Heist – Thinking Outside The Box – Peterborough

Present, in November 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant

One of the subgenres of Escape Rooms that I have enjoyed but don’t play nearly enough of is what Escape The Review usefully calls the “variable score” type. These are the rooms where success isn’t measured simply by time taken, but instead (or partially) by counting items unlocked during the game. There are a few different styles of this, but most typically takes the form of a robbery, with leaderboards judged on the cash amount successfully stolen.

It will not astound you to hear that Heist is one of these games, the clue is very much in the name. Your aim is to strip the bank vault of the most money possible in your hour. There is still the element of escape – find the exit key and get out in time or lose everything – but the emphasis is firmly on the cash grab. The big pluses here are reliably getting a full hour’s game play, and the associated benefit of the escape being achievable by all levels of teams. The game isn’t designed in the expectation of collecting everything every time, so newbie players can still feel they have succeeded, while experienced teams can be more stretched in their quest to hit a perfect score.

This is a welcome return to live games for the respected Thinking Outside The Box team – we very much enjoyed Retro at their original Peterborough location, before an enforced demolition. At first glance, Heist feels like a pop-up, as it is a single game in the back room of a board games cafe (the rather lovely Old Coffee Tavern, right on the Market Square in Whittlesey). But don’t be fooled by that. This is a proper room with real credentials and a solid set-up, as the cafe was previously a bank and uses the genuine vault doors as an imposing start point.

The rest of the decor is more plain, in a security office style, but it does hide some sneaky tricks and cool (slightly retro) tech. It is properly stuffed with content, with extra layers to keep teams on their toes. It is mostly non-linear and rewards good searching (guess what? we sucked) so has some appeal for slightly younger players as well – we could have done with a curious teenager or two.

Not directly a kid-friendly game though, as some of the puzzling is hard and requires patience and focus. It isn’t a huge space either, so larger groups with passengers are a no. However, it is quite a calm game, low on sirens and flashing lights, so a relatively gentle way to introduce your young person to a life of crime.

Some bits we didn’t love. As a fairly new game, some elements appeared to still be in flux; we found several codes and locks that didn’t go anywhere, to be told that they were not currently part of the game. Some of the logic leaps were a little too far for me, particularly one that required (admittedly very common) outside knowledge and some solving felt counter-intuitive to us (circular reading created strong debate!) With so much content, maybe this was inevitable – not everyone’s brains work the same!

We escaped with £37k and a slight sense of regret that we didn’t crack more. Heist is to some degree replayable (10% discount) but we had many questions that our lovely GM Paige talked us through, so a return visit wouldn’t really work for us. A shame it is just the one game, as it is a lovely location and an intriguingly devious brain behind it, so here’s hoping this is just the start of the Thinking Outside The Box renaissance.

  • Storyline: Nick stuff. Nice hosting makes the story work. Quite a lot of ER logic in the puzzles.
  • Theming and Set: Building gets this off to good start and puzzles all on theme without a major wow.
  • Searching: Rewards rampart curiosity!
  • Puzzles: So many, lots of creativity and diversity, but also plenty of padlocks, in-keeping with the theme.
  • Physicality: None really, although a bit of scrabbling at floor-level necessary.
  • Scare factor: None, even claustrophobes don’t really need to worry about the vault bit.
  • Company Age Guidance: “We can take a minimum age of 8 with a family group, we cannot take a children’s party. There must be at least 2 adults in the room for safety reasons. We recommend a ratio of 2:1 adult to child ratio”.
  • Age suitability: A good game for teenagers and experienced ER tweens.

Thinking Outside The Box website