#27: ClueQuest – cQ Origenes

★★★★☆

LocationLondon
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date9 March 2019
Hints taken0
Time48m28
URLClueQuest

Front & Briefing

It’d been over two years since I’d last been to ClueQuest, so it was exciting to hear they had a new room to try. ClueQuest were extremely busy when we arrived, and it took a while for the staff to get to us, but the brief was delivered with the usual mix of plot and practicalities from an enthusiastic GM. The foyer hasn’t changed since last time we were there.

Theme

The props and furniture are all hand-constructed to a high quality and ClueQuest has quite a distinctive style across all its rooms. This has played against them in the past because it can be difficult to distinguish between them, but this room felt significantly different, to its credit. ClueQuest have also extended the loose plot forwards: teams now get to use Professor Blacksheep’s Shrink’o’Mat, and Origenes doesn’t disappoint on the results of this!

Puzzles

There’s a mix of pleasantly low-tech yet inventive puzzles, all the way through to fully electronic ones which were exciting and visually impressive. There was the usual element of searching but in this room it felt more like an exciting interaction with the set rather than the usual poking around. Most of the team came away with a different favourite puzzle, demonstrating the variety here. We unwittingly solved one of the puzzles in a way the designers hadn’t expected, but even then the deductive work for it felt satisfying.

Hint system

There’s a mixture of walkie talkie and screen, which also displays the time, though in a first for this particular team, having let the GM know we’d prefer fewer clues, we took no clues at all! That’s not to say this was an easy room – it’s definitely a game where having more players is useful; there were five of us and we didn’t find ourselves sitting idle at any point. Apparently the escape rate is the lowest of the ClueQuest games.

Finale

By the end of the game the team was all working together (and, indeed, having to work together), which is great, and the game really finished on a high.

Debriefing

The GM was very happy to run through the puzzles and answer questions we had about possible red herrings, and to show us the intended way to solve the puzzle we accidentally inferred the solution to! She also apologised for one sound effect that had apparently gone missing, which we hadn’t even noticed, but it’s nice to know the GMs are really paying attention to the room. New since I last visited we were given a certificate of sorts stating the team’s name and time, which I think is a nice touch on top of the business cards.

Final thoughts

Easily ClueQuest’s best game, and hence the best extant game in London for me at the time of writing, I highly recommend this to anyone in or visiting London.

Advertisements

#26: Red House Mysteries – The Heist

★★★☆☆

LocationExeter
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb
Date3 March 2019
Hints taken1
Time42 minutes
URLRed House Mysteries

Front & Briefing

We were greeted at Red House Mysteries’ reception by the only staff member there, our GM, who was enthusiastic and who introduced us to the game.

We could hear people playing Red House Mysteries’ other game (the Shadow Darkens) through the wall. They seemed to be having fun, but I tried to tune out the noise to avoid spoilers should we play it later.As we were told during the briefing, The Heist is a game of two halves. Teams have half an hour in the room to “plan” their heist of a museum artifact, then between 20 and 30 minutes to execute the robbery, depending on how well they’d done in the planning phase.

Theme

While the idea of planning a heist sounded quite daunting, the room guided us through the objectives in quite a smart way, and without breaking immersion. The planning room and the museum area both felt fairly authentic, and while one piece of furniture was on its last legs, the theme rather saved it in that regard. Some of the props were assembled in ways that made it a little difficult to tell if attempting to open/disassemble them was part of the game or not.

The room made good use of the fairly limited space available to the point where it felt pretty inventive, and played into the theme well.

Puzzles

I liked the variety of puzzles in the room. There was a nice mix of low tech padlocks and higher tech puzzles using some nice bits of off-the-shelf hardware used in creative ways. The first half was notably stronger, though with several red herrings. The second half of the game was a little too linear for my taste.

Hint system

A walkie-talkie is provided to talk to the GM. Hints are provided on request and only on request, which I personally appreciate. When we asked for a clue the GM seemed a little unaware of what point we were at. The GM was shared between the venue’s two escape rooms which, while not being a problem for us in this run-through, I’ve found can be problematic in other rooms, and indeed would have been a problem if we’d radioed for a clue wile the GM was occupied with the other room’s team. The CCTV for both rooms was simply at the reception desk, and there was no sound coming from the monitors while we were being briefed, which might explain why the GM needed to have our situation explained to her when we radioed in.

