Outside the room
Sutton isn’t the most obvious place to expand London’s escape room community, but then Escape from the Room isn’t an ordinary escape room. No, this is an escape room designed, built and run by an enthusiast, and I was equal parts excited and nervous about trying it out: excited because it’s fun talking with a fellow enthusiast and any room they design is going to have that extra level of love put in; and nervous because it would be easy for someone to get excited about the escape room craze and jump in without really thinking it through properly.
Ideally you’d come by car (one of the benefits to a less central location – no parking restrictions!), but we were heading down from various parts of North London, so a train from Victoria was the best option and, with only two or three stops along the way, it wasn’t very painful. A twenty-minute walk through Cheam later and a frantic last-minute check to find the actual address and we were greeted by Nathen, who warmly welcomed us and showed us into the briefing area for the introductory film.
Knowing we were enthusiasts, he asked about our preference for clues and also offered us something which I’ve never seen before – a chest with all the combinations we needed to get through the room. We declined, but it’s an interesting angle for people who are a little more nervous about their ability to complete the puzzle. Perhaps a little too tempting for some, though? Frankly, we’d probably have ended up opening it by accident, forgetting what it was!
You’ve been called to a house which has been experiencing strange events. For a long time, an old lady named Milly lived at the address. A strange woman who kept herself to herself in a house filled with cats. After her death, the cats were rehomed and the house put up for sale but, whenever prospective buyers came to view it, the cats returned and frightened them away. Eventually, new buyers were found and, after totally renovating the house, they thought the problems were behind them. But no: the cats soon started to return, noises were heard in the house and they had to call in a paranormal investigator. He’s set up all the instrumentation and will be monitoring from another room, but you’ll need to enter the room itself and free Milly’s soul. There’s also a side-quest to find out Milly’s story and how all the events came to pass.
Inside the room
After being shown into the room, you get a final message from the investigator and you’re off. The game’s based in a bedroom, with a decent set and a well balanced room – plenty of items to explore and places to search without it becoming too much of a drudge. It’s a slightly slow start to the game – lots of collecting and not so much solving – but don’t let that get you down if you’re not a fan of searching. You’ll get your reward later!
If there was a weakness, it would probably be in the atmosphere of the room. The website and doll in the logo give a very clear sense of horror, but this room never really captured the same effect. I’m not a fan of horror personally, but a little more eerieness would have helped with the immersion. That’s not to say there weren’t parts of the game that fitted well with the horror theme, one of which in particular I can imagine causing a scream or two. There’s always a balance to be struck here – the last thing you want to do in a slightly out-of-the-way location is whittle your potential audience down further!
As I said above, the puzzles early on weren’t very taxing, which is a good thing in a room because it allows newcomers to the genre to get settled but, as the game progressed, they got more complex. They also parallelised nicely, so at one point there were four of us working across three puzzles in a way that was extremely satisfying and I’ve rarely seen after the midway point in a game. As well as those more intellect-based puzzles, there were a few physical puzzles in our path too, which I particularly appreciated, and a good variety of mechanisms and reveals that were new to me.
At the end of the game, the side-quest was a well contained pair of puzzles that allowed you to get just a little extra out of the room. I applaud any establishment that puts something in place to cater for both experienced players and novices, and it was well done here. We were clear on the goals from the start and, in my head at least, this was always a bonus rather than the main event (albeit a bonus that I absolutely wanted to get!).
We got out with 52 minutes on the clock, having completed both the main challenge and the sidequest, taking only a single clue along the way.
For an enthusiast-built room, this was seriously impressive. It was gauged just right – difficult but not impossible, a decent balance of searching and solving and tasks that brought you together as well as parts that you could complete separately. The addition of a sidequest allowed us to get our money’s worth, while not creating a game of impossible difficulty for first-timers and, to cap it all off, you have an owner and host who understand players well enough to maximise their enjoyment from the game.
Yes, it’s not in central London, but I think you’ll find it’s worth the effort to make the trip down.
No food for us; we had to rush back to the centre for Wiretapper!
Detailed Room Ratings