It’s become something of a Travel Fairies tradition for us to take part in an escape room every year for Jessie’s birthday. Last year we headed to London just for the day and visited Secret Studio however the live actors were a bit too scary for Jess! So this year we decided to go for something a little different which definitely wouldn’t have actors involved! We found Hidden City in London, a treasure hunt style outdoor escape game and decided to give it a try!
Hidden City has quite a few different escape games so it took us quite a while to decide which one to do. Depending on which game you pick the price is based either per person or per team. We decided to go for one of the pay per team ones as for three of us this made it quite a bit cheaper.
The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat is £25 per person while Moriarty’s Game, The Enchanted Mirror and Mind of the Maker are £19 per person. I’m honestly not sure how they know that the number of people you select (and pay for) is the same number of people that are taking part in the game but they must have some way of knowing so you aren’t only paying for 2 people then 5 people showing up to play. Since these are longer and more fleshed out games than the pay per team games perhaps someone meets you at the starting location or since you go inside certain buildings for these ones you may receive a set number of tickets to those locations however without attempting one of these ourselves I cannot be sure.
Lost Souls of the City, Cryptic Covent Caper, Bright Lights Evening Trail, City Lights Evening Trail and Shoreditch Street Art Trail are all £40 per team. For all of the different games, your team can be between 2-5 people. Once we’d cut out the pay per person games, the evening trails and the street art trail there weren’t many options left. In the end, we decided on Lost Souls of the City.
The game started at Smith’s of Smithfield in Farringdon. We didn’t check this before we booked so we found it a bit of a funny coincidence that the Smith Sisters (our team name) were meeting at Smith’s of Smithfield! You can start your game any time between 11.00am and 1.30pm (12.30pm on Sundays) on any day within 30 days of purchasing your ticket by texting the number you’re given when you sign up. At this point, if you didn’t already at the booking stage, you can add extra phone numbers so that all team members will receive the clues so if one of your phones dies or loses signal the others could still complete the game. This also means no one can ever feel left out of the game like I’ve found in some escape rooms when you have a big group trying to crowd around one small clue.
Once we started the game and had set up the phone numbers the introduction and first clue came through. The basic story of the game is that a lost soul found somewhere within the city is sending messages with instructions to lead you to them. Some of the clues involved clever wordplay within the message itself whilst some involved spotting certain things and other included detailed instructions of how to get to the next location but each clue or answer would have a link to a lost soul of the city whether this be a person, animal or ancient civilisation. The game sent us weaving through the streets of London ending at a final location (I won’t spoil where though!) which revealed to us the identity of the lost soul sending the clues.
The thing I loved most about the Hidden City game is that it leads you to places you may never have known about. I have lived in the UK all my life and been to London many times but I still discovered new and beautiful places whilst playing the game. Even Jess found spots she’s never been to before and she’s lived in the area for the last 3 years! Everywhere we went was pretty quiet too although this could have just been because we were in a business district on the weekend! It was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. And we didn’t even have to take any public transport!
The Lost Souls of the City game also took us inside two museums during the trail. One of these is the Museum of London which none of us had been to before and was so interesting that we actually took some extra time to look at some of the other exhibitions in the museum. As far as I can tell, each of the different escape games involves going inside at some point or another. At this point, the game also gave us a break of up to half an hour to sit down and get some food at the museum cafe.
As for the clues themselves, we found most of these simple enough to work out with a bit of thinking but not too easy that there was no challenge to it. There were a couple of times we couldn’t quite work it out but in a frustrating kind of way. For example, one clue that asked for a number as the answer and it could have been any one of three different numbers but there was no way of knowing which without just trying every one till we got it right. Some of the clues also used pretty advanced wording so it would be ideal that at least one person playing the game spoke fluent English. There were even some words we didn’t recognise being three native English speakers. Jess is even an English literature student and we still had to google a few words!
The other issue that we had with it is whilst the game actually takes around double the amount of time as a conventional escape room and involves walking roughly 1.4 miles, it felt like we did a lot less. I put this down to being less frantic and getting only one clue at a time rather than having to multitask so much. This game had 15 clue messages in total and is estimated to run for about 2-3 hours while other storylines are longer and more complex. We completed it in 1 hour 54 minutes plus had 30 minutes of penalties for wrong answers and extra clues. The team with the shortest time completed the game in just 1 hour and 4 minutes.
Overall, we really enjoyed Lost Souls of the City and thought it was a really interesting way of experiencing London. If you are really wanting to test yourself I think a traditional escape room would be better but I think Hidden City is a nice, relaxing alternative. It’s also a great way of getting a bit of extra exercise in and seeing more of the city that you might not have even realised existed. I think it would be especially great as a team-building exercise at work or with a big group of family or friends. I would highly recommend trying Hidden City out if you want to do something a little different when visiting London.