MODERN FABLES - Hypersomnia
Given I've lived in London for nearly 3 years now (albeit it half of that has been during a pandemic), I've taken on very few escape room companies here. In deference to that we went ahead and booked 'Modern Fables ' - a company I've never heard much about, but has always piqued my interest. It is also one of the few based more Easterly, and the room themes are more diverse than your standard 'evil scientist'.
Pros: Immersion, set, hints
Cons: Directions, accessibility, gameplay
We chose to embark on "Hypersomnia" - described as an "80's sci-fi adventure". When you enter the room it feels both sparse and crowded at the same time - there wasn't much in the room, and yet where there were props and puzzles they were quite crowded together. I'm also not convinced about the "80's" part - there was nothing that particularly felt '80s' to me, apart from the low-budget vibes. If you remember the original "The Crystal Maze" TV show, the room gave off "Industrial zone" far more than "Futuristic".
Grumbles aside, the decor was actually nicely done - detail had clearly been paid to artfully weathering the room, and entering the room did feel immersive. It was also one of the most atmospheric rooms I've played...
The concept of the game is that you are multi-dimensional travellers, tasked with recovering your memories and true identities before returning home. Whilst this sounds exciting, once inside you find this is more akin to running a cruise ship and following instructions than commandeering a spaceship.
We were actually handed our first 'clues' before entering the room, which I should have taken as a bad sign then - there should never be a need to literally hand your players a clue. Once we got started, the room followed a pretty basic linear structure - find a 'clue' containing instructions, locate relevant puzzle and components, solve puzzle, repeat. In between puzzles there were moments of added immersion where we were alerted to various system faults, loading status, and stage completion. At the time, this created an intense atmosphere, but afterwards I realised that these were essentially just padding out what would otherwise be quite a short room.
The puzzles themselves were mainly a case of matching up information with the the input method (imagine finding a paper that says "1A' next to a box with switches with numbers and letters...). There was one puzzle which involved a bit of deduction, which I enjoyed, but otherwise the room was fairly methodical. There was an attempt at giving us a moral choice/"good" or "bad" ending, but actually the ending would essentially be the same regardless of which option we chose (we'd still exit from the same door, at the same point), rendering the entire thing moot.
The hint system was fairly unique for this room - rather than a screen or walkie talkie, you instead have a little 'ticker tape' called Hugo, who spouts out hints when required. I really enjoyed this method of delivery - it was both personalisable and in theme for the room. The hints we received were aptly timed, and enough to nudge us without feeling too invasive. It was also incongruously placed enough to not get in our way or ruin the immersion.
Finally, although we spent just over 40 minutes it didn't feel like a very 'long' room - the puzzles were very linear, and I don't believe we solved that many. The immersion does a lot to disguise the lack and breadth of puzzles, but once the rush of escaping wore off we did feel a little disappointed.
This room was inaccessible to the extent I struggled greatly (as someone with hearing loss). The room itself was flat and accessible via a lift, although doors would likely not be wide enough for a chair, and some of the puzzles would be out of reach by someone in a chair. This includes some puzzles at ground level, so others with mobility issues would also struggle.
There was a pervailent soundtrack, as well as puzzles requiring hearing abilities. Normally, I can cope fine, or trust in my roommates. However, in this case I struggled to hear some of the puzzles despite the fact I was wearing hearing aids, and my teammates even had to place their ears against the speaker to figure out what was happening.
The room had fairly low lighting, although there were no puzzles requiring colour identification. It was also very warm in the room, with no air con.
When combining all of the above I would recommend this room is not suitable for anyone with any sort of physical or sensory issues.
Outside the room
We often joke the first challenge is finding the room, and it's never been more true than in this case. Prior to arrival we were sent multiple paragraphs of instructions for finding the room, and still managed to get lost.
When you (finally) arrive, you are immersed the moment you walk into the location; we opened the door to a dimly lit interior, lined with velvet curtains and sci-fi posters. We spent a few minutes standing around, wondering if we were in the right place, before a "scientist" came out to greet us. The GM was in character from the start, which was a new experience for me. There was no chatter about how we were doing or how many rooms we'd done - instead we were thrown straight into the 'mission brief', before being shown the room. However, the immersion only lasted as long as the room - once we were out the act was dropped, which I think was a shame as I would have loved for it to continue throughout.
Was it worth the money?
We paid £24 per person, which appears to be the same regardless of team size. This is fairly standard for a room in London, and I don't think it was awful. I think it would've been worth it for us, but had there been 4 of us (including 3 experienced players), it probably would've been over much sooner, and therefore much less worth it. They also offer the ability to personalise the room for an additional £25, but as I'm not convinced about the value of £24pp, I certainly wouldn't pay extra for a few additional components in the room.