Finale

It’s fairly clear what you’re heading towards throughout the second half of the room, but the room found a way to keep it exciting even when we were comfortable for time.

Debriefing

We finished in 42 minutes (the first half in about 25) and despite the staggered start, found the team we’d heard playing earlier being debriefed in the lobby. As such, we had to hang around in the escape room itself until that team had left (lest we be spoiled) and the GM became available again. I get the impression most teams take a little longer in the second half of the game, though our team of three people seemed adequate for it and I would worry that the maximum team size of 6 would have a lot of people tripping over each other or being unable to participate as the room was not that parallelised.

Final thoughts

A well thought-out room with some clever puzzles and a nicely structured theme, leading to a fun finish. If you find yourself needing to calm down afterwards, there’s even a yoga studio on the floor below!

#25: Time Run – Sherlock: The Game is Now

★★★☆☆

LocationLondon
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date10 Feb 2019
Hints takenMany
Time56 minutes
URLThe Game is Now

Front & Briefing

Masquerading as an extremely convincing opticians within a shopping centre (though the surrounding Sherlock-themed walls rather give it away), The Game is Now starts with you buzzing in for your team’s “group eye examination”. While there are no toilets before the game, there are some available afterwards, and Time Run also note that there are toilets right across from the opticians in the shopping centre – though not, as we found out, before our slot at 10:15am on Sunday, so you might want to keep this in mind when choosing a time.

There was one other group here for their eye test at the same time as us, and after signing the expected waivers we were lead to our group’s individual “eye test room” to be briefed. We did see the other group again, which unnerved me a little as I wasn’t expecting cross-team interaction; fortunately this was just a matter of saving floor space and the two teams went their separate ways afterwards. Mentioning much more starts to move into spoiler territory in my mind, especially for Sherlock fans, but needless to say there are appearances by recognisable faces during the lead-in and during the game. As we now expect from Time Run (see Lance of Longinus (#5) and The Celestial Chain (#7)), the staff and GMs were also fully in character the whole time.

Theme

Naturally the theme was based around the BBC’s Sherlock series, though this started to become somewhat more abstract as the experience progressed. The sets, as you would expect from Time Run, were of a high quality, particularly in the first section. There was a Sherlock storyline to the experience, but it was extremely loose and honestly a bit confusing – and not in the usual Steven Moffat way, more that it just didn’t hang together or particularly relate to what we were doing; it felt shoehorned in despite a sizeable amount of the preamble to the room being occupied with it. As with all the Time Run series, the game is serialised into areas to increase throughput, which worked fine in their previous two games but here felt like we were basically playing a series of mini-rooms.

Puzzles

Also surprisingly for Time Run was that a lot of the puzzles had a large reliance on finding codes or getting the next key as a reward for solving a puzzle; there were no grand interactive set pieces like in Lance of Longinus and Celestial Chain. I wonder if this was some restriction imposed by some outside force; with the exception of decoration the actual interactive parts of the experience were very focused on almost free-standing props that could have been put into any space of an appropriate size, rather than really using the space of the room creatively.

The puzzles themselves were fairly standard fare for escape rooms these days, with some reasonably high tech ways of presenting puzzles that were not especially logic based; more trial-and-error as far as we could tell. There were also not a lot of parallel threads going on; one section was very linear, and another was a bit of a shopping list.

Hint system

Mostly text on a screen, some of which was presented as being from Sherlock Holmes – this worked fine and I imagine Sherlock fans would enjoy being snarkily talked down to by The Face of Cumberbatch.

