Want to skip straight to the immersive gaming section? Then click here.
Welcome to the September 2018 edition of the London-focused immersive gaming rumours post. Note that this is about London (and surrounding areas). If you want to know about escape games further afield, then you can follow exitgames.co.uk, where I publish a weekly update on the UK escape room scene.
For those of you interested in what I’ve been up to over the summer, it’s been pretty busy with ~25 escape games, something a bit Crystal Maze-like, a couple of London puzzle hunts and some immersive theatre. Things get even busier over the next couple of months, with some more immersive theatre, another 30 or so escape games (including a brief trip to Prague and Budapest) plus a couple of talks at the UK Escape Room Conference.
Two big escape room competitions were announced this month, both of them with prizes that involve heading off to play escape rooms. First off, clueQuest announced a competition with literally hundreds of prizes. First prize is a trip for a team to Budapest to play a selection of games, while runner-up prizes involve free entry to their upcoming game, cQ:ORIGENES, and a bunch of goody bags. Those all sound fantastic, especially the first prize – I can confirm both that Budapest is a beautiful city and that it has some great games to experience. In fact, I’m just about to head off there for the third time in two years!
Which brings me nicely along to the other competition. Last time I was in Budapest was for the MindGamers World Championships and, if you play your cards right, you too could be on an expenses-paid trip to play in the world championship. It’s no exaggeration to say that entering the last competition changed my life. I’ve had a bunch of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, including being invited to be part of the design team for this year’s edition, and I met a wonderful group of people along the way. Maybe next time round it could be you thinking that! If it sounds interesting, you can enter the qualifiers here.
As mentioned above, clueQuest have announced their new game, cQ:ORIGENES. No date has officially been announced, but the competition prize strongly suggests that the game will be ready, if not open to the public, by late September. clueQuest consistently produce great experiences and, while other games are often recommended ahead of them, clueQuest are a safe bet when it comes to playing in London. First-timers, children and enthusiasts alike all have great stuff to say about them, so I’m excited to see what their next experience will bring. It’s also worth mentioning the Trail adventure they’ve created as part of the competition. I’ve heard nothing about it but, at £60 per game, you’ve got to think it’s more than a simple treasure hunt around the local area, and it’s potentially the only way for many teams who’ve already completed all three games to enter.
Some of you may remember Mostly Harmless from the Vaults Festival, where they launched the Lifeboat, a short space-themed escape room. They’ve moved over to The Artworks boxpark near Elephant & Castle, a great little venue with plenty of food and drink options right on site. Their new adventure is called Phobos 17 and sees you trapped aboard a rusting Russian spacecraft trying to retrieve some plutonium. There was plenty of promise in what they offered up at the Vaults, so I’m hopeful that they’ll have learned plenty from that stint and will be able to create something impressive in the limited space they’ll have available.
Komnata London recently officially opened their doors as an escape room company (they’ve had the Promenade open for a few months). They’ve initially got two games which are both available in their New York venues: Saint Angelo’s Castle seems to be a Dan Brown Da Vinci-like story, while Doctor Frankenstein is a take on the Mary Shelley classic. I’m curious to find out how good these games are, because US players have been raving about Komnata for a long time, while UK players who’ve visited have been less excited. Possibly not coincidentally, Komnata was one of the first US companies to run private ticketing, which perhaps made them extra popular.
Escape London have opened a fourth game at their Shepherd’s Bush branch. OverThrone looks to be Game of Thrones-inspired and, for once, it’s not a game that’s been copied from elsewhere – London seems to be the first placed it’s been deployed (although it will be present at other sites). No news yet on what it’s like, and I likely won’t make it along till November, so let me know what you think if you manage to make it there before me.
AIM Escape launched their third and fourth games over the summer. I’ve already visited and reviewed Psychopath’s Den and Patient Zero: 2150, both of which showed a lot of promise but also quite a few rough edges. I hold out high hopes for their remaining two, though, because they definitely know how to create great sets, and their biggest issue, lighting, is something that’s easily solved. The two remaining games couldn’t be more different: Hangover Deja Brew is a distinctly adult theme which raised a few eyebrows even among enthusiasts, while Spy Heroes is absolutely aimed at a young audience with a minimum age of six.
The Grid finally came online this week after only the vaguest of reports over the summer. It’s still not entirely clear to me where it sits between cocktail bar and escape room, but it’s an interesting departure from the mainstream experiences. I’m curious to find out whether they’ve opted to make it light on puzzles or more GM-led than typical games. My assumption is that it has to be one of those to allow for people who are perhaps suffering the adverse effects of a couple of pre-game cocktails. Given the history of the company, I’m inclined to think that they’ll be focusing on immersion, so bear that in mind if you’re more interested in puzzles.
London Escaped launched last month. They’ve currently got two games – Da Vinci and the Prisoner – which have been imported from LA (although I suspect they’re originally from Russia). I’ve heard good things about these experiences from overseas, and initial visitors have been positive about them. Fingers crossed, I’ll be heading along in October. They’re only a six-minute walk from AIM Escape so, if you want to double up, there’s plenty of choice in the area.
