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.

Escape the Vault – Brighton

We were chuffed to be invited to play Escape the Vault in Brighton so jumped at the chance to give it a go.

This intriguing escape room is hidden inside an old bank vault in Brighton and players are tasked with breaking into it and stealing the codes for the account of world renowned arms dealer, Charles Fawkley.

This is a solid, back to basics classic escape room, filled with hidden codes, safes and padlocks. What makes it different from most escape rooms is that it is one of only 4 unmanned escape rooms in the UK. Don’t worry though – you have your man on the outside, Terrance the getaway driver, on hand to assist if needed. All you need to do is send a quick message for a hint or a hack and you’re helped on your way.

The escape room itself is a shorter 40 minute experience (which is reflected in the price) and has about a 70% success rate. We didn’t find it particularly difficult but it flowed extremely well and logic could be applied throughout. This makes it a great room for beginners or for anyone who wants an affordable and enjoyable activity on a free afternoon.

The room is found inside an amazing, quirky café – Presuming Ed’s Coffee House – which completely adds to the experience. It is decked out with interesting posters, art, installations and furniture which captures your imagination from the moment you set foot inside. Whilst there, we enjoyed the most delicious toasted baguettes and drinks – highly recommended.

As well as all this, they also have arcade games, art for sale and even a VR room upstairs which we enjoyed having a go at! They are also in the process of creating their new room – Escape the Cell – which should be ready very soon. Without giving too much away, it continues the story with what has happened after the vault robbery. We were lucky enough to have a sneak peak!

Overall, we had a great afternoon experiencing all that Presuming Ed’s has to offer. If you are ever in the Brighton area, be sure to visit! Book now at https://escapethevault.co.uk/

Escape room number: #40
Completed: August 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 18 mins 50 secs

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 40 mins
Players: 1-4
Success rate: 70%
Best time: 7 minutes

Cost: £12.50 each (with £1 of each sale going to charity!)

Shakespeare’s Script by Escape Live – Stratford upon Avon

Escape room number: #38
Completed: August 2020
Team: 2 adults
Escaped?: yes
Time: 55 mins 44 secs

Overall rating: 6/10
Puzzle quality: 3/5
Puzzle range: 5/5
Storyline: 4/5
Immersive quality: 4/5
Difficulty: 3/5
Gamemaster: 0/5

Game stats:
Allocated game time: 60 minutes
Players: 2-6
Min age: 8+
Advertised difficulty: 4/5

Having visited Stratford upon Avon, the home of William Shakespeare, we couldn’t leave without having a go at the Shakespeare’s Script room by Escape Live.

Firstly, the story, theming and immersion is very good. The room is set in Shakespearian England with appropriate decor and props. Tasked with finding the 4 pieces of the missing script, you have to solve clues, riddles and codes before putting together the pieces you have found. Many of the clues are very logical and inexperienced players could tackle them without too much of a problem. We did get caught out by a couple of hidden compartments which we were kicking ourselves about afterwards.

We did face a couple of issues when playing this room but the owner has since been fantastic and their customer service very good.

Overall, a great room when carried out properly with brilliant puzzles and theming.

The Polar Station – Exit Game by Kosmos

Just a short review this time as we have reviewed many of the Exit Games in the past.

This one – The Polar Station – we picked up whilst on our recent camping trip and absolutely loved it! Unlike some of the other Exit Games, this one is not necessarily linear. Rather than following the riddle cards from A -> Z, different combinations are needed for each clue and it isn’t always obvious which ones go together. A more rounded and logical approach is needed.

As always, we needed to use some of the hint cards to help us along the way but managed to solve it in 77minutes and 31 seconds. With 3 help cards, this gave us 6 stars out of 10.

Another great game in the Exit range.

Game information:
Players: 1-4
Age: 10+
Difficulty rating: 3/5
Length: 1- 2 hrs
Approximate Price: £11-£15

Our ratings:
Overall: 7/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Puzzle range: 7/10
Logic and flow: 8/10

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: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08C7GGLQJ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_QopnFbKYH8FVR

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.