Epsom, Oct 2018
When looking to book this game, you might be briefly confused as to whether it’s called Mystery Express or Inspector Graves’s Secret, and the reason is that the room is Mystery Express, but the game is Inspector Graves’s Secret. That’s because this is something often discussed by owners but rarely attempted: a single space that hosts multiple different games (or which will do so in future, since only one is available at time of writing).
The Mystery Express is a small room beautifully appointed as a replica train carriage, with two rows of seats on either side of a large table, complete with simulated scenery passing by the window. (No audio though, which made it nice and easy to talk without raising out voices, though some unobtrusive background train noises could be a good addition to the atmosphere!) [Edit: apparently the game does normally include background train noises!]
There’s no space to move around and explore, but you don’t need to: all game content is provided at the start and there are no secrets hidden in the decor. In fact, one way of looking at it is that this is equivalent to a play at home game provided in a box or a suitcase, though with higher quality components and a suitably atmospheric location in which to play.
Be warned that Inspector Graves’s Secret shares content with a mini game called Murder In The Village that used to be available at this venue’s sister branch, Escape From The Room in Sutton. I never played that but my understanding is that there’s enough overlap that having played that one would count as spoilers for this. Escape From The Room have also published a couple of escape room books, and if you’ve tried the second one of those you’ll find some familiar elements from that as well, although only much more superficial ones, and having played the book should not put you off playing this game.
I’ve had mixed impressions of many of the murder mystery games I’ve played, often feeling that the chains of logic that lead to the intended conclusion are too arbitrary to be satisfying. Inspector Graves’s Secret avoids that problem, partly because there’s not a lot of Poirot-style deduction to do: solve the puzzles and the answer is revealed. It’s therefore more classic escape room in style than a strict murder mystery. The puzzle content is a little limited by the format, often driven by written clues on laminated paper, and I missed the big physical mechanisms and reveals that are the highlights of this company’s other games. One step near the beginning felt just a little arbitrary, but after that it was all very solidly designed and free from ambiguities, and made for a satisfying game.
Set your expectations before playing: it’s 45 mins not a an hour, and played while seated around a table. But the lovely faux train carriage provides a very pleasant setting for a session of puzzle solving, dramatically more so than if you played the same content at home as a boxed game. Our group of four felt slightly too many for the format, and I’d recommend two or maybe three.