Escape the Review


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Thrice a TERPECA winner, Going Underground has a firmly established reputation as the top game in Austria. It’s at a separate location to the other Crime Runners rooms, and where the others form a single story, Going Underground seems to be a stand-alone narrative. In this one, you’re a team sent to investigate unexpected seismic activity and a possible bomb left over from World War 2, somewhere beneath the city.
This is a game that starts strong and just keeps going from one cool moment...
Ask for Budapest game recommendations and you’ll mostly get the usual list of well-known classics that have been played and loved for years. Ask for recommendations for Budapest rooms that have opened more recently, and Aroom is likely to get mentioned. We squeezed in a trip to them on impulse before leaving Budapest, and picked Deadland from their line-up mostly at random.
It’s an apocalyptic zombie theme, where you (plucky human survivors) are stranded in zombie-infested ruins and need to mak...
Downtown Budapest is packed with escape rooms; even with the most intense schedule you could play games for a week without needing to leave the centre. So it’s pretty impressive that Pirate Cave has survived and thrived for close to a decade despite being several metro stops out to the east.
The venue is deep within an industrial park, and has just the one eponymous game. It immediately gave me a good impression thanks to the owner, who was solicitous and clearly passionate about his room. I su...
Neverland’s underground venue gives an otherworldly impression: it seemed like we’d found a whole complex of vividly coloured chambers, a sprawling space leading off to one escape room after another. They do indeed have an impressive number of escape games, but also a bar, a restaurant area and even a karaoke option. On another visit I might plan to spend time here before or after any games.
You're entering ancient Aztec tombs in search of a magical healing crystal. This is the kind of game tha...
Long a fixture on the Budapest scene, E-Exit has several often-recommended rooms, but Secret Subway is the newest and longest, at 75 minutes, as well as the one that tends to get the highest plaudits. In it you're delving into a forgotten inventor's hideaway and investigating the writings and machines he's left behind. It has a classic steampunk aesthetic with brass pipes and gothic Da Vinci diagrams; the website suggests bringing a large team, but we found it fine with two, and probably more co...
Budapest’s reputation as an early centre for the escape room explosion is legendary; and White Mission is among the city’s most famous games. That’s due to the game’s concept, startlingly original when first created, that instead of a room filled with clues and items the players would find themselves in what seemed to be a nearly empty white room.
Many years later, the novelty of that idea has faded, but it’s still a nice concept. The game certainly shows its age, not just in the simple decor a...
The third game from Enigma Quests opened shortly before the pandemic, with the result that I was still thinking of it as a new game and was surprised to realise that it’s already over two years old. The scenario here is that you’re trying to defuse a submarine’s nuclear missile before it’s launched.
For this game there’s not a padlock in sight; everything is based around physical and electronic manipulation, with control panels and wires and switches and screens and valves. And as an extra comp...
MoviESCAPE’s boast is that for extra realism and immersion, they use items taken from real haunted houses and movie sets as part of their room decor; with the magic school game we played, that was presumably less of the former and more of the latter. They’re located some way outside Stockport itself, which seems to give them the luxury of space: their expansive lobby is an immediate plus, a bar area which would be quite comfortable to spend time in before or after a game.
In this Harry Potter i...
I know close to nothing about the Mods, and certainly don’t have any nostalgic resonance with the sub-culture. Even so, the exuberance and ubiquity of the Sixties patterns and designs were irresistible.
If you’re not familiar with the history, the Mods and the Rockers were rival gangs that clashed violently in Brighton on more than one occasion. In Modrophenia, you’re investigating the death of a fellow Mod, and need to construct a timeline of his movements leading up to his murder. In practice...
Loot The Lanes should need little introduction. It's occupied the #1 slot on this site's rankings of UK games for far longer than any of its rivals, and it was the highest ranked UK game in the TERPECA awards in 2019, 2020 and 2021. As a result it's been top of my list of games to play for an unconscionably long time, with a visit delayed by a combination of the pandemic and the fiddly logistics of organising a group for a Brighton trip. It officially requires at least four players, but is playa...
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The latest game from Pier Pressure is the first to be based at their Paradox Parlour shop, which had a highly tempting array of goodies for sale and which also offers their museum of illusions - which we didn’t have a chance to explore this time but which I certainly hope to see in a future visit.
