Outside the room
Having really enjoyed Code to Exit‘s game last Summer, I’d been looking forward to coming back to play their new game “The Test”. In particular, I was curious about their no-locks claim. In the past, I’ve thought about designing rooms that don’t require any keys or combinations (frankly, I’ve fantasised about it while in some rooms…) and come to the conclusion that it’s really, really difficult, so I was keen to see what they’d done.
Minimal traffic on the way there, easy parking at the shopping centre and a short walk to the front door – I’d forgotten how much easier life is when you’re not playing in a big city. I typically take the Underground for 30-60 minutes to get to a game, and even up North it’s a tough drive through city traffic and then extortionate car parking fees! Let’s hope more games open up in smaller towns!
As soon as I walked in the door, I remembered how cramped the reception area is – there’s certainly no space for briefings, and even waiting there is pretty cosy, so, after a friendly greeting, we were ushered into the room for our introduction…
This room is set aboard an alien space ship. I wasn’t entirely clear on the storyline, but broadly I think aliens have been tampering with humans’ DNA and have abducted you and your team mates to carry out the final experiment. This room is “the Test”, to see whether the experiment has worked and we’re smart enough to be set free…
Inside the room
In massive contrast to the Edward Teller room, this is a cold harsh place, as befits an alien space ship. As promised, there was no furniture and there were no locks. Well, sort of. The claim of no furniture is certainly true, but there is one lock, although you won’t be spinning dials or using keys, so as far as I’m concerned they succeeded on that front.
Going back to that first impression – the room seemed cold and harsh, and to me the puzzles continued that theme. I don’t mean that in a negative way – just that there was far less “fluff” around them. Where other rooms might have an A4 sheet telling you a story, where you had to pick out a couple of pieces of information, this room would give you the key information directly and leave you to deduce what to do with it.
For example, when I first walked in, I was surprisingly intimidated – the puzzles were all on show, the clues were all on show and my brain first went into overdrive and then shut down as it struggled to process all the information. The trick with this room was to divide and conquer, but with only two of us facing the challenge, there was a temptation to try to solve too many puzzles at once.
Things quickly settled down though, and we started to make progress. You’ve probably guessed by the description above that this room isn’t vaguely linear – you can solve several puzzles in parallel. It is however delightfully broken down, so that you quickly realise there are sets of puzzles to work on. If I’d thought more logically, or if I’d listened to the clue the owner had given us during the briefing, I’d have realised the correct order to approach the room, but it wasn’t very important, and perhaps it gave us more time to mull over how some of the “endgame” puzzles would work. That was fortunate because some of these puzzles are definitely on the more difficulty end of the scale.
Clues appear on the monitor when you’re struggling, although annoyingly, they hide the countdown timer, which I can imagine being a little stressful if you’re close to running out of time. OK, I’m not imagining, I’m remembering :-).
I did have one big complaint with this room and that was a red herring in one of the central puzzles. It left me really confused about whether we were totally misunderstanding some of the puzzles and also made me feel like we were making significantly less progress than was the case. As time went on, I started to see what might be going on, but I don’t think the red herring added to the gameplay at all, and I wish they would change the puzzle (or more likely give a hint in the briefing) to make that confusion go away.
We escaped with five minutes remaining having taken three hints. Well, I say three hints, but essentially it was exactly the same hint three times. In fact, at one point when we were stuck and I looked back at the screen to see a hint had popped up, I seriously thought it was just the previous hint. I’m an experienced player; I never said I was good at it…
In contrast to their Edward Teller room which was warm and cosy, this was a stressful room. All the puzzles are solvable though, so you just have to jump right in and play the game.
I think it’s suited to a slightly larger group of people than their other room – four would be ideal, but five would probably be fine – and I definitely wouldn’t recommend to absolute beginners. It’s a slightly geekier than usual room, so if you like codes and patterns, and generally harder puzzles, I think you’ll find this particularly enjoyable.
Detailed Room Ratings