We do horror rooms for breakfast!
A tragic loss. A happy family destroyed. A desperate man, irresistibly drawn to dark forces. As the door slams shut behind you, you’re trapped in the world of Eli Howitz, an enigmatic figure whose gut-wrenching story pervades every millimetre of the room.
Just what happened in Eli’s toy shop? You’ve heard the rumours. You know the horror stories off by heart. But how much truth is there in the police report? Can there really be ritualistic carvings on the walls? They say there were glowing symbols, and toys that whirred, clicked, and span on their own…
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, we made our way back to Escapologic to begin a full day of escaping. For some inexplicable reason, we decided to begin our day by investigating the haunted toy shop, Howitz, at 10:00am. Nothing like ghosts and ghouls to wake you up in the morning I suppose.
Upon entering Escapologic, we were immediately recognised by the staff we had met the previous night, and following a brief chat with everyone, we were introduced to our GM, Becca. After leading us through the door, she proceeded to deliver the usual health and safety talk and the backstory of Howitz, with just enough ominous mystery to make us wonder what was to come. With a final warning that one of us would need to be sacrificed, we were left to explore and solve the mysteries of Eli Howitz’s Toy Shop.
Due to the nature of the room, and the ominous feel, Howitz was fast paced, and provided a hefty boost of adrenaline thanks to the spirits making things go bump in the night.
Like Curio, game play within Howitz is linear, demanding the completion of one task before another, with very few things that can be completed simultaneously. As such, I would suggest more experienced teams play with smaller numbers, otherwise you may find that some are left out of puzzle solving. Of course, the faint of heart may prefer to play with a larger group: safety in numbers and all that.
In general, we found the puzzles to be logical, and well thought out. Rather than solving for combinations to padlocks (the only padlocks in the room required keys), puzzles instead relied more on completing certain tasks, with a fair amount of searching for pieces to complete said tasks. There is one element that is semi physical, in that you must manipulate things in a certain way, but it is made more difficult by relying heavily on teamwork and excellent communication, which some teams may get hung up on.
Immersion seems to be the name of the game at Escapologic, along with a healthy dose of the unexpected, which Howitz had in abundance. The feeling of entering the world of Howitz began as soon as you were through the door into the room. Escapologic delivers the briefing in the room, but Howitz is slightly different to others in that the first space you enter almost resembles a dark and creepy alley you might find behind the toy shop, rather than opening straight into the room itself.
Once through into Eli’s toy shop, you’re pulled further into the world of Howitz. The room is filled with some incredibly creepy props, and jump scares abound. Everything has a gritty feel, as though it really has been abandoned for years. The lighting serves to both hinder, and also guide you, while the use of clever mechanics and effects provide some really fun/terrifying moments.
I am a sucker for a set that behaves in unexpected ways, so strangely, the high point of the game for me was the part that I expect most find to be the scariest (the sacrifice we were warned about…), and the only disappointment on that front was that sadly, only one teammate will get to experience it.
Perhaps the only thing that let this room down was the ending. With so many great effects and surprising twists, Howitz was building towards a really awesome ending, but for me, the reality of the end just fell a bit flat. Even a change in the music would have elevated this a bit for me. That being said, I’m perhaps just being a bit picky.
Everyone we spoke to at Escapologic, was friendly, engaging, and seemed genuinely happy to have a chat with us, and Becca was no exception.
Surprisingly, we weren’t told how we would receive clues if we needed to ask for them. We found out later that they would be delivered by a helpful spirit within the room through the use of the ouija board. I am slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to see this in action, as at the time, I just thought the board was just set dressing.
I approached Howitz with an air of trepidation, as it had a reputation for being rather scary. While this room is horror themed, it is not what I would call a horror experience. It’s gritty, grimey, dimly lit, and full of jump scares and some really creepy toys, but if I were to give it a rating like a movie, it would receive a PG-13. Make of that what you will when you’re deciding if it’s too scary/scary enough, though I would recommend anyone that is particularly nervous avoids being the “sacrifice.”
Team: Two Players – escaped in 34:28 with no clues
Address: 21-23 Castle Gate, Nottingham NG1 7AQ