Ziya the Librarian – Istrapped


Ziya the librarian was a man dedicated and in love with his books.  He would spend his entire limited librarian wage on his beloved books; they meant everything to him.  Eventually he would go on to lose his mind thinking about loosing his books and would resort to preventing those who have entered the house from ever leaving.  The only way to ever leave Ziya the librarian’s house is to find his favourite book and decide the clues.

If it hadn’t been for google maps and photos of the entrance on trip advisor I probably wouldn’t have found Istrapped.  The puzzle queen and I debated for a few seconds whether this could possible be ‘it’ as we ascended the dimly lit stone staircase passing door after door of residential properties.  Eventually we spied the Istrapped symbol  (It was only a couple of floors up).  We buzzed and entered.  Now my experience of escape rooms thus far was been relatively similar.  Nice corporate reception area, safety briefing etc… As soon as the door closed we were locked in.  A voice did explain what was happening and then the lights went out.  I remember thinking how awesome this was.  There is a reason the first escape room in Istanbul is still open despite a deluge of competition.  This was a solid complex of rooms interconnected with intricate well thought out connections.  The puzzles were varied in terms of difficulty.  It was always going to be a challenge with just two of us and we very nearly escaped within the hour.  There were just two puzzles that we overlooked a vital component of setting us back 5 minutes.  2 more minutes more we would have escaped.  This is a solid escape room that makes you feel like you are in Istanbul.  Technical this was not, but very much a classic puzzle based room.  It was a really good way of getting back into the escape room mind set.

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The Red Curse – Keyhunter

  
Brenda and Tommy, a couple of high class, experience the fright of their lives when they came back to a man’s ruthlessly savaged body laid in their bedroom. Inspector Hugo and his team has been sent to investigate, but the door locks shut behind him. Is this the work of a haunted house, or something more…
  

After completing double crossed we sat back in reception assuring another family that there were better escape games in the city. As happy as they were I couldn’t help but feel they could have been so much happier. We pondered for a while the connection between the Sherlock Holmes motif and the triad/oriental themed stories. Ok so now we were ready for round two.  After literally being double crossed on the first game we had everything crossed ready for the big one, the gold room, the curse of the red pearl. The room was of a similar size and I quickly worked out it was going to be a single room again. No matter, there were a couple of nice touches and  a cool puzzle.  
Now I haven’t really said anything about the team. There were 5 of us not all seasoned escapers but certainly a bunch that would hold its own on “Only Connect”. We were really keen to break a few records. We hadn’t really got anywhere close with double crossed ( the best time being 20 minutes) but we were also keen to enjoy the room and whilst getting out in the quickest time possible was something we had considered we certainly hadn’t envisaged anything like strolling out of there in 12 minutes. As I turned the key my heart sank thinking surely to god this can’t be it. We passed the games master on the stairs as we made our way back to reception. He did a double take rather surprised to see us so soon. He quickly quizzed us if we had played before or knew about the room. I don’t say this to gloat; far from it. I really wanted a difficult room that would not only test us but also want us to stay. The best rooms should exert a pull on you to remain, their fine details make you look back with a sense of longing… Ok sorry this is getting to self indulgent. It was just plain bad… I certainly won’t be bragging about escaping in 12 minutes to anyone (except to you of course) but this isn’t bragging, you can’t brag about something of which you feel acute embarrassment over. So my final verdict. Key hunter please stop hurting this industry with your shoddy room, please visit another room where people actually care about the game.  

If you like escape rooms go to Istanbul

  

Just off to the airport now and with a 4 hour flight there will plenty of opportunity to write up my reviews ( as long as only connect doesn’t get in the way).  

The final verdict?  Having played 6 out of the cities nearly 100 escape room games I can honestly say this city is the place to go.  The level of detail and sophistication is quite honestly mind blowing.  They make the ones I have don’t in the uk look amateurish at best and thoughtless at worst.  That’s not to say the UK ones are no good but compared to Istanbul there is simply no comparison.  

Because the different games were so diffident I am going to find it hard to say which was best but if you like your classic escape room both Istrapped games were quality and delivered on so many different levels.  If you like your rooms to be intense and get your heart racing Odadan Kacis and Cage404 certainly deliver on that score.  If like me you relish technical ingenuity in your rooms you will definitely like Quest.  

