It’s a kind of magic!
Professor Harry Halfsickle has been kidnapped by the dark witch Dharma Deceptrix! She cursed his port key and when he tried to use it he was ported into an enchanted painting and trapped inside. He has called on you, his best witch and wizard students, to help him. Use everything you have learned in wand skills, potion making and divination to find your way from his classroom to his private stores. There you must release the curse on his port key to bring him back to this plane of existence.
If you frequent any of the UK Escape Room Enthusiast pages on Facebook, you’ll know that every request for room recommendations in Bristol is answered by at least one person recommending Riddlr. I’m almost ashamed to admit just how long it’s taken us to make the trip to Bristol to visit Riddlr to see what all the fuss is about. At first our excuse was living in London, but now that Bristol one of our closest major cities, it’s even more disgraceful that we’ve never been well equipped with recommendations for the area.
But an unexpected long weekend found us booking a last minute break in Bristol to finally fix this situation. Riddlr isn’t located in the city centre, so it is a bit of a trek, but well worth it, especially since they have four games to choose from, or you can play them all to make the trip worthwhile.
When we arrived, we were thrilled to meet our hosts for the day: Tom and Justin, the owners of Riddlr. Of course, we had a short chat about escape rooms before receiving the standard health and safety requirements, rules, and details about the clue system (more on that later) before getting down to the serious business of escaping. Our visit to Riddlr began with Seance, followed by Nautilus, and would end with their newest game: Decade Runner. But before we could step back in time to the year that gave us not just the original Top Gun, but also yours truly, we would first need to take on The Wizard’s Apprentice.
We were led up the stairs to the entrance to The Wizards Apprentice. Stepping through the door, we were transported to a castle, complete with an enchanted portrait of Harry Halfsickle, who looked remarkably familiar (James of Deadlocked if anyone cares), and gave us the lowdown on what we needed to do.
The vast majority of magic-themed rooms that we’ve come across have very clearly been inspired by a certain series of books/films about a particular teenage wizard, and let’s be honest, The Wizard’s Apprentice is really no exception to that. Although Riddlr have been less blatant about it than some… Apart from maybe the font they are using in the marketing for the game 😉
The game space could quite believably be mistaken for an office in a certain wizarding school that never did send 11-year-old me an acceptance letter, with chunky wooden furniture and stone walls, wall hangings, and of course, the magical portrait.
The Wizard’s Apprentice took us on a spectacular journey, full of twists and turns, as well as actual moments of “magic” that are sure to delight anyone, but especially younger players. The game felt as though it unfolded in a somewhat linear fashion, but on reflection, there were moments where Gord and I were working independently from one another, so players in larger teams may find themselves able to go off in parallel.
The Wizard’s Apprentice isn’t particularly narrative-heavy, but the story is clear and present throughout the game, and the atmosphere created allows the outside world to slip away. The game built in intensity, particularly as we found more and more magical tasks, culminating in the final puzzle and immensely satisfying conclusion.
We found plenty of tactile, satisfying, and dare I say, magical puzzles to keep our little brains busy throughout the Wizard’s Apprentice. Everything we encountered in the game followed a clear sort of logic that allowed for some truly wonderful moments of realization.
The puzzles were widely varied, providing opportunities for the entire team to shine, whether through their searching prowess, powers of observation, or their critical thinking skills, but for me some of the best moments throughout the game came from the actual magic we performed. My favourite puzzles are always those that don’t feel like puzzles and instead feel like an extension of reality, and these opportunities brought The Wizard’s Apprentice to life.
Riddlr have attempted to remove themselves from hints and clues as much as possible, giving players agency over how many clues they receive, and when they receive them. To this end, all of their games employ a similar system: A series of buttons that link to a specific puzzle and when the button for the puzzle that help is needed on is pushed, a clue will be read aloud. If that clue is not enough to get you going then the solution does follow on the screen, so players are advised to look away if they’re not ready for this yet.
This is in itself an interesting system; it removes the human element, eliminating the possibility of player frustration when they’ve asked for a clue and are left hanging. Clues are also given in character, as part of the story, adding to the immersion. But in addition to these things, the clue system itself acts as a clue, allowing players to know how far they’ve progressed, and what challenges lie ahead.
Although the GMs are not active participants in the games, handing out clues, etc., it is worth noting that games are still monitored.
After a few bad experiences with poorly designed wizard-themed rooms, I tend to approach them with hesitation. The Wizard’s Apprentice is one such game that needs no hesitation to book. With solid puzzles, an immersive atmosphere, and actual moments of magic, this is one magic school I was very happy to attend.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 41:22
Address: 103 Regent St, Kingswood, Bristol BS15 8LJ