Outside the room
Over to Cryptic for our third game of the morning at Escapologic. I can only reiterate what I said in previous reviews: there’s a great atmosphere around the place with happy staff and players, and that quality is matched in the intros and general game hosting. Escapologic hasn’t just put effort into producing good games but also into making sure they’re staffed well.
This game’s a little different from some of the others in that, before you wander in, you’re given a knapsack with items that you might need in the experience as well as a couple of lanterns…
The door creaks closed. In the pale light of your lantern, abandoned skeletons cast terrifying shadows on the walls. Frantically, you open your dusty satchel, praying for answers. Could this be all that remains of legendary explorer Crispin Sheppard, who mysteriously vanished all those years ago? Rumours of an ancient curse shroud the stones of this pitch-black tomb. You’re sure this is where the treasure is buried. But now you’re all alone in the dark-and in the cold air of the crypt, something primeval is stirring…
Inside the room
It’s never a great feeling when you only get given a couple of light sources to play a room. I get that it’s a crypt-themed game and darkness should be expected but, if I were choosing to enter a crypt, trust me: I’d pack a torch per person. At least there were two, which was something, but this was a very dark room, and you couldn’t really do much if you weren’t holding a torch. With five of us playing, that was a real pain: someone was almost always on their own in the dark. Fortunately, the game gets lighter (or your eyes acclimatise), so after a while it becomes merely an inconvenience rather than totally sidelining you.
That said, they made good use of the lack of light for one particular puzzle to force more cooperation between the players. In fact, this was probably my favourite puzzle of the Escapologic games in spite of us really not doing very well at solving it. Why was it so good? Well, I think it combined many different things that are fun in a puzzle. It encouraged teamwork to the point where there were probably four of us actively participating (aside: as a pair it’s doable but a genuine challenge), and there was plenty of space so we never felt like we were getting in each other’s way. It had some trickery to keep you on your toes. It had multiple parts to solve. It had physical interactions; in fact, it had several physical interactions. Finally, it required us to think carefully and discuss how to attack it. Those are all great things, and combining them into one puzzle was a work of art. The rest of the game worked well enough and there was an above-average amount of searching, but really nothing came close to that central puzzle for me.
Something else I really loved about this was the sense of exploration. It absolutely fitted the theme that this should be a game where you needed to delve deeper into the tomb. In this sense, the darkness really added (although, warning: those with mobility and/or sight issues should probably call ahead to find out a little more about the games’ challenges) because the exploration was all the more rewarding for not being able to see very well. Some rooms just throw in a couple of locked doors to let you experience a journey, but this was far cleverer and more interesting.
The set in the game was quite variable, with moments where it felt like we were genuinely in a crypt and other times where the plastic nature of the wall decoration felt like we were in a Hallowe’en party. In the end, that’s a price decision – making a fully immersive set would be expensive (both to create and to maintain) – and it’s probably not worth it, but a flimsy wall is disappointing when you’re searching round the room. Having said that, I do have to give them their due: it was kept in good repair in spite of the fair bit of abuse I imagine it gets from Friday night patrons…
Once again, I didn’t pay much attention to the time we exited the room. I think it was around 42 minutes with a couple of clues, but I’m really not sure.
Two things stood out for me in this game: that sense of exploration and the team puzzle that we encountered. I don’t think I really appreciated them enough at the time, but this is a game that has grown on me since playing. That said, I felt that, while the darkness fitted the theme well, it was used to make the game more difficult instead of putting in more, or harder, puzzles and that tempered my experience slightly.
I’d recommend this game for three enthusiasts or four less experienced players. Don’t go with five unless you like wandering in the dark. Don’t go with two unless you really like a challenge!
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.