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”

Locked In Games: Rags to Riches | Review

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Rags to Riches Escape Room Review | The two coins clinked together in your pocket as you stumble down the cold pavement. Yesterday, you were sleeping on the cobbles of Museum Gardens, icy winds smashing against your face. Today, you’ve been told you’re the heir to a huge inheritance, left to you by an old lady across the road. This may sound like a rags to riches fairytale, but before the celebrations begin you must prove yourself worthy. There’s just one catch. The court has authorised the demolition of the property. You have an hour to find the riches before the house and your dreams are reduced to rubble.

Date Played: 20th December 2021
Time Taken: 59 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Tricky!

Previously, I’d said that my favourite escape room in York was Operation H.E.R.O. at Can You Escape York… And then on our very last day of the York trip, right before our train was due to leave for London, we booked one more room. Rags to Riches at Locked In Games. Can it be that this might be our new favourite escape room in York? Why yes, it might just be!

About Locked In Games

Tucked away opposite Lendal Tower and the Yorkshire Museum Gardens is Locked In Games – the York branch of the popular Leeds escape room. Initially, despite our party staying in accommodation on the same street, we hadn’t noticed the escape room company there. Then, when deciding which rooms to play in York we’d overlooked it again when we couldn’t find any enthusiast reviews. Big mistakes!

It was only after we’d found a couple of Geocaches in the area that we noticed the company and thought “Hey, they’ve got availability – let’s give it a go!” My only regret? Leaving it to the last day of the holiday and not booking more of their rooms!

We booked in for the next available slot and were greeted by the enthusiastic Games Master Chester, who led us past the other businesses in the building (a few lawyer firms) and down the stairs into the lobby of Locked In Games. Chester explained that there was one prop that had been recently broken in the Rags to Riches room, for which he apologised profusely and went above and beyond to make the game work seamlessly without this prop. In hindsight, we may not even have noticed it, but since everything else in the room worked flawlessly and was in great condition, it was good to be given the heads up.

“I know I’d go from rags to riches…”

The story behind Rags to Riches follows Tony Bennett confessing his love- haha, just kidding!

The actual story of Rags to Riches follows you and your quest to claim your inheritance. With just a few pennies in your pocket, you suddenly get excellent news – you’ve been left a fortune and it’s hidden in this old woman’s creaky apartment. The problem is, the apartment is scheduled to be demolished in 60 minutes, taking the inheritance with it!

In our team of 3, we ventured into the room on the look out for anything our kind benefactor may have left us. What we found were a lot of cryptic puzzles. Good job we’re the right team for puzzle solving, eh?

Rags to Riches (c) Locked In Games York

Granny’s Crumbling Apartment

One of our favourite things about Rags to Riches was the decor. It’s your classic “old lady’s house”, but completely fallen to disrepair and a layer of dust on anything. I’m not sure exactly when this particular granny passed away, but it was a while ago and it feels like it in the best possible way.

It’s easy to argue that ‘crumbling and slightly dilapidated’ is a very easy theme for an escape room interior designer to create, but I just really like the effect when it’s done well. Rags to Riches reminded me of how much I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed!) finding dust in Leicester-based room, Operation Magnus. To add to the effect, the walls had been painted with peeling wallpaper, vintage furniture, depressingly beige carpet, antique looking china, and a very cool (and hefty) wall safe.

At the start of our escape room, our Games Master informed us that you can choose to be locked in, or not locked in, as you please. In the event of a fire, all the locks automatically unlock. Conveniently, this room is also located right next to the fire exit. So we opted to be officially ‘locked in’ – very exciting! But in this case, even the lock felt authentic. It’s one of the very same locks my own granny has on her door. Extra points for that.

Where’d She Hide It, Then?!

In terms of puzzles, the game was themed really well. Every puzzle was contained within some object that you’d reasonably believe could be found in an old lady’s apartment. With some added high tech here and there.

As mentioned, in our playthrough one of the props was broken – so instead of physically interacting with it, we solved it from afar and called our the answer to our Games Master who then triggered the result. It was one of those happy moments when one of our team made an educated guess – one we might not even have put into the prop, and received the satisfying “that’s correct” relay call to proceed.

Besides this puzzle, the game was a solidly challenging romp across the various rooms within the old lady’s apartment. We encountered a range of puzzles including plenty of search-and-find, a few padlocks, a really fun puzzle involving a board game, and a couple of listening puzzles too.

Being a room on the slightly harder side- or perhaps we simply hadn’t drunk enough coffee yet- we were offered a fair few clues. This was for the best, as we managed to escape with a thrilling 40 seconds left on the clock.

Oh my god I’m not smart enough to solve this in 60 seconds!” I called out, before my brother half my age solved it in just 20!

The Verdict

Any escape room with a picture perfect finish with less than a minute left goes down in my personal hall of fame. It’s only happened around four times, but it just shows that it’s a perfectly paced escape room… For me, anyway! No two players are the same.

