We’ve been big fans of Escape This Podcast since it launched last year… and we finally got to play!
What’s Escape This Podcast?
Creators Dani & Bill have merged escape rooms with Dungeons & Dragons-like roleplaying (without the dice rolls) and recorded it in podcast form.
Dani writes and “dungeon masters” the episodes.
Bill plays along with the guests.
You’re free to play along at home (and scream at the players) or simply listen to the episode’s guest(s) play.
Escape This Podcast’s second season told one big story with 10 self-contained episodes.
To quickly summarize the plot:
A mysterious puzzle-obsessed cult had gassed an entire town, making everyone apathetic so that they could implement their evil master plan. A few people had been unaffected by the gas and have been trying to stop the cult.
I loved Time Run. I enjoyed Sherlock. Earlier this week, we were finally able to announce that these two incredible worlds are about to collide in Sherlock: The Game is Now.
I asked Nick Moran, Creative Director at Time Run, more about this collaboration. It sounds to me like a trip to London will be in order. Read on and decide for yourself.
1. Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your new project.
Nick Moran: Sherlock: The Game is Now is our next project, which has just been publicly announced this week. It’s a collaboration between the Time Run team (Josh Ford, Director, Sheena Patel, Producer and myself) and Hartswood Films, the creators of Sherlock. It’s a live game, set in the world of the TV series. This is not a pop-up, or a small-scale temporary event; this is a proper, full-scale escape room experience. We’re excited!
2. How did this come about?
Incredibly organically. Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, and Mark Gatiss came and played Time Run. Conversations started… and it just seemed to make sense. I wish I could say it was some grand orchestrated plan, but honestly, it was just a project we were all excited by. Naturally they love puzzles and mysteries – and have created a show bathed in them. Our business is puzzles and mysteries. It was a natural fit.
3. What was it like working with writers Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss? You can be brutally honest. There is no way that they read Room Escape Artist.
Steven and Mark are great! Obviously, you hear stories about all sorts of projects and collaborations, but honestly, Hartswood Films is an absolute dream to work with. They’re fun and unbelievably clever. They understand we love and respect the show, and that we’re trying to create an experience that exemplifies everything that’s great about the show, but in a live environment. To that end, they’re up for anything. They’re open-minded, generous, and enthusiastic about the available possibilities. It’s been such a satisfying creative process. They really got into the mindset of this alien format. They’re cinematic thinkers – and yet suddenly they were working on something entirely new – and they were totally game, no pun intended.
So, hopefully we’ve come together to make something really cool.
4. Is this ‘alien format’ a traditional escape room? Or more akin to Celestial Chain? Or something else?
This definitely plays more like a traditional escape room than Celestial Chain.
5. Without spoilers, what can people expect from Sherlock: The Game is Now?
So, when you arrive, you go to W- Oh… without spoilers. This is difficult.
You are at the centre of your own episode of Sherlock. You’ll get to step into the shoes of Mr Holmes and be the protagonist in your own adventure. You’ll experience amazing gameplay, beautiful environments (both familiar and unfamiliar) and journey through a world that doesn’t break from the moment you enter until the moment you leave. And (spoiler alert) – you’ll have a whole lot of fun, or at least, we damn well hope so!
6. Is this set in an existing Sherlock episode? Or is it inspired by an existing Sherlock Holmes story?
It’s an all-new adventure in the world of the show. It’s not set in an existing episode. Telling you any more… well, obviously, that’d be telling.
7. Do people need to have seen the show or read the books to enjoy the experience?
If you haven’t seen the show, it’ll be a great experience, but if you have seen the show, you’ll get a lot more from it. The show has dedicated fans worldwide and we want to respect them and the legacy of the show that they love. So, to answer your question succinctly: no, not at all. But it sure helps to have seen it, otherwise you’ll miss some of the fun details, references, and Easter eggs!
8. Since Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, and Mycroft are all characters in this game… who are we, the players, in this experience?
Naturally, you are… you. Once you have signed up, you are willing recruits of the Network. What’s the network? Well, it’s Mycroft Holmes’ web of recruits that seep out under the skein of the world.
Now, as the trailer says – and Mycroft says it better than I do – many of these particular agents suffered rather unfortunate ends. Sadly it’s time to turn to the public, as numbers are low (and the great unwashed are quite expendable). He doesn’t find this a particularly savoury thought, as you can imagine.
9. Many escape room players are over Holmes. They’ve played so many Holmes-themed escape rooms at this point. What are you doing to make this experience really capture the world of Holmes and set it apart?
