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Hello and Welcome

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Hello and welcome to Breaking Out a Habit. I’ve been playing escape rooms for a little while now and although I am a little late to the game, I thought it was time I shared some of my thought on the games I’ve played.

I know what you are thinking “Here we go, someone else who wants to share their opinion to the word”. Yes, in essence, you are right but only because I want to share my enthusiasm for what I enjoy. This isn’t my first foray into the world of reviews. For the past ten years I have been owner and host of the Disneybrit Radio Show. A show that talks all things Disney in the UK, Paris and the USA. If that’s your sort of thing, go and give it a look.

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Posted in Escape Game

Journal 29

NOT AN ESCAPE ROOM

When I started to use this one, it soon became apparent that, although this isn’t an escape room it certainly appeals to the Escape Room crowd. Advertised as an “Interactive Book Game”, the idea it to solve the contents of the book in order to gain the keys needed to solve puzzles further into its pages.

According to its official release:

Journal 29 is a unique book game where you can solve riddles and puzzles and submit your answers online to get the keys and move forward.
To solve the riddles, you need to think out of the box.

You can write, draw, search, fold pages, combine different methods and try to get those riddles right.
Journal 29 is a 148 page book providing over 63 riddles you can solve.

As an Escape Room enthusiast you can imagine it peaked my interest so, I decided to grab myself a copy and see what it was all about

The Story

A top secret excavation did not bring any result for 28 weeks.
It was on the 29th week that something unexpected happened.
The team disappeared and the only thing that was left behind was their Journal.
You must solve the riddles in order to solve the mystery.

Gameplay

Gameplay is probably the wrong title for this section but the book does play a little like a game. It requires you to use some out of the box thinking in order to solve each puzzle. Then, once you have the answer you visit the web address provided with the puzzle and enter the answer. Get it correct and you receive a key. This key may come in useful later in the book. Sometimes it is a very straightforward solution and sometimes the logical leap expected of you by the author leaves you thinking “WTF?!”

If you do find yourself stuck, there is a forum online that allows you to gain hints to solve the puzzles and people have handily written step by step solutions to puzzles too. There are no hints or answers in the book itself. So, if you find yourself in a location with no internet connection and an unfathomable problem, it’s going to niggle away at you until you can get help. For a book, the puzzles actually vary in style and there are some really nice surprising way in which you need to use the Journal 29 website and elements of the book that you thought were there purely for decoration. Just like an escape room, a snazzy piece of design or decoration can turn out to be something very vital further down the line.

You will become addicted, you will want to throw it out a 30 Storey window or hope it’s taken away in a burglary at times, but for those who love puzzles and won’t get the chance to play an escape room for a while. This will certainly scratch an itch. If you are the kind of person who likes to keep your books pristine, steers very clear. Mine looks like it’s been through several world wars.

The book explains that you will only need a small handful of things to complete it

On the whole, what you needed was correct. I guess I was a little annoyed to find that the what you need section wasn’t entirely accurate, specifically for one puzzle. Knowing what I needed I didn’t have to hand at the time, I had no choice but to find out the answer. There was no way of solving it otherwise.

In addition to much of the content in the book, it does require you to find out a lot of things from Google. As Escape Room fans, we are used to the answers being readily available. Here, you will need to do a little research.

Finally, the story. I like how the author has tried to create a backstory to engage the player. The truth is, the story is pretty meaningless and although some of the puzzle designs fit in with some kind of experimental theme they really aren’t vital. It works as a puzzle book without the need for the contrived and unexplained backstory.

Verdict

On the whole this is a lot of fun. It’s well thought out and proves a challenge to many. The only downside is the puzzles are hide really do require a massive logical leap, the kind we would often complain about if it was found in an Escape Room. Regardless of this, it’s a sold game to keep you entertained.

Overall *****

Posted in Hour Escape

Escape the Gallery – Hour Escape

Game 7

Loughborough has more than one Escape Room and with a third opening soon, we thought it was best we went and tried out Hour Escape. They have two rooms and this time round we played Escape the Gallery

THE STORY

You and your team have been caught stealing a priceless work of art. Security are holding you until the police arrive in 60 minutes. Do you have what it takes to escape the gallery in time?

