Present, February 2020, were: Granny, The Ant, Panda, Cynical Panda Crew
Intellectual property is a thorny area when it comes to Escape Rooms. We’ve all played the odd room sailing a little too close to the wind in referencing a film or television series without actually being an authorised version: Magic School, British Spy, Paranormal 80s Americana, Black Country Gang Culture – there’s a few recurring themes that flirt with the copyright issue. A shame; I’d rather see either a properly approved effort or a more original concept but, on the whole, big ticket names aren’t really interested in delving into the Escape Room world, yet.
The two big exceptions interestingly appear to have a BBC connection – Doctor Who with Escape Hunt‘s Worlds Collide and A Dalek Awakens, and the official Sherlock: The Game is Now, presented by Time Run. Sherlock Holmes himself is a frequent Escape Room theme – as long as companies stick to the basics of the older stories (100+ years old) there is no copyright issue. This game, however, is set in the world of the hugely popular Sherlock TV series, largely responsible for the most recent resurgence of interest in Conan Doyle’s consulting detective.
Huge fans of the series in our team, especially birthday girl Panda and her crew. So this was a real treat for us, and I fervently hoped that it wouldn’t be a watered-down Sherlock-a-like (see some of the other more generic Baker Street rooms we have played). We weren’t expecting Benedict Cumberbatch himself to GM, but we had our fingers crossed for immersion into the world of the show.
It’s a spectacular beginning (sorry). Unlike most escape experiences, this starts the second you step through the door into the (very convincing) Doyle’s Opticians, in West 12 Shopping Centre. Lots of role play, usually my worst nightmare, but delivered with enough panache and humour to make even the auto-cringe teens embrace it. This carries through, with some great GM interaction (I need to apologise again for getting too much into character in one place…) and post-game team analysis, which does make this feel like a very personalised adventure.
Sets are high class and with great nods to the series, although our time in the most iconic room was disappointingly short (our fault, we were, surprise!, late). Early reviews of the game reported some tech issues, and given there is a fair amount of fiddly gadgetry on display I can understand that, but our run was beautifully glitch-free.
Puzzles – well. Again, I think this had been a source of disappointment for some enthusiasts. This venture is definitely (and sensibly) appealing to a wider demographic. We were fairly unchallenged until the final section, which has an emphasis on physical over mental tasks – not our forte. This was our only point of frustration with the game, but this section would probably suit other teams just fine. Worth noting that we were the only team in our grouping to complete within the hour (100 minute experience, but a portion of that is the interactive theatre element) so it isn’t super-easy or lacking in content. However, for our team, this was much more about the experience than the puzzles anyway.
So, were our superfans satisfied? Absolutely. Copious use of video and voice work from the stars of the show, plus neat in-jokes and authentic props, gave a real buzz (there may have been actual squealing at points). It may be extra-pricey (for us non-Londoners) but the quality of the experience meant the money spent was tangible. Not a template we’d necessarily want every Escape Room to follow. But, as an indulgent immersion for lovers of the show, it was great and I can think of several other brands I would like to see receive the same high spec official treatment.
- Storyline: Set-up of a Sherlock assistant training mission – never quite sure whether we were meant to be on a real case or not. But carried us through.
- Theming and Set: Seriously impressive.
- Searching: Some, not an unwelcome amount.
- Puzzles: A good mix with some nice detective style tests, nothing too fiendish.
- Physicality: Some hand-eye co-ordination, and tactile puzzles.
- Scare factor: Andrew Scott’s Moriarty is fabulously creepy, in a good way.
- Company Age Guidance: “Open to children over the age of 10 with adult supervision and 15+ without supervision. Children 7+ can be admitted at parents/guardians’ discretion.”
- Age suitability: Whatever age they are, familiarity with the TV series would be an advantage, in terms of understanding and enjoyment. More sensitive younger ones might find some of the shouty acting a little intimidating – wouldn’t recommend for under 10s. But nothing in the game fabric to make it unsuitable for tweens.