Well, Sherlock and the works of Conan Doyle are as different as any adaptation can be! The show is the product of two writers who were utterly enamoured with the source material and set out to create their own, unique universe. The usual escape room fare is just slap-on-a-deerstalker-and-hope-for-the-best.
In Sherlock: The Game is Now you step into the world of high-octane, fast-talking, high-functioning sociopath, Sherlock Holmes and his sneering, supercilious brother, a world dripping with humour, pathos, action, and adventure. This game will be so much more than some loose, Sherlock theming: a battered pseudo-Victorian study, assembled from bric-a-brac, as you see in some poor escape games. Here, you are at the centre of an amazing adventure, in not just *a* Sherlock Universe but *the* Sherlock Universe. The show has become a cultural totem in and of itself. It stepped out of the shadow of Conan Doyle the moment it was born. It’s that world in which you play, which is markedly different from the typical escape room fare.
10. You have such a well-defined mythos of your own at Time Run. Is this connected in any way to the Time Run verse?
Haha, sadly no. Babbage and Luna are off gallivanting through time and space, alone. Although, as we’ve poured ourselves into the game, if bits of us didn’t seep in there somehow, I would be shocked.
11. Will people experience the same level of world-building that we’ve come to expect from Time Run?
100% yes. Time Run very much had our game design ethos: a world that never breaks, from beginning to end. A world that makes sense. Games with logic, internally and externally. We try to maintain this ruleset across what we do because it’s our design ideology. It’s all about losing yourself inside a experience, one that just happens to be a game. It just wouldn’t be a Time Run game otherwise.
12. Compared to the high level of detail you had in your original two games, how does this measure up?
Experiences live and die in the detail. Naturally, the same team is behind all of our games, so we sure hope it will measure up. However, these are, naturally, real world environments. There can’t be the same flights of fancy that Time Travel allows. It’ll feel similar in detail, but different in emphasis.
Before we close, let’s expand on a few of the details from the announcement:
13. When do tickets go on sale? When does it open? How long will this run?
We’re currently selling tickets from October 2018 through January 2019 and will open more dates further down the line.
14. Where will this experience be located? (And please let the answer be Baker Street.)
Oh, it’s a top-secret location. Or at least, mildly secret. Well, alright, it’s just a bit secret. But we won’t tell you where yet. That’ll spoil the fun.
15. Your facility will be 17,000 square feet. That’s is huge! How is that space being used?
There are five copies of Sherlock: The Game Is Now. There are also elements we can’t reveal just yet. Let’s just say it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end…
16. Your official announcement mentioned plans for a worldwide roll out over the next 5 years. Can you give me any hints on timing or location? Can I put in a request for New York?
I can’t answer, sorry.
17. What does a ticket cost? Private group booking? Minimum/ maximum group size?
Tickets cost £54 (~$72) per person. You have to book as a group of 4-6 players. And yes, all private group bookings.
18. £54 is a considerably higher ticket price than escape room players are accustomed to. What do you say to someone who’s looking to choose between playing two escape rooms at the more typical price or visiting Sherlock: The Game Is Now?
This isn’t for me a question of “or;” it’s a question of “why.”
When you want to create an experience based upon an existing show – and a premium one, at that – there’s a choice. Do you treat the programme with respect, or not? Do you invest in making it full of beautiful environments, and experiential touch points? Do you ensure that there’s enough staff so that every group has the best possible experience – a ratio over and above that of pretty much any escape game?
I’ve not been to any of the previous brand tie-in events, but I’ve heard tales of experiences that did not do justice to the shows or films concerned. That saddens me. When we say it’s a 90-minute adventure, we’re not lying; you’ll be in the world from the moment you arrive. The entrance will surprise and amuse. There’ll be actor-led elements. We’ve included AV content from the cast of the show. The lovely sets – some small, intimate and detailed, others straight from the series – are created primarily as a gift for the audience. There’s other elements we haven’t revealed, too.
I would say to an enthusiast: trust us. We’re enthusiasts, too, all of us. We are determined to do justice to this show and this experience. If you don’t find my answer convincing, I understand, but it’s the truth. Enthusiasts are smart people. They get that doing this kind of thing well isn’t easy. When you factor in everything – from the A/V elements from the cast of Sherlock to the large-scale production – you’ll understand. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.
19. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: Time Run closed in April. Are there plans for a new Time Run facility in the cards?
Oh, Time Run is just sleeping – and nothing sleeps forever, does it?
We’ve received some really interesting things from the readers of this site including a number of tabletop games, a postcard with a bespoke puzzle, and a black-light saber. However, we’ve always known who these things were from… until this week.
“Meow Wolf is calling to you and you must go.”
