Based right in the centre of London – in Oxford Street, in fact, if the banner above didn’t tip you off – Escape Land has a choice of two themed rooms to experience. The first is built around a mad scientist (“Professor Oxford’s Escape Room London”), while the other has a Leonardo Da Vinci theme.
By ‘themed around’ Leonardo Da Vinci, this does mean that it’s only a theme. The room has no story or plot to follow, and no mission to complete. The room, if you choose to be kind, could be said to be inspired by Da Vinci’s life and works, with his paintings featured in some puzzles and his history and contemporaries referenced. A lot more could have been done with the theme though, and there are many different stories it would be simple to introduce and keep centred around the theme. Fans of the renaissance man should agree with this, along with fans of the Da Vinci of our time. I refer here, of course, to Dan Brown. Whether you were looking for a classic story or a modern twist, there were no riddles hidden inside paintings, no conspiracy theories and not a Holy Grail or cryptex in sight.
Although there’s no story to speak of as such, the puzzles are laid out in a dynamic way, especially as there’s more than one area to discover. There are enough concurrent puzzles that everyone can contribute. Putting together the answers to manage to unlock a door and being rewarded with a whole new area to explore does feel very satisfying.
The starting area is quite cramped, even with the smallest team of three people. There’s a lot of time spent bumping into the furniture and each other. There’s no forewarning given by the website game that you’ll start off in darkness, and it’s not mentioned in the introduction to the game. Although each player is provided with a flashlight, it’s something to bear in mind if you or anyone in your team suffers from claustrophobia or a fear or the dark – you’ll be spending a good ten minutes of the game in darkness.
He doesn’t look impressed – possibly due to the room’s low success rate.
The room offers a fair challenge, with the owner saying afterwards that it has roughly a 50% completion rate. There are a few things they’ve done to help players out. The padlocks are often labelled to help match the code to the right lock. As there are a significant number of locks to contend with, this takes the difficulty down to merely challenging rather than fiendish. Another helpful clue from the organisers are the cards left around as handy guides. For example, there was one card which offered an explanation of what an anagram was. For most exit room enthusiasts, I can’t imagine these kind of pointers would be needed, but it could be useful for a family team that includes children.
If these hints aren’t enough to keep you moving in the right direction, there are clues available via walkie-talkie. This means that not only can the organiser contact you to offer advice, you can (if your pride allows you) request help whenever it’s needed rather than waiting for it to be offered.
The walkie-talkie came in useful at one stage during our game, as they had to contact us to recommend that we stop concentrating on one puzzle and move on. We realised afterwards that this had something to do with the fact that one fairly crucial padlock hadn’t been closed before our game, so there was no point in trying to solve the puzzle that went with it. This also meant that if we’d realised (and if we’d wanted to) we could have bypassed a good third of the game. That would spoil the fun a tad, but might have been a sneaky way to beat any time record for that room…
If the story behind a room is important to you, or if you’re method enough that it’s not fun unless you know why you’re escaping from any given exit game and what your motivation is, then this isn’t the game for you. But otherwise, the puzzles are engaging and fun, especially the moving between the sub-rooms, and the props are genuinely impressive. Just don’t expect any Holy Grail at the end of it.
Players: 3 – 5
Weaknesses: Lack of story
Strengths: Ingenuity of puzzles and props
Completion time: 00:59:23