The Double Crossing – Keyhunter

  

Irwin Gibson, an American spy, was sent to the Russia-China border in order to obtain evidence of large-scale nuclear weapon production. He locates them, but was soon captured by the authorities and locked up in a cell. The American government denies all involvement with his activities, and he soon finds himself walking a lonely path, demotivated by betrayal. The only thing he can do now is escape…  

No melon is ever ripe enough for people on TripAdvisor,” says Jared Blank, “…I’m always shocked by the comments: from the quality of the fruit, to the mobile-phone reception on an island in the middle of nowhere…” People complain, people like to complain and it was with that view I took a chance with a generally unpopular (according to trip advisor) KeyHunter. Unfortunately the pinch of salt I need for trip advisor turned out to be more like a bin full of grit just prior to a particularly heavy snow fall. KeyHunter had a lot of potential, I loved the art work and the story for each of the three game rooms. Local media had given it a big thumbs up but in the back of my head I could still hear the trip advisor reviews ringing. We took a chance and booked the “silver” and “gold” rooms. 

We arrived with plenty of time to spare and after pressing the buzzer and ringing the bell for a good 10 minutes we were finally let in by a somewhat dishevelled lad in his early 20s who seemed to have just woken up. After a somewhat lacklustre briefing were were taken to our silver room, the double crossing. Ok so the reviewers were right about the seemingly shabby decor and bare surroundings, but surely this would be offset by some ingenious puzzles and clever twists? Nope! With 5 of us and so little in the room we essentially just had to watch each other takings turns to solve the handful of puzzles. We wasted 20 mins on a puzzle that really needed to be repainted. After about 40 minutes we opened the door to freedom…by the end of the game I felt double crossed, where was the second room? where was there the misleading clues? where was the…. anything else! 

I will add the star rating in when I get home but needless to say it doesn’t score high.  

Escape to Istanbul 

  

From a rooftop terrace neatly sandwiched between the Blue Mosque and the Bosphoros, I decided to catch up on some escape room reviews.  I have been struggling to find the motivation to write about my Birmingham experience (reviews to follow) but last night felt energised by perhaps one of the best rooms I have or will ever play, Odadan Kacis(reviews to follow).  I knew Istanbul was a great city to visit but little did I know what an ‘escape room Mecca’ it was.  Any escape room fans should seriously consider an escape room holiday to Istanbul.  

  
So far I haven’t played a bad room yet.  Armed only with my puzzling queen Nicole we have conquered two, slightly over time but hey, it’s the off season, and we narrowly missed out beating Istanbul’s first ever escape room by a few minutes.  With 4 more still to play I am a little nervous that when you reach the escape room mountain top it’s only down hill from there.  

We have Cage404 later and Istrapped’s second room directly after.  I’m going to pop up to the grand bazaar before hand to mentally prepared.  Not sure if it will help but when in Istanbul…

Secret Studio


Beneath the pavement – just 100 yards from the British Museum – lies a haunted film studio that’s waiting for you to release its secrets.

I was particularly looking forward to this room for several reason.  Firstly I had a new team to escape with.  3 friends with different strengths: A PE teacher, particularly useful if we needed to throw anything, a drama teacher, useful if we needed to pretend anything, and finally a Media teacher, particularly useful with we needed to… something anything.  Secondly I loved the original premise of the room. 

 Despite being the new kid on the escape room block Secret Studio has quickly rocketed to 3rd place on the trip advisor “top fun activities and games”.  Once you have found the place, and it is literally in the shadow of the British museum, you may think this looks a bit ‘independent film’ if you know what I mean but don’t let looks fool you.  Secret studios greatest strength is the setting…

The puzzles were very much linked to the progression of the story, combining low tech problem solving and high tech ingenuity.  As usual there wont be any spoilers but one of the great things about this room was the sense of togetherness you had with the team.  There was a real mix of puzzles that could be solved by one and puzzles that required the whole team to take part in.  Im not giving anything away by saying there was more than one room and the atmosphere created was stunning.  There was a definite theatrical feel to the experience.  Well worth a visit.  

  

PLAN52 (ClueQuest)

We can’t really say too much about the room – or rooms, that is part of the mystery – without spoiling the experience but in Plan52 you get the chance to prove your skills to Mr Q in one of his apartments. He really likes to put his wannabe agents under pressure, so be prepared for everything.

Clue quest is still the number 1 ‘top fun activities and games in London’ on trip advisor.  This game certainly has longevity and has become a finely tuned money making machine.  It has a fairly corporate feel and due to its huge success has been able to open 4 games (2 identical rooms so you can race) with another game on the way.  I had a new team of escape room virgins.  We played a mixed team of newbies and veterans.  We had a strong team… well strongish.  Jim hadn’t quite thought through the length of time required to try every combination on the first padlock.11737878_10155776890745557_4372907929920756914_n

The game itself was well designed and a solid game playing experience but there was nothing that leaped out as unique.  The scenario was weak and the décor fairly bland.  The strength was in the puzzles.  Despite there being an over reliance on padlocks and keys some of the puzzles were ingenious and there were a couple of technological puzzles that impressed.  Maybe I am being a little too harsh on the game but I am just not a fan of the secret agent motif.