This is cryptic and delightful, and yes, we already wanted to visit Meow Wolf. This has only added to the intrigue.
has our address (but a lot of folks do)
went to Meow Wolf in late May
has a sense of style
Anyway… to whomever sent this, we’re stumped. We’d like a hint please.
“Ray. If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say . . . . . YES!” – Winston Zeddemore
Location: Washington, DC
Date Played: April 21, 2018
Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5
Duration: 45 minutes
Price: $28 per ticket
This officially licensed Ghostbusters was beautiful. Escape Room Live Georgetown pulled iconic characters and moments from the original Ghostbusters films and produced an experience that was a great escape room and a fun homage to the source material.
The difficulty curve on Ghostbusters was a bit steep for newbies, so I’d encourage players get at least a game or two under their belts before taking on these ghouls. Experienced players should note that Ghostbusters is a 45-minute game, so if you get in a groove, it’s possible to knock this one out quite quickly.
We think this one is worth checking out if you’re anywhere nearby.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
Collectors of spores, molds, and fungus.
It’s an official Ghostbusters escape room
A beautiful set
Seeing some classic movie characters
The Escape Room Live lobby & bar
Slimer, the Librarian, Mr. Stay Puft, and Vigo the Carpathian were on the loose in New York City. Who were Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zeddemore gonna call?
Us. They called us.
Ghostbusters was staged in famed firehouse. The set was loaded with details and Easter eggs that called back to the original Ghostbusters movies.
This was a beautiful and fun environment to explore.
… And no, there was no pole to slide down.
Escape Room Live Georgetown’s Ghostbusters was a standard escape room with nonlinear gameplay and a higher level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, and capturing ghosts.
+ In this licensed Ghostbusters escape room, Escape Room Live Georgetown made great use of the most iconic magician/ tyrant, god, and class 5 full roaming vapor.
+ The set looked fantastic and felt Ghostbusters-y.
– There wasn’t much of an on-ramp. Ghostbusters threw us into the deep end and it was difficult to figure out exactly how to make progress (especially for the newbies in the group).
+ Once we got rolling and learned how the game wanted us to play it, there were good, satisfying puzzles.
– Most of the puzzles were technology-driven, with serious lag and delay. We found ourselves staring at solved puzzles for long stretches of time waiting for the puzzle-concluding sequence to trigger.
– One of the core puzzle’s input mechanisms offered almost no feedback. When I was inputting the solution, I wasn’t even sure that it was working until the puzzle resolved.
+ The hint delivery system made perfect sense given the source material.
+ There was a smart augmented reality sequence.
+/- The finale had a great interaction, but it was missing a satisfying puzzle. This escape room was begging for a final boss battle.
+ The Escape Room Live Georgetown lobby is really something to behold. It’s a massive full bar with ample seating and tables. This was a lovely place to hang out.
Tips for Visiting
There is a parking garage few blocks down at M and Wisconsin. Street parking is a challenge in this neighborhood.
There are lots of restaurant options in Georgetown.
For baked goods, we recommend Baked & Wired. Be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.
Plan to spend some time in at the Escape Room Live bar.
Duration: as long as it takes to solve the puzzles
Price: $24.99 per month for a monthly subscription
On The Run Box 5 suffered from its position in the middle of the series. The puzzles drew on ciphers from the previous box more often than they offered new challenges. It also didn’t provide anything new in terms of story. This box was a lull in the middle.
Who is this for?
Players who have completed the previous On The Run boxes
You can play at home
Because you’re already invested in the story
To get to the Box 6
On The Run Box 5 took us to Tanzania on our quest to save our BFF from a tangled conspiracy. This chapter marked a shift in the narrative as the number of new questions slowed and we started to uncover answers.
On The Run Box 5 included an assortment of paper articles and documents, and as well as the website-based content that we’d come to expect from the Dispatch series. In keeping with the format, this box’s main event was a Mancala puzzle complete with a bag of glass beads.
Dispatch by Breakout’s On the RunBox 5 felt like Groundhog Day as we looped through an assortment of common ciphers as well as a greatest hits list of the ciphers from Box 4.
This was a grueling middle chapter if I’ve ever seen one.
– The cipher that had overstayed its welcome in the previous box returned with vengeance. Revisiting it did not reignite dormant affinity.
– The cipher that had suffered from an ambiguity problem in the previous box also returned with 4x the content. What had started as a great, if slightly fuzzy, concept turned into a grind in the purest sense of the word.
+/- The Mancala puzzle was an awesome concept and a fun prop. The puzzle itself needed a stronger clue structure.
