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

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.  

Operation Blacksheep, ClueQuest, London

In a nutshell: Top tier Escape Room. Hugely entertaining way to save the world

Played: Feb 2019

How we did: 3 person team, 55 mins

4.6 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 5

Stash – Team photos printed out for us in studio. Optional extras

This was my second visit to ClueQuest after really, really enjoying their first offering Operation Blacksheep. 

It’s a premium outfit. Hosting is enthusiastic, professional. Puzzles are varied, enjoyably ‘out there’ and a satisfying level of challenge. 

ClueQuest really do force you to work together as a team and keep communication fluid, which I love.

Visiting with two colleagues, it was all smiles after and a nailed-on team building session. 

This room takes you into a villain’s hideout. For the most part, its spacious, breezily designed and with a few mini red herrings to keep the time pressure on. 

Generally, I’m not a fan of books in escape rooms. I don’t enjoy having to leaf through pages (or not) and I find that they suffer from smudging, pencil marks and wear and tear too easily.  

While there is one puzzle that has launched itself right into my long term memory, the majority of puzzles, while fun at the time, aren’t memorable.

In my opinion ClueQuest seem to be aiming to capture the corporate market. Loads of parallel rooms, huge waiting area, premium price tag, corporate section of their website. No bad thing at all.

The price point for, say, a team of two, is higher than most in London. For me, it’s worth it though.

Utterly, utterly fun. 

Plan 52, ClueQuest, London

In a nutshell: So much fun, I’d do it all over again

Played: Sep 2018

How we did: 4 person team, 61 mins

4.6 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 5

Fun Factor – 5

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photos printed out for us in studio. Optional extras

Where I popped my Escape Room cherry. ClueQuest happened to be a five minute walk from our office. That we stumbled upon arguably London’s strongest escape room is quite the coincidence!

What’s to love. The venue is in a very cool, quirky layout. What hits you immediately is the strong branding and theme. Kudos to the creators for weaving that narrative and iconography through their games.

For me, its full marks on fun factor and the creativity of their puzzles. My group was three other escape room first timers and it was such a positive experience. 

The host was always there when we needed them, responding quickly and sensitive to the fact that we were newbies. 

Another really important point is that the puzzles gain momentum as you progress. Starting small in a little office, ending with a real showpiece. 

Such a professional set up: choc-a-bloc with custom-made props and puzzles. This remains the only room I’ve played where I’d happily go back and do it all again. 

Submarine Torpedo, Hint Hunt, London

In a nutshell: Immersive, claustrophobic room with good quality puzzles

Played: April 2019

How we did: 2 person team, 51:52

4 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 4

Room Quality – 4

Stash – Team photo using our phone 

This was a return to Hint Hunt encouraged by the discount voucher. Al joined me again but my dad didn’t make the cut. (See Zen room)

With my grandfather’s naval background, I had been really keen to try out a submarine themed room. 

This room is actually used twice at Hint Hunt. We were given the option of launching a torpedo or surviving engine failure. Despite Al’s strong experience of solving engine failure with his vintage car, we opted for the torpedo.

Using the same room twice meant that the room is sprinkled with red herrings that don’t relate to the game. While I don’t enjoy major, in your face, red herrings in any game, these didn’t both us. 

The guys at Hint Hunt were really helpful in the pre-grame and the instructions were clear and fun. I do enjoy any room that has some real props to enjoy or wear while you’re escaping.

It’s a fun room. As is the mark of a good room, we were laughing and joking our way through it. We and the host enjoyed some banter, together. 

I really enjoyed the blend of puzzles – mixing classic escape room puzzles with more technical challenges. Crucially, they helped to drive the narrative too and the little ‘sub-missions’ along the way kept us engaged.

I don’t think this room would work so well for most kids. But if you enjoy a little of a mechanical and technological slant to your puzzles, I’d recommend it as a solid room

Zen Room, Hint Hunt, London

In a nutshell: Satisfying Japan-themed espionage room with one really awesome puzzle

Played: March 2019

How we did: 3 person team (one very late, one was my dad) 57 mins

3.6 / 5

Host – 4

Puzzleology – 4

Fun Factor – 4

Immersion – 3

Room Quality – 3

Stash – Team photo using our phone + discount card for next visit

My dad doesn’t like Escape Rooms or Japan. It seemed like the perfect Father’s Day gift to take him to the gorgeously Japanese Zen room at Hint Hunt

My first experience of Hint Hunt, I’d heard good things from their international reputation. As is custom, my dad arrived 45 minutes early. Unfortunately Al missed his train, and would be missing the start for sure.

Kindly, the staff were as accommodating as they could be, given it was a busy weekend.

If you can imagine how beautiful a Japanese spy’s headquarters would be, the team at Hint Hunt have nailed it. Only occasionally around the room would a clunky old fan pull you out of it. What the room does need is a fresh coat of paint and some sprucing up. It is showing visibility of years of good, hard, escaping. 

As my dad mused, myself and eventually Al whizzed enjoyably through the tasks. Without giving much away, there is one really, really fun puzzle that still makes me smile nearly a year later. 

I’d recommend this room, although I’m keen to see if Hint Hunt can do better

For a second opinion, here’s my dad’s review