Category Archives: Escape tourism

One day in Stockholm

This was my third trip to Stockholm but my first visit as an escape room tourist.  I managed to pick up some pretty reasonable flights with Monarch.  The flight itself is just under 2 hours and although the plane was very cramped, Luton is on my door step so it made sense to travel budget because, boy, was I going to need all the cash I could lay my hands on.

Yes Stockholm is expensive but if you do your research and put a bit of effort in before hand it needn’t break the bank.  Once you arrive you have a few options.  Like most places the bus is always cheaper but always longer.  A single is about 10 quid and takes about 40 mins.  The train is double the cost but takes half the time.

There are some interesting accommodation options.  I went with a room on the Red Boat.  This is a reasonably priced floating hostel with the option of double rooms.  I stayed in the engine room.  It was spacious and the gentle rock of the waves proved conducive for a good nights sleep.

Because we arrived so early we tagged onto a free tour.  The old town tour takes you through the back streets of Gamla stan exploring the history of early Stockholm.  This is the kind of thing I usually enjoy but to honest to didn’t do it for me.   I slipped away from the crowd as quietly as I had joined.

Escape Rooms

There are 6 escape room companies in Stockholm, all with fairly positive reviews on Tripadvisor.  I was lucky enough to play 4 different rooms from two companies.  The first two were in Soldermalm.  ExitGames has been in Stockholm for the last two years initially opening up two games in Gamlastan, Valhalla, Crazy Grandma and more recently The Cell.  There other venue is a year old hosting the slightly more edgier games, the Collector and Mission Undercover.  Goran, one of the business partners, an engineer by trade, mentioned that the Gamla stan venue is a hub for tourists with Crazy Grandma being the most popular game.  Corporate events are common place in Gamla stan but the Soldermalm venue has seen a spike in the number of bachelor party requests. It seems Swedish bachelor parties are much better behaved than their English counterparts.  The Soldermalm venue had a rustic, rough and ready quality that was in keeping with the games.

Mission Undercover

During the cold war CCCP established a secret military spybase right in the middle of Stockholm. The base was the center for contra spionage with food and water to survive for many years. The base has now been discovered and a team has been sent there for termination. Mission Undercover – you and your well-equipped team shall sneak all the way into the heart of the base and adapt the explosives. Maybe you will also escape the room before the bomb explodes, maybe not…Put all your creativeness together and use the adrenalin to accomplish the mission – and survive!  This room was a fairly robust room with a fairly low tech approach that was appropriate for the game.  The mechanical emphasis of the room was good and most of the puzzles made sense apart from the last one which did spoil it a little bit for me.  Tip… don’t wear your best clothes. *


The Collector

In the deepest catacombs, behind locked metal bars and without any hope to survive. You are just in line to become a part of a human collection. But a phone call interrupts the process and the ”Collector” just disappears to his office. Suddenly your team might have chance to escape or is this also just a game for him after all. It is you against HIM. Your team must collaborate to escape and please, dont waste any blood – every drop counts in the end!  I really liked this game.  It had all the elements of a classic escape room with the added benefit of making you jump… a lot!  The ambience was excellent, the music really accentuated the experience and above all things made sense.  I hate leaving a room wondering why.  The GM had perfected the art of making you think you are about to be scared and then holding off until you feel safe and then scarring you.  This is Hitchcock meets John Carpenter.  I liked how the puzzles appealed to the different senses.  Overall this is a really good room that will definitely appeal to thrill seekers.  It carries an 18+ age recommendation.*


Heading north, a short walk for the central train station you will find Escape Stories and Roomescape Stockholm.  Roomescape is the one of the Fox in a Box flagship rooms.  I had been invited by Fox in a Box CEO Bob Melkus to play the remaining games in the Fox in a Box family, having played Zombie, Heist and Bunker in Nice and Prison break in Gran Canaria.


