Henry Fortune’s House of Illusion is very different from your average game. That’s something that’s always impressed me about Escape Quest – each room I’ve played there has had quite a different feel from their other experiences. But how is it different? Well, for starters, you have to make a choice about what level to play at – 3, 4 or 5 star. Inevitably, we chose the highest level of difficulty, which meant we had to find out more details about the murder case in order to complete the game. When that’s being explained alongside the story, it all feels quite complicated, but don’t worry: you’re given the list of goals to take in with you and, once you’re inside the game, it becomes reasonably intuitive.
Inside the room
Walking into the room is a stunning experience. Escape Quest have never produced a bad set, but this one is a gorgeous space which captures the essence – in fact more than just the essence – of a theatre. The background music, other audio content and that amazing set all combine to create an incredibly immersive experience. Much of the storyline is covered during the introduction, but you continue to get details on Henry throughout the game. When he talks to you from within the room, it’s a particularly powerful way of conveying his character which also helps cement that storyline.
The experience felt like it was split into two entirely separate acts (perhaps appropriately, given the theatre theme) with a very different feel to each half. I found the first part of the game particularly difficult but also more rewarding, while the second half felt slightly less engaging. One puzzle in particular frustrated me because it wasn’t clear when it was over, so we had to just keep attempting a solution and hope we’d found all the pieces.
Again, the number of logical puzzles impressed me, with us being kept pretty busy throughout. It’s not clear whether it was down to us or not, but I found that the solves and the sense of progress weren’t as evenly spread as usual, with the result that I felt a little lost at times.
By far my favourite element of this experience was something that felt almost entirely un-escape room-like. The room built towards a piece of theatre within the game which managed to pull together the puzzles we’d solved, help tell some of the story and provide a humorous, interactive and at times chaotic (but in a good way!) feel to the experience.
I’m not sure it was intentional, but that feeling of fun chaos was mirrored at the finale as we tried to get together everything we needed to prove the case before we exited the room. That provided a fun ending to the game and, with the clock ticking down, it ensured we ended the experience with a rush of adrenaline.
Our team of four escaped with around ten minutes remaining. Clues came over the screen, although occasionally there were audio elements to help us along.
Henry Fortune’s House of Illusion is as fun as it is different. I love rooms with theatre or humour in them, and this delivers both without either taking over from the experience. It’s a beautiful set with many solid puzzles and, in the end, the fact that it’s so different from the vast majority of games I’ve played means that it really sticks in my memory.
We played as a four and felt fairly comfortable, but I’d think carefully before playing as a three at the hardest difficulty level – this game felt like there was plenty to get done.