All Pier Pressure’s games are hosted in costume and in character, and we were met by one of the most enthusiastically piratical hosts I’ve yet encountered. Pier Pressure are well known for the high qu...
I liked Deckscape's original game quite a bit, when I first tried it, but their following games have often struggled to win me over; so having heard that El Dorado was one of the weaker games in the series, I didn't have high hopes for it. Perhaps with the benefit of those low expectations, I ended up finding it surprisingly enjoyable.
As with their other games, El Dorado is a small box of cards, which you work through in a semi-linear way, with some cards being puzzles that you must solve to g...
Gespielt am: 2023/01/05 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 45:20 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Few games exude quality the way The Emerald Flame does. Post Curious have had the highest of reputations since their original box game The Tale of Ord, and this follow up does nothing to undermine that.
Although shorter than its predecessor, The Emerald Flame still comes in at 6-9 hours gameplay, consisting of three chapters, each of which takes 2-3 hours. This is not a game to race through though, it's one to be savoured and enjoyed. The large box contains three sturdy white envelopes, plus a ...
Gespielt am: 2022/12/22 Teamgröße: 4 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Barcelona boasts far more than its fair share of world class games, but La Mina was still notable for having won TERPECA awards in both 2019 and 2020, giving it a pedigree that’s hard to match.
At 90 mins this is a bumper size game. In fact, it’s pretty packed even compared to other 90 mins games. After playing a room, I normally make notes on the puzzles it contained, since otherwise the details fade rapidly from my mind. With La Mina that was a challenge - because it contained so. many. pu...
Gespielt am: 2022/12/11 Teamgröße: 3 Benötigte Zeit: 33:25 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
A secret city hidden under the ocean, built by and for the greatest scientists of the age, now deserted and in danger of destruction… given the premise, it’s appropriate that you’re welcomed by an empty lobby. Spanish games seem to often go the extra mile for immersivity, and while this isn’t exactly a ‘cold start’ escape room, all pre-game logistics are handled with your host carefully in absentia.
As a genre, steampunk lends itself to interesting sets and cool props. Futura takes that and run...
Gespielt am: 2022/12/08 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 33:34 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
It’s rare to see an escape room with a truly unique theme, but there’s no question that Tao qualifies. Both the venue frontage and the website (at least, the Spanish and Catalan versions) simulate a massage parlour well enough that they apparently get regular enquiries from people looking for massage not escape games.
At the outset you could indeed be forgiven for wondering exactly what type of entertainment to expect, as you’re invited to change into kimono-style garments. It’s up to the playe...
Gespielt am: 2022/11/12 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 62:01 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
After so many genuinely first-rate games in and around Barcelona, it’s hard to find the words to do Cybercity justice. But let’s try anyway: it’s a sprawling extravaganza of an experience that’s relentlessly impressive and original, one of a tiny handful of games that pushes the bounds of what you might ever have thought reasonable to expect from an escape room.
Plot and setting take inspiration from The Matrix, along with Blade Runner and Terminator, and while your entrance into Cybercity migh...
Gespielt am: 2022/10/18 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 85:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Barcelona, and Spain more generally, has a thriving horror scene, but we were mostly avoiding them on this trip. However, we made an exception for Nathael - I’m not going to miss the chance to play a TERPECA-winning game.
I never did work out who the Nathael of the title was, but this is a classic horror setup, full on, a dark and ominous house full of frights. As with many Spanish games, plan for a cold start, straight into the game with no introduction or briefing.
How scary a game is is dee...
Gespielt am: 2022/10/10 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 45:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Cubick’s La Entrevista, or Interview, is styled after a job interview - the sort of job interview which you attend as a group, and start off blindfolded. That might sound like a horror setup, but while there are elements of that in the story and decor style, this didn’t strike me as a game designed to be scary.
Both visually and in style of puzzle, Interview felt like an older style of game, particularly when compared to the other that we played at the venue. Expect graffiti used as a form of d...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/26 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 55:30 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Those cynical about corporate sponsorship might be dubious about a game built for the Estrella brand of beer. Suspend any doubts you might have: The Brewery is an exquisitely polished escape room that shines with quality at every step in every way.
