Start the fans, please!

I’ve always been a big fan of the Crystal Maze. I loved Richard O’Brien as the host and all of the running around trying to solve the puzzles and laughing at contestants that got locked in or fell into the water. I remember watching a special episode where they’d got children in the Maze instead of adults and was really jealous of the children and remember thinking to myself, “One day, I’ll be on the Crystal Maze” (I was only young, #dontjudgeme)

 

So, when they announced they were bringing the Crystal Maze back via Crowdfunder, I jumped at the chance to do something. First thing was trying to get a team together. I sent a text to the usual suspects to say that if I could get 7 other people interested on a first come first served basis, then I’d send money for a team off to Crowdfunder. My partner was in the room when I sent the text out, and was the 5th person to reply. I’d got a full team of 8 together, plus 2 reserves. Money went off to Crowdfunder, and we waited.

 

It seemed like forever before they confirmed that they were ready to take bookings. And once they announced available dates, I had to try and find a day that everyone could do. Not an easy task! We settled on a date, and I booked us in. I did have problems booking but after several phone calls and a bit of hassle, we finally had the booking sorted.

Crystal

Cue more waiting. People that we knew went to the Maze and came back saying it was amazing, which I think got us even more excited. The week before we went I was worried that it might not live up to my expectations (which were pretty high). Finally the day arrived, and the team members set off down to London. We’d been pre-warned that the venue wasn’t well signposted, but managed to find it pretty easily.

 

The initial entrance wasn’t very Crystal Maze-y. There isn’t a sign outside to let you know you’re in the right place or anything, but there were a couple of people in the reception area wearing t-shirts with crystals on which gave it away!

 

We went in, put all of our belongings away and had the chance to don the fabled jackets. We were the green team so our jackets were a lovely forest green. We waited around our green table, in our green jackets, very excited for games to begin. It was a really warm day so we were told we wouldn’t be able to take the jackets in with us as it would be too hot (it really would have been!)

 

After a quick brief from one of the team members about safety, we were taken to our start room – ours was in the Medieval Zone – and we were left to watch a video before our Maze Master appeared. Our Maze Master was full of energy, which was really good as there isn’t much time to rest while in the Maze! It’s pretty full on. When you’re not in a room doing an activity you’re probably cheering on a team mate, providing “helpful” advice or trying to think of who’s doing the next room and what type of room it’ll be. There are 4 room types, Physical, Skill, Logic and Mystery.

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I won’t say much about the individual rooms, but I’m pretty sure they are all rooms based on the TV show. So, if you’re planning to go, watching some reruns would be useful! Going as a full team of people was a definite advantage as we knew who was going to be better at some of the types of games and who would be a disaster. I also loved how the Maze Master didn’t try to be a copy of Richard O’Brien but instead had his own style. I don’t think it would have worked otherwise!

 

The zones were incredible, and felt true to the show. The Aztec zone was full of sand (trust me, I accidentally bought a shoe-ful of it back), the Medieval zone was dark and gloomy, the Futuristic zone was clean and crisp and the Industrial zone was really well done. My only criticism is that it was hard to see through the windows of the Futuristic Zone rooms. All of the other viewing windows were really good in the other zones.

 

After the games, it was off to the fabled Crystal Dome to try and collect as many gold tokens as we could (no silver ones in this version of the game!) We were the last team to go, so tried to pick up hints from the teams before us. Sadly, all of those teams cheated but weren’t called up on it until the end – so we collected tokens using techniques the other teams had used… and were told that our scores wouldn’t be counted as all of the teams cheated! We did get chance to get a photo of the team in front of the dome though.

Crystal Maze

All in all, we had a fantastic time. We hung around in the bar around the dome afterwards and had a drink, talking about our favourite games. Everyone on our team had managed to get a crystal and played at least two games, so there was lots to talk about. We were warm and sweaty after running about in the Maze but no one cared as we’d had so much fun. I’d definitely recommend doing it if you get a chance. There’s also chance to buy any souvenirs after the games, a few of us bought crystals (you can’t do the Crystal Maze and not get a crystal in my mind!).

 

 

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Events, Judging Harshly, London

Judging Harshly – Crystal Maze, London

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Escape Room Games, Judging Harshly

Judging Harshly – The Betrayal of Cluetankhamun, Clue HQ Warrington

We thought we’d done all of the rooms at Clue HQ Warrington – but then they opened up a new one, which we went off to play soon after it had opened. I’ve always had a soft spot for Egyptian lore, so was looking forward to playing this one. We ended up splitting into two groups – I was in a group of 4, Emma was in a group of 5.

