Timelock by Locked in a Room – Southampton

Escape room number: #44
Completed: October 2020
Team: 4 adults, 1 child
Escaped?: yes
Time: approx 48 minutes (from memory)

Overall rating: 7/10
Puzzle quality: 4/5
Puzzle range: 4/5
Storyline: 4/5
Immersive quality: 3/5
Difficulty: 3/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 2-6 (we’d recommend 2-3)
Success rate: high

Difficulty: 🔐🔐🔐

We loved Locked In A Room from the moment we walked in. As we entered, we were met by the lovely and energetic gamemasters who were so welcoming and full of enthusiasm.

As slightly crazed scientists, we had to work our way through clues to discover Professor Pottenger’s secret and escape the room in 60 minutes.

The Locked In A Room games are all linear which makes them really logical and avoids any confusion. This does mean that the room is slightly easier and that all participants can only work on one clue at a time. We found that as a team of 4, some of us were hanging around a bit whilst the others worked on a puzzle. For this reason, it would be enjoyed best by smaller teams of 2 or 3.

The room itself is intriguing with a traditional study feel crossed with the eccentric scientific world of Prof. Pottenger. There is a good range of puzzle styles with some cypher, some hunting, some practical and some logic. We did find, however, that it was slightly repetitive in that for each one solved, you would be given the next clue on a laminated piece of paper.

Locked In A Room offer 2 different rooms – Timelock and Parallax. However, they have 4 rooms of each meaning that there is the opportunity to go head to head with other teams. A great idea!

We escaped in 40-something minutes which reflects the moderate level of difficulty. We had a child as part of our team so went at quite a slow but steady pace so it can be done in a much quicker time.

Overall, a great room and we will definitely be returning to have a go at Parallax very soon!

Escape From Dead Town by Professor Puzzle

The latest home escape game range we wanted to give a try was Professor Puzzle’s.

With a set up of four separate enveloped clues to solve, we set to work. A couple of the puzzles we thoroughly enjoyed and loved applying some logic and skill. The others we found a bit basic or almost an afterthought. One basically involved doing some algebra and using trial and error. As much as we don’t mind a bit of maths, we decided that we didn’t want to spend half an hour of our free afternoon doing it so looked up the solution to that one! The four clues then come together at the end to help you find the final solution – where the safe zone is located away from the zombies.

This was a slightly cheaper option compared to others on the market but it really did show. The puzzle range, quality and enjoyment were not quite in the same league as Unlock, Exit Games and Trapped have to offer.

Game information:
Players: 1-4
Age: 12 +
Length: 45mins
Approximate Price: £8

Our ratings:
Overall: 4/10
Difficulty: 5/10
Puzzle range: 4/10
Logic and flow: 5/10

The Betrayal of Cluetankhamun by Clue HQ – Bournemouth

Escape room number: #43
Completed: October 2020
Team: 2 adults, 2 teens
Escaped?: yes
Time: 55m 43 secs (4m 17secs left)

Overall rating: 6/10
Puzzle quality: 3/5
Puzzle range: 3/5
Storyline: 4/5
Immersive quality: 4/5
Difficulty: 3/5
Gamemaster: 3/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 2-6
Success rate: approx 40-50%

We had been waiting for Clue HQ to bring their Cluetankhamun room to Bournemouth for so long after loving their Bunker 38 and Cell Block C rooms. It opened last weekend so we went at our earliest opportunity!

Walking into the room, the aesthetics and props were really impressive. The hieroglyphics, chests and lights created a wonderful, intriguing setting and we were eager to get to work.

We were tasked with venturing into the tomb after an earlier group of explorers had gone missing and finding the valuable crystal but of course, with many obstacles in the way.

As always, we don’t want to give away too many spoilers for anyone wishing to have a go at this room. The set up and immersion is excellent whilst a handy screen lets you know how much time is left and conveys any clues that are needed. Most of the puzzles simply require the use of logic rather than guess work which is always refreshing in an escape room.