This is another game with an official minimum player count of 4, so if you’re visiting as a pair you’ll need to scrape up another couple of people somewhere. The size of the game, and the degree to which it’s non-linear, would already be a reason to ...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/23 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 68:64 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
I’d originally expected to be able to only fit in one game at Abduction, but after discovering how good their third game was, I was delighted we’d managed to add their fourth to the schedule. The name Enterprises might not give away what the theme is, but the website artwork makes it clear with its big picture of Batman: where they talk about Abduction Enterprises, think Wayne Enterprises.
I think there was a plot of some kind, but my brain promptly interpreted the story and goal as ‘play with ...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/22 Teamgröße: 2 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Abduction helpfully number their games, and so The Exam is Abduction 3; this does not mean that it’s a sequel or that you need to have played its predecessors, and it has nothing to do with an abduction. The premise is instead, very simply, a test of your physical and mental abilities.
I like narrative-based games; I love the immersion created when all elements have been designed to create a seamless story with you as the central character. But by dispensing with story altogether, The Exam reve...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/21 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 52:06 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Second game on our Barcelona itinerary and second for us at Escape Barcelona was Alien. The previous game Akasha had set an extremely high bar, but Alien managed to rise to the same heights.
This of course is based on the Alien(s) sci-fi horror movies. While it’s not a fear game it works hard to build tension and create the feel of a creepy spacecraft, as much as is possible without having actual aliens hunting you down.
Although it’s technically possible to play with fewer, the website strong...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/19 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 46:21 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
As escape rooms have evolved and become more sophisticated, I think it’s fair to say that in the whole they’ve shifted in emphasis from ‘puzzle challenge’ to ‘immerse experience’. The degree to which that’s true varies hugely between games, but Legend of Akasha really exemplifies that change.
We found that games in Barcelona were far more likely than U.K. ones to use a ‘cold open’, where you arrive on the dot and are immediately plunged into the game, with no lobby and with any briefing done in...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/19 Teamgröße: 2 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
The Avalanche, previously known as Avalanche of Oblivion, has been on my radar as a game to travel to for over five years now. Originally it was created and operated by the local branch of Claustrophobia, when that company was renowned for standout games across Europe; the venue is now a branch of Maximum Escape. Appropriately for a game in mountainous Andorra, The Avalanche has you trapped in a lodge buried by snow. A realistic start progresses in some unexpected directions, some way beyond the...
Of Compendium’s (currently) four games, UI-55 stands apart, right near the top of enthusiasts’ rankings for best U.K. games. It’s also very different in style: where the others are well suited for an experienced pair, UI-55 is a score-based game where you’ll probably want at least three if not four, if you’re aiming to get through anything like all of it.
With my usual disregard for the finer points of the plot, I’d boil this one down to: you’re on a submarine, there’s a bunch of loot, get as m...
It’s a premise both classic and rather topical: with a deadly disease spreading across the world, you must break into a laboratory to find the antidote. (There may well have been a good explanation for why the lab isn’t just releasing the antidote without any theft being necessary, but if that was covered in the briefing then I missed it…)
Lab is not Compendium’s oldest game, but visually looks like it might be, in that it’s the plainest of the four, probably because the theme lends itself to l...
In a great example of how not to get your escape room sponsored by the US tourist board, Compendium’s horror room starts with the premise that you impulsively take a side trip into Alabama and shortly thereafter find yourself searching the house of a deranged serial killer. Your task is not just to get out, but to find a can of gasoline for your car plus also the mobile phones of the killer’s previous victims.
Of Compendium’s four rooms, I thought the decor in Wrong Turn was perhaps the most im...
Visiting Compendium to binge all four of their games as part of a larger schedule, we started with the insane asylum theme, which I guess is rather suitable for anyone trying to do eight escape rooms in a day. All the rooms in the venue looked good, and Bedlam made an immediate good impression: rather than clinical bare white decor or being derelict and dirty, it uses padded walls to great effect, and lighting that’s low enough to be atmospheric without being a problem.
We got off to a slightly...
Someday I’ll play a game set in an orphanage that’s about toys and laughter and children playing happily, but not this one: Lucardo’s latest is of course a horror game, set in a derelict orphanage with a dark past.
The design gets a lot out of a relatively modest sized space. The beginning in particular would feel cramped for any team larger than three, though it soon opens up somewhat. Some quality set design helps suspension of disbelief, and the game felt increasingly immersive as it went o...
