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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.

Posted in Cryptology

Daylight Robbery – Cryptology Nottingham

Game 23

Nottingham seems to be becoming the hub of excellent games. Several companies in the city are really pushing the envelope with the kind of games they are creating and one of those that are at the forefront to this is Cryptology. With venues in both Nottingham and Sheffield, the company seems to be going from strength to strength and now the Nottingham branch has a new game for players to savour, Daylight Robbery. We were lucky enough to be invited to play test the game in its latter stages.

THE STORY

The plan is simple: one hour, your elite team of criminals, and an impenetrable vault. Get in, steal what you can, and get out. Oh, and don’t forget the diamond else you’re dead, alright?

There will be lasers to dodge. There will be security systems to hack. And there will be vault doors to blow to itty pieces.

Almost everything you grab will be yours to keep and will help get you far away from the heat, but whatever you do, you must get the Daylight Diamond. Without the Diamond, the big boss won’t be happy and that means you won’t be living. There’s no point being dead millionaires.

This is the final score, a flawless heist, a curtain call. Are you ready to steal from right under their noses? This is unabashed Daylight Robbery.

THE GAMEPLAY

So, where do we begin with this game. First off, it’s set in an actual vault! Cryptology’s building was a Barclay’s bank and they kindly left the vault behind. Lucky enough for Cryptology, they had a use for that. The game play is split into two uneven halves, the prologue and the unashamed thriller that is the second half. The best way to describe the game is a little like a film. The first part of a movie is always the bit that sets up the main act. It teases the audience, grabs them by the balls and throws them into the action head first. This is exactly what Daylight Robbery does. The first part of the game is a little slower paced. It sets up the action and has enough in the room to keep a group going for the first 15-20 minutes. Everything supports the main action that you are going to encounter once your group has worked out how on Earth you get into that vault. The gameplay throughout is pure joy. There is one moment early on (which I won’t spoil) where one member of your group will be split from the others. Although, as I discovered later on, you can see what they are doing, the laughter that ensues when you can hear the noises makes for an entertaining few minutes.

The game heavily relies on technology, more so than any other game we have played to this point. There are times that reminded us on VX 2.0 by Trapp’d but this goes way beyond that! As you enter the game, you are given your swag bag (more on that later) and a suitcase full of a series of useful gadget. Each come into their own on more than one occasion during the game and the level of sophistication for some of them is beyond anything we’ve seen in an escape room before. One even results in a mini computer game experience!

The game has a great mix of puzzles although it heavily relies on the physical. Much of the game will require you to rush about like a mad man but this is part of the thrill and excitement. Add in the time pressure you are constantly reminded off and it adds up to some serious excitement!

The game also has a slightly different twist on the escape room. If you were to play it for the main objective only, you can get into the room and escape in around 20-25 minutes. The fun comes with the bits you get to do in between. Your swap bag is to collect as much of the contents hidden in the vault. Each is hidden behind some kind of puzzle which requires some kind of logic, maths, word or physical problem. Once collected, each item can be exchanged as a numerical value. The sooner you enter the vault, the more you can begin to collect. Knowing the Daylight Diamond will take you about 10 minutes to collect and with a constant reminder of time, you know exactly what time you have to collect everything you can. The problem is, there is more to collect that you will ever have time for and this, for me, makes the room re-playable. As a two, there were parts of the game we didn’t even touch because of the games large footprint. I reckon we could go back to the game and complete a totally different middle section and with only the beginning and end the same. There is a reliance on maths for a number of the puzzles in the centre of the game but if that frustrates you there is a simpler way of collecting what you need but I’m not going to give away that trick!

If I have to be picky, and this is my being REALLY picky, there is probably an overuse of one of the gadgets. If you have a larger group then each person could take it in turn to use it but as a two it did feel slightly repetitive (I told you it was picky!)

Overall, the game play and flow are outstanding. The sheer number and variation of puzzles is mindblowing and the sense of adventure is unreal. You genuinely feel like you have stepped into Ocean’s 11!

