London has many strings to its illustrious bow, but one our favourite ways to spend our evenings in the Big Smoke these days has been by attending one of the capital’s numerous escape games. If you’re not entirely sure what that means, think Crystal Maze with a bit of Saw thrown in (obviously not all the blood and loss of limbs).
To be more descriptive, an escape game (sometimes alternatively referred to as an ‘escape room’) is a physical adventure game in which you and a group of friends are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve puzzles, codes and locks, and escape within a set time limit – usually 1 hour. So without further ado, here are some of the best escape games in London.
Nearest Tube: Euston
Price: from £17
HintHunt has been a London stalwart for years now and with good reason. There are two rooms to choose from: JM’s Office, a 1940s-inspired detective’s office where you and your team are tasked with solving JM’s murder from a list of five of the country’s most wanted criminals; and Zen Room, a Japanese-inspired room where you and your gang try and find the meaning to five ancient Japanese letters. Naturally.
HintHunt might not have the production value of some on our list but it’s certainly one of the cleverest. Hints will be projected onto a screen in the room should you get stuck and there’s some really interesting code-breaking to be done. The only tip we’d really give is possibly swat up on your maths…
Nearest Tube: King’s Cross St Pancras
Price: from £24
ClueQuest has one of the best reputations on our list and for very good reason. There’s three tongue-in-cheek escape rooms to choose from here with multiple versions of each at its Caledonian Road location, so if you want to race against another team – this is the place to do it.
The games at ClueQuest are Operation BlackSheep, PLAN52 and, our favourite, Revenge of the Sheep, which has you and your crew searching high and low to crack codes before an evil sheep dictator turns the whole of the human race into Shaun the Sheep. The production value is simply stunning at ClueQuest with lights, gadgets and designs aplenty but be warned; doing it in the hour is very, very tough.
Nearest Station: Battersea Park
Price: from £16
It might have one of the smaller budgets on our list, but Do Stuff’s brand of escape gaming is up there with anyone in the capital. There are two games to try; ‘Hostage Hideout’, where you have to save the hostages from a shopping mall; and ‘Pie and Mash Shop’, which challenges players to solve the mystery of shop owner Albert Bow’s inexplicable disappearance.
While there are some classic escape game tricks, Do Stuff’s set design is probably the most impressive in London with some incredible attention to detail. There’s definitely some new things going on too with the final task in ‘Hostage Hideout’, for example, like nothing we’ve come across in escape games since. The games are also located inside a decent pub, which is always an added bonus and perfect for a post-game debrief over a pint!
Nearest Tube: Holloway Road
Price: from £25
Holloway Road’s Enigma Escape are all about offering games that are based on realism. There are no red herrings or randomness with either of their two rooms; ‘The Breakout’ and ‘The Killer’. The former involves you breaking out your boss from prison, while just like HintHunt, in ‘The Killer’ there’s been a murder at the cinema and you and your team must come together and ensure the perpetrator doesn’t get away scot-free.
As well as obviously needing your wits about you, there’s enjoyably quite a lot of physicality needed to play Enigma’s games – especially in ‘The Killer’. You won’t need muscles the size of Schwarzenegger but you’ll still probably end up sweating, which makes for a nice change from most on our list. The plots for both are brilliant and you’ll need to pay real attention to the details. Again, though, Enigma Escape is probably not one for beginners.
Nearest Tube: Aldgate East
Price: from £30
Secret Studio has had a couple of locations throughout its time in London, and while we can’t give you exact coordinates, it seems to have finally found a permanent home in Aldgate East. But wherever it’s been, it’s always remained by undoubtedly one of the best escape room experiences in the capital. The premise is perfectly escape-bonkers with a movie production gone wrong. One of the crew members has gone missing after spending a night in the cutting room and it’s your job to solve the mystery of odd happenings and bring said crew member back.
The fun and intrigued starts even before the day of the game arrives with a secret location sent by e-mail with the simple instructions of get there no more than 5 mins either side of your allocated time and, ‘Press the button marked ‘Replay’ and say the secret phrase: “Is the late Mrs. Stokes at home?”’ As soon as you enter Secret Studio, it’s clear the production value is high. There’s plenty of lighting changes and multimedia, and the game itself was difficult without being impossible. Without getting spoilerific, Escape in Time undoubtedly packs the wow factor towards the end too!
Nearest Station: Clapham Junction
Price: from £20
Now, if you’re into your horrors and haunted houses, Lady Chastity’s Reserve is definitely the one for you. The immersive game isn’t really an escape game in the truest sense of the concept (mainly because you’re not actually trying to escape), but it’s no less enjoyable and still involves working as a team to solve puzzles and complete challenges within the hour time limit.
Like ClueQuest, although very different in design, the production value is incredible and probably the best on our list in that department. The cobweb-drenched rooms and eerily believable performance from your host Gabriel will have you on edge from minute one. There’s also more than one location you can play Lady Chastity’s Reserve with The Four Thieves Pub in Clapham our pick.
Nearest Tube: Bermondsey
Price: from £20
If you’re looking for a nice beginner level escape game, Bermondsey’s Lock’d is perfect. There’s three games on offer and while they’re extremely well thought out, they’re by no means the most difficult on our list with the action more orientated around searching that sorting out MENSA-level puzzles and codes.
Our tip would be the slightly more difficult ‘Perpetuum Mobile’. The world is about to be plunged into eternal darkness and there’s only one person who can stop it. You guessed it – you. Professor Richter (the only man with the knowledge to save the world) has disappeared but the answer lie in his lab. The future is in your hands.
Nearest Station: Kentish Town
Price: from £28
For us, Mission: Breakout is easily the most awe-inspiring setting we’ve seen from an escape room in London. Located in the old South Kentish Town station which closed in 1924, original features remain and Breakout’s dedication to authenticity is evident from the minute you walk down the spiral steps. As such, the game is based on the extraordinary true story of the very confidential Codebreakers. Your mission, as put to you by a man on film claiming to be none other than Winston Churchill himself is to decode the secret messages of the Nazis, escape the room and save the World.
The game itself is heavily based on codes and decrypting messages – the clue is very much in the title in that sense – and while it’s winnable, it is one of the more difficult games we’ve played with only a 30% success rate. For that reason, we’d maybe not recommend it for first timers. They’ve also got a new game coming soon, ‘The Lost Passenger’, which is based on the true story of the lost passenger in the tube station.