Lincoln, Nov 2019
As the number of venues and games in the now-huge Escape franchise increases, they now sometimes have more than one game design using a similar theme, so for clarification The Magic Emporium is an entirely different game to the Witchcraft and Wizardry one available at other branches, even though they both involve wands and potions. This one avoids overt Harry Potter references while using a setting that is obviously inspired by it; your aim is to find a certain Alder Wand, having first to find a way into the magic shop in which it’s hidden.
Escape’s newer designs are markedly prettier and more aesthetically elaborate than their earlier ones, and this one fits that trend with an attractive and convincing slice of wizarding world. I was particularly impressed that it not only looked but also smelled the part – although I’m not unsure whether that’s planned or a fortunate side effect of some of the props.
The very pretty initial impression was somewhat undermined by a frustrating early puzzle where we knew exactly what to do but just couldn’t distinguish between the ambiguous stimuli, until the gamemaster gave enough of a hint that we could guess the remaining digits.
With that exception, the puzzles were solid and well-designed. Even so, my impression was that the game tended towards a rather by-the-numbers style of puzzle – no pun intended, given that it also makes a bit more use of counting puzzles than I’d like. Those tend to be decent enough, but given how easy it is to miss something in a crowded environment, the answer always feels a bit tentative, and therefore less satisfying.
Having played a few other escape rooms with a magic shop theme, this one didn’t particularly stand out for me. My teammates were more impressed, and the visuals should mean it goes down well with most players – at least once you get past the potential frustration of the initial section.