DECOR

IT’S A REAL VAULT! Although a huge amount of work and effort has had to go into the design and construction of the game there are so many elements that still exist from when it was a functioning vault. There is clearly some design genius behind this! No corner has been cut and no idea has been shoddily implemented. I cannot impress enough on just how good it looks and how everything fits perfectly within the game’s theme and story. The decor also ties in the clue system and visual guidance which fits in seamlessly with the game. The fact that I don’t have a huge amount to write about the decor should give you some sense of how flawless the design of this game is.

OVERALL

Cryptology should really be mentioned in the same breath as people such as Xtremescape, Escapologic and Lucardo due to the quality of what they’ve produced with Daylight Robbery yet, it’s a company that can often go below the radar of many people. They are at the top of their craft and the quality they are producing is superb. Out of the countless companies in Nottingham that offer games, they are easily in the top 2. You cannot make an escape getaway to Nottingham without at least on of their games making your list.

Escaped: 59:30 minutes with £802,607.42 worth of valuables

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Escape Stations

Prometheus – Escape Stations

Game 22

Escape Stations is a brand new venture in the centre of Nottingham and we were lucky enough to be invited to play test their first ever game, Prometheus.

It is important to highlight here that we played a very early version of the game and things will certainly change before it opens to the public.

THE STORY

Inspired by the myths of Ancient Greece, our first game invites explorers to uncover the mysterious of a what appears to be a dormant temple, but are there secrets to uncover?
We transport you to Greece where a hotel development has been halted allowing you and your crack team access to what you believe to be a site of cultural significance.

Can you use your surroundings and skill to gain entrance to the mountainside? Will you face and conquer trials set by the God’s or even Zeus himself? Kudos awaits the brave.

THE GAMEPLAY

Being an old Greek taverna in the centre of Nottingham, it’s only fitting that Escape Stations first game was based around the Greek myth of Prometheus. The game play flows really nicely and is a linear/non linear game. There are a series of task you need to complete in order to make progress through the game. Each task has a linearity to it but overall can be completed in any order. Each of those sections comes together beautifully in order for the legend of Prometheus to come to life. We particularly enjoy games that have a physical element to them. Prometheus has these in abundance. In fact, a large proportion of the game had some physical aspect to solving a problem or puzzle. The game also brought a nice mix of logic and word puzzles. Maths puzzles were lacking but as they usually scramble my brain I am more than happy with that!

There are some really lovely teamwork elements in the game. At several points your group needs to be in more than one location in order to solve problems and this brought hilarity due to my inability to describe symbols very well. They’re all Greek to me!

We made good progress through the game and it is signposted well enough that those who have played a few rooms will be able to make progress without too much frustration. I think we only took a couple of clues and they were down to a couple of search fails by ourselves. There was one particular moment that I won’t spoil where one action creates multiple reactions, a nice twist. The game isn’t overly difficult and this is a good game from enthusiasts to get their teeth into but also a good entry level game for those who are new to escaping. If you are experienced and looking for a game to introduce others to without the fear of not escaping, this is a definite place to head to.

DECOR

Decor is a tricky one to write about as the owners were still tinkering with the design and some elements were missing. We fully expected this and it didn’t detract from the experience. There are too distinct themes here and the decor fits both. The Greek temple certainly gives you the feeling of being in somewhere from the past and when it is finished in its entirety, it will look fantastic. The building site on the first half of the game is also going to look great when the owners finish decorating it in the way they want to. It certainly immerses you into the world they want to create.

OVERALL

It’s great to see another new venture opening up in the Midlands and talking to Thomas, the owner, after we played it’s clear he has grand plans for the place. Prometheus is a great start for a first game and seeing the space he has to play with for other games, it’s certainly a company to keep an eye on. Nottingham is slowly becoming the city to visit for your escape weekends away.

Escaped: 42 minutes

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Please not we did not pay to play the game but this did not influence our review.

Posted in Exciting Escapes

Silence is a Virtue – Exciting Escapes

Game 21

While visiting family this Christmas it was time to take on our most southern escape game to date. Having hear such good things about Exciting Escapes we had to pay them a visit and try out the newest room at their Southampton venue, Silence is a Virtue.

