London, the so called theatre capital of the world had been regularly on my radar due to immersive experience such as the punch drunk theater, or plenty real-life games with zombie themes (see for instance, nazi-zombie adventure, SWAT zombie adventures or fightin through a zombie invested shopping mall [if you haven’t noticed, they all are!…] and of course Lodnon also shines as an early age adapter of escape games. Thus it was about time that we would finally cross the canal. We managed take four days off for a short trip to the UK – initially intended to head all the way west to visit Banksy’s Dismaland, but ended up staying the entire time in London playing a different game each day.
The first day our most anticipated exploration led us to Time Run. In the middle of a strange neighborhood of car garages and wrecked buildings, there is a mysterious bronze colored gate to another world.
Time Run is one of the most elaborate escape game I have played so far. Not only are scenario and the decoration very advanced (you can see that it is a high budget project), the in-character introduction by a talented actor is very well scripted and professionally performed. Right after entering you find yourself in the middle of a great experience with plenty of room to joke around with the actors and enjoy the details of the experience. The mission – a dangerous exploration through space and time for which two groups are send out simultaneously to find a powerful object lost in the midst of time. Moving through different time zones you can see that professional stage builders were involved to build convincing and atmospheric structures. The amount of spaces and props were truly impressive, however some aspects here and there made me feel a bit like in an amusement park (I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but so far I have to see a tomb or cave structure that looks believable ;). It also appeared that it must have been difficult to plan such a large structure of rooms and still keep it flexible. It seems to me that the amount of puzzles were a bit too much, which led to the effect that we were spammed with hints and sometimes felt a bit rushed and almost ‘pushed’ through the game. However, it could of course be that we were just a bit slow, but anyway I don’t really appreciate hints when I already know what to do and are in the middle of the execution. Anyway – I had a splendid time, especially during the last part of the game – surprisingly this part was the most closest to more usual escape room experiences, but the puzzles were smart and the design elegant. After the game there is a bit of theater as well and even the ‘debriefing’ area is more beautiful than most escape rooms I have seen so far. We talked a bit with the head designer and it turns out that logistically time run does a couple of things very differently than most escape rooms. They have a team of up to seven people operating two simultaneous games which consists of different parts and manage to set it up in a way that two groups can already start playing while the other two groups are in the final phase of the game.
All in one, Time Run was an amazing experience and even though we have played many escape rooms by now, we felt excited for the whole day, still feeding on the energy inspiring ideas that we got from it.
Another game we played was Escape Plan again a great fun experience but conceptually very far from the Time Run approach. While Time Run seems like a professional high budget endeavor Escape Plan gives the impression of a lovely hobby project. It nicely illustrates the spectrum that Escape Games have to offer. Escape Plan obviously operates with a much smaller team and smaller budget, but it still convinces through great puzzle design and impressive authentic props. Smaller budget does certainly not mean cheap here. Everything fits great in the theme and some of the objects are hard to get originals. Escape Plan has the charm of a perfectly crafted little germ that was made by a dedicated hobbyist. Some of the puzzles are so well build that it is clear someone didn’t do it for the money that could be earned, but with the fun and excitement to design something great. The puzzles are plenty and simultaneous, so no one of our team ever seemed inactive for a second. One of the very few rooms I have played so far in which I didn’t directly had anything to criticize! Again we had a very uplifting and throughout enjoyable experience. Thank you Escape Plan for the great time!
Agent November met us in a bar where we first had to find various objects. Not quite sure what to look for, the first ‘curious’ object I found on the floor was a box that said ‘rat poison, don’t touch!’ hmm – guess that was certainly not part of the game. Agent November offers (under more) real-life (escape) games in public spaces. The main game takes place in a park where we had to run around and collect keys, solve codes and stop an evil genius from blowing up the city. Agent November is one man puzzle machine and all by himself has designed three games in one year. The games was clearly designed for more people so we had a hard time with only two (one of our team members had to drop out for the day), but the Agent himself became part of the team and helped us out a lot. A great guy and innovative concept. If you want to know more check the recent interview with him on the excellent escape game blog Exit Games. Seems like in the near future we will hear more of Agent November as he took over “2.8 hours later” a zombie survival game which he is going to re-animate. We wish you good luck and hope to see you soon again!
The last day we played City Dash, as hide and seek real-life game played in the city and organized by Fire Hazard organizers of various great city games. The concept was relatively simple but hugely entertaining. We had to absolve a couple of mini challenges all over a certain area of a certain city part. The part was split in various regions and each region had guards patrolling through them. The guards were of different characters, some were slow, some fast, some short-sighted, but all of them tried to catch you and if they would manage to read the number which we had to wear on chest and back we would lose points. The game involved a lot of running around, hiding and funny interactions with confused bystanders. One option to score a high amount of points was to spot the numbers, the guards were wearing. One of our team members tried to hire a little kid to go and get the number for him. Great plan, though the kid turned out to be unreliable and the numer he delivered turned out to be wrong! Well we all know it is hard to find competitive staff these days. – After initially getting lost and completely disappearing from the map we still managed to become third, which earned us a box of chocolate. Sweaty but happy we jumped in the tube to return and pick up our bags – one hour of running and hiding was quite intense and again I felt a certain kind of satisfaction that we spend our time worthwhile. A pity we don’t live in London and have to miss out on all the other games Fire Hazard is organizing.
Oh yeah – we also visited a couple of board game cafes drank overprized beers chased foxes and ate lamb testicles, altogether good times, looking forward to go back and check out some more actual theater.
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