THE GAMEPLAY

This game is fairly linear in style and one of the things we enjoyed about it was that we always felt that we were making progress. Not only because we had a good number of puzzles to complete but also because there was a side quest to the game that would happily keep people busy for hours.

We played the game as a team of two and found there was more than enough to keep us going for an hour. Much of the game does rely heavily on numbers and there are often repetitions of find a code, translate to numbers and then find a padlock to make progress to your next step. The way they are presented means there is some variety in the game but looking back you do realise how number heavy the game is. Most puzzles in the room will allow you to put 2 and 2 together to make 4 (pun intended), there is one puzzle that requires you to have a little bit of art knowledge to solve but common sense should prevail if you think about it long enough. On the whole, the majority of the games offers up clues as to what steps to take next. There are a few puzzles which really do require some assistance from your games master as they are not at all obvious and are unlikely to be, as they really require a leap of logic that is not very obvious. There are some very clever puzzles in the room, one in particular that we’ve never come across before and I enjoyed particularly. It is clear to see that the owner has thought about different ways to present the puzzles. Dan spent time after the game going through the puzzles and showing some quick ways to solve some of them. I’ll be honest, there has been some real thought into how they fit in but they are way to obscure for 99% of people who play escape rooms. None the less, some clever thinking and little touches Dan, the owner, is proud of. I am a sucker for the clever little touches!

One final point about the game play. The side quest involves you doing a lot of searching. There are a fair amount to find as you need to search for jewels, rings and cash hidden all over the room. The more you collect, the more you can take from your overall time. One of the things you are told before you go in is that you are welcome to make as much mess as you want in the room and, you really can pull the room apart. I can imagine that resetting this room after some people have gone to town on it could take some time! I think we were quire reserved in comparison.

DECOR

We all know that Art Galleries are often blank white spaces with painting spaced out well. The good news is that this room isn’t just white walls and the odd painting. Yes, there is a large amount of white walls but there are enough elements thrown in to make you feel like there is more of a theme to the room. The aim of the room is that you must escape from an art gallery because you’ve attempted to steal a painting. My gripe is that the second room, although well themed, doesn’t quite fit in with the gallery idea. We liked the look of the room but there was little explanation with regards to how this might have fit into the theme and story of the gallery. The Gallery space itself was well themed and there was clever use of visual clues to help solve the second part of the game. It’s hard to make a gallery make you go wow and compared to other rooms we’ve done, the theming was close to the mark but not quiet there. This didn’t detract from the entertainment value at all, it was still a solid room to play.

OVERALL

I left feeling a little torn about the game. I often try to review something based on how much I enjoyed playing it and , I can say I certainly did. It was a lot of fun. But, I can’t help feel that sometimes we weren’t given enough time to try and solve somethings ourselves. A few times we were already on the right track and we were given a clue a little prematurely. It did take a way a little of the “I did it by myself” feeling and I think I commented out loud a couple of times that I was already doing it. Clues come from a computer screen and a times, a clue can be a little bit of a walk to go and read it so having a clue to something you are mid way through solving can be a little tedious. Having said this, there are some nice elements of humour used on the screen.

This was Hour Escape’s first room so I’d love to go back and try some of their others. The Abandoned Cabin sounds like a totally different experience and, having spoken to Dan after the game, Pandemic and Snatched sound like they could be something totally different again. A good evening of entertainment which will certainly entertain many an escaper, if it doesn’t always challenge.

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Extremescape

Pirate Ship – Extremescape

Game 6

On a trip up to Manchester for a weekend away, it was the perfect excuse to drop into Extremeescape and play our first game with them. We decided that we’d start with the first room they built, Pirate Ship, a 90 minute room located in Disley, just outside of Stockport.

The Story

A long time ago on the Caribbean seas sailed the Spanish Galleon, Castoria.
Captained by Zak Barrow and crewed by a gang of murderers & merciless cutthroats. Plundering ships of all kinds along India’s Malabar coast, Barrow was a Pirate, one of the most infamous Pirates of all time.

