History Mystery Norwich, The Museum of Norwich – The Merchant’s Vaults

A Saturday visit with a new player joining our regular duo, we headed into another historic underground area of Norwich to play another game. There aren’t any doors with locks on, only a story to tell and some ingenious ideas to reinforce the story.

You have travelled into the past of Norwich with no money, and have found yourselves way back in time with only a considerate sponsor willing to help you get back to your own time.

It is a romp through some major industries of Norwich with physical and mental puzzles, it is not always linear but you do need to work together to solve as you work through the “ages” to escape Debtor’s Prison and get back to your own time.

A good games master with the ability to tell a story here really helps the experience, particularly one who knows the history as we have always found that these guys do. Our GM was attentive, sarcastic when necessary and played her role well when we ran into the inevitable health and safety issues that presented themselves in such an important listed building. She gave a character while being herself at the same time, and clearly had a lot of experience in dealing with both experts and novices alike. I believe her name was Rosie and she was also an experienced dungeon master for D&D. This gave our group a great experience and I can see it being a good time for anyone as long as you have a team with a sense of humor and can work logically.

I found the physical/mechanism of the puzzles useful without being intrusive on the time period, and as immersive as it can be bare in mind there was limited space. There were certainly a few things I hadn’t seen before.

I would recommend this game to visitors to Norwich who perhaps have some games under their belts, and can work well together. I think it may be difficult to do with 2 players, but we managed well with 3 and I think two pairs would do well.

Certainly a company I enjoy, we are happy to have our Platinum reward badges (a nice touch) and hopefully we will play the last currently available game of the Queenmaker soon at Blickling!


Norwich – History Mystery – Archived Alive!

A game where you are trying to break someone out of somewhere as opposed to breaking in…a whistlestop tour of Norwich’s rich history on the way, a chance to see inside the beautiful Guildhall…wait, a WINDOW?? That I wasn’t expecting. You can get a rather good view over the market and to the City Hall. Nice…wait, were’t we supposed to be doing something?

The city’s archivist has managed to get himself locked in the secure vaults after forgetting his pass in his jacket pocket. You’ve arrived at his office, to see him waving at you from a screen. The remote access is only available for an hour a day, and he needs you to get him out by solving the puzzles in his office. Perhaps he was paranoid, I don’t know, but if there was so much chance of this happening…wouldn’t there be backup measures to get them out a bit sooner?

Anyway. The puzzles are linked to the city’s history in some way, but are a little random in their approach. There are personal hints available through a computer if you need them, and the archivist also comes on every so often to encourage, or worry you slightly. It’s nice to have a live actor, it brings something to the experience to realise that it is a genuine rescue/breakout.

The main problem I had was wanting to look through all the books for far too long, there’s some interesting literature scattered around, as you would probably expect for an archivist. Nice touch.

Again, we played this as a pair, and it was rather tight on time, with us worried we wouldn’t complete the rescue. There is a lot to search through, but it does pull together well at the end. I think beginning players may struggle with just two people, but I suspect the less competitive won’t actually mind, the game will most likely teach you something either way. I would say 3 to 5 people is ideal. It is fun for both beginners and the more advanced, I think, and families may find this a fun activity at weekends and the holidays, especially if they like puzzles and putting things together.

I did like the idea of combining history and some kind of adventure from the start, and living in a city with an interesting past, I am glad it was established here close to me.The fact that their other games are associated with the very buildings they stand in really does bring something extra to the game. This one is more a general romp, but if you want to find out more about everything, you always have someone to ask…

Our host, and the owner, Alisdair was a goldmine of information about both city history and escape games, and with our shiny silver winners’ badges we headed home happily, with both their other game booked, and a point in the right direction for a friendly company who had opened in the nearby town of Dereham…

London – Escape Land – Da Vinci’s Exploration

I’ll admit it, we didn’t originally go to London to play this game. After a mistake in our booking for another game, we came on the wrong day. Well that is a good start, right?

A look around on various websites led us to Escape Land, on Oxford Street, which is a lot better placed for travel than a lot of games in London, in a central area, and not somewhere where you wonder who is coming down that dark alley next to you…

A fairly small venue, with 2 games, the host was friendly to us, and we got started quickly. The game started off very dark, we weren’t warned about that, which some people may prefer. The torch was working at least, which was a blessing, but I am still not entirely sure why we would be locked in such a place and trying to escape. I do like games with a story behind them, but possibly the “Exploration” was us exploring the hidden workshop we found.

