This is part of a series of articles on games in Vienna – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.
Real Escape Wien deserves a particularly special mention. A couple of owners had recommended it but, when I worked out our schedule, the only time I could fit it in was when the owner couldn’t make it along to say hello. He tries hard to be there for every team that plays, to ensure they get the very best experience, but he had another commitment that he couldn’t rearrange. Instead, he made personalised briefing videos welcoming us to his venue and then for each game. Obviously, we still had GMs who did the job just fine, but that kind of effort was above and beyond what you’d expect from an average company.
There are four games at the venue, each of which has something that makes it a bit unusual. I suspect that’s for a similar reason to why the owner made us personalised videos: he clearly cares about the industry and isn’t just in it to squeeze money out of his customers. He’s looking to offer an experience that’s a little more interesting than your average venue (and – spoiler – he succeeds).
The other thing I loved about this venue is that the puzzles seemed perfectly logical; across four rooms we needed just one clue.
Police Station (4 stars)
Police Station is a slightly novel split-team game in that there’s a one-way mirror between the two rooms so that one team can see what the other is up to. As the half that couldn’t see what the other team were up to, that was disconcerting. They knew when we were engaging with them but we could only take it on faith, and I’m sure a few times we were just talking to thin air as they proceeded with their part of the game. The downside of being on the all-seeing side of the glass is that, to ensure it works properly, the light levels are much lower. Worth bearing in mind if you’re the sort of person who struggles in that environment.
Unfortunately, the bit that made this game particularly enjoyable and different is a bit of a spoiler in the game, so I can’t tell you about it, but it’s something that occurs several times during the experience and really makes you think about how the two parts of the team can help each other. Usually, these games rely on you passing the right couple of pieces of information or a particular tool between the two halves, but there’s so much more to it here.
Visually, it’s a good rendition of the relevant parts of the police station, and the huge one-way glass is a great centrepiece. There’s also a surprising amount of narrative crammed in for what seems like it will be a straight “escape from custody” game – it’s worth not just solving the game but also paying attention to the information you get so that you can start to piece together the story. The puzzles were enjoyable and logical, with a fair bit of (reasonable) searching and observation along the way. No clues were needed to guide us to the finish line. It’s worth noting that we were split for almost the entire game and, while I think we extended that because of our (ahem, my) incompetence, don’t expect to be reunited with your team until well over halfway through your game.
White Room (4 stars)
If you’ve ever played in Budapest, then you’ll probably recognise the premise of the white room. There’s no story and no theming beyond being trapped inside an entirely white room. Your job is to search, explore and expand that space to work out what you need to do to escape.
We were playing with the maximum team size of four, so it didn’t feel packed with puzzles, but it didn’t feel short of them either. It’s a small game with good use made of the space to hide puzzles and props. Indeed, for an entirely white room, there’s a surprising amount of plain-sight searching. The puzzles were reasonable and, once again, logical, with us not needing a single clue.
Claustrophobia (4.5 stars)
Let me make this clear right away: this game absolutely isn’t for your average person. Firstly, you need a team of exactly two. Secondly, and way more importantly, you’re locked in a box. It’s not the smallest box in the world (I’d guess 0.9m wide x 0.5m high x 2.0m long), and it’s got a comfortable mattress and air flow but, if you’re at all claustrophobic or scared of the dark, then you probably want to steer clear. Or indeed, if you’re not but you’ve got some common sense… Who locks themselves in a tiny box?
Fortunately, I don’t have any common sense and was curious to find out what it was all about. Again, there isn’t really much of a premise to this game: you and your team mate are locked in the adjacent boxes and have to work together to escape. While it’s technically a little bit of a spoiler, I think it’s useful to know from a fear point of view that, at some point not very long after you start the game, you’ll be able to see your team mate. If you’re finding it a frightening prospect, then that may make it a little more palatable.
It’s not an incredibly difficult game (although the difficulty level is probably significantly affected by how big you are!) but it’s plenty of fun. Feeling your way round the box, working out what to tell your team mate and sharing resources between the players is thoroughly enjoyable. The game will always stand out in my mind for one specific moment: there’s a particularly brilliant “puzzle” where you need a certain item to solve it. The thing is, the item you find isn’t quite right. It’s conceptually very similar but it’s entirely the wrong thing, and that totally threw me. There’s an easy solution but it’s a truly brilliant mechanism that still brings a smile to my face now.
More generally, it’s a fun game with a variety of puzzles on offer, although perhaps not as many as in a typical room – part of the difficulty here is working in partial darkness (at least some of the time) and with restricted movement. Still, for me it’s a good balance.
Fixed (3.5 stars)
In for a penny, in for a pound. If you’re going to have one game that plays on fear, then why not have two? Fixed is another two-player game – this one seeing you handcuffed, shackled at the feet and chained to a chair and to the floor. If that’s a bit too much for you, don’t worry – before you go in, they put velcro cuffs around your wrists and ankles so you’re not actually locked up, and in an emergency you could free yourself easily enough.
The game is reasonably traditional beyond that. Some searching, some observation. Not a huge amount in the way of true puzzles. There’s a nice sense of progress through two different mechanisms: the obvious one of unlocking the various cuffs and chains that imprison you in the game, and a particular series of “puzzles” that very clearly get you closer to your final goal of escaping the room.
A funny aside: we spent the last five minutes of this game trying to undo the final padlock. We had the key but it turned out that what we thought was the keyhole wasn’t… In our defence, it wasn’t the easiest lock to reach, and both of us struggled to take a good look at it. But still…
That’s all on Real Escape Wien – want to read more about Vienna’s games? Click here to head back to the main Vienna page.