Horror Escape, London

Horror Escape – Escape from Wonderland

Difficulty 3/5                                                            Overall 3.5/5

Variety of puzzles 3.5/5                                           Originality of puzzles 3.5/5

Overview – The theme of this room lent itself brilliantly to fantastic decoration and a wide variety of different types of puzzles which we had a great time solving. Less of a focus on gory horror here and more of a psychological type thriller with a nightmarish dream world come to life and trapping us inside. Overall, another fantastic experience from Horror Escape and one which I will definitely be recommending to others!

From horrorescape.co.uk

Welcome to a nightmare where nothing is quite as it seems. Can you outsmart the horror that is hunting you and ultimately escape from wonderland or will you succumb to the darkness forever?

Team – Ster, Bobbie, Simon, Huw

Horror Escape

Full disclosure – We were invited to play this game free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

This was our second play of the day at Horror Escapes and, even after Cabin Fever, we were still really impressed by how well this place is themed. The massive Escape from Wonderland neon mural made a fantastic backdrop for our briefing video and climbing up staircase to enter this twisted world is a great way of immersing teams in the story.

Our game master was amazing, very friendly and enthusiastic and obviously taking great delight in scaring players! Horror Escape were also kind enough to show us the space for their next experience, currently just a white room but with great potential to house some interesting puzzles. Horror Escape’s use of space was seriously impressive in both Cabin Fever and Escape from Wonderland, so I’m very excited to see what they do with the space for the upcoming Murder Mansion!

Escape from Wonderland

The beginning of this room somehow manages to feature both a terrifying Hollow Man type creature and also a cute white rabbit with playing cards as an introduction to this nightmarish scenario. There was a wider variety of puzzles here, with more doors to open and less of the search and find type puzzles. There was one trial and error puzzle that we struggled with initially as we tried to force some logic onto it and also some riddles, sound and more physical type puzzles that kept the game interesting.

There was one puzzle that we somehow ended up solving after it had been completed as we hadn’t actually read the appropriate riddle all the way through before I asked if something on the wall moved and then proceeded to try, accidently moving the components to the correct position without even realising! I did then stop and solve the riddle to work out how that had happened, so we completed every puzzle just not quite as were expected to!

The decoration throughout was, again, absolutely top-quality. Especially in the potion area where there were hundreds of different ingredients to look through!  I really enjoyed the giant metal keys and the interesting doorway – possibly an issue to those with any accessibility issues so I’d recommend getting in touch before booking if getting through low/small spaces is difficult for anyone in your team.

Another aspect of this room that I really liked was how some of the doors were opened by finding a number of related items and then placing them correctly into the door itself. It helped to give us a good idea of our progress and also led to the ridiculous moment of a team member accidently knocking the pieces of out place just as we found the final item and then having no idea how they should have been arranged!

Overall, a really enjoyable experience which, despite the name of Horror Escapes, wasn’t actually all that terrifying – something that I was extremely grateful for!

Escape time – 37 minutes

Horror Escape, London

Horror Escape – Cabin Fever

Scores

Difficulty 3/5                                                             Overall 3/5

Variety of puzzles 2.5/5                                          Originality of puzzles 3.5/5

Overview – This room really doesn’t hold back on the skulls and corpses! The creepy theme is brilliantly done here with a lot of effort put into the puzzles matching the story and by the end we were casually tossing corpses around as if they weren’t horrifically decorated to be the previous victims of this twisted cannibalistic family. The use of space was amazing and we crawled through some really interesting doorways as we played, with each area fantastically decorated to progress the story. Overall, while I’m not at all a fan of horror, I really enjoyed this game, and our horror-fan team member loved it too so there’s definitely something for everyone here!

From horrorescape.co.uk

After a series of unfortunate events, you’ve managed to find yourself trapped and at the mercy of a family of cannibals. If you don’t manage to find a way out of here soon, cabin fever is going to be the least of your worries…

Team – Ster, Bobbie, Simon, Huw

Horror Escape

Full disclosure – We were invited to play this game free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

From the outside, Horror Escape isn’t anything special to look at, but as soon as you open the door to their basement location it’s clear that they haven’t skimped on theming. The entrance is a dark staircase with moody lighting and at the bottom is a corridor with a giant mural of Escape from Wonderland and some old-fashioned style benches that wouldn’t look out of place in a haunted mansion. The overall effect is fantastic and the high-quality video briefings are great at introducing the stories, including a rules explanation that stuck to the horror theme fantastically featuring sinister looking clowns and an unexpected tarantula close-up.

Our game master was amazing, very friendly and enthusiastic and obviously taking great delight in scaring players! Horror Escape were also kind enough to show us the space for their next experience, currently just a white room but with great potential to house some interesting puzzles. Horror Escape’s use of space was seriously impressive in both Cabin Fever and Escape from Wonderland, so I’m very excited to see what they do with the space for the upcoming Murder Mansion!

Cabin Fever

The video briefing set us up for a super creepy experience and as we were blindfolded and led into the room one at a time it was very easy to get caught up in the spooky atmosphere – particularly when I removed my blindfold and realised that the prop I’d picked up from directly in front of me was actually a severed hand!

The story is led by commentary from the daughter of the cannibalistic family who have captured the team, some of which I think was automated but I forgot to actually ask. At any rate, our GM said that she hadn’t really given us any clues but we had definitely heard from the character quite a bit, so her voice was clearly part of the game rather than a hint system.

