Outside the room
I first visited ClueCapers at the very end of 2016 to play their second mission and had delighted in their inventive and original puzzles. Since then, I’d kept an eye on the map with a view to somehow making a trip back to Winchester to play their original mission. On a day full of solid games, I had to confess to being a little nervous about how Mission to Winchintzy would stack up.
After throwing our car in a car park a few minutes’ walk away (Winchester isn’t the easiest place to find a parking space), we headed into the town centre to the venue itself where we were warmly greeted by the owner, Kate.
It’s a slightly strange situation when you’ve done a sequel game before the original, but they handled it well, taking advantage of the parallel universe theme to explain that time worked strangely. Before we knew it, we were through the door and exploring Winchintzy.
Eccentric amateur scientist, Buff Hoon-Smith has secretly developed a working portal to parallel universes. A special agency has been formed to investigate these curious worlds, in the hope of finding new solutions to our own world’s challenges.
Unfortunately, Buff was recently allowed to join one of these expeditions, to a parallel Winchester we have labelled Winchintzy. In spite of his very capable escorts, it appears he mislaid an important blue print for his portal.
Your mission is to visit Winchintzy and retrieve the designs before they can be mis-used.
Inside the room
As soon as you walk through the door, you know that you’re in Winchintzy. Everything about this space makes you feel like you’re in your great aunt’s house. It’s a – frankly – bizarre decision to go for that style of décor, but they’ve set up this world so beautifully that they get away with it. The theming in this room extends to a fair number of its puzzles, with some trying to represent you fixing up the portal to return home and others trying to get across the slightly strange way things work in the parallel universe. There’s no real extension of the story, but there are two clear missions – retrieve the blueprints and then return home – which combine to give you a sense of purpose throughout the adventure.
As I was expecting, having played their other room, the puzzles were varied and included a fair amount of originality, albeit not quite as much as in the sequel. Some of the most surprising things to me were a couple of cool physical interactions with the room. Neither were genuinely difficult puzzles but both were refreshing ideas. There’s a risk with “original” puzzles that they can feel like leaps in logic. If you like very crisp, obvious puzzles to work through, then you’ll likely be disappointed here, but I think all the puzzles in the room were soluble without clues – you’ll just need to think a bit harder.
I want to call out one puzzle in particular because its ingenuity summed up the effort that ClueCapers put into their room. Sadly, I can’t really explain why without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say this: There’s a puzzle in this game that I refused to believe could possibly have the solution that Mrs Logic was suggesting because I realised that to do so would have required the designer to go through hundreds of iterations until they’d found one that worked. It turned out that the designer HAD spent a few days finding the solution that would work. Never assume…
On the whole, the game felt pretty linear, though there were a few parts where some parallelisation was possible. That inevitably means that it’s hard to accelerate through the game and you’re unlikely to get a super-quick escape time. Probably as a result of that, they seemed to be a little happier to throw out clues than many venues and, while I never felt they were particularly intrusive, I think the game would have benefited from them holding back slightly. When they did give clues, they came in two forms – very gentle nudges to investigate specific parts of the room, or encouragement if you’d logically solved a puzzle but had somehow made an error with your execution.
As for the finale, it’s perfectly engineered. Once you’ve got the blueprints, your only job is to get home by fixing the portal. I wasn’t sure how they’d manage that in a room where I think technology would be grating, but the solution they’d used fitted perfectly with both the parallel dimension and chintzy themes. The ending to this game was simply brilliant.
We escaped in just under 45 minutes with quite a few clues along the way.
ClueCapers’ style of game is very distinctive. They create slightly caricatured rooms (with a heavy dose of chintz in this case) and slightly off-the-wall puzzles.
We played as a two, which felt rushed. Three or four would have been optimal – these are puzzles for which you really want as many different minds as possible. More than that and I would have felt a little crowded, particularly at the beginning.
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.