Present, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant
The overwhelming recommendation we had from everyone when heading to Maidstone was to check out Inbound at Escape Hub, as a game with the real wow factor. World War II games can feel a bit same-y to me, although I love a good spy-decoding challenge, but it slotted in nicely as a theme we weren’t otherwise tackling during our Escape Room binge.
Escape Hub has a nice central location in the Royal Star Arcade, with plenty of enticing eateries around (discounts sometimes available at The Canopy Bar & Kitchen, apparently). Playing two games here, we stopped off for some tea and cake downstairs before being greeted and briefed by Izzy, our enthusiastic host for the afternoon. Inbound came with a few slightly alarming warnings from Izzy’s briefing – watch your step, don’t climb the netting, don’t jump out of the window. Maybe unnecessary, as we reassured Izzy we definitely were not planning that kind of physical activity, but it did let us know a little of what we were in for, in terms of immersion and exertion!
The premise is that you are retrieving some top secret info from a bombsite before it falls into the wrong hands, or gets obliterated in the next incoming air-raid. So, a good jumping-off point for some classic spy puzzles with a strong theme. And theming is really to the fore here, with an appropriate clue system and great set dressing. The opening section is fairly standard but the big reveal for the second stage is genuinely breathtaking and very unlike anything else I’ve seen. The 2022 Royal Star Arcade certainly feels a long way away! If I’m being super, super picky, one envelope had a stamp with the Queen’s head, which is a bit of an anachronism for 1943, but that does show that the rest of this expansive game is very immersive and beautifully done.
Puzzles themselves we didn’t have too many problems with, they were in our wheelhouse is terms of skills, so we found most of it smooth. One puzzle with colours we got in a bit of a tangle with (literally!) – neither of us are colourblind but we still struggled to differentiate and it became more a process of elimination. There was maybe nothing startlingly original or too demanding in the challenges, padlock-heavy, but pretty much all was solid and enjoyable. Plenty of the puzzles were tactile while managing to remain cerebral, on the intellectual side rather than just brute force busy tasks.
However, as the briefing hinted, physicality does play a part in this game. An impressive asset of Inbound is the incredible set and the immersion created by physically moving around within the space. It does contain several different levels in the bomb-hit simulation, so step-mobility and a degree of surefootedness is a plus. There is also a crawl section which can be bypassed on request – definitely worth including in my opinion, but be prepared to get a little dusty (and your knees may not thank you!).
Inbound is a genuine spectacle and overall a great experience. Major puzzle enthusiasts might not find anything very new, but this would be ideally suited to adventurous kids learning about WWII, and it is a proper treat for teams who love Escape Rooms to transport them to another time and place.
- Storyline: Find the hidden documents before the enemy returns – a touch of Escape Room logic going on.
- Theming and Set: I can’t overstate how impressive this is.
- Searching: I can’t recall major search fails, so it must have been quite straightforward.
- Puzzles: Nice use of props, quite padlocky, but a good mix.
- Physicality: We got our steps in, and the crawling is quite brutal.
- Scare factor: None, although is maybe a little fraught at the end.
- Company Age Guidance: “15+ unless with accompanied with an adult. We would not recommend under 12s, however we will strive to accommodate your groups needs.”
- Age suitability: Over 12s is about right – secondary school age would be able to get involved in the puzzles and should have more understanding and appreciation of the theme. Could possibly pass it off to the teachers as history homework?