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.



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.