Barrow’s ship Castoria battled with the India Merchant, a huge treasure ship of 350 tons. In rough seas, the merchant vessel fired but due to a sudden ocean swell, the shot missed its mark. The pirates threw their grappling hooks, bringing the two ships together. And rapidly boarded the ship, soon Captain Barrow was in the possession of one of the greatest pirate treasures ever.

The ship disappeared in 1722 and was not seen again until now!

THE GAMEPLAY

Before you even enter the room, the game is set up brilliantly. It’s not often that you are given a perfectly themed pre-show room, but Pirate Ship sets up the story beautifully before the automatic doors open. This is probably one of the best starts to any game we’ve experienced. We knew from this point that we were in for a real treat!

Pirate Ship is a non-linear game. Just like many non-linear, the majority of the game is available to you from the start. The game brings a really great mixture of different puzzles but does heavily rely on riddles at times. We played as a pair and found that the room had more than enough for the maximum 8 that it can hold. The beauty of the room is that it really gets you to think. There are some very clever and devious ways of presenting clues and it was wonderful how the room had some many wonderful touches that until you came to a point in the game where you needed them you hadn’t quiet looked at them in the right way. This is down to the games design and the cleverly crafted clues.

We found that we could happily work together on puzzles to help us make progress but there were a couple of times that we separated to work on something different. Neatly, everything comes together in the end to a really rousing finale. Experienced gamers will find some really unique puzzles in here as well as some moments where they will recognise what to do straight away. There is a real sense of progress all the way through the game.

Aha moments abound in this room too. Sudden realisations that truly fill you with joy because of the precise nature of the puzzles. Each and every one is perfectly themed to the game. There is not one puzzle in the room that felt shoehorned. The room is fairly padlock heavy but the style and way in which they are used keep the game fresh and different. There was no point that we became bored of opening another padlock due to the variety of ways we had to come to the solution. And, for those who can’t keep numbers in their head, don’t worry, there items provided to keep your notes.

The game is not just about the puzzles, it’s also about the storytelling and the real feeling of an adventure. With time running out, we really felt like it was a true race to the end and made for a truly exhilarating finale. The games is amazing all the way through but the last 6-7 minutes were truly exceptional.

With regards to clues, the game uses several systems. Escapees can use coins found around the room (I’m not telling you how many) in order to pay for clues. These come via on screen hints. The parrot is also a wonderful source of help.

During the game, we only used 3 clues, a relatively low number we came to understand, particularly for a group of 2. If I have one gripe (and this room is genuinely so good it’s the only nit picky thing I can think of), we were on track for solving a puzzle, although not necessarily in the way the game was designed. We were a matter of seconds away from solving it and were provided with a hint that took us to the same outcome but took us slightly longer. I told you it was nit picky!

DECOR

This is where Pirate Ship comes into its own. The room is stunning! Potentially one of the most beautifully crafted rooms we have ever had the pleasure of playing. There is so much detail in the room, you spend the first few minutes just admiring the craftsmanship. I’m not sure that words could really do it justice! The amount of details in this room really do take some getting used to. It is so well crafted you feel like every single elements must be part of the game. The joy of it is that there are some red herrings in here that add to the theme and decor insanely well.

The additional joy of this room is that it has more than one location. Again, each one beautifully themed. My only disappointment is that we didn’t get long enough in all areas to fully appreciate how well is has been designed and built. It’s clear that there has been a lot of love gone into building this room.

OVERALL

I cannot fault this room. Everything about it places Extremescape as one of the most impressive escape room companies in the country. These rooms are worth travelling for. This room was their first foray into escape rooms so I can only imagine that The Lost Tomb and Vikings are on another level. These has just gone to the top of my must do list. We will be making a return trip to Disley very, very soon!

ESCAPED: 88.39 with 3 clues.

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Break Escape

The Enchanted Forest – Break Escape

Game 5

This was our final trip to Break Escape as we got to experience their newest game, The Enchanted Forest. Having heard nothing but good things about the room, we couldn’t wait to get in and see what it was all about!

