An Enigma in an Abandoned Station – Review of Mission: Breakout

The latest London escape game could get lost amidst the vast sea of escape games out there – but fortunately, Mission:Breakout comes with an interesting historical twist.  Their latest immersive escape room offering is set in a blitz bomb shelter in London in World War II  – but rather than building a set from scratch, this game has the distinct advantage of being set in an actual disused London Underground station which was used as a bomb shelter in WWII.

Escape rooms and an abandoned tube station? Could this be the escape room that really does have it all?

South Kentish Town tube station was opened in 1907 on what is today’s Northern Line (between Camden Town and Kentish Town stations.) Low passenger numbers (as well as the close proximity to the aforementioned stations) led to the station’s closure in 1924. The surface building, with it’s distinctive Leslie Green oxblood tiles, is still visible at street level, and the escape room takes place deep underground, near to the bricked up platforms and abandoned lift shafts.

The game is truly decked out in WWII replica perfection. We are given officer uniforms and hats and briefed on our mission by a Winston Churchill-esque war film. The mission is simple – crack the code, win the war, and escape the locked room within 60 minutes.

The scene is set perfectly – but this particular code is not an easy nut to crack. The challenges require an incredible amount of teamwork and tough thinking to solve each puzzle and build towards finding the name of the spy in our midst. The piece de resistance is a replica Turing machine – no, really. It takes up an entire wall and needs to be “activated” to gain the code to crack a replica enigma machine.

It’s good fun, and this room soars when it comes to the immersive element and the scenery – but there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to instinctive reasoning to move from one task to the next. Clues aren’t simply helpful; they are essential to understanding what to do next. Some tasks have to be repeated more than once to clear different sections – which leads to a lot of confusion as we thought we had previously solved that puzzle; why should we have to solve it again?

The intuitive part is where I found the most frustration, as the energy levels in the group dipped while we stood stagnant, waiting for direction. There wasn’t an organic sense of what needed to be solved and when – and team members lost momentum as a result.

This is, without question, the hardest escape room I’ve done – but not in a good way. The problems are solvable – but if you don’t know what the problem is to begin with, you’re drastically less able to solve it.

For the effort put into the rooms, it’s a shame to feel a little disempowered towards the tasks. Unsurprisingly, my team did not make it out – we missed it by minutes. Once we were shown the answer, it made sense, but we weren’t certain we’d have gotten there even with another hour at our disposal.

In immersive terms, it’s a brilliant experience. The old tube station is put to outstanding use and decorated (largely) appropriately for the time period, bar a few rogue network rail signs. The recordings of overhead bombs falling are eerie and add a layer of awareness. We may be dressed up and having fun, but for our Grandparents, this was no laughing matter. The low rumble of the Northern line trains passing the now abandoned and bricked up platforms adds to the surreal and creepy atmosphere.

The costumes provided add to the sense of fun, and the staff actively encourage time period appropriate photos at the end – as well as letting you have some down time to sip a soda, discuss your time in the room, and even read books on the history of the station.

It’s a tough one, and word on the street is their next one will be a little easier – but it’s an still a great way to head back in time and spend an hour in the depths of one of London’s lost stations – and we had way too much fun taking photos afterwards.

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To book your own immersive adventure, click here.

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