I am endlessly grateful that we were in Da Vinci’s workshop rather than Leonard Da Quirm’s, I dread to think what puzzles we would have come across. Those we did didn’t seem too related to each other, maybe it is the man’s genius that led to that. There was a really fun method of travelling between two rooms, a little physical but nothing too difficult. That will wow new players for a start when they find it.

Where our team of three got frustrated was near the end, there was one particular puzzle that drove us absolutely mad for about 10 minutes, others may find it a bit easier, but we stuggled a little with the instructions and had to take a couple of hints, delivered over a radio. It looked to have taken some abuse, but was working adequately enough for our needs. We weren’t entirely sure when we had escaped, but that was more our oversight than the fault of the room.

There are some small areas, so again I would say 3 to 4/5 players is good here. Fairly standard for most of the games we have played. It won’t necessarily wow those who have played a lot of games, but we enjoyed ourselves and it was reasonably priced for the location.


Norwich – Cryptic Escape – The Treasure of Greenbeard

It says something about this room when I remember it so well nearly 18 months after playing it. You are trying to escape from the cells of the flagship of the dreaded pirate Greenbeard (*ahem*) who is busy with some pillaging and is due back soon. You have your chance to escape, and make off with some of his treasure at the same time.

This was the second room I had ever played, the first being Cryptic Escape‘s first game, the Lab of Dr. Lev Pasted, in August, just before their official opening, I believe.

As (kind of) expected, we were locked in cells, to escape those first. It is good to note here that you probably don’t want more than 2 to a cell. It’s a little cramped. Also good to note, the GMs can assist people who are claustrophobic here too. The venue lends itself very well, it’s old, reasonably dark, and does give a good feel here with the slightly odd shaped ceilings and walls. I like the decor too, and this impressed me even more so after the jailbreak. Less impressed was my partner, who I accidentally left in the other cell for quite a while while I searched the rest of the room. Oops.

There’s a good range of nautically themed and pirate puzzles, good use of space as it gave you the feel of being in the hold of a ship, searching for treasure. The tech was definitely a step up from the first room, which was more of a traditional one with padlocks, but it didn’t feel intrusive at all, not even the screen for the clues and timer.

The screen follows the HintHunt style games, where the GM can talk to you through a screen with their own clues. It is not apparently possible to bribe them with cake for the answers. Tom was in charge of our game, and injected some good humour as well as definitely feeling we were being looked after well.

We escaped with around 2 minutes remaining, and avoided the clutches of Greenbeard himself, and it was a reasonable stretch for 2 players, although definitely not impossible. I recommend 4 is probably maximum unless you like to be rather cosy for a while.

It’s 6am and…

I now have plenty of time to update reviews as I spend the next 3 hours on a coach to London. After a bit of a break, it is escaping time again!

On the way to meet up with my regular partner in crime (sometimes having a whole new meaning in escape games, I am surprised no one has found me yet after all the priceless artifacts I have stolen, areas I have broken into..and the rest)

It is time to visit a new company I hadn’t actually heard of yet, reading a review from The Logic Escapes Me and Time Out have convinced me to go and try it @www.cluetrace.co.uk where we will play Mission Critical, and back to Handmade Mysteries to try and finish the last monstrosity of Poppa Plock in his Wonky Workshop. Sounds like it is going to be fun!

Hockwold (Suffolk) – Rustic Riddles – Pan’s Problem

So what better to do on a warm Sunday afternoon than go and visit a local goatherd who has a little problem with trolls?

Something a little bit different to a regular escape game, well yes! There’s no room to escape from for a start, and the aim of this game is to create a magic potion to see off a troll, and save the goats from being eaten. No easy task when some naughty wood nymphs have left traps and puzzles for you to solve to get the ingredients.

I loved this game right from the start. I am not sure how I would have felt if it had been pouring with rain, but I suspect it wouldn’t have detracted from the clever puzzles. There are a few padlocks, some great physical puzzles, and some interesting brainteasers for good measure. Everything fitted well with the outdoor venue, the natural materials used went a long way to making a great atmosphere, and there had clearly been a lot of thought put in to making this a fun adventure, for which you will be using both body and brain. It’s a fair way around that hollow, that’s for sure!

