The team behind Clue Capers has always created slightly surreal experiences. A Curious Inheritance is no exception. As you arrive in the room, you’re greeted by just a few hints of the wonderful world of Buff Hoon-Smith and, as you progress in the game, that expands with several whimsical moments that set this room apart from more run-of-the-mill themes. A Curious Inheritance is the second game I’ve played in the same physical space (it replaced Mission to Winchintzy), so I was pleased to see that they’d made the effort to give it a different layout. A sense of discovery is a significant element of escape rooms, and not “re-flowing” the game can dampen the excitement.
It’s a tough start, both with the initial puzzles being a little trickier than you might expect and a relatively bare space meaning there’s a lack of things to investigate. The result is that you’re likely to either get past the first challenges almost immediately or run out of ideas and ask for a clue. There’s no opportunity to mull things over while solving other puzzles. As the game opens out, there’s soon far more to investigate, and you experience the opposite end of the spectrum: an abundance of clues and props where even working out what goes together is challenging and it’s not always clear whether a given puzzle is solvable yet. In fact, the game is surprisingly open, with lots of puzzles fully solvable not long after the start.
Clue Capers has always created games with unusual puzzles, and on this occasion we found that it hurt our experience. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of challenges on offer, we part-solved pretty much everything in the room but conversely felt like we always needed help to reach the end solution. Part-solving all the puzzles is far less satisfying than fully solving half of them. Fortunately, help came over a fun clue system, which took some of the pain away from the hints we received.
Too often, we felt there was ambiguity in the solution, and that led to frustration. On one puzzle, there was a correlation between props that led us in the wrong direction. On another, things didn’t quite match perfectly, which led us to guessing some connections. On a couple more, we had to drop some information to make things work. None of those were terrible in their own right, but the combination left us feeling like we were fighting the room. And that wasn’t the whole story: on other occasions, we missed things that we should have spotted, which caused just as much confusion for us.
Perhaps the core problem here is that there are several multi-stage puzzles in the game, something that would usually have been the highlight for me because, when they go well, they’re the most satisfying experience. However, when you have several that you’re struggling with, it leads to a feeling of confusion.
Perhaps appropriately for a game that we’d struggled with, it fizzled out a bit at the end. The finale puzzles felt weaker than some of the earlier offerings, and a tech failure at a critical moment (albeit one that reminded us how good the GMing is here with a quick workaround) led to the flow of the game being disrupted right at the death.
This game never really gelled with us, and I came away disappointed. While there were definitely some rough edges that could be improved, there were also puzzles that just eluded us on the day, and I find it hard to decide whether I think those puzzles were cleverer than us or just too clever for their own good. Everything else about the room – the quirky story, the fun theming and the GMing – are good, so a decision on whether or not to go should all come down to whether you’ll like the puzzles. If you want a second opinion, I’d recommend heading over to the excellent Escape the Review.
Our team of two escaped the room in around 75 minutes. On another day, or with a bigger team, I could see this experience having gone in a very different direction. At its heart, I think A Curious Inheritance is a good game that larger teams of enthusiasts will enjoy. Head along with four people and, aside from feeling a little cramped at the beginning, I suspect you’ll have fun.
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.