Whereas in a lot of escape room there is some question or opportunity for the GM to gauge a team’s experience or ask about quantity of hints, there wasn’t here (unless the eye examination room section counted, but it felt more like filler), especially since we were handed between staff quite a lot and weren’t exactly sure who our GM would be in order to discuss it with them – in fact I’m still not sure if we ever met our hint-writer, who seemed extremely trigger-happy on the hint system. We were getting hints come through before we’d even had a chance to properly examine some puzzles, which rather took the fun out of solving them. We finished with four minutes to spare so there was definitely time for us to have a bit more of a fiddle before jumping in, and at any rate it felt like we were being guided rather than actually given a chance to figure something out.

Finale

None to speak of! Without a visual countdown we didn’t have much of a sense of how close we were to the end, and what turned out to be the final puzzle, while involving three of the team – the most any puzzle had so far – didn’t have the feel of a final event to us. The escape room therefore finished quite abruptly, with a short video wrapping up what storyline there had been, and we were lead out into the debriefing room.

Debriefing

While the hints and commentary from Sherlock and Mycroft before and during the game had been quite disparaging (this is in character for them, so that’s not a complaint) the actor debriefing us (another person we hadn’t met before and who had been given notes from our unseen GM) was very upbeat.

We’d been categorised under a certain label like with Celestial Chain, though it wasn’t really obvious why this was necessary here. The process seemed to be there to reassure us that we’d done okay, which makes me think the excess of hints we’d received had been designed into the game too.

The box with our belongings had been moved here and after leaving the debriefing area there was, oddly, a bar reserved solely for finished players, serving drinks (and providing a surprising number of toilets). I imagine Time Run are expecting a lot of people to be using it because it was huge, but we were only people there until the other team that had started at the same time as us emerged a few minutes after us.

Final thoughts

I didn’t like having to write this review and perhaps I have been overly harsh in places compared to some other rooms, but I think expectations matter and we did expect a higher standard of room, both given that Time Run have put their name to it, and for the price as probably the most expensive escape room I’ve done. The target audience may be different from the average escape room – it is definitely more of a “Sherlock Experience” than an experienced escape room player’s room – and I’m sorry to say I can’t recommend it.

#24: Cryptorama – Pirate Cove

★★★☆☆

LocationMérida, Mexico
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb
Date6 Dec 2018
Hints taken1
Time40m (room record!)
URLCryptorama

Front & Briefing

The first escape room I’ve done outside of Europe, Cryptorama is located within walking distance of Mérida’s centre, or they have parking if you fancy braving the Mexican city’s roads. The GM spoke fluent English and the room could be calibrated for English or Spanish. The aim of the room was to discover a pirate’s lost treasure rather than escaping per se.

Theme

A strong, fun theme as we entered the room, though an anachronistic item was involved later in the game which a team member pointed out may have been a pun (though I don’t speak Spanish well enough to know if it would have worked in both languages).

Puzzles

Generally quite fun and mostly low tech, though we had quite a lot of technical difficulties with the anachronistic item mentioned above. We also really struggled with the final puzzle, assuming we were using the prop wrongly, but it really did turn out that we were being expected to read some text that was simply too small and far away for two out of three of the team to read.

Finale

As above, the finale was frustrated by our biological limits, but was fairly average for a final puzzle anyway. The payoff was pleasant but nothing too special.

Debriefing

The GM was friendly and invited us back to do Cryptorama’s Baker Street room. We had intended to the next evening, as the GM said they were low enough on bookings in the off-peak season to basically provide a turn-up-and-go service, but they weren’t open when we popped by. We also managed to set the time record for this room, which was a nice surprise!

Final thoughts

The Cryptorama.mx website has just a ‘coming soon’ banner up at the time of writing (Feb 2019), so it’s possible the room is being reconstructed and this review may not be of much use. However, the room design was good enough that, provided you have excellent eyesight, it would make a worthwhile addition to things to do in Mérida if you’re visiting and looking for something extra to do.

#23: Devon Escape – Death on Dartmoor

★★☆☆☆

LocationNewton Abbott
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb
Date26 Aug 2018
Hints takenMany
Time62m40s out of 63m
URLDevon Escape

Front & Briefing

See #21. The room was introduced via a fictional news article coming in over the radio, and you might want to pay attention to it for later. The rough story was to solve who had committed a crime that took place on Dartmoor where the room is set.

