Video games are my preferred form of entertainment. As explained last year, I rarely watch films because I just can’t seem to focus for their duration; I’d much rather grab a controller and take part in the story myself rather than passively watch it.
That doesn’t mean I’m always in the mood to play though. I’ve suffered from gamers’ block a few times during the past several months where I haven’t been able to find a title which grabs my attention. But thanks to an event last January along with a certain present this Christmas, I’ve found activities which are different yet still give you that same buzz you’d get from playing a video game. If you’re looking for something fun to do and fancy putting your brain to use, why not try out the following?
An escape room
I’ve officially been bitten by the escape room bug and I think this is down to my love for the adventure genre. You know that feeling you get when you turn on a new game, and there’s a whole world for you to explore full of puzzles to crack? Well, escape rooms give you the chance to experience that in real life. You’re probably already familiar with the deal: each is themed and have a backstory, you’re ‘locked’ inside with usually one to five friends, and then you have sixty minutes to discover how to get out.
I completed my first with Tim and Jake from GeekOut UK in January 2019 while visiting them in Bristol and have since gone on to do seven in total. If you’re near the Essex area, I’d strongly suggest checking out Escape Live: they’re a lovely bunch of people and the Pirate Plunder room is the best I’ve been in so far. We still need to do the final one of their three rooms and will then have to start looking further afield to get our escape fix, so please do let me know if you have any recommendations in the UK.
A treasure hunt
When Quietschisto from RNG revealed he was going to be visiting London for a week in September, it seemed like the perfect excuse to combine an adventure with sightseeing. I found HiddenCity through an internet search and it seemed to offer just the sort of thing we were looking for: a treasure-hunt across the city where you had to solve challenges and interact with people you met along the way. We opted for the Bright Lights Evening Trail so we could explore London by dusk and take in the sights along the Thames.
Cryptic clues were texted to us and each led us to a new point on our journey. The highlight was when we received one telling us to go inside a bar and say a phrase to a member of staff, who then presented us with a drink so we could guess the main ingredient. HiddenCity provide nine different treasure hunts that are all run through messages to your mobile phone so they’re really convenient. I can imagine it would be lovely doing one around London in the summer so I’ll definitely be back for more this year.
Buying presents for my stepson can be difficult. He’s at that almost-a-teenager age where he hasn’t quite yet let go of the idea of playing with toys but feels as if he’s too old to still be doing it. My other-half and I were therefore struggling to find things for him for Christmas but, as usual, Amazon provided us with the answer: an escape room in a box. We came across the page for Kosmos Games and ordered The Mysterious Museum as it seemed a good entry point thanks to its lower difficulty rating.
We haven’t yet tried it out so I’m unable to share many details right now. But the idea is to bring the team spirit of an escape room into your living room and players must work together to solve clues to escape from an imaginary environment. It’s worth noting that each game can only be played once because it’s necessary to mark, fold and tear the materials to crack and codes. Perhaps I’ll write a little review once we’ve completed our experience and let you know if it’s worth trying out some of the other games.
While checking out the Kosmos Games page above, I also noticed the company makes an Adventure Game series which is ‘similar to a PC adventure game’. There are only two options available right now, so I opted for Monochrome Inc. so my other-half and I could explore a biotech company and uncover their nasty secrets. It was delivered in time for New Year’s Eve so that was our evening sorted – at least until I received an emergency call from work and spent several hours trying to fix a broken server.
That meant we haven’t been able to play yet, but Katie from Musings of a nitpicking girl has given it a go and her thoughts so far are positive. Players take on the role of a character and explore spaces, combine inventory items, find clues and talk to people in order to progress; and unlike the escape-room-in-a-box above, this one can be played multiple times thanks to different endings. We’re lining it up for one of our GameBlast20 streams so keep an eye out for our weekly schedule.
It’s Katie who I must thank for letting me know about these. While chatting about the escape-room- and video-game-in-a-box above last month, she told me she’d received an escape-room-in-puzzle as a gift for Christmas: Witch’s Kitchen by Ravensburger. It sounded like an interesting concept so I ended up purchasing the Space Observatory version myself, and this will be another game we line up for a stream during our GameBlast20 series.
Advertised as ‘the exit room idea but in puzzle form’, you put together a 759-piece jigsaw – which is more difficult than it sounds. The image on the box isn’t what you’re aiming for and the pieces fit together in multiple places so you can form items that will assist in your escape. I haven’t completed a jigsaw in a very long time so I’m really looking forward to trying this one out; and the fact you have to decipher clues once the picture is complete just makes it even better.
There you go: five ways to feel like you’re playing a video game without playing a video game. If you have any suggestions that would be at home on today’s list, please let me know in the comments below and perhaps they’ll make an appearance in our GameBlast20 streams over the coming month.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.