Outside the room
Conveniently, on our Saturday night in Madrid we’d booked a restaurant just off Gran Vía and our reservation ended at 10:45pm. Convenient, because Fox in a Box is situated just a block or two away and has an 11pm slot – the latest in Madrid. No doubts what I was going to be doing after dinner!
Fox in a Box have a fun website and the reviews on TripAdvisor were some of the best I’d seen, so I had very high expectations. In fact, I think this was the escape room that I was most looking forward to over the weekend, in spite of not being a big fan of zombie related stuff. This was also the escape room I was playing with people I’d escaped with before, so I held high hopes.
The waiting area is small, but nicely kitted out with various puzzles lying around and the hosts monitoring the games sitting out in the open (which was particularly fun when one of the hosts burst out laughing at what a team were doing). Our game was down in the cellar area, which was a beautiful brick lined vault. It felt very atmospheric descending to our room, and I can imagine it works even better for their other game (“The Bunker”).
The world has gone to hell, zombies are taking over but someone has developed an antidote. The only problem is that he succumbed to the zombies just before he could complete his work and release it. Your mission is to track down his research, synthesize the antidote and release it into the air conditioning to wipe out the zombies that are converging on your location… Guess what – you’ve got an hour before they get you…
Inside the room
The first words that we said as we entered the room were “Well, this is a lab!”. I’ve played several rooms that are laboratory based, but this was the first one that felt real, rather than just a normal room with a few test tubes and lab coats put in. That was just one example of where this room really stood out – it was very well themed. It started before we even walked in, by getting us to put on lab coats and being given the briefing in character.
Inside the room, not only the were all the puzzles consistent with the theme, but several of the puzzle mechanics were too, which is definitely a sign of a well designed room. It has clearly been built by someone who’s thought carefully about how they can immerse you in the story, which is a rare feeling in an escape room. Indeed, on several occasions during the game I got a bit nervous that a zombie might suddenly appear…
The theming didn’t stop there – there was clever use of lighting, deliberately confined space and great use of the countdown screen to display video, all of which helped to get you into the mindset that you were in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
The final element of theming was with the exit mechanism, which was by far and away the best I’ve seen – no hitting a button, typing a code or removing a combination lock. The exit for this game was perfect for the theme.
So, what about the puzzles? After all, that’s what got most of us interested in escape rooms. Well that side of things was bit more hit and miss. Were there good puzzles? Without a doubt, yes. There were a couple of really good puzzles. Were there puzzles that involved team work. Yes – at least two of the puzzles (and probably more) involved two or more people, which is a big plus for me. Were they difficult? Well this is where we get to the interesting part. The answer is yes, but not always in a good way.
Firstly, there’s no easy introductory puzzles. If you arrive in this room then you’re expected to know what you’re doing. We obviously did, but it still threw me off – there’s no sense of progress for the first few minutes as you circle the room looking for clues. Perhaps having just had a large meal didn’t help, but until I’ve solved a couple of puzzles, I always get a bit distracted and start worrying about time. We did get going eventually, but a couple of the puzzles we struggled with seemed to have somewhat arbitrary solutions. I could just about see how they would be solved without hints, but afterwards I didn’t feel like the solution was obvious in hindsight.
So, in summary, puzzles were all reasonably hard, some required a bit of a leap to solve, but several had interesting mechanics and were very original, and throughout they were well themed.
In spite of feeling that we were making slow progress, we ended up getting out with about 15 minutes remaining. The host congratulated us and informed us we’d taken second place. I was somewhat dubious (it wouldn’t be the first time our success has been exaggerated by a host and it didn’t feel like we were quick), but back upstairs I saw they had a leaderboard, and we genuinely did (just) take second place.
The four of us had quite differing feelings about the room. The two less experiences players enjoyed it, while the more experienced players felt it lacked something. When I came out of this room, I was a bit disappointed, but like a good wine, it improves with age. A week later and I’ve come to appreciate its strengths – it’s not just an escape room, it’s an escape experience, and I’m glad I played it.
I think if you go into this room with the mindset that you’ll not be given anything easy at the start of the game to get you going and that the puzzles sometimes require a leap, that you’ll avoid the frustration I felt and hopefully revel in one of the better themes I’ve seen at an escape room.
We ate in el Mercado de la Reina beforehand and had a fantastic group menu. The starters were great and plentiful. For dessert I chose a very large piece of cheesecake, which was delicious (and was proper baked cheesecake, rather than the biscuit and cream variety you get in the UK). I didn’t choose my main course so well – opting for the oxtail ravioli over the tuna or steak, which was a big disappointment. Well made, but not to my taste and I spent most of the main course glancing enviously around at my colleagues.
Detailed Room Ratings