As with most everyone else, I’ve been generally confined to my house during the coronavirus pandemic, so almost all of my exploring has been of the online variety. In the old days, I used to love heading out with some friends to do escape rooms. All of the outlets around here are still closed due to the order from the Governor, so that hasn’t been a possibility.
Apparently, the situation is the same in the UK. I stumbled onto the website for ClueQuest (https://cluequest.co.uk/) where their front page sadly announces that their physical rooms are still closed. However, they are advertising a new product!
“We may have had to close our doors for now, but you can still keep those grey cells moving. With Print + Cut + Escape you can enjoy the same clueQuest experience from your living room. Or even on the loo if you like (no judgement). Playing the game is as easy as it sounds. Simply print the file, cut out the puzzles and play!”
While I don’t think I’d do it in the loo, nor on the bonnet of my car – I definitely was intrigued by the idea of getting to try this puzzle experience. ClueQuest looks to be a very successful operation, with the bottom of their homepage advertising over 316,000 players in their escape rooms (and even 15 proposals!) – I am assuming they mean wedding proposals, but no judgment in case it’s something different…
Obviously, the sorts of puzzles are going to be different in a printed format as opposed to a physical room, but it looks like they have the experience to get something good put together. A scan of the website shows that they currently have two episodes available to play, and the cost is quite reasonable.
For 12 GBP (which these days is about 15 USD) you can buy a .pdf file to download and print up. You pay for it, and you’ll get link to enter their system. When you get there, you can download the 24 page PDF (and get a copy to all of your teammates). The system works out well for remote play as we found out. Our group was spread out over three different states, and we each printed out our own set of the pages. And, good news, the game is meant to be played in black and white, so anyone who has a printer can participate. Heck, if you don’t have a printer, or you don’t want to spend the time cutting, they’re happy to send you a pre-cut version of the game, though of course at a much higher cost.
The cutting was a little involved, though with a pair of shears and my trusty tabletop paper cutter, I got everything sliced and diced in about 15 minutes. You’re asked to keep all the bits to the three separate chapters together, so I just slid them into three file folders and awaited the start of our game.
We all met together online, and once there, we started the video on the first page of the game. Over Zoom, it was actually easy, and one of us just screenshared with everyone else – this helped keep the noise pollution down.
As the game starts, our group was able to work together on the puzzles, and the website acts as the judge/jury for the game. You are prompted to enter the next answer into the website, which anyone can do, and if the correct answer is given, all of our pages auto-refreshed with the next step in the game. The path of this particular game is linear, as the game waits for you to input the next answer… and, you know well ahead of time that the game is split up into three different chapters. There were videos in between each of the steps that filled in the backstory and maybe gave you a clue or two as well.
The puzzles are interesting, and of varying levels of difficulty. We found out along the way that some of the things really needed to be cut out, and others maybe could have just stayed intact on the paper – but it was fun manipulating all the different bits of paper to try to solve the puzzles. I especially liked the puzzles in the third chapter – they were both challenging and inventive.
As this particular game is linear, there is always a timely hint link at the bottom of each solution entry page. There does not appear to be any time penalty assessed for taking hints, and since there really isn’t any time pressure, you can take the hints when you are truly stuck, but you are at your own pace to do so.
Our group got thru the puzzles in about 48 minutes. It was a good time, and we were able to have all of our discussions over Zoom, almost as easily as if we were in person together around a table. Sure, there are some sorts of puzzles/solutions which are impossible to replicate from an in-person room, but for an activity constrained to the 2-D printed perspective, this one was a very enjoyable. I really liked the fact that there isn’t a time limit, so you are free to work at your own pace. There is a timer in the upper corner of the webpage, but it counts upward to tell you how long you’ve been working on it – you never run a risk of running out of time here! In fact, as the game remembers your place, you could even work on this game piecemeal – finish one of the three chapters, and when you log back into the website, it’ll remember where you were! Of course, I’d recommend finishing it all in one sitting – I couldn’t imagine stopping in the middle of the experience…
They already have released a second episode, which I think we’re going to give a try soon – and it looks like they are preparing more as well. While it’ll certainly not replace the immersive experience of a “real” escape room; this is a really good and economical way to have a similar experience at home. At, for a Yank like me, it’s a great way to experience content from an escape room company that I would otherwise be too far away to ever know about! Maybe this is one of the nice things to come about because of the pandemic? And now I have one more place to put on my list to visit when I’m in London next (assuming that the post-coronavirus world allows for travel again!)
Looking forward to more experiences like this in the next few weeks, we’ll be sure to report on them here as we do them. If you’re interested in trying this one out, head over to http://www.cluequest.co.uk. (NB – there is no kickback at all to the OG on this link; other than getting a review copy of the first episode, we have no other relationship with them). It’s a great activity, one that can be played on your own or with a few friends anywhere in the world. We played with four players, and I think I would say this might be the maximum. While you could really have as many as you want, there is maybe not enough puzzle solving goodness for more than 3 or 4 in this particular game.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor