Escape Plan Ltd – The Battle for Britain

Summary
Launch the Battle of Britain by mobilising the RAF from a secret air base and make sure you save yourselves.

Review
Team Amaze made the trip back to Elephant & Castle, where we had previously been for “The Adventure Begins” (now moved to a new venue in Shoreditch). The chilliness of the evening evaporated inside – if anyone has ever found an escape room too cold, please send us a postcard.

The genial Brendan welcomed us and offered to explain the game at hand. Our members not having arrived all together, we were instead offered some 1940s postcard puzzles (of the “spot the internal inconsistency” type) to try out whilst we waited.

Once everyone was in place, we had the briefing and were underway. I very much liked the setting and how they had striven to obtain (or at least make) props that were appropriate to the period.

The room is very non-linear and whilst finding one’s way out at the other end is an important feature, the actual goal is to gain entry into the RAF bunker and then determine which planes to send where. The first aspect we achieved without major incident, and it was then back to splitting everyone around the room whilst we dealt with a huge range of cues and clues.

The puzzles varied in construction, style, and difficulty without ever becoming insurmountable or boring.

Without getting too trivial, this really was a case of getting on with it. Things went too smoothly for me to call out any area where we felt stuck, and managing a team of 6 was not complicated enough to interfere.

Hints came by way of prerecorded audio and were timely without being giveaways.

One puzzle was counter-intuitive enough to admit several solutions, and when we fed this back to Brendan he immediately agreed, mentioned a couple of teams had said the same, and undertook to change it.

Outcome
We got the maximum possible score of 71 in 58 minutes. We did spend about the last 5 minutes checking and rechecking that we’d done everything right before launching.

In numbers
Overall: 9/10
Difficulty: 5/10
Theming: 8/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 8/10

Escape Plan has done it again with a very solid game. They’ve steered away from padlocks and towards a range of ingenious mechanical, electronic, and other tricksy puzzles whilst staying very much on theme. Best of all, the scoring system means that there’s plenty to do for teams who have the skills and/or the numbers to do more, whilst you can still get a reasonable result even if you’re starting out or having a bad day.

The little touches such as the contemporary puzzles to play whilst waiting, the finale, and the painstaking avoidance of anachronisms in the room make it clear that they attend to every detail.

We also had an email from the owner beforehand asking us if we were sure we wanted to bring a team of 7 (we ended up with 6) – he knew me from the booking address – and I was able to confirm that most of the players were new and it would be fine.

Other details
Accessibility: Stairs to main room, narrow corridor and confined briefing area. Toilets in a separate building entrance.

Alerts: None

Capacity: The one room takes 2-7 players. I can imagine two experienced enthusiasts doing well (though see below about price), and the non-linearity makes a larger team feasible too.

Cost: There’s a flat rate regardless of the number of players, which is £89 on weekdays and £120 on weekends, except that teams of 2 pay £65 weekdays and £89 weekends. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken with a DSLR and emailed promptly. Dress-up gear available.

Getting there: The room is a short walk from Kennington (Northern) and Elephant & Castle (Northern, Bakerloo, and National Rail) stations. It is in a quaint little gated-off business park type of affair; gates are often closed in the evening but you can ring the number on your booking confirmation and they will come down and get you.

Website: https://escapeplanltd.com/

Do Stuff Escape Games – Pie & Mash Shop

Summary
A nice little game which starts deceptively simple. A missing person case in a pie shop turns dark and you have to go and find what’s going on.

Review
Team Amaze took six players to Do Stuff Escape Games, with three each to play the older Hostage Hideout and the new Pie & Mash Shop. We were welcomed by the very pleasant hosts and closed up our stuff in the lockers before setting off back outside – this room’s got an external door in the car park.

There was a fair amount to do once we got going. A relatively high level of locks proportionately but several non-lock puzzles too, and what we needed to do was sensible.

Build quality was high, with some new puzzle concepts we had not seen before, and several good pieces of engineering. The story was a bit threadbare but with no red herrings or silly searching we could let that slide.

Hosting was good and our host was proactive in offering the option of a hint when needed. She knew how far along we should be at a point in time and played a straight bat.

One thing that caught us out a bit last time and is worth mentioning again is the communications system. There are microphones throughout the room which the host listens in to at all times, and whilst you’re issued with a walkie-talkie, it is only for the hosts to use to communicate with you – no need to push the button to talk back.

As mentioned in the previous review, do make time for the excellent burgers in the pub. A special offer is available to Do Stuff players.

Outcome
We escaped with a minute and a half on the clock and having had four hints. I can’t say it was devilishly difficult, but it was definitely paced well and the hosts are excellent and on top of their game.

Apologies to the hosts for making somewhat of a mess and to you readers for taking months to type this up.

In numbers
Overall: 9/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Theming: 5/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 7/10

Whilst there’s no special reason that you happen to be locked in a room at this point in time, I’m actually OK with letting that slide. The game hangs together well, there’s some innovative puzzles, and nothing falls into the irritating bucket. We had an enjoyable game even if it got a bit tense towards the end.

Other details
Accessibility: Steps to the briefing area but flat throughout the room. I expect the staff would be more than happy to come out and brief you outside. One element will require a fully-mobile adult.

Alerts: Mandatory lockers. Some fake blood.

Capacity: Pie & Mash Shop, like the older Hostage Hideout, takes 2-5 players.

Cost: We paid £55 for each of our teams of 3 using a special discount code. Normal price is £80 for teams of 2 at any time or any size team on weekdays up to 5pm and £100 for 3-5 at peak times. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken on a tablet; they asked our permission to upload to Facebook and it appeared promptly that evening.

Getting there: It’s 5-10 minutes walk from Battersea Park and Queenstown Road Battersea (both National Rail).