There is also a lot to do in the time, especially compared to their other rooms, which made us feel we got good value for money. This, however, also makes it much more difficult to complete in the time given. We managed it with just over 4 minutes remaining and were told that very few groups had completed it since opening.

Whilst there are some puzzles that are a little different, the vast majority are finding 3, 4 or 5 digit codes which had to be entered into padlocks. Altogether, we counted over 20 padlocks – unfortunately, this was slight overkill! There were so many chests and boxes to be opened that they just kept getting in the way and it got quite repetitive.

Overall, we still enjoyed this room and it scratched our escape room itch for the day. Is it our favourite from Clue HQ? Theming – yes; actual game play – definitely not. It was still a fun way to spend an hour and we are glad we gave it a go.

Phileas Fogg’s World of Adventures – Brighton

Escape room number: #42
Completed: October 2020
Team: 4 adults
Stars: 12

Overall rating: 8/10
Puzzle quality: 4/5
Puzzle range: 4/5
Storyline: 5/5
Immersive quality: 5/5
Difficulty (time limit aside): 3/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 3-12
Best stars (group of 4): 20
Worst stars (group of 4): 3

What a mixture of awe and fun! Phileas Fogg’s World of Adventures is a cross between an escape room, Crystal Maze and a walk through adventure experience.

From the moment you enter the building, you are greeted by Queen Victoria as she takes you through the story and all important safety rules.

Once the experience begins, you are met by Phileas Fogg himself. With his guidance, you go through room after room, each a different stop on his world adventure tour. Our Mr Fogg was a fantastic actor with a huge presence and a great sense of humour.

The rooms themselves are INCREDIBLE! They are totally immersive and the theming has been created with attention paid to every minor detail. Each location is filled with amazing sets, props, sights, sounds and smells.

Along the way, you are given challenges of varying degrees of difficulty with the opportunity to win stars and make it onto the leaderboard. Most of these are fairly straightforward in themselves but the short time limits make it a tricky race against the clock. Some are simply puzzles to piece together; many are mechanical puzzles and sequences to input; and some are purely down to skill and teamwork. We did thoroughly enjoy them.

So what could have made the experience better for us in order to award it a 10/10? Unfortunately, we felt really rushed the whole way through. It was clear that each room has many different puzzles to explore and we only got the chance to experience a fraction of them. We barely had the chance to take in the amazing scenery and appreciate the room before being whisked off to the next.

Secondly, we felt the instructions we were given were not always clear or we were told important information too late into the time limit. An example of this is that in the first room, we thought we simply had 5 minutes to complete the task we were shown so took our time . It turned out that there was a second challenge which we very nearly completed but ran out of time. If we had known, we would’ve worked much more quickly on the first task and would have been successful on the second.

When we asked at the beginning, we were told there was a possible 35 stars but we were definitely only given the opportunity to collect about 20 ish of them so we are not really sure what we could have done differently to be in with a chance of the rest. Were there 3 challenges in some rooms? More? Were some challenges worth more stars than the ones offered to us? It wasn’t really explained.

Overall, we still loved this experience. It really does have the potential to be a solid 10/10 with just a few tweaks and a bit of extra time in each room.

Trapped: The Art Heist (series 1, game 1)

So we have finally got round to having a go at our first Trapped home escape room game – and we loved it!

Tasked with he challenge of escaping the art museum with a stolen painting, you work your way through a series of clues. There is a man on the inside too, but who? The puzzles themselves are varied and logical so we did not find the usual frustrations with having to guess what you have to do.

The set up encourages you to physically place the components around a room to make it as interactive and as escape room like as possible. It includes posters, confidential envelopes and individual name tags to assign to each team member. Each piece is well-designed and, intriguing and great fun to explore.

There is a handy clue booklet if needed but luckily we only had to use this once or twice. Otherwise, we found the clues fairly easy but this is understandable with the age 8+ rating. It states a 1-2 hour game play although it only took us 40 minutes to complete.

We still loved the game and would recommend it for couples and families. We look forward to trying the others in the series.