I did wonder what ‘Crux Codicillus’ means, but I’m not convinced that Google Translate is entirely accurate with its attempt of “cross booklet”. Or maybe it is - this game casts you as junior members of world-controlling conspiracy The Illuminati, but it’s clear from the intro video onwards that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Crux uses a mostly linear structure, so style of game play is closer to Haligonian than to Operation Moonshine; it’s a little longer though, with the time limit set...
Having been opened for 2021’s festive season, Christmas Advent-ure was long closed by mid spring when I got to Halifax, but the owners kindly allowed us to play it anyhow, since it hadn’t yet been torn down. I’m not sure whether it’ll be available again next Christmas, so this review may be purely for retrospective interest.
This is a score-based game. Your goal is to gather small wooden tokens called PUDs, which you then feed into a collector that gathers them off in a rather satisfying manner...
Haligonian is the adjective for a person or thing from Halifax, and this room is a love letter to the town where The Escaporium is based. There’s a storyline beyond that, involving searching a collector’s private museum, but it seems like an excuse to celebrate all things Halifax. That might sound like an odd premise, less exciting than stopping a bomb or escaping from jail, but the result is not just a game that feels distinctive but one where you can feel the pride in the town’s history and ac...
Only having time to play two games of the three at Enigma Rooms Hull, the second one we chose was their Chocolate Factory game. On telling us about the chocolate factory's owner, Mr Enigma, our host pointed out that there was no copyright infringement going on; and there wasn't. But the influence of a certain famous movie is clear throughout this loving homage. Your team isn't plunged into the factory, but instead reach it after a build-up that mirrors the plot of the film.
In comparison to the...
One of many life lessons I've learned from escape rooms is, if you're awaking from stasis on a spacecraft, you can be pretty sure you're in mortal peril. Impact's flavour of peril is the exploding ship sort rather than the marauding alien type, but you'll need to do some rapid fixing up to make it out.
Our briefing included assignment of different crew roles to each player. It might have been nice if those roles had been directly used within the game a little more, but it was still a great way ...
Gespielt am: 2021/09/03 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 32:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Although it follows Unescapable‘s pattern of “name of person” game titles, the Mary of this game is not a person but a spaceship. The premise here is that Unescapable are running out of the crystals that power their time travel portals, and need you to head to the future to get some more - but the spaceship in which you arrive appears mysteriously deserted.
All of the venue’s games look good, and Mary maintains the standard. The actual implementation uses plenty of number padlocks, but manages ...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/25 Teamgröße: 4 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Of Unescapable’s games, Alan gives away the fewest clues to its theme - something about finding a missing employee? But there are enough subtle and not so subtle hints in the website details that I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying this is a pirate themed room - though that might not be obvious when the game begins.
This is a game of two halves, and while I’d expect the second half to provide the highlights for most players, I really liked the build up provided by the earlier secti...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/25 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 80:15 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
I believe the ‘v1.5’ in the name is because Cypherdyne underwent a significant revision a few years back, revamping many elements though not quite to the extent of making it a wholly new game. Even so, it’s one of Cryptology‘s older and more traditional rooms. The setting is a job interview with the titular corporation - which turns out to involve plenty of puzzle solving with some unusually lethal stakes.
Being a modern day office setting, for the most part the decor is fairly plain. However, ...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/25 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 35:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
In the packed Nottingham escaping scene, Escape Stations is a newer company that’s now starting to register on visiting enthusiasts’ schedules. At present Prometheus is their only physical game, though there’s another one under construction, and the company also offer an unhosted digital game.
Prometheus takes inspiration from Greek mythology, though your initial impression might suggest something different - it’s set in the modern day, and you’re investigating an ancient site uncovered by cons...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/24 Teamgröße: 3 Benötigte Zeit: 90:00 Ergebnis: Gescheitert :-(
A World War II theme might not seem the obvious choice to set in a cave, but in fact the story is a perfect match for the setting: in Monuments you are in the Austrian salt mines where the Nazis stashed their looted treasures, trying to rescue precious works of art before the defeated occupiers blow the place up.
Cave Escape‘s unique underground setting again gives an instant authenticity to the environment, and the games builds on that with a great deal of 1940s equipment and decor. It’s not a...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/24 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 58:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
There are lots of ways to build atmosphere in an escape room, with lighting, audio, props and effects; but some venues just start off with an unfair advantage - such as Cave Escape, whose games are indeed inside an actual set of caves beneath Nottingham. From their attractively gothic lobby, players descend stairs to the game area underground; they currently have two, of which the first is Carfax, inspired by Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel.
