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Hallowed peak: a Halloween spectacular

Hallowed Peak, Phantom Peak, Halloween, Lunar Festival, saloon
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Phantom Peak has been my favourite event so far this year.

It came onto my radar in June when I saw a post about it on Instagram. Advertised as a place where you could ‘explore a steampunk town and uncover its mysteries at your own pace for up to five hours in an open-world adventure’, I booked tickets for Pete and I to go in September.

It was absolutely brilliant. Stepping through the gate was almost like being transported to another world in which we were protagonists from an adventure game. We spent the evening completing quests called ‘trails’, wandering all over the town to question various characters and obtain clues from them, and came away hoping we’d be able to return one day.

When I heard that Phantom Peak was returning for a Halloween version, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Hallowed Peak would see the Lunar Festival take place in the town and something strange stir in the soil. With 13 new spooky trails, new carnival acts and live music, it felt like the organisers were running with the success of the event’s previous chapter and planning something special.

We arrived at the venue near Canada Water around 30-minutes early on the opening night of 21 October 2022. Although nothing looked different from the outside, one thing was immediately clear: the event had become far more popular since our first visit in September. Instead of being among a group of around ten people waiting, there was now triple that amount and the queue was snaking around the fence for quite a way by the time we entered through the doors.

This gave the town a great vibe because you could feel everybody’s excitement, and it made it even easier to buy into the Lunar Festival premise.

The actors were on hand to divide attendees into smaller groups so they could introduce them to Phantom Peak and direct everyone to collect a mug of spiced apple gin (which was lovely). While a few of us were returning guests and had heard this speech before, most of the people within our cluster were there to experience the event for the first time. This gave the town a great vibe because you could feel everybody’s excitement, and it made it even easier to buy into the Lunar Festival premise.

I should point out though that the additional people did come with a few downsides. Previously, we’d been able to move about venue freely and got through seven trails without much delay as all the characters were usually available. Now however, there were frequent pauses as we tried to move around groups gathered on the boardwalks or waited for other attendees to finish speaking to an actor. It had the effect of breaking our immersion slightly although it in no way spoiled the evening.

The organisers had clearly put some thought into how to handle this increase in numbers. Many clues had now been moved to visual elements such as flyers on the town noticeboard or strange objects in the stores. This meant that instead of joining a short queue of people wanting to talk to a particular character, you could find what you were looking for by searching the environment for items if you wished. It helped to make the trails flow more smoothly for those who didn’t want to wait around.

One of the things we’d enjoyed about our original Phantom Peak trip was the interaction with the actors. As mentioned in my previous post, they made the event what it was and it just wouldn’t have been as good without them. We were therefore disappointed that we didn’t get as much time with them during our Hallowed Peak visit due to the number of guests – but we did appreciate the organiser’s consideration of this, and focused our attention on the visual clues so we could complete as many trails as possible.

It’s all very family-friendly despite the Halloween setting and there no jump-scares to worry about while you’re exploring.

Several nice changes have been made to the venue and the town is now larger, with the majority of the action being moved to the indoor Old Town area for the colder months. The Diamant Hollows lazy-river has been replaced by the Miramaze which is more interactive and fun, kind of like funhouse fairground attraction with a drop-slide into darkness ay the end. It’s all very family-friendly despite the Halloween setting and there no jump-scares to worry about while you’re exploring.

The number of trails has been reduced from 16 to 13 to fit with the spooky theme but they’re now longer, so you’ll still find it difficult to complete them all in one evening. The JonAssist app is there to hold your hand all the way through so you’re never lost. As noted last time, this handholding may be too much for seasoned gamers and we’d personally have liked more challenge, but the organisers are obviously trying to cater for a wide range of puzzle-solving abilities so nobody is left out.

There are some lovely easter-eggs dotted about for those who have been to Phantom Peak previously. For example, during our last visit we’d told a character called Rex to turn their unbelievable superhero story into a screenplay – and here it was, waiting next to a typewriter on a desk inside one of the stores. These references won’t make much sense to newcomers, but they won’t detract from their experience either as they’re just more items which fit into the quirky atmosphere of the town.

The small downside for returners like us is seeing loved characters played by new actors and meeting familiar actors in new roles. All the cast members are incredibly skilled at what they do and quickly pull you into the scene around you, but this change can be jarring when you first step foot in the town. You soon forget about it however once you’re swept up in each trail, and it must be a positive thing for the performers who get to mix things up and flex their skills in a different persona.

This has to have been one of the most surreal yet best experiences I’ve ever been a part of at an event and I’m sure everyone else in the crowd felt the same.

The most notable cast change for us was the actor who had previously played Pocket, the mayoral candidate. Instead of supervising Platyhook games at the Gilded Lake, they were now officiating marriages and teaching hymn lyrics to attendees in their new role as leader of the Church of the Cosmic Platypus. I’ve been unable to find out who this performer is through internet searches, but this guy is absolutely made for this new part. It’s thanks to them that I still have those lyrics floating in my head now.

Towards the end of the evening, an announcement ushering everyone into the Old Town for the closing ceremony was heard. We didn’t know what to expect from this as we wandered inside and found ourselves a position outside one of the stores on the upper level overlooking the area. One minute we were listening to an inspiring sermon delivered by the leader from the pulpit and joining in with the hymn. Then the next, everyone was going crazy to dub-step under disco lights thanks to the skills of Robo DJ.

This has to have been one of the most surreal yet best experiences I’ve ever been a part of at an event and I’m sure everyone else in the crowd felt the same. After a continuous chant of ‘one more song’ from the attendees who were still there, the music continued. The actors decided to participate in what seemed like a spur-of-the-moment dance-off and this totally suited the eccentric vibe of Hallowed Peak. I’m still a little disappointed that I wasn’t on the ground-floor to be able to participate in the dancing.

I’ll reiterate something I wrote in the post published after our last visit: make sure you visit Phantom Peak if you’re able to make it to London and spots are still available. It remains my favourite experience of the year so far and I can’t wait to return to celebrate the Wintermas season in December. It’s worth bearing in mind that the ticket price had increased to £45 for the Hallowed Peak chapter so it’s possible there’ll be further rises for the Christmas version, and some of the attraction is now only accessible by stairs.

I’ll end today’s round-up with the hymn lyrics which have been stuck in my head for the past couple of weeks: Come fly with us! Abide with us! Give us the Eggs of Truth!

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