THE STORY

There’s no time to spare in Silence is a Virtue, especially when the entire city’s fate rests in your hands…

It’s 1941, a German bomb has crashed through the roof of a local church but it hasn’t exploded… yet.

The only thing that separates your team from success is your wits and cunning. Oh, and the bomb seems to have a slight fault…

Your Mission: In just 60 minutes, you must retrieve the top secret documents from the church before the unexploded bomb detonates and lays waste to the city.

THE GAMEPLAY

Before I start to talk about the game play, I feel it’s important to talk a little about your experience from the very beginning. Placed in the middle of the High Street in Shirley, Southampton is Exciting Escapes original venue. If you didn’t take a look at the sign on the building, you’d probably be a little confused. That is because the inside looks like a very old fashioned tailors. It’s here that your experience begins. It’s very unique for the experience to begin immediately. We’ve only experienced this before at La Mina in Barcelona. You’ve entered a secret establishment and have been recruited as agents to complete missions in different decades. This particular venue has games set in the 1940s, 50s, 70s and 2050. The setup, very reminiscent of Kingsmann, is a superb way to begin the experience. A GM welcomes you and advises on the suit you’ve come to purchase before ushering you into the secret briefing room to discover the reason you are here.

Now, onto the game. Ably hosted by Agent Natalie, we were to enter a local church and retrieve the secret papers hidden inside. The only issue, a bomb has landed in the church and there is a risk it’s going to explode. I won’t give too much away here but this element adds a very tense first part of the game. It’s also very unique and not something we have experienced before. Given the room is setup initially to try and trip you up with the first part of the game certainly adds a very different start and one that is a lot of fun. We aren’t sure if what we are told in the briefing is actually true or not but it was far more fun to play along than test the theory.

Most of the game is fairly logical and there is no great leap of logic needed to solve any of the room. There is a nice mix of puzzles combining the use of logic, observation, physical and number. There are elements of the room that work in a mostly linear way but the middle part of the game opens up to become non-linear and allowed our group of four to split up and try and solve puzzles separately. A larger group would still find enough for them to do but would find the smaller space at the beginning and the end of the game a little difficult and the end could leave them twiddling their thumbs although this doesn’t ruin the overall experience.

The mix of puzzles in the room played to many of our strengths with us only asking for a small number of clues. As I have said previously, most of the puzzles were logical but a couple did leaves us several options in order to solve. Either option were more than plausible and it did lead to some confusion in the group as to which way is right and wrong. Sometimes we felt the mechanics in the room were a little temperamental and this meant we solved a puzzle once with no reaction, tried the opposite with no reaction and had to go back to the original solution before it worked. This may be user error or a sticky switch but this was the only real negative we could find in the rooms game play.

The clue system is another unique part of the game. It ties in beautifully with the idea of being an agent and requires a good GM to keep up the pretense, which Natalie did to great effect. Is the clue system a little cumbersome? Maybe, but it was something different than just a screen with a typed clue.

One thing to point out is that this isn’t an easy game. If you are looking for a game for those who may be inexperienced this probably isn’t the one to begin with, unless you have some really experienced members in your team to pull them along.

DECOR

When you have just entered a building on a high street flanked by an Iceland and a Wilkinsons, it’s very difficult to transport yourself to a totally different place entirely but with the help of some outstanding theming, this is exactly what Silence is a Virtue does. The decor of the entrance through to the game’s final moments are so well themed it immerses you into the game entirely. The room is designed to look and feel like the interior of a 1940s church and no expense has been spared to get it exactly right. The use of space was also excellent. With limited space available, the room effectively created more through its design. This did mean that there was a limit to the number that could participate on rare occasions but this was only for a short period of time. If their other rooms are as well themed as this then they are definitely on our to do list. It doesn’t matter how good a room’s puzzles are, if the decor doesn’t match the game can fall flat. Integrating authentic props into the games puzzles created a very authentic exoerience indeed.

OVERALL

Exciting Escapes are a company that everyone should be putting into their plans. With venues in Southampton, Portsmouth, Croydon and Basingstoke there are plenty to try. Having now tried one, we know we need to go back and try the rest. They are a must visit if you are ever in the area.

