Co-Decode Swindon: Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette

After playing good games at Room Release and Incarcerated, we finally got to the one we’d been waiting for. Our 200th game had arrived, and we’d decided to head down South to Swindon to take on Co-Decode’s “Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette”, a room that comes highly recommended from many escape enthusiasts, and described often as one of the best in the country. Not a bad choice for the occasion then…

“Despite travelling the world over to lead excavations, Oldervik usually finds time to keep in touch. This time, however, it has been almost six months since you received his last letter.

Strangely, after enquiring at the Ministry it appears that nobody knows of Oldervik’s current whereabouts. All you can find out is that he had been tasked with locating and excavating the tomb of an ancient ruler. According to legend, the burial chamber contains priceless artefacts including a mysterious statuette, which the Ministry is keen to acquire.

When a letter from Oldervik finally arrives it is unusually short and to the point, requesting that you attend his study to look after his cats. As far as you know, Oldervik does not have any cats; something is definitely wrong.

And so it is that you venture to Oldervik’s private residence in search of answers…”

Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette at Co-Decode Swindon

I suppose when we first entered the room, there was a slightly underwhelming feeling. When you think of other rooms that have been so highly praised, the stunning sets of Time Run & Locked In Edinburgh come to mind, so we maybe had the wrong expectations as we entered a small study. Of course, that feeling couldn’t have been further from the truth, as after a short time, you find yourself completely and utterly immersed in the amazing story and work of Professor Dunstan.

Every single prop in this room could very well have been an authentic artefact, and all of the furniture may as well have come straight out of an antique auction house as everything was so impressively finished. The items in the room added so much to the game, but despite this, they weren’t even the highlight.

The plaudits this room has gained come down to the puzzles, without a doubt. Every single puzzle was a masterpiece – in theme, well designed, perfectly thought out, and completely solvable – no red herrings or unclear solutions. As you went through completing the brilliant puzzles, the small room’s secrets were unveiled, leaving you constantly surprised that so many excellent ideas could be implemented in a set of this size.

The puzzles weren’t just clever in design, but also in implementation. I’ve never seen so many different ways of opening things before in one room, all of them so, so innovative.

There’s a real sense of completion to the room, as you feel all of the elements coming together, as the story concludes with a perfect finale.

Overall, it’s hard to describe how good this game is. A beautifully constructed, understated set; some of the most intricate, amazing puzzle ideas I’ve played; and an overall top game experience from start to finish. Of course, this game gets the Must Play stamp.


Host: Our host was owner Alex, who gave us perfectly timed clues, and went above and beyond to celebrate our 200th game (see the below tweet…). Thank you!
Clue System: Clues were delivered via a screen that had been well themed up to suit the setting.
Success? Yes, we escaped in 57:03, playing at difficulty level four out of six. Alex will help you to choose the best level for you, based on your experience and number of players, and for each level step up, an extra puzzle is added into the room. It’s a great system, and despite playing two levels down from maximum, the game didn’t feel incomplete.

Facilities: A waiting area with a great little five minute pre-game, the quality of which confirms that you’re in for a great time. Lockers and water too, as well as a large car park for the whole building – we had no problems finding a space.


One comment

  1. What a fantastic room! We made a really good choice for our 200th room! I wouldn’t really say we were slightly underwhelmed when we first entered. Yes it’s not mind blowing on first sight like Time Run’s sets or House of Illusion at Escape Quest.. It’s a study…we’ve done studies so many many times…how good can a study be really? Well, in this case, actually really quite amazing! It’s a study but it’s the finest damn study we’ve ever seen. Once you’ve looked around for a minute you notice it all… the wallpaper, the furniture, the artefacts and props, they’re all simply beautiful. But what really sets Co-Decode apart from the rest is the fantastic puzzles and so very clever designs. Unique, beautiful, clever, classy, in theme puzzles, no red herrings or ambiguity, everything, just everything makes perfect sense and is a joy to look at and work on. There’s not much I can really add, Jamie has said it all perfectly. This is one clever, classy room and a total joy to play. I think I’m repeating myself here, especially certain words, but you just can’t put across how fantastic this room is.

    Also, Jamie has mentioned the mini game to play whilst you’re waiting – this mini game would be a highlight puzzle in some escape rooms but here it’s just for fun in reception!

    Definitely deserves a Must Play award from us. We’ll certainly be heading back down when the new room is ready!


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