There were some original puzzles in here, from the bear trap that we were tasked with assembling to having to ‘trap’ a team member under a circular saw and trying to rescue them before the time ran out (thankfully, it didn’t move very fast!). The main bulk of the puzzles were the search and find type that left us scratching our heads when we repeatedly failed to see the obvious with a few padlocks and other observational elements thrown in too.

I have to say that searching through bones and ‘corpses’ added brilliantly to the story and their use of space was brilliant, with some interesting ‘doorways’ and a couple of small areas that the whole team had no hope of all entering together! (Possibly an accessibility issue here for some so I’d definitely recommend getting in touch beforehand if getting through small spaces is a challenge.) Overall, it was a brilliantly thought-out experience. We didn’t find the puzzles to be overly challenging but still really enjoyed ourselves, especially when we set a new record time – one which I’m sure will be broken as soon as word of this company spreads among enthusiasts!

We did mess up the ending slightly by hampering our GM’s attempt to cut us up for dinner by using the provided bear trap as an overly elaborate doorstop rather than for actually catching our pursuer! It still served it’s purpose in keeping us out of harm’s way so I guess we kind of did manage to achieve our objective!

Escape time – 39 minutes

clueQuest, Home escapes, London

Time Quest – ClueQuest

Format: PDF document and website

Overview – I really enjoyed this game! The comic style designs were fantastic and the stand-alone story was great. The difficulty level is perfectly suited to families of all ages – while the puzzles were clearly designed to be accessible to younger players, we played as a team of adults and still had a brilliant time. A slightly shorter experience than ClueQuest’s other Print+Cut+Escape offerings but just as enjoyable as all the rest!

Scores

Variety of Puzzles 4/5                                Quality of clues 5/5

Difficulty 3.5/5                                           Overall 5/5

Reusable – No                 

Technical issues – None

ClueQuest

This is not your average play at home escape experience! The puzzles that are created out of pieces of paper are absolutely brilliant and the online videos that carry the story are fantastically done. The puzzles were all great fun and really creative with a storyline that both fitted with the existing ClueQuest escapes and also worked well with no prior knowledge of the ClueQuest story arc.

Time Quest

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Mission Brief

If you’re looking for a fun-filled experience for the whole family, then look no further! timeQuest is an intriguing and exciting adventure into the world of time travel and the origins of time for agents of all ages. It combines striking comic book style designs, stylish animated videos and puzzles that agents both young and old can get stuck into – a perfect pick for a kid’s birthday party! A full colour version of this mission is also available, so those visuals can really pop! It’s said that you don’t grow up, you just forget how to play; this mission will help you remember and bring young agents into the world of escape experiences.

Story

Your mission in timeQuest is to help Mr & Mrs Q stop the troublesome twosome known as the Earlybirds from altering the fabric of time. With the help of specialist Dr Imani Chronos, you will have to follow them on a journey through time, putting right their meddling before time as we know it is history!

One of my favourite aspects of this game was definitely the design, the graphics are completely different to the other Print + Cut + Escapes by ClueQuest, using fun comic style characters that really brought the story to life and that I’m sure will appeal to younger players.

There was a lot less cutting in this game than other ClueQuest home escapes which I’m sure was a deliberate decision to ensure that the game is more accessible to players of all ages. It meant that the set up and time between puzzles preparing the relevant pages was significantly reduced and we whizzed through the experience, moving from puzzle to puzzle without any pauses.

The puzzles themselves were great fun, with a massive ice cream tower complete with a gourmet restaurant inside the cherry on top and some brilliant graphics of nefarious villains The Early Birds leaping through time in their attempt to get rid of bedtime forever. There was a good variety of different puzzles, with jigsaw style elements, matching and observational aspects as well as traditional decoder style challenges which we really enjoyed completing.

Overall, this experience is the perfect family escape experience. The difficulty level makes the game really accessible and the theme and design will definitely appeal to younger players. It’s slightly shorter than the other Print + Cut + Escapes but by no means reduced on quality. The fun, light-hearted story was really entertaining and we had a great time completing this game, even without any younger players with us!

clueQuest, Home escapes

Clue Quest – Mechanics of the Heart

Format: PDF document and website

Overview – This Print + Cut + Escape game is unique among ClueQuest previous offerings as it has the opportunity to be personalised with messages that are woven into the story, creating a unique experience for the person or people that you are playing with. I found that this personalisation worked brilliantly and I really enjoyed the story of an AI drone trying to understand love so that it could convince Mr Q to let it become a ClueQuest agent. The puzzles were fantastic, with lots of variety and a good level of difficulty which made the game good fun without being frustrating. Overall, I think this might be my favourite Print + Cut + Escape game so far!

Scores

Variety of puzzles 4/5                             Difficulty 4/5

Ease of Progression 5/5                         Overall 5/5

Reuseable – No

Technical issues – None

ClueQuest

The ClueQuest Print + Cut + Escape games involve a fairly large PDF document and a code to log in to the website with, which means that you can’t possibly get lost along the way or be confused about the order of things because the website leads you through and lets you know which puzzles pieces are needed when. This format allows for some really amazing puzzles to be created, it’s not just a 2D experience on a piece of paper, there is some serious papercraft going on!

