Escape Land – Professor Oxford’s Experiment

Relatively basic and straightforward room with a Steampunk theme. A few complex puzzles but something for everyone. Pleasingly non-linear. High level of combination locks.

Team Ninety joined me for this challenge with a couple of players new to the format. The venue is in the basement of a nondescript building on Oxford Street, near the Tottenham Court Road end.

We arrived a little early and were invited to take a seat on the couch with a few metal puzzles to play about with whilst we waited. And waited. The reception area was comfortable with a very soft couch. Eventually our host came to introduce himself and take us through the process.

The briefing was pretty perfunctory and the host was somewhere between quiet-spoken and nervous. He gave us a brief explanation of the theme and the mission, and that was basically that. No lock demonstration, walkie-talkie test, or the like. Our host did kindly point out a table that was not part of the game and did not hold any clues, as a place we could keep our bags. And then it was time to get going.

People who like jumping from place to place and puzzle to puzzle will love this room, and people who like linearity will hate it. There was a whole stack of stuff to search and investigate from the start, some skill puzzles, well-themed props, and a very wide array of padlocks, of the three- and four-digit variety. I ended up acting almost as a manager for the team rather than a doer, keeping track of what we had done and what clues and codes we had used. Whenever we came up with a new code it took a while to try it in all available locks, and I lost count of times when people kept retrying things we’d already done or already used. The clipboard was getting very heavy use…

Three of the puzzles had clearly been lovingly crafted and a lot of energy had gone into them, but too many were just frustratingly long and confusing.

One puzzle was quite time-consuming and frustrating due to requiring an extended exercise of manual dexterity – it was fairly easy but the penalty for messing up was high. We also forced the solution of a couple of padlocks due to general fiddliness of the clues and equipment.

Excepting the padlocks, it was always pretty clear what we needed to do next. There were two extended puzzles where items needed to be collected from around the room and combined somehow, and pieces of these were usually accompanied by a separate code or item to use immediately. However, there were two more where a whole pile of pieces were all given in one go, rather than needing to pick them up over time. This didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

We made pretty steady progress throughout and never really seemed to stall.

A number of things seemed like real avoidable letdowns. A lot of the instructions were handwritten and sellotaped to the wall or other surfaces; these really ought to have been printed. Numbers in many cases were handwritten in the European style where 1 looks like 7, and maybe I’m a bit pedantic and old-fashioned, but this can cause confusion for the majority of your audience. Also, there was a notice warning of a time deduction if you attempted to complete a puzzle in an unintended way, which scared nintendomad into thinking that the way we were using, which was the intended way, was going to get us into trouble. And the clock was just a tablet propped up on a random surface, which we couldn’t see once we had progressed past a certain point (and which we could have freely stopped and started had we been dishonest) – so we needed to keep going back and forth for time checks. A little attention to detail would have obviated these issues.

The location of this venue – on Oxford Street – is exceptionally central and easy to get to from pretty much anywhere.

Note that this game is said to lean heavily on its predecessor Age of Steampunk, and therefore anyone who has played that game would find this to contain too many spoilers to be fun.

We cleared the room with 13:37 left on the clock, an amazing time if ever there was one. We did not take any clues.

A quick photo and it was goodbye and off we went – most of the team about their business, whilst for me a later appointment up at The Bees Sneeze for Langstroth’s Last Riddle with Team Judge was in the plan.

In numbers
Overall: 5/10
Difficulty: 4/10
Theming: 5/10
Host: 3/10
Wow: 2/10

Other details
Accessibility: A lift down to basement level but manoeuvrability to and within the room would be difficult. Two members need to be able to stand and to make full use of both arms.

Alerts: One section requires two players with significant manual dexterity for an extended period. Time penalty for bypassing a game part. One dark area with primary lighting from laser disco ball (potential epilepsy trigger). One very confined space (whole team does not need to enter).

Capacity: The room accepts bookings for 3-5 players. Bookings of 2 or 6 players will be processed manually. I think 2 players would be very stretched as the room is non-linear and there are a lot of tasks that need more than one pair of hands. There is only one copy of the game.

Cost: We paid £110 for 5 players, reasonable given the location.


Photo: Yes, of the “stand over there” variety. No indication what’s become of it.

Getting there: Less than 5 minutes’ walk from Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines); any bus that serves Oxford Street will also do the trick.

One thought on “Escape Land – Professor Oxford’s Experiment”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.