Cursed Waters by Elusion – Southampton

A very fun room by Elusion Escape Rooms in Southampton. Set in the subterranean caverns, you are tasked with followong in the footsteps of an old friend who has been missing for a long time.

The set up is very imaginative and the clues were largely very logical and to follow. There are some some great effects and surprises as you move through the room and the final task leaves you with a difficult decision to make.

There are a great range of puzzle types with some physical, some ciphers and codes and some logic needed! We did need a clue or two so we enjoyed the level of challenge it provided. We managed to get out in 49 minutes and definitely left with that escape room buzz!

Escape room number: #46
Completed: June 2021
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 49 mins

Overall rating: 8/10
Puzzle quality: 4/5
Puzzle range: 4/5
Storyline: 4/5
Immersive quality: 4/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 mins
Players: 3-8

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!

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.

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

Temple Raider by Houdini’s – Birmingham

Escape room number: #37
Completed: August 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 39 minutes 34 seconds (room record)

Overall rating: 9.5/10
Puzzle quality: 5/5
Puzzle range: 5/5
Storyline: 5/5
Immersive quality: 5/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 90 mins
Players: recommended 4-6
Success rate: 29% (difficulty 79/100)
Average time: approx 1 hour
Best time: 39 mins 34 secs

Having absolutely loved all of the other rooms Houdini’s have to offer, we were excited to try the only one left – Temple Raider. We made a trip to Birmingham especially to try out this room and we weren’t disappointed.

We were greeted by a fantastic, friendly gamemaster and were interested to hear the low success rate and how the room had been extended from a 60 minute to a 90 minute time limit because it was one of the most difficult Houdini rooms. Obviously, we were now feeling the pressure!

As soon as we entered the room, we were impressed by the incredible immersive setting, from floor to ceiling. We have found that Houdini’s are one of the best escape companies as far as attention to detail is concerned. We were given the imaginative story of a newly discovered temple and were left to our own devices to solve its hidden mysteries and hopefully appease the ancient gods.

Every single puzzle we faced was exciting and innovative and they only got better as we moved through the rooms. It was also refreshing to complete a room without the standard key or digit padlocks. Instead, their various boxes were locked in ways far more in keeping with the theme.

The room layouts are also brilliant with secret tunnels, areas you need to climb and a scary surprise which speeds up the sense of urgency! The whole thing is everything you would expect from an Indiana Jones film but even better!

Whilst playing the room, the gamemaster was excellent, only giving clues when we asked for them or when he could see we were totally off track. We were otherwise left to figure things out for ourselves. The puzzles flowed seamlessly and were really logical and well designed.

When we had finished, we were chuffed to find out that we had completed the room in 39 minutes and 34 seconds (especially as it is a 90 minute room)! We were then told this was a record!

We are assuming that no one actually completed it in 1 minute 20 seconds – it would’ve taken longer than that to walk through the rooms!

Overall, we actually think this is our new favorite room by Houdini’s and would highly recommend that you have a go if you’re ever in Birmingham.

Cocktails, Spies & Murder by Questventure

This online game is absolutely brilliant and makes excellent use of one of our favourite themes – cocktails!

Using a “cocktail menu” which you can download using a QR code, you tackle a series of puzzles. However, as you might imagine, it is no ordinary cocktail menu; observation, decoding and problem solving skills are needed to find the hidden information and then use it to help with the missions. The main mission is to find out which deadly mixture of ingredients was used to commit the ultimate crime. Once that has been completed, you need to find the culprit by solving a range of numerical clues.

The user interface is fantastic. It is easy to navigate and the graphics are amazing. If hints are required, there are also handy QR codes which can be scanned. Luckily, we only needed one clue but we were impressed with how seamless the system worked. We connected up our laptop to the television so that we could see the documents really clearly and involve the rest of the family.

In terms of difficulty, the main mission is rated at medium and the side mission as easy. We would agree with this and loved how logical and well thought out the puzzles were. Unlike some online escape games where you have to rely on guesswork or the processes seem a bit random, this one made total sense and everything could be worked out by the players.

The clock allows you to have 90 minutes to solve the challenges which is plenty of time. Our team (of 3) managed to move steadily from puzzle to puzzle and reached the end in 22 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised with our time and so chuffed that we managed to top the leaderboard (for now)!

We honestly cannot recommend this game enough and can’t wait to have a go at the other games that Questventure have on offer.

If you are looking for a fun way to spend an evening with family or friends, you really should give this a go. See if you can beat our time and top the leaderboard.

Price: £9.99 (a bargain for what you get in our opinion).

Endgame – virtual escape room by @russbuilds

What a fantastic game – and all for free!

This Cold War themed game, which involved using a range of puzzles provided on an encrypted pdf alongside a virtual avatar, was clever in its simplicity. Connected using Zoom, we were presented with a series of padlocks (including digit codes, letter codes and symbol locks) securing hidden objects as well as a mysterious chess board with missing pieces. We had the puzzle pdf ready on our tablets and devices and off we went.

