I’ve gotten completely addicted to escape rooms this year. The idea is simple: your team gets locked inside a themed room filled with hidden objects, puzzles and various other things, and you need to escape the room in 60 minutes by solving all the clues. It’s pretty much the real life version of those flash games from the 90s.
There are at least 8 escape room companies now in London alone, providing 15 rooms all together, each themed and setup in a completely unique way. I was curious though? How do these rooms compare to each other? So I’ve decided to take on the bothersome task of trying out all these rooms with the same team, and reviewing them here!
The first room our team got to do was Escape Land, organized by Escape Games London. I got kindly invited by Sandor from Escape Games to review their room, so on a gloomy Thursday our group made our way to Bethnal Green to get locked in.
The story behind this room is that your group got sucked into a time tunnel and end up in the home of two steampunk scientists. You need to escape the room before the rest of their Illuminati friends arrive. This is all explained on their website, but when we got to the place there wasn’t really an intro to set the scene of the story.
The story element doesn’t get much better when you enter the room. Throughout the room there were several letters involving clues and puzzles, but not much to build the story of why you are there and why you need to escape.
★★☆☆☆ Atmosphere & Set Design
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here, but compared to some of the other rooms I’ve done, the atmosphere of the room could have been better. The room is decorated with a desk, a set of drawers and two creepy mannequins that all look steampunky, and the walls are covered with various steampunk puzzle elements. But it doesn’t look polished or coherent enough; it doesn’t feel like you’ve just walked into the home of two steampunk scientists.
Now I wasn’t sure whether to mention this here or in the next section about puzzle design (bit of an in-between area, I guess), but all the locks were actual locks. Some used keys, some used code combinations, but they were all still I-can-buy-these-from-Amazon-style locks. Which also meant that the result of each puzzle was either a key or a number code. With the steampunk theme I was hoping for some more interesting contraptions, like using cogs or hidden switches to open wall compartments or doors.
★★★☆☆ Difficulty & Puzzle Design
While the locks themselves didn’t feel very steampunk, the puzzles certainly did make use of the steampunk theme, using pipes, cogs, vials and more. There was a good selection of different types of puzzles; some logical, some physical, some mechanical. Our host boasted that with their 16 puzzles, they had more than any other escape room.
This also meant that since we were with 5 people, all of us were constantly busy working on some puzzle. I liked that there were several puzzles which needed at least 2 people, meaning you really had to work together to solve it. We all had our own brilliant aha-moments, where we each finally figured out something.
I don’t want to go into spoiler-area detail of any of the puzzles, but I did enjoy the ones that I solved. As I said in the previous section, my only disappointment was that the result of every puzzle was a key or a number code. This also meant that if you had figured 2 out of the 3 clues/digits of a number code, you could easily brute-force the solution for the last digit.
In the end, we managed to escape the room in 39:08 minutes. I don’t know what the current standing record is, but it sounded like we had set a pretty fast time.
I really enjoyed escaping from the Escape Land room. It’s not as polished or immersive as some of the other rooms, but I think the puzzles are entertaining and fun to work on. It’s a great way to spend an evening with a group of friends!
Disclaimer: I got invited by Escape Rooms London to review their room. All thoughts and opinions are my own though.