Our host was genial, and had plenty of stories to tell. It was really good that he had future plans for the venue as well, I definitely look forward to seeing a sequel game. I would recommend this to anyone, and there is no age requirement either. Everyone can get involved with something, even exploring their surroundings. Doing it with 2 people was rather hard though with all the moving around needed. We didn’t finish in the 60 minutes, but that was partially due to our absolute stupidity on one puzzle. Ah well.

We’re not even bothered that we were beaten quite handily by a group of children. Honestly!

London – Breakin’ Escape – War on Horizon Alpha

The last of our rooms on the 3rd July, we were sitting in a pub at Waterloo trying to see if we could find another place to visit, and we struck lucky.

Out on the Holloway Road, pretty much opposite the Garage, we found this. I liked the window decor, and the steampunk/industrial like theme continues inside, and there are 6 different games here of varying difficulty and themes. Each is based very loosely on a film, and our gamesmaster’s sense of humour shone through when he was giving us the briefing, with his not-quite subtle references.

The theme of War on Horizon Alpha is that you are infiltrating a space station, attempting to take down the shields there so a rebellion plot can succeed. The room itself, as expected was very technological, with very few traditional escape game puzzles. I don’t think I saw a single padlock either, which is good because I doubt they would have fitted the well-done theming. There was even a cool droid there to help you.

The hint system here has a keypad and tablet that gives you clues, you are given a code over the radio to type in if you ask for a clue. Even that was well-placed in this room, and carried on the futuristic theme. Kinda felt like you were radioing in to your base for assistance actually, and was a fun little addition. I am not sure how well it would have fitted in some of the other rooms though.

For a searcher, you won’t have that much to do here, which is a little annoying, but there is one part where you can feel a little smug. We were told that the start of the room can be tricky for some teams, and a lot of people need a clue to get started. The room is very linear, and I do think that having any more than 3 players would be awkward. You have to have 3 for this one, but apart from one little part, I think two people could do it fairly easily, especially with a fair amount of thought.

The room was a little bit broken, which was a shame, but I would say that it could be fixed fairly quickly. I gather that they are very popular with groups that might be a little less than careful with the equipment. I don’t think it affected our game too much, but it would be nice if things that are supposed to be stuck to a wall are actually going to stay there, particularly when you need it working to escape. We had no other problems though, and it didn’t stop us from getting out successfully.

I do recommend this venue and game, it’s a little on the expensive side, but it is London. I should imagine that those who like to role play would have fun doing that in here. I would say that 3 players is ideal, maybe 4 for less advanced players, and teamwork is crucial.

London – Secret Studio: Escape in Time!

The second in a day of room escape attempts with a difference, playing 3 of the more non-traditional rooms that I could find in London.

With a rather intruiging email sent to us that gave the game’s location as a “closely guarded secret”…well, obviously, given the name!

We took a group of 3 here, and I think 3 or 4 was best as it was another fairly linear room with a story behind it. In a production studio for B-movies, one of the cameramen has noticed strange goings-on on the set. His (rather cruel, in my opinion) editor has told him to prove it, and then he disappears during the night while locked in on the set. What happened to him? It’s your job to find out.

The props as we entered were some of the best I have ever seen in a well themed room, with plenty of little touches to keep things interesting. And even better, still barely any locks!

We went for the highest difficulty level despite having one new player with us, but he jumped in straight away, exploring the new world. Wasn’t long ago I was doing that myself! One puzzle was a bit finnicky, dropping a magnet into a small space that you couldn’t get your hand into to get it out again, but this had quite clearly happened before when our GM helpfully showed us the location of another one. It was when the clues were being sent that you really got the impression that they were paying attention, especially when we received personalised messages that were (gently and humourously) berating us for doing something stupid.

You definitely need the clues to get through this game, it’s not easy by any means, but a quick push in the right direction is enough to push you back on track in a lot of cases. The staff take care of you right from the start (thanks for the apples :)) and like a few games we have played recently, you do get to see the story through to the end. You’ll want to as well, this is well put together and a lot of thought has gone in. I did things in here that I have never had to do inside one of these rooms before.

