ESCAPING THE PSYCHOPATH'S DEN
Written by Daniel Benson
The rise of Escape Rooms in the UK has been phenomenal over the last couple of years, driven perhaps by the return of The Crystal Maze, a TV show that pits a team of contestants against a series of themed, room-based challenges. They’re everywhere now; hell, even the local shopping centre in my home town has one.
I’ve always fancied giving them a go, so when AIM Escape in London invited HorrorTalk to bring a team and take on one of their Escape Room challenges, it was impossible to refuse. AIM Escape is a relatively new player to the market, with the mission to bring a premium challenge experience to customers looking for the ultimate escape room. It currently provides four offerings: Patient Zero, a futuristic outbreak-themed room; Psychopath’s Den, where players are the kidnapped victims of a serial killer; Hangover – Deja Brew, a post stag/hen party scenario where challengers must piece together the hazy events of the night before; and Spy Heroes, a James Bond-style family friendly escapade.
But this is HorrorTalk, so family-friendly was off the menu and we chose to go up against The Psychopath’s Den. Pulling together a team of me, Ryan Holloway, Simret Cheema-Innis and Becky Roberts meant we had several decades of horror knowledge and experience between us, but would it be any use?
Click images to enlarge.
Nestled in a trendy piazza in the heart of Whitechapel, you could be forgiven for passing AIM Escape by with little thought to what goes on behind its doors. The hyper-modern façade and reception area belies the function of the building.
We were greeted by a friendly receptionist and took a seat to wait for our room to be prepared. We could have been sitting in the lobby of a boutique hotel, a fancy cosmetic surgery or a funky advertising agency. The clean white walls and tiled floors fully threw us off as to what we were about to experience.
We were ushered from reception to our waiting room, the same gleaming white crisp lines were present in the corridor until we got to an unassuming door, blackness beyond. We shuffled slowly, hesitantly through the opening, being swallowed by the gloom. The door closed and locked behind us, we were now the property of The Psychopath.
As our eyes adjusted, we started to pick out details of our confines. Tiled walls, bloodstains, chains hanging and draped, shackles on the wall, a large metal cabinet big enough to hold a person. Locked.
Speaking to us via a small video screen in the corner, The Psychopath gave us some backstory and brief instructions. AIM Escape advises players to completely interact with their environment; look up, down, in corners, press things, pull things, open things. Clues are everywhere and you must fully explore to succeed.
Ryan found a torch. We’re off to a strong start. Ha! If we got the torch so easily, the rest will be simple, right? No. Some aspects of the game are simple, others devilishly challenging, varying between brain-taxing, physical (not so demanding that you need to be an Olympic athlete, though) and dexterity challenges. For some things there’s a logical progression, others can be done randomly to be brought together at the end. It would be unfair on AIM Escape and potential future players to go into details on what we did and how we achieved it, but we did prevail in the end, although slightly over the hour we were allotted to complete it in.
Click images to enlarge.
For all but Ryan, this was our first experience of escape rooms and it was an overwhelmingly positive one. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that AIM Escape’s theming is right on the money when it comes to a convincing serial killer’s lair. It brings the group together and makes them think and work towards a common goal. And the great thing is, you don’t actually need any particular skills. Our horror movie knowledge was all but useless, but just thinking outside the box (even when you’re locked inside it) and trying different ideas will take you a long way. And if you get stuck, that Psychopath ain’t so bad, he’ll even give you some friendly tips.
Don’t just take my word for it, though, here’s what the others had to say:
Ideal for thrill-seekers looking for their next adrenalin rush in London, AIM Escape’s Psychopath’s Den succeeds as an inventive and well-executed horror-themed escape room. Think Saw meets The Cube - just without the blood/limb sacrifice and £250,000 cash prize, and with keys that are hidden in lockers rather than inside people. The pressure of the challenges (riddles, puzzles…), the glaring timer countdown and the relentless confinement of the dimly-lit rooms, combined with the uneasy anticipation of what could be around each corner as you move through the game, make for a great test of mental strength, teamwork and, above all, the ability to keep one’s nerve. N.B. Do it with people you like! – Becky Roberts
The AIM Escape Room experience was a stimulating psychopathic affair, where fear, logic and survival skills are both mentally and physically put to the test. If you manage to escape and succeed, there’s no doubt you will want to try it again! It should be on everyone’s list of training the mind to think, endure and understand depths of captivity. – Simret Cheema Innis
It’s hard not to go over-the-top excited about it without spoilers. It was such fun to actually be inside a horror film for 60mins, I pretty much loved everything about it, the atmosphere, the room design, the puzzles and especially some unexpected components that were so well put together. The puzzles could be quite difficult at times but it only really added to the experience, especially getting hints from a creepy voice on a screen. Would recommend it to anyone, horror fan or not. It’s a different night out that made me forget the very real horrors of everyday life for an hour. – Ryan Holloway