The Escape Rooms Newport – Torture Corp

Summary
A room that left us disappointed and frustrated. Innovative and faithful to its theme, probably a fun experience for those new to escape rooms, but enervating, unexciting and frustrating to veterans.

Review
I don’t normally back Kickstarters, but something about Escape Rooms Newport made it look like it stood out from the crowd. I went in for the top-level package entitling me to play the game in a team of up to 6 and then act as the game master for another team. I gave the room a month and a half or so to get into gear before coming down from London for the day to try it all out.

I recruited eight members of Team Judge to come and play across two attempts – playing myself in the first round, and acting as the host second time around for my friends. The experience started the day before, somewhat intriguingly, but to say more would be a spoiler.
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TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Rebellion – 1136

Summary
TimeTrap have found themselves a new permanent venue in Reading and opened up quite a good room – a non-linear game good for beginners and with a pleasing mix of puzzle types.

Review
To celebrate a Team Judge moving-house party, we booked into TimeTrap’s new game soon after it opened. The theme of the room is, as the name suggests, acting as rebels after the death of King Henry I who was laid to rest in Reading Abbey – and the goal is to enter through a time portal and obtain the crown, which has been stolen, to restore it to the rightful monarch.
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Lucardo – Espionage

Summary
I’d heard a lot of good things about Lucardo and so when I knew I’d have a Saturday evening free in Manchester it was top of my to-do list. Espionage is a World War II themed room with very little linearity and mostly straightforward puzzles, great for beginners.

Review
Espionage is rated as the least difficult of Lucardo’s five rooms. A new subset of Team Judge was playing, with a total of two games’ worth of experience between everyone other than me, so it seemed a sensible choice. I had hoped to play The Dream on recommendation, but as we booked so late it wasn’t available.
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Escape this Room – London Bank Heist

Summary
Quite a crop of pop-up escape games in London these last few months. Escape this Room has gone to a lot of effort to build something for a month-long run and London Bank Heist was a good example of attention to detail and had something for everyone in terms of puzzles.

Review
Team Judge hit Escape this Room in its final week of operations. As it’s now closed I’m potentially going to be a little looser than usual in terms of spoilers, though only a little as I have a feeling that they will turn up again.

The story here is that you are entering the bank in the role of engineers to sort out some problems with the vault.
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Enigma Quests – School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Summary
A variation on “you’re in here, now get out”, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry makes progress more tangible and has great theming of its puzzles.

Review
Let’s leave the intellectual property question out of this particular review – it’s a good storyline, and the room theming and decoration were certainly on-point.
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Lock’d – Perpetuum Mobile

Summary
We loved the tech and theming of the room, which a lot of love and effort has clearly gone into. Pretty short though.

Review
Having played the venue’s other two games earlier that day, we found out that Perpetuum Mobile was free in the next slot and our host reeled us in with a discount, the room otherwise likely to go empty. It would have been rude not to.

We were invited to don lab coats to play; I must say I think this is becoming a bit of a trope. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve come across it and whilst it’s cute for newbies, it’s usually a combination of overheating and uncomfortable for the rest of us. Less, please.
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Lock’d – Museum Warehouse

Summary
This room has a good premise and a few clever flashes of tech, but is let down by too little to do, unexciting puzzles, and loads of red herrings.

Review
This was our second of what was planned to be two (but ended up as three) rooms in one day at Lock’d. Having polished off Grandpa’s Last Will we were expecting a step up in difficulty. Our excellent host gave us the initial briefing – the premise was needing to break into the museum and recover three statuettes which would also (for some reason) release the exit door.
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Lock’d – Grandpa’s Last Will

Summary
Billed for new players, Grandpa’s Last Will is a pleasant room for new players. Not too linear and quite straightforward and manageable.

Review
My mission, having chosen to accept it, was to book 13 people of Team Judge into one, two, or three escape rooms over three sessions on a quiet Monday in October. This was similar in difficulty to the room: an initial call and email to investigate whether 25 person-games worth of sales might elicit a discount went unanswered, and when I went ahead to book online, to my horror the other two rooms were blocked out after I booked the first one at 11am. More calls and emails went nowhere, so when they randomly reopened for booking a few days later I snapped them up. Problem 1 out of the way.

Round 2 was on arrival. The address and postcode on the website are not well-liked by Google Maps, which directed me to a different street and around the corner. To be fair, Lock’d has a very clear map on its website of where you need to go in.
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The Crystal Maze (London)

Summary
Simply brilliant. An hour of pure, unadulterated fun. I had been waiting 25 years for the time I got to actually play the Crystal Maze for myself — and it was everything it was billed to be.

Review
In a world where lots and lots of people accumulate lots and lots of stuff, experiences have been suggested as the new “want”. The Crystal Maze captures the zeitgeist perfectly: Gen X and millennials who watched the TV show in the late 80s and early 90s, all the while wanting to take part, now have the opportunity (and the disposable income) to do so.

I booked our trip nine months in advance to coincide with Emmy’s birthday and the presence in London of some of the further-afield members of Team Judge. A long time to count down. Would it be worth the wait? I was certainly hyping it up in my and my team’s heads…
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Do Stuff Escape Games – Hostage Hideout

Summary
Wonderful hosts make this a memorable game. Innovative puzzles. Quite cramped inside. A couple of defects.

Review
Battersea is probably best known for the dogs and cats home, but a recent addition to the local businesses is Do Stuff Escape Games. Sharing space with the Grove, an amazing gaming pub with all sorts of cult memorabilia strewn around, it’s a recent addition to south London’s escape room stable. Team Judge was taking up the Groupon offer to try it out.

Tipped off by the various reviews, we arrived in good enough time to order from the bountiful menu of burgers (lamb, beef, horse, venison, chicken, and veggie all feature) and these were most enjoyable.
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