Outside the room
Well, this was a first on my escape room travels – not an office block, shopping unit or dodgy space behind a railway station. Hidden Rooms is located in a perfectly normal residential street, just a few minutes’ walk from Finsbury Park station. In fact, the entrance is off the side of the house, so it’s a particularly strange experience as you wonder whether you’re about to end up in someone’s garden, but no – just in time you see their sign and can breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve come to the right place.
When we arrived, the (outside) front of the house was a building site, which didn’t inspire, but presumably that’s transient and future visitors will have a better first impression.
At the door, we were greeted by the hosts and immediately taken to the basement for our briefing. The venue had only recently opened, and I got the feeling that the waiting area wasn’t complete [Note – it is now, and is a perfectly pleasant place to wait].
Oh, and the very last thing that happens to you before you enter the room might make you a little nervous. Just remember that it adds to the fun, and you’re about to let someone lock you in a room anyway…
You’re on a stag do in an Eastern Europe capital and the last thing you remember is drinking in a bar. You wake up in a prison cell, with no memory of how or why. The guard’s going to return from his rounds in sixty minute and so that’s what you’ve got to escape…
Inside the room
Prison cells are probably the best sort of escape rooms to decorate from a budget point of view. You don’t need to paint the walls, any damage that occurs looks authentic, and no one expects a lot of props. I guess you have to worry about sourcing huge iron bars, but you can’t have everything. That’s not to knock the room – they’d done a good job of making it a place that left you feeling uncomfortable, which is just the atmosphere this theme deserves.
The game flows very well. Unusually for these games, we didn’t all head off to explore on our own at the beginning, which was a nice change, because it meant we all knew what was happening at the start. Very quickly though we were up to our usual shennanigans, with various team members trying to solve different puzzles and probably not communicating enough with each other about what we’d found and what help we’d needed.
In terms of “wow” elements, there were a couple of genuinely original puzzles, although the timing of one of them in the context of the game play meant that not everyone got to see it. The rest of the puzzles were reasonably good and varied, but the host did commit one cardinal sin in not resetting a puzzle from a previous team. In their defence we played just after they opened, so I’m sure they’ll have got over those teething problems by now.
The exit of the game was a little bit of a letdown – we found the exit key but didn’t know for sure that it was, which meant we didn’t have that defining moment of triumph that we craved. I think a better introduction could have solved this problem by making it clear what our goal was (contrast being told you’re trying to escape the prison with saying you’re trying to get the master key which is hidden in XXX).
Around ten minutes to spare, and technically the record, although since it was early days, I don’t think that really counts.
A solid start from a new company, where the core escape elements were well done, but some of the surrounding stuff could do with a brush up – a decent waiting area [now completed], better intro and a clearer picture of what the goal of the game is.
I’d recommend this to anyone who wants a slightly edgier experience than the usual escape room experience, or to anyone who’s from the local area.
We found an excellent Italian restaurant on Blackstock Road – Il Cavaliere. Great food, nice atmosphere and decent staff. Would definitely recommend.
Detailed Room Ratings