Watch out London, there’s a new Phantom in town!
Welcome to Phantom Peak, known far and wide as the Venice of the West! In this fully-realised steampunk mining town, nothing is what it seems…
What is hiding in the vestiges of the mines? What does the charismatic founder of corporate JONACO really seek in this sleepy town? Was the Blimp Crash really just an accident?
Dine, shop, play games, go sightseeing, collect clues… explore the town and uncover its mysteries at your own pace for up to five hours in an immersive open-world adventure the likes of which you’ve never seen before!
Phantom Peak has been on our radar for a while, thanks to the Facebook ads that keep on appearing and a few people talking about it on the Escape Room Enthusiasts groups on Facebook. But I’ve got to admit, we’ve not really done many immersive experiences before so we avoided this one for longer than we should have.
Doing a bit of research on Phantom Peak we found out that it’s actually a passion project by Nick Moran. If you’re not familiar with Nick, he’s a bit of a legend in the escape room industry having been behind projects like Time Run, Sherlock, Spectre and Vox, and he’s consulted on a number of other escape rooms. We missed out on Time Run, but didn’t want to miss out on this!
We got the tube out from central London to Canada Water, which was much quicker than we were actually expecting, and then enjoyed the short stroll to the entrance. We arrived a little early so just loitered in the waiting area. I must admit, the waiting area isn’t overly pretty (or covered if it rains) but seeing other participants turning up in their finest Wild West gear gave us an insight of what was to come.
Just before 5pm, some of the crew appeared from behind the door and started doing the rounds of checking tickets and providing some background of the story behind Phantom Peak. Then, before we knew it, we were in.
What is it?
I know that Phantom Peak describes the experience as..
“The World’s First Fully-Immersive Open-World Adventure”
And although I’d agree with that, I’d probably simplify it and say it’s like a hybrid of Disneyland and Westworld (only with less mice, fewer robots, and a lot more platypuses).
Going in to this experience we really didn’t know what to expect. Being totally honest, the idea of an immersive experience where you have to interact with actors (fully in character) is something that filled me with dread. Normally I’d shy away from things like this, but in the interest of trying new things, we pushed ourselves and I’m so glad we did!
Obviously your views could be different to ours, but when I say a mixture of Disneyland and Westworld, this is what I mean: Phantom Peak is a lovely space where you can forget about the outside world and just immerse yourself in the world they have created – just like Disneyland. Yet there are stories behind the scenes that on first glance aren’t apparent. The ever-present JONACO and its leader Jonas are intertwined with the lives and stories of all the characters you meet, and although they’re not robots, they play their roles perfectly and never break character, just like Westworld.
Despite not being massively experienced in immersive experiences, I gather that this is where Phantom Peak really differentiates itself. Are there puzzles? Yes, yes there are.
The puzzles that are present won’t challenge the die-hard puzzle enthusiast, but (at time of writing) there are currently 16 missions/trails that you can follow in order to get a deeper understanding of what’s really going on in Phantom Peak. Having spoken to Nick Moran we know that he has big plans for Phantom Peak, both in terms of the physical space (it will likely get larger) and the number of missions/trails that will be available (a lot more).
The puzzles are designed so that even less experienced puzzlers will be able to do them. Things like general observation, wordplay, decoding etc. But in order to solve them, you need to interact with the characters dotted around the town. Once you have completed your mission, and brought the story to a close, you are rewarded with a card.
Outside of the missions/trials, there are also three fayre type games that you can play (£1 a go) to test your physical skills. We only tried one and we crashed and burned so didn’t try the others, but your hand/eye coordination, memory and reaction skills will all be tested. If you succeed you will be awarded with a rosette – complete all three and you become an honorary citizen of Phantom Peak! Liz already has citizenship of two countries so she didn’t need a third – that’s our story and we’re sticking to it… Apparently if you do managed to become a citizen then this entitles you to return to Phantom Peak again, for free (just once).
Is it worth it?
The short answer is yes, for us it is 100% worth it. If you compare this to an escape room in central London, you could be looking at £40 per person (if you play as a team of two), Phantom Peak currently costs less than £40 per person and it grants you access for five hours!
If you’re a completionist then you’ll likely need to plan to book at least two slots or more. We went into this experience with the escape room attitude of wanting to complete all the missions. In the end, we managed 12 out of 16 and as we were non-stop the entire time, I think it would be a struggle to get many more than that.
Oh, I nearly forgot! There is more to Phantom Peak than missions/trials, you can do as much or as little as you like. There are two full bars on site, a number of eateries (Mexican, ice cream, burgers), a gift shop (with some lovely merch), hook-a-platypus, a boat ride, and even a museum.
We were there to complete missions/trails, but others seemed to be there to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. The best thing about Phantom Peak is that you can just go at your own pace.
How does it work?
It’s really very simple:
- Choose your time and date
- Book a ticket
- Don your finest Wild West/Steampunk attire (optional)
- Arrive at your timed slot
- Leave the hustle and bustle of London and enter this land of mystery.
- Interact with mysterious characters and help them with their problems (or not).
- Relax, have a drink, take in your surroundings.
- Leave, but be prepared to want to return again!
When you arrive you will be directed to a website that will be vital for completing missions, so make sure your phone has good charge! Don’t worry too much about data, Phantom Peak has its own Wi-Fi network so you can use that and not spend a fortune on data (great if you’re an international visitor).
Make sure your phone isn’t in private browsing mode, if it is, it will struggle to remember what missions you have completed. We just used Liz’s phone and at no point did it suggest any missions we had already done. I understand that if we return using the same phone (without clearing the cache), it will remember what we’ve done and not suggest them again.
When choosing a mission on your phone you simply answer three questions and these questions will help it choose a mission for you. If you don’t like the sound of it, you can simply choose again.
You will use your phone as a guide to what information you need to find out, and with whom you need to speak. There are a number of machines/contraptions located in the different areas and these are vital for gathering more information.
Phantom Peak has a big cast and I’d assume they rotate quite regularly too. Cleverly all the cast have gender neutral names so they can easily be swapped around. Most of the park is actually gender neutral when referring to people, and you can see that this was a concerted effort on their park to be more inclusive.
Top Tips for Maximum Enjoyment
- Plan to spend five hours in the park
- Accept you won’t complete all the missions in one visit.
- Engage with the characters – the more you put in, the more you get out.
- Understand that others will be doing the same mission as you at times. It will be busy, you will have to queue.
- When you arrive, there’s a lot to take in but it will soon feel second nature.
- You will walk, a lot. We were non-stop for nearly our entire five hour stay (happy Fitbit)
- The boat rides will likely have a big queue before it opens, wait for a short while and you’ll spend less time waiting.
As with everything in London, Phantom Peak can get busy and at times you will be queuing. Either queuing to get down a walkway, queuing for the bar, or queuing to speak to a character. We embraced the queuing and found ways to make it work for us – at one point we needed to speak to a character near the bar, so while we were waiting there, we got a beer.
The entire site appears to be wheelchair accessible. We saw two people in electric wheelchairs when we visited and they seems to be able to get around to all areas with no issues.
Phantom Peak is a wacky place that has a strange obsession with Platypuses, and it works. The cool Wild West Steampunk vibe, cool machines, great cast, and obscure missions all come together to form the perfect family/friend/work/romantic experience.
We didn’t know what to expect, but we will be back, and probably more than once. We’ve now got a new favourite attraction in London.
Team: 2 players – 5hrs on site, 12 of 16 available missions completed.
Address: Canada Street, Surrey Quays Road, London, SE16 7PJ, UK (Near Canada Water station)
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.