Outside the room
Out of one room and into another. Having just completed Wanted at Breakout Liverpool, it was straight on to Cursed Carnival with our host, Catherine, taking us inside the room for the intro. I’m not normally a fan of that, but she stood in the doorway while talking to us and the layout of the room meant we were facing away from the distracting stuff so she held our attention. Or possibly it was just that she was a great host – she told the story fluently and, when we got in on the act and started taking her off piste, she took it all in her stride.
You and your friends have won yourself a prize at the local carnival but it seems to be a prize with a difference. Since you took it home you’ve been plagued by strange dreams accompanied by a haunting voice that continues to tell you to return your prize within 7 days. You return to the site of the carnival on the 7th day and enter the old repair shed where you must solve the mystery with only an hour left before the clock strikes midnight. Can you break the curse in 60 minutes or will your nightmares really come true…?
Inside the room
The game starts off in a relatively confined space where getting three people involved, let alone the full complement of five players, was pretty tough. However, the space expanded soon enough and there were both more puzzles to keep us occupied and more space around those puzzles to allow multiple people to get involved. I was generally impressed by the standard of puzzles available here. I’ve played plenty of Breakout games across their Manchester and Liverpool sites and my opinion is that they have a tendency to go for relatively boring, repetitive observational puzzles – find the colour, count the tokens etc. Here, things were different. Where they’d gone for that style of puzzle, they’d made them a little bit more interesting, and in several cases they’d gone for something completely original. They’d made good use of the theme too – these puzzles couldn’t have been taken and just dropped into another room without reworking.
More generally, the carnival theme was reasonably well presented. For the record, while it’s a “cursed carnival”, it’s not at all scary except for a couple of slightly sinister dolls in the game one of whom, frankly, I found quite endearing. Much to my teammate’s dismay. Unless you’re of a very nervous disposition, I wouldn’t worry.
That theming extended out to some of the puzzle mechanics. Good use of hidden tech helped to give the impression of a magically cursed carnival, but occasionally the theming did seem to lose its way a little. In one part of the game, the decor was very much associated with a specific aspect of a funfair but didn’t lend itself to camouflaging puzzles. This meant that, in spite of being visually interesting, I was left underwhelmed. Similarly, for the final puzzle, I could totally see where they were heading conceptually, and it did fit nicely with the story, but it didn’t work amazingly well as a finale to the game.
We escaped after 32:40 without taking any clues. In spite of not needing any intervention, our host didn’t totally leave us on our own – she teased us slightly at one point and convinced us to put the lights out in the scary circus more than necessary… my teammate wasn’t very happy with me.
I enjoyed the game and felt like its whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The decor was good enough to give the feeling of a carnival, and the puzzles had enough originality either in concept or implementation to set them apart from other Breakout games. It felt like we were continually moving forward and – perhaps obviously given the zero-clue result – the puzzles made logical sense. I think all players will have fun in this game, although I’d recommend taking only three players if you’ve got much experience.
Detailed Room Ratings