Outside the room
Third up in our Escape London visit was Escape Casino. With the two other teams that we’d brought along having already completed the room, we had a good idea of just how hard it was going to be. We’d been playing the rooms in parallel and the Casino teams had come out third by around twenty to twenty-five minutes each time…
As if escaping the casino wasn’t challenging enough the room is filled with additional puzzles that hold rewards. Should you stay or should you go? You won’t get rich without taking the risk…
Inside the room
As the introduction suggested, this was a game where there was more than just escaping to be done; along the way you had to collect as many poker chips as you could, which put the pressure on right from the start – we’re usually pretty confident that we can solve all the puzzles to get out of a game, but these sort of “non-binary win condition” games usually mean you’re fighting until the last minute to amass as many points as possible before escaping the clutches of the room. Get that calculation wrong and it could spell doom. Fortunately, this is the slightly more generous variety where finding the exit code doesn’t mean the game is over, so it’s not quite the same level of peril.
One nice touch here, which beats other games of this genre, is that you’re collecting poker chips (as befits the theme) and putting them in a chip case. There was something very satisfying in knowing what we were aiming for and watching the case slowly fill up. That sense of progression is something I love to see in an escape room and, while it’s often somewhat forced (e.g. unlocking seven padlocks on the exit door), here it felt natural.
I’ve not played one before, but the casino theme seemed to lend itself nicely to an escape room. There are plenty of thematic objects to put in (roulette wheels and the like), as well as a natural abundance of numbers. While I accept “escape room logic” where numbers mysteriously appear all over a room, it’s nice when they feel a little bit more like they fit in, as was the case here. Although some of the props still felt a little flimsy, they did the job, and one puzzle in particular made very nice nice use of a casino prop – although it was the only truly novel puzzle in the game.
One thing that felt really lazy to me was a bank of padlocks to open after solving specific puzzles. Indeed, to me this was the area that let down the whole game. Firstly, there were lots of very similar padlocks. Now, I like spinning tumblers as much as the next person, but there comes a point at which it’s just not fun. And that point is not when you’ve tried out your four-digit code on the seventh lock. To make matters worse, a whole load of the locks were located in the same place, so you couldn’t physically get several team members to try numbers at the same time.
I’d probably have accepted that frailty had the room not had plenty of potential codes to try out. This left me with what I think of as the matrix problem. It would have been fine to try out either the several different four-digit codes that you could form from a particular clue or a four-digit code in several locks but, when you have several potential codes and several potential locks, then you start to hit difficulties.
While several of the puzzles had ambiguous answers, they were perfectly legitimate answers. I felt some of the others, however, were too obscure, requiring a bit of a leap to solve them. If completing the game successfully requires you to use three clues or fewer, as it does at Escape London, that leads to a doubly frustrating experience.
As noted in previous reviews of the venue, there’s no audio in the room and clues come over the screen. While this didn’t cause a problem here, it could become painful if it’s not obvious to the host where you’re stuck.
We escaped from the room in 56 minutes having taken three clues. The other teams finished in a similar amount of time (56 and 59 minutes) and with the same number of clues.
I enjoyed Casino but I felt it showed so much more promise than it delivered. I really feel this game should have gone down the route that Million Pound Heist has, where you’re very unlikely to get all the loot. As it was, all our teams escaped with all the chips and, while we might have also gone to the wire, that’s more because we delayed asking for clues till it was necessary rather than because we were solving from start to finish. Add to that the restrictive clues and the fact that you were likely to have to take those clues on puzzles which required a leap of logic, and I felt the game missed its potential.
That said, it’s probably the best value for money you’ll get in any of the Escape London games: you’ll spend longer in the game and be challenged by some non-trivial puzzles. In addition, while there are some leaps of logic, they didn’t frustrate me in the same way as Area 51’s flawed puzzle did. I wouldn’t suggest you detour to play this game but, if it’s a convenient visit, then head along – most players will get a full hour’s entertainment, new players will be genuinely challenged to escape and experienced players will likely take it close to the wire trying to get the full haul with only three clues.
We went to the Bush Hall Dining Rooms beforehand and had a nice relaxed meal – I recommend the pizzas. The dining room is covered in gig posters from the music venue next door which provide a good talking point and there’s booth seating, so it’s perfect if you’ve got a group of six (or eight at a squeeze!).
Detailed Room Ratings