Outside the room
It’s been almost two years since Agent November was first set up, and so it was about time I played their original game, Major X Plow-Shun. As with their other experiences, most websites refer to this as an escape game, but it’s set outdoors, so I was curious to see how it would turn out. As is traditional for Agent November’s games, we started off in the Somerstown Coffee House which, for the uninitiated, is actually a pub. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – I like games that start off in a pub because it makes organisation so much easier. No having to turn up at an exact time – just wander in half an hour beforehand and sit down for a relaxing drink before the main event.
As before, we went to the bar for our briefing envelope and started reading through the materials until the eponymous Agent November appeared.
The dastardly villain Major X Plow-Shun has placed a nuclear bomb in a London park. You’ve got sixty minutes to work out how to defuse it.
Inside the roomInside the park
The first part of the game is inside the pub, where you work out the location of the device and retrieve some of the items you’ll need for your journey ahead but, within a few minutes of picking up the briefing envelope, we were heading outside to a local park where the bulk of the game takes place.
If you’ve read my review for Agent November’s Rainbow Syndicate, you’ll know that I found that wandering around in their other outdoor game detracted from the escape room vibe. This time round there was no such issue – the park’s small enough, and the game targeted enough that you never felt like moving between locations was a major impediment.
It seemed pretty obvious right from the start what we had to do and, with only a few locked containers to overcome, I was curious how this could be spun out for a full hour. That became even more of a concern when I realised that the game was well parallelised – the team split up into four different groups and headed off to investigate different parts of the puzzles while communicating over walkie-talkies. Speaking of which, for once the walkie-talkies didn’t have any significant adverse impact on the communication. In fact, the game used the geography of the park to make communication an integral part of the game without dominating it.
After a bit of a slow start (which is almost inevitable with parallel puzzles), we were soon making progress and very quickly got to the point where it felt like we’d done everything we needed to do. It turns out we’d been a bit rash in our assumption and this game was trickier than we’d thought. That brings me along nicely to one of the most impressive parts of this game – the variety of locks. I’d expected that we’d rush round the park looking for numbers on signs or benches to key into combination locks but, while there was a little of that, there were plenty of other mechanics to allow you to make progress. I’ve seen plenty of indoor rooms with less variety, so I was impressed they’d managed this in a portable game.
The game ebbed and flowed nicely – at times we split up to investigate things, but often we came back together to discuss what was left to do and work out how we were going to split up the work. None of the puzzles were inherently difficult – only one took us an extended period of time – and, pleasingly, the final puzzle brought us all back together so that we could share the triumph.
If I had one criticism, it was that some of the clues could have done with being better quality, particularly the ones that were laminated pieces of paper. If this were a permanent indoor game, I’d see that as essential, but having lighter, more weather-resistant props is probably part of the trade-off of this kind of game.
We defused the bomb in around 45 minutes with a single (very vague) clue.
Without a doubt, this was an escape game. It retained the pressure, puzzles and searching that you’d expect of a typical game but, more importantly, it had the “aha” moments, interesting reveals and parallelisation that helps to make good escape games. Some of the puzzles felt a little contrived but there was a definite theme, which developed during the game, and placing it in a park was a refreshing change.
I’d recommend this game to beginner and experienced players alike but, for the enthusiasts, there’s something liberating in removing the usual shackles of a room and making use of the “natural” environment rather than everything being constructed purely for the game. On a warm summer evening, I can think of few better things to do in London, and on a rainy November afternoon you’ll still have plenty of fun.
We wandered westwards, just beyond Drummond Street, to El Mestizo, a lively Mexican restaurant which just managed to fit the six of us in. I had the Enchiladas Cancun while some of my team mates went for the sharing dish, Molcajete Mestizo. Both got our seal of approval.
Detailed Room Ratings