 

From their website:

Just over a month ago the long lost tomb of Cluetankhamun was unearthed for the first time in over 5 millennia. A team of explorers were sent in to recover the Cluetan Crystal, a jewel believed to possess the power of the Nile. It has been several days since last contact with the exploring party so it’s time to send a new expedition down into the tomb to retrieve the crystal. But watch your step – Who knows what happened to the last exploring party.

 

Our first mission was to find the room – having played all of the other rooms there, this was pretty easy for us. As usual, I won’t give away anything inside the room as I’d hate to spoil it for anyone.

 

The room was really well put together, especially as it’s not an overly large space. All the space was utilised well, and the puzzles were fairly straightforward. My team did struggle with one of the puzzles that wasn’t too difficult as we weren’t thinking very clearly. As it’s set in the Egyptian era, there aren’t any high tech puzzles, which worked in it’s favour in my opinion (if you read these blog posts then you’ll realise I’m not a fan of the easily breakable high tech things – especially DVD players and lasers) Everything in the room worked and worked well. All of the puzzles were good, although none of them stood out on their own.

Betrayal of Cluetankhamun Emma

We did manage to get out, and although Emma’s team beat mine with 15minutes left, we were very proud of our escape with 9minutes left. In our defense, they did have an extra player, and we had 2 rather hungover players – including one that had never done an escape room before! It also didn’t help that we spent a good while hunting down for something to use a code on before we figured out it was probably for the door – we’d had so much fun solving puzzles that we didn’t really want it to end!

Betrayal of Cluetankhamun

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Escape Room Games, International, Judging Harshly, Riga, Uncategorized

Judging Harshly – I Am Medieval, Riga

Our last escape room in Riga was I Am Medieval. We were on an escaper’s high having successfully escaped 3 rooms in Riga, and had high hopes for this one after checking out some reviews. It’s set in a tower in Old Riga and looks quite impressive. We haven’t tried any Medieval themed rooms and were looking forward to trying this one.

 

From the website:

“Ramer Tower Museum” is a quest game that is situated in the unique historic location, inside the city wall and the city wall tower. The quest is truly a gem on the map of riga and is suited for people of all ages. The Quest Keeper invites you to experience the authentic medieval atmosphere, solving and completing all the puzzles and tasks of the tower. The tour is suited for small groups from 2 to 5 people and lasts 60 minutes.

 

I’m usually pretty laid back and easy going and try to see the good side of things, but this room made that very hard to do. In all honesty, it’s tied for the worst room that I’ve ever done (I still can’t decide if this was as bad as Make a Break or if it was worse). We arrived at the door before our host did, and we both got the impression that he didn’t really want to be there. We were given some monk habit-style things to wear and belts to tie them up, which we thought was a nice touch before entering the room.

Being set in a tower, the rooms aren’t overly big and there are a lot of stairs. There was a screen on the first floor where clues would be typed – not useful when you’re stuck on the top floor and need a hint. Speaking of the top floor – I was really glad that we were wearing the habit-type things as it was incredibly dusty. In my mind dust should not be used to “theme” the room, and we both came away wanting showers to clean ourselves of the experience.

It was very different to rooms that we’ve played in the past and neither of us particularly enjoyed it (we both thought about calling it a day and leaving half way through but neither of us said anything out loud so we stuck it out until the end). If you hadn’t played an escape room before then you might enjoy this one, but if you like puzzles that make you think and that make sense, this is definitely one to avoid. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a way to unlock a padlock on a container – only to find out that it was a dummy padlock and that the container was open. Yes, perhaps I should have checked, but I’m used to going into escape rooms and trying to unlock padlocks.

 

In summary? Avoid like the plague of ye olden days. Travel a bit further out of the old town and go to Get Out or further still and try out Mystery House.

 

 

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Escape Room Games, International, Judging Harshly, Riga, Uncategorized

Judging Harshly – Robbery at the Museum, Get Out, Riga

After a recommendation from Mystery House in Riga, we looked up Get Out. They didn’t seem to have many trip advisor reviews but based on how much we enjoyed Mystery House and the fact our host said it was the best game she’d ever played, we thought we would give it a try. We booked, and went along.

