Do you enjoy being locked in a room with a group of other people and having to solve a series of puzzling clues to escape the room? Well now you can bring the escape room experience and the challenge they offer into the comfort of your own home for family game nights. There are now lots of at home escape rooms that you can buy, with varying levels of difficulty from family games to adults only. We have been trying out one such game from ThinkFun’s Escape the Room range and trying to solve the Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.
Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat is the second game in ThinkFun’s escape room puzzle range (the first is Stargazer’s Manor). It is a immersive party game for 3-8 players, aged 13 and above with a recommended gameplay of 90-120 minutes (this will depend on the path you take to complete the puzzle).
In the box:
- Instruction Manual
- Scene Card: Arrival
- 4 Sealed Envelopes (The Desk, The Safe, The Alcove, The Laboratory Door)
- Secret Items (hidden within the sealed envelopes)
- Solution Wheel
To get players in the mood to play this game and make it much more of an eventful experience, ThinkFun allow you to send creepy invitations to your fellow players from their website, and there are even suggestions of items of clothing and accessories to wear. From the website you can add the guests name, event date and time, location and even have the invitation emailed (as well as being able to download and print or email it yourself).
I sent out my invitations to my guests, this was a very simple process from the ThinkFun website. It was now time to visit Dr. Gravely’s Retreat.
There is minimal setup to this game. You will need a large playing area, generally a room that you can play in and easily move around in. Lay out all the clues as and when you receive them. Just place the four sealed envelopes in the middle of the table (no one is to open any), set any mood music (if you have a Spotify account there are some very good suggestions that you can use on the ThinkFun website) and you are ready to begin. You will need pen and paper to help you solve any clues as well as a timer. If you want to use the hint system, you will need access to the internet. Set a timer for up to 2 hours and you now have 2 hours to solve all the clues and escape from Dr. Gravely’s Retreat. Can you do it?
The year is 1913 and you are the lucky winner of a free stay at Foxcrest Retreat, where the famed Dr. Gravely has improved upon the latest in spa treatments and relaxation for those of high social standing. You take a long all-expense-paid train ride to the retreat. Upon your arrival, however, you and your fellow guests may find the “health retreat” is not what it seems…
Work with your guests to discover the dark secret of Dr. Gravely’s retreat by finding clues and solving puzzles. But be careful… in the story, the doors have shut and locked behind you. Will you and your guests discover the secret and escape the room before time runs out?
To begin, the Host must set the scene. This is achieved by reading the first scene card. Once this is read out, all the players are then instructed to “examine the desk” to start. To open The Desk is an envelope but players must first work out how to open the desk with any clues that they have available.
As this is an escape room puzzle, I won’t explain any of the envelopes, their contents or how to solve them as this would just spoil all the fun and the experience. What I can tell you is that some of the clues are easier than others, whilst some are quite baffling. But there is always a way to solve them, none of them are impossible. Whilst you start with The Desk envelope you cannot open it until you solve the first clue, and you can’t open subsequent envelopes until you solve following clues. When opening envelopes, you will need to keep the contents readily available as you might need to refer to them later in the game to solve other clues. To be certain that you have solved a clue correctly so that you can move on to the next there is a handy solution wheel to check your answers, this isn’t a simple list of answers but a wheel where you must input symbols you gather from solving clues to see if the four you think are correct work and allow you to move on.
The puzzles are all very varied and interesting, with mystery pieces in some envelopes, envelopes within envelopes and you and your guests will have to work together and get that brain working to solve them.
If you can solve all the clues before the timer goes off, you win. If the timer sounds, you lose and just might end up being guests of Dr. Gravely for the rest of your life.
Overall, Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat is a fantastic challenging and fun escape room puzzle where logical thinking and observational skills are a must. For up to 2 hours (we finished it with 15 minutes to spare and the time just few by) you are immersed in a world of strange happenings, weird clues and lots of head banging, baffling and frustrating fun with lightbulb moments where you could kick yourself for not seeing the obvious.
This is a game for up to 8 people to play but we think that might just be too many and 4 is probably about right to get the best out of the game and keep everybody involved.
The clues can be quite vague at times with others being a bit more detailed. Some are just about thinking through what you have read, some will require the use of pen and paper to work out the answers and others require a more hands-on approach. But all are interesting and challenging.
We had a lot of brain-teasing fun deciphering the clues, although on a few occasions we did get stumped and had to resort to the online hint system. The online hint system gives you up to 3 hints per clue to help you try and solve a particular puzzle and if you still can’t get past it, it will then give the solution to that clue.
We loved playing the Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat and had lots of good quality entertainment with plenty of fun. The puzzles were challenging and the story that is being played out is very good, especially if you add in mood music, costumes and props. If you are looking for a fun night with family and friends in that is a bit more interesting and challenging than a standard board game, then I can highly recommend ThinkFun’s Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat. The story and the variety of clues with pique your curiosity and you will get immersed in the game and want to solve it.
Whilst it is a one-time use game, you can reassemble all the envelopes for other players to enjoy it, you can invite a different group of friends to play whilst you just be the host and watch the drama unfold or just pass it on to a friend for them to enjoy with their family. There is a very handy reassembly guide on ThinkFun’s website.
Whilst going out to a real-life escape room can be quite costly, at around £22 (£2.75 per person if 8 people are playing) is a just as good but considerably cheaper alternative and all in the comfort of your own home and you can have your snacks and drinks as well. Then there is the added bonus that the game can be reassembled and played with again by other players or passed along for someone else to enjoy.
Stay at home and have some fun with an excellent escape room puzzle game.