Outside the room
I figured I’d have to wait a long time to play the other ClueFinders room in Liverpool given that there’s a minimum of three players and I don’t have any friends living in the area but then I found myself in the North West with two fellow enthusiasts who were willing to let me join them in escaping some rooms, and they certainly didn’t have to ask twice*. I’d met them a couple of times before and was pretty sure I’d get on with them, but I was still slightly nervous about what it would be like to escape a room with them.
Fortunately, they were still playing their previous game when I arrived at ClueFinders, so I would get the chance to watch them in action. Unfortunately (for me, although a good sign for the game to come), the game host was so engrossed in watching her players that she didn’t hear the doorbell ringing, and I had to wait until they were finished before I could make it into the venue.
They were out soon enough and I was let in by the host who got us ready for the next game. A quick briefing and it was time to go in.
* Actually, and I realise this is hard to believe, they did.
Avid explorer and archaeologist Ernest Peter Sanderson has made the discovery of his life – uncovering no less than 3 tombs, each full of enough treasure to make him rich beyond measure. But before he reaps his reward he discovers a map containing the location of a secret fourth tomb that was thought to only exist in myths, containing a treasure so precious it has never been seen by any living human. Ernest drops everything to hunt down this fourth tomb and bring this treasure home. Unfortunately this was the last anyone ever heard from him. This was 50 years ago. Now the map has come into your possession – can you track down the tomb, complete Ernest’s life work and take the treasure for your own?
Inside the room
They say it clearly on their website but I think it’s worth re-emphasising: this is not a game for tall people. If you’re over six foot tall, you’ll need to stoop for portions of the game. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as unplayable as I had been worrying out – just make sure you go in with your eyes open (and your head bowed…). More relevantly, however, it’s definitely not a game for those with mobility issues. If you wouldn’t be happy crawling around, then you’re not going to be able to play this game and, even if you are, you may still find it physically difficult. Finally, it’s not a game for lots of people: with three people we were already pretty crowded and that’s in huge contrast to the other game at this venue, which was positively spacious, so I suspect it will come as a surprise to many players.
Although it probably wasn’t helped by that feeling of being squeezed into the room, my initial impression was disappointment. Some parts of this game are reasonably impressive on the visual side but plenty of it is bare and dull. That was compounded by it not being a particularly searchy room but there still being lots of items to look at. While they weren’t red herrings, it also wasn’t entirely obvious which ones were clues and which clues were useful straightaway. I love open games but I also like them to give you some idea of whether you’ve got all the pieces you need for a puzzle; otherwise you can be left incredibly frustrated because you’re missing a vital piece of information the lack of which, unbeknownst to you, renders the puzzle you’re attempting to solve impossible.
While the puzzles in the room were mostly on theme, there were a couple that felt a bit gimmicky. That may be a little harsh – they were novel and certainly made the game a bit more memorable, but they didn’t feel like they sat well within the theme. They made sense, though, which is the main thing, and that was generally true throughout the game. There were a couple of puzzles where we got a clue and were a little bemused, but they were outweighed by the ones where we were the ones making the mistake. One puzzle in particular we managed to both overcomplicate and oversimplify before finding the correct solution. Sometimes there’s not really much you can do to help players…
We got out with nine minutes to spare having used five clues. To be honest, I think we struggled a bit because we didn’t know each other and were at pains not to get in each other’s way, but a couple of clues were for things that I genuinely don’t think we would’ve got without help.
It’s hard to review any escape room but this experience was particularly difficult. Playing with people for the first time is always interesting but my fellow escapees gave an absolute masterclass in how to escape and I was far less involved than I’ve been with almost any escape room I’ve ever played. Usually I see puzzles being solved even if I’m not directly solving them, but in this case padlocks just seemed to tumble to the ground whenever my teammates looked at them.
This is a solid but not spectacular game with great hosts and some good puzzles that will keep both novices and experienced players entertained. It would be pretty crowded for five players and the puzzles never seemed plentiful enough to accommodate the full complement, so I’d stick to no more than four, and probably three if you’re experienced.
Detailed Room Ratings