Present, in April 2022, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant £
I’ve genuinely never been so conflicted writing an Escape Room review before. I’m always very aware that our experience won’t necessarily be the same as everyone else’s experience – each live game is unpredicatably different, after all, which is part of the beauty of this activity. But this was a particularly unusual instance, where we felt we didn’t really play the game that is there. I’d like to review the game that it should be, and that does colour our review, but ultimately I do have to review our actual experience.
Cryptic musings over, let’s start with the good stuff. This venue is properly great; a London Underground station that was built in 1907 and decommissioned less than 20 years later, and Mission:Breakout has repurposed the multitude of levels, service tunnels and mazey corridors into a series of incredibly immersive, atmospheric Escape Rooms. The adventure starts from inputting a secret code into the entrance door at the top of a steep spiral staircase, and the greetings and briefings are all in character.
We are travelling forward in time to a post-apocalyptic world; previous colleagues have become trapped in the tunnels with giant, scheming, mutant, zombie rats and we, obviously, need to save the world. Equipped with ghostbusters-style backpacks and strapped into a time machine, we are blasted off on our mission. This is genuinely as cool as it all sounds, like nothing I’ve done in an Escape Room before, and gives an idea of the ambition and production values of this outfit. The set obviously helps with this – crawling through hatches in thick concrete walls (be prepared to get VERY dusty) creates instant immersion in this massive, labyrinthine space.
There is no shortage of really exciting-looking, tactile stuff in here, either. There are a few padlocks, but much is along the real-life problem-solving lines of a good disaster game. You have to work as a team and keep moving, spurred on by a couple of bits of great theatre (hint: when they say giant rat, they weren’t kidding). The problem came for us in that a few of the exciting, tactile things in here were NOT part of our game and instead were red herrings that we wasted quite a bit of time on. We were utterly confused – they were clearly puzzles, but had no function or solution. After finishing the game, we discovered we had been put in to play on “easy mode” – testing had shown the game was too difficult for most teams, so a raft of puzzles had been deactivated to create a more “winnable” experience. This became obvious after reading The Escape Roomer’s review – our set-up had been altered almost beyond recognition from the version they played the week before.
Unfortunately for us, this did really detract from the game. Not only was it a shame to miss playing with some of the more interesting-looking bits of machinery, we got frustrated and confused by their presence. We had several instances where some of us were just standing around – there is a section where the team is split up – which was just crying out for some non-linear puzzles to be available to work on. Removing parts of the game also removed some of the logic – in the final, slightly frantic space, we completely lost the narrative, which made the big escape a bit of an anti-climax.
It was so frustrating, because we could tell that there was an amazing game here, but we didn’t get to play it. We loved so much about the atmosphere and the theatre, and some of the activities we actually did were very creative and fun, but overall the puzzle content was lacking. I must emphasize this was a free game and we have given a lot of testing feedback, so we have no complaints about being short-changed, just sad that we missed an experience with so much potential. As displayed by the set-up changing drastically from one week to the next, I’m sure Mission:Breakout are still tweaking this, and future teams will probably not have the same experience as ours. Minor irritations, such as low light (with no torch option) and sticky mechanisms should be easy fixes, and we have recommended adding messages and better signposting to restore the narrative flow.
There was still a lot to love and enjoy about this experience. In the incarnation we played, many teams would still have a great time. It would be ideally suited to newbie teams seeking adrenaline, who don’t mind being guided through by walkie-talkie and wouldn’t look too closely at “set-dressing”. Experienced escapers and puzzle-hungry teams would probably find it as we did, lacking in content and flow and generally a missed opportunity. In the meantime, I will be monitoring reviews carefully and keeping my fingers crossed that Underground 2099 eventually finds the perfect balance that such a great concept deserves.
- Storyline: Fabulous sci-fi concept, just got all a bit muddled at the end.
- Theming and Set: Absolutely top class.
- Searching: Very little actual searching.
- Puzzles: More practical tasks than brain-teasers.
- Physicality: You do need good mobility, lots of climbing through hatches, sometimes at speed, occasionally while carrying stuff.
- Scare factor: Not an outright horror game, but does have scares. Triggers for claustrophobia or musophobia (fear of rodents, I had to look it up).
- Company Age Guidance: “Suitable from 9 years old kids; An adult must accompany kids under 15 years old”
- Age suitability: Nine sounds very young for this game. Tough tweens in a mixed age group would be ok. There is a split section – so you need at least two confident, capable adult-type people.
£ = we didn’t pay for this experience, it was a complimentary game in return for feedback from experienced escapers. But, as you can see, our opinions remain our own.