REVIEW: DETENTION - CTRL ALT ESC

MARGATE, KENT

Detention Escape room review margate

For our next adventure we enrolled back-to-school. This time for Ctrl Alt Esc’s classroom based escape game Detention. 

We were met by Cat our GM who had abandoned her earlier friendly tone and transformed into a rather intimidating schoolmarm. With us all subconsciously sat upright, she chastised us with the comedic reasoning behind our impending post-lesson custody. We really value escape rooms where the GM's adopt characterisation of the theme and Cat’s portrayal as our strict headmistress at Ctrl Alt Esc was top of the class. 

...But of course we’re far too cool for school to have to stay behind in detention! And with the teacher now safely out of the room, our task for the next 90 minutes was to try and break for freedom.

Transported back to a year 5 or 6 elementary class, the space we had suddenly found ourselves in featured all the tropes we had hoped to discover - along with a few surprises too! There was an overwhelming amount of theme-relevant props to investigate, replicating the mild chaos of a colourful classroom in the most favourable way. This allowed us to lawlessly separate where we could inspect the space individually, and then share our finds across the childish pandemonium that we had soon created. 

The realistic decor and furnishings were skilfully adapted for an escape room, with nostalgic nods for those of us of a certain age that will remember the cumbersome TV/VHS combo as one of the many memorable throwbacks from our school heyday. There was also some well-conceived tech additions that were subtle but effective, alongside some clever mechanics that on occasion were entirely unexpected. 

Detention escape room review ctrl alt esc margate

The puzzles here were an A+ with an eclectic mix of logic, search, observational and fun physical challenges, executed in well thought out concertina game structure that naturally brought the team together at points to work on the trickier puzzles. In addition to this and despite the amount of tangible props to peruse, there was not a red herring in sight. One of the larger physical props - whilst admittedly impressive in its design and function - did appear to be slightly misplaced amongst the rest of this rooms challenges which all remained rigorously relevant to its school theme.

Ex-pupils of the 80’s and 90’s will most certainly get the most out of this room, with its nostalgic nods and pop culture references that will enhance those players' enjoyment. In contrast, whilst this knowledge does compliment the experience, it is non-essential for puzzling success during the game. 

The auditory additions and unique clue systems was another plus, with their novel deliveries piquing amusement from our enthralled team any time they were presented. You’ll have a hard time not grinning your way through this fun escape room - particularly if you make it to its joyous finale.

In conclusion our end of term report states that being kept behind after class here was a top-marks experience for us. Ctrl Alt Esc have obviously done their homework with Detention’s studious setting, evocative theming, plentiful puzzles and witty audio all held together by the discipline of our talented Games Master/Head Teacher. 

So it goes without saying that we highly recommend getting up to no good in the playground of Ctrl Alt Esc next time you’re down in Margate ...you might just experience the best Detention session of your life!

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Detention - Ctrl Alt Esc Margate, Kent
Rating: 5

REVIEW: TERMINAL - ESCAPE PLAN LIVE

CHATHAM, KENT

Terminal Escape Room Review Chatham Escape Plan Live

Escape Plan Live’s Terminal is a 90 minute game set inside a real, disused bus depot within The Pentagon Shopping centre in Chatham. Its website boasts of its huge space, alongside the promise of live actor interactions with a caution to players of a nervous disposition to try and not chicken out! 

With us all aboard and suitably intrigued, we signed up for our one-way ticket.

We discovered this venue on the top floor of the shopping centre and found ourselves still waiting to get in well after our booked time slot for arrival. Unable to get any response from our rat-a-tat-tats on the door, we were uncertain if this was an intentional ploy to amp our anxiety or whether our booking had been seemingly forgotten…(turns out it wasn’t intentional).

After the eventual greeting we were invited across the threshold to the games immediate starting point. There was no reception area and neither were there lockers to stow our possessions and although this is not a huge deal it was already proving to be an unusual set-up from our typical escape room experience. (It’s probably also worth noting there are no toilets available at this venue so you'll need 20p to access the shopping centre loos for your pre-game business, so do visit before you arrive!) 