Theme

Pretty good with an impressive prop/feature that the GM mentioned afterwards was the only escape room they know of where this had been done. It certainly caught our attention as we entered! It’s not a spoiler to say there are more than one area you’ll be operating in, and the section set “outside” wasn’t entirely convincing, but it was fine for a mid-range budget game. We did however have a game malfunction which lead to us fumbling around in the dark for the majority of the game when we hadn’t needed to. I feel this should have been very obvious to the GM watching us on the camera and we had to take hints and even solutions for puzzles that we were doing the right thing for but just couldn’t see! We even discussed out loud that it was just too dark. Malfunctions happen (see for instance #12) but a GM should be able to identify them and intervene to fix them.

Puzzles

Fairly average, unfortunately, with a strong focus on irritatingly forensic searching, which is where we took a couple of hints just to find things in places we had absolutely already looked and would have expected to have seen the clue (in areas not affected the aforementioned malfunction, too). Similarly to their other room (see #21) there was an immersion-breaking optional puzzle, though in this room they did a better job at dressing it up with the theme.

Finale

Quite a nice way of tying a few threads together, and a nice way of identifying the suspect we had to report in on.

Debriefing

The GM did apologise for missing the malfunction while we were running through the game afterwards in the space itself.

Final thoughts

While the room had an impressive prop to greet you as you went in, the puzzles and our particular experience let the whole room down.

#22: Adventure Rooms Cardiff – The Black Queen

★★★☆☆

LocationCardiff
TeamTeam PyCake
Date15 Sept 2018
Hints taken0
Time44m
URLAdventure Rooms Cardiff

Front & Briefing

We found the building easily, a short walk from Cardiff city centre, and started to worry a little bit when we rang the bell and could see nobody inside! In the room’s defence, the GM was the only staff member there that evening and was in the middle of resetting the room. He appeared quickly after we phoned. The foyer was a pleasant space with lockers to stash bags and the GM was friendly. There was no strong storyline to this one – you’re trapped in the mansion of “The Black Queen” and must escape.

Theme

While there was no particular theme to the room, the style of it was all fairly consistent and felt atmospheric. Adventure Rooms Cardiff isn’t a high budget venue and they had used the space pretty well.

Puzzles

Mostly low-tech puzzles but very varied and with a few higher tech pieces thrown in here and there, which kept things interesting. I personally really liked their selection of puzzles and they were inventive with the use of certain everyday or off-the-shelf components. As far as I know, everyone came away feeling like they’d contributed well. I also rather liked the way the room began which encouraged teamwork from the very start.

Finale

None to speak of; in fact I remember the team being a little surprised that the room had finished; there was no indication that it was coming to an end. Better to have plenty of time left than not enough of it, perhaps?

Debriefing

A photo shoot, the photos from which end up on Facebook shortly afterwards.

Final thoughts

While the production values weren’t too high in this room, the designers clearly knew how to work with what budget they had, and the result is a very enjoyable experience with some novel puzzles and a decent atmosphere.

#21: Devon Escape – Professor Enright’s Enigma

★★★☆☆

LocationNewton Abbott
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb
Date26 Aug 2018
Hints taken3
Time53m59s
URLDevon Escape

Front & Briefing

A short walk away from Newton Abbott’s high street, Devon Escape almost felt like it was a converted student dormitory, with a corridor of plain doors on the way to the loo. (I have to say, if I’d been able to volunteer my room to be used as an escape room at Uni, I would probably have done so!) Of course, in reality this is a dedicated space and their reception had seating for one team along with a cloakroom to put coats and bags while playing. The GM also checked we knew how to use a directional padlock beforehand. The scenario is to break into the fictional Professor Enright’s home to find and steal a diamond, and the venue did something that I think was to help the GM calibrate the hints but managed to break immersion before we’d even got into the room…

Theme

The décor of the Professor’s room was nicely done, though some of the props were getting pretty old and in need of repair or replacement at this point.

Puzzles

A slight over-reliance on padlocks here ­– this is not the highest budget room but if you’re able to overlook that then there were still some nice surprises and reveals. There were quite a few red herrings including one which caused an immersion-breaking interaction with the outside world that I strongly disliked being there, though my other teammates were less bothered with.

