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Madog’s Asylum, Paniq Rooms

Paniq Rooms

Played: July 2020

How we did: 2 person team – 56:24

In a nutshell:  Immersive horror-themed room set in a disused old Welsh hospital…

4.6 / 5

Host – 5

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 5

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photo, found on Facebook page 

Even before you arrive, when you’re told to meet your host outside an old, abandoned hospital, you know you are in for a fun and scary time. Nestled just outside the town of Porthmadog in Snowdonia, North Wales, there is a lot to love about this room. 

Before we get into it, a word to say how well the host explained the safety measures taken around Covid. We were both a little nervous about our first post-Covid room, but the host was thorough, reassuring and professional, taking a high standard of care around this. 

Set in a mental asylum, the room is horror themed. There’s a fun mix of non-linear puzzles and riddles here. Some puzzles will shock, some will tie you up in knots, some you’ll have to use your brain. As we were just a pair, we attacked the room in a linear fashion. 

Like all of the best rooms, there is a sense of fun and satisfaction throughout. Using your hands. Feeling things, picking things up, getting your hands dirty. What I especially love about this room is its commitment to the local history. Some of the puzzles nod to the building itself, and the history of the community. 

Clues and hints are available when needed, and our host was always there, always present if we needed her assistance. 

Clearly, a lot of love, care and thought has gone into this project. It really pays off, results in an authentic, unique and fun escape room. Much needed in the Snowdonia region. 

Full Disclosure, we weren’t charged for this room

Psychopath’s Den, AIM Escape

Played: March 2020

How we did: 2 person team – 63:15

In a nutshell:  Site for Saw Eyes with a few Shocks

4.2 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photo, emailed afterwards 

My first visit to AIM escape. The venue itself is beautifully modern and minimalist. Like something out of Kubrick’s 2001… Escape Odyssey.

It’s a mark of the high production and investment that has been made with AIM. This carries through to the game. It’s a really enjoyable room. Like a real life Saw movie. There are some scares, some awesome puzzles and some which slow things down too much and break the immersion. 

To start, much like taking the Central Line,  you find yourself in a dark, moody closed space with a maniacal voice over the PA. It really is dark, and the team running the show really commit here – only offering one torch between two. 

It was my team mate’s first ever room, and it was a hell of a first room for him. Towards the end, there’s a fine balancing act, with puzzles rolling around all corners. The finish was electrifying; kudos to the makers for committing to such a flair ending.

For us both the room lagged during the middle section. I spent a good 5 minutes holding the torch for James while he gave everything he had for one taxing solo challenge. The other big puzzle there didn’t land for us. Impressive idea, but we just didn’t find it fun. 

There’s a wonderful sense of progression through the game. Finding tangible clues and items which build and build and thread through to the end. Despite the investment and the use of tech, I loved how hands-on it was. Really fitting with that industrial, torture theme. 

The host and the team there are friendly, thorough and informative. Crucially, our host was efficient and attentive over the walkie-talkie when we needed some guidance. 

It’s a fun room. Well worth visiting whether a fan of horror or not. I’m excited to check out the other rooms.

Full Disclosure, we weren’t charged for these rooms

Roll Out the Barrel, Escape Plan

Played: February 2020

How we did: 3 person team – 58:58 – escaped with full barrel

In a nutshell:   Stealing a barrel of beer in WWII party room – it’s a corker

4.6 / 5

Host – 5

Puzzleology – 5

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo, emailed afterwards + score card

This is a really fun, World War II themed room. It offers a broad mix of puzzles to work the muscles and the brain. So taxing are some of the puzzles it’s advisable to attempt this one stone cold sober – as Poirot would say – with all the little grey cells intact. Ironic for a room themed around stealing beer!

True to form, the team at Escape Plan have created a well thought out room. Like a lot of top escape rooms in London, they care about the little details and touches, and they clearly take pride in what they do. 

Where they stand out is the uniqueness of some of the puzzles and props. Lots of really hands-on puzzles involving wood, metal, glass and parts of planes – and the odd bicycle. As wacky as a party at the end World War Two should be. 

Now it’s in a unique location underneath a very snazzy Indian restaurant in Shoreditch.  They do well to get straight to the puzzling before you even get in the door. Regular readers of the blog will know how much I value a sense of progression, moving through the puzzles – as well as fun, personable and responsive hosting. 

In both senses, they really nail it here. Like all good rooms, communication and teamwork will be some of the many keys to success. After that, everything drops into place. 

While their Battle for Britain room remains my favourite room in London, I am happy to recommend this one hugely. For me it’s just lacking the charming setting and the spectacle of grandstand puzzle we enjoyed before.

I’m mightily relieved that we managed to escape this one without the incisive military knowledge, experience and heroism of my father.

Full Disclosure; we were not charged for this room

The Escapist, Modern Fables

Played: February 2020

How we did: 4 person team – 36:00

In a nutshell:   Stripped back, inter-dimensional detective bar work

4.2 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo, posted on Facebook afterwards

Having really enjoyed my first visit to Modern Fables – good people with a commitment to science fiction and narrative – I was really looking forward to another Lovecraftian room. Before I felt that the Oracles was perhaps too heavy on the story and the detail. Here, with their original story and room, they get it spot on.

The set up, very simply, is that you’re in a bar and the bar owner has gone missing. As always, great use of human actors for the hosting, and lovely immersion early on. Spoiler alert – it feels like a real bar. Kudos to the team for creating a really weird mood to the room. A sense of unease, dread perhaps.