Our GM made quick work of evolving from our friendly welcome party to immersed character and we soon found ourselves plunged into chaos. Unfortunately there was no real introduction or mention of the rooms competition winner plot that's detailed on Escape Plan Live's website:

“You thought this new travel company seemed too good to be true…and you were absolutely right! None of the passengers who’ve made the mistake of booking with them have ever completed their journey in one piece. Having won a trip in a competition we didn’t remember entering, we’re far too excited about our prize to notice that things are not quite right here until it’s too late…or is it? Maybe we can escape the station before our bus arrives as we start to realise it’s headed for a destination from which we’ll never return…” 

The start of Terminal was promisingly strong. The ominous space and interactions that followed during these initial moments really had us suitably on edge and immersed, but sadly the wheels on this bus began to rapidly fall off... 

Due to the rooms marketing (or perhaps naivety on our part), we had genuinely expected to be running around an actual bus terminus here. Instead we found ourselves dashing about a cluster of derelict offices that if we’re honest could have been within the walls of any disbanded civic centre. We’re admittedly unfamiliar with Chatham's port authority past but there was nothing inside to suggest that this was historically the site of a bus station. 

Escape Plan Live Terminal Escape Room Review

There had also been very few decorative changes to its walls or furniture to modify the spaces relevancy for an escape game - somehow managing to allude any notable nods to its transportation hub theme. Any mild interior efforts involved were easily implemented with the occasional uninspired MS-Word document that had been printed off and tacked to notice boards. Aside from the extensive spaces' business rates, very little money has been seemingly spent here. 

Although there was plenty to investigate, the vast majority of the many nooks and crannies to mull over were almost entirely irrelevant to the game. These on occasion unintentionally offered letter or number combinations that could be erroneously interpreted as possible clues. There were also 'props' dotted around that had no significance, not even as theme-appropriate artefacts, just junk assumedly left behind from the previous occupants that was never cleared away. 

The puzzling aspects here were equally as weak offering little more throughout than the inclusion of a few generic riddles pulled straight from the Internet. Another gripe was the entirely illogical resolve of one particular task. This puzzle presented us with a two-digit response for a 5-digit padlock. At a loss, we asked for guidance and were told to complete the rest of the lock using three numbers offered to us that had absolutely no relevance, making zero sense! The one and only technical puzzle here also malfunctioned during our run and whilst disappointing, admittedly we did think the situation was handled rather well. 

There were also occasions where our ability to progress was fully dictated by an actors interaction rather than our own ability to move on at the pace of our puzzle-solving which padded out the game in effort to justify its 90 minute duration. Sometimes this left us needlessly investigating spaces unnecessarily. And despite the boast of its physical size, we found there to be predominately one or two mediocre puzzles in the majority of each of its rooms. The game was also completely linear, so we strongly advise avoiding the 16 person maximum capacity, as you’ll likely find 14 folk with nothing to do other than fill space. 

The one saving grace was the inclusion of the live actors who performed their roles faultlessly and maintained character throughout, even when dealing with our technical hiccup. Admittedly through their performances we did find certain moments rather foreboding. The theatrical element alongside its slightly better finale was Terminal's strongest point, but ultimately size really doesn’t matter if the puzzles and theming are nonexistent, rendering this self declared largest escape room in the UK an en-tyre let down.

At £135 for our team of four we felt like fully paying passengers that the ticket inspector had wrongfully fined! The extortionate fare for this rickety ride quite simply wasn’t worth it. Until there’s a timetable of change to enhance the decor and props better relevant to its theme, and most importantly a much stronger quality and variety of puzzles implemented in to Escape Plan Live's priority seat, then sadly we must warn you against alighting here - perhaps even skipping this stop all together on your next escape room route around Kent.

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Terminal - Escape Plan LIVE. Chatham, Kent
Rating: 1

REVIEW: EGYPTIAN EXODUS - THE ESCAPEMENT

MARGATE, KENT
Egyptian Exodus Escapement Margate Escape Room Review

When it comes to Egyptian themed escape games we’re admittedly more dummy than mummy having never quite ankh’d a successful room, so to say we entered The Escapement’s Egyptian Exodus somewhat apprehensive for our trip to the lost tomb of Ramses iii (via Margate) was an understatement.

Fortunately we’d played the venues excellent Pirates of Polaris and The Pit, so resided to that fact that even if our logic crumbled, the quality of the set we were likely to find ourselves entombed would vindicate any embarrassing efforts on our part to escape …and we weren’t wrong!