Tesla’s Mystery

Tesla died in 1943 in the famous New Yorker Hotel’s room 3327. After his death you have received a letter from Nikola Tesla himself. In the letter he asks you to come to his room to find his last invention and share it with mankind before the FBI gets to it. When you arrive to the room FBI is already on their way… you have 60 minutes before they get there and arrest you for trespassing.  Our GM was an enthusiastic young man who quickly took you into the time period, the story and then the room.  Now there are some rooms where you feel like you are still in the same building you entered.  This is not one of those rooms.  You really do feel like you are in a hotel room in the 40s.  From the beginning you get a sense that the individual puzzles contribute to a larger meta puzzle.  Tesla is a challenging game, particularly for two, but has a definite classic appeal that will please those for whom story line is essential to the enjoyment factor.  We didn’t get out but I blame T man completely and even though he now denies it, he did accept full responsibly for our failure to escape.  This is an impressive game with a few impressive wow factors for good measure.  *


Zodiac

You are captured by a serial killer. Tied up and left in his lair, escape is your only chance. His method of operation is much like one Infamous Zodiac killer had. Has the real Zodiac returned or is this his copycat? You have only 60 minutes to escape, or the next body in a morgue will be yours.

I must admit I had high hopes for this room and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  There is a high level of authenticity and the variety of different types of quality puzzles.  Thanks to my tendency to over complicate and over analyse things we lost 20 minutes on one puzzles that we solved 5 minutes into tackling it without realising.  Remember two monologues do not make a dialogue.

There were plenty of wow factors in the room and like it’s Tesla counterpart we were left several times thinking… this is really cool.  Zodiac is the complete package and despite me still waking up in the middle of the night with that damn tune in my head, I can honestly say this game now features in my top ten.  If you are not able to play it in Stockholm, and believe me Fox in a Box books up fast, then you could try getting in on the action in Madrid, Paris, LA or Miami to name a few.  *


Food and Drink

Meatballs for the People

If you want some traditional Swedish meatballs then this is decent option that doesn’t require a second mortgage.   Its about 12 quid for what you see below.  It wasn’t amazing but it was good enough.  If you are really hungry go to the one of the Lion Bars for something to eat.  Cheap by any standards and super sized portions.


Medusa Bar


Things to do

So here are the things I did.  Went to the Fotografiska.  This is great if you like photographic art.  Warning, check the the details of the exhibition before you go.  I was expecting something distinctly Swedish on permanent collection but it was horses and minority people groups when I went.  The view of Stockholm from the top floor restaurant is stunning.

The churches and historical buildings are fairly standard.   I asked Bob and the rest of the Fox in a Box guys what one thing would you do if you had one day in Stockholm and they all replied visit the Vasa museum.  This museum houses a 333 year old warship and is the most visited museum in Scandinavia.  On my fourth visit this will be top of the list.

Summary

Stay: the Red Boat

Escape Room: Zodiac at Escape Room Stockholm aka Fox in a Box

Eat: Meatballs for the people

Drink: Medusa Bar (also eat – super sized portions)

Visit: Vasa Museum
*no payment was taken for these games.

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One day in Helsinki

There are plenty of ways to get to Finland. I took an SAS flight from Arlanda, Stockholm, to Vantaa, Helsinki. It was a pretty short flight with some interesting company en route. Once there, the easiest way to get to the centre is by train. I'm convinced we got the wrong ticket but no one checked.  If you want to be ultra prepared download the trainline app and get your ticket in advance.   I was excited about visiting Helsinki but found it a bit tricky to navigate at first.  The best thing to do is get a travel card and go everywhere by tram. The locals are really helpful and of course speak perfect English. For some reason I had it in my head that Helsinki was smaller than it was. It's pretty sprawling. Most of the cool architectural stuff is within walking distance from each other.  We bumped into the Danish royal yacht again with the members of the royal family in Helsinki to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence.

Escape Rooms

According to Tripadvisor there are 14 Escape Room companies in and around the city of Helsinki.  I was lucky enough to visit Escape Room Helsinki.  This should be confused with Exitroom Helsinki who has subsequently changed their name but still exists on Tripadvisor. Escape  Room Helsinki is one of the oldest in the city, opened in December 2014 and expanded rapidly.  They now operate in 5 locations around the City, all within 5/10 minutes walking distance of each other although I understand they are seeking to draw all there rooms together in one place.  Owner Yvonne was initially reluctant to do this because many of the rooms have connections to the place they are in such as Ghost of the Opera, set in a real life "haunted" opera house.  Yvonne is a story teller and the power of the story is the driving force to their immersive philosophy.  When the company began they wanted to 'do it right' so they enlisted the help of an the already establish company in Manchester.  Ed Roberts from Breakout travelled over to help guide the company in technical aspects of the setup.  Since then the company has gone from strength to strength.  According to Yvonne, tourism is a growing part of the trade they do but word of mouth and their growing fan base on Facebook has attracted more and more Finns from Helsinki's 600k strong population.  Even with the puzzle savvy Finns Yvonne thinks only about half of Finns have ever heard of Escape rooms.  And like in many Escape Rooms, VR is a growing trade although currently not as popular as the rooms themselves.  So what about the rooms…  I only had time to play one game and that was the Dinner Party.

