Outside the room
After relaxing in the lobby while the rooms were being reset, it was time to swap games and head over to Cryptology‘s Cypherdyne. This was their original game, so I was curious to see how old-school it was in terms of simple padlocks and observational puzzles. A quick briefing from the host (partly inside the room) and it was game on.
You and your team are completing your first day at your new job at Cypherdyne. What seems like a normal induction takes an unexpected turn. Can you and your team pass the test to become an honorary employee?
Inside the room
Cypherdyne sounds alluringly high-tech, so walking into the room to find what was a very boring office with standard furniture was pretty disappointing. It was perfectly in fitting with the theme but that didn’t make it any more engaging. I suspect that was exacerbated by it being quite a big space containing very little, so the office-ness dominated the experience. Later in the game the theming would improve markedly to fit with the technology theme, but think of it more as an impressive centrepiece to the game rather than a totally immersive environment.
In truth, there were a couple of other places where technology was used, in the form of tablets, but both seemed like relatively dull uses – in effect they were electronic equivalents of laminated puzzles behind an entry lock. I’m not sure whether I like that more or less than just having another lock box. Obviously, it mixes things up a little but, at the same time, it left me disappointed at the unused potential of a tablet.
As with the room theming, I didn’t find the opening stream of puzzles particularly engaging, although things improved towards the end. Too many red herrings along the way left me feeling a bit uncertain about what was relevant to the game, and all too often I was left with a code but unsure where to input it. That was compounded by there being a lock-out safe in the room so, whenever we found a potential code, we had to decide if it met the bar for the safe. Who doesn’t like a five-minute wait after a few incorrect attempts?
As mentioned earlier, towards the end of the game things improved and I really liked the final prop and puzzle, which added a huge amount of tension to the game. The build-up to it was a little tedious; we got a fun “Aha” moment that explained certain props that we’d gathered along the way and how to use them but which then converted to a very long and dull task. A task that you’re likely to get wrong and have to redo (miraculously, we got it right first time, but I’m sure some teams take several attempts).
Once past that, though, it was on to the final stretch and the real highlight of this room. It left me with one question about how to proceed. Personally, I found that unsatisfying, but the owner countered that it was deliberate and entirely on theme. In some sense, I think we were both right. As a logic puzzle in an escape room, it was probably flawed but, in the context of an immersive experience, it probably hit the nail on the head. Which side you take depends on what you want from a game.
We escaped in around 35 minutes with about three clues which were delivered via a computer screen.
I never really felt engaged with this room till right near the end. Perhaps that was a hangover from a disappointing experience in the earlier game, but mainly I think large swathes of it were simply uninspired. That’s a shame because it has a well constructed finale that’s on theme and uses special effects and physical interaction to create a genuine tension to the game.
If you’re going to play here, I’d recommend taking just three playersbut I suspect experienced players will leave feeling disappointed.
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