It’s New Year’s Eve 1999
Master Magician Alistair Wilson performs an amazing trick
And literally disappears
He is never seen again!
The big questions remain:
- Why did he vanish?
- How did he disappear?
- And what became of his “Book of Secrets”?
With so many questions left unanswered, my team of adventurers set off early one Sunday morning to find a little magic in Mile End. Our quest took us to Clue Adventures.
Our mission was to find out what happened to Alistair Wilson on new years eve 1999 and to find his Book of Secrets. Time was of the essence as his flat was due to be demolished. We’d only have 60 minutes before the answers would be lost forever.
Entering the Zone
Wearing our hard hats we completed our briefing before entering Alistair Wilson’s flat.
Players are offered a choice of play modes. The clues are the same but the amount of hints offered is different. Fun mode gives you a little nudge in the right direction and is good for all levels of player. Experienced players can choose Ultimate where you are asked if you would like a hint before one is given. Players can choose to take the hint or refuse it.
Despite the look of horror from one team member, our group decided to go Extreme, where you are not offered hints but have to ask for them. Admittedly we had not read the reviews before playing that said Book of Secrets is one of the hardest escape rooms to solve.
This escape room begins in Alistair’s flat and has you searching around finding clues, puzzles and even magic tricks. That’s a nice surprise.
In fact, magic abounds in this escape room. As well as allowing you to perform tricks, the whole experience makes reference to great magicians of the past and present. This adds another level of enjoyment to the game trying to spot different magicians.
Of course, the real object of the game is to solve the mystery and find the book. We were lucky to have a team of four as we could split up and search the room, which is packed full of stuff.
The game is non-linear so everyone gets the opportunity to solve. However you may discover things that require something else to be found before you can use what you’ve uncovered. Good communication is essential. As is remembering what you’ve discovered as you may need to refer to it later.
The big question
Having solved the first two questions, we still needed to find the actual Book of Secrets. The finale pulled all the team together with literally seconds to spare.
A recommended adventure.
18th August 1940. It had started as a normal day.
The WAAF were serving tea to the airmen playing darts and cards when the attack happened. No-one expected the Luftwaffe to launch a resurgent attack on Britain.
With their air base hit by the first wave of heavy bombing, the airmen abandoned their darts match. As the only survivors, the airmen and the WAAF needed to access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain.
With another attack imminent, there is no time to loose.
So begins ESCAPE PLAN: THE BATTLE FOR BRITAIN
A friend invited us to play the new story from Escape Plan which is set within World War II at an unnamed RAF base.
The game starts in the officers mess, with its photos of airmen and pub games. We played the only survivors of the Luftwaffe surprise attack. There were enough challenges to keep everyone occupied as we searched for a way to get into strategic operations.
A nice range of puzzles feed into a bigger puzzle that got us into the next room. This room contains an impressive piece of prop some of us were especially eager to access.
Once inside the strategic ops. room, we set about gaining control of the surviving airbases. Our aim was to shoot down as many German bombers as possible. We had to find the correct airbase codes and despatch the planes before scurrying to safety ourselves.
Able to get all aircraft airborne, we activated the escape code to get us to safety. A great time, plus a few great photos to mark the occasion. Recommended.
Adventure Rooms began in Bern, Switzerland, in March 2012. Now a franchise of Adventure Rooms Escape Games offers venues in over 30 locations all around the world. The UK Adventure Rooms can be found in Cardiff, where they currently have two games – The Mad Scientist and The Black Queen.
The Black Queen – Cardiff
Team “Invitation To Events” tried out the Cardiff Adventure Rooms and played The Black Queen, the harder of the two games.
“I’ll take two of you into the room first and come back for the other one” said our Games Master during the briefing. This led us to believe we’d be separated and have to solve puzzles to link up. So we split up along the lines of “someone has to take me” and left our team mate behind. We need not have worried as the split was only so that the Games Master could handcuff us to the wall, then handcuff our team mate in another part of the room.
Wait a minute. Did I say, not to worry? Here we were, all chained to the wall!
The start is in keeping with the premise of the game. The story goes that you are trapped in the mansion of a mysterious figure, the “Black Queen”. So your first task is to get out of the handcuffs and start finding out about the Black Queen and how to defeat her.
You have to make your way through her lair and escape before she finds you. It’s not a horror room, although there was a point where we turned the corner and had a slight shock. Think it was more to do with us being immersed in the experience.
The Black Queen is well decorated and has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it although its in monochrome.
We played valiantly and were working on the final puzzle when the time ran out.
A great time and we very nearly escaped.
The Black Queen can be found at Adventure Rooms, Cardiff
Fox in a Box started in 2013 with an escape room in Vienna. Today its international franchise has over 20 location spread over 3 continents. Their stated aim is to have the brand Fox in a Box become the synonym for real life escape games. They currently have 7 different themed escape room adventures.
The Bunker – Madrid
Team “Invitation To Events” tried out the Madrid Fox in a Box and played The Bunker, which is one of the harder games in the Fox in a Box franchise.