The Dinner Party

You have received a dinner invitation from an unknown hostess. Out of curiosity you have accepted it, and arrive to her beautiful apartment in the middle of Helsinki. Who is your hostess and why has she invited you? Has she got a hidden agenda for her dinner party? As you step into the dimly lit dining room, the door snaps shut behind you. The table is set, but what do the strange symbols on top of it mean? You have 60 minutes to find out what is going on and escape, before it’s too late.

This is one of their oldest and most popular rooms.  Set in a fairly ornate apartment building, the game begins in an atmospheric well decorated dining room.  Whilst I wouldn't say it was was particularly scary or even creepy, there was a definite 'otherness' to the room that kept me interested throughout.  As ever the important things to me are how much the puzzles make sense in the context of the rooms.  Here they did.  The music supported the pace throughout.  There were some clever touches to the room but the abiding feeling you got was this was created through love more than a high tech desire to impress.  We didn't quite make it out but again T Man accepts full responsibility in this area and admits he definitely didn't pull his weight.

Should I return their Sauna room is a must do.  Yes I'm not joking, a Finnish Escape Room where you have to escape from a sauna.

Food and Drink

Magneetti Vallila – Mashiro is a great little Japaneses restaurant a short walk from where we were staying.  It was pretty empty but the food was good and the price was reasonable.  The salmon as you would expect was excellent.

This places is easy to get to, its just next door to the outdoor  market square.   There a multitude of small shops and eateries the best of which I thought was Soppakeittio.  It's basically a tiny soup cafe.  Have the sea food.  It is was seriously one of the best things I have eaten/drunk in a long time.

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Things to do

There are 287 things to do on Tripadvisor.  I managed to do 3,4,6,7,8,9,10.  It was mostly walking around looking at things from the outside.  Helsinki Cathedral (no7) overlooking Senate Square (no.10)  is impressive and in the right light quite beautiful.  I stood and looked at it for a while and then moved on.   Number 3 believe it or not is the public tram system.  I spent a lot of time on that getting lost.  Always ask the locals, it way quicker than trying to work it out for yourself.  I did use it however to get to the slightly out of the way to the slightly underwhelming Sebelius monument.  No. 6 in the TA list is the Uspenskin Cathedral, an austere looking Orthodox Church that looks down on the harbour.  When we went it wasn't open. They rest were markets and gardens that to be honest I didn't realise they were things to do until afterwards.  What do the locals say is the best thing to do?  Well again its the thing we didn't do.  You really should visit the fortress of Soumenlina.

Summary

Stay: I stayed in CheapSleeps – its a short bus ride outside the city centre.  I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend it.  It is a hostel with some private rooms.  I stayed in a private room.  Apart from the American gentleman calling everyone arseholes for taking his coffee from the Kitchen it was a fairly average affair.

Escape Room: Escape Room Helsinki

Eat: Without doubt go to Vanha kauppahalli

Drink: Magneetti Vallila – Ok so its cheap (for Helsinki) and has to be seen to be believed.  Only go if you are near by.  It looks like a 1980s Christmas party that never got cleared away.

Visit: Soumenlina, a short boat ride from the harbour near the outdoor market.
*no payment was taken for this game

6 days in Northen Europe


I have been planning this trip for a while now.  I have been to Stockholm twice before, once in the early 2000s and more recently a few years ago.  Escape rooms were certainly not a thing on either trip.  I am looking forward to going back to such a beautiful city.  I have a couple of days in Stockholm then fly to Helsinki.  I had hoped to get the ferry but it will shave to much time off the trip.  I then have a few days in Helsinki, a place I have always wanted to visit.  The ferry to Tallin shouldn’t take more than two hours.  Staying in the old town means I shall be well placed to access the growing number of escape rooms.  

