Outside the room
Good things come to those who wait. If that’s true then Mind the Game must be very good indeed, because I first head about it back in April of last year. It took a while to open up, but it finally launched in February of this year. In a twist of fate, and surprisingly given that they’re well outside the centre, near the North Circular, they opened up only a mile down the road and a few weeks after Quest Room.
I didn’t think to ask whether they see their neighbours as competitors or as complementary offerings, but regardless, it was going to be interesting to see which of the rooms would emerge victorious in the head to head.
On the website front, it’s a clear loss for Mind the Game, with something that reminded me of a PowerPoint presentation and was described as geocities-like by a team mate. It’s easy to think it’s a bit mean to joke about the website, but people do judge books by their covers, and I can well imagine some people being put off from booking, fearing the website might reflect on the game. Hopefully it’s only temporary and they’ll revamp in the near future.
The outside of the venue wasn’t massively inspiring either – they’re still finishing off the signage – but once inside we were welcome by a very friendly couple, who were clearly enthusiastic about their game. A note mainly for my own benefit when I travel to Hungary later this year – they said that the room was very similar to Code 13, which is run by a friend of theirs in Budapest.
The crazy professor is on the brink of discovering the elixir of youth. Just as he reached the end goal, he disappeared. Your job is to break into his study and find the proto-elixir. I wasn’t quite clear as to why we had exactly an hour – maybe the ingredients would deteriorate in some way, but we jumped inside.
Inside the room
As you walk in the door, you’re met with a plausible professor’s study. There’s definitely an “old” theme, whether that’s from the typewriter on the desk, classic furniture or the music playing from a retro device in the corner. The spacious room makes a welcome transition from the somewhat cosy briefing area where you’ve just spent ten minutes.
One thing that you’re warned about before entering, but still seems slightly odd, is the various doors off the escape room that aren’t part of the game, including one which leads to a toilet. Perhaps it’s a feature – if things get a bit heated, you can always take a short break from your team mates.
The puzzles themselves were enjoyable, but never very complicated. It was obvious at every stage what we were meant to do, and when codes or keys were produced, it was always clear what they related to. It’s great to see a room get this right and help us avoid the frustration of trying out a load of keys/codes in different locks. We did need clues on one particular puzzle, but we knew exactly what we had to do and it was just our observation skills that had let us down.
The highlight of this room to me was the sheer number of ways in which they got you to unlock compartments, cupboards and boxes. As well as getting away from the tedium of inputting combinations, it also adds a little bit more fun to the discovery – as you work out a novel mechanism or just get surprised by something suddenly opening.
Finally, I really enjoyed one red herring they put in the room. I’d heard about this kind of red herring in the past, but never come across a room which implemented it well. There was a small pseudo-puzzle, which if you cracked would give you a little more detail to the story. It was clear as soon as you solved it that it wasn’t useful to escaping the room, so there was no chance of being misled, but it was a nice touch none-the-less.
We escaped with around 17 minutes remaining, although we’d taken two clues and over twenty minutes on the final puzzle… I’d be surprised if this room doesn’t have someone break the thirty minute barrier fairly soon.
I really want to like Mind the Game. In fact, I *do* like it. It’s an enjoyable game that does well in losing the locks and using creative mechanisms to secure cupboards and drawers. It’s a very open structure, with many of the puzzles accessible from the start, but two or three key ones being slowly built up as you unlock various part of the room along the way.
So, why not a higher rating? Well, I just can’t get excited about the game. The theme is OK, but it’s not impressive. The puzzles aren’t at all stretching – I don’t think we were even briefly confused by any of them (even if we needed clues!). The mechanisms were nice, but not novel (to me). If it weren’t for one total fail on the observation front, we could have been out in half an hour.
Having said all that, I think this is a great room for its location. For locals, who’ve never played escape rooms before, this will seem utterly amazing and the puzzles are all very accessible. Everything will be novel, and the story is more than good enough for beginners. The owner is welcoming and enthusiastic and genuinely seems to want to improve his game. Mind the Game easily wins the local battle with Quest Room on pretty much every front I can think of.
We ate in a Nepalese restauarant, Gurkha’s Lounge, which I can heartily recommend. I had the coconut lassi (why haven’t I seen that before!?), the chicken biryani and the peshwari naan and enjoyed the lot, although, to be honest, everything the group ordered seemed good.
Detailed Room Ratings