While some of the challenges were a bit fiddly, I really enjoyed the variety that this allowed for. The level of creativity here really is amazing, with brilliantly thought out puzzles and an entertaining story to go with them. Each escape includes 3 chapters with a number of different puzzles so there’s a lot to get through which I really enjoyed, they weren’t games that could be over in just a few minutes.

Mechanics of the Heart

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Mr. and Mrs. Q’s helpful and reliable reconnaissance droid, MM7, is starting to ask questions all robots inevitably ask, “What is Love?” and “How do you know you’re loved?” You’ll be tasked to help MM7 decipher the complex and puzzling ways of love in our world in order to help focus him on our daily mission to save the world from the villainous network of the Evil Professor.

The story of this game has been fitted into the overall ClueQuest narrative really well by introducing reconnaissance drone MM7 who is trying to earn the chance to be a fully fledged ClueQuest agent by learning about love. MM7 tries to use logic to analyse aspects of a relationship in an attempt to understand love and these different analyses form the basis of the puzzles.

I really enjoyed the theme of this game and particularly loved the opportunity to personalise it by adding in messages before we played that were then woven into the story. I was really impressed by the level of personalisation, I was half expecting to just have a name of my choice included in the escape, but instead multiple different pieces of information from date ideas to memories were added into MM7’s ruminations to create a truly unique experience. It’s not something that I’ve come across in any other game before, either at home or in a physically played room, and it makes this escape a wonderful gift for the person or people that you are playing with. It’s a valentine’s game, but it obviously doesn’t have to be played on valentine’s day and it doesn’t even have to be played romantically – I’m sure that many platonic relationships also have outings and memories that they can reminisce over for the personalisation!

This game involved the least amount of prep work than most of the previous games with fewer pages requiring elements to be cut out and a great use of folding for puzzles rather than the usual chopping and rearranging. I really appreciated the addition of resource pictures for each stage of the game as well, showing us exactly what we were meant to be using for each puzzle, a feature that I hope ClueQuest continue to use in their future Print + Cut + Escape games.

The puzzles were good fun and, somehow, still original despite this being ClueQuest’s seventh offering! I am always surprised with the brilliant different ideas that the team manage to come up with and I particularly enjoyed working out which passengers on a busy train were well suited to each other and looking back over the memories of an older couple at significant stages of their relationship to find a hidden message. The level of difficulty in this game was fantastic, challenging but not frustrating and overall just incredibly enjoyable. If you’re only going to play one of ClueQuest’s Print + Cut + Escape games, play this one – you won’t be disappointed!

Escape time: 62 minutes

Remote play

Wild Hare Escapes – Serf’s Quest

Format: Website and live host

Scores

Variety of Puzzles 3.5/5                         Quality of clues 4/5

Difficulty 3/5                                            Ease of Progression 3/5

Overall 3.5/5

Overview – This experience is a great throwback to old 8-bit adventure games! We really enjoyed the humour and story elements and, while the puzzles weren’t overly challenging, we had a great time yelling directions at each other and dabbling in a spot of animated necromancy while looting an abandoned pirate ship. It was an interesting execution of an escape which I haven’t come across before, with each team member navigating the game map separately, but would I be interested in trying the format again as we did really enjoy ourselves.

From http://www.wildhareescapes.com

You are Geoffrey, a serf, and you bear an arguably uncanny likeness to the king of a neighbouring kingdom. The king has locked you in his chambers and is gallivanting about town in your stead. He’s returning in 75 minutes, at which point you’ll be thrown into the crocodile moat. Can you find your way out of the castle and out of the kingdom before his royal nastiness returns? 

This is a parody of the King’s Quest games of the ’80s and ’90s, and a throwback to early computer and video adventure games in general. Are you ready for your 8-bit journey? 

Team – Ster, Bobbie, Simon, Huw

Played – 18/1/21

Wild Hare Escapes

Full disclosure – We were invited to play this game free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

The format of this game was really interesting, we met on a Zoom call but then all entered the website separately, each needing to input the answer to proceed. We were advised to play using 2 devices, one for the call and a second for the website though my household played on a single device and we got by, possibly because the team decided to use our phones rather than typing in the Zoom call chat which would have meant a lot of switching between windows. I did find it a little strange to play with all of our cameras turned off so that all we could see on the call was the game logo and our initials but it did make sense once the introduction was over and we switched our focus to the website rather than Zoom.

Serf’s Quest

The game starts with everyone logging into the website so that you’re all seeing the same thing and then the games master reads the beginning of the story to everyone. The graphics and tone were great, with the team following along on the web pages and moving forwards when we were instructed to. I did find it a little strange to play without being able to see my teammates in any way but it was very easy to communicate with each other just by yelling through the call!

Once the game begins in earnest, you’re presented with a map grid and can navigate between the sections with arrow buttons on the screen. I found this system enjoyable but the fact that we were playing on a 2D picture meant that just moving the cursor around could give some things away. That being said, we found the puzzles to be good fun, if not too challenging, and the humour that was injected into every aspect of the game made the experience really enjoyable.

We were told before we started that there was an option to split up as we played if we wanted to. We decided to stay together but did accidently travel down different paths a few times and it was really easy to all make our way back to the same screen when we found a puzzle to solve together.

