ESCAPE THE PAST - The Anatomist
Before heading up to Edinburgh I made sure to ask for any recommendations, as I had only done one in Edinburgh previously (and it wasn't the best). This room was one that only came up a couple of times, bit as we had the time and incentive it seemed silly to pass it up. "Escape the past" is an independent company which is fairly young (it has been open for less than a year), yet has already hosted recognisable names (such as The Escape Roomer) and is steadily building a name for itself, for good reason.
Pros: Commitment, set, puzzles, flow
Cons: Bodies, some mechanical issues
"The Anatomist" is an escape game that invites you to descend into a world of grave robbery, mystery and malpractice as you enter the study of a 19th century anatomist.
When you step into the room you are transported to the 19th century - the room is wonderfully dressed with nothing out of place or immersion breaking. The furniture feels like genuine 19th century furniture (rather than IKEA that has been 'aged'), and all props feel 'weighty'. As you continue into the anatomist's lair you are faced with genuine surgical implements and very realistic looking organs. You are also faced with a body...so those of you with automatonophobia (like myself) ought to be aware of this prior to entering the room, but don't worry - the door is always open for you to escape!
The game starts with a good rummage, as does most games. Very quickly it becomes apparent that these are high quality props, and indeed high quality puzzles. For the first 'half' of the room it's fairly easy to work out what needs doing - both a combination of logic and physically interacting with the room, which was a really lovely touch. All the puzzles fit well with the set and theme, and I could see every single prop and puzzle featuring in a 19th Century professor's study. The second half is just the same for quality of puzzles, although these required us to think through them a little more. Unfortunately the final puzzle had a little mechanical issue - we input the same answer 3 times before it worked. However, I loved the way we came to this final answer, and the input process was a fresh take on an old classic.
In fact, a lot of the puzzles fit this description - taking tropes and puzzles I've seen a few times previously, and changing them slightly in a way that excited and surprised me.
There were plenty of puzzles going on too - the room was delightfully non-linear, with the 4 of us constantly moving, discovering clues, and solving puzzles. Even now I couldn't tell you all the puzzles or solutions, or how they fit together, which I love. We were never bored, frustrated, or stumped for too long - the puzzles themselves were easy to identify, and mostly easy to figure out what was being asked for us. The room hit the sweet spot of challenging us to work out the solution (which was definitely challenging at times), but giving us all the necessary parts to do so.
We flew through the room with a time of 35.28 minutes - enough to land us at the bottom of the all time leaderboard (for now). However, we definitely didn't feel short changed - we were all very active throughout that whole time - we definitely came out feeling like we'd had a mental workout!
We didn't use any hints in the room, but I believe the mechanism was to ring a bell in the room and the GM would've entered. I'm curious about how this would've worked, and whilst I'd normally steer clear of any rooms requiring live actors, I appreciate that this wouldn't have broken the immersion, and given the quality of the room otherwise I have full faith the hints would've been similarly thought through.
The venue is down a flight of stairs, but the room itself is flat, with a chair to sit in if necessary. The main room has plenty of space, but there are subsequent areas where it is a little tighter, including quite a small, dark space required for a puzzle (although only one of you would need to do this).
The room is well lit for the most part, with lanterns provided just in case. There were no puzzles requiring colour or sound perception, or even physical dexterity.
Outside the room
There is one other key point I've held off mentioning until now; the GM is in period clothing. I loved this little aspect - it's a real nod to the immersion, and why I'm more supportive of the live actor method of hints here. It was clearly good quality clothing too, not just a costume store find.
Our GM herself was lovely - very friendly and welcoming, and got us enthused. At one point I popped out to check something with her, and she was very receptive to my request, which made me feel more comfortable in the room.
The venue itself is small - as there is only one room, the waiting room is very sparse and doubles as the monitoring station. All you will find is a leaderboard and a coat rack, but the GM is there the full time so your belongings are safe. More importantly is the location itself - it is only a few minutes walk from an excellent bar where we spent the remainder of the evening (and most of the money in our wallets). There is also a lovely park and plenty of coffee shops, if that's more your style - an easy walk from the centre.
Was it worth the money?
We paid £20 each for a team of 4. It was certainly worth this, and more.