To all of my fellow Sherlock wannabes, to those who look for things through magnifying glasses and wear long coats to seem more mysterious – I know. I want to be him too. And I have very exciting news – now’s your chance. Put the coat back on, assume a knowing air and practice your best thinking face because your time has finally come. The Escape Hunt Experience is about to fulfill your wildest dreams.
Dig out those paper maps (how did Mr Holmes ever cope without GPS?) because this place is tucked away in an unassuming building by Bank station. We followed the signs to the downstairs lounge with a grim determination, scared, clueless, wishing we hadn't watched nearly so many horror films because they always start like this and the one at the back of the line is always the first to go (which, of course, happened to be me). A cosy vintage living room is definitely not what I was expecting, but was preferable to brutal murder.
Time for a bit of context, I feel. For those of you who have never heard of Escape Hunt, it’s a brand new interactive experience, inspired by computer games, developed in Japan and rapidly spreading around the world. There’s hundreds of different murder mysteries and at this venue alone, there are 10 different rooms – from Murder in the Bedroom, to Theft in the Laboratory. (I know, it’s JUST like Cluedo).
In the room there are various padlocked wardrobes, jewellery boxes, a mirror and a chalk board – for your genius light bulb moments (there will be many). And one more thing: you cannot leave the room until you solve the murder and find the code that will open your door. I say no more. I had to do it, you guys aren’t getting any clues from me.
It’s not the usual ‘relaxed vibes’, ‘lively ambiance’ kinda review, this one. Expect the hairs on your arms to be in constant meerkat position. As soon as they locked me in a room with a dead mannequin and a countdown in bold red numbers on the wall, the nervous laughter and the frantic searching commenced. Pulling clues out of mattresses, air vents and through holes in the ground; it's all exhilarating stuff (and actually, I made all of that up because, again, I am not helping you). Every clue was a strike on the chalk board, a high-fiving, back-slapping bonding moment for our gaggle of hyper detectives.
I’ve gotta say, I was expecting to hate the whole thing. Who wants to do more hard work in their time off, right? Most people just go for a pint, they chat, they unwind. Nobody wants to have to think. But the tasks are just the right amount of strenuous – difficult enough that the ‘I’m-a-freaking-genius’ adrenaline when you find a clue hits hard and true, but not so difficult that you bang your head against a wall until the neighbours call the police. Take it lightly and have some fun with it – it’s not every day that you get the chance to solve a crime.
And one of the best parts about the whole thing: if your mad detective skills sniff out the answer, there’s a gift at the end that will take pride of place on your mantle piece. Take a photo with props, wear Sherlock-inspired tweed, smoke a pipe, hold up a violin, look through a magnifying glass and print your photos with a vintage filter.
All in all, it was a great night. It’s a pricey event at £25 per person, but then again, this isn’t your run of the mill night. You can’t do this just anywhere, there aren’t a thousand other venues to compete with, and that’s why people are still clamouring for the opportunity to do this. It just begs the question: what would you give to play Sherlock for the day?