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Review: Defend the City (2017) – Fire Hazard

We played Fire Hazard’s latest Halloween event, Defend the City

Ticket Price: £27

Address: Stave Hill, Timber Pond Rd, London


After loving Fire Hazard’s previous Halloween event, Shadow Over Southwark, we had to return to play this year’s version! It’s essentially the same experience as last year with a few minor tweaks, the most notable being the change of enemy characters.

Fire Hazard run a number of live action games throughout the year which are all essentially variations on the scavenger hunt theme. The core premise of their events is the same, you need to collect as many codes as you can within a set time-frame using a provided map and clues to locate said codes. You enter these codes into a website to score points. Sounds easy so far but, with the exception of their museum set games, there are guards present who have a singular job – to spot you and steal the points that you’ve collected. In most of their games, you’re wearing a code yourself that they can enter in if they spot you. If they do, you’ll suffer a penalty.

Defend the City and last year’s Shadow work on the same concept except that the technology’s a bit more advanced – you don’t wear codes here but hold RFID tokens which will automatically penalise you if you get too close to any of the guards out there. We suspect that this system’s in place for these games as the lack of light would definitely impede the enemy’s ability to read any worn identifiers. That said, this system works a lot better anyway as it brilliantly induces panic when a message pops up on your phone warning you that someone is nearby – usually at the very last moment!

The key difference from Shadow was the theme. Whereas last year had the park populated with Lovecraftian entities, Defend the City plumped for wizards. It’s definitely a personal preference but this immediately made the whole thing a lot less intense than Shadow. This is because, whilst being chased by crazed people in the pitch black woods is definitely scary, it’s just not as threatening as having tentacled beasts bearing down on you. Although they really did make an effort, giving each character their own personality – our favourite was the crazed witch who had been driven insane after years of exposure to dark magic. She ran around cackling absolute nonsense and it was equal parts funny and terrifying!

As far as the actual game went, we struggled a bit this year compared to Shadow. We noticed at some points that the clues weren’t necessarily bound to the exact locations of the codes which led us to believe that we’d done something wrong. At least until we tried the codes for surrounding areas and they successfully registered. This lack of accuracy at certain junctures caused us to waste some time. Half of the issue with using the locations is that they weren’t real-world. Whilst this was great from an immersive point of view, it sometimes made navigation tricky, especially in the dark. What would have helped was temporary signage so that we knew we were definitely in the right place. Now, we finished in the middle of the final scoreboard so there were clearly a number of groups that had absolutely no issue finding their way around – it could just be us! We’ve just performed a lot better in the regular City Dash games, winning one and ranking in the top end a few times, the navigation was a sticking point for us with Defend the City.

Overall, we had another fun evening – the free-roaming aspect of the game, coupled with the knowledge that there are dark forces out there searching for you makes for a surprisingly tense time. At the risk of repeating ourselves from last year, scare attractions are designed events so you have a good idea that something is going to happen with each new room that you enter. With this game, you are wandering freely through pitch-black woodland with the threat of being chased lingering at the back of your mind with every step that you take. There are also consequences to being spotted here, points that you’ve collected throughout your time will be deducted from you. It means something rather than someone just jumping out at you, shouting ‘boo!’ and then moving you on. It’s fantastic fun and we highly recommend it – especially for scare fans who are looking for something a bit different to the standard haunt!



Freedom to wander wherever

Enemy encounters have consequences


Difficult to navigate at points

Wizards weren’t as good as last year’s unearthly creatures

Second Opinion

After really enjoying the previous event last year I was looking forward to the Sorcerers of Southwark. 

Once we had the briefing we were sent on the mission to find the runes and save the city. 

We found it hard to be able to read the map, I feel there should be the odd sign that matches the game map. We lost a lot of time just trying to locate where we were.

Eventually, we were faced with the different witches which we had to either hide, stand still or run from. Unlike last year only one player was given the RFID tag that drew the attention of the witches (for the purpose of deducting points). As this only affected the one player it made it possible for the rest of the team to just stand around. This spoiled some of the fun of the game.

I also found it quite frustrating that if you were lucky enough to stumble upon a rune, we couldn’t just enter the answer as I recall you can with Citydash. Because we were not sure on the location of the runes, we had to remember the answers until the clue came up on the list. Also on each rune was a symbol you had to translate into English using the map guide. However we found that, as you had the translations on your map and they were single words, you could fluke some of the answers with random guesses. We wondered if this is what some teams did.

If this event ran next year we feel the runes should be better lit up and have the answers on them as opposed to the map that everyone has access to.

I did enjoy the event but it didn’t feel as good as last year. Maybe it’s due to the witches not feeling as scary.

Defend the City - Fire Hazard
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money


Another great Halloween event from Fire Hazard - if only they operated more often! Although please bring back the monsters next time!

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