Of our team of semi-enthusiasts (with between 5 – 100 escape rooms between us), we all agreed on one thing – that we had a fantastic time. Plenty of puzzles we’d never encountered before, and lots of very cool props used in interesting ways. Add in some bonus points for how much we enjoyed the theme and the decor, and it’s a winning formula. Rags to Riches is definitely a hidden gem escape room in York. Not a lot of enthusiasts have played it (or even heard of it), but it goes right up to the top of my “you must play when you’re in town” suggestion list.

Rags to Riches can be booked at Locked In Games York on their website here.

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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.

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Can You Escape York: Operation H.E.R.O. | Review

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Can You Escape York Review | The Force Four superheroes have been captured by the mastermind Möbius! Hermes, Oculo, Torus, and Badger are being held in an unknown location and there is limited time before they are gone forever. The superhero recruitment organisation, H.E.R.O., are looking for the next super squad to help locate the heroes and return them to York before it’s too late. Gather your own squad and see if you’ve got what it takes to save Force Four!

Date Played: 18th December 2021
Time Taken: 52 minutes
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Easyish

Ever watched a superhero film and thought “Hey, I could do that!”?

No… Me neither. But somehow playing Operation H.E.R.O. at Can You Escape York makes being a superhero seem easy. In this quirky escape room, four heroes have been captured by the evil mastermind Mobius. But, before the super-computer lets us in to help track the heroes down, we need to prove that we’re worthy successors.

In a series of challenges, our team of three got to prove our strength, our speed, and our intelligence before we could tackle the big finale and save the world! All in a day’s work, eh?

Image (c) Can You Escape York

Honey, Where Is My Super Suit?!

One of the coolest things about Operation H.E.R.O. is the space you’re greeted with when you first walk into the room. We’d been given a briefing by our games master in the adjacent room (which has been lightly decorated to fit the theme), but instructed not to touch anything in the room until the briefing voiceover was complete. This turned out to be a tantalising instruction as this small space is absolutely packed with interesting looking puzzles under the dim neon lights. We couldn’t help but ogle at buttons, switches, mazes and more.

As soon as our timer began, we were off to a flying start! This escape room, unlike most other traditional rooms requires a varied balance of skills. Each superhero you’re ‘up against’ has a specific skill you need to match – there’s strength, speed, brains, and so on. We enjoyed this a lot and it provided each of our different team members a chance to flex their particular skills. Most of those skills are not ones you’d use in a typical escape room! In fact, most escape rooms discourage you to use strength.

It’s also a very straightforward room. Few rooms have we walked in and immediately understood exactly what to do – but Operation H.E.R.O.’s puzzles are all on display from the moment you walk through the door. What’s more, they’re numbered! Each superhero has 3 puzzles to complete, helpfully numbered 1 – 3. This culminates in one big ending puzzle which combines the skills of all superheros you’ve encountered so far. This too, although not immediately available to play, was fairly obvious from the beginning.

Because of our group size, we tackled each puzzle together and only separated once or twice for a brief moment to look around. A larger or more experienced group could likely cut their room time down to a third by playing each of the different superhero challenges in parallel – but hey, where would the fun in that be?!

Image (c) Can You Escape York

For Escape Room Beginners, or Enthusiasts?

We took on the escape room in a team of three made up mostly of beginners (minus myself). In our annual Christmas trip to see family in York, I’d finally convinced my relatives to try one out. Of all the rooms in York, Operation H.E.R.O. got consistently good reviews and with a few personal recommendations from enthusiasts I trust, we booked right in!

In hindsight, possibly because that was those were the people I played with, I found Operation H.E.R.O. to be a perfect room for beginners. It’s not exactly a traditional escape room experience, but the structured series of fairly recognisable puzzles made it feel very accessible and provide a lot of ‘quick wins’ to players throughout the game. Often I spotted a puzzle (and it’s solution) early on, but encouraged the youngest of our group to try it out, cheering them along. In other places, the puzzle involved strength or skill, and it was a joy to see everyone get hands-on trying to complete the challenges.

We didn’t escape with the best time – a respectable 52 minutes which incredibly still afforded us a leader board spot for December – but everyone came out of the room with a big smile. That’s a huge win for me!

As a final note, Can You Escape York does not allow dogs on the premise. There’s no reason it should do, but since we had a dog in our holiday party and asked, I figure it’s worth mentioning to any prospective future bookers.

The Verdict

Operation H.E.R.O. is an escape room with buckets of charm, and we had a great time playing it. It’s a great room for enthusiasts looking for a different challenge, or absolute beginners who may benefit from a little handholding, with a fun story to boot. It was definitely the right choice of room to try on our trip to York, and if our visit weren’t so short I’d have booked in to play their second room right away! So far I’ve personally played around half of all the escape rooms available in York, and Operation H.E.R.O. is my favourite.

Operation H.E.R.O. can be booked on Can You Escape York’s website here.

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