The Defence of the Star Amulet – Horton’s Emporium – Northampton

Present, sometime in 2020 (anyone else totally lost track?), were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger

Venues where their rooms occupy the same “universe” are great, IMO. We’ve had a few of these recently, clueQuest’s Agent Q, Agent Brains, Deadlocked’s Wexell world. Having a character or theme to build your brand around is a good concept, and can help with immersion for the players, particularly returning customers. And it is always fun to see this being used in creative ways – Unescapable’s “Top Secret Time Travel Facility” is a great example of this that I am keen to check out. I’m always on the lookout for smart new ideas.

So I was intrigued to see that the two new rooms at Horton’s Emporium (previously Deadlocked Northampton) take an interesting approach – twin rooms with the same basic wizarding world premise, but to be solved from the viewpoint of either good or evil. Your role is to either steal the Star Amulet’s powers or to protect it, depending which game you select. Being the goody-two-shoes that we are, we chose to defend the macguffin against the forces of evil…

First things first – this is NOT a Harry Potter room. Nope. Definitely not. Hogwarts clearly isn’t “The Wizarding School” in Northampton, that would be crazy. The Dark Wizard, Lord Condor, causing fear and chaos in the magical community – well, his name doesn’t even make an anagram and I’m sure he has a nose… That music you can hear might sound a little familiar, but is entirely coincidental. Not Harry Potter, got that? Good. Moving on…

No idea who this guy is.

Your game starts with a video briefing from Professor Trelawney, I mean, the Principal Astronomy teacher. This is nicely done, all in character, and the Professor pops up from time to time to give advice and move the narrative along. This is a fun feature as a clue system, although does cause a few problems when the gameplay moves out of the main set and it becomes more difficult to hear the clue prompts. The format does produce a moment or two of magic though, so is maybe worth it.

The set for Defence is a magic school classroom and the Principal’s office. From what I can gather, the Siege of the Star Amulet twin game uses a different first room (their former Houdini space) and then also moves to the office – a theoretically clever way to get two two-room games out of a three single-room-sized venue. The environment itself, for Defence at least, isn’t terribly exciting, with the emphasis more on “school” and “office” rather than “magic”. Generally, the same goes for the puzzles – it won’t take much for this to become a fairly generic school game. There are a couple of nice touches, and a few missed opportunities.

The professed aim of both these games is to collect Power Orbs, to fuel the amulet, that can then be used for good or evil. This is an interesting concept and does give the game more motive than a simple escape, but left us slightly scratching our heads. There is a little weighing ceremony at the end (bit like counting House Points) to give teams a final score, but we were unclear as to how you could get to that point WITHOUT collecting all the Orbs, as it is quite a linear game. Our GM wasn’t particularly able to explain it – maybe it is more relevant to the Siege game, or maybe it still gets counted even if you run out of time as a measure of how you’ve done? I don’t know, but it did mean the game ended a little oddly, for us.

Overall, we weren’t entirely sure what to make of this game. It makes a nice, family-friendly, introductory room, which would probably appeal to young witch or wizard fans and maybe, at a basic level, it wasn’t really aimed at us. Some innovative ideas, but slightly erratic execution, and ultimately, despite Mr Potter’s best efforts to muscle his way in, just not enough magic.

  • Storyline: Find the orbs, all pulled together with the video segments. It works.
  • Theming and Set: Quite plain – it’s a fairly big set and the theming got a little lost.
  • Searching: Not as much as we thought there would be.
  • Puzzles: A couple of nice ones, not much memorable.
  • Physicality: Minimal. It would be a mobility-friendly game except for the steep stairs up to the venue. 
  • Scare factor: None.
  • Company Age Guidance: “a minimum age of 8 (though anyone under 16 should be accompanied by an adult).”
  • Age suitability: Very family friendly, under 10s would be fine.

Horton’s Emporium website