the thought of running into a war zone as an escape room initially didn’t appeal to me until I started to read the write up provided by the Escape Hub website – when the words “Smoke” and “Crawling” were added to the mix, my ears pricked up and we booked only a few weeks after the room opened – And I was certainly not disappointed. 

The aim of this game is to obtain three British Intelligence secrets and escape. Based in war time, the scale of this room is pretty unbelievable. There is more than one large space to explore, giving the sensation of real depth and care to detail. Without spoiling the game, the way in which the designers have created this room is nothing short of genius. From the space, to the added atmosphere provided by a soundtrack, it’s a thumbs up from us.

The theme of ‘the war’ is a real hook in this escape room and impressed us a lot. We feel it would wow even the most seasoned of escapists, making it a fantastic stand out room in the genre. Think: The Great Escape.

The puzzles seem to be never ending and the effects within the room add that extra something to complete this masterpiece. Players can expect to encounter a fair deal of padlocks – which is no bad thing in an escape room, especially when it fits into the theme. Sure, in the war the boxes and munitions probably would have been locked down with a padlock… Or two… Or three.

But overall one of my favourite things were the unexpected twists and turns in this room, combined with thoroughly challenging moments. Everything is however achievable, after all we did escape! For those wondering how to get the best success from the room, I would suggest sometimes taking a step back and looking at things at face value – don’t try and overthink it! We often do ourselves! My advice would be to keep it simple and you will smash it!

A massively enjoyable experience, with a great theme, smart use of space and great effects. If you haven’t tried this room yet – you must! 

Would I recommend this room?

Yes, definitely. ​

Who would I recommend it to? 

The game is suitable for all to enjoy however not particularly easy for first timers, so maybe tried the Escape Hub’s other rooms first! It is also not wheelchair accessible, so keep this in mind when you book.

How many players would I recommend?

I would suggest that 4 players is the perfect number for this game. ​

Suitable for Children?

Given the war theme, I would suggest not and although there is nothing gruesome to worry about, the room doesn’t particularly lend itself to under 12s. ​

Inbound can be booked by heading to Escape Hub’s website here.

Jersey War Tunnels: Operation Constellation | Review

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Jersey War Tunnels Operation Constellation Review | It is 1943 and Chief of Combined Operations, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, has conceived Operation Constellation, a daring offensive against the Channel Islands. A team of elite commandos are to land on Jersey and break into Ho8 (Jersey War Tunnels). Your mission is to access the German Commandant’s Office and find the locations of the newly constructed fortifications. You will have to search, identify clues and decipher puzzles to find the locations and discover the code to unlock the door.

Completion Time: 65 minutes
Date Played: 21st August 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard!

Imagine playing an historical escape room in the physical space it’s set… Such as escaping from a pyramid, except it’s actually in a pyramid… Or escaping a submarine that is actually sinking and- oh no wait, maybe not that one 😱

A slightly safer way to experience a genuine historical adventure is to check out Operation Constellation at the Jersey War Tunnels. During World War II Jersey was occupied by German forces and during this time the war tunnels were dug deep into the hillside in the centre of the island. They were built so that the occupied regime would withstand Allied air raids and are still in perfect condition today!

Deep within the heart of the tunnels is a little space set aside for an escape room: Operation Constellation. Your mission is to break into the occupied tunnels, access the Commandant’s Office, and find the location of the fortifications so you can transmit the information back to the Allies. The room itself behind the site of an actual Commandant’s office is equal parts eerie and unique, and it’s safe to say that this is a one of a kind experience.

But let’s get into the details…

The entrance to the Jersey Wars Tunnels.

About Jersey War Tunnels

According to Jersey War Tunnels website,

Dug deep into the hillside by forced and slave workers from nations across Europe, they now contain an underground collection of thought provoking exhibits that tell the fascinating story of Jersey’s occupation from resistance, through to starvation, then eventual liberation.

We arrived at 2.30pm and booked in for the 3pm slot. Since last entry to the museum is 3.30pm, we opted to purchase our tickets upfront and use half an hour before the room and another half an hour or so after our room to explore the historical side of the site. There’s easily enough to explore in the museum you could spend hours there though – so be sure to factor that into your booking if you’re planning to make a day of it!

One of the narrow passages off the main tunnel.

The World’s Most Authentic Escape Room

Whilst the plot behind Operation Constellation is fiction, the space it’s in is not. From the moment we stepped into the escape room, our whole team was seriously impressed by the attention to detail. It felt like stepping back into history, where every item we picked up was an original authentic object from the time, here used as puzzles and clues.