Another thing was put me off was the map puzzles but that’s only because I hate them so much!  There is a lot to like about this game but it will never rank up there with the greats because of its weak cohesiveness as a story.  There is a lot of very cool stuff in London, there is a lot of history and atmosphere in a city with so much potential for amazing stories so I will never understand secret agent scenarios.  Despite this Thinking Bob still gives it top marks.

Overall its a really good introduction to the escape rooms concept and I played it first I would have probably rated it higher.  Over 1000 trip advisor reviews disagree with me and love it.  At the price of just short of 20 quid each its a fairly standard price for games of this kind and definitely worth a visit.

star rating

The Beast of Berlin


“Chief Inspector Ernst Gennat has a problem: the “Beast of Berlin” has struck again, directly in his office. You’re employees of the special commission and your task is to find the hiding place of the rampant serial killer. The gripping true story will catapult you directly into Berlin’s roaring twenties.”

After leaving Escape from East Berlin we immediately booked The Rooms other room, The Beast of Berlin.  We were told this room was much more difficult than the previous room.  We did however have an air of confidence about us having completed one already and possessing a much clearer understanding of what to do. The contrast between the 1970s and 1920s décor was stark and welcoming.  I was immediately impressed with the high level of detail, even the cakes on the table seemed real.  Again there was an impressive level of mechanical puzzles that left you feeling extremely satisfied if you were the one lucky enough to trigger the mechanism.


There was a heighten level of suspense in this story, party because of the nature of the escape but also because of the intensity of layout of the room itself.  People of a nervous disposition may want to think twice in this room.  We escaped without the need for clues, well one hint to say what we were doing was the right thing to do, ‘check it again’.  We made it out in good time.


The biggest disappointment was they hadn’t quite finished their third room “Humboldt and the lost treasure”.  From what I understand it is set as something of a sequel to Beast.  It’s definitely somewhere I shall return the next time I’m in Germany.

star rating

Go West – Escape from East Berlin

the-room-live-escape

Chief Inspector Ernst Gennat has a problem: the “Beast of Berlin” has struck again, directly in his office. You’re employees of the special commission and your task is to find the hiding place of the rampant serial killer. The gripping true story will catapult you directly into Berlin’s roaring twenties.

The Room is a well established escape room, 10 minutes walk from the Stasi Museum in Litchenberg Berlin.  They say you always remember your first and when it comes to escape rooms this is no less true.  I had no expectations about the experience only really knowing you were locked in a room and had to solve puzzles to get out.    As we walked further and further down Ruschestrasse becoming ever more surrounded by residential housing; I must admit I began to wonder whether this was in fact a real thing.  I was more than a little relieved when I was saw The Room facade coming into view.

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We arrived with plenty of time to spare but because of the vast array of difficult puzzles in the reception area it didn’t really matter. The designer and owner was was welcoming and explained clearly what was about to happen.  His dog was pretty awesome too.  Since we had been to the Museum of East Berlin that day it seemed fitting to try ‘Escape from East Berlin’.  Shortly prior to our allocated time arrived we were briefed about the dos and don’ts of escape room etiquette, then taken down by lift to the basement of the building.  This only added to the intrigue.  I won’t go into any details about the experience itself but I will comment on several aspects of the game.  The décor and furnishings were perfectly period for all rooms, most of which belonged to the creator in his youth.  Our initial headless chicken approached bore some fruit and the couple of promptings we received allowed us to progress with relative ease.  Every now and again I must admit I do have a quick look on the Facebook page to see if anyone broke our 41:41 time.  I did see one a few days ago at 41:04 but they had a nerd factor of 9.4.   The creator told us of a mysterious group of super room gamers who achieved 36:50.  The competitive side of me kind of wants to beat every record but I wonder if you can truly enjoy the ex10653467_981181325234314_536552221613385908_nexperience by only spending just over half an hour in the room.  I still maintain 41:41 is a great time for Escape Room virgins.  The creator rates this at a difficulty level of 3/5.  This rating is obviously relative but I would certainly agree was easier than the Beast of Berlin.

https://www.facebook.com/theroomberlin

After escaping we couldn’t stop talking about the experience.  Because we were a team of 5 there were a number of puzzles and clues that some of us missed so we recreated the adventure as we talked back to the main road.

In summary the Décor was first rate, the story line was perfectly in keeping with the setting, the puzzles were rich and varied with a number of excellent constructed mechanisms.  This room comes highly recommended.

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