For once, we had no escape games booked at the weekend, so we decided to sit down and complete our first ever escape book… ‘The Curse of Old Maid Milly’.
“The Curse of old Maid Milly finds Doctor Harris, an esteemed professor from the London Institute of Paranormal Investigation, locked inside a room haunted by the restless spirit of Old Maid Milly and tasked with discovering the truth. You, as the reader and player, must search the room, collect items to help overcome problems, decrypt codes and solve puzzles all while the story of Doctor Harris’ adventure unfolds. With the room depicted over more than twenty illustrated pages, you may revisit any part of the room to look for clues that may help you solve puzzles as you navigate your way through the book. The book shares similarities with a ‘choose your own adventure’ in that you do not read front to back, the solution to each puzzle gives the page number to visit next. With online hints, reaching the conclusion to the book is achievable for all, giving everybody the chance to escape from the room. This book mimics the key elements of a live escape room in a portable format available for everyone to experience. As with escape rooms, how you play it is up to you. You can play it on your own, or with friends, working through the puzzles and challenges for that sweet moment of victory. Challenge yourself to crack it in one sitting or you may be looking at it as a nice way of passing a few journeys.”
The book is based on the room of the same name at Escape From The Room in Cheam, Surrey. We’ve never played the physical version of the game, but apparently the book takes the same story and many of the same puzzles and puts it on paper.
Going through the book, the story is put across in lots of detail, with a rather long introduction setting the scene, and embroiling you into the curse and backstory of ‘Old Maid Milly’. It does a great job of painting a picture of the scenario, and creates a vivid image of your surroundings. Along the way, it did start to feel like there was maybe a little too much story, but the book is designed to allow you to skip the unnecessary details, and read only the key information required for completion. After nearly two hours of playing the book, we did start to skip the story passages slightly, following only the crucial details.
In terms of puzzles, the way the game works is excellent. You’re able to actually search the room and its drawers and wardrobes, and are required to do so at several points throughout the game. There’s also a decoding system, that allows you to translate any puzzle solution (whether it’s a directional lock, word clue etc.) into a page number, helping you to continue your journey.
The puzzles were nicely varied and in-theme, and a majority of them were fairly logical and helped the game to flow at a good speed. There were maybe a couple of instances where we felt a puzzle required a bit of a logic leap, but on the whole, we enjoyed playing the game and found ourselves getting wrapped up in the mysterious plot.
Escape game books aren’t that big a thing at the moment (with the exception of the often talked about Journal 29!), so Escape From The Room may have started something great here. We can definitely recommend this as a great little stopgap between physical games – it’s entertaining, gets the brain in gear, and tells a well-written story.
Clue System: Two clues and a solution are available for each puzzle on the Escape From The Room website.
Success? Yes, we completed the book in 2 hours, 35 minutes, using hints on two puzzles. We weren’t completely focused on it, and had enjoyed a few drinks, so you may find it takes less time when you play.