+ The concluding sequence of interactions and content was strong and a saving grace for this box.
Tips for Playing
Items from the previous boxes were required for solving On the Run, Box 5.
Notes: The Prelude to Apocalypse wasa mini puzzle game available for preview in advance of the Kickstarter launch.
Argyx Games Prelude to Apocalypse Episode 1: Sign of the Cross was a fun and challenging lead-up to their larger Kickstarter release.
This was first and foremost a puzzle game. We didn’t need to be superhuman puzzlers to play through it, but we did need to pay close attention and really think things through.
Aesthetically, the game’s story, iconography, and overall vibe had a heavy metal feel that is under explored in escape games.
This well-designed teaser has filled us with hope for their larger game. We have already backed their Kickstarter, which went live earlier this week.
Who is this for?
English or French speakers (the game is available in either language)
People who will not be bothered by demonic references
Players with at least some puzzle solving experience
Clever and compact puzzle design
Well-designed game flow
Well-thought out hint system
We had received a package from a fanatical serial killer who went by the name Abaddon, the Angel of Death from the Book of Revelation. Abaddon’s package included a collection of puzzles encouraging us to find his fifth victim before he did.
This initial package was the Prelude to Apocalypse Episode 1: Sign of the Cross. The full story will unfold in Argyx Games’ Kickstarter with an intended release of Christmas 2018.
We had received a collection of items, a few dramatic religious passages, and a letter heralding the death of Abaddon’s next victim.
The collection was clearly homemade, but felt deliberately designed. The items were all in a black, white, and red color palette. The printed materials were on different paper stock, each with a carefully chosen font to match its purpose and origin.
Argyx Games’ Prelude to Apocalypse was a puzzle-focused play-at-home escape game with a higher level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around observation, connection building, and puzzling.
Gameplay required an internet-connected device.
+ The puzzles were clever and offered a little more challenge than we had been expecting. I’d put the difficulty somewhere between your average tabletop escape game and an easier puzzle hunt.
+ The paper materials each had a unique feel and purpose.
? Prelude to Apocalypse had a fairly homemade construction. This doesn’t bother me all that much in single-use play-at-home experiences, but I can easily see this being a sticking point for some.
– We struggled with one of the typesetting decisions.
+ I liked the aesthetic of Prelude to Apocalypse. It’s rare to see a hand made puzzle game that has deliberate art direction.
– We hit a snag inputting a solution that we were confident in. When we switched from inputing by phone to inputing by laptop, we had no more trouble.
+ The self-service hint system was structured and segmented such that when we did get stuck, we were able to find a hint that nudged us in the right direction.
? Based on the Prelude, I don’t really have a sense of how strong the narrative will be. The puzzles were good, but felt puzzley. If you’re seeking something akin to interactive fiction, I’m not really sure what to tell you. It feels like there is an intention to tell a story through this game.
+ Based on what we’ve seen from Prelude, we feel confident that Argyx Games will be able to live up to their stated plans and ambitions. Kickstarter is always a gamble, but Argyx Games’ product seems grounded in reality.
+ Given that this was a brief teaser into a much larger game, we’re excited to see what else Argyx Games has in store for us.
Tips for Playing
I recommend having a laptop on hand with an internet connection while playing this game.
For more about Apocalypse Episode 1: Sign of the Cross, visit their Kickstarter, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Argyx Games sent us a complementary reviewer’s copy of this preview game.
Time Run has teamed up with Steven Moffat and Mark “Mycroft Holmes” Gatiss to create an escape room experience in the world of the BBC’s Sherlock.
Wow… I feel better having typed that. I am so happy that this isn’t a secret anymore. A lot of owners and designers tell us about their secret projects, but not one of those secrets has been as burdensome to keep as this one.
It’s been a challenge because prior to this, Time Run produced The Lance of Longinus and The Celestial Chain, two of the most impressive games that I’ve played to date. I’ve been so excited about this next production from this company that pours so much into unbreaking worlds, storytelling, puzzles, and epic adventure.
Here’s what you need to know
SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW is not simply licensed; it was co-scripted with Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
The game will take players through detailed recreations of Sherlock environments in a 90-minute escape room experience.
Groups of 4 to 6 players will solve puzzles, challenges, and mysteries across a 17,000-square-foot production space where they will encounter some of the most-loved Sherlock characters in new, specially recorded video and audio sequences featuring original cast members.
This isn’t a popup. Sherlock is here to stay.
Tickets go on sale (today) 5th June and cost £54 (~$72) per person.
SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW opens in October 2018 in London, with plans for a global roll out over the next 5 years.
More information to come…
If it seems like I know more… It’s because I do.