One puzzle can be a little frustrating, but technology can be a pain in the butt sometimes. Just grin, bear it and you will do it. They say that at least one team member should have reasonably good eyesight and I’d say that they are correct. Also, be prepared for a few screams, but I bet you will still enjoy yourself!

I’d say don’t worry about being a beginner in here, there’s plenty of scope for both them and experienced players. Apparently there is also a sequel coming for returning players, as well as more rooms in the works, so I will be keeping a close eye on this one!

London – AIEScape (Archimedes Inspiration) – Leo’s Path

I don’t even know what to say about this game. After reading reviews, I was promised not just an escape room but an experience too. Indeed, that was exactly what we had here.

But I am going to try and express my feelings as best I can without spoilers.

Leo’s Path is an adventure where you try to find out what has happened to a lost brother of a young woman who has died. ¬†You explore a beautiful seaside themed adventure which surpassed anything I had heard. It comes from a Chinese story about family, and this really hits home in places.

It’s one of the first games where I never felt truly rushed, even though the timer was easily visible. Usually in this team, there are a lot of references to the clock or shouts for “time checks, please!”. I think we mentioned it only once here, too engrossed in what was unfolding ahead of us. There was one tense moment, and a couple of jumpy ones too as things happened around the room, but nothing distracted us from the path for too long.

The puzzles fit well into the theme and the story, and although linear, I don’t think this loses anything here. It is kind of necessary for you to be led from puzzle to puzzle, and I don’t remember encountering a single traditional padlock. It is a well automated game, and although it has to have technology powering it, is is not visible or detracting from the experience. There are some lovely carvings and atmosphere, but I am not sure I would class seagull cries as music, thankyou very much!

It is hard to say much more about the contents without spoiling the story, and no one really wants me to do that. It is much better to experience for yourself. The ending part is truly beautiful, and the hosts make sure you get to see the whole story. I’ll admit I was crying at the end, truly moving. I am not sure that has happened before in the venue history, and it certainly hasn’t happened in any games. I’ve played several themed and story driven rooms, but nothing quite like this.

Our host was friendly, willing to chat and share his very amusing stories too, as well as talk with us about other rooms we had played and were planning on visiting. He was also prepared to talk about the game we had just gone through, explain any parts that we wanted clarification of, and give us the history behind the story far beyond what was actually given to us at the end.

I am very interested in playing the other games, both active and planned. It’s great to have such a venue in London, where the story is what matters, and escaping isn’t really the plan. It may put competitive teams off, but then I don’t think this is the best place to go for that. If you are prepared to put that aside and just be carried along for the ride…you won’t be disappointed in my opinion.



Norwich – Cryptic Escape – The Lab of Dr. Lev Pasted

Going back to the first escape room I ever played here, the reviews here are a bit of a catch up.

August 2015, or around that time was the opening of the first escape room in Norwich, and I travelled with two friends not knowing quite what was happening. All I knew was that we would be locked in a room by a friendly games master and we’d face a load of puzzles in order to get out again.

The Lab of Dr. Lev Pasted was their first game, and indeed, we went in to just see….a room. And a load of puzzles. I liked the audio aspect, and the first thing I remember thinking was “Where do we even start?” At this point, only one of us had done anything like this before.

I remember this as having some really good searching, and a fair bit of it was awkward, with a fair few “oh…REALLY?” moments. Definitely laughed about it afterwards. I was hooked by the games having a story behind them, and not just a load of things to solve in a room, with no connection whatsoever. I felt fairly immersed in it, and I was reminded very much of looking around in old point and click games, trying to see what worked with what. Yes, we really didn’t have a clue about what was happening at this point, but it led to some rather amusing moments, and a fair bit of swearing. This would become quite a common theme among the next few rooms, and wow, nothing has changed 2 years later really….

Thinking back on it now, I would definitely recommed this to beginners, and although I have fond memories of my first ever game and may be rose tinting, I still don’t think this is a bad game. Indeed, I am glad to see their review scores creep up. The staff I met cared about their games, and had a great sense of humour with the hints they gave. The hints here come through the monitor when you either ask for them, or the GM thinks you might need a little push. They are steering you in the right direction, but you might end up having to think for a moment. I like this.

Cryptic Escape can be found in Norwich’s Tombland, and they are opening a new game in the near future. I look forward to seeing what they have to offer now they have increased the space they have available.