London, Jul 2017
The Cabin in the Woods, the second game at Escape From The Room, continues the venue’s horror story theme. Moving from a haunted bedroom to the hut of a suspected witch, the players are again paranormal investigators, this time investigating the disappearance of a colleague.
The game is played in a genuine wooden cabin. Escape From The Room is based out of a house in the suburbs of South London, and the cabin is in the garden. Some suspension of disbelief is needed here: this cabin is all a bit new and clean, with not enough woodworm-riddled beams or crumbling timbers to really feel like somewhere deep in the woods and haunted by old memories. Still, the decor has plenty of creepy touches to leave you just a little unnerved.
As with the venue’s first game, players can purchase a 60 minute version or an extended 90 minute one, where the longer game adds on additional content after the players find the exit key. Sections of the content are marked ‘bonus’ to show that they’re for the extra section, and while that impacts a little in immersion, there’s no danger of confusion.
Hints are received via an iPhone, ostensibly from the paranormal investigator who’s sent you here. The briefing includes a video message from the same investigator, as well as a surprising level of detail from the gamemaster pointing out which was the final padlock, describing an area to ignore, and so on. He also advised us that we should expect puzzles to open the padlock physically closest to them. Although the briefing initially struck me as a little more information up front that I wanted, the result was that we didn’t waste time searching where we didn’t need to or trying codes on the wrong locks. In fact, I think every time we tried a code, we tried it on the correct padlock first time. Since there are a high number of similar padlocks in the game, that was a big help to game flow.
I found the sheer quantity of content impressive. That’s perhaps only to be expected in a 90 minute game (since we were playing the extended version), but there seemed to be more here even compared to the 90 min version of Old Maid Milly. Enthusiasts should definitely book the longer game, it adds a big chunk of good extra content, and gives a more satisfying end to the story.
The occult theme is used throughout, but not exclusively, with other puzzles added purely for their own sake. The result is eclectic in a way that would be a weakness in a game that aimed to be full-on scary, but which I really enjoyed. It manages to be creepily ghoulish while also now and again laugh-out-loud funny, as well as surprisingly inventive. And it shares with the venue’s original game a handmade charm that made me want to like it from the outset. This is another game that demonstrates that maglocks and Arduinos aren’t needed for a quality escape room; and the amount of puzzles in the game (as long as you’re playing the extended version) bump it up a notch further, to the shortlist of London games I’d particularly encourage enthusiasts to try.
Full disclosure: we were invited to play this game for free for review purposes.