THE STORY

A portal has been discovered that leads through to another world. The realm is under the control of a dark enchantress, and the forest sleeps. Can you wake it, and find a rare blue gem before the enchantress and make your escape?!

THE GAMEPLAY

The Enchanted Forest is a very non-linear game. The beauty of it is that there is so much to do you will always be able find something to keep your group occupied. We did this room as a group of four and found that splitting into groups of 2 or, at times working on things on our own was the way forward. The game offers a huge amount of variety in its puzzles. There is a great mix of logic, visual, mathematical, physical, skill and word puzzles meaning there is something in the room for every skills set. The beauty of the room is that although it is non-linear for the most part, you can always tell you are making progress. Each puzzle gives a definitive end and it becomes clear early on the aim of, at least, the first element of the main room. I would even argue that there is so much to do, if you didn’t discuss what you did with others and avoided the puzzles you had completed the first time, you could play it more than once and have a totally different experience.

After the initial start (which is a wonderful beginning), don’t feel disheartened that it will take a little while to get into your stride. All of the first phase puzzles for the room are available to you, it’s just simply working out what goes with what. It took us a good 6 or 7 minutes once in the room to begin to group things together in order to begin solving puzzles.

Phase three of the room brought yet more wonderful surprises and a really nice touch. Again, the theme and story were brought well into play and it was a nice change of pace and a nice variety of puzzles that help bring the room to a climax. It was almost like you had been presented with a new room! Everything in this game has been so meticulously thought through. There is not a single puzzle I didn’t like and not a single moment I didn’t enjoy.

I haven’t mentioned the start yet. The entrance to the room is one of the more unique we’ve played and certainly gave us the wow factor. There is also a really amazing way to reach the main room. I’ll give nothing away but it still my favourite way of progressing through a story and I’m amazed no one had done it before. There was certainly a squeal of excitement from our group when we realised just what it was!

One of the unique elements of the The Enchanted Forest was the side mission that became part of the game. Embedded into the room were physical puzzles that enabled the group to obtain precious lifestones (golden golf balls). Obtaining these would reduce you final time, as long as you escaped within 60 minutes. Each ball took off three minutes of your time. We decided to avoid these and concentrated on the important puzzles. The owners, Tom and Jak, came to see us at the end and showed us how to complete each puzzle. It’s all in the technique is all we will say.

Don’t get me wrong, this room is hard. Like, really hard, but there were two clue systems in play in the room. Throughout, a very wise and helpful owl provided us with hints and tips. There was also the occasional appearance from the Enchantress herself but how I will keep a mystery.

DECOR

Every single element was so in keeping with the theme and the attention to detail was phenomenal. There were so many new and unique elements to the set design it would be impossible for me to list them all. The room was stunning and I would go as far to say as one of the best examples of room design we have seen so far. I cannot praise Break Escape enough for the craftsmanship and creativity that has gone into planning and delivering such an immersive experience. Even if you suck at Escape Rooms, it’s worth the visit to The Enchanted Forest just to marvel at their handiwork.

OVERALL

By far the most immersive, detailed and complete escape room we have ever done. Also, the hardest escape room we have ever done. If this is the direction Break Escape are heading with any future rooms then they are definitely a force to be reckoned with. It is clear that the owners, Jak and Tom, have a passion for the industry and this shines through in their design, puzzles and overall theme. If there were Escape Room awards, this should win all of them! You NEED to book this room, and now! ESCAPED: 58.31

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Break Escape

The Sands of Time – Break Escape

Game 4

I know, I know, back at Break Escape Loughborough again! It was here that I first fell in love with Escape Rooms so, of course, I have to do all of the rooms they have on offer! This time, 3 of us took on the challenge of Dr Nubis and the Sands of Time

THE STORY

There’s a strong rumour about a treasure hunter finding lost gems within a tomb known as The Sands Of Time. Dr Nubis could never escape which was believed to be because of his greed. He’s set an array of puzzles & traps to make sure no one else can get their hands on his loot. Do you have what it takes to go one step further?!?!

