ESCAPE PLAN - Roll out the barrel
We originally booked this in October 2020, but certain global circumstances meant postponing the adventure. However, as soon as we knew restrictions were being lifted we booked ourselves in for a WWII adventure! It turned out that this was the first escape room one of our teammates had ever attempted, so it was a pleasure to show him the ropes.
Pros: "wow" moments, game flow, puzzle variety
Cons: hint system, accessibility, padlock heavy
It is VE day and you are tasked with finding your commanders' secret bar, and secret stash of alcohol, to properly celebrate. The game actually starts outside the room, which was a nice touch, and once inside you really do feel transported back to 1945, despite (or maybe, because of) the simplicity. The set theming is really nice - all the props felt genuine for the time period - no electronic screens or automated messages. I also appreciated the attention to detail with the quality of furniture differing between your initial room and the secret bar, meant just for your commanders. There's just something about high back leather chairs...
Right from the start there are a number of different puzzles to solve and things to do. There was little to no searching required, and instead the focus was more placed on the puzzles themselves. In fact, once you solved a puzzle it was fairly easy to figure out where to place the solution, with most inputs helpfully labelled and guiding you towards the puzzle in question. I think this was a slightly disappointing aspect, as only a couple of the puzzles actually unlocked the thing they were connected to. However, there was an absolutely fantastic variety of puzzles - I was the first person to enter the secret bar and was like a kid in a candy shop! The room is multi-linear too, so we naturally fell into pairs to tackle each puzzle, coming together towards the end. I never felt bored or frustrated, which is always a great sign.
It felt like we flew through this room - although I think we finished in around 42 minutes, which is around standard for us, it felt like we got through a lot of puzzles and there were things I didn't even see! There were also a few real "Wow!" moments, including the discovery of the bar (which I'm trying hard not to spoil too much here!) - adding to that childlike enjoyment again. It also flowed really nicely - finishing one puzzle lead nicely onto another. There were times myself and my 'partner' were finishing up one puzzle, with the other pair gathered eagerly behind us to grab the piece they were missing for theirs.
As mentioned, there was quite a wide variety of puzzles here, with at least half leading to a padlock. I admit I geeked out a little as I've not seen these padlocks before - wheel on the bottom rather than the side - and with either numbers or letters. The room was also very 'manual' - most puzzles required you to physically interact with something, rather than simply keying in a code or pushing a button. Not only does this fit with the theming of the room, but that hands-on effect was a breath of fresh air, and added to the sense of satisfaction. Again...big kids.
The room also had its own soundtrack - I noticed noises of celebration, footsteps, keys...probably all relevant to where we were in the room. This was also the hint method - although we didn't use any, out fab GM Django (yes, really) contacted us over the speaker to let us know we could remove our masks if we wanted. I have mixed feelings about this method of hint delivery - obviously it's a bit more personal and fits with the room, but doesn't give the team as much control over the clues and could potentially break the immersion. We also didn't have a timer until we discovered the bar (and I didn't actually notice it until we finished the game).
The game requires stairs to reach, and at least one team mate will need to be physically mobile. The room is also fairly small and lacking space, so I think unfortunately this would not be possible for someone in a wheelchair to play. There are some (very nice) chairs to sit on though, for anyone who could reach the room but then require a seat.
Due to the size, it can get quite warm. Combined with the soundtrack, it may not be ideal for someone with sensory concerns, so I advise contacting the team ahead of time in this case. The soundtrack and hint system may also be incompatible with hearing issues (I know I found them frustrating), and someone will need to be able to hear to complete a music task!
However, the room was well lit, and any puzzle that required colour perception helpfully differentiated the colours via a second method too (symbols or writing the colour out), so this game should be fine for anyone regardless of colour blindness.
Outside the room
On the outside, the building the room is located in ("Rich Mix") looks fairly unassuming and rundown, but it actually hosts an indie cinema and cafe. It's also on Shoreditch high street, close to many different shops, bars, and cafés (including Box Park).
Upon arrival at Rich Mix you are meant to call, but actually the staff member on the front desk let our host know we were there. The waiting area was light and spacious, with sofa and toilets. There was also the café if we wanted. Once we were inside "Escape plan" we were directed to lockers for our valuables too.
Rebooking the room was really easy and seamless, and in fact any interaction I've had with Escape Plan previously has been great. Our host, Django, was good fun to chat with and ran a seamless brief. He also took us back through the room afterwards, in case we had any questions or hadn't had a chance to see certain puzzles.
Was it worth the money?
This cost us just under £20pp, including a discount I'd originally applied when booking in 2020. It was absolutely worth this money. Despite my small quibbles, this is possibly the best room I've played in London and I absolutely will be returning to take on their others.