Hint system

Messages on a screen, direct from the GM, who was quite inventive with how to phrase things so as not to give the game away too easily.

Finale

It was fairly easy to figure out where the diamond was hidden from part-way through the game, so you knew you were working towards it, which was nice, and getting something physical to handle at the end is pleasant. There was no particular finale as such though, just one last puzzle.

Final thoughts

A nicely varied room that could do with a bit of love to replace some long-in-the-tooth props, and some immersion-breaking details that I would urge the venue to reconsider. Overall, worth a go if you’re in the area.

#20: Live Escape Salisbury – SPECTRE

★★★★☆

LocationSalisbury
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb + M
Date5 Aug 2018
Hints taken2
Time48m
URLLive Escape

Front & Briefing

The rough story is that you’re here to investigate the headquarters of a mysterious scientific organisation, SPECTRE, and find out what they’re up to. There was actually something unique for me as of writing (#25 games) about the briefing, but I think it constitutes a spoiler so I will let you experience that for yourself!

Theme

Strong, especially as the room progresses, with some nice backstory prepared and enough props to make the atmosphere work well without there being too many red herrings as a result.

Puzzles

A large mix of varying types of puzzles, from physical individual ones to ones that needed up to four people working on them. Some lateral thinking needed for others and some merely playing with fun things! Very pleasing and clearly a lot of work gone into having a nice variation for people who prefer every sort.

Hint system

Nominally a computer who speaks to you at certain points; either there was a GM we didn’t meet providing the voice live, or it relied on pre-recorded hints.

Finale

Pretty cool! A step change upwards in production values from the earlier parts of the escape room made it seem all the more impressive.

Debriefing

Warm congratulations from the GM who was happy to praise us for solving one particular puzzle very quickly. We ran through things we hadn’t seen or understood at the time in the room itself, and had a nice chat about other rooms in the area! The photo op at the end came with my second sighting of the Chest of Random Costumewear, which seemed a bit tacky and unnecessary compared to the quality of the room.

Final thoughts

A very enjoyable set of puzzles pulled off to a high standard, with some novel immersive concepts for an escape room.

#19: Salisbury Escape Rooms – Salisbury CSI

★★★★☆

LocationSalisbury
TeamRhubarb Rhubarb + M
Date5 Aug 2018
Hints taken0
Time57m
URLSalisbury Escape

Front & Briefing

Easy to find within Salisbury, then up to some stairs to the reception and briefing area. Salisbury Escape Rooms claims to be the only escape room created and run by UK detectives, and the briefing room does indeed feel like a police office (intentionally or otherwise!). A quick chance to use the loo and then we were lead to the entrance of the room.

I’m not quite sure how Salisbury Escape Rooms name their rooms as they replace them every year, but Salisbury CSI was their 2017-2018 offering.

Theme

The room was based around finding evidence within someone’s flat and deducing who had made a crime, which sounds a little daunting but the room guided it well. The theme was solid to begin with and broke down a little in the middle, but finished on a strong note, and the overall floor plan of the room was much larger than we’d expected from an independent venue.

Puzzles

Any lack of theming was made up with by the puzzles, which were varied and included some that clearly benefited from the profession of the creators. And some of them were just plain fun on top of being unique! We technically took one hint due to one puzzle having been … affected by a previous team’s efforts, but the GM confirmed after we’d finished that it hadn’t been out fault, so I’ve discounted it for the stats.

Finale

A fun finale using a clever set-up of off-the shelf items and video footage that wrapped up the case well!

Debriefing

The staff were happy to discuss escape rooms in general and even showed off some props for their next room; I got the impression they really enjoy their work! We also had a photo sent via email along with our time, which is nice to have a record of.

Final thoughts

Salisbury Escape Rooms replace their room every year, as they’re quite reliant on regulars coming. This was their first room we did and the only one as of writing (#25 rooms) but if the same amount of effort goes into their yearly renewal then I’d definitely recommend giving them a go.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started