Game information:
Players: 2-6
Age: 8+
Difficulty rating: medium
Length: 1-2 hours
Approximate Price: £11

Our ratings:
Overall: 7/10
Difficulty: 4/10
Puzzle range: 6/10
Logic and flow: 9/10

Chalice of Champions by Escape Live – Stratford upon Avon

Escape room number: #41
Completed: October 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 47m 42secs (12m 18 left)

Overall rating: 8.5/10
Puzzle quality: 5/5
Puzzle range: 5/5
Storyline: 4/5
Immersive quality: 4/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 2-6
Success rate: approx 30%

Game Difficulty 5/5

Any Harry Potter fans out there would love this magic themed room by Escape Live. With the help of Horace the Magnificent – the magical hat – you have to solve a series of puzzles to break the curse and reveal the chalice.

The room itself is totally immersive with mesmerising artwork, vivid colours and amazing lights. The puzzles are also very varied and exciting with a great mix of padlock codes, physical games, written clues and of course, a little magic. Each one links back to a central puzzle which helps the game move seamlessly and keeps the players on track.

The gamemaster Tom was funny, welcoming and helped to make the experience even better.

We would definitely recommend this room and we are already planning when we can visit some of Escape Live’s other locations.

To book visit https://www.escapelive.co.uk/the-games/

The Island of Doctor Goorse by Unlock! Escape Adventures

You have been flown to the island of eccentric billionaire Dr. Goorse but a storm has forced you to bail out with your parachute. You and your team are tasked with escaping the cursed Island. But there’s a catch… your team have been split in half and have to regain communication to proceed.

With Unlock! games being one of the main boxed escape games on the market, we are definitely late to the party. We have loved other boxed games so were keen to see what all the fuss is about.

With a handy tutorial, we were able to have a practice run before starting the main game. Unlock! games have a handy app with an exciting interface which players are required to interact with during the game. It is used for inputting codes, operating machines and asking for hints. It also serves as your timer to keep you on edge throughout the game.

This game involves card clues only and by combining certain “key” and “lock” cards, solving puzzles and machine cards or searching for hidden numbers, you progress through the game. Along the way, you are introduced to different artefacts, documents and characters.

With this adventure, we loved having to work separately at first and then solving clues to allow us to finally work together. Even then, we were allowed to communicate but were unable to see each other’s cards.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do particularly well on our first experience with a time of 68mins and 4 seconds. We also used way too many hints! However, we took a while to get to grips with the format and lost quite a bit of time to penalties as a result. We’re hopeful that we will do better on the next Unlock! game that we try.

We found that these games, at approximately £10 each, are great value for money. Unlike many other escape games on the market, they can be played again and again or regifted as none of the puzzles require you to cut, tear or destroy.

However, we did find that this meant the clues and puzzles were less diverse and interactive than others we have played, especially when compared to Exit games.

Overall, we would still recommend these games and we found them a great way to spend an hour.

Game information:
Players: 2-6
Age: 10+
Difficulty rating: 3/3
Length: 60mins (but you can take longer)
Approximate Price: £10 – £12

Our ratings:
Overall: 7 /10
Difficulty: 9/10
Puzzle range: 5/10
Logic and flow: 7/10

A Hunt Across the Capital by Questventure

Following the fantastic time we had testing and reviewing Cocktails, Spies and Murder, we couldn’t wait to have a go at their longer game – A Hunt Across the Capital. With a mix of escape style problem solving, online detective work and real life location tracking, what’s not to love?

Tasked with investigating a mysterious Heist, your team need to follow a series of clues across London. Luckily, you are not alone – you have the support of your colleague Detective Huntley who is there should you need a helping hand.

With this, players do not interact with an online interface but instead work through a series of password protected pdf puzzles. Many of the clues require you to visit social media sites where you have to look closely at the content in order to pick out the information you need. Others need you to use the internet or online maps in order to track important locations. Once you think you have a solution for a puzzle, you are required to send a text message and will then receive the next password and challenge information.