Occasionally, the location of an escape room will take us by surprise. This one certainly did. It was in a shopping centre in the middle of the city. Surrounded by clothes shops. To us, it seemed a bit strange, being used to more out of the way locations, old mills, railway arches etc.

We went ahead and booked the Robbery at the Museum room. We’ve done an art gallery theft room before and weren’t carried away with it so were a touch concerned that this one might also not live up to expectations. We were issued with a briefcase full of “useful items” and sent into the room.

From the website:

It was just a game…
We used to play poker with friends. We did great and we were good at it. However, one day some dangerous people beat us. Such people don’t forget stuff like that… Their demand is the diamond from the museum with the best security system in town. And we must carry out the robbery!  The robbery is well-planned to the slightest detail! But we have only 60 minutes…

First impressions of the room? Dark. And noisy. We didn’t have a clue what was going on for a while, and opened up the briefcase to see what we had that might be useful. Luckily there was a torch, and we got going on trying to do the mission.

As usual, I won’t go into any specifics, but it was AMAZING. The range of puzzles was brilliant, including some extremely clever high-tec ones (and everything worked!) and some very simple ones (yep, we struggled with the simple ones but managed the high tec ones just fine) It was the most physically demanding room that we’ve tried, but in a fun way, not moving furniture or picking up heavy objects kind of way. We were told we could have 3 clues and ended up using 2 of them – one of them on something quite simple that we really should have figured out ourselves.

The theming of the robbery was really good – you had to get into the museum that you were robbing, it wasn’t just a case of “you’re outside the door, open it and rob what you’re after before escaping the room”. It was more “you’ve got to get into the museum, avoid the guards, rob what you’re after and then get out” which made it more believable in my opinion.

We managed to escape, I think it was in 53:20. Sadly we didn’t get our photos taken or make a note of our time. There was plenty for the two of us to do and larger groups would be kept busy with all of the puzzles. There was also a potential time penalty in the room, which we managed to avoid and was something I hadn’t come across in escape rooms before. We asked (as we found it easy to avoid the penalty) and apparently it does catch people out who then struggle to complete the escape with the reduced time.

New favourite escape room. Need I say more? If you’ve after an escape room in Riga then this is a definite must. Sadly they just had the one room while we were there but are planning to open up a new room soon.

 

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Escape Room Games, International, Judging Harshly, Riga, Uncategorized

Judging Harshly – Dr Zink, Mystery House, Riga

After finishing Mission: Riga at Mystery House, we had a little bit of a break while our host Gundega reset the room. We had both enjoyed the first room and were glad we’d booked the second room to do straight after. In all honesty, we loved the sound of the Dr Zink and would have played it first but the difficulty rating put us off a little bit so we went for the easier room first.

 

From the website:

This will be a journey into the world of numbers, formulas, and chemical elements. Are you ready to retrace knowledge obtained back in school? You have been trapped in the laboratory of dark minded scientist Dr. Zink. He is planning to blow up the whole world. The stakes are high, and you do not have much time left. Will you be able to find clues, solve formulas, and deactivate the bomb before it’s too late? Time is ticking…

 

Again, the room was really well thought out with some fantastic puzzles. We were warned that there would be a new type of lock in the room that we hadn’t come across in Mission:Riga which did confuse us a little bit (luckily I’d seen one before but my partner hadn’t). There were fewer high-tec puzzles in this room, but the ones in the room definitely required more thought. They weren’t kidding about the world of numbers and formulas!

Although the room was rated more difficult than Mission: Riga, we escaped this one quicker in 54:10 (after defusing the bomb of course – in fact I was so engrossed in defusing the bomb I completely forgot about opening the door!). Perhaps it’s because we both like the science-y stuff and find it interesting (we studied Chemistry and Engineering) or perhaps it’s because they try to persuade people to try Mission: Riga. Either way, we both really enjoyed it, and had a great chat with our game host Gundega afterwards while waiting for the taxi back to the city centre. We asked if she had any recommendations for escape rooms in Riga, and looked up the one she suggested – more on that soon.

Mystery House has definitely made it into our top 5 escape room locations. I always think that having a welcoming and friendly host makes a huge difference. Hopefully we’ll be able to go back and try our hand at any new games they have in the future!