On the one hand, this was incredible. Everything felt real and tangible in our hands – no plasterboard or out of place wiring to be seen. Even the clue system was delivered via an old timey, 1940s phone perched on the walls. On the other hand, authenticity can sometimes go too far. This is the only escape room I’ve seen use a genuine swastika flag as part of the decorations… A controversial choice!

Controversial decorations aside, the museum has created many different types of exhibitions to tell the story of occupation: from interactive bunkers, to video performance, to an incredibly immersive tunnels sequence (that may have made me jump out of my skin!). Each exhibit is respectful of the victims, and I’ve no doubt that every consideration was made with their escape room too.

Photo (c) Jersey War Tunnels

Puzzles and Panzers

In terms of puzzles, Operation Constellation is absolutely packed. I can completely see why they recommend the room for teams of 4 – 8. You need at least 4 brains working on things simultaneously if you want to escape in time. Your goal, if you choose to accept it, is to track down the locations of newly constructed fortifications across the island. Each location is on a piece of card with a corresponding key, and each is hidden behind walls and walls of puzzles.

Many of the puzzles we encountered in this room were quite meaty, meaning one person could be occupied by a single puzzle for a big portion of the time. This gives a lot of opportunity for specialisation – got someone who is good with words? They’ll quickly find their forte. Numbers? There’s something for everyone. In particular, since no one player could possibly solve everything, I worked on a word-based puzzle, which played to my strengths and meant that each time another player found a clue they could quickly hand it to me and move on with what they were doing. Similarly, another player chose to focus on a numbers puzzle which took at least 15-20 minutes to solve alone.

Along the way, there’s also a lot of searching and finding. Operation Constellation is a deceptively big room with a lot of cupboards, shelves, books and hidden Easter Eggs to be found. With all the items being so authentic, there’s no way to know what is decor and what’s a genuine puzzle – so check everything!

To help you along the way you have access to just 3 clues – these were delivered via the phone on the wall. That said, there’s technically a 3 clue limit but we were offered one additional, bonus one, when the time was really ticking down at the end and it looked like we wouldn’t escape in time! We technically did run out of time at the end, but our GM was kind enough to give us a little extra time.

Based on our team of 4 of wildly differing skill levels (one player had never played any escape rooms before!), I think we didn’t too badly running just a couple of minutes over the time limit. There were so many keys, so many codes, so many awesome things to find – making Operation Constellation a very impressive room!

Photo (c) Jersey Wars Tunnels

Is Operation Constellation Worth It?

To be sure, Operation Constellation is a quite expensive escape room. It costs a flat rate of £150, and the room can take teams of between 4 – 8 people. At the smaller team size this puts the room at £37.50 per player, and £18.75 if you can rustle up 7 other players. Due to the price, the room size and complexity of puzzles, I wouldn’t recommend doing it with any fewer than 4 players, though its technically possible if you get in contact with them in advance.

That said, your booking for Operation Constellation does not include entry to the museum, which is an additional £15 per person. If you don’t purchase museum tickets, you’ll be escorted into and out of the museum quite quickly… But in all honesty, visiting the museum is part of the experience and not to be missed!

Altogether, for a team of 4 including museum tickets you’re looking at £52.50 per player. At 8, it’s £33.75 per player.

Is it worth it? Well, maybe. A few days before our booking we got chatting to a few local folks who had the room booked for a stag party later in the week. They’d booked just the room (and not the museum) and were thrilled to find an activity so unique that could accommodate their team of 8. Fantastic!! It’s a perfect room for a team like this. On the other hand, if you’re a tourist on holiday in Jersey it’s unlikely you’ll be travelling in a big group, but you never know! If you can afford it, have at least 4 players in your party, and you’re visiting the Jersey War Tunnels anyway, then why not?! Operation Constellation is like nothing else in the world so worth a trip.

Operation Constellation: The Verdict

Operation Constellation is a very impressive room located in the heart of Jersey, an amazingly unique way to experience the local history, and packed with fun puzzles to boot. It’s the perfect escape room for a large group, for example for a birthday party, stag or hen night, or even a work team-building event. We had a lot of fun playing it in our little team of 4.

The best part? Jersey Wars Tunnels are hard at work building another escape room, truly solidifying the island as an excellent destination for escape room enthusiasts all over the UK.

To book Operation Constellation at the Jersey War Tunnels you can head to Jersey War Tunnels website here.

Ratings

Fox in a Box: Virtual Bunker

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Early 80’s, the peak of the Cold War… a nuclear launch sequence has been started by accident. The whole world is about to end. You are a team of special agents sent to find out who did it and to stop the launch at any cost. You are our last hope, and if you fail, the whole world will end.