The one flaw, if you can call it that, was the fact that being logged in to the game separately meant we couldn’t see what each other was doing. This led to a few long winded explanations to ensure that we were all reaching the same solutions and the one time that we asked for a hint we received quite a bit of information that we had already discovered before our games master said something that helped us along because he couldn’t see what we were each doing either.

That being said, we had a great time playing this game! We found the need to yell directions and information at each other while looking at our low resolution cartoon self really entertaining, the story was funny and the puzzles were enjoyable to solve. I’d recommend this game to anyone who doesn’t want an experience that takes itself too seriously and in particular to anyone who wants to reminisce about the old 8-bit adventure games that they used to play.

Promo!

Wild Hare Escapes have kindly given us this promo puzzle which, when solved, will give you a 10% off your booking before 1/3/2021!

In recognition of Black History Month, we thought we’d create a puzzle that not only gives you the
chance to get a discount on your next Wild Hare booking, but at the same time encourages you to learn a little more about a handful of individuals whose stories you should know. Some names you surely already recognize; others you may not. You’ll need to visit each person’s Wikipedia page to solve this one. As long as you’re there, we suggest reading a bit about these brave, brilliant, and trail-blazing heroes. Use the answer at checkout to receive 10% off your entire booking if you book and play by March 1st.

Visit www.WildHareEscapes.com to book. Gift certificates are also available on our website. Good Luck!
clueQuest, Home escapes

ClueQuest – Prison of Memories

Format: PDF document and website

Scores

Variety of Puzzles  5/5                                 Quality of clues 5/5

Ease of progression 5/5                               Overall 5/5

Overview – This is not your average play at home escape experience! The puzzles that are created out of pieces of paper are absolutely brilliant – we piloted a paper submarine around spinning icebergs, directed invisible lasers using paper mirrors and hit a golf ball over a paper obstacle course of London landmarks, all while following the story via some fantastic online videos. The games were all great fun and really creative with a storyline that both fitted with the existing ClueQuest escapes and also worked well with no prior knowledge of the ClueQuest story arc.

Reusable – No                  

Technical issues – None

ClueQuest

The ClueQuest Print + Cut + Escape games involve a fairly large PDF document and a code to log in to the website with, which means that you can’t possibly get lost along the way or be confused about the order of things because the website leads you through and lets you know which puzzles pieces are needed when. This format allows for some really amazing puzzles to be created, it’s not just a 2D experience on a piece of paper, there is some serious papercraft going on!

While some of the challenges were a bit fiddly, I really enjoyed the variety that this allowed for. The level of creativity here really is amazing, with brilliantly thought out puzzles and an entertaining story to go with them. Each escape includes 3 chapters with a number of different puzzles so there’s a lot to get through which I really enjoyed, they weren’t games that could be over in just a few minutes.

The only downside of these escapes is that there’s a fair amount of preparation involved before starting, a lot of cutting out of pieces that are only used once, especially if playing over video call as each household needs a copy of the puzzles which creates quite a bit of recycling that did feel a bit wasteful. We didn’t use any clues so I can’t comment on how well the clue system works as I can’t get into it now that we’ve finished! I’ve always found the ClueQuest team very helpful though so I’m sure they’d be able to help if a team got really stuck!

Prison of memories

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

After a sneaky attack from an unknown assailant, Mr Q is trapped in a coma. With time running short it’s up to Mrs Q and Lord Hammerschmidt to dive into Mr Q’s mind and find a way to wake him up. But they can’t do it without your help!

Variety of puzzles 4/5                                Difficulty 5/5

Overall 4.5/5

When I was sent this game I was told to expect an experience a bit longer and harder than the previous games and I appreciated that warning, the difficulty level really ramped up for this episode! It took us just over 2 hours to complete, though we didn’t pre-cut the puzzles which would have reduced the play time a fair amount and, due to lockdown restrictions, we were playing in a team of 2 rather than 4 as we’ve played the previous games.

The story for this episode was great, I’ve always loved how the ClueQuest games all tie together and this new instalment was no exception. It reminded me of cQ ORIGENES, which is a fantastic experience with a great variety of interesting puzzles. I particularly loved creating a pair of memory ‘scissors’ to decipher a puzzle and assembling the diary pages of a ‘mutation log,’ another example of ClueQuest’s extraordinary ingenuity with creating fantastic puzzles just using a piece of paper.

We suffered a bit of a printer malfunction when preparing this game and ended up with printouts that weren’t of a high quality, something that I think affected the enjoyability of the observational puzzles of which there were quite a few. There was slightly less variety in the types of puzzles that were included in this game and we seemed to spend a lot of time staring at different pictures trying to spot something, which did get a little frustrating, but which was definitely made more difficult by the quality of our printer.

That being said, we also really enjoyed the challenge and made liberal use of the clue system to move ourselves along, something which we haven’t needed to do for the previous Print + Cut + Escape games. Overall, Prison of Memories is a brilliant addition to ClueQuest’s growing catalogue of play at home escapes with a high level of challenge that should really appeal to escape room enthusiasts and another fantastic story to add to the lore of Mr Q and Professor Blacksheep.

