Enigma Escape: The Killer

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[Note: Since I visited this room just after it had opened, the owners have made significant changes – my guess is that this would now rate as “good”, although without visiting, I can’t say for sure. From correspondence with them, they’ve change three of the parts that most damaged the experience – the videos, the linearity and having to wait around doing nothing. Great to hear they’ve taken on the feedback from players. Bodes well for the future!]

Outside the room

I’d been following Enigma Escape‘s progress since they launched their kickstarter project earlier in the year. In fact, I’d first come across their website many months before that, so to say I’d been eagerly awaiting their room is an understatement. To further heighten my anticipation, they’d had last minute difficulties that had resulted in our date being moved back by a week. The perils of being a preview audience! The day was here though, and I set out with four trusted team mates.

They’ve probably got one of the best “shop” fronts I’ve seen for an escape room, with a full window image of their logo, which as a bonus makes it easy to spot that you’re in the right place. A ring on the bell and we were soon in the briefing room. So far, so good – it was a nicely crafted room paying homage to an old fashioned cinema. They even threw in some popcorn to get us in the mood.

Hon, one of the two founders, gave the intro, and to be honest it was a little disappointing – there’s definitely some work to be done in brushing up the delivery. Having said that, it was only their fourth day of public access, so they’ve not had much chance to get it down pat and from what I saw on their Twitter account, things have been kind of busy getting everything in place, so perhaps they’ve not had the time to concentrate on the non-core parts of the room. They need to get this right though, because a good intro can make a massive difference – just look at Lady Chastity’s Reserve.

The real let down though, and I think they need to do something about this as soon as possible, was the intro video (and later the “destiny” one). They’re a really nice idea, but they really didn’t add to the experience. The first video just repeated what we’d already been told by our host, and the second video left us entirely perplexed until we had it explained to us.

Background

You’re at the cinema when the screen starts to go blurry, you feel funny and then pass out. Next thing you know, you wake up in the dark in some sort of cage…

Inside the room

Inside it was a bit of a curate’s egg: good in parts and bad in parts. There were moments where I felt real frustration, and moments where I was seriously impressed.

Let’s start with our team’s number one complaint – this puzzle was entirely linear. You had to do each step in order without any deviation, unable to work on the next stage. Why’s that bad? Well, with five people in the room, that typically means only one of you is actually doing something useful. Indeed, there were a couple of times, because of the way the game worked, where NONE of us could do anything useful. We expected an hour (or at least close to it) of entertainment, and standing around watching someone else doing something, or waiting for something to happen is just cheating us out of that fun.

While the game sounds like it’s going to have a scary theme, in practice it’s not very scary at all. I thought they walked the line well – putting “scary” stuff in several times, without ever giving me the feeling I might get watching a horror movie. I have to admit though, that they did manage to get me to jump at one point with an impressively created puzzle. Away from the scare factor, they had another puzzle where I was truly impressed with how well they’d crafted it – it’s hard to explain exactly what they did without spoiling it, but I was amazed at the engineering, which was done subtly enough that it took us several attempts to work out what was happening. You’ll know it when you see it! Not all the puzzles were great though – a couple were a bit tedious and one we managed to have temporary technical issues with.

Without a doubt though, the #1 thing I liked in this escape room was that it felt real. Nothing was contrived. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve never had to escape from a locked room for real, but I’m willing to bet that if I ever have to, I won’t find the combination lock by adding up the cost of three items of clothing, or finding which page in a book a particular quote comes from, or taking the coordinates on a map. There was none of that here – each step felt like something that would have been reasonable to do if I’d been genuinely trapped. At a couple of points, this led to us stalling though, because we followed the escape room etiquette rather than doing what would have come naturally. That’s easily solved though – hopefully they’ll take the feedback and emphasise it to future customers, especially the more experienced gamers.

Decoration-wise, I think they’d had fun with the room – in some ways it was minimalist, while in others they’d gone all out to get the theme across, and I like that contrast. The clue system was probably the best I’ve seen, and was well used to give us hints at just the right level and just the right times.

Result

We escaped after a few hints and with a shade under ten minutes remaining, to collect our “Survivor” tokens. I have to say, while I can’t think of any good use for it, I really liked having the souvenir, and several of my team mates remarked on how nice they felt. Maybe they’ll set a trend and this will become a standard way of tracking your escapes!

Verdict – 

I so desperately wanted to like The Killer, because Hom and Sam had obviously poured their heart and souls into it. There’s lots to recommend it, but the videos and the linearity ultimately let it down and put it firmly in the middle of the pack.

I think this room will appeal to people who find escape rooms too contrived, to smaller groups (I’d recommend just three people so that you get to have a more active role) and to people who haven’t done any escape rooms previously.

Don’t take my word for it!

Other reviewers have visited and seen it in a more positive light. Here‘s one experienced player’s account.

Eating

We opted for something a bit different and headed over to Wolkite Kitfo, an Ethiopian restaurant on the other side of the Emirates. This was my first time trying Ethiopian food, and I have to say, I didn’t really rate it, but I loved the restaurant. Great waiter, beautifully presented food and generally had a nice feel to it.

Detailed Room Ratings

Venue
Host
Wow! factor
Immersiveness
Difficulty

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