My pals and I, we love a good puzzle. We have over 80 board games in the house and often do poker nights, pub quizzes and, if we’re feeling a bit friskier, some of Fire Hazard’s outdoor puzzle games. These tend to involve a bit more effort (and running) than a quiet evening with a few bottles of wine and Settlers of Catan but they’re still tremendously good fun.
One thing we do love is an escape room. These were once a fun novelty but proliferated at an alarming rate once people worked out all how much money they could squeeze out of a couple of rooms. Naturally this has led to quite a lot of unoriginal plots and generic puzzles, and slick websites make it quite tricky to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’ve done loads though, so here are my favourites.
Lady Chastity’s Reserve @ Handmade Mysteries, Hackney, Farringdon and Battersea
We did this one on a blisteringly hot day with some fellow escape room enthusiasts who were visiting from Bristol, but the room did have air conditioning, thank Christ. The story is pretty wacky (with adult themes, FYI, in case you’re thinking of bringing the kids) but funny and well thought-out, though I will say there were a couple of scary moments that
made me shit my knickers a bit startled me.
What made it truly unique though was its live action element. So often the host is a bored teenager administering hints via PA, but for us ‘Gabriel’ was an actor in full Victorian garb, which considering the 35°C weather was true dedication to her craft.
The room itself is above the The Hope pub in Farringdon, which is known for its pies if you need a bit of sustenance afterwards, and is ideal for celebrating/commiserating afterwards, depending on whether you make it out or not. If you do make it out in time, you win a bottle of Lady Chastity’s fabled red wine…I haven’t tried ours yet but I’m not sure how delicious free escape room wine will be…
The designers, Handmade Mysteries, have a couple of other games in other locations too, including one that apparently features a talking ventriloquist’s dummy. Quelle horreur. Prices range from £23-35pp depending on number of players and whether you’re peak/off-peak.
Patient Zero 2150 @ AIM Escape, Aldgate East
Genuinely quite scary, this one, and we went for the softer option and not the horrifying looking ‘Psychopath’s Den’ game. The schtick here is that it’s all very technology-led, with the sort of puzzles you’d get in The Crystal Maze‘s Future Zone. It’s all very whizzy with gadgets and robotic arms and so on, and the emphasis is more on puzzles than plot. They have also just launched a couple of new rooms, one which has crisscrossing trip lasers (!!!) and the other a raunchy 18+ Hangover-inspired romp.
Prices range from £20-40, but they seem to do promotions quite often, so it’s worth signing up to their mailing list.
Similar to AIM Escape, Lock’d’s rooms lean more towards the techy side, but without the fear factor. They’re atmospheric but not at all scary. The real USP though is the difficulty – some of their rooms are among the most fiendish I’ve ever tried. The guy who designs them is a Russian physicist, so a lot of the puzzles are geared towards the more mathematically-minded. Prices range from £20-40 depending on the game, time and number of players.
2 Tickets 2 Ride @ Clue Adventures, Mile End
Most escape rooms are designed for 5-6 players, so most of them are more or less impossible to solve if you want to go as a twosome. This is a bit of a shame as an escape room could be a really cool date night activity, but failure isn’t exactly what you’d call a potent aphrodisiac. The only game I’ve found designed specifically for two is 2 Tickets 2 Ride in Mile End, which is Underground themed and involves both players wearing headset mics with a direct link to a sassy “AI”. I booked it as the daytime activity for Mike’s birthday last year and it was great, though the production values aren’t as high as Handmade Mysteries or AIM Escape. Slots cost £70 for two.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.