With such a gloriously atmospheric location read...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/24 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 42:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Nottingham is full of rooms that are beloved by enthusiasts, and Daylight Robbery has become one of the most frequently and warmly recommended of those. In a way it’s an evolution of what Cryptology did with Dreamscape, in that both are score-based games with plenty of parallel play that suits larger groups; but Daylight Robbery takes those characteristics and turns them up to the max.
That might not be instantly obvious - the game doesn’t plunge you into the mayhem immediately. But although it...
Gespielt am: 2021/08/23 Teamgröße: 4 Benötigte Zeit: 80:00 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
The three games at Escape in the Towers are notable not just for their historic setting but also for how very different each of the three games is. All are located in the Canterbury gatehouse towers, and each situated in a different part of the building's history; unlike the other two, Magna Carta Murders takes place in the main exhibition area, which you’ll have seen before if you’ve ever visited the museum. It's split across multiple floors, so be prepared for quite a few steep stairs to climb...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/19 Teamgröße: 2 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Spellcraft is the fifth of Tulley’s full-size escape games, and shares much with the first four: it’s huge and impressive and slick, and packed with enough puzzles that even experienced teams will have to scramble to complete it in time. But while the house style and quality remains a constant, the company continues to try new things with each new game.
The first surprise was to find that we’d be divided into two groups, working for good or evil respectively. An escape room is a fundamentally c...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/17 Teamgröße: 2 Benötigte Zeit: 73:50 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Dodge City is one of a small number of games that I deliberately played way after most enthusiasts had rushed to it, because expectations were high enough that it seemed worth saving for a suitable moment. I also wanted a larger team than usual. Where I choose to play most games with a team of two or three, Dodge was reputably only a little less tough than the infamous Nethercott Manor. We did in fact escape it in time, but with only a few minutes spare, and I was glad we’d brought the extra han...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/03 Teamgröße: 3 Benötigte Zeit: 44:09 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Inside the Tulleys escape barn is a large and welcoming lobby with doors leading off to their five main escape rooms. Outside, before you enter, there is a pair of small caravans, huddled off to the side. These are Kraken Casino and Tick Tock Circus, the neglected step children of Tulleys’ line-up.
Okay, that description might be a little unfair, but the company takes pains to separate these two from the other five rooms. Not only are they rated as easier and described as introductory games, bu...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/03 Teamgröße: 3 Benötigte Zeit: 45:50 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Key Enigma's debut game ran its Kickstarter in 2020, and it's spent as long sitting on my shelf as it did in production - the stated 8 hour play time put me off from diving in. Once I finally did start it, it turned out to be actually very digestible, consisting of eight chapters that each made for a quick-ish game that's easy to fit into a spare corner of an evening.
I'd describe this as a hybrid box/online game: it comes with a box full of envelopes and components, but much of the action take...
Gespielt am: 2022/09/03 Teamgröße: 3 Benötigte Zeit: 50:57 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
This is one of those tricky reviews to write. Some games are well presented but poorly designed; some are just bad; but Escape from the Cursed Spirit of the Abandoned School has a great deal that's notably clever and original, and even so I just didn't enjoy playing it very much. And the biggest reason for that is what's ostensibly the game's biggest selling point, its IP tie-in.
The game is based on Jujutsu Kaisen, which is apparently one of the best-selling manga/anime franchises of all time,...
Gespielt am: 2022/07/02 Teamgröße: 2 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
Deckscape’s compact and straightforward format has a lot going for it - you’re guided straight into the game without having to first work out how to play, and the large cards with their bright illustrations have good visual appeal. But while I generally enjoy the series, I’d suggest skipping Riddle of the Sphinx unless you like their games enough to want to play every one of them.
This yarn has you trapped in a pyramid, menaced by a mummy that draws closer every time you get a puzzle card wrong...
Gespielt am: 2022/05/15 Teamgröße: 1 Ergebnis: Entkommen!
If I copy-pasted in my review for The Lost Temple, CU Adventures’ other digital game, it would need only a little adjusting to be equally suitable for Floor 13 - which, given how much I liked that one, is very much a good thing.
Floor 13 uses the same custom web interface for managing the game. This provides story text (read aloud if you wish), atmospheric audio, and a mixture of static and interactive illustrations that provide the puzzles. These are structured in a series of ‘locations’ that ...
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