Home escapes, Oblivity

Oblivity Podcast – The Profoctor Predicament

Format – PDF document and website

Scores

Variety of Puzzles   4/5                             Quality of clues 4/5

Ease of progression 4.5/5                         Overall 4/5

Overview – This experience was full of really enjoyable, interesting puzzles with fantastic graphics and animations to go with them which really pushed the production value above the average play at home escape room. We had great fun completing the challenges, scribbling 4 pages of notes as we went and the variety of different puzzles was fantastic, with each section feeling unique and fresh. Overall, I’d highly recommend this game, I even played it through twice I enjoyed it so much!

Reusable – Yes                

Technical issues – None

Oblivity Podcast

This game is based on the critically-acclaimed comedy podcast series, which I wasn’t familiar with before playing but I really enjoyed meeting the different characters as we played. The story of the game doesn’t rely on any prior knowledge of the podcast series, but I imagine that the jokes would be even funnier for fans of the show!

Each section is centred around a different character and their personalities really came through in the puzzles, from the daily inventory check of an emergency kit to a very confused and mildly disastrous simulated flight, there was clearly a lot of thought about theming which really added to the story as we played.

There were a lot of animated videos produced for this game, starting with a scene to set up the story and then carrying the narrative through each section of the game and I was very glad that the animations were purely story based and didn’t include essential puzzle information as I was far too busy laughing at the jokes and enjoying the story to be looking out for hard to see details!

The Profoctor Predicament

Travel to Pluto to learn what happened to the missing team of Research Base Persephone. Take on perplexing puzzles and a fiendish foe, as a ferocious creature stalks ever closer to the base…

This game includes loads of different puzzles, from observational to logic to navigational and even an audio puzzle which included a particularly ridiculous specially recorded song! The humour of the show really shone through in the puzzles and I particularly enjoyed the moment that our team yelled out ‘banana!’ in unison as we both spotted the same thing on the screen.

Each puzzle ‘room’ of the escape requires the players to find both a number and word code, the number to enter into the site and move the game forward and the word to be kept for a puzzle at the end. The instructions were really clear and the help page easy to navigate which led to a really enjoyable playing experience.

I particularly enjoyed how the information in the Base Journal was compiled, using notes from the characters to link to their specific puzzles and with clues dotted around on different pages as well that required a bit of careful searching. The cover of the Base Journal includes a document for the final puzzle where the answers can be kept until they’re needed, though we just scribbled them on a piece of paper rather than printing everything out. Overall, we had a great time with this experience. The puzzles were varied and well thought out and the animations really helped to create a brilliant story and theme.

Variety of Puzzles 4/5                  Difficulty 2.5/5

Overall 4/5

Locked City, London, Outdoor

Locked City – Camden Unlocked

Scores

Variety of puzzles 1.5/5                                           Originality of puzzles 1/5

Pre-game atmosphere 1/5                                      Difficulty 2/5

Overall 1/5

Overview – To be honest, this is more of a guided walk with confusing directions than a treasure hunt. If you’re looking for a slightly different walking route then I’d recommend it, but as an activity by itself it could really do with a bit more to it.

From https://www.locked.city/

From the bustling market to the quaint streets of Primrose Hill, discover a hidden side to Camden. Explore vibrant street art, elaborate North London architecture and the industrial Camden Lock. Uncover a Banksy and street art from prominent street artists.

This 18 clue hunt will challenge the sharpest of minds with a varied and diverse series of cryptic challenges sent via SMS messages. Recharge at a local handpicked pub midway for a refreshing beverage.

Team – Ster, Bobbie

Locked City

Full disclosure – We were invited to play this game free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

The game is all played via text message, which allows for a lot of flexibility when playing. Once you’ve received the instructions, you can start whenever you are ready, be that the same day or several weeks later.

The format is a little impersonal as the only contact that you receive is a series automated messages but you do get a final message that includes your time and the amount of penalties that the team incurred.

Camden Unlocked

The experience starts off quite simply with some observational questions and directions that lead down a nearby street and we had fun searching the surrounding buildings for the answers and looking for the next step of the game while weaving amongst the crowds of shoppers. Unfortunately, that was everything that this game consisted of, a lot of counting things and looking at what was beside something else, and by clue 18 we really weren’t invested anymore.

An incorrect answer earns an automatic 10 minute penalty, which felt pretty steep considering that any typo also counted as an incorrect answer. The main issue that we had though, was the directions. The clues are all cryptic, which would have been fine if there was any way of clarifying directions, but there wasn’t. A clue request only gave advice for the observational puzzle, not how to get there! This meant that if one part of the directions wasn’t understood, there was absolutely no way to get back on track.

We walked in and out of Camden Market repeatedly trying to make sense of one particular set of instructions just racking up penalties because we weren’t sure where we were supposed to be. While this was a case of the team not working out the clue, the fact that there was no way to ask for help was incredibly frustrating. The only way that we found to solve the issue was to request a clue an then use the extra information to work out where we should have ended up based on what we should have been able to see.

Overall, it was a long walk rather than a treasure hunt and the puzzles just weren’t engaging enough to make the experience very interesting. A nice idea but it needs a bit more depth to it really.

