Outside the room
The North of London grows from strength to strength with new games popping up on an almost monthly basis. One of the most recent of these is Clue Trace, which has nestled itself near to Stoke Newington – not very convenient for the tube but convenient enough for us to get down to by train. At the time of our visit all they had was the game we were going to play – Mind Crime – and a small waiting area where we sat and chatted with our hosts. Since then, they’ve added a second copy of the game so that you can play head to head. After a short chat with our host and owner, Andrea, it was into the game.
Do you have what it takes to enter the mind of a white collar criminal? Your team is a specialist group of thought thieves who must break into the mind of a master criminal. You’ll be sent on an exhilarating mission to search his mind. Your adventures are just beginning. Somewhere, deep within his memory, there is a secret code. This code is critical for your success. Time is your enemy.
Inside the room
Entering a criminal’s mind is a brave theme. How do you convey to the players that they’re wandering round someone’s memories? Before I entered the room, I really didn’t see how they could make it work – I’d imagined them trying to make the room look like the cartoon caricature of the inside of a brain. Their choice was far better – using bright lighting and white walls to take away the “room-ness” of the space and transport you somewhere else. Add to that a twisting space and you could (with a little imagination) really feel the theme coming out. Layer in a pretty impressive background soundtrack and some moving visuals and I think they’ve pretty much nailed it.
The puzzles, on the other hand, were a little hit and miss. At times they were top quality – one in particular that I’d seen in three or four other rooms but which just made perfect sense in this theme. At other times it felt to me that they’d been aiming to recreate the randomness of memories and, while that was an interesting angle, it was the randomness that came through strongly and left me feeling like the room didn’t hang together very well. Most of the puzzles were pretty logical, but a couple of them were made less fun by not making it clear whether you’d collected all the information necessary to complete them. I have no problem with that generally, but there was plenty of information available that we MIGHT have been able to use, and so we were left digging into that in the vague hope that it might point us in the right direction.
One puzzle was just plain bad and I think needs to be removed. It’s a particularly dull puzzle that I’ve seen in, oh, probably 20 or 30 different escape rooms and where we ended up just trying random combinations on a padlock. When they gave us the hint to the answer we just looked at each other in disappointment. Afterwards, talking to the owners and other enthusiasts, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones who found this puzzle weak and, although they’d been trying to improve it, they hadn’t got there yet. Fingers crossed that they will!
I recently came across the concept of a Macguffin, which is a plot device with little or no narrative explanation. To be honest, that’s probably something you could level at many escape rooms, but it felt a little more true here. We had to steal a secret code and, while the intro chat from the host gave us a bit more context on what that was for, nothing in the room expanded on it. Really, it was just an excuse to have a final code to exit the game, but it would have been great if the room had made me feel that the owner deserved to be robbed.
The final puzzle, although it was a variation on others that I’ve seen several times before, was nicely constructed and presented and added an extra angle to make it slightly more interesting. And how you used the resulting code brought some closure to your mission. However, we embarrassingly stood in the room for probably another thirty seconds unsure what to do or whether the game was over. As befits the theme – we could have left at any time…
Oh, and a word of warning: there was one puzzle in the room that required outside-the-room knowledge. You’ll probably be able to wing it with average knowledge but, if you’re not good on world geography, then it might get tricky…
We escaped in 33:02 with two clues – one because we were being stupid and one because of the puzzle mentioned above. Clues could be given through walkie-talkies but on both occasions they typed something on the screen – and it was clear by the speed with which the clues were given that they were paying careful attention.
This is a cleverly themed room that starts out very open before moving to a linear set of puzzles – a little bit too early for my liking. While they were almost all fun and logical, several of the puzzles had weaknesses. The biggest issue for me was that they just didn’t hang together amazingly well and, rather than feeling like I was exploring someone’s mind, I was left feeling like I was solving a bunch of arbitrary puzzles.
Enthusiasts are likely to race through the game, so I’d recommend taking three players at most. The five-player maximum seems reasonable for novices.
We headed over to Hand of Glory, a pub specialising in burgers and hot dogs. I can highly recommend the food – the Really Wild Burger was excellent and the curly fries were plentiful – certainly big enough to share (and I don’t say that lightly!).
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.