Another amazing set!
The residents of Grithin Gifford are hostile and unfriendly to any stranger, especially to you, a bunch of scared lawyers sent from London to find the will of the last owner of the old creepy mansion across the street. There is a legend of a woman dressed in black that haunts the place and scatters death. No one has seen her. Until today…
Coven Escape is another one of those companies who have set up in a building that feels more like an office or residential block than a place where escape rooms should be. The venue was easy to find and located on the third floor of the building (there were lifts), and there were leaflets for other escape room companies outside the door which signalled to us that we were in the right place. But as soon as we stepped through the door, it was like we’d travelled through a portal into another world.
We entered into a darky lit waiting area that felt like a small town square. A toilet room was off to one side and a trunk was in front of us. On the trunk were the rules/waivers that we were required to read and sign. We were told once we were ready to begin, we had to stand in a certain spot in the room, so when we’d all signed (and used the facilities) we stood in the spot and were greeted by our GM (in character), Dimitris.
Dimitris was the lawyer in this story and he greeted us and briefed us on our mission and the entities that we would encounter in Grithin Gifford. He left us with a piece of paper to read then before we knew it, he had disappeared and our mission had begun.
I assume that one of the great things about Athens must be that premises are cheap to rent, as Woman in Black was yet another sprawling set; it was basically a village set up inside the building. Then again, before we even got to the village we had to jump on a train to get there – immersion, immersion, immersion.
This game was created for full blown immersion, there is no doubt about that. There’s a reason that this game is ranked number 53 in the world in the TERPECA award. For me, this game had the perfect level of scare factor mixed well with puzzles, and the sense of adventure as we progressed around the village was a delight. I lost count of how many places we investigated but if you’re looking for a game with more than one room, then this game will seriously exceed your expectations.
The title ‘Woman in Black’ gives it away, but this is first and foremost a horror experience, with live actors and characters to interact with, and lots of incredibly dark spaces to explore or avoid. Obviously with an escape room it’s nice to have a few puzzles to solve along the way, and Woman in Black had enough to keep us going. Fortunately, when there were puzzles to solve the lighting was a consideration and we always had just enough light to see what we needed. Lighting was also used to usher us from place to place – a nice touch.
Being a cinematic experience, I would imagine that the actors need to know where players are now and where they will be next. Because of this the game plays out in a very linear manner which did make it hard to get all of our team involved in solving something at various points. We played as a team of four so not a massive team, and I really wouldn’t want to go much bigger than that.
There was an element of difficulty by darkness and the low ambient lighting did make it tricky to go off independently to investigate spaces, although with the Woman in Black lurking, we didn’t often want to split up! The rest of the puzzles were satisfying and varied, the first puzzle was by far my favourite (play it and you’ll see), and many of them used tech to make the resulting action seem more supernatural, although there were some traditional style padlocks to lock things away when needed.
The puzzles, although fun and clever, were secondary to the story and really the game was created in a way that enabled the narrative to unfold. As we progressed through the game, the puzzles we were solving made more sense in our overarching mission and helped us learn more about the Woman in Black, which all then culminated in the final task to finish the game.
Dimitris played his role(s) perfectly, and never left character. His briefing and debrief were spot on and I have a suspicion that he may have played another character too; if so, he did that well.
The clue system was disguised as a large book which we had to keep with us at all times. Liz was the designated book carrier for our team and I think she held it very tight as if it were a comfort device. Any clues we needed would come through the book and thanks to the size of it, and Liz’s deathgrip, we never really had to worry about losing it.
We did need a few nudges are various points to get us back on track, but thanks to the puzzles being generally fair and logical, and Dimitris/the Book keeping an eye on things, we never had to wait long for a cryptic piece of information to get us going again.
I feel bad for Woman in Black as we played it the day after we had played Chapel and Catacombs so it perhaps didn’t wow us as much as it really should have. But it in its own right, it is still an incredible game with a huge set that I really enjoyed.
The finale to this game leaves it open for a sequel, and I really hope there’s a sequel. We had a great time playing Woman in Black and they deserve a round of applause for their set design, story telling, and live actor performances. Well done, Coven Escape, well done!
Team: 4 players – once again, no concept of time
Address: Sapfous 143, Kallithea 176 75