AIM Escape, London, Outdoor

AIM Escape – Mindfall

Scores

Variety of puzzles 4/5                                                 Originality of puzzles 5/5

Pre-game atmosphere 4/5                                         Difficulty 2.5/5

Overall 5/5

Overview – This experience was so well executed, we were really impressed with it! The augmented reality aspects worked brilliantly and the story was great, with all of the puzzles well themed and great fun to solve. The difficulty level wasn’t too high but the variety of different puzzles was fantastic, with a big bag of tricks to keep things interesting. The technology worked perfectly throughout and while there was a fair amount of walking involved, everywhere was completely accessible and the game allowed plenty of time so there was no need to rush between locations. Overall, I absolutely loved the experience and had so much fun creeping around the city as a spy for a couple of hours!

From https://aimescape.com/

Using the latest Augmented Reality and GPS technology, this adrenaline spiked outdoor escape game combines the best elements of our high-concept escape rooms with a thrilling treasure hunt, as you and your team embark on an action-packed adventure through the city.

We are W.I.S.E.: an independent, international intelligence organization, operating at the highest level of secrecy to protect the world from danger. Our sources report that the secret research company, Spider Technologies, has developed a virus for mind control and has already infected 20% of the world population. Whether it be shopping behaviour, political attitudes, or even assassinations – people can be influenced against their will. Needless to say, this is an incredible power. To stop Spider Tech, we created Operation Mindfall and chose you as our agents. Your task: Obtain the antidote to stop Spider Tech! You only have a limited amount of time – can you do it?

Team – Ster, Bobbie

AIM Escape

Full disclosure – We were invited to play this game free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

This augmented reality game isn’t your traditional escape room so we didn’t start at the AIM Escape building but instead met our ‘contact’ at an outdoor location with a codeword to get things started. Our contact gave us a short explanation and handed us the tablet that we would use to both navigate and solve puzzles and a backpack filled with everything else that we would need for the experience. She also subtly hung around a short distance away while we solved the first puzzle, I’m assuming just to make sure that we had understood what we were doing as she had disappeared when we looked up from entering the solution. She also met us when we finished to congratulates us, collect our spy gear and answer any questions that we had about the game.

Mindfall

The quality of this experience was just superb! The puzzle locations showed up clearly on the tablet so it was very simple to work out where we needed to go and the backpack that we were given with our spy gear was very well organised, making it easy to find what we needed for each puzzle, and the puzzles were great! The difficultly level didn’t get too high but the variety of challenges was brilliant and they were all really enjoyable.

Some involved an augmented reality element which had us looking at a safe or a panel of switches and wires beside the Thames while others had us mixing a chemical formula and using a microscope attached to a smartphone, it was just so much fun! The amount of puzzles packed into the escape was fantastic, especially considering that we were carrying everything we needed with us and the bag wasn’t heavy. The only extra thing that we used was a smartphone and we were told in advance that we would need to have at least one with us, the rest of the experience was fully contained within the tablet and spy bag.

There were some low tech puzzles along the way as well, observational type challenges which was the only time we asked for a hint, we just weren’t looking in the right place! The experience used the environment that we were walking around really well, including things that you might not usually pay attention to and making you look at the city a little more closely.

There was a fair amount of walking involved but we didn’t rush and finished in plenty of time, we even stopped for a short sit down on the South Bank along the way! Overall, Mindfall was a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, including a good story with brilliantly themed puzzles which were great fun to complete. It was far more than a thrilling treasure hunt and I can’t wait to see what AIM Escape comes up with next!

Escape time – 1 hour 40 minutes (approx.)

clueQuest, Home escapes

Print + Cut + Escape – ClueQuest

Format: PDF document and website

Scores

Variety of Puzzles  5/5                                 Quality of clues 5/5

Ease of progression 5/5                               Overall 5/5

Overview – This is not your average play at home escape experience! The puzzles that are created out of pieces of paper are absolutely brilliant – we piloted a paper submarine around spinning icebergs, directed invisible lasers using paper mirrors and hit a golf ball over a paper obstacle course of London landmarks, all while following the story via some fantastic online videos. The games were all great fun and really creative with a storyline that both fitted with the existing ClueQuest escapes and also worked well with no prior knowledge of the ClueQuest story arc.

Reusable – No                  

Technical issues – None

ClueQuest

The ClueQuest Print + Cut + Escape games involve a fairly large PDF document and a code to log in to the website with, which means that you can’t possibly get lost along the way or be confused about the order of things because the website leads you through and lets you know which puzzles pieces are needed when. This format allows for some really amazing puzzles to be created, it’s not just a 2D experience on a piece of paper, there is some serious papercraft going on!

While some of the challenges were a bit fiddly, I really enjoyed the variety that this allowed for. The level of creativity here really is amazing, with brilliantly thought out puzzles and an entertaining story to go with them. Each escape includes 3 chapters with a number of different puzzles so there’s a lot to get through which I really enjoyed, they weren’t games that could be over in just a few minutes.

The only downside of these escapes is that there’s a fair amount of preparation involved before starting, a lot of cutting out of pieces that are only used once, especially if playing over video call as each household needs a copy of the puzzles which creates quite a bit of recycling that did feel a bit wasteful. We didn’t use any clues so I can’t comment on how well the clue system works as I can’t get into it now that we’ve finished! I’ve always found the ClueQuest team very helpful though so I’m sure they’d be able to help if a team got really stuck!