The decoration of this room is entirely phenomenal, from the grandeur of its impressive entrance to the intricacies of the interior and props within. The minutest detail has been considered, elevating it from a generic escape space to one worthy of a Hollywood film-set. No element is overlooked and the assault on our senses, including clever auditory and lighting cues immediately transported us to the Valley of the Kings with audacious ease. 

Despite the incredibly sandy environment, we noted how the space was impeccably maintained feeling authoritatively sanitised in comparison to other sand-covered escapes we have played in the past. 

The Escapement Margate Review

Once acclimatised to our new surroundings we diverted our attention to the rooms actual tasks where we were pleased to discover an agreeable cross section of theme-appropriate puzzles, including a noteworthy search element that was cleverly implemented. We also found a plethora of logical puzzles, a few of which - as predicted - we made a fairly embarrassing hash of!  

We favoured the rooms ability to allow us to separate completing some puzzles simultaneously with it pulling us together during its more climatic moments. Another effective inclusion was the clue-system that runs parallel to rooms narrative, forming a more pivotal role in the game-play over the slightly less immersive, generic GM communications escapers will be more accustomed to at other venues. 

One particular novelty made us smile here too providing some light amusement amidst our own self-inflicted, added pressure to please the gods and exit the tomb unscathed!   

After a surprisingly successful escape our GM’s (including founder and creator Lewis Hunt) treated us to a thorough debrief where we were walked through our entire game highlighting our successes and teased for the mishaps we perhaps would've rather left dead and buried! Not only did this show our GM’s attentiveness throughout our run, but displayed their infectious passion for the industry - something like-minded enthusiasts will revel in. 

Overall this is one tomb with a view and we were simply wow'd by our experience in Egyptian Exodus. Along with the excellent puzzles and flow of the game, we were particularly impressed by the abundance of invisible tech found in such an authentically ancient setting, never once feeling misplaced. The Escapements’ tech-programming genius with its flawless, sequential execution without any need for GM triggering is an impressive operation that alludes almost all of its competitors. 

Which is exactly why, in our opinion, they're amongst the Pharaohs of must-play escape room venues currently available anywhere in the UK. 

NEW-REVIEW-SCORE-5-STAR-FIN-2019

The Escapement - Egyptian Exodus
Rating: 5

REVIEW: JUDGEMENT D.A.V.E. - BEWILDER BOX

THE BRUNSWICK, BRIGHTON & HOVE SUSSEX 

Judgement dave escape room brighton hove reviews

Judgement D.A.V.E. is the second escape game instalment from the creative minds at Bewilder Box. Whilst the game is set in the same fictional institute it is actually situated at an entirely different location: The Brunswick pub in Hove, just a short stroll from Brighton’s famous seafront. 

As mentioned in our previous review for Bewilder Box’s first escape game, we usually approach above-a-pub rooms with caution, but given our previous experience at the companies Hobgoblin venue for The Bewilder Box Initiative we entered Judgement D.A.V.E. in confidence.

The Masternet 9000 is a rouge AI that has staged a mutiny of the Bewilder Box Initiative and is threatening to escape! As per Dr Wilder’s orders, our team must journey deep into its cognitive training facility to solve puzzles and utilise advanced field equipment to stop him before he does. Were we ready to use our mind and save humankind? If our grey matter up to the task? Is the Masternet good, or is he bad? We had 60 minutes to find out…

Met by an eccentric chap in a lab coat in the pubs downstairs bar area, we were introduced to Dr Boffin - our games master for the hour. As GM's go, Dr Boffin was amongst the best we’ve encountered having clearly honed his role as an engaging storyteller with his comedic dose of quick wit to perfection.

After an introductory video and once inside the game space, we were suitably impressed by what the Bewilder Box team had created. The highly detailed set felt a significant step-up from their (still excellent) first game. Suspending disbelief that you were merely above a pub - particularly during a busy bank holiday weekend - was a surprisingly easy feat thanks to the immersive training facility surroundings we’d suddenly found ourselves in.

