Price Range: £18 – £23 Per Person
Players: 2-5 / 2-6
Duration: 60 Minutes
Website: Handmade Mysteries
Inebriation Potential: 10/10
Lady Chastity, the story goes, was an eccentric and imperious lady, prone to throwing the kind of hedonistic parties that often descended into orgies at the drop of a hat. She was also a little bit insane, towards the end. Your task, as visitors to what was once her estate, is to hunt down one of the last remaining bottles of her famed aphrodisiac wine – which, in her madness, she hid away at the end of a trail of complex riddles.
As you attempt to solve them you’ll be aided and abetted by Gabriel – a ghostly man- (or woman-)servant who never once breaks character as they nudge you through the innuendo-laced twists and turns of Lady Chastity’s warped world. It’s a gleefully dark and gothic premise, with a slight horror slant that emerges during play as Lady Chastity herself pops up in spirit form to harangue you as you pull apart her estate. What more could one want from a one-hour game?
The space is definitely cosy – indeed it’s hard to imagine fitting more than four players comfortably inside, particularly as some of the puzzles work best when you can spread stuff out and look at it. There is a lot to discover and explore in the room though, so while larger teams might find themselves somewhat cramped, they certainly shouldn’t be bored. If you’re super popular you may also want to think about booking both rooms at The Four Thieves in London, which together accommodate up to eleven players.
Handmade Mysteries – the designers of Lady Chastity’s Reserve – support their excellent story with equally excellent room and puzzle design. The props are generally elegant and weighty, and evoke a feeling akin to being trapped in a period ghost story, or locked in a forgotten storeroom in a haunted manor. The ghostly feel is only enhanced by the choice of genuine materials – one puzzle even makes use of what looks like real (animal) bones in order to create an eerie and entirely-fitting black magic-themed puzzle. Elsewhere you’ll find yourself handling real wood and glass, as well as metal jewellery that feels much more like a genuine antique than a prop.
Also surprisingly genuine is the bottle of wine which you and your team are seeking. Succeed within the time limit and it’s yours to keep… and drink. Having a real and tangible prize at the end of the escape (not to mention one that actually fits the theme) is seriously cool, and something that sets Lady Chastity’s Reserve well ahead of the competition.
The puzzles, too, are generally well-designed. Early on (assuming you progress beyond the first few steps) you’ll be able to set eyes on your prize, but will find it locked out of reach inside a fiendish Goonies-style contraption which you must spend the rest of the hour unlocking. This, in combination with a handy book of riddles, means that you can accurately gauge how much further you have to go at any stage of the game. The puzzles are challenging, but always make sense, and call on a solid mix of different skills – there’s even a physical task or two to keep you on your toes.
For the most part the room seems fairly low-tech, but that’s likely due to the brilliance of its design. I suspect that there’s actually quite a lot of automation going on behind the scenes – it’s just that you never see it. From your point of view, locked within the room itself, everything that happens is indistinguishable from magic.
The room uses a number of special effects, some of which are bound to make you jump. There’s more than a hint of hammy horror to Lady Chastity’s Reserve, and in addition to the superbly eerie sound and lighting effects, there are a number of well-laid jump scares waiting to make you twitch. It would be inaccurate to call it a horror-based room though, as the frights are mostly played for laughs, and there’s a fairly light, adventurous tone to the whole thing. That said, be prepared to yelp in surprise at least once or twice during your tenure in the room.
Unlike in other escape rooms, the clues in Lady Chastity’s Reserve are not delivered via a screen or through a walkie-talkie. Indeed there’s no immersion-breaking technology here – not even a digital timer (you can keep track of your remaining minutes using a constantly-running hourglass instead). When you need help, you stop what you’re doing and shout for Gabriel, who will either pop their head through a hatch in the door to offer instruction, or sometimes even sweep imperiously into the room to convey a wide-eyed hint about where you’re going wrong.
One more point that bears a mention is how functionally easy to access the room is. The price, despite its superior quality, is significantly lower than other rooms in London, and you can book for as many or as few attendees as you like. Within the capital, rooms that cater to teams of two are rare indeed. Not only that, but the whole process of getting you into the room, getting you briefed and monitoring your progress is done with a well-rehearsed streak of theatrics which makes it a pleasure to play from start to finish.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the room is based in a pub which makes it work so well. Other escape rooms often have a slightly liminal feel to their waiting areas – lingering around before your time slot can feel like spending time in the waiting room of a bank or bus station, even when they’re plushly decorated and stocked with time-killing mini puzzles. As each iteration of Lady Chastity’s Reserve is located within a pub, this is one room that evades that issue altogether, and allows you to enjoy the room as part of an evening rather than a detour from it.
An exceptionally well-designed and executed room, which should be a lot of fun for both new and experienced escapers. The inclusion of a prize is a brilliant touch, and the high production values make this a must do in London. On top of that, it’s in a pub. Make an evening of it.