Stolen IQ

Help Lisa Hammerschmidt track down the evil Professor BlackSheep

Variety of Puzzles 5/5                    Difficulty 4/5

Overall 5/5

We were all really impressed by the puzzles here, compared to other home escapes that we’ve tried, the quality of these puzzles is on another level. There was quite a bit to cut out before we started but it was really easy to play together over video call, even when one team member completely messed up a puzzle on their end, it was straightforward to share our solutions and move on.

The story is great fun, fitting well with the physical ClueQuest rooms with some great video clips to guide you through and I found the instructions in this experience really easy to follow with a very clearly labelled PDF so nothing got mixed up. The difficulty level of the puzzles also felt like the kind of challenge you might experience in an actual escape room with lots of different paper components creating a good level of challenge. The website added a lot to the experience, not just in terms of progressing the story, but also for adding extra dimensions to the puzzles. Overall this was one of the best experiences we’ve had of playing an escae at home and we’re all excited for the next instalment!

Alpha Brain System

Help Lisa and Mr Q free the kidnapped scientist and continue the chase

Variety of Puzzles 5/5                    Difficulty 4/5

Overall 4.5/5

There was a lot of puzzle prep involved in this instalment, the papercraft aspect really stepped up from episode 1 and at one point I thought we were building a whole boxing ring! The ‘combat’ puzzles of this episode in particular were great fun, with a really inventive way of playing a laser dodging type challenge that had us getting slightly frustrated for a little while!

I was really impressed by how different the puzzles were from the first episode while still retaining a good level of difficulty and the story progressed in the entertaining kind of way that you would expect from ClueQuest, Professor Blacksheep’s nefarious schemes as enjoyable here as they are in ClueQuest’s physical escape rooms. All in all, a lot of fun, if a little fiddly to put together!

Humanity 2.0

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Help clueQuest end the Professor’s plan to destroy the minds of all humanity.

Variety of Puzzles 5/5                    Difficulty 4/5

Overall 5/5

The conclusion of the Pint + Cut + Escape story was brilliant fun, the journey to the secret base involved some really inventive puzzles and I particularly enjoyed the way that the website added to some of these puzzles, providing an extra layer of challenge and just expanding the game from pieces of printed paper to a brilliant escape experience.

There were a few simpler puzzles here, some word-based type puzzles that didn’t involve a lot of cutting out which I really enjoyed, a bit less of a faff to prepare than episode 2, and also a ‘laser’ puzzle which we bickered over for a little while, just like playing a real escape room! Episode 3 was a really satisfying ending to the story in which we saved the world from sheep domination – all in a day’s work!

Halloween Survival Training

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Take the tests and learn how to deal with a whole host of spooky surprises – including cunning vampires hiding among us, mad scientists with their creepy creations, and hungry zombies out for your brains!

Variety of Puzzles 5/5                    Difficulty 4/5

Overall 5/5

The ClueQuest story continues in this Halloween themed escape as we look for answers about when and where Mrs Q might have been turned into a vampire and which members of the team might have bitten who. As with the previous print + cut + escape games, the complexity and variety of puzzles created just out of paper is truly impressive! We investigated, we assembled and, somehow, we escaped!

Translating clips of zombie into English was hilarious, as was examining the tooth marks left from an unfortunate ‘incident’ among some staff members. One of the things that I love about ClueQuest is how enjoyable their theming is. There is always a good story, but with the main character being an anthropomorphic mouse, it’s never going to take itself too seriously and this game was no exception – beginning with a briefing from Professor Apollo Calypse and continuing onto the training course for Special Procedures for Identifying Dangerous Entities and Responding With Extraordinary Brilliance (S.P.I.D.E.R.W.E.B) it was a very enjoyable story to work through.

We haven’t needed to use the clue system for any of the previous print + cut + escape games but as we were playing this in a rather noisy environment and were slightly pressed for time, we did press the button on a clue a couple of times and the system was great – 3 different clues for each puzzle that started with just a brief hint and were then followed by a solution button in case you were really stuck. The initial level of clues just helped to speed up the game play a bit as we had a time limit and they progress really well towards the actual solution.

Overall, the puzzles in this game were great, really well themed and with a wide variety to suit everyone. I do enjoy when particular puzzles play to different team members strengths which is very difficult to achieve on paper but which this game did brilliantly, allowing different team members to take the lead at various points in the story. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to get ready for Halloween!

Prison of memories

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

After a sneaky attack from an unknown assailant, Mr Q is trapped in a coma. With time running short it’s up to Mrs Q and Lord Hammerschmidt to dive into Mr Q’s mind and find a way to wake him up. But they can’t do it without your help!

Variety of puzzles 4/5                                Difficulty 5/5

Overall 4.5/5

When I was sent this game I was told to expect an experience a bit longer and harder than the previous games and I appreciated that warning, the difficulty level really ramped up for this episode! It took us just over 2 hours to complete, though we didn’t pre-cut the puzzles which would have reduced the play time a fair amount and, due to lockdown restrictions, we were playing in a team of 2 rather than 4 as we’ve played the previous games.

The story for this episode was great, I’ve always loved how the ClueQuest games all tie together and this new instalment was no exception. It reminded me of cQ ORIGENES, which is a fantastic experience with a great variety of interesting puzzles. I particularly loved creating a pair of memory ‘scissors’ to decipher a puzzle and assembling the diary pages of a ‘mutation log,’ another example of ClueQuest’s extraordinary ingenuity with creating fantastic puzzles just using a piece of paper.