Rating: Exciting
Completion Time: 35 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Folks missing escape rooms in lockdown!

Virtual Bunker is Fox in a Box London’s adaptation of their real life escape room of the same name, minus the ‘virtual’ part of course, and they adapt the game for an online audience in a really creative way! For starters, they use both a live actor via Zoom and a digital online interface (Telescape) to collect, log and examine various areas of the room up close.

I played this experience with an absolutely awesome team comprised of Borderline Puzzler and Al & Ash from Escaping the Closet. I could not have asked for a better team… WE ACED IT! Unfortunately 35 minutes didn’t quite get us on the leaderboard, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try again at one of Fox in a Box’s real life escape rooms just as soon as lockdown is over.

The Setting

The setting for Bunker is your classic Cold War themed escape room. You (or rather, Alex, our enigmatic boots on the ground) awake in a mysterious bunker with a missile poised to launch and countdown blaring in your ears… This whole place is about to go nuclear! That’s right, you guessed it… You’ve got just 60 minutes to guide your host around the room, crack open the puzzles, unlock the locks, and stop the nuclear fallout. It’s a theme I’ve played a lot but it doesn’t make it any less exciting stepping into a room with the fate of the whole country on your hands.

Fox in a Box have also themed the room well for the setting; it’s ruggedly simple, everything you’d expect from an underground nuclear bunker. For example, there’s camo on the ceiling, and a vintage looking desk and set of phones right out of the second world war. Oh, and dotted around the room you’ll also find large crates (locked of course) and some very cool looking ammo boxes – all ready for cracking open with a code or two!

The Experience

Acting as our host in the room and Games Master we had Alex and Abdullah from the Fox in a Box team. Our mission was simple: To guide Alex around the room, directing them to examine objects and unlock things as each puzzle was solved. Every time we discovered something new, a little *pling* notification would let us know it’s available in our Telescape inventory to examine further.

One of the biggest challenges for escape rooms (in general) this lockdown is how to translate the escape room experience into Zoom. *stares outside forlornly*

With only one host and multiple participants, there’s bound to be a little bit of talking over each other. That said, I think having an online inventory system really mitigates that as it gives each participant the breathing room to look at something closer at their own pace. Which is something Fox in a Box does well! I’ve played games solely on Telescape (no host), and games with a host and no inventory system, but IMO this way works best. Whilst one party is busy asking the host to open every single possible cupboard they can find (*cough cough* me – sorry Alex!), other players can quietly take a closer look at the more important details.

Fox in a Box experiences can be booked for up to 8 participants (wow!), but we were very comfortable with just 4. Plus, as an experienced team of 4 we had almost no problem co-ordinating the host (and ourselves) to success!

The Puzzles

Personally, I found Virtual Bunker to be *slightly* on the easier side, despite it’s real life equivalent being listed as “Hard” on the website. If anything, this just means it’s extra accessible to a wide audience! Having not played the real escape room Bunker, I can’t tell how many puzzles are the same and what has been changed for a digital audience. In any case, this’d be a great one to bring your non-escape room friends to.

There’s a lot in the room you can find quite quickly, but the puzzles must be solved in a linear format with 4 distinct ‘stages’ to the room as a whole. There’s definitely a wide range to the types of puzzles we encountered in Virtual Bunker. From the (expected) Cold War style puzzles including Morse Code and vintage maps, there were also some very cool puzzles rooted in technology – can you get the wiring right and adjust the dials to the correct settings? Frequently we were looking for a 3 or 4 digit code to unlock a lock – which felt totally natural in the environment (and hey, I know lock puzzles are going out of fashion but I still really love them, sue me!). In particular, I really enjoyed the visual puzzles anything where a *cough* different light reveals something… As you can tell, trying not to give away any spoilers here – but there’s easily enough of a mix of puzzles I could talk for several more paragraphs!

So at risk of giving way too much detail, I’ll round off the review by talking about whether we enjoyed it? OF COURSE WE DID. I was a little nervous about playing with strangers – only to join the call and realise they’re not strangers at all! Escape room gals gotta stick together *barf I can’t believe I just said that*.

An extra shout out to our two hosts, Abdullah and Alex who both set the scene wonderfully from the first briefing to our every interaction in the room. It’s that special touch from the games masters, and playing with a great team that makes an experience a good one, so if you’re reading this review and thinking about booking this game – do it! But bring your A Team with you when you do!

Virtual Bunker can be booked for £80 – £140 per team, depending on number of players by heading to Fox in a Box’s website here. You can also book their real life game at the London branch here.