Escaped: 54 minutes (given to us on a fridge magnet to take home too)

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Extremescape

The Lost Tomb – Extremescape

Game 20

The second of our double bill at Extremeescape came with a tinge of sadness as it would be our last until they build some more. The final game we took on was the second they built, The Lost Tomb

THE STORY

Your team of adventurers & archaeologists, enter an abandoned gold mine in the heart of the Mexican mountains, your mission is to find the hidden gold. Legend says that the holder of the hidden gold of El Narangel will find the Lost Tomb. The miners left subtle clues & hints, if you use all your skills you may find the hidden gold and ultimately the Lost Tomb but be careful, the miners won’t give up their gold easily.

THE GAMEPLAY

The Lost Tomb is a very difficult one to explain. It’s a non-linear game for the majority but even so it feels like you are playing it in a linear style. In fact, during conversations with the owners, they commented on the fact that many teams will play it like a linear room. The game play is varied. There is a wonderful mix of physical, logic, observation and word problems with a few tricky numbers puzzles thrown in for good measure. The room has a real sense of progress and it’s clear from the outset how well you are doing in the room, or so we thought…

The first part of the game gives you a clear indication of how well you are doing. We felt we had made slow progress due to the amount of time it took us to collect everything we needed and make our way into the second part of the game. It turns out that, with a few clues, we hadn’t fallen behind at all and the game spends a disproportionate amount of time in the spaces. If I’m going to be picky, the final space is so fraught and frantic, you don’t always spend enough time taking in your surroundings. We played the room as a 2 but there is more than enough in the space to occupy a much bigger group than us. This would allow you to begin to complete multiple puzzles at the same time. It will also allow you to search more effectively than we did.

The game also brings the Extremescape sense of humour. Some of the puzzles have you shaking your fists at the creators because they are deceptively simple if you take yourself out of the norm for an escape room. One in particular goes against all escape room conventions but in a fun kind of way.

DECOR

Just like every other space, The Lost Tomb decor is superb. In fact, twice as superb as it brings together two completely different themes and molds them together superbly. The game, as it suggest, takes place in an old mine and the old stable building the game is housed in gives a real feel of a mine, to the point that the creative design uses the building to its fullest. There are several large set pieces that work beautifully and automation is used really well in the space. The authentic look of so much of the room and they way you have to interact with it at times really adds to the immersive feel of the game. Extremescape have really created something, once again, that throws you into the middle of something really fun and creative. One of the pleasing parts of the game is the way in which you are actively encouraged to interact with the space. I loved the ways spaces were revealed to us and, on one particular occasion, how we had to reveal it ourselves in an really fun, physical way.

There is no doubt that the way the game has been designed has meant that the game oozes authenticity. Props and decor come from the era and locations appropriate to the setting. If I am going to be picky, this can throw in some red herrings. There were a few occasions where we come across a set of numbers that we thought would unlock something but they were part of a props design and weren’t useful at all. Some couldn’t be helped but some, with some work, could be removed. As I said, this is a minor issue but one that some people who aren’t a fan of misdirection, accidental or not, may be irked by.

OVERALL

Another wonderful game by Extemeescape. It’s clear that they have learnt over time and having played all of their games there is clear development from Pirate Ship to Lost Tomb and ultimately Vikings. This is truly a 90 minute game. I dare say that very few will complete this in less than the standard 60 minutes unless they are a large VERY experienced group. It’s safe to say that Extremeescape don’t build easy rooms but no matter, they are all worth playing as they are examples of some of the best in the country. Please build more, we are dying to see what is going to come next!

Escaped: 78 minutes

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****

Posted in Extremescape

Viking – Extremescape

Game 19

Since playing Pirate Ship we’ve been itching to go back to Disley and take on their other two games. When your wonderful wife books both games as a surprise for your birthday, you know its going to be a good one!

THE STORY

You have entered the Kingdom of the Viking Gods & you are sat in the House of Thor 

In an attempt to prevent Thor’s succession to the throne of Asgard, Loki, Thor’s menacing brother, has stolen & trapped Thor’s weapon in the golden rings of Aesir.