Mystery House Riga

 

 

 

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Escape Room Games, International, Passing Judgement, Riga

Judging Harshly – Mission: Riga, Mystery House, Riga

Welcome to my first international escape room review! I went to Riga with my partner and while we were looking for this to do before we went we came across several escape rooms. We checked out Tripadvisor and the top escape room caught our eye – Mystery House. I emailed to check if there was a problem with us attempting to do the room in English (I kept thinking back to escape rooms we’ve done in the UK, most of which had puzzles with English instructions) and quickly got a reply to say that they can do the room in English, Latvian or Russian. There was an offer on, if you booked 2 rooms they would arrange collection.drop off from the city centre. This seemed like a good plan, especially as it’s a bit out of the city centre, so we went ahead and booked the 2 harder rooms, Mission:Riga and Dr Zinc.

 

From the website:

You are a team of the best agents of your country, and are visiting Riga on a mission. Return home is possible only with secret document #2291, stolen from double agent`s apartment. No doubt, this is the most secure apartment in whole country. If all this isn’t enough, you have only 60 minutes to get the job done. It is time to start the Mission:Riga. Collect the target and leave unseen before agent returns. Be ready to solve puzzles, look for clues left behind…, and do it fast. Be aware – he has played this game for a while… Remember, only as a team can you accomplish this mission

We were picked up by a particularly grumpy taxi driver, and dropped off at Mystery House where we met our game operator, Gundega. She was lovely and bubbly and it was nice to meet her in person after speaking to her via email before our trip. We were offered bottled water and sweets before being set lose in the Mission: Riga room, where there was more water and sweets in case we wanted them during the hour.

The room was lovely and clean, with music coming from a radio in one of the corners of the room. The room certainly kept us busy, with plenty to do with several red herrings. We only had one small issue with the equipment – a key got stuck. It wasn’t the first time this had happened but it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. It’s not often that a game operator has to come into the room to fix something, and when they do it can spoil the atmosphere of the room, but Gundega did it in a really nice way that didn’t detract from the experience at all. We all had a laugh about it and she left and we carried on.

The theming was done well, and Gundega kept an eye on us throughout, keeping in touch with a walkie talkie. I’m not usually a big fan of the walkie talkies, but in this room it worked really well – and I particularly liked that we had to find it in the room to use it, and that when she wanted to get in touch with us she called us “agents”. It’s a small thing, but I think it added to the experience.

The puzzles in this room were superb and some were quite unusual. We managed to get out, but there wasn’t much time left on the clock – we escaped in 58:11. It was the first game my partner and I have played as just a two and we worked well together (and were still talking to each other at the end of the game which I wasn’t sure would be the case!)

 

Although Doctor Zinc is rated as a harder room, the escape rate for this room is lower, probably because they encourage people to try this room before attempting the harder one. It was a really good room, and I can imagine it keeping all the members of a larger group occupied.

Mystery House Riga

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Escape Room Games, Judging Harshly, Manchester

Judging Harshly – Madchester, Breakout Manchester

We ended up doing a couple of rooms last bank holiday at quite short notice – and in two different locations. I went and did Madchester at Breakout Manchester, while Emma went attempted escaping from the Secret Lab at Escape Room Manchester, which I’m sure she’ll blog about soon.

 

We’ve done a Breakout room in the past, Classified, where we raced against each other (they had two identical rooms) which we weren’t overly keen on – the room felt very functional, with few distractions and a lot of the equipment didn’t work which was a shame. Had we done the rooms earlier it might have been different, but as they were due to shut the week after we left (the lease was up) I think they didn’t see the point in replacing the equipment.

 

Anyway, the Classified rooms have gone now, and we went to try Madchester, Breakout’s hardest room. We were greeted and taken into the room, which I found a bit strange. I prefer being briefed outside the room, so that the escape starts once you’re inside. All of us were in the room looking around for clues before the intro started.

 

From their website:

Zack is a passionate collector of anything Manchester related. As a group of thieves, you wondered in his bedroom and find yourselves trapped. You have 60 minutes to steal Zack’s valuable collectables and escape before he comes back.

 

The room was bigger than I expected, and decorated well, reminding me slightly of my room while at Manchester University (although the Madchester room was much, much cleaner. And bigger. Without any damp) The props were good, and everything that should work did work. There were 3 of us in the team and we were all kept pretty occupied for the duration of the game. We managed to escape with just 1:12 left on the clock, having been distracted by something silly for far too long. We were just happy to escape, as one of our friends had done the room with his 4 workmates and not managed to get out. Not that we’re competitive or anything…

 

Breakout Mcr Madchester

 

I’d definitely recommend the room if you’re up for a challenge – we thought it was pretty well done and will probably try the other Breakout rooms soon.

 

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