We Escaped In
47 minutes 51 Seconds
The Dark Wizard Lord Condor has been causing fear and terror in the wizarding community, you have been tipped off about an attack on the local wizarding school in Northampton. Can you help defend the school from the attackers? The main fear for the School has is that the dark wizard wants the Principle Astronomer’s Star Amulet. The Amulet would double or even triple the magical power of its wearer. This, in the hands of the dark Lord, would be catastrophic. Therefore, you need to gain all the power orbs that have been hidden around the school classroom and Astronomer’s office in order to stop the dark wizards from using the power orbs themselves to release the Amulet. Can you escape with enough Orbs to save the Amulet?
Entertaining kids and teens in half term week, we were seeking out local rooms that might entice our younger relatives to the world of escape rooms. We read through the blurb of the Defence of the Star Amulet room and thought, this is perfect. Power Orbs, Magic, wizard school and even our very own dark lord to take on or, if we’d chosen the darker path, work for. As it happens we opted to be good wizards and decided to embark on our very own battle of Hogwa…. Northampton.
It’s a bold move to take on a theme that is so well known by pretty much everyone. This isn’t a licensed Harry Potter room but the mere mention of Wizard School and I imagine most of us would expect Hogwarts and the truth is that the room doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s got school vibes but its more State School than Spell School. There are some hints of something a little witchy with barrels and stars but there is definitely room for a little more!
When the door is shut and our game begins, there is a nice bit of magic. A picture frame on the wall comes to life and introduces the premise of the game along with some guidance on the games unique scoring mechanics. By the host’s own admission, this drags on a bit. However, it is a great way to inject a bit of magic into the room and does conjure up memories of talking portraits in the movies. This frame is also the clue system so at various points in the game the painting will come to life and share clues when you need them.
As the game progresses the headmaster’s office also features in the game (this isn’t a spoiler). This is a much smaller room, as you would expect but it definitely carries the same general atmosphere as the main playing room. There’s a bit less magic going on in this room but it does feel like an office. The guys here could do a little more with the space they have, it’s by no means an awful attempt at the magic school but it doesn’t quite nail it.
Puzzles & Challenges
Defence of the Star Amulet markets itself as a beginners room and states that it is designed with first time players in mind. The challenges in the room therefore follow a very linear sequence that lead you to the exit. From the offset, we could see this was going to be a padlock heavy room. Combination locks, 3 pin and 4 pin locks were dotted everywhere. For experienced players this might be a little underwhelming, however with our two young first timers this was quite a decent introduction to the premise of escape rooms. At no point were our new players overwhelmed which meant they could enjoy the gameplay and they both left wanting to play more rooms. For escape room experts, there is no challenge in here you won’t have come across before in one variation or another however you’ll still enjoy the classic puzzles. There was one “magic” surprise we didn’t expect that was quite impressive half way through the game!
In addition to the main aim of escaping Horton’s Emporium asks players to collect mysterious power orbs throughout the game. At the end of the game the orbs are weighed and this generates a final score which goes alongside your escape time. We scored 295 thanks to an orb we’re not 100% sure we should have discovered, however we were told to keep our eyes peeled! We were quite interested in this premise, however outside of the one we’re not sure about, it’s hard to know if anyone can escape without finding all of the orbs. They are more woven into the existing gameplay than a bonus game. Still, searching for them was good fun.
A few of the puzzles rely on the props in the room, and unfortunately a couple of these do need a bit of TLC. We’d have shaved a few minutes off of our time had we not realised that one of the larger props was a little stiff and needed a bit more force than we are used to. One of the more magical props was also not working for us and required a mid game intervention from the GM.
Our games master in the room was very friendly and welcoming. She explained the general premise of an escape room to our two new players in a way that meant they were excited to get going. She was clearly very attentive while we were playing as she spotted that one of the puzzles wasn’t working and came in to sort it out!
As most of the clues, storyline and solutions are delivered by a magical portrait in the room there isn’t a huge amount of GM and player interaction during the game. I assume the clues through the video system are triggered by the GM when she spotted we needed a little nudge rather than automated based on the times they popped up. They weren’t too forthcoming which was appreciated but at the same time, we weren’t left hanging around for too long either.
The only downside to a game in two rooms with a video delivery clue system is that when in the second area, you can’t hear the clues coming through as easily. It’s not the biggest space so we could race back in to hear what the headmistress was saying, but it is something that has been overlooked.
Value for Money
Horton’s Emporium escape rooms are offered on a tiered pricing basis with the room price decreasing for more players. In addition to this there are children’s rates which also decrease with more players. Even with only 2 adult players, the cost is £20 which for an hour long escape room is very reasonable. With 6 players childrens prices are as low as £14 and adults £18. This is one of the cheapest rooms we have played. Worth pointing out that we played in half term too when some rooms increase their prices!
In addition to the cost of the room, we had to factor in parking which was located just over the road in a small pay and display area. There are a couple of car parks around the area. We visited in the evening and so avoided any busy day traffic etc. Parking worked out at £2 so for the four of us to play we spent less than £80. Great for families.
For the two of us that have played a number of these rooms, Horton’s was an enjoyable hour but was not one of the most memorable, or well executed rooms we have played. It is a little rough around the edges and could do with a bit of refinement to really nail the witchcraft and wizardry theme. For our younger, and new to escape room players however the Defence of the Star Amulet was a great room that has left them wanting to play more games.
It may not be a room enthusiasts will love, but for families with kids Horton’s Emporium offers an affordable and enjoyable hour that adults and children can enjoy.