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. 

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