I would have liked to have tagged St Peterberg on the end but to do that trip properly I think you would need at least 10 days.  I will share my itinerary when things are more firmed up.  I want to strike the right balance between enjoying the city and enjoying the escape rooms they have to offer.  

Breakin Escape Room London part 2 – Return of the Hydra

The last time Team Hydra was all together was Clue quest:Revenge of the Sheep.  I had previously played Butcher, Heist and Sherlock’s despair and enjoyed the experience to varying degrees.  It was a Friday night and after a couple of beers at Sed’s house we got the tube into town.  We went to Bird again, a mid priced chicken burger joint, a few doors down.


We had a double bill booked (we couldn’t fit in Flying Dutchman) of War on Horizon Alpha and Blackwing’s Cave.  These had been described as more high tech and less traditional than the previous three I had played.  This made me slightly nervous because I like traditional games but after playing both I didn’t think they were particularly different to normal escape room.  One day I will join the debate about different generation rooms (I think it’s mostly nonsense).

So first we played their Star Wars inspired ‘War on Horizon Alpha’.  This was both the groups and my personal favourite of the evening.  We got into it pretty quickly and made steady progress throughout.  The puzzles were mostly logically based and connected in a coherent way.  There wasn’t much opportunity to for search fails, which was of great benefit to our team.  Instead logical observation was a key factor in success.  Our progress slowed up towards to the end and we had to take a hint of the final puzzle.  This coupled with what must have been a tech glitch left the exit of the room a rather anti climatic affair.  Shame because this is an awesome game.   The slightly retro space feel was a strong feature of the room and you genuinely felt immersed in the room.


We got into the Batman inspired room about 15 minutes after escaping Alpha.  This game was a nice contrast to Alpha,  in terms of feel.  The bat cave was dark and the puzzles slightly harder to get into.  They felt a bit more hit and miss than the previous game.  One of the puzzles was skill based and that combined with the heavily linear nature of the game meant two of us sat down in the dark for about 7 minutes having a little chat.  The ending again was a little bit weak.  I had mixed feelings about this room.  It wasn’t a bad room it just didn’t excite me.   Maybe played in isolation I may have felt differently about the game but because it was played directly after a really strong room, I just felt a bit like…meh.


One thing I would recommend.  The past two times I have been there the doors been left open in the entrance hub.  Just a personal preference but I like to be surprised when I first enter the room.

Breakin Escape Room is definitely the breakout company of the year but haven’t got it spot on yet.  Their trip advisor reviews are generally excellent except for one rather suspicious “poor” post that seems like a personal grievance than a proper review.  They certainly have the capacity to attract a strong corporate clientele and this is the perfect venue for a Christmas party or highend works outing.  For the “ordinary person” it the perfect environment to get broken in, just make sure you have someone who can do a bit of maths.  For the enthusiast it has strong and challenging games: Alpha, Sherlock and Heist.

If you break(in) it you don’t necessarily have to pay (much) for it. Part 1

Breakin London is currently offering significant discounts through groupon and living social. This means that for those of you who want to play multiple games in one day, you don’t have to pay through the nose. Breakin Escape Rooms, London, Breakout in its native Romania, offers six rooms and are in the process of building replicas of two of their existing games. They have 12 games in their portfolio but are currently embedding 6 of their most popular in London. They have very quickly established themselves as a market leader in terms of size and quality.


89 Holloway Road is on the site of an old shoe factory turned dance studio, now housing a purpose build control room, spacious reception area, games hub room and 6 games. The brand has been well crafted and the minimalist rusty steam punk motif really works.

I assembled the new dream team, Brian, T man and Sed, and just like in our last encounter Sed was late, even though he lives round the corner. Fortunately it was early and there were not many bookings so Stefan kindly waited until he arrived. Steffan was a smart engaging young man from Bucharest who knew the industry inside out. After Sed finally arrived we were professionally briefed and led to Heist. Now Ken, of the logic escapes me had already given me his initial thoughts on the games and on that basis I was definitely looking forward to Heist.


Heist was a cleverly designed room that employed some excellent mechanical, skill based puzzles. There was variety to the activities and the story line and linked puzzles made perfect sense. Their hint system is clever and requires minimal observation from the control room with the hint being delivered via a walkie talkie in the form of a number which reveals a written clue on a fixed tablet by the door. We escaped with thirteen minutes to spare and we all felt a great deal of satisfaction. Sound effects were excellent made the overall experience top notch.

