Outside the room
They say you never forget your first time. Mine was late one evening, in an industrial estate in Tottenham Hale, and it was definitely a memorable experience. Fast-forward two and a half years and how things have changed! clueQuest have moved from a single game in an industrial building in Zone 3 to a fantastic facility in Kings Cross. Along the way they briefly visited Liverpool Street, headlined thinkingbob’s Licence to Escape and are about to take over the title of being the UK’s biggest escape venue. Nine rooms, with three different games (this one, plus Plan52 and Operation BlackSheep). Yes, things have most definitely changed!
Their new venue (new to me – they’ve been there over a year now!) is situated halfway between Kings Cross and Caledonian Road tube station (in fact, it’s on Caledonian Road itself), so fairly easy access as long as you don’t mind a few minutes’ walk. The outside is nicely finished with a big wooden door and wide glass windows. As soon as you’re inside, it’s clear they’ve gone to a lot of effort – it’s a large, airy, well decorated space, with clusters of seating to welcome guests. Each of the little waiting areas has its own character – you can sit in some comfy-looking chairs, or in something a little more chic round a Rubik’s cube table. It’s good to see that, while they’re becoming a big company (40 employees!), they’re still keeping their eyes on the little things.
We headed downstairs, where they’ve built their two new rooms (past the stair lift – I’m glad to see they’re thinking about accessibility), where we were greeted and given the intro to the room. I remember being impressed the last time I played a clueQuest game that the Gamesmaker (their term for the person running your game) really got into the story, and it was no different this time around. This isn’t the fully immersive performance that you’d get at more theatrical games, but it’s great to see them showing some enthusiasm for the plot rather than just rushing through it as if it’s a necessary excuse for the room.
The evil Professor BlackSheep is back, and this time he’s been joined by his dastardly sidekick, Kevin the snail. His new plan is to turn all humankind into sheep using a SheepMutator device. Mr Q has selected you to infiltrate the lab and thwart his latest plot!
Inside the room
I really liked the start to this room, as they gave you lots of clues and puzzles to solve right from the beginning. If you didn’t know what you were doing, I’d imagine it would be pretty intimidating but, if you’ve got a bit of experience, you’ll feel right at home. It’s a nice surrounding too. While clueQuest don’t focus as heavily as others on the theme, with this game they’d done a good job of giving a very urban, very London feel to the place, which fits well with the Kings Cross location.
If I had to pick out the area at which clueQuest have always excelled, though, it would be in coming up with fun, original puzzles. Good news – they’ve not lost their touch. There are a huge number of puzzles in this room which cover almost everything you could want. There are incredibly simple puzzles where you know instantly what to do, then several others where even seeing that it’s a puzzle requires you to think carefully. If you like high tech puzzles, you will not be disappointed – I’ve not seen anything approaching this level. Equally, if you like something a bit more physical and mechanical (confession – that’s me!), then they’ve also got you covered.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’d found my checklist of good puzzle design, because they ticked all the boxes. As well as all the goodness I’ve already mentioned, there were a few puzzles which lent themselves to being played with multiple people, and they’d got a couple of puzzle chains, where you had to build up various clues/pieces to a puzzle before you could solve it. Yes – this was a masterclass in puzzle making.
Throughout the game, every time we started to run out of ideas about how we could progress, we’d do a little more searching, a little more thinking or a little more playing and the way forward would become clear. I can’t count the number of times where one of us would suddenly get the breakthrough that helped us keep up the momentum. In fact, it seemed like the room was full of surprises so, while it didn’t feel like a room that was heavy on the searching, it did seem like being observant was particularly important. I liked that balance – I don’t enjoy painstaking searching of every possible hiding place in a room (particularly if it involves several hundred books…), but I do like things being hidden in plain sight that make you feel stupid when you eventually notice them!
We escaped with 7 minutes left on the clock without any clues. It’s hard to express how impressed I am that they’ve managed to create a room that can be finished without taking a clue AND that took us close to the hour mark. I think that’s testament to the amount of play testing they’ve done on the game
It was always going to take something impressive to beat Operation Blacksheep, but they absolutely managed it. As you’d expect from the third room in a venue, it’s pretty tough, but it’s also fair – we got out without clues, and I never felt we had to make a big leap in logic.
I wouldn’t recommend this for novices – the other two clueQuest games are better suited to first timers – but I’d highly recommend it for anyone who’s played a couple of escape rooms and wants to see something top notch. It’s hard to compare rooms when each one focuses on different aspects of the experience, but this would certainly make my top 3 London rooms, and the other two (Oubliette and Time Run) cost £30 or more (compared to this one which is around £25).
There’s not much of interest in the local area, so we headed to Upper Street beforehand and ate at Gem, a Kurdish and Turkish restaurant. Friendly service, great food and they even gave us a dessert on the house.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.