This week sees the Imperial War Museum closing down Damage Control, the Clockwork Dog-designed escape room aboard the HMS Belfast. I love that museums are getting in on the escape room act, because it feels like there’s so much synergy between what they want and what escape rooms can provide. We managed to book in our visit just before the end of its run, and the review was published last week. Rumour has it that the game will return in future holidays.
Last month brought news of a new venue for Eltham in South London. Precious little information at the moment, but Eltham Escape at least has a website and hints that the first game may be space-themed.
No news on what’s happening with Clue Adventures‘ Gangsters Treasure, which closed down to move venues but hasn’t yet re-opened. Watch this space.
It’s too late to get tickets now, but ERIC, the UK escape room conference, takes place on 1 October near Waterloo. It promises to be a fun day of talks, with the obligatory socials to keep you entertained before and afterwards. If you’re keen to attend, then you may want to join the waiting list – you can find a link from the Facebook group.
As ever, if you’re looking for general recommendations in the capital, then you can check out either my London guide, which lists my favourite games, or the more detailed recommendations based on whether you’re looking for a two-player or eight-player game, like mechanical puzzles or need wheelchair access. And, if you’ve read this far, then you may be interested in an enthusiast meetup that’s taking place in the capital on Monday 24th September. If so, drop me an email and I’ll send you the details!
A Door in a Wall continue with their latest project, Dead Man’s Hand. If you don’t know what this company’s about, then it’s definitely worth heading along to try it out – imagine a mix of puzzle hunt, a small amount of immersive theatre and a murder mystery while exploring Farringdon. You can read my review of the game here. (I also played Memento Mori recently – review to follow, although it’s too late to play now!)
Part Murder Mystery, part immersive theatre, part escape room? OK – you’ve got my attention! Copycat is a new show at the CoLab Factory, a hotbed of up-and-coming immersive gaming experiences. Help Larson, the protagonist in the show, track down the serial killer who murdered his sister. Be warned, though – the website talks of claustrophobic spaces, jump scares and flashing lighting. This isn’t for the faint-hearted!
Talking of CoLab shows – if you were disappointed to miss out on Hidden Figures, the good news is that it’s back! This time round, they’re setting up shop a little bit further east in the Biscuit Factory (near Lock’d and AI Escape, if you’re familiar with them) and will be around from September to December. I thoroughly enjoyed their experience last time round and recommend it to anyone who fancies an evening of unusual entertainment. They seemed receptive to feedback and, from what other attendees said, it sounded like they were continually evolving the game, so expect it to be even better than before. You can read my review from their last run here.
I know almost nothing about it, but the Switch has an intriguing website that suggests they’ll be running an experience which can best be described as an immersive puzzle hunt. Expect a trail through the city with puzzles along the way and interaction from a “moderator”. Sounds like a properly GM-ed experience akin to Agent November’s games, so I’ll be curious to hear how it turns out. Offers on Groupon if you’re tempted. Note that, in spite of what it says on one part of the website, you do not need a car for the experience.
If you’ve not yet taken part, the good news is that Hunted, the urban game based on the TV show and produced by Fire Hazard, is still running. I’ve not played but, given Fire Hazard’s usual experiences, expect a high-octane adventure on the streets of the city.
They’re also bringing out a new version of Undercover called John le Carré’s The Circus. You’ve got two hours in and around Cambridge Circus to prove that you’ve got what it takes to be a secret agent. I played Undercover a while back and was impressed by the variety of challenges on offer. There’s also a new Raiders game, The Family Ghouls, for those of you wanting a Hallowe’en twist to their more relaxed, indoor game.
Dead Quiet started back in June for a short run but has obviously been popular with dates, now extending out into this month. I’ve not got any experience with the company, Immercity, but it sounds like it’s mainly immersive theatre with a bit of murder mystery layered on top. If you head along, let me know how you find it! They’ve got a less frequent show called the Silhouette in the Smoke, which seems to be an entirely different story but with a similar concept and takes place in the London Museum of Water and Steam.
The Murder Express takes an Agatha Christie-style story and throws you into the middle of the action. They’ve created a train for the game, and you can purchase food and drink during the show, so it’s a slightly different slant on the usual experience mentioned on these pages.
Puzzles and more
DASH 10 has sold out so, unless you’ve already got tickets, your best chance is to offer to help out with the organisation. They usually look for volunteers to try out the puzzles a week or two before the competition, so get in touch with them if you’re interested!
As per usual, Puzzled Pint takes place on the second Tuesday of the month. If you’re looking for some fun, sociable puzzling, then it’s a great start. And, if you’re nervous that the puzzles will be too hard, don’t worry – there’s a games controller who’ll help you out as much as you need. You can check out puzzles and solutions from previous months on their website here.
Groupon has London Escaped, City Mazes, The Switch, Adventox and Breakin on their site. If you want to take advantage of the offers but don’t want to support Groupon, I recommend dropping an email to the venue asking if they’ll offer you the same deal – they’re usually willing to match it, and the bonus is that they get the full amount rather than just 50-70%.
That’s all, folks
That’s all I’m aware of. If any of the above is incorrect, then let me know via email or in the comments below; or, equally, if you’re aware of other news, discounts or competitions, tell me and I’ll include updates in the next edition.
Thanks for reading!