Could you puzzle your way out of a locked room in under an hour with only a couple of friends to help you? Grab your most trusted companions and sharpen those minds for one of London’s live escape games, which offer the sort of challenges that will have fans of 'The Crystal Maze' yelling at their teammates within minutes.
Being set inside South Kentish Town tube station, which closed to the public in 1924, is part of the appeal of this WWII-themed escape game effort, with staff dressed in 1940s army gear and corridors pumped with dry ice as you enter the building. It’s an impressive visual spectacle – more than just an escape game, it's also a chance to peek into a lost slice of London history.
There may well be more to being recruited as a spy than an hour of codebreaking, briefcases and teamwork, but if it’s even half as exciting in real life as this escape game then it’s no wonder MI5 is so selective. Cluequest sees a team of 3-5 players get locked in a room that they won’t be able to escape from until they’ve solved enough puzzles to unlock every last lock in the place – and there are loads. Fast-paced, challenging and win-a-minute, even teams who don’t get out in time will have plenty to celebrate.
This immersive team game isn't quite an escape game (not least because you're not really trying to escape) but is built on the same main premise: work as a team to solve puzzles and complete the challenge within an hour. It's also themed to an extent no other game we've experienced has managed, with an innuendo-drenched storyline woven throughout the clues, a cobweb-spattered spooky set and a creepily convincing (and hilarious) performance from the game's host, Gabriel.
Imagine the escape game equivalent of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and you’re pretty close to this crowd-funded Brixton-based live action experience. There's only one game here, which means they’ve gone all out with impressively theming the venue to their concept. The decor's great, the puzzles are enjoyably tricky (only about 50% of people succeed) and they’re also helpfully generous about timings – if you’re really struggling at the end of the hour, you’ll find an extra few minutes tacked on.
This is the sort of escape game that could only have been made a few years into the genre’s lifespan: cleverly subverting a few of the usual tropes in a way that has the potential to cheekily wrongfoot seasoned players. It’s also a tad trickier than a lot of games – they claim that there’s only a 50 percent success rate. We’re not sure it was quite as hard as that, but we’re certain of one thing: it’s our favourite escape game we’ve played in a while.
London’s original escape game is a solid combination of thinking, scrabbling and storyline that will have you so determined to win that you’ll find yourself trying to fish non-existent keys out of hot lamps as if health and safety was never a thing. There are some very inventive puzzles along the way, and the mounting urgency – which will have your team bouncing around the room like bees in a jar by the end – only makes the conclusion even sweeter.
Those of a nervous disposition, look away now: Enigma Escape is a problem-solving, team-working one-hour escape challenge with a gory plot at its centre. 'The Killer' is pleasingly physical – you won't need muscle or anything but it's fun to be solving puzzles by actually doing things rather than just thinking really hard – and the plot makes complete sense (in a 'True Detective' season one sort of way, at least).
This impressively ambitious escape game is the first I've tried where your team is immediately divided. Given the game we played was called 'The Penintentiary' we should have seen it coming, but being locked into prison cells is a surprising and suitably fun way to kick off our time in the warren of rooms it was our task to escape from. The rooms aren't beautiful but the theming is strong, and the puzzles unusual. And this could be as close as you'll get to a real-life prison break.
There’s a hostage situation in a shopping centre. You’ve locked yourself in the womens’ changing rooms. You’ve got an hour to help to free the hostages and escape. This is not the greatest shopping trip you’ve ever been on. It is, however, a thoroughly fun escape game. Puzzles involve a good mix of scrabbling around the room for hidden gear and racking your brains to try to solve tricksy codes.
This magical experience takes its theme from literature's most famous boy wizard. Your team of three-to-five must graduate from a school of witchcraft and wizardry by solving puzzles and tracking down clues. The runes, potions, charms and spells are held in specially designed rooms that are brimming with detail and clever surprises, so your hard thinking is rewarded at each turn.
There’s nothing like being locked in a room full of lasers to really tickle the old adrenaline glands, especially when every beam broken means a penalty for your team. Once you’ve established which of your three-to-six players is most nimble, Escape Rooms’ one-hour games will confront you with plenty of exciting effects to keep you all on your toes.
It’s World War two. You’ve been captured by the Nazis, and, well… given that this is an escape game, you can probably figure out the next bit. You’re following the lead of Bob Hails, not only the other prisoner to have escaped the P.O.W. camp you’re locked in, but also a gent kind enough to have left you a trail of clues to follow.
The white breezeblock building this three-game operation is set in doesn’t exactly scream ‘fiendish magnificence’. But there’s a trio of surprisingly well thought out games here, at least one of which has an astonishingly good mid-game twist (we could be clearer, but trust us: you don’t want the surprise ruined). Action’s much more orientated around searching than wrestling with MENSA-like puzzles, so is a good intro to the escape game beginner.
Seek out London's hidden treasures
You've forgotten yourself thanks to immersive theatre and remembered teamwork in London's escape games. Now what? The whole city is your playground with these immersive games and London treasure hunts which use top attractions and London areas as the setting for your adventure.
Lady Chastity's Reserve, Hackney
This marvellously silly immersive team puzzle (a sort of cross between an escape game and the 'Mumsy' challenge in 'The Crystal Maze') has already spooked and amused many a team at its original venue in Battersea, but will now be challenging the people of Hackney from a dark corner of the People's Park Tavern. It's from the Handmade Mysteries team that does this kind of thing at venues across London. They know what they're doing. Expect plenty of surreal slants to challenges that can be pretty, well, challenging, and don't be surprised to be surprised either - we're told the immersive elements can be pretty interesting. They promise to let you out - or help you out - if you get really stuck but still, it might be best to bring some brains and leave your dumbass friends out of it.
Venue says: “Venture through an hour of hilarious clue-solving as you and your team attempt to win Chastity's fabled aphrodisiac wine.”