THE GAMEPLAY

This was Break Escape’s first room and in return is their most basic on face value. This is also their most linear room and works well with a smaller group of people. We played as a three and found that this was the perfect number for us. You can play this with up to 6 people but you may find that if it takes time for you to problem solve you may have people stood around with little to do. The room has a really good mixture of puzzles. I found that it was the most physical room and gave me a very Crystal Maze feel. The theming certainly made me feel I could have been in the Aztec Zone. The game requires a large amount of searching and collecting and we found our stride gathering as much as we could, even though we didn’t necessarily know what we needed to do with them straight away. We would have been much quicker too if it hadn’t been for a massive search fail on my part! Communication skills are key in this game. The entire game is played in the dark and your team has to work together as there is only a small number of torches between you. Your ability to describe and communicate clearly will make a big difference between you escaping our being buried alive in the rubble of the temple. The game play also requires you to be physically active. There are times all of you will need to crawl through smaller spaces. If you have someone with claustrophobia, don’t let them be the one to go in first. The clue system for the game is delivered by walkie talkie. I know that this isn’t many people’s favourite form of communication but it certainly fits with the theme of the game.

DECOR

The room is very well themed and you wouldn’t think that it is such a basic room. The combination of well thought out props and low light levels give it the feel of an ancient tomb. There are some really nice set pieces in the room that not only add to the theme but also become important in your game play. Those who fancy dressing up, you’ll be pleased to know that there is plenty to wear to get you into the spirit of the game.

OVERALL

This may be one of the most basic on face value but due to the combination of puzzles, physical elements and theme, it is one of my favourite rooms at Break Escape. It shows that you don’t have to have massive set pieces and oodles of technology for a game to be enjoyable. If you’ve never done an escape room before or are looking for a good entry level room for younger family members, this room is perfect. Having said that, its such a good room, enthusiasts will love it too! Escaped 50:10

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Break Escape

Nerve Klink – Break Escape

Game 3

Having previously played Boiling Point at Loughborough’s Break Escape it was a return visit to take on something completely different, their horror room, Nerve Klinik!

Let me start this review by saying that I have worked in the scare industry in the past. I’ve had the privilege of creating plenty of jump scares so I was apprehensive of whether or not an escape room can really be that scary. After all, they can’t turn you into a quivering wreck and halter your escape…… or can they? After all, its the only game at Break Escape that requires you to sign a waiver before entering.

THE STORY

Your friend Sarah Jones had been looking into a way of making quick money and decided to take part in an experiment for a new drug at Dr Greuber’s clinic. Since Sarah left you haven’t heard from her so have decided to head over to the clinic to check that everything is okay. Upon entering, it’s very clear that Dr Greuber doesn’t run a normal clinic! He doesn’t appreciate unwanted visitors and is said to have laid traps around his workplace to gas potential victims if they aren’t clever and brave enough to escape within 60 minutes!

THE GAMEPLAY

Well, the atmosphere begins before you even get into the room. Ally, our games master for the day did a fantastic job at building up the story and putting everyone on edge before you even get in. We were a group of 4 this time and one of us was clearly showing their fears as Ally brilliantly terrorised them for the entire hour! With such an effective build up, you know that you are going to be in for an hour of real fun.

The game is a mixture of puzzles and all of them fit perfectly with the theme of the room. There are some really unique problems to solve and all of this happens while Dr Grueber makes his presence felt. One of the things I love so much about this room is that because you are so focused on solving your problems, you often forget that he’s around and therefore his appearance can often be a surprise. Not only, because you are focused, but also because he can appear from literally anywhere!

The other positive of this room is its size. The room is big enough that your group can feel separated and isolated, particularly if your group is small. There are times where the group may need to too and fro from different rooms in order to collect items you may need. Some of those items often seem like set dressing until later in the game. There is also a really unique element that helps to expand the games space and will truly offer a terrifying moment for at least one of your team. I can still hear the scream!!

The games puzzles are so well designed that it takes some time before you begin to realise that everything you’ve been doing through the games leads to one big meta puzzle finale. By that point, much of the group had been terrified enough for their brain to be scrambled and we need to take a step back, restock and try and solve it again. It brings the game to a really satisfying conclusion.

