London, Apr 2019
‘Magic School’ has become one of the most popular and widespread escape room themes, with varying levels of discretion about their references to the Harry Potter franchise. London Escaped have doubled down on this by opening two different games of this genre at the same location. My experience of their School of Magic room was, frankly, dreadful; fortunately Wizards Cup was less bad – though that’s a low bar, and I need to add a big caveat there for the game’s unusual final section. (…and also for the distressing lack of apostrophe in the title. 😛)
Your task is to win the competition for the Cup, though in practice this means solving some puzzles and then finding the Cup rather than anything actually competitive. The game reuses a mechanism from their first Harry Potter game, where you have magnet-tipped wands that can be used anywhere marked with a lightning bolt symbol. Unlike the other game, you don’t start with these wands. Since the instructions are to wave the wand in the air when asking for a clue, our briefing included the dispiriting warning that we wouldn’t be able to get a clue until we’d found a wand – though I think that was just gamemaster banter rather than a genuine policy.
We didn’t end up testing that, despite an unnecessarily ambiguous first puzzle; thereafter it proceeded with a series of linear puzzles in the zero-padlock style of game, with a lot of assembling similar things and putting them in the right place/order to trigger something. It’s clearly a purchased game design with lots of custom props and looks impressive at many points, though the glossy room photos on the company’s website bear the same sort of relation to reality as do the burger pictures in your local fast food outlet. With the exorbitant cost of even the most cramped locations in London, it’s surprising how sparse their game rooms feel, though I suppose some credit is due for not filling the space with decorative items that would turn into red herrings.
Wizards Cup is most memorable for its action sequence, though unfortunately not in a good way. The main problem with it is that the feedback it gives is quite unclear; any drama and tension quickly drains away as you stand around trying to work out what the mechanism expects from you. A secondary flaw is that it’s very dependent on team size, being far easier for groups of four or more. I actually think it’s better for small groups, where – once you understand what it wants you to do – it manages to be challenging but not impossible, as long as you have a bit of physical mobility. For larger groups it becomes tediously simple.
Enthusiast teams are unlikely to take anything like the full hour; our group of three finished in half an hour, despite wasting ten minutes trying to understand the finale. Your best bet at London Escaped remains one of the first two rooms they opened, Da Vinci or Prisoner; Wizards Cup is slight but more or less passable if you get on okay with the game’s ending.