Outside the room
Escape enthusiasts will likely have heard of Archimedes Inspiration‘s first room, Leo’s Path (reviewed here), a beautiful experience which is one of very few escape rooms that manages to evoke an emotional reaction from its players. Fast forward around nine months and their second instalment, Kill M.A.D. appeared on the scene. I’d learned from my mistakes the first time round and waited several months before trying it out.
It’s a nicely constructed waiting room with a huge video screen where they can play introductory videos etc. and plenty of seating, even if you bring along two teams to play the games. We indeed had two teams, but we were playing the same game consecutively, so one team hung around in the waiting area while the other one played, and then we swapped. The owners (also the GMs) are very friendly and kindly brought out a game for us to play while we were waiting. If you’re very lucky, you may even be joined by Coco, their incredibly lovable dog.
“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden”. Strange things are happening in the Sally Star King Hospital. The centre was evacuated and closed down, yet screams and noises can still be heard from inside the building at night. If you are looking for a psychological twist that will give you the chills, this is your game. Not for the faint-hearted. Be cautious and enter at your own risk.
Inside the room
Some day, escape room designers may be famed for their particular style of games. That’s really not the case for now, but AI Escape are certainly heading in that direction. As with their previous game, Kill M.A.D. will tug at your emotions. I left feeling subdued as I tried to get my head round the story we’d experienced and reflect on the subject matter. AI Escape make tough games: not tough as in difficult but tough emotionally.
It’s hard to forget about the storytelling in this experience, but let’s put it to one side for a moment and look at the other aspects of the game. It’s visually beautiful – with starkly contrasting spaces that you move between as the story unfolds. They’ve done a great job of taking a single theme but representing it in several different ways so that you’re never quite sure what to expect each time you move on. These aren’t small spaces either – it felt like it had significantly more floor space than you’d expect in a typical game, and was all the better for it.
Puzzle-wise, they’ve upped their game creating a solid set that presented you with enough challenge without requiring any leaps of logic. As we’ve come to expect from this venue, there’s plenty of automation but it’s also beautifully hidden from sight. While I enjoyed all the puzzles we encountered, the stand-out one for me brought the team together in a simple but effective way where we really had to communicate well to progress.
As you move through the game, you’ll find additional information delivered either in writing or via video. I highly recommend you take the time to absorb that info as a team. In fact, take the time to absorb everything as a team. The puzzles are also a part of the narrative here, and it’s worth making the effort to understand how they fit in. The game’s almost entirely linear, so there’s no reason why the whole team can’t work it all out together. They’ve deliberately extended the game to eighty minutes precisely so that you can take in the story while still getting a fair chance at escaping – don’t waste that extra time and rush the experience.
The finale is probably the most interesting part of the whole game. At the time, we were a little unsure of ourselves. Afterwards, during the walkthrough, it was explained in detail and it made perfect sense – if we’d paid more attention during the game, perhaps we wouldn’t have missed the relevant details. Unfortunately, to explain further would be well into spoiler territory. You’ll just have to play the game if you want to know more.
We escaped in 43 minutes with a gentle nudge when we were faffing near the end. This is a strange game, though, and I’m not convinced you should even think about times. We were warned before we went in that we should take the game slowly and allow ourselves to take in the whole story. While I tried to listen to that, I still occasionally fell into the trap of trying to progress as quickly as possible.
AI Escape make games that challenge the concept of an escape room. Games should be fun.Well, this *was* fun but it wasn’t pure fun. It made you think. It made you reflect. Several days after playing the game, I’m still not sure how I feel. While it won’t be published for several weeks (yes, there’s quite a backlog), it was appropriate that, on the day of writing, Room Escape Artist published an article about risky escape room subjects. This room is most definitely concerned with risky subjects.
Are escape games ready to deal with difficult subjects? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure but, unless companies try, how will we find out? Kill M.A.D. felt like it pushed the boundaries but in a good way. In some sense, this is a game you can neither win nor lose, merely experience. But, in case you’re in any doubt, I’d highly encourage you to experience it.
Warning: this game deals with mental illness. That’s not just via the backdrop of a psychiatric hospital but woven into the story, throughout the experience. It’s fairly direct so if that’s something that worries you, I’d recommend getting in touch with them to discuss.
We headed off to Poppy Hana afterwards. Great food and friendly staff.
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.