Unfortunately, we did experience one or two technical hitches but this is likely to be due to the mobile network provider and not the fault of Questventure.

This game is the longest that Questventure currently have to offer with an approximate time of 2-3hours. With our team of 3, we managed to solve the clues in 1 hour 39 minutes but chose to work solidly with our game heads on instead of using it as leisurely evening entertainment.

Overall, we found this game much more challenging than their Cocktails, Spies and Murder game but loved the clever clues and use of social media and websites. Both games have been so much fun to have a go at and we would highly recommend them!

Price: £14.99

https://www.questventure.co.uk/huntacrossthecapital

Just a sneak peak – don’t want to give too much away!

Witchcraft and Wizardry – by CluedUpp – Bournemouth

For a bit of a change, we teamed up with our friends to have a go at CluedUpp’s latest geogaming adventure – Witchcraft and Wizardry. These are available to play in towns and cities across the UK and beyond but only on specific event days.

One member of the team is set up as team leader whilst the others can all still follow and interact on their own phones.

Having been given the secret location, we made our way to the start point. The first task was to select a team name, take a photo and watch the introductory video. The town was bustling with groups in fantastic fancy dress, all trying to figure out the clues and solve the mystery.

Following the intriguing map, you interact with virtual characters who give witness statements to help you eliminate suspects. There are also other mysterious items to collect and help you on your way.

The concept of the game is great – moving through your hometown on an exciting hunt and trying to gather as much information as possible. The riddles and anagrams were fun to solve as a team but the most enjoyable clues were the ones that incorporated the local landmarks and knowledge. The graphics on the app are excellent with engaging theming and interesting characters.

Unfortunately, we did find that the story was overcomplicated. Each statement or piece of information you collect on the way is very long and it’s difficult to pick out the relevant information, especially whilst trying not to block the busy pavements. We felt the large amounts of reading took away from the pace, engagement and fun. We also had children with us which meant it was difficult to concentrate fully, showing it wasn’t really the light mystery hunt we had expected.

This is perfect for a small group of adults who are happy to do a lot of reading but wasn’t for us, sadly. We feel it would be much more enjoyable to be given a clear, concise clue after solving each riddle or puzzle which would help towards the final solution. Live actors and more location-specific clues would make it even better.

Pavilion Perplex by Pier Pressure – Brighton

Escape room number: #39
Completed: August 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 48 mins 26 secs (2 hints)

Overall rating: 10/10
Puzzle quality: 5/5
Puzzle range: 5/5
Storyline: 5/5
Immersive quality: 5/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Gamemaster: 5/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 2-6
Difficulty: 4/5 stars but tougher for groups of 2-3 people
Average time: approx 57 mins (with around 10 hints)

Pier Pressure have been recommended to us by so many escape room owners that we had to give them a try when visiting Brighton.

From the moment we arrived through the door, we could see why. The staff were so welcoming, cheerful and enthusiastic about their games. For anyone concerned, their Covid measures are excellent too!

Having chosen the Pavilion Perplex room, we were greeted by Mildred, a Victorian maid who explained that they desperately needed to find the stolen petition to save the pavilion. Having a gamemaster in full character and costume completely added to the whole experience!

The room itself is amazing! The decor and props magically recreate the Victorian elegance of the royal pavilion and as a player, it is easy to feel totally immersed in the period setting. Like all the best escape rooms, even their hint system is in keeping with the time.

The best thing about this room is that there isn’t a padlock, 4 digit code or keypad in sight! Every single puzzle is appropriate to the time and uses some of the amazing period items that the company have sourced. We absolutely loved every single clue. The puzzles themselves flowed extremely well and could be figured out using logic. Luckily, there were no irritating red herrings to spoil the fun.

Once we had found the hidden petition, we were awarded with some cute pin badges and a card stating our top 3 achievements: Small but Mighty; Solved in under 50 minutes; and Eagle Eyed Searchers. This was another great little added touch!

We definitely left with that indescribable escape room buzz and really cannot wait until we can get back to Brighton to try more of their rooms.