The ice giants have got word of this, and they know Thor is helpless to protect the human race without his enchanted war-hammer. The giants are on there way, there mission to defeat Thor and destroy earth.

You must find the Gods and return them to Asgard as they will help you in you quest.

You must find the thunder hammer and put it in the sacred place to create a storm like no-one has seen before.

You must release Thor’s Hammer from the golden rings and return it to Thrudheim where it belongs

If you fail you will be the first to die

THE GAMEPLAY

After only playing Pirates Ship, we knew coming to Extremescape meant we were in for a challenge. None of there games are classed as easy and Vikings is no different. This is the smallest game they have with regards to space but what they do with it is truly remarkable. As we have come to expect, the games are a fantastic mix of logic, observation, maths and physical puzzles. Each of these fit perfectly within the realm of the Vikings and nothing at all felt out of place. It is also one of the funniest escape rooms we’ve played to date. The use of humour in this room is brilliant and there are several really laugh out loud moments. Some puzzles even put people in unique positions, places I don’t ever remember seeing before. The game flows really well and although not a linear game, feels a lot like one with many things helping to lead to another. There is also a very clear way of understanding your progress through the game. The beauty of Viking is that the game is fully automated. It means there are many, many, many moments in the game were an action creates a reaction. With not one padlock in the whole game there is a chance to create some beautiful moments and these are endless. We found ourselves working through the room, trying to discover what could activate something we know we still needed to use. It meant a different way of thinking to those rooms which contain more you have to physically manipulate to move on. The ending of the game is simply sublime. It may have contained some maths (not my favourite kind of puzzle), but the physical element of it more than makes up for it and the magical finale is worth the price of the room alone. We played the game as a two and found there to be an abundance of puzzles. Being non-linear meant we could split up on occasion. Larger groups would be able to tackle even more in a shorter space of time.

DECOR

Walking into Viking was like walking onto a film set. The room immersed you into the environment perfectly and it was clear that some real research had gone into the creation of the room . This not a game that has been thrown together and the decor not only complimented the space but also hid anything that you didn’t need just yet. The rooms transformation towards the end of the game is a stroke of genius and, without giving too much away, managed to transform the space totally. The room definitely has that wow factor as you cross the threshold and there isn’t an inch spared without detail. It’s a truly remarkable feat.

OVERALL

Extremescape have created another truly immersive experience. There is a reason they are seen as one of the best in the business because every minute you play their games they are a joy. They could have easily kept this as a 60 minute game but the additional 15 minutes gives you just enough time to take in the visual feast that is such an amazing game.

Escaped: 61 minutes

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty (main game) *****

Overall *****

Posted in Break Escape

The Christmas Cheer Challenge – Break Escape

Game 18

It’s been a while since I have had the chance to play a new game at Break Escape but, with their new Christmas room opening there was no better reason than to give it a go. Hey, it’s November but that’s Christmas season right?!

THE STORY

Santa’s behind on his deliveries and needs more Christmas Spirit to power his sleigh. You as elves in his workshop must find the secret formula for Christmas Spirit and find as much Christmas Cheer as you can before the clock strikes 12 midnight!
Can you and your team make the Christmas Spirit in time to spur Santa on, and gather as much Christmas cheer as you can before your time runs out?!