Bewilder box escape room reviews judgement dave d.a.v.e Brighton hove

Whilst the space was smaller than the previous Bewilder Box game it isn't to its detriment as every corner was cannily utilised with an array of smart and original puzzle ideas that we had not experienced elsewhere.

There was also the inclusion of some charming technical additions, something we naively wasn’t expecting to find here due to their notable absence in the first escape game. However, even the more traditional resolves found within in walls of Judgement D.A.V.E. were extremely well executed with the implementation of one stand-out task particularly resonating with us long after we had left the venue. 

The room could be search heavy at times although the well-thought out formulation of the room prevented it from being the uninspiring chore this task can sometimes present. 

There was also an agreeable selection of solo undertakings that kept us all individually busy, alongside those requiring a team effort that brought us together during the more pivotal moments of the game.

Another novelty was the inclusion of the Masternet 9000, a computerised animation that was present throughout the sixty minutes. Its frequent interactions gave us some pause for thought whilst we ultimately decided whenever this rouge AI's intentions were honourable! It added further to the rooms interesting story arc and big finale, with a sprinkle of well placed humour which only served to strengthened the experience further. The AI was voiced by Norman Lovett and for those of us of a certain age will most certainly recognise him as Holly from 90’s cult TV sitcom Red Dwarf.

Admittedly we were a bit dubious of this games more costly price point for a team of four in comparison to other escape room venues in the area, but Judgement D.A.V.E. certainly proved to be no cache in.

It pushed all the right buttons to provide an excellent escape game interface; offering an array of exceptional, original puzzle ideas as its mainframe that was backed up further by an excellent story format and our joyous real-time host. 

It’s our favourite Bewilder Box game to boot - and one that we highly recommend phishing out.

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Judgement D.A.V.E. Escape Room - Bewilder Box
Rating: 5

REVIEW: EDITH - UNESCAPABLE

DERBY, DERBYSHIRE EAST MIDLANDS
Edith Unescapable Escape Room Review Derby
During our jaunt around the East Midlands, we visited Unescapable in Derby to play their scare escape game Edith. We were excited but also rather nervous to play this room especially as it has recently won ScareCon 2018’s ‘Best New Scary Escape’ award!

The website description purposefully gave little away aside its anxiety inducing live actor and scare theme warnings. Alongside this was a mobility disclaimer highlighting the requirement for teams to crawl in dark spaces during the game.

"When we first open a time portal Unescapable sent one of their scientists back to make sure everything is ok and it is all safe and stable - they sent Edith, but unfortunately she hasn’t returned… They've now lost communication with her, but do know that she was trying to shut the portal down when something stopped her. Our team is needed to finish the job. The scientists at Unescapable would go themselves - but they’re too scared…"

Following a great introduction to the game by our GM's, who engagingly retold the rooms slightly limited plot, we unfortunately received some information that we felt was entirely unnecessary and cost us valuable time early on. The information offered related to an aspect of the room that we felt we would have been more thorough in inspecting had the implication made not led us to believe it wasn't required until later on in the game. Unless this is purposefully included to throw teams off (which we highly doubt), we were somewhat frustrated by its inclusion during the introductory chat. However, we completely understand other teams experience of this may differ depending on your own GM's script. 
Unescapable Escape Room Reviews
Edith had a brilliantly immersive, mildly physical, theatrical start, which we hoped would set the bar for things to come. What we found initially in fact was a rather generic escape space with very few tangible items to inspect or puzzles to complete. Admittedly the ominous lighting made the space feel foreboding but this novelty quickly became thwart due to its obvious GM triggering. This resulted in an exasperating experience where GM's could block successful puzzle resolves by merely shutting off the light. Frustratingly fun the first couple of attempts but 5+ goes later the antic quickly wore thin!

There were a couple of mildly physical, temperamental puzzles to resolve too; one of which eventually led to us, under the advisement of our GM, to use a tool from a separate task to speed up its tiresome resolve. This puzzle was poorly executed in both design and construction and with the offered resolve it was clear that we weren’t the first team to have had problems with it. 

One particular aspect requiring strong communication skills towards the end was completely off due to the inconsistency of the items needed to utilise it's successful resolve. This puzzle style - particularly presented the way it was within Edith - is usually avoided in most escape games due to the probability of a large cross-section of players having difficulty with its perception, along with another hindrance of lighting issues in the area where the solution needed to be sought. As this puzzle was such a drudge to complete it left devoid any sense of achievement on its eventual resolve, which lead to the final mildly comedic task to be somewhat of a damp squibb. 

