Before the event
Ever since The Life and Death of Paul Marrane, I’d been waiting for A Door in a Wall‘s next outing, so as soon as they announced Appetite for Murder, I emailed out to the usual suspects and started putting together a team. In fact, a team of teams – people had enjoyed last time so much, I was pretty sure I’d be getting everyone back, and some more people on top of that.
In the end, there were thirteen of us, split into four teams of three or four. Would it be unlucky to have thirteen for dinner…?
I hadn’t done as much preparation as usual, so I didn’t know precisely where we were going. I’d plugged the postcode into TfL’s website and chosen our route, but the first I knew of our actual destination was when we got off the train at Moorgate and started the walk across. I was more than a little perturbed when I unfolded my booking confirmation and noticed that the destination was “the Red Herring”. Were we actually going to a pub at all, or was this an elaborate joke, leading us to the first step in the puzzle… It turned out that it was a real pub, but I can’t help but wonder whether they decided to run the event there purely because of the name!
The story revolves around celebrity chef Amelia Love, whose body has just been found locked in her restaurant’s freezer. Your job is to find her murderer from a small pool of suspects.
Well that’s the story, but so much more is played out in the introduction as they weave the story together, introduce several of the characters that you’ll come across later on and generally build up the excitement.
The twelve or so teams scattered out of the restaurant in different directions. You’ve got a couple of hours before you have to return, and six separate trails to do, so while there’s no need to run, there’s a certain sense of urgency. In contrast with my previous experience of A Door in a Wall, you’re expected to complete all the trails, which is good and bad. On the plus side, you get to participate in the full set of experiences, and not feel like you followed a less exciting route than others. On the minus side, it took the pressure off towards the end, where you’re trying to decide how many of the trails you can finish off, and gambling on whether it’s worth starting one more, or heading back to the end game early.
With around two teams doing each trail simultaneously, there was a risk that you’d end up bumping into other teams while trying to solve clues. When this happened, we tended to give the other teams a bit of space to clear out, which I guess was a benefit of the (relatively) relaxed timeframe, but some teams were quite happy to crowd you out, which always felt a bit awkward because you were trying to solve the puzzle without ruining it for them.
At various points through the game, there were pieces of interactive theatre that gave you some clues as to the final culprit. This is definitely where they’d upped their game over Paul Marrane. The clues were delightfully subtle, and individually next to useless, but over the course of the game you could pick up enough to have a very clear picture of what had happened.
Thinking of the theatre as just a way to get clues would be a big mistake though. The interactive aspects of these experiences is what leaves the best memories. I love the excuse to make a fool of myself, with friends, in public knowing that you’re doing it as part of an organised event. I enjoy watching the passers by wonder what the hell we’re up to, or, more typically since this is London, steadfastly ignore the lunatics on the street.
Back to the Red Herring
One of the changes that I really liked, was that they got everyone back to the venue 45 minutes before answers were due in. That forced you to come back and talk about what you’d learned. 45 minutes might seem like a long time, but actually, it was barely enough for the three of us to assimilate our knowledge.
As I mentioned above, there were plenty of subtle clues which had to be pieced together to get the story. It felt like a proper murder mystery, where you put together snippets of information to spot certain things that had happened, and as each piece of the jigsaw fell into place, the picture became clearer and other clues started to make sense. By about ten minutes after we’d handed in our answers, we’d finally worked out everything that had happened. Unfortunately I’d had a key piece of information that I hadn’t shared properly till that point, which allowed us to make the final leap of logic. As with escape rooms, communication is key in this game.
We made a clean sweep of the prizes – first, second and best team name (“I’m sorry sir, but the Great British Hake’s Off”). To be honest though, if you’re worried about winning or losing at A Door in a Wall’s events, I think you’ve missed the points. This is all about the experience, and in that sense, all the teams came away winners.
Looking at it objectively, this was a fantastically fun evening and great value for money considering the central London location. There was a great combination of technology, puzzles, interactive theatre and story. If I’m to be brutally honest, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as their previous Paul Marrane mystery which was one of the highlights of my fifteen years living in London. Considering they’d kept the same price as last time round, but moved it to central London, they’d done an absolutely amazing job. I’ll be back in the queue come October, as soon as they announce their next event.