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In London’s (Off) West End 2019: The Grid by Lollipop (Review)

Crafty sci-fi themed escape room and innovative cocktails make this experience one to remember.

LONDON – With the advent of increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI), will robots one day rule the world? The answer to that may just be dependent on how well you fare at Lollipop’s sci-fi multi-chamber escape room The Grid. 

Set at the offices of Neosight, The Grid tasks players with an all-important mission – to go undercover and destroy a dangerous, sentient AI. Housed at the Bankside Arches, Neosight has been well-decorated, with the space furnished to look distinctly ‘technological’ in white and silver, complete with flyers informing guests of what the company does, to tablet screens proudly promoting Neosight ‘advertisements’.

Slipping on a silvery jacket and receiving a quick safety brief, it’s all fun and games when the experience begins, as we come face to face with the supposedly dangerous sentient AI. Friendly, polite and subjecting us to a series of interactive tests, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security as we play along and follow instructions.

Things quickly take a turn for the creepy however, when the titular Grid shows up, an organisation set up to counter such technological terrorists, and informs us (digitally) that our very lives have now been endangered.

Over the next 90 minutes, we must simultaneously crush the AI and find a means of saving ourselves from certain doom as we use our wits and put together the limited clues hidden all around us to escape each room.

Often comprising of multiple parts, each puzzle is challenging enough to force us to think out of the box, yet follows a logic that makes them solvable once we gather up enough hints and materials. Each room is packed chock-full of pieces that players will literally have to comb every nook and cranny to discover, and part of the fun lies precisely in finding that last missing link to move on to the next task.

From hacking into personal computers to fighting off malevolent nanobots, technology is well-integrated into most of the puzzles, making The Grid feel like a complete, fully thought out product that fully embraces its sci-fi nature.

Even its cocktails are properly framed as part of the plot, often the each one creatively taking the form of a well-designed DIY-science experiment kit. Expect to be playing around with beakers, tweezers and suspicious (and delicious) chemicals to make your drink, making the experience incredibly interactive and fun.

Perhaps what makes The Grid that much more special is its live elements, where players are not simply thrust into an escape room with a countdown to get out.

While there are never any actors physically present in each room, we are constantly being monitored from the outside, with live voiceovers from actors in character helping out with additional clues as necessary (or if need be, step in during emergencies).

All this helps play up the tension, as the voiceovers warn us of the AI sensing our presence, or simply engaging in banter that makes us feel that much more immersed in the entire experience.

Well-conceptualised and executed, The Grid is an escape room experience that not only features intriguing puzzle and room design, but also gets under players’ skin in its full commitment to the high stakes storyline that keeps us on our toes every step of the way.

By the time we reach the endpoint, there’s an overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment as we cheers to our success.

Artificial intelligence be damned – come to The Grid for an escape-room unlike any other that will leave you believing that you too can save the world with keen puzzle-solving skills and tasty cocktails.

Photos from The Grid

Performance attended 30/8/19 

The Grid runs at Neosight, 2 Robinson Road, Bankside Arches, London SE1 8BU For more information and tickets, visit their website here

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