The Fourth Samurai – Escape Hunt – Milton Keynes

Present, in May 2022, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant, Lioness, Amazing J, Jack-Jack

Sometimes unexpected, spontaneous games can be a delight – when you go for a spur of the moment second room at a venue, or drop in on a short-notice booking just because you have an hour to spare in the vicinity. A situation we hadn’t had before was a last-minute substitution of our booking. We were excited to play Journey To Atlantis, latest offering from Escape Hunt at the new Milton Keynes branch, but an electrics glitch after their morning fire alarm test had rendered the game temporarily out of action. On a busy Bank Holiday Monday we knew this was difficult for them – Nick, the manager, was super-apologetic and offered free drinks plus a switch to the only other available room, The Fourth Samurai. So here we are…

I have to admit, The Fourth Samurai wasn’t ever going to be my immediate choice of the Escape Hunt games – we’d had the opportunity to play before and had chosen other options instead. The plot is quite cool though, and is relatively unusual in theme – as a Samurai warrior you have to steal the magic stone from the evil warlord’s sword to defeat him. There’s some sort of curse, invoking the power of your ancient predecessors and appeasing a god, not exactly run-of-the-mill stuff. So, although disappointed to be missing out on Atlantis (Jack-Jack had been excited for the “submarine” once we assured him it didn’t involve real water) I was intrigued.

First impressions, once we had been conga-lined, eyes shut, into the starting area – this wasn’t ideal for a group of six (even with one non-player). There are some quite cramped places that need to be tackled by the whole team, so it was all a little too cosy for a while. The other impression was the noise – as a fairly minimalist dojo with lots of clacky, rattly pieces, there was a fair echo and, added to the ambient music, we struggled to hear each other. This was also a shame for our GM who, like many of the Escape Hunt team, was excellent in-character and gave us some hilarious advice; just unfortunately went unheard by most of the team.

Puzzle-wise, I think a team of five players was too many as well. We split up and worked separately, which was possible for at least some of the time, but generally there was always one person being a bit of a spare part. And overall, it then felt quite puzzle-light. One of our team felt they had only really contributed to three or four tasks.

I loved the idea of many of the challenges. They were all very nicely on theme and production values are high. There was some fun, quirky stuff, and some proper actual puzzles. In a more chill environment of a smaller team, it might have all had more flow. However, as with some other Escape Hunt experiences, we got the impression that many of the elements here were GM-activated (this is a padlock-free game). I definitely don’t have a problem with this, it is a plus in “mystical” themed rooms, but we had at least three instances of locks opening when we hadn’t really completed the puzzle. I think the chaos of a large team and the amount of noise was a problem. Certainly one puzzle stands out – I’d said, quite clearly in a sudden patch of quiet, “No, you’ve definitely done that right” and the puzzle we were looking at flew open, before I had a chance to finish “you’ve just got them in the wrong order”.

We always appreciate getting help before we get frustrated, and I think one other puzzle was “near enough with temperamental machinery”. But we were out in 37 minutes, so maybe didn’t need quite as much help as we were given…

Would I recommend? Meh. Probably yes, for a smaller team, preferably a two, no more than a four. Teenage Avenger gives up a thumbs up, with the proviso that it was too loud. The look of the room and some of the tasks were cool and fun and different. I know my meh-ness is part induced by missing out on the game we actually wanted to do. But I just felt that this game isn’t as technically fabulous as it is trying to be, which ultimately makes it kind of hollow.

  • Storyline: I’m not 100% that the game we played matches the story on the website, and I don’t know that we knew what we were doing, but “mystical samurai stuff” papers over a lot of cracks.
  • Theming and Set: Some really nice props and engineering, just loud.
  • Searching: Not a factor at all really.
  • Puzzles: A good mix of puzzling and physical tasks, if not always totally logical.
  • Physicality: There are elements of physicality required by some of the team, nothing too strenuous but a degree of mobility and dexterity.
  • Scare factor: Very mild jeopardy and not ideal for claustrophobics.
  • Company Age Guidance: “PG (8+)”
  • Age suitability: Jack-Jack ambled round a bit with his ear defenders on (non-playing) – there were a few tasks he could have helped with but not much. Slightly older, those in the tween bracket of 10-12, would have probably had a lot of fun joining in though.

Escape Hunt website

At other Escape Hunt branches: Alice in Puzzleland; Our Finest Hour

Edited to add: This branch is based in Xscape, which is worth a visit anyway. Recommend, for your mild amusement, checking out the “Wall of Tall” (between the escalators and the entrance to the Snow Dome) to compare your height. Apparently, I’m Spiderman; Teenage Avenger is a whisker short of Chewbacca; Amazing J is the same height as Madonna; and Lioness matches the world’s largest bird box.