London, Nov 2018
It had been a while since I’d visited Escape London’s Shepherds Bush branch, and I was pleased to find they’ve upgraded their entrance: the venue is still down a narrow staircase, but it’s now a much more attractively appointed staircase, fronted by a more clearly marked doorway. The Escape franchise tends to operate multiple copies of its games in different branches, but as one of its newer games Overthrone currently only operates in London, Leicester and Basildon.
The name reflects the game’s premise: after your monarch has died without an heir, poisoned by nefarious nobles, you have an hour to find the symbols of rulership – the crown, sceptre and throne – to claim the realm as your own. This is a medieval romp that mixes its influences from the Wars of the Roses and Game of Thrones, with little care for historical niceties. Although it’s a physically small game that would be cramped with a large team, Overthrone looks busy and well decorated with plenty of high quality props and decor.
Most of Escape’s games follow a similar model, and Overthrone fits their usual pattern. A mostly linear sequence of puzzles uses a variety of mechanisms and ideas that nonetheless stick closely to a tried and tested escape room style of content, with a mixture of padlocks and some electronic releases. The variations on ‘find a set of items and work out what order to put them in’ will be bread and butter to experienced players, who as a result will likely fly through the game; the two of us finished in around half an hour, and it would have been ten minutes faster had it not been for a silly observation fail that left us repeatedly scouring every inch of the room except the one place we needed to look. (That wasn’t the game’s fault – the puzzle was perfectly well signposted, as well as the logical place for the information to have been hidden.)
But although it’s easy, all the puzzles were clear and free from ambiguity, and the easy difficulty level was because the puzzles make sense and follow very familiar styles, not from any lack of content. At the Escape branches I’ve tried (both the ones in London plus Ipswich, Colchester, Peterborough) I’ve never had a game that wasn’t fun to play, and they’re a good option to introduce someone to escape games: reliable puzzles with an accessible style of play. Like their other recent games, Overthrone shows a clear step up in production quality too, and is among my favourites from the chain so far.