Outside the room
I’d heard good things about Thinking Outside the Box so, alongside Mrs Logic, I decided to book in for both their games. They’re located right in the heart of Peterborough (probably best to park in the Market car park) and only a few minutes’ walk from Escape Peterborough (if you want to pack a bunch of games together).
At the time of writing, they have two games, Merlin and Stranded, with us choosing to do their original shipwreck-themed game as a warm-up before heading on to the more difficult magical experience.
On arrival we were welcomed by the two owner-hosts, who were fun and keen to show us all that they’d been up to. They obviously love creating puzzles, as there’s a wide selection of hand-made ones sitting on display in their waiting area. It’s well worth a play with their various wooden games if you get the chance.
Jumping from a sinking ship you find yourself marooned on a desert island. As you come to your senses you notice, someone has been here before, but how did they escape? No food, little water, you realise you have 60 minutes at most to find a way off the island or you will surely perish.
Experience the island, explore new ways of thinking, escape if you can.
Inside the room
Stranded has an in-game intro which is part recording, part live acted and entirely original. The story has you awakening on a desert island, and the addition of eye masks to take you into the room and throughout the intro resulted in a very dreamlike start to the game. My enforced lack of vision forced me to use my imagination to conjure up the story we were being told, focusing on listening rather than trying hard not to look round the room. It also heightened that sense of magic when we finally got to take the eye masks off and survey the room in front of us. I’ve been in several rooms that start you off blindfolded, but this is the first where it truly added to the experience.
It’s a pretty-looking room too, with all that you could really want from a desert island. There are grand gestures to carry the theme but also little details that really add to the immersion. The story isn’t expanded on massively, but throughout the game you slowly pick up a little more of the character’s experience via various sources.
The puzzles are varied, with both physical and logic offerings as well as some more traditional observational moments and the odd riddle. Where the game excelled was when dealing with our means of escape. There were two fun puzzles at either end of the technology spectrum. I love companies that manage to merge high- and low-tech solutions in the same game without it feeling forced. Here it most definitely wasn’t.
After spending a few minutes in the room, it doesn’t come as a surprise that clues are given on theme. I won’t explain how they do it, but it’s a variant on a relatively rare technique used elsewhere but customised to make it fit perfectly.
You’ll have a fair amount to do in this game, so you’ll want to be moving reasonably quickly throughout. Consequently, the last few steps are likely to be under time pressure, so it’s unfortunate that one of the last puzzles you have to solve has a slightly weak solution – too many of the constituent parts are ambiguous in a puzzle that really felt like it shouldn’t be. It’s a minor gripe, though, and the overall end sequence makes such good sense in the storyline that you should probably make like a beach to the sea and just let it wash over you.
We escaped with a couple of minutes to spare having taken two or three clues.
Stranded is a delightful game to play. From the first word of the introduction to the moment you make it back to the mainland, your time is filled with fun moments. It’s a beautiful room with good hosting, solid puzzles and enough story to keep you engaged.
Note that there are two variants of this room. We played the normal mode but they can swap out two sets of puzzles to make it more accessible for young children. The game was enjoyable enough that we went back with our 6-year-old and 8-year-old and had plenty of fun the second time round. Some of the puzzles were a bit tough, but we helped them through those and left them alone to solve the easier challenges.
If you’re playing the normal mode, I’d recommend three or four enthusiasts; and maybe one more if you’re playing as beginners.
Detailed Room Ratings