Padlocks and puzzles, at home!
You have just 60 minutes to escape. The clock is ticking.
Teamwork, creativity, logic, and attention to detail will be needed to race against the clock.
Let’s face it – people that love escape rooms are always looking for ways to bring an escape room home to play between live games. Some of the most notable brands that provide these experiences are Exit the Game, and the Unlock! games, but with more and more play at home games coming to the market, it seems almost daily, it takes something special to stand out, and Epic Escapes are certainly memorable.
When we received our Epic Escapes box in the post, we were immediately impressed. The presentation is spectacular, and opening the box felt almost like I was a child on Christmas morning again. The games from Epic Escapes require some setup, and unfortunately, thanks to social distancing we weren’t able to play exactly as intended, as it was impossible to get a group of friends together for some escaping, but by setting up each game 24 hours before we intended to play, Gord and I were able to solve the puzzles together to get a feel for how everything worked, and as my memory is about as holey as Swiss cheese, my outside “knowledge” of padlock codes and hiding places wasn’t a factor, and actually added an extra element of “fun” when Gord was too gentle with his searching and I forgot where I had hidden some of the clues.
Before we go any further, I should probably address the elephant in the room: price. At £99.00, this box from Epic Escapes is not cheap. But what do you actually get for that price? Many of the box games that replicate escape games are actually tabletop games, with everything in front of you, laid out on the table. Others, like the Trapped series, have you hiding components around a room, to make the game a bit more like a traditional escape game. Epic Escapes takes that one step further, providing padlocks, boxes, key safes, and more, to enable one to actually bring an escape room into your home. When one considers that I spent roughly £50.00 on all of the padlocks, boxes, UV pens and other components that I needed for a bespoke play at home game created for Gord’s birthday, with the physical components that are included in the Epic Escapes box, plus the fact that there are three games contained within, suddenly, the price is actually much more reasonable. Particularly as the games are all able to be replayed – and even if you destroy some of the paper components, duplicates can be printed from the Epic Escape’s website.
The setup involved for each of the three games contained within the box is relatively minor, with step by step guides to walk you through how to set the padlocks with the required combinations, which clues should go in which box, and even some helpful tips on where to hide certain things. Everything you need to solve the puzzles are contained within, even down to a pencil and some paper, and nothing requires outside knowledge. I will say, the tidier the room you choose to set up in, the better, particularly if your players aren’t familiar with the room’s usual decor. This is mostly to make it obvious to players what is actually part of the game, and also so that the cleanup is less involved if your players are aggressive searchers!
The idea of bringing an escape room into your own home is certainly an intriguing one, and the stories and scenarios chosen are presented in a way that they are surprisingly immersive – although Piracy requires a greater suspension of disbelief to fully involve yourself in the world created. Even playing as we did, where I set up the games and still participated in the puzzle solving, rather than acting only as the GM, we still had a great deal of fun, although I think the Epic Escapes games are best enjoyed with a group of at least three to five people (with one acting as the host).
The puzzles contained within the Epic Escapes box varied wildly between each game, and even within the games themselves, with some that were really rather clever, some that were almost blindingly simplistic, and others that bordered on frustrating. The games themselves are relatively light on puzzles, with each game containing three tasks that will result in a three-digit padlock code, and one final four-digit escape code. The games all begin with a relatively non-linear and open format, allowing players to spread out and search, then choose to come together to solve each puzzle together, or work on separate tasks, coming together at the end for the finale, replicating the feeling of a traditional escape game. Each game contained within the box was not without its flaws, but these varied from game to game, and overall each experience was still enjoyable.
Hijack is billed as the hardest game of the three, and this was the one that we struggled with most, for several reasons. For one, there were two puzzles that relied on spatial awareness and physical manipulation, which felt as though they were there specifically to slow us down, and had no bearing on the theme of the game. Other puzzles revolved around logic and some minor maths. But the thing that possibly provided the most frustration was our experience with traditional escape rooms. Once you’ve played a few escape games, you come to expect certain rules – namely that keys and codes are only used once. Hijack happened to break those rules, and there was little to no signposting to indicate that the codes used would come into play later, though there was one indicator. All in all, we completed Hijack in around 45 minutes but ended up needing to take a few clues due to the issues mentioned.
Piracy is meant to be moderately difficult, and yet we struggled much less with this than we did when playing Hijack. Admittedly, many of my hiding places were similar, as our home only has so many rooms, and therefore so many hiding places, but the puzzles, in general, made much more sense, fit the theme better and didn’t suffer from the same issues as Hijack. The puzzles were typical of puzzles found in escape rooms, with observation playing a key role, but with a few moments of some outside the box thinking thrown in. However, the game suffered from one fundamental flaw, which resulted in one puzzle that could be interpreted in three ways, and, due to a bit of stupidity on our part, we ended up with two puzzles that resulted in the same three-digit padlock code. This ultimately ended in quite a bit of confusion as the same three numbers were used in different orders on two different locks, and we had to retrace our steps to figure out the correct number for the second lock.
Crime is advertised as the easiest of the games, and while we escaped in half the time we did Hijack, the puzzles felt more satisfying and clever. The puzzles relied heavily on observation and decoding (plus whatever search element your host adds) and were pretty devious. Crime contained my favourite puzzle of the entire series, which was beautiful in its simplicity, but incredibly sneaky.
Each game pack contains a series of Hint cards. If you are able to play as intended, with the person that set up the game as your game host, then that person can be in charge of the hint cards. If you don’t have a game host, then players can take the hints themselves. However you choose to deliver hints, the cards are clearly labelled with the puzzle to which they relate, and the order that they should be taken in.
The series of hint cards for each puzzle delivered several ambiguous and granular clues, but not the solutions. We found these to be occasionally more confusing than helpful, but more obvious instructions and solutions are also available in the set-up documents, should the team be struggling more than is strictly necessary. Unfortunately, the hints are almost useless for some of the tasks in Hijack, due to the more physical nature of the puzzles, and we actually had to Google a solution at one point for that, as even the hints in the set-up document were insufficient.
The next time we go on holiday with friends, Epic Escapes will be coming along for the trip. The games from Epic Escapes are one of the only play-at-home experiences we’ve found that, when played correctly, can accurately and easily transport an escape room into your living room. If you’re looking for something to spice up your usual boardgame night, look no further.
- Calculator may be useful
- Notepad and Pen (but this is provided)
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
- Hijack: 45 minutes
- Piracy: 15 minutes
- Crime: 21minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review