Present, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant
Around the time I realised that enjoyment of playing Escape Rooms was actually becoming a serious hobby, the main pilgrimage destination for enthusiasts was definitely The Panic Room in Gravesend. Many of their early rooms were held up as examples of excellence within their particular genres. But, amongst those, the one that has developed a kind of legendary, mythical status is Loop. We knew that for our tour of the excellent Kent-based Escape Room scene (which has probably been at least in part fertilized by The Panic Room’s success) this game was a must-play.
We didn’t really know what we were going to experience here. Basically, the first rule of Loop is that you can’t talk about Loop (this may be a short review). The Panic Room website has a great backstory, simultaneously hilarious and slightly terrifying, introducing the scientific experiment to which you are signing up (“vaporized subjects get a free hat” is possibly my favourite sentence ever). But it is still a little sketchy on detail. Lab, but with a unique twist, is probably the closest you can get to an overall summary.
Our experience started in the Don’t Panic store in the St Georges Centre – an absolute haven for anyone who loves Escape Rooms, comics, puzzles, sci-fi or just pop culture in general, with super-accommodating staff who were happy to chat escaping and gave us a sneak peak of their very cool in-store mini-games. From there was a short walk to the main hub (of currently four game locations in the town, further expansion in the works) where Loop is based. Introduction from our lovely GM Remy, a surreal Loop video and the even more surreal sight of a “corpse” being carried into the building (Panic Room is that kind of place) and we were ready.
Compared to some of the other spectacularly dramatic and beautiful rooms we played on this trip, Loop is relatively plain, which allows it to hide its secrets well. There is a kind of 80s retro sci-fi vibe going on, which is fun, if slightly reminiscent of my school days. Not a huge amount of space, so larger teams might struggle, for several different reasons, but it was perfectly fine for our two, and a couple of kids would have probably fitted in here fine too.
We didn’t actually find the puzzles themselves to be that tricky, they were satisfyingly logical in most part and had a nice flow. Some more unusual and tactile tasks were also interesting. It is fair to say that the biggest trouble we had was operating a couple of very standard pieces of office equipment… The unique elements of the game do add an extra layer of stress to proceedings – I could see very much that this is a Marmite thing which might make or break the game for some people. Funnily enough, I feel that parents might be at an advantage here, as they may have developed skills and coping mechanisms from repeated exposure to young children…but that’s enough spoilers.
This isn’t a child-unfriendly room and I think the teenagers from our team would have enjoyed most of it. A room full of kids would be a genuine nightmare. I can’t promise that everyone will love this game. But for those with a sciency-bent who love to experience something a little different, Loop deserves to have that legendary status.
- Storyline: Ssh, it is a secret. Clever though, and unique.
- Theming and Set: Don’t expect pyrotechnics or anything too fancy, but has cool elements mixed with the mundane.
- Searching: A little bit.
- Puzzles: Not as maths/science as you might expect, but with some nice tactile tasks.
- Physicality: Not in the conventional sense.
- Scare factor: Not scary, but… A little disconcerting, in places, is maybe the best description.
- Company Age Guidance: “12+”.
- Age suitability: This makes sense. I’m not sure younger kids would get as much out of it, although one tween in a mixed group might be fine. Overall, I think mixed-age groups are the way to go here. I’ve done rooms before with just me and four 12-year-old boys – Loop would be a big no from me for that!
Other games from The Panic Room: Old Father Time