Next up was Sherlock’s despair. Despite being Breakin’ hardest game it is one of their most popular. From the moment you walk in the feel is atmospheric and authentic. There was a very traditional approach to the game play. There was probably a higher than usual reliance on a need for knowledge that cannot be found within the escape room universe. I didn’t mind that but I know some people may find it frustrating. There was a mix of skill, word and number puzzles, most of which made sense in the room. Music was incidental but added to the ambiance.

We didn’t escape but I wasn’t too bothered. We lost a significant amount of time an a search fail assuming everyone else was doing it and we became obsessed with something that turned out to not be quite what it seemed. This is the kind of room I like, very challenging and very traditional. It was T man’s favourite room, I liked it, Sed definitely did not like it and Brian thought it was alright.

We broke up the day with a chicken burger at Bird, round the corner. Tasty food, slightly cheaper than London prices.

Our last game of the day was the Butchers Lair. We got off to a quick start and looked to be flying through the room but with 30 mins to go we started slowing up, which is probably how it should be. It is billed as their easiest room but was that because the puzzles were a little bit more straight forward. There wasn’t the same degree of complexity that there was in say Sherlock. The puzzles tended to be a little bit more self-contained and not involving multiple layers of working things out.

I described Butcher as a horror theme to the new dream team before we entered but it really wasn’t that horrifying. If you don’t like blood you may want to give it a miss but in reality as realistic as some of the props are they are not very scary.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience.  I would encourage you to have someone in your team who do intermediate maths! Fortunately T-man had that covered. I particularly enjoyed the homage to certain films without ripping off the IP or infringing on trade marks. There were some nice little Easter eggs that true fans of the film would really appreciate. This definitely gives Clue Quest a run for its money and the lack of a second room within the room doesn’t detract on the experience at all. Two thumbs up.

Elementary – Insideout Escape


Today got me thinking. Does experience make you a better player?

 I went with 3 friends across to Kentish Town to play insideout Escape. Sed (Secret Studio, Hidden Rooms, Clue Quest) was fashionable late but our wonderful hosts didn’t hold it against us. SweenDog (Sherlock unlock, The Room Berlin), was desperately hung over after an extended St Patrick’s day, but raring to go having not played a room in almost a year. T-Man (Enigma) was fighting fit and focussed on success.  

Insideout has been up and running since September last year and are in the process of beta testing their second room, CSI. The hosts were welcoming and really engaging. They clearly understood the industry and loved escape games. But back to my original question. I’m on around 60 games but has it helped? Well.. Yes and no. Search fails will always happen no matter how experienced you are. During Revenge of the Sheep (Clue Quest) played a few months ago we did suffer from a number of epic search fails with a far more experienced team than this time.  We were proud to have no search fails this time. 


So when you think about the sheer volume of rooms worldwide surely most puzzles are either ripped off from other rooms or variations on a theme. To be honest having played 60 games in 10 countries I have rarely seen a direct rip of a puzzle and variations on a theme are not as common as you would think.  Experience can also be a hindrance because of how you know a puzzle has been solved previously and there is no guarantee it is solved the same way in every situation.   

The puzzles in Sherlock were challenging but there was no over reaching between ‘in room clues’ and the outcome of the puzzle. I was pleased that there were a variety of different types of puzzle and everything worked. The room felt in keeping with the theme without being too cluttered. This is a solid game with a good balance of puzzles for virgins and veterans alike. I would have liked a more definite ending but this is the kind of game I like.  We escaped with about 20 minutes to spare which more than made up for Sed’s tardiness.    I would recommend “Finding Sherlock Holmes” as an above average classic game that would be suitable for everyone.  

Andorra, we adore her…

Andorra has a population that doesn’t quite break 100000 people and makes the top 20 least populated states in the world. Andorra is also an unusual place because of its status as a principality with two co princes.  Whilst the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell make somewhat of an odd couple as the co prince heads of state, it does foster a sense of uniqueness that no other country can claim.  There are probably only 3 reasons to visit Andorra: skiing, tax evasion and duty free shopping.  The former and the later reasons make choosing a week in Andorra quite easy.


