STREET HUNT - Colombia's finest
Updated: Jul 4
Although London is a big city, there are surprisingly few activities that come to mind when considering how to spend a day with visiting family, especially during Lockdown. Even escape rooms only account for a fraction of the day at best, with a price tag to rival a meal out (especially in London). Outdoor puzzle/treasure hunts are perfectly suited to fill a day and keep everyone entertained, but deciding which to do can often be a struggle. However, for me it was easy - I've heard great things about this game, which offers a slightly different experience to the other outdoor games in London. So, on a (very) warm Saturday we fueled up on coffee before heading out to crackdown Colombia's finest dealers.
Pros: Location, time, navigation method
Cons: Map, cost
The first thing that sets this trail out from others is the location. Where as other trails seem to congregate around Covent Garden, Bank and Tower Hill, we instead found ourselves weaving our way around Holborn and Farringdon, with the odd peak out at Embankment. I found this really exciting and refreshing, and discovered many new aspects - no mean feat when I spent a year working in the area!
Like other games, your phone is the core tool, but unlike others you are not responding to texts or following cryptic clues to work out where to do. Instead, you are handed a map with markers to reach, and it's up to you to navigate there. I found this very refreshing and a lot more enjoyable - navigating the backstreets and twisting alleys was still a fun little challenge without the frustration of getting unnecessarily lost, and instead meant we could focus on the main puzzle at the location. There were often multiple markers too, sometimes in opposite directions, so we had to plan accordingly and prioritise what we wanted to do.
In this game, you have been hired by Jim to investigate the "creative finances" he's discovered within the coffee company. Maybe coffee isn't the only thing that's coming from Colombia? Pretty soon you realise there may be a link to a recent murder of a drug dealer, and so you must 'race' around London talking to your contacts and collecting clues.
I enjoyed the fact there was an overarching mystery here, and a clear goal in mind. As you completed puzzles at each location you unlocked another piece of the story, and another clue. There was also a fun fact at each location, which added a nice little informative element to the trail - a bit bonus for a geek like me!
Unlike other trails, all the 'puzzles' for this one were pretty obvious - get to the location, look for some sort of plaque, sign or information about the location, then solve it. The questions weren't stupidly cryptic or misleading - we immediately understood what we were being asked for. The only issue was making sure we were in the right place - although you have a map with markers, there is no "you are here" dot. This is fine when you're just making your way to the correct road, but where a marker was halfway up the street we were a little unsure at what point to stop. Most of the time, the clue would give some sort of indication of what to look for, but there were a couple of occasions where I wasn't confident we were looking at the right thing.
As you complete each puzzle, the clues themselves are 'tagged' to return to later, filed under each suspect as well as the topic (namely, "murder" or "drugs"). This information is shared with your teammates so you can each see the information on your own devices, although you need to make sure you are all on the site at the same time (more on that later).
As you progress through the story, you occasionally receive messages from Jim, alerting you to his peril as he is apparently a perfect scapegoat. These are well disguised time alerts - the trail is a very well constructed 2-2.5hr trail, and you have no choice but to do it within this time. I think this a great move by the company - we knew what we were signing up for, that we would get our money's worth but wouldn't end up with sore feet or grumpy teammates. They also allow you 2 coffee breaks at any point you like - simply pause the game (which blocks the map, so no cheating!). This worked well in theory, but unfortunately it wasn't until we were almost 3/4 completed that I realised it was up to us to pause the game, rather than have a suggestion pop up or a clue lead us to a coffee shop. I think this is something that could've been made clearer at the start ('pause to take a break when you like'), or even an opportunity to support an independent coffee shop by leading teams there and offering them a break, in exchange for a small discount. However, I shouldn't be too ungrateful - the fact we were allowed breaks at all was very welcome, particularly knowing the final stage of the game is under a strict 15 minute time limit, wherein you must solve the mystery...
It's at this point that we discovered that all the information we had collected was only visible one device - mine. Although we registered 4 different emails, and therefore had 4 links for 4 devices, I was the one navigating and answering the puzzles...therefore my teammates hadn't collected the information! This took some of the fun out of the final stage, and I'm not sure how much my teammates enjoyed it. It's one thing to have a nice walk and vaguely pay attention to the story, but it's another thing to sit and watch your teammate puzzle over the phone. Fortunately for them, I solved the final mystery pretty quickly before explaining it all to them.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but there is a lot of walking for this trail, including steps. There were lots of situations where you need to look at surroundings to answer puzzles, but never any need to discern colours or sounds.
Outside the "room"
The StreetHunt team were very quick to respond to any/all queries I had in the run up to our game, and even a quick query during the game. The digitised artistic selfie was also a nice touch.
Was it worth the money?
We paid £15pp for a team of 4. I think £15 wasn't bad, but I don't think it was necessary to charge £15 per person - instead, I would've been happier to pay £20-£25 for the team. This is because there wasn't enough to justify the cost per person - no discounts or freebies that would require us to book a certain number, only the number of phones we wanted to connect (of which we only really used one anyway)!