Ultimate Escape: CSI Murder Mystery

CSI

Outside the room

Llandudno is another location that I didn’t imagine I’d ever visit but then, just a month after Ultimate Escape opened, I found out that some friends were going to be holidaying in Anglesey while I was up in the North West, and a plan was hatched.

We parked up in the car park across the street from the venue (free parking for two hours – so fine for one game but you’ll need to go elsewhere if you want a second) and then headed up to the first floor for the game. The reception/waiting area/monitoring room was a bit cramped and dingy, although that wasn’t helped by it being a miserable day outside. You could tell it was early days for this escape room because the owner hadn’t yet got the introduction down pat and stumbled a bit through it while reading from the card. The initial impression of the reception, the host, the story and then the game itself is really important, and I think it’s worth investing the time to get those parts as good as possible. A quick, upbeat introduction would have been the perfect start to this game. There’s been a murder, you need to investigate it, and you can either work as a team or take on specific roles.

Not to worry, though, we had the basics so it was time to enter the room.

Background

DCI Bodgit and his overworked sidekick Sergeant Leggit, who prior to joining the police force had a building firm together called Bodgit and Leggit, are faced with a particularly puzzling murder case. Who will form the forensic team to examine the evidence? Who will be the pathologist? Who will be the overworked Sergeant Leggit who does all the leg(git) work and who will be DCI Bodgit to direct operations? Work as one team or optionally split into sub-teams to take on the roles of DCI Bodgit, Sergeant Leggit, Pathologist and Forensics. To solve the murder you will need the Pathologist’s report to ascertain time of death and the findings of the Forensics Team to place the guilty at the scene and rule out the innocent. Interview the suspects and break alibis with eye witness reports. Plus that little extra that no copper can do without. Gut feeling.

Inside the room

In contrast to the reception area outside, the game itself is bright and breezy. The murder takes place in a garden and the room beautifully recreates that. Surprisingly, given it’s not in London, and so you’d think space would be a little cheaper, it’s probably the second smallest escape room I’ve ever played. One of my team mates commented afterwards on how cramped it was, but I thought it worked really well to enhance the theme – everyone wanted to be in the area round the body and I can imagine a similar experience at a real investigation.

We jumped in and started searching the room. It’s not often that I think the searching part is fun, but some innovative work, combined with the relatively small space, made it genuinely interesting. Before long, we’d found enough stuff to keep various members of the team busy with their work. We’d originally planned to split up into our separate roles but quickly reverted to working as more of a team, with individual members biasing themselves towards the sets of clues where they’d started, although without doing so religiously.

In order to access additional information, we had to solve pretty simple puzzles. This made me think this would be a room dominated by the murder mystery, but it actually threw up what may well be the single coolest puzzle that I’ve seen in an escape room.  In truth, it’s not really a puzzle at all, more a piece of theatre, but it was an absolutely fabulous idea and, after the game, everyone wanted to have a go. 90-something games in and I’m still encountering new stuff – good work!

Eventually, we gathered enough information to start tracking down who dunnit. This was where I felt the game was let down. I can’t really say why without spoiling the investigation somewhat, but it came down to feeling that the evidence that led you to the guilty party wasn’t clear enough and that (if you accepted that it was clear) the overall puzzle wasn’t complicated enough. The result was that we spent about ten minutes debating what else could help us track down the suspect and even called the owner in to check whether we’d missed some vital evidence.

Result

We finished with about 17 minutes remaining after asking for help just once (and that was just because we weren’t convinced that the case was solid enough so wanted to check that we really had all the evidence).

Verdict –

We had fun playing this game but it felt like it could have been so much more impressive with just a few tweaks. It’s a genuinely original game with a lot of potential, so I desperately want it to be successful.

It’s got a good set, some really smart ideas in the allocated roles and forensics investigation and, while not every idea in there worked perfectly, it worked well enough to keep my interest. There’s a small amount of good searching and one of the most interesting tasks I’ve ever seen in an escape room. For me, it fell down in the murder mystery angle (ironically, given that’s the least original part of it).  That felt like the evidence wasn’t clear enough and (if you accepted that it was) then the verdict was too easy. I know they’re trying to avoid making it too difficult (in fact, they’ve already made it simpler based on play-testing) but, as it is, I think you risk leaving players feeling confused rather than confident about their final verdict.

We went with five players, which was probably too many for an experienced group. Three or four would be ideal.

Detailed Room Ratings

Venue
Host
Wow! factor
Immersiveness
Difficulty

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