THE GAMEPLAY

The first thing to say here is that this is a proper escape room. I’d wrongly assumed that as it was a Christmas room and, in theory, it has a limited appeal each year, that it would be a cheesy, easy to play, festive bit of fun. How wrong I was. This is a proper escape room. It has some really decent puzzles and a really nice mix to boot. Designed to be accessible for the whole family, there is something for everyone to get there teeth into. It’s also a game with a slightly unusual twist. It’s has a 100% escape rate. Here, it’s not about if you escape but more about how well. The room comes in two parts, the first, the need to fix the elves machine in order to be able to create more Christmas spirit. The second part is about collecting as much Christmas cheer as you can in order to convert to Christmas Spirit. Uniquely, the first part of the game is the only thing you need to do to escape. The collection of Christmas cheer is optional and the puzzles you need to crack to gain cheer increase in difficult. Here, it makes it a little difficult to give it a difficulty rating. The initial machine puzzles aren’t too difficult on the whole but the second half really does get the brain matter working. Progress in the game is made really clear as the machine reacts that what you do. There are some really nice touches and things that the kids will really enjoy. In addition, some hidden surprises and at least one moment that I’ve never seen in an escape room before. The room has a good mixture of physical, logic and observation puzzles as well as a good amount of searching. Some are genuinely clever and make you smile when you eventually work them out. As you make your way through the cheer puzzles, the very fitting Tinsel the elf updates you on the percentage of cheer you’ve collected. Collecting 100% cheer will be a real challenge, even for enthusiasts. There is no messing here, Break Escape have created a room that really does have a level of difficulty that can differentiate depending on your level of experience, without taking away the enjoyment. You also get your money’s worth because, unless you finish all the cheer puzzles early (unlikely), you’ll get your full 60 minutes, something many enthusiasts haven’t done for some time!

DECOR

The room is amazing! Some Christmas rooms you can see how it has been made on a budget. Break Escape have splashed some serious cash on the room and the result is something very complete. The quality of what they have done really does immerse you in a Christmas fantasy. Every prop and puzzle has been carefully considered in order to give a real feel to the room. You can even dress up too! If this room doesn’t get you into the Christmas spirit then you might as well give up on Christmas completely! Beautifully designed and beautifully themed and a really great addition to the line up already available at Break Escape.

OVERALL

Another great game for the whole family. If you are looking for a Christmas room that will challenge and enchant you then look no further. This is the perfect addition to your Christmas.

Escaped: 60:00 with 75% cheer collected

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty (main game) *****

Difficulty (Cheer) *****

Overall *****

Posted in The Panic Rooms

Old Father Time – The Panic Rooms

Game 17

I love impromptu escape games and this was one of them. Being half an hour from The Panic Rooms and suddenly having a free evening it was time to play our first room at one of their venues.

THE STORY

It’s New Year’s Eve and Old Father Time – The master of the most powerful force of nature – has gone missing! Without him, the clocks won’t reset at midnight and the sands of time will run out – permanently!

The effects have already started – the forest creatures have started turning to stone, and in 60 minutes, the waves of time will cease to ripple and the rest of the world will follow suit! Start a new chapter and work together to explore a beautiful tree cabin straight from the pages of a fantasy novel to discover the secrets inside. A mystical fairy tale escape room awaits where time is more important than ever!

THE GAMEPLAY

The Game Center’s around a storybook, one that cleverly helps to tell the story you are playing out. Not only does it do a great job at immersing you in the story, it also helps to show the amount of progress you are making through the game. The game is a mix tide of linear and non linear and flows beautifully. There are several aha moments and nothing within the gameplay feels forced or out of place. The puzzles are wide ranging and, as the website states, fairly accessible for children aged 8 and up. There is a frustrating sound puzzle but once you take a step back and take it in it becomes less complicated than you first think. The room provides a countdown clock and both audio and visual clues. If I was to give one piece of advice, don’t overthink things. Often the answer can be as simple as it first seems.

DECOR

The room real feels like you have entered a fairytale. The decor is perfectly themed and really well done. The nice thing about the room is that, although the theme is thorough, there are distinct areas that work beautifully together. The decor does a superb job of immersing you in the world your are playing in. We really struggle to fault it. If we were nitpicking, there is one prop that can move (although it shouldn’t) and reveals a large selection of wires and extension plugs. It didn’t ruin the game in the slightest, we were worried we might have pulled out something important in the game. Thankfully we didn’t! A beautiful room and one that it perfectly tailored for families.

OVERALL

If you are looking for a game for the whole family this is a perfect one to play. There are puzzles for all ages and the family can really enjoy this together. Puzzles are not overly difficult and it’s a very fun and entertaining hour.

Escaped: 30:42

Theme *****

Decor *****

Gameplay *****

Difficulty *****

Overall *****