JM’s Office, Hint Hunt

Played: February 2020

How we did: 4 person team – 45:22

In a nutshell:  The place that launched a thousand rooms. Hard-boiled detective fun

4.4 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 5

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo 

Hint Hunt proudly lay claim to London’s oldest escape room, and this is it. Eight years old, the J.M’s Office detective escape room felt like a classic. Our team consisted of a first timer, two who had played a handful, and myself. We all enjoyed it, and it felt like a classic.

First up, there is a rich vein of satisfying puzzles. A room heavy on puzzles is my kind of room. Befitting the detective theme, you need to examine everything in a different light. 

Our host was fun, kind and helpful. Really bought into the Hint Hunt project, and she echoed our mood well to make the experience fun for us.

Yes, the detective schtick has been replicated in many, many other rooms. But when it’s this fun, I am happy to do it. Padlocks, keys, maps. It is a tactile room. The narrative is clear and it works. 

One thing we noticed; the iconic chalk outline of a dead body was so small, we wondered if it was a child a dwarf who had been murdered.

Like watching an old Hitchcock or Humphrey Bogart movie, this felt like a classic. A real genre-piece that still holds up and has influenced others.

I loved playing this room, and I’d recommend it for veterans or debutants – and everyone in between.  

The Oracles, Modern Fables

Played: February 2020

How we did: 2 person team – 60:15

In a nutshell:  What if time travel and aliens were a real thing, and they made an Escape Room in Hackney?

4.4 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 5

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photo emailed after

I love what the team at Modern Fables are doing. First of all, they are not afraid to go deep and geek out. In a city awash with Harry Potter themed rooms, these guys are creating ambitious narratives around conspiracy theories, aliens and time travel.

Doubly impressive is that all the rooms incorporate the same universe, part of one big narrative arc. I hugely admire the commitment to spookiness, a feeling of unease that permeates the rooms before you walk in the front door. 

That’s all very well George. But is the room any good?

Well, yes it is. They have an excellent use of a games master, which sets up a memorable first puzzle. One which has to be one of my favourite ever. I still smile thinking about it. Snaps to my co-puzzler for realising the plan to which we needed to stick. 

Any room should be fun and it should be satisfying to complete. The game designers have riddled the room with puzzles that tick these boxes. There is a really nice way of knowing how you’re doing, and a sense of completion as you move from one puzzle to another. And thats where things get weird (in a really good way). 

As a first timer to Modern Fables, I felt the set-up was actually too heavy on the narrative. To the point where were were getting lost and the immersion suffered. The team running it could simplify the story and this would allow the visitors to get more out of it. Less is more. 

If I were to put together a nostalgic mix-tape or greatest hits of puzzles across all the rooms I’ve done, there are two in this room that would feature for sure.

Full Disclosure: I was not charged for this room

Lady Chastity’s Reserve Handmade Mysteries

Played: February 2020

How we did: 4 person team – 60:12

In a nutshell:  One of a kind… Spooky, gothic puzzling with a wicked sense of humour

3.8 / 5

Host – 5

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 3

Immersion – 3

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo emailed after

I was really excited to check out the Clapham Junction venue for Handmade Mysteries. It has a reputation as bawdy and immersive with a punky gothic that is as alluring as the vintage wine it is centred on. The room gets a lot of buzz, but for me and the team it didn’t quite click. Here’s why.

First up, Gabriel our host was totally unique. I’ve never met anyone quite like him, and I commend anyone who can cram so much innuendo and dark humour into a safety briefing.

The first thing to say is that this game is cramped and dark. On the one hand, it is a tough room so benefits from more players. On the other, we were a team of four big guys and it was… cosy. 

On reflection, there are two key things that took some of the fun away in this game. First up, a huge reliance on the story and narrative at the start. If you’re arriving still a little rushed and full of pizza as we were, it is really, really hard to concentrate on the long old intro talk Gabriel gives you to start. Remembering the details of this talk, and really paying attention, plays too crucial a role in the rest of the game, for me. 

The second was the level of lighting. I see why the creators decided to go lights down low, and give the torches. And this can work in some rooms. Hell, some rooms work well totally in the dark (see Dark Magik). But the fun and the immersion just wore out quickly in this room. Lots of padlocks, having to get a team-mate to shine their torch. 

There is a fun, creative, narrative around which the room centres. The grand puzzle was satisfying, and a clear indication of how the game is progressing. Sound and music feature really well, and add to the mood nicely, with humour and darkness. 

The puzzles are challenging. We were totally, totally stumped a few times. When they were revealed with some help, or after the game, it was a mix of ‘of course!’ with a few groans and grumbles over a glass of wine over.