Outside the room
And so it was we arrived at our final game of the day. The final game of the year, in fact. After navigating our way from London to Andover, to Winchester, to Southampton, to Salisbury, and finally to Bournemouth, it was time to take on Marvo Mysteries (or Escape Room Bournemouth as it was called before the rebrand). We’d heard good things and it was no mistake that we ended the journey here. Time to play one more game and celebrate some milestones – my 150th game and my teammates’ 200th.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I’ve certainly had cause to think that in association with escape rooms before, but I couldn’t help but feel positive when we got inside. There’s a comfy waiting area with a wonderful old-world feel and, as I leafed through the books on the shelf, I couldn’t help but get into the mindset of the game ahead. Once we were ready, it was on to a separate briefing area where we got the full intro from the owner/host plus a video expanding on the plot. I say video, but that does it a massive injustice – this video fitted the story like no other I’ve experienced and felt more natural than if the briefing had been done entirely in person. And if I thought the waiting area was pretty, the briefing area was gorgeous – decorated far beyond the levels you’d expect in most games. My only cause for concern was that joining the M.A.R.V.O. organisation might prove to be a mistake given the seemingly zero success rate of its missions (fortunately that’s not the success rate of the game!).
Yes, before we’d even entered the game, I knew this was going to be good.
What if Fairy Stories were more real than you ever imagined? If the power to destroy the world was hidden in a small trinket and that trinket had been lost to history, only remembered in an old bed time story. Would you try to recover it for the good of all? Find out if you have what it takes to become a full M.A.R.V.O Agent!
Inside the room
The reception and briefing rooms were impressive but nothing compared to what you get inside the game. There’s a fantasy steampunk vibe to this room with a beautiful mix of Victorian decor and technology. Big chunky props abound and, almost without exception, they’re not just pretty to look at but directly involved in the game. If you like physical interaction, this room is an absolute joy.
There’s plenty on show as you walk into the space, not just in terms of decor but in the sense of potential puzzles to work on, and I can see teams getting overwhelmed – in fact, I think it’s a relatively steep learning curve for first-timers. To counteract that, they give you plenty of guidance within the game to help you understand what you need to do, but I found that, with the pressure of the clock, we often ignored or forgot their help…
As I said above, if you like physical puzzles, then you’re going to be in your element here – it felt like it was a very hands-on room. And the physicality didn’t stop there. Several times during the experience, puzzle solutions resulted in automated actions which worked well with the game’s magical theme. Escape games without physical interaction aren’t really much of a step beyond computer games but, when you start putting in automated actions, you start making it a theatrical experience and making people feel like they’re genuinely in the story. Add to that some additional video within the game and careful use of the audio track and there were moments that genuinely felt film-like.
Throughout the game, I always felt we were playing catch-up. Maybe that was because we’d been a bit slow with the opening puzzles or maybe there was just a lot to do, but bit by bit I started to feel we were back on track. Things started to feel comfortable near the end of the game until the point where I looked up at the clock expecting to see the time stopped. “Why is it still ticking?”, I thought to myself. Panic! I like games with a good sense of progress but it’s also nice if that’s sometimes misleading and that was the case here – it isn’t over till the fat lady sings!
Probably the only source of frustration I had in the game (and even then only mild frustration) was with the lighting. The Victorian/steampunk theme was never going to lend itself to brightly lit spaces, but I found it a bit annoying at times. I didn’t feel it got bad enough to materially impact the puzzles, and you were given alternative light sources to ensure that the low lighting could never be a fundamental problem but, at the same time, I didn’t feel it massively added to the mood. I think turning up the brightness a few shades would improve the game while still retaining the old-world feel.
We escaped with just under ten minutes left having taken a single clue for a search failure. On a couple of occasions we were right on the brink of asking for clues but just managed to make progress in time.
Most games start from when you enter the room, but the truly great experiences begin when you arrive at the venue. This is one of those games. Every time we thought they were doing well, they upped their level, finding new ways to amaze and impress. Making one aspect of your room great is hard – I’m impressed when I visit somewhere with pretty sets, good puzzles, a sense of theatre or a well created story. To have managed all of that in their first escape room blew me away. Make no mistake – this is one of the very best escape rooms I’ve played and, if you can find a way to make it down to Bournemouth, you should definitely head along.
What a way to end the year!
Detailed Room Ratings