Athens Escape Review: Paradox Project – The Bookstore

This is part of a series of articles on games in Athens – a link will be added here when the summary article is published at the end.

Having experienced Paradox Project‘s first installment the night before, we were excited to play the Bookstore. It’s worth mentioning at this point that, while you could play the games back to back, the strong advice is to play them on separate days. We had two teams, and everyone in the team that played with only an hour off between games said that they wished they’d had a proper break. Could you play them on the same day and enjoy them to the max? Probably, yes. Is it worth the risk? Definitely not.

From the moment you arrive at the second game, it’s clear that there’s been a real step up. The outside of the room is decorated to look like an actual bookshop, which is such a cool way to start the immersion! That pales in comparison to what you experience once you head inside. The decoration across the whole of this game is first-rate, with several of the spaces standing out in my memory as of the very highest calibre. One moment, almost immediately after entering the game, made me want to look on in admiration at what they’d created, and that general feeling was repeated several times in the room.

The story again plays a very prominent role in the experience, with you delving further into the protagonists’ pasts and discovering more about the events following the end of the first game. This time around, though, the story utterly permeates the set and props, and almost nothing felt like it was present purely for the purpose of puzzling. The video vignettes are still there but, if that was all the story you absorbed, you’d miss out on so much. The story is far more rich and complex, and I found it evoked genuine emotions.

As with the first game, there were a couple of puzzles that I found frustrating. One in particular felt unnecessarily ambiguous in both solution and input mechanism. However, there was a clear improvement in what they had created, both in the variety of puzzles on offer and in the way they were structured. One set of challenges was very parallelised, allowing the team to split up and solve completely different puzzles with similar goals. Another set were less about the difficulty of the solve and more about the clever and surprising reveals they gave and how that added to the story. Another challenge consisted of several puzzles layered upon each other, with us having to combine all those different solves into one meta-solution. Needless to say, in order to make a fun three-hour experience, they had to throw many different puzzle types at you and, in spite of that duration, I never felt they were getting samey. At its best, the Bookstore has some of the most satisfying sets of puzzles and solves I’ve ever experienced.

Once again, we were short of time at the end game and had to rush through the last few puzzles to get to the ending. And once again, there’s a final challenge that feels like some teams will just get stuck in spite of having made reasonable progress earlier in the game – great for pressure but frustrating if you miss out. It’s testament to the pressure this game put us under that we pretty much lost the ability to communicate in those dying moments, and we were left almost screaming at each other during another adrenaline-inducing end to an experience.

Verdict –

It’s hard to convey how much I enjoyed the Bookstore. It is a simply stunning room and well worth its recent second place in the Top Escape Rooms Project. It’s an enthusiast paradise – over three hours of fun puzzles, beautiful set and interesting story. I wish I could wipe my memory and play both these games again, but especially this one.

We played as a three (one fewer than the theoretical minimum) and escaped with… less than a minute. Again, it’s definitely solvable by three, but I’d recommend four. There’s a lot to get done, and that fourth brain will come in useful. If anything, this game felt slightly more linear than the first experience, and there are definite places where it’s going to be very crowded with a full team, so I wouldn’t go higher than four unless you have to.

That’s all on The Bookstore – want to read more about other local games? A link will be added here when the summary article is published at the end.




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