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.
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. “
Artists and Artisans Treasure Hunt
Spend the afternoon exploring Trafalgar Square on Saturday 12 Aug 2017
Come and collect your explorer packs before setting off to discover heritage around the Trafalgar Square area.
Explore gardens on your quest to solve puzzles and challenges.
When you have completed your mission, the fun continues with the after hunt party. Share your stories with other hunters over a drink while the scores are calculated and prizes awarded.
Will your team have scored enough to claim the winning prize?
The Postal Museum opens on 28 July 2017
‘British postal services helped to shape the modern world. The Postal Museum works to connect people through this human story of communication, industry and innovation by making it accessible to all.’
The collection spans five centuries of history, revealling Britain’s remarkable social and communications history.
Exhibits include stamps, letters, greetings cards, postcards and even song sheets. There is a collection of post boxes and operational equipment. Tools such as handstamps, sorting machinery and furniture are on display, as are horse-drawn or motorised vehicles and train carriages.
A network of automated trains stretched from Paddington to Whitechapel and kept the capital’s communication network flowing for over 75 years. While millions of items of mail were delivered every day deep beneath the streets of London, Postal workers were forbidden from travelling on the train.
But now you can experience the ride.
The subterranean rail ride – MailRail – is due to open to the public on 4th September. It is currently available for private group events. Ride through the hidden tunnels and discover a unique piece of industrial heritage, then explore the galleries packed with objects, stories and interactive displays.
The Invitation To Events team, including an ex-Post Office Engineer, were privileged to get a trip on the train ahead of its opening to the public.
The Invitation To Events team plan on another trip to see the museum, so if you’d like to join them sign up for our Newsletter and you’ll be kept informed of this and other exciting visits and events. Click here to join the club http://eepurl.com/cA8aRj
Discovering history in London and Cardiff just got even more exciting thanks to these fun treasure hunts you can play on your phone. Challenge your powers of observation as you explore London streets and parks or experience the National Museum in Cardiff.
Receive clues and hints directly to your phone or tablet. Follow the trail and learn interesting facts with each correct answer. The hunts are available for both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets via the ClueKeeper app.
The hunts take around two hours and can be used as a walking tour of each location. There are currently five Treasure Hunts in London self guided hunts to choose from:-
One of our friends invited us to take part in Handmade Mysteries latest escape room.
We were told to meet at The Depot and await instructions. At the appointed moment, Wynne, our wooden, toy soldier guide arrived to take us to Poppa Plock’s wonky workshop.
First impressions on entering the toy factory was that it was very creepy. Twisted toys and demented dolls littered the room and there was a freaky ventriloquist dummy giving instructions.
Our team were under pressure in a race against the clock to complete Plock’s finest creation.
Did we succeed in building “Roy”? Did we discover why the toy maker mysteriously disappeared? Did we share some bizarre moments? (Those who have played the game know what I’m talking about!)
Well, I’m pleased to say we completed the build within time. However, the photographic evidence suggested we may have overrun slightly.