I believe this is one of the most popular ‘Harry Potter’ escape rooms in London, to the extent that, for as long as I’ve known about it, this room is booked months in advance. I actually booked this in July to play for my birthday in December.
This sort of hype can be both a blessing and a curse, as it can make amazing rooms appear underwhelming, but also could also bring fame to lesser know, excellently executed rooms. I did try to bear this in mind when going into the room, but I do admit I think the hype did affect my opinion slightly.
That being said, I was still underwhelmed by the room, and I’m not sure why it’s so popular. I think other magic rooms in London do it far better.
For a ‘Harry Potter’ room, this had very little Harry Potter elements. In fact, there were very few magical elements at all. The initial set felt very much like a basic office/sitting room, with little in the way of ‘magical’ looking props. I was actually very disappointed first stepping into this room, as it wasn’t at all what I’d imagined. Although the set design improves further into the room, I have seen other ‘wizard school’ escape rooms done much better.
The puzzles did redeem this room slightly. It was fairly non/multi-linear, with interesting puzzles. There a few that didn’t totally make sense (even after we’d solved them), but for the most part our team of 5 (all reasonably experienced) players weren’t bored…to start with.
Unfortunately, we found it got too linear, too quickly. There was also quite a bit of searching for hidden objects, rather than actual puzzle solving required. The ‘escape’ mechanic was also a little boring, in that we didn’t actually ‘escape’ – we just had to complete a task. In fact, once he had completed it we were stood there wondering whether we’d done it, and what to do next for a little bit until the GM came into the room to congratulate us. After a mediocre game, this definitely made our experience fall a little flat, even at the last hurdle. I also can’t remember what the hint system was, which probably means it was annoying and I didn’t like it!
I admit I’m being very negative here so I will point out some of the positives. The puzzles were probably some of the smartest puzzles I’ve encountered before, and we really did need to think for most of them. For most of the game, we didn’t feel particularly cramped or like we were falling over each other, and we got some nice certificates to take away afterwards.
Outside the room
As well as a mediocre room, we found the customer service to also be mediocre. The staff member on reception was very unenthused and not particularly welcoming – he barely looked up from the computer for all the time we were there with him. I tried to be friendly and engage in conversation, but felt his lack of energy would just bring us down. Even after completing the room (in just over half an hour), he just asked us to put in our email addresses to receive our photos and sent us on our way.
Our GM, Simone, was lovely and enthusiastic. I would say she was the one shining light in an otherwise meh experience. Her briefing perfectly got us amped up, was fun and informative, and her ‘debrief’ afterwards did make us feel like we had achieved something.
The waiting room was also quite nice, with ample locker space, a water cooler and even books/puzzles. The certificates were a nice touch, as well as the iPad system to receive our photos. However, the entry was a little confusing – a buzzer system, which leads to a pretty dark corridor with no indication of whether you’re going the right way.
There are a couple steps into the venue, but lots of places to sit in the waiting room. There are a couple flights of stairs down to the room (although these are wide and shallow, not steep). There is somewhere to sit inside the room, which is mostly a wide space (there is only one space that is small, but not everyone needs to go there).
We found we were getting fairly warm in the room, as it doesn’t appear to have any form of ventilation. There is a lot of reading required, and part of the room has dim lighting.
TL ; DR
Pros – Clever puzzles, GM
Cons – Set design, over hyped, escape mechanic