As you can see from the time, we raced through this. While it would be natural to fault the level of the puzzles, I don’t. They are well thought out, satisfying puzzles. Mixing different elements of clue work. Props to the team for the spooks along the way. This is a venue where it is always so much fun to make the most scared members of the team go first. 

I recommend this as a first entry into the Modern Fables universe. The narrative works, the puzzles are fun and there is a fun old ending to crescendo the room. Great use of text and wordplay, which is so rare in escape rooms these days!

What I think is lacking is perhaps one majorly memorable puzzle. More time in the first room perhaps. I spoke before about the Oracles having two of my favourite ever puzzles, and I think there might be room for one or two more puzzles in this one. 

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. 

Mission: Wavebreak Enigma Quests

Played: January 2020

How we did: 3 person team – 60:15

In a nutshell: Stylish, steady submarine shenanigans with superb hosting

4.4 / 5

Host – 5*

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photo, with prop, emailed after

Having really, really enjoyed their Heist, I was excited to come back to check out Enigma Quests new room. Having bought the tickets during a flash sale to promote their new room, we got these at half price – so it’s worth signing up to their newsletter.

First impressions are really, really solid. From the dude on the door (who was the newest member of the team to join) – to Sean (our host and one of the most senior) the team here are great. So professional. So enthusiastic and just on it. Full marks to the hiring policy and the training policy.

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be aware that my dad doesn’t like escape rooms. Thankfully, he wasn’t here. My brother was, and he loves escape rooms. 

We started hazily, familiarising ourselves with our new submarine home slowly. It is a well-finished room. Although it never felt like we were on a real submarine (too spacious, too bright, too … new) the puzzles fit the theme well. 

The thing I love most about Escape Rooms is the communication. It’s the essence of a successful escape. And I love that a lot of the puzzles here totally, 100% require it. 

How does this measure up to London’s other Submarine room at nearby Hint Hunt? It’s the better option. A better use of tech, with more of a fun factor – and world class hosting.

That said, as a room I enjoyed the Million Pound Heist more than this one.

Before, during and after the room – Sean took the time to explain things to us with patience, enthusiasm and charm. His debrief left us feeling like we were his old friends, who had just pulled off a world class, highly heroic submarine rescue.

The first room I’ve done where it felt weird not having our host in the photo too. 

The Battle for Britain, Escape Plan

Played: January 2020

How we did: 3 person team – 62/71 aircraft shot down,  59:28

In a nutshell: Hugely satisfying, uniquely British WWII room. My favourite in London so far. 

5 / 5

Host – 5

Puzzleology – 5

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 5

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photo, with uniform, emailed after. Also individual cards with times and contact details

Regular readers of this blog will know that my dad doesn’t really like escape rooms. I’d heard really good things about this room from Escape Plan. Golly gosh were those expectations met. This is a really, really excellent escape room – which even my dad enjoyed. Here’s why.

First up. Sara was a top-tier host. She brought professionalism and enthusiasm to the room and the story, keeping to character and knowing when to nudge us the right way with a clue. 

The room is set up in such a way that you’re – at first – a little muddled as to how you’re going to complete the mission. I admire the way the Escape Plan designer purposely allowed this, and it gives a really satisfying ‘click’ at some point during the game. After that, we found full flow. 

And satisfying is the one word to describe this room. It’s a really fun room, built around an excellent grandstand ‘point scoring’ final puzzle. But what is so commendable here is that each of the little puzzles is just in that sweet spot.

On reflection it seemed that there were nicely different types of puzzles to fit the different ways our teams brains worked. (I got dad cracking on a morse code clue which kept him busy)

The use of background music or audio can sometimes miss the mark in rooms. Here it is utilised really well, building and swirling to create an adrenaline rush as you launch your defence of the country. What a way to end a room!

You leave feeling satisfied; you’re brain has had a good workout – and when Sara was explaining the couple of clues we couldn’t crack, we weren’t groaning, as can be the case in other rooms. We were applauding the creator and kicking ourselves. Only one puzzle stuck out as hitting the bum note.

Full disclosure: we weren’t charged for the tickets

Dark Magik, Access Escape

Dark Magik

Access Escape

Played: January 2020

How we did: 2 person team – 6/6 dragon eggs,  58:30

In a nutshell: The Uk’s only completely dark escape room

4.2 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 3

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo emailed after

There’s a lot to love at this pop-up escape room.

First up, it is totally unique. Goodbye eyesight. Hello other senses! And lots of fumbling.

Second, I hugely admire Hannah’s project. In London at the moment it is easy to come across larger, international escape rooms where successful rooms are transplanted from other countries. 

It’s the opposite here. One woman, who has done everything herself. Setting up her puzzles in her living room to test on friends! A proper passion project, and so cool to see. 

She was a supportive host, watching us and attentive to our needs for clues. 

While I’ll keep this spoiler free, the set-up is that you need to retrieve six magic dragon eggs by solving the puzzles. Naturally enough, some puzzles worked better than others. 

There’s a hand-made feel to the puzzles, and despite the efforts of the audio and the props it was never lost on us that we were in the dark in a room above a pub in Canning Town. 

I recommend visiting this room while it’s still available. The fun factor of playing in the dark carries and uplifts the puzzles. And it is a total, mind-blowing moment when you take a peek in after the game is over. 

Also, with our ticket price around the £22 per person mark for a team of two – this represents one of London’s best value escape rooms.