Website: dostuffescapegames.com

Modern Fables – The Escapist

Summary
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.

Review
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.
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Escape Rooms Angel – The Dark Side of the Moon

Summary
One of London’s newest rooms, sadly disappointed us with the theme and with a mechanical breakdown that terminated our game part way through. I suspect they’ll get over the teething problems in due course, but few of the puzzles made sense much less indicated what to do, and this isn’t saved by the amazing technology, set design, and build.

Review
At an enthusiasts’ meetup a few months ago, The Logic Escapes Me and I were discussing the relative merits of attending and playing rooms early in the run. I like the idea of getting in early to deliver a review which will help others decide whether they’d like to play or not. The opposing viewpoint is that you could get caught up in teething issues or untested rooms. And sadly, that was what happened to us this time around.
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Clockwork Dog – Loop

Summary
I wasn’t sure that Clockwork Dog could outdo their last attempt at a pop-up escape game. And yet they have. I’m still not quite sure how. We’ve rated it Generally Awesome, and you should go and play it, ideally before reading the rest of the review.

Review
First and foremost, this room is highly difficult to review without causing potential spoilers. If you read further it is at your own risk of finding out something you may not want to have known. I’ve put in some collapsed spoiler boxes but they don’t cover everything.
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Clue Adventures – Book of Secrets

Summary
Chock-full of puzzles, a room where if it isn’t nailed down (and maybe if it is) it’s a clue. Great build, wonderful host, and originality of theme. Just a little over-stuffed.

Review
This venue had been quite a while coming, and it seemed like months ago that I signed up to a mailing list which promised a reduction in price when they opened. The email jogged the memory and I put it onto Team Amaze’s list.

As the story goes, a legendary magician’s apartment in London is being demolished in an hour, and you are tasked with extracting his legendary book of secrets from the apartment before it was demolished.
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Omescape – Biohazard Laboratory

Summary
A strongly linear adventure with impeccable theming. Limited light means a need to concentrate carefully. Despite being Omescape’s lowest-difficulty room, it’s not one for new players. Puzzles, technology, and build quality are excellent with virtually no reliance on padlocks and not a key in sight. Five players is probably too many.

Review
Team Amaze booked both copies of Biohazard Laboratory for a total of ten players. On the day we lost Bubbles who had to drop out at short notice, so after asking around the rest of Team Amaze and drawing a blank, we picked up Emmy from Team Ninty to fill out the second team. She had transport issues on her way up and therefore it was 8 minutes into our slot before everyone was on site. Mig and Vicky led team Alpha featuring Emmy and Will whilst Agent P and I were on Team Omega. [Both teams were 5 players, we just haven’t got alter-ego names for everyone else yet =p]

Our host gave us the short version of the welcome so as not to delay things further. He kindly did not deduct this from our time clock, and we got underway with the explanation of our mission – poisonous agents have been introduced into the water network and we needed to go into the sewers to add the antidote and get back out again, collecting some MacGuffins on the way.
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Omescape – The Penitentiary

Summary
A Generally Awesome award winner, The Penitentiary is a challenging game that you need to bring your A-game for. Technically excellent, well-themed, and a genuinely difficult one to get through. New to escape games? ClueQuest is up the road…

Review
Having knocked out Escape Plan a couple of weeks ago, Team Amaze was looking for a step up, and Omescape looked like just the ticket. With two sites in California and a shoal across China, this new arrival to the UK had plonked down a stone’s throw from ClueQuest and has brought across two of its popular scenarios as well as adding a third.

Arriving in good time, some wood puzzles were available to play about with at reception. With black walls and simple theming, we were put in the mood for the game pretty quickly.
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Escape Plan Ltd. – The Adventure Begins

Summary
A WW2-themed escape with a range of deduction, search, and mechanical puzzles – many of which were on theme. Low-tech but they have made a lot of a limiting premises. Pretty high reliance on padlocks.

Review
Iliffe Yard is a curious little cobbled location near Elephant & Castle. We were a bit early but not early enough to wait in the recommended café so stood around outside the venue for a little while. Team Amaze was on duty for this one. We’d been warned there was no room for early arrivals or for waiting and this is no joke: the control room cum waiting area is a small corridor about 3 feet by 15 and it is literally impossible for a team that’s just finished to occupy the space as well as an arriving team.

The goal of the room is to escape a POW camp in wartime Germany. One unique aspect is that before starting we were handed a booklet of the diary of Bob Hails, which contained a range of clues and material to be used once in. This was slick and well-prepared, and we had the chance to peruse it before we were on the clock.
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clueQuest – Revenge of the Sheep

Summary
A challenging room that’s not for newbies, builds on the previous two rooms in terms of story and style. The goal is in the style of a specific task rather than simply escaping. Style and build quality top notch. The inaugural winner of the London Escapists “Generally Awesome” award.

Review
Some rooms have got one or two unique puzzles or features that make you go “Wow”. Revenge of the Sheep doesn’t. It is one constant wow from start to finish. Right away when entering the room one of the earliest puzzles is so amazingly intelligent and precisely designed that I don’t know how someone conceived of it. This theme continues throughout, with beautiful design style, tricky but eminently solvable puzzles, plenty for everyone to do and little linearity, a great story, and even a couple of puzzle answers that were in-jokes.

Team Amaze returned for its second and my third visit to clueQuest. We had three rooms booked, one of Revenge of the Sheep and two of Plan52, with the returning players primarily on the former. Our four-person team was pretty early for our slot — the start time for Plan52 being 20 minutes earlier, but we all travelled and arrived together – but this didn’t cause any issues and we were able to get going promptly. And so it was that Mig, Vicky, Agent P and I got ready to prevent the Revenge of the Sheep.
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