Not an escape room, an escape house!
An unexpected invitation. A long distanced relative, after a long time, appears again. Sensing guilty loose ends coming after him, he invites you to his Mansion, to share a secret with roots dating back to his past & his adventurous time in Africa… Are you ready to discover the bitter truth?…
When I was 12 years old, I was assigned a country to report on throughout the year – everything from the history and the culture, to the geography and the food. The country I was assigned was Greece. And ever since then, for the last I refuse to say exactly how many years, I have wanted to visit Greece, and most particularly Athens. So what’s the first thing we did after clearing immigration at the airport? Well, dropped off our luggage and had dinner of course, but that was swiftly followed by going ahead and getting ourselves locked in a room for three hours.
Yes, you read that right – three hours. In a city renowned for its exceptional horror experiences, Paradox Project breaks the mould and is instead known for producing pure puzzle games that are packed so full of fantastic content that they allow three hours just for game play. We became aware of the company in 2019 when their second game, The Bookstore, nabbed the #2 spot on the TERPECA list that year. Of course, I said that the Paradox Project games are pure puzzles, but what makes the games here even better is that on top of their excellent puzzles, the games are also heavy on the narrative. Which would, of course, make it a crime to skip out on their first game, The Mansion, as it directly precedes The Bookstore.
Which is how we found ourselves standing outside a nondescript door up a dizzying staircase just hours after arriving in Athens, where we discovered only a list of rules to read through waiting for us outside the door. Five minutes later, we were buzzed through and we found ourselves inside a proper apartment. A screen flickered to life, and we were finally clued into just exactly why our long lost relative had invited us all the way to Athens and his apartment.
The video dissolved into the timer and we were off! The Mansion feels overwhelming at first, for it’s not just one room to search for a starting point, but rather an entire apartment, and there is plenty to explore from the start, with only a few areas explicitly off-limits. Aside from those clearly marked areas, however, everything else is in play. But keep in mind, the game is your own; you’re free to come and go as you please as the door is never locked. Need to step outside for a cigarette? Desperately want a snack or a coffee from the bakery directly below? That’s all fine – but be aware, the timer only pauses for your mid-game break.
The pace of the game never felt slow, thanks in part to the content and the story, but also the background music that added atmosphere. Each new area of the house we discovered was distinctly different to the last, and with so many different areas in play, the game had a very open feel, with only a few choke points, before opening again. But as we solved puzzles and made discoveries, the narrative unfolded, and we learned more and more about our mysterious Uncle. The Mansion built on the narrative, increasing the tension, until we reached the dramatic finale. Of course, it was also a bit of a cliff hanger – to be continued in The Bookstore.
It’s no surprise that a three-hour escape game is absolutely brimming with puzzles, but what may surprise you is that they are each totally different to the next. On top of that, puzzles evolve out of the house, supporting the narrative, and never feeling forced. There is so much content within The Mansion, that I could go on and on about the puzzles for hours, but really, I think it’s safe to just say, that there is really and truly something here for everyone.
The Mansion often felt as though it only had a few puzzles, but each of those was multi-layered, requiring several steps to reach the final solution. It feels like almost everything is a puzzle in this game. Nothing is off limits, and every sense will be tested, so reach a solution however you can! (Without breaking anything, obviously.) You may need to come up with some really “outside the box” thinking in some instances, but if it works, it works. The game was built in 2014, so there are a fair few padlocks around, but there are also plenty of surprises to be had.
While the clue delivery method is pretty standard for an escape room – it is after all, just text on a screen, repeated on both the television screen in the game and a mobile phone that should be carried with you in case you happen to be in a separate part of the house to the screen, the clues are still worked into the narrative, as they come from Uncle, when he’s available to help, rather than your GM.
Of course, we all know that there is a GM behind the scenes; in our case, the owner and designer of the games at Paradox Project, Dimitris. We didn’t have a chance to meet Dimitris until after the game, but he was a wonderful host, both in terms of Games Mastering with perfectly timed clues, and just in general, with plenty of recommendations for restaurants, sites to see, and of course, additional games to play, around Athens.
While the sequel to The Mansion is more highly thought of, it would be wrong to skip this game in favour of only playing the second. The Mansion in its own right is a well-thought-out, fun game with a strong narrative, and an immense number of surprising and satisfying puzzles.
Team: 4 players – escaped in around 2hrs 43mins
Address: Charokopou 93, Kallithea, 17676, Attica