We have an interview with the Sherlock creative team in the works. We will publish it as soon as possible.
While SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW certainly isn’t the first licensed escape game, it is, to the best of our knowledge, the first escape room co-scripted by the creators of the property.
This production will rightly capture a lot of attention for escape games, bringing in new players and additional corporate interest. If this escape room experience is anything like Time Run’s previous creations, this should be a game to remember.
We won’t know how this game plays until it opens, and there will be a lot of pressure to deliver.
In the mean time, check out the official website, and stay tuned for our upcoming interview.
The Forbidden Castle followed the format we’ve come to expect from Exit: The Game, with some added twists. It offered more challenge than the original releases from Exit: The Game and these were generally fair and fun. It built toward a silly conclusion, but also a culmination that felt bigger than the sum of its card-stock parts.
If you’re a fan of Exit: The Game, this one is absolutely worth playing.
If you’ve never played Exit: The Game, I’d strongly encourage you to start with one or two of their earlier installments.
If you aren’t a fan of Exit: The Game, I wouldn’t expect this one to suddenly convert you.
Who is this for?
Players with at least some experience
People who are fans of the Exit: The Game series
This is our new favorite from the Exit: The Game series
A silly, but fun final puzzle
The Forbidden Castle was structured as a direct sequel to The Abandoned Cabin. While on vacation, our imprisonment-prone family entered an old castle and suddenly realized that we were locked in by an unseen villain who had left a series of clues and puzzles that could lead us to our freedom, if we were cunning enough.
The Forbidden Castle functioned identically to Exit: The Game’s previous installments.
The series is puzzle focused, with a light touch story, and destructible components.
The components were all paper-based, including decks of cards, printed booklets, and card-stock “strange items.” If you are unfamiliar with the basic operation of this series, check out our review of their first three titles:
Exit: The Game’s The Forbidden Castle was a puzzle-driven escape room with a higher level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling.
+ The first few puzzles had a good difficulty curve.
+ Overall we loved the collection of puzzles that we encountered in The Forbidden Castle.
– One puzzle was too ambiguous and hinged on an unusual combination of observation and trust. Conceptually, this puzzle was brilliant. In practice, the execution was too opaque.
+ The Forbidden Castle’s components were physically small, but a few of the puzzles felt much bigger.
– One of the puzzles was answerable without actually solving the puzzle.
+ The Forbidden Castle used the same decoder disk answer system as all of the other Exit: The Game installments. However, in this one, they added a good twist.
+ The final puzzle was a lot of fun and a touch silly, which added to its charm.
– One of the “strange objects” was a sword. We needed to trim this sword to make the puzzle work properly. Admittedly, this was a minor issue in a game where we were regularly taking scissors to the components.
– There was a decision point in The Forbidden Castle. The team essentially had to choose blindly between two different puzzles. Solving one puzzle destroyed the other, which was a bummer. We backtracked post-game and sort of figured out the other one, but we didn’t love trashing a puzzle, especially without any context guiding the decision.
+/- If you’re already a fan of Exit: The Game, then this offered more of the gameplay that we’ve come to expect from the series. If you don’t find the series enjoyable, I don’t think that this new installment will dramatically change your opinion.
Tips for Playing
You’ll need a pair of scissors.
Do not discard the box or any game materials until after you have finished playing.
It isn’t possible to replay this game without going to great lengths to copy and preserve destructible materials. You can do it, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
Area 51 was a standard escape room. The set wasn’t particularly interesting, but one interaction notwithstanding, the gameplay worked pretty well. Newbies might be in for a surprise.
If you’re a local looking to try out escape rooms, this would be a good place to start.
Who is this for?
Best for beginners
A few fun interactions
The government needed more human body parts to create a human-alien hybrid species. We, however, preferred keeping our parts attached to our bodies.
Brainstorm Escape Games created an office-lab hybrid set. It was mostly office with a touch of lab.
Part of the game was supposed to be in low light. We played the whole thing in low light because mistakes were made. (We still set the record.)
Brainstorm Escape Games’ Area 51 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around observing and making connections.
+ Area 51 included a few nifty prop-based interactions. These were fun solves.
– However, many of these didn’t make a ton of sense in either an office or a lab.
– There were also numerous specific “do not touch” signs, especially in one area of the set. It seemed like a great opportunity to simply build something that could be interacted with… or that we couldn’t reach and harm.
– Once prop lacked consistency. Neither the clue structure nor the construction attempted to mitigate this issue. It was incredibly frustrating to use and unpleasant to work through.
+ One we got our bearings, we enjoyed a more challenging layered puzzle.