There now may well be another reason to visit.  Escape Rooms.  According to The online escape room directory there are 2 escape rooms in the capital city Andorra Le Vella.  I was fortunate enough to find a third.  Claustrophobia is a short walk from the city centre, opposite the hospital.  The Andorra franchise has been open since May 2016 and has just opened their second game.  The Claustrophobia is a Russian franchise model that has a huge inventory of games.  I had a suspicion that this game, like many Russian games, would be high-tech.  I was right.  Claustrophobia boasts 155 games in 11 countries and 33 cities.

The reception area was modern with a VR machine available if you arrived early.  I spied luxury chocolates and champagne by the main counter.  The games themselves are specialist builds within the complex.   Due to limited time, I only got to play An Avalanche of Oblivion, reasonably priced at 21 euros per person.  Their newer game, Cinema despair is cheaper at 15 euros and apparently a lot harder with no successful escapees thus far.


“You were travelling in the mountains of Andorra, when suddenly a snow storm hit you. Your chances for survival seemed slim, but suddenly you saw an abandoned hut in front of you. But as soon as the door closed behind you, avalanche descended, and the door was blocked with snow. You can’t wait the storm out in the hut, and there is not enough fuel in the generator, so it will only last for one hour. You have to repair an old radio and to call for rescue as soon as possible. But in some time you come to an awful understanding: there is something wrong with this house, and awful things are happening in it!”

So what about the game?  The photos in the promotional literature are real life photos of the build and believe me that doesn’t give anything away.  It was incredibly impressive.  When you first enter you will not only be impressed by the build but also by the immersive nature of the experience.  No spoilers though.  The puzzles are varied and make sense.  One of them has been overused and needs realigning but it did not take away from the experience.  One of the puzzles didn’t work correctly at the end which did spoil the finale a little bit but the overall experience was so high quality it didn’t matter too much.  After escaping with about 8 minutes to go… and no clock to let you know, we were very satisfied by the experience.  Afterwards we did start to ponder the story and the more we thought about it the less it made sense.

If story line is essential you will have serious questions about game but you absolutely won’t question the high production values.  This is not quite the holy grail of escape rooms I thought it might be but its is one of the best builds around.

9 Countries, 55 Rooms -Mexico 

So strictly speaking this was less of an escape room tourism holiday and more of a laying by a pool in an all inclusive resort holiday.  I have a couple of more days left at the Hotel Tequila in Playa del Carman and whilst the pickings were slim in terms of escape rooms, the friend I am here with not only has never played a room before but actively dislikes the idea of playing.  As far as I can tell, escape rooms in mexico are still in their infancy with only 11 companies in a country of 120 million people.

After much arm twisting I finally convinced my friend to play.  Anomalia stands next door to the infamous Coco Bongo club so you really can’t miss it.  Just make sure to look up (it’s visible from outside but it’s on the 1st floor).  The pricing structure is really interesting.  They have 3 prices depending on the time of the day and the day itself.  The cheapest is about 50 quid and the most expensive is about 70 pounds.  You pay per room with no sliding scale based on numbers.  The designer was a pleasant Russian chap and they had been open for 8 months.  They have another game planned and programmed but they are unsure of the venue yet.

The room itself was impressive.  Very impressive.  It was highly technical the attention to detail was excellent.  The story is simple “You are a team of treasure seekers and only you are able to complete a lifework of the famous archeologist Michael Widges.  Find the Masks of the Mayan Gods, reveal the secrets of pyramids, and discover the mysteries of the future.”  I was a little bit apprehensive of an escape room that had a portion set outside.  I had played one before in Penang and it was appalling.  This however was Awesome literally with a capital A.  Scenery was first-rate, technology and design was some of the best I had ever seen.  The puzzles were varied but not overly hard except the last one which I couldn’t work out if it was broken or not.  It wasn’t!  So despite my best efforts of playing effectively as a one and baby sitting my friend I didn’t escape but was very, very close.  It is a highly interactive game definitely one that I would recommend particularly for beginners.

