Outside the room
A short break for lunch and it was back into the Escape Room Centre for round 2. This time we were taking on their final room, the Bomb. After a short briefing from the same host, we were back into the action.
You are members of an Elite ‘Bomb Disposal Unit’. You are about to enter a flat above a bank in Blackpool believed to have been rented by Joseph Mendelson. Mendelson holds the bank responsible for ruining his life when in fact it was his drinking and gambling addictions that lost him everything. He is determined to do the bank as much damage as possible and has already blown up two other banks in nearby towns. The flat is known to be booby trapped, giving you just one hour to find the bomb, disarm it and escape, Can you do it?
Inside the room
When you walk into this game, you’re met with another drab apartment. I realise that’s consistent with the story, but it would be nice to write a story that involved something a bit prettier to look at. Things would improve later in the game, although it never lost its somewhat utilitarian look. The upside of that was an almost complete absence of red herrings, but the downside was that there was very little to get our teeth into.
This is an incredibly linear room where there’s rarely the chance to do more than one or two things off scripts. It worries me that large groups would find themselves crowding round the same puzzles in here – even as a pair we tended to be working together most of the time. Worse still, new players are going to be utterly blocked whenever they’re stuck on a puzzle, which is likely to cause frustration. We probably spent a quarter of an hour getting pretty much nowhere with this game – we’d partially solved various puzzles but the linearity meant that until we’d passed the first puzzle we couldn’t make any progress at all. Totally our fault though – we’d solved the puzzle but made a mistake with our calculation…
Eventually we had to take a clue which, as with other rooms in this venue, was given in picture form. It’s worth mentioning that the communication system for this room is a bit different from their other experiences. In keeping with the Bomb Disposal Unit theme, you go in with a walkie-talkie that allows you to contact base for help. That would have been fine, but the frequency clashed with a local taxi service and we kept getting interference. A couple of times we thought they were trying to tell us something, which resulted in a slightly comical conversation where each side thought the other was asking a question.
In spite of being only a couple of months old, the room is already starting to show signs of wear and tear. In particular, one central puzzle has had a piece broken off it. It doesn’t stop it working at the moment but, if that trend continues, it will likely make it harder and potentially make it fail for someone. More than that, though, it detracts from the room. When I should have been wowing at a cool puzzle, I was thinking about the broken prop instead.
Having said that it’s a linear game where larger teams are going to be frustrated, there were several puzzles where two people being involved was a good thing and one where even with two of us it felt like we could do with more help.
I’d say the puzzles here are harder than average. All but one of them are very solvable without a clue, but we kept on getting stuck and there were several occasions where we got right to the brink of asking for help before having our moment of epiphany. One puzzle had a solution that, from my point of view, was akin to brute-forcing. You had to do something that was not at all obvious when it was perfectly legitimate to assume that you would get some information later in the game that would help you out. Perhaps that’s just a clever puzzle but, to my mind, it was effectively “outside the room” knowledge and should have had some sort of hint to tell you what to do.
I became steadily more impressed as the game progressed: the puzzles were varied, there were plenty that were unusual and there was an obvious finale to the game. From that drab start, the game really turned itself around to deliver a quality experience.
We escaped after 52 minutes having used two clues, although we really shouldn’t have needed one of them. It’s a tough game but, for a team that are on form, I could easily see that time being beaten by twenty minutes.
How many times can I say this? TRAP design good games, and this was no exception. It started off slow and drab but improved steadily, and by the end I was having plenty of fun. As you’ll probably have guessed from the above, I wouldn’t recommend taking more than three players. We were very comfortable with our two-player team on all but one puzzle, and I’d suggest experienced players accept that one puzzle will be a little more painful than necessary in exchange for not being frustrated at a lack of involvement elsewhere.
We nipped round the corner for a very nice meal at Michael Wan’s Mandarin restaurant. Their lunchtime meal offer was great value, although the à la carte menu did look a little pricey.
Detailed Room Ratings