Outside the room
Having just escaped the Moonbase game at Escape Rooms in Angel, we had a short break to let them reset their rooms before we headed into their rogue AI game, Project D.I.V.A.
Year 2038, our civilisation is slowly conquering the solar system. The use of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is absolutely essential in paving our path to other planets. With their help, we have managed to start terraforming Mars.
A few nights ago, however on the planetary defence and research station ER-27, which is orbiting Mars and protecting it from large meteorites, went totally silent. D.I.V.A (Defence Interactive Virtual Assistant), the station’s AI sent us a cryptic message with depictions of death. Shortly after, the station started falling into a lower orbit, and we predict that if it keeps descending at this rate it will impact with the surface.
We are running out of time. The research data and the station itself are vital to our future colonisation efforts. We cannot afford to lose them. That is why we are sending your team in. The human race is in your hand now. Are you ready?
Inside the room
Just like in the first room we’d played, there was a real sense of quality here. This game may not look quite as impressive but, when you look closely, it seems slightly better finished than Dark Side of the Moon. Again, that is backed up with clever use of the space, allowing them to repeat the sense of exploration that I’d felt in the first experience. It didn’t feel quite as expansive, but it was still streets ahead of normal games.
The biggest difference this time round was that you made significant use of a handheld iPod device to scan QR codes. That resulted in receiving additional information that was required to solve some of the puzzles. For me, that didn’t work very well. First, there were “only” three iPods and, as the person who didn’t have one, I was continually having to ask to see what message had appeared. Secondly, the iPods were incredibly slow – to the point of frustration [edit – they acknowledged this on the night and have told me that they’ve now put in steps to speed the response up. I haven’t verified the improvements]. Thirdly, all they did was give you access to some text or an image. I just don’t understand why you would get people to find and scan a QR code and not just replace it with the relevant image. I guess the one advantage is that you could carry around a central repository of all the clues that you’d received, but that didn’t seem to be sufficiently compelling to justify the frustration.
The puzzles were a little more interesting than in the other game and generally seemed to have sufficient direction, although that could equally have been that the GM was on hand to provide direction where any was lacking. On a couple of occasions she jumped in to give us direction almost straightaway, as if they’d learned that people would take a wrong turning with the puzzle unless help was offered. That was a shame, because it breaks the immersion a bit when you need to get outside help – and, more to the point, the puzzles should be solvable without guidance. One puzzle did seem to have an answer that left me utterly bemused. I understood why it was the solution, but there seemed to be so many better ways to use the tech they had rather than the relatively dull and bizarre puzzle they opted for.
As with the previous game, there were various fun physical elements along the way. As well as plenty of physical clues, there were moments where our skills were tested. Fortunately, none of these are likely to be awkward to get past. It’s worth mentioning that there’s enough here that you will likely need at least three people who are reasonably mobile, two of whom don’t suffer from claustrophobia.
The biggest frustration in the game was probably one that I didn’t personally experience: at one point, two players are left with absolutely nothing to do other than listen on in disappointment as their teammates attempt to solve a puzzle. It’s not for very long, but it felt like they could have been given something more to do while they waited.
The finale built well, but I’d really have liked the ultimate puzzle we solved to be a little stronger. It felt almost token in the way it was delivered, and this took the edge off the game’s ending. That was a shame, because the penultimate section was pretty strong and the very last action in the game is a nice physical finish which fitted well with the mission.
We escaped in a shade over 40 minutes having taken one or two clues. Clues come over the walkie-talkie, and at times it’s hard to tell what really counts as a clue – in one particular case they jumped in almost instantly because, although we’d solved the puzzle, we were supposed to do it in a particular way which really wasn’t obvious.
This was another game that I feel will massively appeal to some people and turn other people off. I really wouldn’t enjoy it if *all* games were like this but, as one of the many different types available, I did enjoy how it was so different from the norm. Yes, it had some frustration – two players being left with nothing to do for a couple of minutes, handheld devices that were painfully slow and the general use of QR codes – but the physicality, the use of space and, I’ll be honest, some cool high-tech stuff more than helped offset that for me.
Again, we took four people to the game and, while it never really required that number, it didn’t often feel like we were just hanging around (aside from the team members who really did just hang around doing nothing for a while – and that happens regardless of numbers!). As with the other game, I wouldn’t have wanted to max out the room – I think three or four is probably optimal for enthusiasts, and I don’t think having more would significantly help beginners.
We were in a bit of a rush because we were playing two games back to back, so we headed to Kennedy’s, an upmarket fish and chips restaurant, just round the corner. The portions were big and the service was good, but I was a bit disappointed with the chicken burger – perhaps my own fault for not choosing the obvious fish option, which my teammates seemed to enjoy.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: Our tickets were heavily discounted. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.