There were some ominous decoration to be found in the latter part of the game that suited the theme well but the space was poorly utilised from a puzzle point of view, the expected potential scare-fest sadly never materialised and where the live actor inclusion had admittedly made us jump on a few occasions, it was far more tame than anything this game’s hype had led to expect.

Given the build-up around this game we believed it would match, or even surpass the pleasingly horrific experiences at both The Butcher and Nerve Klinik, but it was definitely weaker by comparison both in its terror factor and puzzle quality. 

Suspense from the much hyped anticipation and lacklustre scares aside, it's mostly linear game structure, temperamental puzzles that lacked in both quality and quantity, along with lighting issues in key areas meant that sadly for us the experience fell entirely flat. 

Perhaps (and much like our experience in Unescapable's other room Tommy) our experience here was owing to our seemingly unpopular 10am midweek booking, but as fully paying customers we are assuming that we were afforded the full and true experience of the room... 

As a result, if we had a time machine of our very own, we’d probably go back and avoid ever making the booking to enter Unescapable's portal to help find Edith. 

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Edith Escape Room - Unescapable Derby
Rating: 2

REVIEW: DODGE CITY - TULLEYS ESCAPE ROOMS

TULLEYS FARM, CRAWLEY SUSSEX

Dodge City Escape Room Tulleys Farm Reviews

Our previous experience at Tulleys Escape Rooms playing Mutiny, The Outfitters and Nethercott Manor certainly exceeded our escape game expectations, so we were excited to revisit the venue during the opening weekend of it’s newest room - Dodge City - to see what Tulleys had been harvesting next.

Dodge City in 2127 remains a stronghold of the Wild West. The constant tussle between the Sheriff and local gunslingers means there’s opportunity abound for some creative bank robbery for those with wits and courage. As members of the notorious ‘Barn Door’ gang, we’ve been caught by the local sheriff breaking into the bank. Locked away with little hope, hired by an unnamed outlaw and facing the ruthless justice of the old west we are left with only one option….

As the sun sets the race is on to break out, reclaim our supplies, pull off the bank job of the century and get out of Dodge City! 

Invited to the thematic pregame lobby for our health and safety briefing, our team of four was separated into pairs for the rooms unexpected split-start. A well-produced video offering a more detailed introduction played out synchronistically within our teams respective start-points and our 60 minute escape began. 

As expected, the impressive theme-park quality of the build of this room was evident from its offset and continued to impress throughout. With realistic wood panelling and a western-inspired beam structure making up the majority of the games set. The multilayered, environmental attention to detail of this room is faultless, effortlessly immersing players from its true Crawley farmhouse into the depths of the Wild Wild West. This was supported further by the majority of purpose built props and furnishings, offering some unique physical interactions and resolves that you're unlikely to have witnessed elsewhere. 

There was also a great spatial inclusion that personalises the room for each individual team, an easily implemented clever novelty that we’d surprisingly not experienced before!

Dodge City Escape Room Reviews Tulleys Farm

We likened the puzzles to be of a similar standing of those within Tulleys' other excellent room, Nethercott Manor. Whilst none were ever particularly troublesome, there was more than plenty to plough through within its sixty minutes. The puzzles here ran parallel and again much like Nethercott Manor, we advise that all players are wrangling their way through its various tasks at all times if there’s any hope of escaping! 

On this advice it could be assumed that larger teams would be of benefit, but we felt any team over four players may start to feel overcrowded and imagine its advertised maximum of 8 would make it near on impossible to manoeuvre the areas comfortably - possibly resulting in team members missing aspects of the otherwise impressive space.

The puzzles were a pleasant mix of styles from those requiring strong communication skills, logic, observational, to the inclusion of mildly mathematical and physical tasks, with one stand-out, novelly fun team inclusion that you won’t forget in a hurry! They all cumulated together to pleasingly cover the entire spectrum of escape game puzzle bases.

