AIM ESCAPE- Operation Mindfall
On a sunny bank holiday Monday we decided to hit the streets of London once more and take on one of Aim Escape's outdoor adventures. I've done a couple of their indoor rooms before, with mixed feelings, so it hadn't occurred to me to attempt their outdoor trail. This trail was a little different from other trails, as the puzzles felt more similar to those in escape rooms, as well as the addition of AR.
Pros: Equipment, route, puzzles
Cons: Location based puzzles, narrative
All good games need a good story. For a couple of hours, you are secret agents embarking on a mission to save the world (naturally). You meet an agent at the Monument in central London, at which point you receive your brief, iPad, and rucksack of essentials. The route takes you around this area, covering essential sites such as Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast, before finishing back at the Monument.
The route took us about 2.5hrs, but rather than having to follow obscure clues and convoluted riddles to find where to go, we were instead given a map and points to reach. This meant we were able to plan our own route, factoring in a couple of diversions to coffee shops and toilets. We discovered a few hidden sites on the way, and I personally enjoyed that it wasn't as repetitive as other games we've played - it felt like we covered a large distance without ever doubling back on ourselves.
There are a few things that set this trail apart from others I've played, including the map function I've already mentioned. There was also the added AR functionality, and backpack of tools we were given. Opening the backpack is a bit like peering down a rabbit hole - there are quite a few objects in there, and no clear idea of what to do with them. However, it does soon become apparent at the right moment, at which point you get a great lightbulb moment! I loved this aspect of the game - it made it a little more exciting, and a little more 'real'. It also really helped to get into the persona of 'secret agent', and tie it back to physical escape rooms.
The puzzles themselves were a great mix - starting off with some (basic) algebra, followed by a variety of puzzles requiring you to look around the environment, or use the AR on the iPad along with notes given in the backpack. This was one of my few issues with the puzzles - some of the puzzles felt unnecessarily 'location locked' - we'd make our way to the required point, only to then find the puzzle was entirely on the iPad and we didn't need to interact with. or look around, the area at all. I feel there were a few missed opportunities here - it would have been much more fun to need to search out the image to then scan, or locate the notes somehow.
My other minor criticism of the game was another missed opportunity with the narrative. Although I was much more immersed and aware of the story with this hunt than others, this also meant I was aware things were missing. There were often comments about not trusting anyone, and at one point we had both the 'good' and 'bad' sides telling us not to trust the other. I was anticipating some sort of choice, or (hidden) hidden puzzle to solve for the other side, but neither transpired. Instead, it remained fairly linear, and in fact at no point did we need to decide whether or not to trust someone. Having set up the notion of who to trust quite thoroughly, it did feel very disappointing when this didn't go somewhere, but I think the opportunity is there should they want to explore it!
We didn't need any hints or get lost at all - from that perspective it was flawless. There was one puzzle we got wrong due to a combination of manufacturer error and our overthinking, but apart from this we didn't feel frustrated at any point. Ultimately, we had a fantastic day and enjoyed ourselves a lot. It wasn't the most challenging, and I'm glad we only did it as a pair. If you are considering booking this, I recommend you limit you team size, and don't expect anything too in depth - the walk from place to place, and the places themselves, are as much a part of the entertainment as the puzzles themselves, which take maybe a minute each.
We were walking for around 2.5hrs, mostly flat but a few steps here and there - I expect you could probably attempt this with a wheelchair user, but be prepared for longer routes. Colour and hearing are both required (for separate tasks). It's also worth noting you will be in some crowded areas of London, so expect some crowds and slow walkers!
Outside the 'room'
All contact I had with AIM was great, including the email exchange ahead of booking. The initial instructions made sense and were exciting (it's not as simple as simply turning up!). Our initial brief definitely got us in the mood - the GM was fun and immersive enough to get us interested and involved, without taking herself and too seriously. Likewise, when we finished we were greeted by a different GM, who was just as lovely and spent time chatting with us about our experience and other trails we've done in the city.
Was it worth the money?
This was a Christmas gift from a friend, so as it was free it definitely was worth it! This would usually cost £20-£25 per person, and I think that is more than reasonable and a great value for money.