Get ready to deduct your way out of this one with Sherlock: The Game is Now.
Review of the Official Sherlock Escape Room
BY ROBIN BATES, MAY 27, 2015 11:00 AM
Sherlock: The Game is Now
What is it:
Escape Room Experience in London, UK
A well made escape room, with beautiful sets, from the team behind Time Run, which will appeal more to Sherlock fans than hardened escape room veterans. A few niggling issues, plus huge cost, prevent a full 5 stars.
London needs Sherlock. Instead it has you.
Sherlock is absent. As a rash of break-ins ripple across the capital, one thing is clear: his brilliance is required.
Mycroft Holmes has put out the call. The Network seeks recruits: volunteers with sharp eyes, keen wits and a hunger for adventure.
Can you step into the shoes of the legendary detective? Good luck: The Game Is Now.
What's an escape room?
If you haven't played an escape room before, allow me to explain.
Usually your team is locked in a room - or series of rooms - and must solve a series of logical puzzles to escape. Find the code to open the lock, which gives you some notes, which gives you another code to open the cabinet, which gives you some cables to wire up the device, to get a key, which opens the drawers...
You usually have 1 hour and clues are often delivered via screens, telephones, or in some cases the actor in the room with you.
There are often multiple puzzles to work on at any one time and rooms can be heavily themed and involve actors, or just be a few puzzles in someone's spare room.
The quality varies wildly (as does the price) but you can usually expect a decent experience from a heavily themed room. Usually.
Which brings us to the theme of Sherlock Holmes...
Hidden in plain sight just as Sherlock would recommend, The Game is Now begins at Doyle's Opticians in Shepherd's Bush. Looking like any old budget opticians, apart from the large tables surrounded with chairs, the sign saying 'by appointment only'.
...and the massive great Sherlock sign next door. Nice try at blending in, but when you're taking up such a vast space in a shopping centre, you have to advertise.
Ah the shopping centre, W12 Shopping Centre, once the jewel of Shepherd's Bush but now is old and overshadowed by Westfield. Notable gaming shop Dark Sphere lurks in W12's basement so if you are heading to The Game is Now, it's well worth popping in.
At the appointed time we rang the bell and went through the customary briefing, locking away of bags and phones (but not coats, we were told it was cold inside and REALLY regretted not taking our coast off) and signed the waiver - all standard practice, but really beautifully wrapped up in The Network's agents attempting to pass as opticians.
On to a recorded health and safety briefing from John Watson, nicely delivered by Martin Freeman in a 'confused but going with it' style, before a test of our abilities.
And here it dragged on a little too long, really feeling like they were stalling for time. The actor also failed to engage with all members of the group, which was a bit of a shame.
Mycroft and Moriarty
After being ushered into Sherlock and John's 221b Baker Street flat for a photograph, and being inducted into The Network, things rapidly go wrong.
Moriarty is back! Or is he? And someone is in danger. With Sherlock out of the country it was up to us to play Moriarty's game and save the day.
This is where it gets really tough to talk about without spoiling anything.
The rooms are really well-designed and filled with interesting puzzles - probably not quite enough to give a group of 5 something to do at all times, but plenty to do nonetheless.
The sets are detailed, with plenty to look at, lots of equipment and bits and pieces, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming - everything has a purpose.
The final room is spectacular, and instilled a real sense of awe.
The majority of the puzzles make logical sense and there are very few lock and key puzzles, they're much more intricate and clever than that - don't worry if you're not a puzzle fanatic, Sherlock delivers hints to help you out if you get stuck, with his inimitable snark.
"Solid puzzles, exciting rooms, great sets... so why only 4 stars?", an excellent question, detective.
Was it just us?
We blazed our way through the first room and the video told us to proceed. The door hadn't opened so we pushed against it, gently I need to add, and it opened.
And there in front of us was room 2 being reset. We returned to the first room, where Sherlock told us off and made sure we waited, but now we were losing valuable time in a game against the clock. With a large group of friends who play escape rooms, every second counts!
It had already felt like we'd been stalled for time a few times just getting to the game itself.
It should be noted that there is no timer in the game - you don't know how long you have left, which feels like a mistake, removing some of the tension.
We've also come to this having played two Time Run escape rooms and this simply cannot compete with the scale and spectacle - though once again hosting 5 instances of the same room probably means shrinkage.
Lastly there were 2 puzzles that required either general knowledge, or knowledge of the show itself. We had all the pieces of a puzzle bar one, and spent a good while in need of a clue which never came.
Don't be so petulant about it.
Sorry Mr Holmes, it's important to tell everyone the facts.
With teh day saved, hopefully, the experience ends you are issued with a sheet explaining how your team performed and your final time. Did you excel at the complex? Were you stumped by anything specific? A breakdown of your performance rounds things off, before being ushered into the bar for a well earned drink.
So was it fun? Yes. Was it a good series of puzzles? On the whole, yes? Did it make sense to us? Mostly, yes.
When it's £54 it needs to be an overwhelming yes to all of the above, and it just fell short one too many times.
If you love Sherlock, you will LOVE The Game is Now.
If you love escape rooms and have an awareness of Sherlock you will likely love The Game is Now.
If you like escape rooms but don't really know anything of Sherlock... only if you're well off. You're paying a premium for the Sherlock experience and you'd be wasting your money, when there are 108 escape rooms in London alone.
But if you have the slightest inclination to play The Game is Now...
Go for it! It's a bit hammy, a bit ridiculous, but a great experience.
SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW CONCLUSION
A great escape experience that falls just short of being exceptional. Time Runners may be slightly disappointed, but Sherlock fans will have the best time ever.
Leave some time to hang out in the bar afterwards and take in some of the props from the show, and discuss your team's performance over a drink, and beware, for The Game is Now.
The Good Stuff:
- Beautiful sets - exciting and immersive, compact yet packed with stuff
- Plenty of unexpected happenings to keep you on your toes
- Almost all the puzzles are really interesting
The Bad Stuff:
- Too much stalling for time, yet very little time allowed in the 221b flat
- A couple of leaps of logic and one piece of Sherlock knowledge required
- Very expensive for an escape room
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