The games masters were multilingual and the game can be played in English or Spanish. There was an initial problem with our game as it had been set up in Spanish! This was quickly rectified by our Commander in Chief (Costumed Games Master) who stayed in character so as not to distract from the immersion of the game.
The Bunker is set in the Cold War era. You and your team are sent to the hideout of a suicidal madman who has decided to take most of humanity with him. He has just activated the countdown to a nuclear explosion and you have 60 minutes to save the world.
Wearing combat gear, you and your team of secret agents enter a room with military plans, maps and wired technology…..
The Madrid game is played in a brick bunker which adds to the atmosphere. The room itself was very well decorated, and contained themed props. In fact one of the best bits about the game was the incredible Nuclear Briefcase which you must carry around to complete the deactivation process. This large piece of custom electronics was the star of the room.
We needed a little help – having the clues in English being one – but still managed to Save The World and make it out in time.
A great game that was a lot of fun to play.
“Ye who enter, abandon all hope.” — Well, the situation is not that dramatic but, as soon as the door closes behind you, the countdown starts. You have exactly one hour time to search through the bunker, use the items and tools you find, solve the puzzles, get the keys and codes to get into the control room and prevent the nuclear catastrophe. This cannot be done alone. Trust your skills and those of your agent-mates and maybe then – maybe!? – you’ll reach The Button… But, when the time expires, it comes the Big Boom!
Pie and mash shops, serving traditional working-class food, have been in London since the 19th century. Some are still found in East and South East London so it was a surprise when a friend invited us to one in Battersea.
However, this was no ordinary Pie and Mash shop.
This was the new Pie and Mash Shop Escape Room by Do Stuff Escape Games, located around a 5 minutes’ walk from Battersea Park Station,
We arrived early so we could enjoy Sunday Roast at The Grove pub, where the Escape Room is located. A cosy pub with quirky decorations, it offers a choice of board games to play with your drinks.
At the appointed time we made our way to the entrance of the pub and met our Games Master. After a briefing, he showed us to the Pie and Mash shop and the game began.
The Pie and Mash shop owner, Albert Bow, had gone missing. Our mission was to find out what had happened to him.
Traditionally, pie and mash shops have white tile walls with mirrors, and marble floors, tables and work tops, all of which are easy to clean. The room decoration and props were great and matched the theme. It was just like being in a very small eatery.
Play is not linear, as there are multiple points to get started. Consequently the team split up as soon as we entered, all searching for different puzzles and happily yelling out when we found something.
The puzzles were a mix of locks and codes, and mainly low-tech challenges. However, there were some creative ideas we’d not encountered before.
As you work through the room, you also find you are working through the story and the investigation. It was much more noticeable in this room compared to others we have played.
Having solved the missing person assignment, we still needed to get out of the shop. A code we thought had been used already turned out to be our downfall. We escaped but a little over time. That didn’t diminish our enjoyment of the game.
A great time was had by all.
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The game started with complete darkness.
Edgy, scary music designed to make players nervous…
We entered not knowing what to expect. Sure, we’d played other escape rooms. Ones where you sift through drawers and empty cupboards looking for clues.
But this game was different.
This game was the Breakin’ Blackwing’s Cave room with its superhero theme.
A superhero lair doesn’t have cupboards and drawers to riffle through, so this was going to be a different type of escape room. One that uses high tech gadgets. We’ve played them before too. Some use gadgets to progress the story. Some just add them because they can, without adding anything to the experience. Some gadgets work, some don’t. Some require feats of incredible dexterity.
Starting in darkness, our first task was to find some light, so we began by feeling our way around the walls ….
Good set design, shame about the puzzles.
The set design was good so we were hopeful that the puzzles would be too. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Our friends had played the Sherlock game as a team of 5 and warned us that, being a linear game, only a limited number players could solve things at a time. There were times when some of them had nothing to do except watch the others.
The Blackwing room is also linear but with only three players, we had more chance of puzzle interaction.
The game is played in darkness so it takes time to find the limited light source and get accustomed to the room. We didn’t find the lighting a problem. However we were frustrated with poor puzzle design, lack of puzzles and poor customer service.
**NB this review contains spoilers**
During the briefing we learnt that Blackwing was off fighting his arch enemy, while we were needed to defuse bombs inside Blackwings Cave.
Early on there was a major puzzle which we failed. I don’t mean failed to solve. I mean failed, as in the countdown reached zero and the “bomb” exploded. [note 1]
We were left wondering if that was really the end of the whole game. [note 2]
Having paid almost £30 each for an hour of puzzle solving, we expected the game to last longer than 15 minutes. Therefore, we searched for something else to do.
It soon became clear there was nothing else to solve so we used our Walkie-Talkie to ask for a hint. We were told we could continue trying to solve the failed puzzle [note 3] or to ask for a hack to bypass it and move on.
How many teams continue trying to defuse an exploded bomb, I wonder? Was this designed to hold teams up rather than provide enough puzzles?
We were feeling frustrated by this point and elected to take the hack. The hack released a second wave of tech gadget and maths based puzzles. Having maths geniuses on the team (not me) we were able to quickly work our way through the clues until we hit another major problem.
We found a secret “room” – an oppressive blocked corridor where two of the team got locked in. Although we “solved” the escape puzzle numerous times, nothing happened. Finally we asked for another hint, which turned out to be to continue doing exactly what we had been doing!
I was hot, frustrated, and claustrophobic by now. Spitting feathers, I shot back into the Walkie-Talkie “we’ve been doing that but nothing happens”. At this point another Games Master took over our game and told me that nothing was supposed to happen; the puzzle only gave a clue to the person outside the room. [note 4]
Escaping from the sweltering, cramped corridor we found the exit door was now covered with lasers that appeared to serve no useful purpose other than to block the doorway. The clock above the door had also stopped, even though we had more time remaining.
Our original games master arrived and warned that breaking the lasers would incur a time penalty. It wasn’t clear that escaping within the 60 minutes depended on exiting the door without triggering the lasers, so they just looked out of place.[note 5]
By now we were infuriated and frustrated. Escaping in 60 minutes was no longer a goal. We just needed fresh air.
Had we enjoyed it, the GM asked? No we hadn’t.
When we left we complained about the puzzle designs and the claustrophobic second room.
[note 1] The games master (GM) said defusing the bomb was a difficult puzzle to solve, especially as you had to connect the wires to defuse the bomb in a certain way. They added that in training it had taken the GM’s 40 minutes to solve that single puzzle.
[note 2] The GM said some teams have given up and walked out when they failed. I’m not surprised, as it appeared to us that the game was over after 15 minutes when the bomb exploded. Having paid almost £30 each, we demanded more for our money and expected to be given more puzzles to solve. (Maybe the other teams were not offered the hack.)
[note 3] The GM said if you wobbled with a connection at any stage you had to start the whole process again. This meant a lot of teams failed and had to keep reattempting it.
The GM tentatively asked if we still wanted a photo to remember the experience, as she could sense we were very disappointed. I stayed true to the room, but my fellow players pretended they’d played something different. Blocking the memory before we’d even left the building, huh.
We left feeling very angry that we’d wasted our time and wasted our money.
Other Online Reviews
I hadn’t spotted the online reviews until after we’d played the game. Although we had the worst time ever, the others didn’t find the room too bad. Here are their thoughts, which include some of the points we raised about the room. I have no idea if they paid full price, like our team did. All I can say is we did not find it enjoyable, and certainly did not find it value for money.
“It’s a pretty linear game. We played with four people, and I’d suggest three as the best number. Two of the larger sequences of the game are limited in how many people can get involved with them at once, so larger groups may find players standing around in these sections…..The number of puzzles in the room is a little on the sparse side.”
[note 4]”………..we had issues with the actual game design and flow. Sadly, we also struggled with their clue system, that hardly helped us when we got stuck.”
[note 5] “The puzzles in the room are mostly high-tech with some cool twists. Another warning for the end though: the game is NOT over once the timer stops. We failed to realize that and got all our leftover time deducted, because we thought it was already finished……The last game-element in the Blackwing room was such a frustrating ending to the game that we were fairly stomped afterwards……..”
[note 5] “…with a final puzzle sequence that incorporated two unusual techniques to make the game stand out – one of which happens after your clock has stopped. Given that, in every other room I’ve ever played, that meant the game was over, it left us a little confused at a time when the endorphin rush should have just kicked in. “
The ringing phone could only just be heard over the sound of the wind outside and the excited chatter inside. Someone needed our help or rather a few someones needed our help…..
Invitation To Events sprang into action and dispatched teams across Nottingham to discover the hidden clues, objects and codes. Each team would have only 60 minutes to solve the mysteries, puzzles and challenges in order to find the key they needed to escape their room.
As part of a Hen Weekend in Nottingham, we organised an afternoon at an Escape Room. Or rather THREE rooms at one Escape Room Provider.
Logiclock is a puzzle-based live escape game where small groups of people solve puzzles and mysteries to escape from a room or series of rooms. All of the escape rooms are theme-decorated, as shown by the after game photos . Logiclock advertise that all of the decorations and puzzles are handmade and unique to their venue.
Cosa Nostra – The Sicilian Adventure
The British Spy Agency required a secret team to infiltrate the villa of the Sicilian mafia, where 4 mafia bosses were holding a meeting. They needed to discover the plans of the mafia bosses and escape from the villa without being detected. Would they succeed in their mission?
Pirates in Nottingham
While all this was going on another group was dispatched to a secret house discovered in the heart of Nottingham which was full of pirate treasures. Although it had been rumored that such a place existed,
no one had left the pirate shelter alive to tell the tale. Would our team be successful in acquiring the treasures and finding the final key to escape?
Made in Stein – Science Adventure
Professor E had been working on something of great importance when he had abandoned his office abruptly. Now his assistant, Mrs. Taylor, was looking for someone with a scientific brain to complete his research.
This was where our task force came in. Although Mrs Taylor had seen a lot of candidates, she was still searching for the best of the best. Would our team prove to be what she needed?