Outside the room
After playing Room 13, we headed back to the waiting room ready to play another round at Escape Live Essex. As mentioned in the previous review, the rooms were incredibly warm, so it was great to get into the relative cool of the waiting area (and a fan!), where we were offered some water before the next game – a nice (but almost essential) touch on a hot day. We got the chance to chat to one of the hosts, who told us that the rooms were meant to be nearly identical to the Birmingham versions but that Dr Wilson’s Office had had a major breakdown the day before, resulting in several of the puzzles having to be reworked. Gulp!
Dr Wilson is a master detective who has solved many crimes in his distinguished career. But this case could prove to be deadly for him. One of the suspects he is investigating is threatening his life. Dr Wilson is now relying on you and your team to unveil the identity of the right suspect. He’s left clues around his office and it’s up to you to find them, solve the mystery and escape.
Inside the room
Ah – the detective’s study. A classic of escape room decoration. Furniture and trinkets from an antique shop and some wallpaper and you’ll have a good-looking room. I’m teasing slightly, though, because this was an above-average rendition with a nice variety of interesting curios.
Search-wise there was plenty to be done, including a couple of particularly nice hiding places. Some parts of the room were a bit dark, which left you with some unnecessarily hard searching. In truth, that wouldn’t have been a big issue if we hadn’t managed to lose one of the props which proved to be critical to continuing, and the lack of light meant we spent a lot of time searching. In fact, we ended up spinning the dials on a lock to get past the missing piece, having got enough of the answer to be pretty confident of what we needed.
The puzzles were a little bit of a let down again – observation is the name of the game in Escape Live’s puzzles: spot numbers around the room, find some logic to order them and try them out on each of the relevant locks. I suspect that’s an artifact of the game being relatively old. A couple of years ago, when this game would have been designed, that was probably the norm, but now it feels a bit jaded. I want some sort of code to solve, or some clever reason why you should put the numbers in a particular order. It doesn’t make the room bad, just unsatisfying.
The point of this game is to work out who’s threatening Dr Wilson’s life, but I felt they missed a trick here by pretty much handing us the answer on a platter. This was an opportunity to have a finale that made us do some genuine detective work in a room. This room needed something to make it stand out and they missed their chance here. Instead, we were left wondering if there was something we were missing, to the extent that we unlocked the door and then stood in the room for a few seconds debating whether or not to leave.
We got out with around 10 minutes remaining, having been stuck on one particular problem for a very extended period (after losing a prop). We’ll never know exactly how that happened (probably several of us were at fault), but it just goes to show that, even if companies do everything right, make their puzzles solvable and reset the room properly, the players will still screw it up for you sometimes!
This was another solid escape room that was very similar in style (if not theme!) to Room 13. Possibly slightly better on the puzzles, similar on the theming but with less tension on the finale. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I’d give the same advice – if you’re in Southend, then head along and have an enjoyable hour but don’t travel over just for these games.
I’ve already mentioned the fantastic Mangetout in the other review, and our other meal was a picnic on the Western Esplanade, so I’ve not got anything else to add. Plenty of restaurants around here but worth making sure you book ahead!
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We were given these tickets for free after our initial booking was postponed because the opening was delayed by a week. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.