Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right The best online escape rooms to try from home

Heads up! We’re working hard to be accurate – but these are unusual times, so please always check before heading out.

Photograph: Plymouth Point
Photograph: Plymouth Point

The best online escape rooms to try from home

Not quite ready to be locked up in a real-life London escape room? Assemble your team for some intense code cracking

By Katie McCabe, Alexi Duggins and Rose Johnstone
Advertising

Being locked up with a team of people in a high-stress situation doesn’t exactly scream ‘excellent social distancing’. Unfortunately, that’s the foundation of almost every escape game. Lockdown put an abrupt stop to the London trend for interactive ‘lock-in’ puzzles, and the industry had to find a way to adapt. By April, ‘online’ escape rooms had emerged, leaving us wondering: how the hell does that work? 

Like most post-March entertainment, online escape rooms take place entirely through your screen. Even though it’s a novel concept, there are already a few variations of the genre. Some blend the code-cracking with a bit interactive theatre using Zoom, others use a digital version of an escape room that can be played through an avatar.

London escape rooms are gradually reopening, but unlike the virtual Zoom quiz boom, these online replacements seem to have stuck. Want to assemble a team and try one for yourself? Here are four online games that have proved themselves to be more than a lockdown fad.

Brilliant online escape games

Photograph: Courtesy of Escape Hunt
Photograph: Courtesy of Escape Hunt

Doctor Who: Worlds Collide

Sorry, ‘Doctor Who’, but I’ve never been afraid of your Cybermen. I’ve always found the Doctor’s cyborg-nemeses, with their arthritic robo-gait and perennial quest to ‘upgrade’ (read: destroy) the human race more humorous than terrifying. Which is why, when playing Escape Hunt’s latest virtual escape room, I was surprised to find myself genuinely afraid of what might happen if I did not prevent their attack on earth. ‘Doctor Who: Worlds Collide’ is seriously captivating. Here’s how it works: you’re on a Zoom call, playing the IRL escape room through the eyes of someone who will obey your every command. The whole process works surprisingly well, and the puzzles are satisfyingly inventive and complex (lasers! music! chess!) while still being achievable. Thankfully, I was able to thwart the Cybermen – and even got a shout-out from the Doctor herself.

Photograph: Courtesy of Escape Hunt
Photograph: Courtesy of Escape Hunt

Escape Hunt: The Fourth Samurai

For this online escape game, you’ll be travelling to Japan via Leeds. Yorkshire-based company Escape Hunt have figured out a way to let people play their real-life games via the internet. You control an avatar (okay, a member of staff wearing a webcam) and tell them where to look, what codes to input and exactly how deftly to wield that potentially lethal sword (if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s samurai-themed). Given that half the fun of escape games is the manic energy of a team charging around a room, it’s easy to be sceptical about the idea of someone else playing it for you, but it works – with lots of chances for team-mates to shout out differing theories of how to approach puzzles, or spot clue others have missed. It’s well-designed room, deftly adapted to its online incarnation – with added swords.

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy of Agent Venture
Photograph: Courtesy of Agent Venture

Agent Venture

Agent Venture is an enjoyable lo-fi spy mission where you play the backroom support staff to your agent (think the CTU to your Jack Bauer or the Kenny to your Eve Polanski). Throughout the game, you communicate with your operative via Zoom (camera off), using building schematics to guide them, cracking codes to open doors, hacking into email records and calling up staff to blackmail them (all of whom sound curiously like your agent adopting a range of different accents). It’s lots of fun – but you need to keep your wits about you. Things didn’t work so well for Kenny, after all…

Photograph: Courtesy of Swamp Motel
Photograph: Courtesy of Swamp Motel

Plymouth Point

If you have that elusive ability to unearth a person’s Facebook profile when armed with nothing but their first name and the fact they went to the Reading Festival in 2005 – you will love Plymouth Point. The interactive ‘whodunnit’ experience is hinged on intense online research, with a hysterical, occultish plot woven in. It opens with a Zoom call from a kindly older woman. She will not answer your questions, as our team awkwardly discovered: she is a pre-record. The kindly older woman explains that her neighbour Ivy Isklander has disappeared, and it’s your job to find her. From there, you’re on a path of password-hacking, code-sourcing, Youtube conspiracy videos and disturbing voicenotes about human sacrifice. It’s not easy to mimic the tension of a real-life escape room through a laptop, but when your friends are shrieking at you via Zoom to jot down the latest clue, the stress does not feel virtual. After all the furious link-clicking, the fictional world you’re thrown into when you crack the case is just about believable enough to make at least one jumpy team member scream.

Want to try one for real? Find an escape room in London now

Recommended

    You may also like

      You may also like

        Advertising