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.