2017 and beyond 


I have spent the last few days laying by the pool in a lovely resort in Mexico planning my escape room trips for 2017.  I am going back to Cluequest soon with hopefully all of team Hydra.  I have struggled to book InsideOut escape Ldn but hopefully will be able to secure a slot in March.  I may get chance to play one in Andorra in February but I’m unsure.  In the absence of the puzzle queen ( living back home in Oz) I need to find a new low maintenance escape room travel buddy for a trip during the Easter holidays.  The prime candidate is my new housemate commonly known as T Man.  I played one beta game with T man previously.  He is smart and the right kind of nerdy to make a good escape room buddy.  

So my ideas for Easter currently stand at either Ljubljana, Zagreb, Dubrovnik or possibly Hungary again then Bucharest.  A trip I have been longing to do for a long time now is Tallin, Helsinki then St Petersburg.  

I guess just watch this space.  

Escape Room Themes – No Limits?


In March of 2016 escape rooms hit the national press.  Now Barnum told us there was no such thing as bad publicity but just how true is that?  The UK’s Independent carried the headline “Disgust over Anne Frank themed escape the room game”.   The Games creators, Escape Bunker, according to the Independent were forced to apologise although, to date their website is still carrying the Anne Frank Game.  In fact they now have a new game opening soon called “Operation Market Garden”.  The history buff among you will recognise this as the name for the failed allied attempt to liberate the Netherlands in 1944.  There were between 15000 and 17000 allied casualties.  Like most war themed games immersive entertainment is a difficult path to navigate.  I, like many, love a historical link to a game.  A Cold War game in Berlin (http://www.the-room-berlin.com/de/the-room), a code breaking game at Bletchley Park (http://www.agreatescaperoom.com/) or an Alcatraz escape in San Francisco ( http://questroomsf.com/) but when is it too soon for some historical theme games?


Today, I read of an escape room in Greece based around the idea of escaping from Auschwitz. The text of the game stated ” “In frozen Poland, the walls of the crematorium of the infamous Nazi concentration camp for prisoners, primarily of Jewish origin, still reek of burnt human flesh, they say.  Take on the role of a prisoner still looking for signs of life from loved ones, dare to stay in the shadow of the historic crematorium, discover the big secret and escape before you, too, turn into ashes.”  

Thankfully the creators saw the incredibly offensive error of their ways after some negative publicity closed it.  It did however get me thinking about the appropriateness of some rooms.  Earlier I mentioned an Alcatraz themed room in SF, no problem there, but how about one based around the Earthquake of 1906?  Sounds cool at first maybe, then you start to ponder the 3000 people who died in it.  How about a room in Budapest, next to the House of Terror, based around the 1956 uprising.  Again, it could be amazing but then you think about the 2500 Hungarians that were killed and the 200000 who fled as refugees as a result.  How about a witch themed escape room in Salem or a nuclear war themed room in Hiroshima?  I was designing a room back in April around the idea of a creepy attic.  My partner and I thrashed out the issues of taste concerning the plot line of the disappearance of a child.   We had a similar conversation over the plot line of an imminent bomb explosion given the current climate of terrorism.

And what about an escape room getting too political?  If you want to hit the head lines do a game feature Islamic fundamentalism or the IRA.  I have no doubt a Donald Trump themed room is just around the corner.  Escape Artist DC has an unusual game based around you taking on the role of an alternative energy lobbyist.  Not suitable for climate change deniers.

Some Escape rooms certainly have age appropriate issues.  Hell in a Cell http://bristolhorrorescape.com/ looks genuinely terrifying whilst Odadan Kacis has the option of choosing between thriller or horror for many of their games.  If horror isn’t your thing then maybe “entering the world of passionate orgy” might do it for you, http://blackcatescape.pl/en/sex-room-en/”Client visited us and indicated that he was a victim of a blackmail by women with whom had sex. Unknown group of people requests from him 100,000 pln for not revealing compromising him of amoral nature. We decided as an office to take up the job and to check blackmailer’s apartment.”  This room in Warsaw currently has 11 5* reviews on Trip Advisor.


So which themes are off limits?  Could escape rooms tackle difficult subjects in an educational way that actually teaches us important lessons.  Could you ever build a room that helps humanity understand evil or genocide in a genuinely meaningful or educational way without trivialising it?  I some how doubt it and the trauma it would cause would surely make it a mental health concern due to the emmersive nature of the room.  No answers here except this.  Escape rooms aren’t art, they are commercial enterprises that need mass appeal.