Buckbuck Games – Hunt for the Smoking Caterpillar

A bit of a departure from my usual puzzle-focused choice of game, Hunt for the Smoking Caterpillar is definitely well over on the “immersive theatre” side of things. Plenty of fun and well-run and paced, but attempted to wedge far too much content into an hour.
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The Crystal Maze Manchester (team of 1!)

I’ve been starting to get good-natured mocking from friends and colleagues over my general obsession with the Crystal Maze Live Experience. I crowdfunded them back before they opened their first London venue, played four times in Angel with different sets of people, and was starting to know the games better than the staff. I couldn’t go to Manchester and not try that maze out, could I?

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TimeTrap Escape Rooms – The Divide

The Divide is something very different. Escaping rooms is a good, if expensive, hobby. Escaping a poor financial situation, homelessness, and similar is a lot more serious. Time Trap Escape Rooms sought to take up that challenge.

Another Team Judge trip to Reading took us to the upstairs of a closed barber shop, where Time Trap had built their pop up escape experience. It’s physically separate from the main Time Trap premises, and thematically separate also: their default theme of time travel parked for this one.
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AIM Escape – Psychopath’s Lair

It takes a lot for me to declare a game unfair, and I’m not going to start a habit here. Unfun, however, is one label I’m prepared to dish out when it’s deserved – and Psychopath’s Lair is definitely that. What a mess.

The (then) recently opened AIM Escape was the first outing in some time for Team Judge after a member of Team Judge won a free game in a Facebook competition.

Minor mishaps started on arrival with insufficient locker space to store a moderate amount of belongings. The excess ended up in the control room. They were very particular about no phones being taken into the room, for no particularly clear reason.

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Archimedes Inspiration – MAD

This beautiful story with an escape room hanging off it is set in a mental hospital and is a particularly special experience.

This was another game I’d saved for a special occasion and special team. Team Pig got together in Bermondsey to seek out the well-renowned AI Escape. We had always intended to play their older game Leo’s Path but procrastinated long enough that it had finished by the time we got round to it. Bummer.
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TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Imaginarium

Take lots of lights, one large dose of Lewis Carroll, and a range of puzzles, and you’re somewhere in the right direction. TimeTrap let their imagination run wild… did it work?

Previously satisfied customers of TimeTrap’s Rebellion 1136, we returned for another go at the newest addition to the stable.

The premise of this room was that Lewis Carroll had had an accident and we were intrepid time travellers to 1863, ready to be shrunk down inside his brain and help him recover, making sure he proceeded to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on the way.
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TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Station X

Like a good wine, TimeTrap improves with age. This, their fourth escape game, demonstrates a provider that has built on success, learned from errors, dreamed up new ideas and concepts of how an escape room should work, and put on an extremely enjoyable experience. You should go. Yes, you.

Whilst I’m certainly nowhere near the escapades of some of the more prolific players and bloggers, I’m approaching my 50th game. That tends to mean that most of the puzzles I come across are variations on something similar that I’ve seen in the past, some executed well, some less so. Not here. No tropes are allowed through the ticket barriers. We were invited for a preview the day before they opened.
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Escape Plan Ltd – The Battle for Britain

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

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.

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.

Emergency exit: The entrance door was not locked.

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

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.

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.

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

Scrap – Defenders of the Triforce

The Legend of Zelda themed Escape Room? It’s not like the usual Escape Room we’ve all come to know and love.  Be prepared for what happens when an Escape Room and a Pub Quiz have a baby…

It’s easy enough to sell themed events to Zelda and or Nintendo fans.  They are more than willing to support the brand no matter what shape the product takes.  Special Edition item?  They’ll buy it. Limited run concert?  It’ll sell out.  Is this another way to make easy money from the fans?  Well Yes and No.
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