Outside the room
On to room#4 at Breakin’ Escape and our attempt to escape from a serial killer. By now we were starting to get a feel for the games. They tend to be linear experiences with logical puzzles that often stretch towards the harder end of the scale. Relatively light use of padlocks, although they’re happy to put them in if they don’t damage the story. Lots of beautiful sets, puzzles that might use the theme but certainly don’t fit in with the story, and definitely don’t expect them to expand on the story during the game.
How would the Butcher’s Lair fare?
Dr. Vladimir Knifesblade, your friendly university professor seemed like a really nice person. You and your friends always enjoyed his lectures on human anatomy so when he invited you all to his house for a dinner party you never hesitated and accepted the invitation.
Once you arrived at his house, though, the door was open so you went it. Nobody seemed to be home so you went down into the basement hearing some weird noises…
The door slammed shut behind you and there was no way to move but forward…into the Doctor’s secret laboratory, where it looks like your group might be on the menu…
Inside the room
Butcher’s Lair is about as close to scary as you’ll come in Breakin’ Escape, but it’s still fairly tame. If anything, I’d describe it as an almost clinical experience rather than gory. There’s blood spatter and the obligatory severed limbs, but nothing that even vaguely made me uncomfortable. In an unusual, but very welcome, twist, given that it was a serial killer game, the room was brightly lit.
There was nothing to make me nervous but equally there was nothing to particularly excite me. To be honest, it’s probably at the upper end of horror rooms in terms of set design but, when you’re comparing to the likes of War on Horizon Alpha and The Flying Dutchman, it’s very noticeable that this is basic. There’s little sense of story beyond having to escape from the room, which leaves the focus of the game on the puzzles.
So, how did they fare? Well, they were mainly loosely on theme, but one in particular seemed to have nothing to do with the room. I’ve subsequently seen the exact same prop/puzzle in a room where it was equally ill-fitting. I realise it’s hard to make puzzles seem logical outside the context of an escape room, but they should at least fit well with the theme.
We zipped through them quite quickly, with each one having a seemingly simple solution. No – that’s unfair. They had a logical solution and we just seemed to spot those solutions very quickly. There was a small amount of searching to be done, a few observational puzzles, nothing by way of physical puzzles, some mathsy parts and then, before we knew it, we were on to the finale.
This was the first time in the room that we really got stuck on what we were meant to do. We played around with the final puzzle a bit to see if we could work out what we were meant to be doing and then, before we knew it, we solved it by fluke. When we had the game explained afterwards, we realised that there was a perfectly reasonable solution to the puzzle that we’d missed. That doesn’t really excuse things, though. Puzzles shouldn’t have solutions which you find by accident. It’s a great shame, really, because once I realised what the point of the puzzle was, it was darkly humorous and would have been a fitting, albeit slightly surreal, ending to the game.
We got out in 18 minutes having, unsurprisingly given the time, taken no clues.
Ouch. I’ve played a lot of escape rooms, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of hour-long experiences that I’ve escaped in under twenty minutes. OK, maybe three hands, but the point is that it’s pretty rare, especially in a linear room. The thing is, I’m not convinced that it was the room’s fault here. I was playing with a super-experienced team and I think we happened to come up with the correct ideas for each puzzle quickly. Whenever we unlocked the next stage, it seemed like one of us would immediately work out what to do – with each of us solving a similar proportion of the puzzles on offer.
I look back at this game and realise it shows both the highs and lows of playing with uber-enthusiasts. On the one hand, you get the thrill of rapid-fire solving and never getting frustrated at puzzles but, on the other, you don’t get to see as much of the game or spend so long in the environment.
Overall, though, I still felt it was one of the weaker Breakin’ games. It wasn’t just that the puzzles weren’t particularly challenging: the bigger problem was that they felt oddly out of place, even for an escape room. The décor was OK but nothing special, and the final puzzle left us disappointed when it should have been a humorously dark ending to the game.
If you’re going to play, head along with a team of no more than three enthusiasts or four beginners.
Detailed Room Ratings