We suffered a bit of a printer malfunction when preparing this game and ended up with printouts that weren’t of a high quality, something that I think affected the enjoyability of the observational puzzles of which there were quite a few. There was slightly less variety in the types of puzzles that were included in this game and we seemed to spend a lot of time staring at different pictures trying to spot something, which did get a little frustrating, but which was definitely made more difficult by the quality of our printer.

That being said, we also really enjoyed the challenge and made liberal use of the clue system to move ourselves along, something which we haven’t needed to do for the previous Print + Cut + Escape games. Overall, Prison of Memories is a brilliant addition to ClueQuest’s growing catalogue of play at home escapes with a high level of challenge that should really appeal to escape room enthusiasts and another fantastic story to add to the lore of Mr Q and Professor Blacksheep.

Mechanics of the Heart

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Mr. and Mrs. Q’s helpful and reliable reconnaissance droid, MM7, is starting to ask questions all robots inevitably ask, “What is Love?” and “How do you know you’re loved?” You’ll be tasked to help MM7 decipher the complex and puzzling ways of love in our world in order to help focus him on our daily mission to save the world from the villainous network of the Evil Professor.

Variety of puzzles 4/5                             Difficulty 4/5

Ease of Progression 5/5                         Overall 5/5

The story of this game has been fitted into the overall ClueQuest narrative really well by introducing reconnaissance drone MM7 who is trying to earn the chance to be a fully fledged ClueQuest agent by learning about love. MM7 tries to use logic to analyse aspects of a relationship in an attempt to understand love and these different analyses form the basis of the puzzles.

I really enjoyed the theme of this game and particularly loved the opportunity to personalise it by adding in messages before we played that were then woven into the story. I was really impressed by the level of personalisation, I was half expecting to just have a name of my choice included in the escape, but instead multiple different pieces of information from date ideas to memories were added into MM7’s ruminations to create a truly unique experience. It’s not something that I’ve come across in any other game before, either at home or in a physically played room, and it makes this escape a wonderful gift for the person or people that you are playing with. It’s a valentine’s game, but it obviously doesn’t have to be played on valentine’s day and it doesn’t even have to be played romantically – I’m sure that many platonic relationships also have outings and memories that they can reminisce over for the personalisation!

This game involved the least amount of prep work than most of the previous games with fewer pages requiring elements to be cut out and a great use of folding for puzzles rather than the usual chopping and rearranging. I really appreciated the addition of resource pictures for each stage of the game as well, showing us exactly what we were meant to be using for each puzzle, a feature that I hope ClueQuest continue to use in their future Print + Cut + Escape games.

The puzzles were good fun and, somehow, still original despite this being ClueQuest’s seventh offering! I am always surprised with the brilliant different ideas that the team manage to come up with and I particularly enjoyed working out which passengers on a busy train were well suited to each other and looking back over the memories of an older couple at significant stages of their relationship to find a hidden message. The level of difficulty in this game was fantastic, challenging but not frustrating and overall just incredibly enjoyable. If you’re only going to play one of ClueQuest’s Print + Cut + Escape games, play this one – you won’t be disappointed!

Time Quest

Full disclosure – We were sent this game to play free of charge, though we’ve tried not to let this influence our opinion of the experience. 

Mission Brief

If you’re looking for a fun-filled experience for the whole family, then look no further! timeQuest is an intriguing and exciting adventure into the world of time travel and the origins of time for agents of all ages. It combines striking comic book style designs, stylish animated videos and puzzles that agents both young and old can get stuck into – a perfect pick for a kid’s birthday party! A full colour version of this mission is also available, so those visuals can really pop! It’s said that you don’t grow up, you just forget how to play; this mission will help you remember and bring young agents into the world of escape experiences.

Story

Your mission in timeQuest is to help Mr & Mrs Q stop the troublesome twosome known as the Earlybirds from altering the fabric of time. With the help of specialist Dr Imani Chronos, you will have to follow them on a journey through time, putting right their meddling before time as we know it is history!

Variety of Puzzles 4/5                                Quality of clues 5/5

Difficulty 3.5/5        Overall 5/5

One of my favourite aspects of this game was definitely the design, the graphics are completely different to the other Print + Cut + Escapes by ClueQuest, using fun comic style characters that really brought the story to life and that I’m sure will appeal to younger players.

There was a lot less cutting in this game than other ClueQuest home escapes which I’m sure was a deliberate decision to ensure that the game is more accessible to players of all ages. It meant that the set up and time between puzzles preparing the relevant pages was significantly reduced and we whizzed through the experience, moving from puzzle to puzzle without any pauses.

The puzzles themselves were great fun, with a massive ice cream tower complete with a gourmet restaurant inside the cherry on top and some brilliant graphics of nefarious villains The Early Birds leaping through time in their attempt to get rid of bedtime forever. There was a good variety of different puzzles, with jigsaw style elements, matching and observational aspects as well as traditional decoder style challenges which we really enjoyed completing.

Overall, this experience is the perfect family escape experience. The difficulty level makes the game really accessible and the theme and design will definitely appeal to younger players. It’s slightly shorter than the other Print + Cut + Escapes but by no means reduced on quality. The fun, light-hearted story was really entertaining and we had a great time completing this game, even without any younger players with us!