Outside the room
Enigma Escape have come a long way since their Kickstarter campaign over a year ago. In that time they’ve managed to shove aside almost every other escape game in London and proudly claim second spot on the TripAdvisor rankings (behind the much larger clueQuest). I’ve always regretted visiting their first game too early, while they were still ironing out the kinks, so this time round I was patient and waited till things had settled down before visiting.
We arrived just in time for our slot and were shown inside by an enthusiastic host. In contrast to the Killer, where there was a plush waiting area for you to lounge in before the start of the game, here you’re out in the corridor, sitting on stools. On the plus side, that did give me a chance to admire their wall with the names of all their backers from when they originally launched.
Soon enough our host ushered us into the game and gave us the introduction.
Your boss was recently sent to prison. With the help of the internal post officer, he sent you an important message. There is only a 1 hour window to break him out. Will your team infiltrate Hornsey Prison and break out your boss before it’s too late?
Inside the room
Enigma Escape have positioned themselves as the “real” real escape company. They aim to make their games as realistic as possible, so it was a bit of a disappointment when we got inside a prison breakout and didn’t see anything that looked like proper cell doors. That aside, the set was pretty good but the highlight has to go to the large props in the game. Two of the technology-based ones were first rate and added to the “real” experience that they aim for. Both were very physical manifestations of technology and, to some extent at least, fitted well with the overall theme. There were a few issues with the usability of these props within the game, but we got them working without help, so it wasn’t too terrible.
As well as these “centrepiece” props there was a centrepiece puzzle which dominated the game. For me it was way too time-consuming and well past the point of being fun. I can imagine some teams that just don’t complete it in the time available. Once you’ve worked out what needs to be done (which takes no more than a few seconds), you’re left with a ridiculous amount of task work to complete the puzzle. In spite of splitting the puzzle up evenly between our team, it still grated on me, and I felt like I missed out on a big chunk of the game while this part was being solved.
Worse still, it didn’t feel at all realistic as part of the game. If you tried hard, maybe you could convince yourself that there was some basis in reality but for me it fell far short of their goal. That puzzle was a great example of where I feel the Breakout went wrong. While there were some really good examples of real-life puzzles to solve, the game was littered with examples that I just didn’t buy. Given how well they’d done with The Killer, I was really surprised that they hadn’t sustained that level here.
Putting aside the reality of the puzzles, I felt there were too many occasions where the same type of puzzle was used. In some ways, this is probably the price you pay for trying to make the game more realistic, but it tarnished the subsequent moments of triumph because you didn’t really feel like you’d solved anything new. Where they had taken a step forward from previous games was in parallelisation of the puzzles. The three of us always felt like we had something to do.
As with their first outing, the clue-giving was done well: they left you alone for as long as possible, had a clear indication when a clue had arrived and the clues were small prompts on a screen to point you in the right direction. They even managed at one point to give us a clue without using the screen.
In case you skipped over the background above, the aim of the game is to rescue the mob boss. I really dislike games where there’s a character involved at some point because (spoiler!) you’re not likely to end up with a real person in the room. Whenever I play these games, my very last thought in the experience is disappointment because the immersion is broken just at the very climax of the game, and that was exactly what happened here.
We escaped with five minutes remaining having had three hints. The host knew what she was doing and left us to puzzle things through as much as possible while still making sure we had enough time to escape the room.
I desperately wanted this game to be amazing. I love the people who run it and conceptually I like what they’re doing. For me, though, it missed the mark. There were no significant negatives but they’d moved away from the “real escape room” concept with some of the puzzles, introduced others that were a little too process-heavy for my liking, and failed to make the ending a fitting finale. The centrepiece props were fun but some of the puzzles were a little bit dull and one person could miss a significant part of the escape room.
Having said all that, the comment that all three of us made at the end of the game was that time had passed really quickly. Novices will probably have a great time playing here, and I think experienced players will enjoy it but not be blown away. If you’re going to play at Enigma Escape, I’d probably steer you towards their earlier game, the Killer. My original experience wasn’t great, but the improvements I’ve heard about it since we played makes me think you’ll have a well rounded experience, especially if you play in a small group.
We ate a little way away towards Islington, in Memsaab. I can’t recommend it: the service wasn’t great, the food was a little bland and, given how close you are to Upper Street, there are a bunch of better choices.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.