The Lost Church – Axes & Escapes – Fakenham

Present, in January 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness, Parker, Amazing J

Team GATAPAE have been going to Axes & Escapes for a few years now. Our Norfolk-based team members are very close by and they have been several times, mostly without me, yet the venue still had (when we visited) four rooms we hadn’t played. Not that this is a huge location (five rooms) – this is more testament to Axes & Escapes‘ high turnover of games. Possibly driven by a relatively small local population and a stream of regulars returning to the axe throwing lanes, they have opened 13 rooms (as far as I know) in the last four years, including regular seasonal rooms and updated versions of their previous games. This is pretty unusual (and impressive!) – most other venues manage 3 or 4 in the same time frame. Over time, the GATAPAE B-team have reported a definite progression in the quality of offerings, so I was curious to see how much had changed since my last visit.

The Lost Church certainly sounds a more ambitious theme than my previous game here, The School Room. And first glance shows the huge evolution that has taken place, an impression that is reinforced the further we progressed into the game. Although you might not actually believe you have stumbled across an abandoned church in remote woodland, Axes & Escapes have created a tactile and atmospheric space that is intriguing, and different to anything I’ve played in a while.

It isn’t an enormous area and for five of us it was a relatively tight fit in places. Fortunately, once you get past the first stage, it becomes a more non-linear game and we were able to spread out on tasks a little more. There is a good mix of observation and puzzling and some fun tasks to complete. The puzzles use the space and the theme well, with the design tying together nicely throughout.

Little niggles – some of the game (maybe two puzzles) had a degree of ambiguity, in that we got halfway to the answer, but were not totally clear how to execute the solution. We had to take one clue here, where they basically explained that we had the answer and just had to think a little more sideways. Two sections were fiddly, in that it took three of us to try in turn before we succeeded. Both these sets of niggles could be put down to player error, but they just weren’t quite as “clean” as they could have been. But those were very minor frustrations in what was otherwise a smooth game.

As you’d expect from the theme, it is quite dark (lighting-wise, rather than morbid). A quality light is provided but the venue also allows players’ personal torches – our teenager had no problems seeing the locks, but us more senior players were glad for Parker’s spectacular efficiency in bringing a torch. The gloom is definitely for the theme and never unfair, not trying to create difficulty by darkness, but be prepared. The other warning I suppose, is obvious, given the title of the game, but if you are at all sensitive to religious content, this game probably isn’t for you. It is very respectful to the church theme, there is no suggestion of occult, but of course different people have different levels of tolerance.

We were genuinely surprised and delighted by this ambitious game and thoroughly enjoyed the clever, novel setting. A small team predominately of kids might struggle with a couple of elements, but overall the whole game is well-thought through and entertaining. The Lost Church was a mini miraculous discovery on a cold Norfolk January Sunday.

  • Storyline:  I’m not sure we actually followed a story, beyond exploring the church. But that was cool.
  • Theming and Set: Really well done to create a nice immersive atmosphere.
  • Searching: A nicely balanced amount.
  • Puzzles: Beautifully fitted to the theme.
  • Physicality: A little bit, nothing strenuous.  
  • Scare factor: Pleasantly, gently spooky without being a horror game.
  • Company Age Guidance: Participants 8+.
  • Age suitability: Wouldn’t class this as a kids’ game, but 10+ in a mixed age team would be absolutely fine.