Modern Fables – The Escapist

In a warehouse in the deep depths of South Bermondsey lies The Escapist, a rough speakeasy where you can get rough drinks and meet rough people. Lavinia, one of the operators, has turned up missing. We needed to go and discovery what on earth was going on.

I’ll try not to over-egg the pudding in terms of travel, but you could scarcely believe this venue is in Zone 2 – we took a bus to South Bermondsey station from whence it was a 15 minute walk, but it felt like we were much further out. We arrived just on time and after getting through the gate found ourselves in, well, a very rough-looking room with board walls and a bar in the corner. And Alfie, Lavinia’s assistant.

Alfie and I had traded tweets before the game and it was good to make his acquaintance. The greeting and briefing were in character, though a few bits were a bit stilted. Alfie left us on our way with the first clue suggesting where to look. We were also given water bottles to take with us, a nice touch. Almost straight away we entered a dark room, though that particular status only lasted as long as it took us to find the light switches.

Presented with a whole range of information, the three team Amaze members spread out to see what we could find. We had an interesting dynamic split: I did my usual thing of calling out all the locks I could see and what length combination we wanted, whilst my colleagues started a search and read the initial clues provided.

The clues were cryptic but did all make sense, if obliquely, and point us in the correct direction. I confess to speeding through a little too fast to absorb the story, but reflecting and discussing afterwards, I would say it’s a better degree of storytelling than I typically find in escape rooms, and quite absorbing too.

We progressed quite steadily with the help of occasional bursts of lateral thinking and “got it!” moments, dealing mostly with mystery type elements and the occasional skill challenge. One puzzle left us suffering from having a high level of experience though: with all the hard parts done and having actually done all we needed to do, we missed the very simple last step needed to progress. That took a hint to get through. Oopsie.

Part way through, the theme got decidedly darker with Lavinia’s fate and destination seeming murkier by the minute. There were some random flickery lights and loud noises, which threw one of the party. And as we progressed, this grew from light to moderately creepy. Not scary, certainly not in a rabid zombie type way, but creepy.

Words gave way to numbers as we continued to progress, with a pleasing use of props, clues, and devices, and a nice balance of high and low tech devices.

We escaped with 17 minutes left on the clock, enough to place us amongst the “employees of the month” but 6 minutes shy of the monthly record-holder. We had two hints, though only one of them was any use. Hints are primarily by request and come in the form of a handwritten message on screen from Lavinia.

Without wanting to give away the ending, I will just say that there was one, and it leaves the door wide open for a sequel. A sequel which we will undoubtedly be back for back for which we will undoubtedly be.

There is a fail condition in the room, but it is called out as such and you will know it when you see it.

In numbers
Overall: 9/10
Difficulty: 6/10
Theming: 9/10
Host: 8/10
Wow: 7/10

Once you get there, this is a really smooth room with well thought-out but cryptic puzzles. The story tracked well and in a rare achievement, tied in sensibly with the puzzles. The room is neither search-heavy nor linear, but is a lot of fun. All the props fit within the theme, there are few to no red herrings, and the build is very robust with nice background tech. I have high hopes for them.

Other details
Accessibility: High step to enter and exit the room. I think adjustments could be made with a bit of prior discussion.

Alerts: Low light and flickering lights (which can be modified on request). A little bit scary at times.

Capacity: The one room takes 2-5 players. Our team of 3 was just about the right size for experienced players.

Cost: We paid £78 for our team of 3. Prices range from £58 to £110 per team depending on size. I gather it’s also on Groupon. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken before playing on a phone. They seemed to be printing them off and sticking high scores on an “employees of the month” noticeboard in the debrief room, whilst those who didn’t make it on time were on a “missing” noticeboard in the initial briefing room. The photo was also on Facebook the next day and we had a link emailed out, along with Alfie’s “feedback”.

Getting there: Despite being in zone 2, this one’s tricky to get to. It’s about 15 minutes on foot from South Bermondsey (National Rail) and 20 from New Cross Gate (London Overground and National Rail). The P12 bus route (Surrey Quays to Brockley Rise) passes nearby – Manor Grove or Penarth Street stop. Even the specific location is a bit non-obvious. If using mapping applications, the coordinates of the location are 51.483586, -0.050678. You’ll need to call the number provided in your booking email to get them to open up the gate.


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