With this being a horror room, the game play is slightly different to the way you may find in other rooms. Where as non-scary rooms often allow you to play out your game with trial and error, Nerve Klinik often pushes you through the game. The good thing is that this in no way takes away from the enjoyment, the fun and the fear.

The room uses two clue systems. The first, an evil spirit who will play with your mind while throwing obscenities at you. Part of the fun is throwing them back (the game is 16+ for a reason). This adds an element of humour in the game that perfectly juxtaposes the fear. The second system is totally unique and couldn’t fit more perfectly into the game if it tried.

THE DECOR

It’s clear that the owners of Break Escape have meticulously planned the design and set up of Nerve Klinik. The game’s look combines the grotesque and the sinister perfectly and the two main game areas compliment each other so well. One, brings the clinical macabre world of Dr Grueber to life while the second brings a pristine, sinister feel to it. The use of lighting, sound and room decoration add to the atmosphere of the room and puzzles are intricately sewn into its environment. This all adds to the unsettling feeling you get throughout the game.

OVERALL

This is a truly great experience with enough scares to keep you on your toes. Some people talk about the scariest escape rooms in the UK and Nerve Klinik is often mentioned and with good reason. There is enough in here to scare even the most hardened individual. After speaking to our GM after the game, a handful of people have apparently wet themselves and it’s not uncommon for people to quit the game before it has finished. The escape room elements doesn’t suffer at all with the puzzles and scares going hand in hand. The only question is, are you brave enough to book appointment with Dr Greuber? Escaped 58:42

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Escape Leicester

Witchcraft and Wizardry – Escape Leicester

Game 2

Before we could begin to attempt to Escape from Escape Leicester we had to find the place. Located in the centre of the city, it doesn’t have a big grand entrance to advertise you’ve arrived, instead it is situated on one floor of an office block. We were there to play their magic themed game Witchcraft and Wizardry. This was a trip for my wife’s birthday. With her being a mad Harry Potter fan, we thought this would be a good game for the 4 of us to play.

THE STORY

Having graduated from the school of witchcraft and wizardry, you’ve suddenly been brought back. Only this time, you sense something sinister at work. The professor has gone mad. Mad with power. You’ve been sealed inside the room and within an hour he will extract all magic from you. Stripped of your wand and powers, you must use your wits to retrieve your wand and escape before you lose all magic forever.

We arrived to a friendly welcome at Escape Leicester and it the host was very chatty wishing my wife a very happy birthday. They asked how many rooms we had done before and where these were and seemed genuinely interested in our experiences. The venue seemed strangely quiet for a Friday evening so we had plenty of time to get ourselves organised before we went in.

THE GAMEPLAY

The game itself has a good variety of puzzles and on the whole these are themed to the idea of witches and wizards. Although we found the puzzles to be good quality, we sometimes found that puzzles didn’t always help us progress in the game and we had to ask for a clue in order to work out a next step. There are a couple of puzzles we felt were thrown in because they helped the game progress rather than being in keeping with the theme. We’ve found this can often be an issues with franchised rooms. rather than being created by the owners, they are run by a franchisee whose passion hasn’t always gone into making it.

Clues for the game were delivered by a screen built into the room. I prefer there to be a little more invention in the way a clue may be delivered as the screen didn’t real fit in with the theme. You were also required to dance for a clue. I’m all for making a fool of myself and don’t have an issue with doing a silly dance but for me the GM should be keeping a closer eye on the game in order for clues to be offered rather than waiting until we dance. I fear the GM may have been running multiple rooms as it often took some time for the clue to arrive. This also felt it took away a little from the theme.

THE DECOR

The theming of the room was really well done. It certainly exuded witches and wizards but it’s not an homage to Harry Potter. There was some nice touches and the room hid some of the mechanics of the game very well. I felt that time and effort had gone into the build by the owners of Escape Leicester and every space was packed with details.

OVERALL

A good escape room although I’d think about visiting other companies in the area before returning to do another of their rooms. The theming stood out but was a little let down by the game play. The story of the room also felt a little shoe horned as much of the game didn’t really reference the professor. Escaped 57:22

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****