The puzzles themselves required us to really think outside the box, use our decoding skills and really look closely at the detail in the documents given.

As a team, we found that the clues which required more logic we were ok at and it was actually the more simple or obvious clues that we totally missed. It certainly made us realise that we need to work on our powers of observation!

A scoring system is used, linked to the time taken to complete the challenge and the amount of hints that were needed. Overall, we managed to score 9.5 points, putting us in second place (at the time of this review). If you fancy a challenge, please do have a go at this game and see if you can beat our score.

The game was created by the very talented Russ who has put this out there for free for people to enjoy. His clear passion and skill for creating escape games was inspiring. We really can’t wait to try the next one in his series.

Extraordinary Investigations: The Morgan File – A puzzle novel by Rod Gillies

We were very excited to be invited to test out this captivating puzzle book and absolutely loved the style and aesthetics as soon as we saw it. For us, it was a perfect combination of intriguing puzzles and fascinating history.

Following the disappearance of a researcher, the investigations as you move through the book show that he was close to discovering some deceitful and shocking events that occurred during World War II. From hidden Nazi gold to espionage and murder, the plot – which is largely based on real life events – really captured our interest from the start.

Unlike some escape puzzle books, this doesn’t have pages and pages of written narrative to trawl through but instead, uses a series of engaging photographs, mysterious documents and handwritten notes which have been collected as part of the intriguing investigation. It’s our job to crack codes and ciphers, make links between the scattered documents, solve puzzles and find out information to solve the all-important questions we are given.

Another way in which this puzzle book is different from others we have seen is that you need to make extensive use of online searches and websites which are hinted at in the narrative. The answers are not necessarily all there within the images but instead we had to extract the important clues and use our own initiative in researching the historical events in question – this made it seem much more realistic as an investigation.

Another feature we absolutely loved is the way in which the solutions are inputted. Rather than finding a 4 digit code or simply checking an answer page, you have to log into an online system with a realistic interface which also helped us to feel totally immersed in the experience. The system poses a series of questions and answers are submitted, enabling you to find out if you are correct or if you need to think again!

Each of the 6 evidence files took us approximately an hour but we could’ve easily spent more time learning about the history as we went along. It has the flexibility whereby you can quickly work your way from puzzle to puzzle, you could spend hours reading around the historical events or find a happy medium somewhere in between. It can be completed all in one go but we found it more enjoyable to break it up and complete it over a few evenings.

We found some clues more difficult than others but luckily there is a helpful hints system – we would have been stuck a couple of times otherwise! The hints pages at the back of the book give three levels of tips to give a gentle nudge in the right direction without handing the answer on a plate.

Overall, we absolutely loved spending our evenings working through this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys escape puzzles, cracking codes, interesting plots and delving into history.

This can be purchased on Amazon:

Price: £14.99

Recommended for adults.

Death at the Lab by Salisbury Escape Rooms

Escape room number: #36
Completed: August 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 66 mins 57 secs

Overall rating: 8/10
Puzzle quality: 5/5
Puzzle range: 5/5
Storyline: 3/5
Immersive quality: 3/5
Difficulty: 5/5
Gamemaster: 4/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: usually 60 mins
Players: 3-6

FINALLY we were able to return after lockdown to live escape games. We had missed them. Our first one back was the latest game by Salisbury Escape Rooms. They change them approximately every year and this one did not disappoint.

We loved the fact that we got an email beforehand with an attachment setting the scene and when we arrived, the gamemaster was dressed up ready to set us to work on our challenge. We had to escape whilst also solving a serious crime!

Without giving too much away, there was a huge range of puzzles with some exciting equipment used. There were certainly some that we had not come across before. Some of the puzzles – which are the ones that we found the hardest – required some level of physical skill and accuracy.

We were frustrated that we did not manage to complete the escape in the usual hour slot but we were kindly reminded that it is usually an escape room for 3+ people. Some of the puzzles did require you to be positioned in 3 places at once and apparently, on average, couples take 15 minutes more than a full team. We were, therefore, happy to accept this as an excuse – it was either that or we were completely rusty from lockdown. I suspect it was a bit of both.

Overall, we had a great time at Salisbury Escape Rooms and would recommend that you visit if you’re in the area.

The Escape Book

As well as escape box games and online escape experiences, one other way to recapture the enjoyment of escape rooms at home – especially during this period of Covid-19 lockdown- is with escape books!

This was bought as a present for me and I had no idea what to expect.

You start at the beginning, reading the context of the story until you are faced with the first puzzle. Once solved, the numerical answer that you arrive at is the page number to turn to next. There are pages at the back for clues but it is much more satisfying when you can solve them without any hints.

There are a good variety of puzzles including hidden numbers, optical illusions, mazes, logic and even practical ones.

Overall, this book took me about 2 hours to complete but it was an enjoyable activity to keep me occupied whilst sat in the sun during the lockdown.