Whilst there was always lots to see and do at no point did anything offered feel unachievable. Its puzzle difficulty level we felt was set at a medium, meaning casual or new escape room players will still find the room accessible - although perhaps unlikely to finish in its hour without much needed guidance from attentive GMs. With enthusiasts thriving on its relentless bombardment of tasks to get to its end game in time. 

If we’re honest we were expecting to find more Westworld inspired, futuristic elements that Dodge City almost alludes. However, we figured the plots timeline of 2127 AD allowed for the few impressive technological editions included in the room to not appear misplaced in the otherwise old west environment, so didn’t feel too disheartened by their absence.

We did suffer a technical issue towards the final puzzle of the room, but are empathetic that we attended during the rooms opening weekend where teething problems are possible. Our excellent GM’s Tyler and Dan were also extremely attentive in preventing this being detrimental to our experience by timely fixing the issues without breaking the rooms immersion, suitably avoiding its temperamental use being a negative during our game. We imagine individual experiences of this particular task (until a suitable fix is established), would be entirely down to your GMs handling. 

Overall, Dodge City with it's impressively immersive, multilayered set design that kept on giving, alongside it's relentless puzzle-slinging ambush lassoed together to offer not just another excellent escape game for Tulleys roster - but a great addition to the expanding collection of must-play escape rooms to be found in the UK. 

As one of the most-wanted escape room venues for enthusiasts to visit, you can attended Dodge City spurred by the knowledge that for Tulleys Escape Rooms - this ain’t their first rodeo!

NEW-REVIEW-SCORE-5-STAR-FIN-2019
Dodge City Escape Room Review - Tulleys
Rating: 5

REVIEW: TOMMY - UNESCAPABLE

DERBY, DERBYSHIRE EAST MIDLANDS
Tommy Escape Room Review
During our recent trip to Nottingham, we made a d-tour to visit Unescapable in Derby to play the two games currently on offer at the venue: Tommy and Edith (with Mary, a new room that’s coming soon) 

Offering a quirkier reasoning to the room's background than most, Tommy is a World War I escape game that you enter via Unescapables' time travel portal - an initiation that cleverly runs throughout all of their rooms. 

We needed to test that this portal works properly. Tommy has landed somewhere in the midst of the Western Front in 1917 and that was where we were headed. There is a very significant chance that the portal could break when we go through ...and if it does our team are just going to have to fix it before the bridge collapses and we’re trapped in the past forever!

It’s no spoiler to inform you that the portal does break! …and this then forms the premise of the game. Met by our GMs in lab coats on our arrival, we were escorted to the game area and invited to access the portal to begin our escape. 

We were extremely impressed by Tommy’s strong opening. Whilst dimly lit so difficult to critique its decor, the sound and lighting effects here did well to believably transport us inside an immersive time-machine.

Unescapable Escape Room Reviews Tommy Edith Mary
Sadly once across the threshold of the main game space, our experience quickly declined. Whilst reasonably decorated to depict a scene from WW1 with its military paraphernalia, there wasn’t actually that much in the room for our team of four to explore.

There was also a disappointing lack of puzzles to be found in the space, with one of the main puzzles being particularly time consuming and tedious to complete. The remaining tasks were generic in nature, offered very little mental challenge, and the search aspect of one was particularly unimaginative in finding its obvious resolve. We felt this was a great shame as the space available could have been better utilised with trickier, less-linear puzzles. 

Another irritant for us is having two separate puzzles that completes the same outcome. We’re not fans of having multiple locks concealing one solution as it slightly revokes any sense of achievement or progress for teams - and if we’re completely honest, feels a lazy inclusion in any escape game design.

Overall there were approximately just 10 puzzles in total in Tommy, and had we not made an admitted hash of the aforementioned tedious task - we would have completed this room in sub-30 minutes.

We also understand from other enthusiasts the walkie-talkie based clue system here is usually portrayed by your GM in full character. We never had this experience perhaps owing to our early morning, mid-week booking at 10am - which our GM did comment on somewhat disdainfully, despite us being fully paying customers! We also felt upon chatting between games and exchanging recommendations of other local escapes (a conversation that's usually positively received by the community at other venues), that their air of elitism based on our experience was somewhat misplaced!

We had high hopes to play Tommy, purposely travelling out of our way to experience this room - but for all of its war escape room efforts, sadly for us it just tanked.

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