Outside the room
Having played our first game at Exciting Escapes, there was barely time for a break before we were ready for round two. This time we were playing the game that I’d heard the most about – one that sounded a bit like it was the High Fidelity of escape rooms. Listen to 80s music while escaping a room? Sounds good to me! It’s not the kind of place where they make you listen to the same intro twice when you’re playing back-to-back, so a quick briefing and it was time to enter the room.
The year is 1989, as the Soviet Union breaks down British Intelligence has heard rumours of communist activity behind the locked doors of a record shop in Southampton. You are recruited to enter the record shop and uncover the enemy agents’ plans. But with only 60 minutes before he returns, can you face the music and get out in time?
Inside the room
I often find the background tracks in escape rooms a bit annoying and, when I don’t, I generally barely notice them. Well, this most definitely wasn’t annoying. If anything, it was a little too quiet – this game really could do with a volume control to allow you to change the level of the music to suit your individual taste. While music may be the primary tool for immersion, they’ve also done a great job of delivering the feel of a record shop. OK, it may be quite a while since I was last in one, but there was something beguiling about all the big tracks of the 80s laid out on the record racks.
Where the first game we’d played had you solving puzzles right from the moment you arrived, this felt like a much slower start. There was far more to work through and, while at the time I felt that the game lacked direction in the opening stages, as it progressed I started to get a feel for how the puzzles broke up in the room and realised that, if you paid attention, there was enough information to tell you where to start.
We never really got into the groove, though, because of a critical search failure in the opening stages: there’s a specific item that gives you clues for later in the game that we didn’t discover. Those clues aren’t absolutely critical to finishing the experience – as we found out – but it left us struggling more in the later stages and, at times, it resulted in us believing the game lacked logic. I can assure you that, if you find all the clues, everything in this game has a logical solution. In hindsight, I see that as a GMing error. While they’ve made the decision to make you ask for clues in this experience, I think it’s important to balance that with making sure you enjoy the game. A small nudge would have put us back on track and ensured we got the most from the experience.
Something I really enjoyed was the way the puzzles in this room built the hits of the 80s into their solutions. It’s all very well taking something which makes a nice theme, but the real cleverness comes in integrating your puzzles with that theme. They managed that throughout the game – mainly playing on the 80s music theme – but there was one particularly fine example that took advantage of the spy angle. They were pretty varied as well, with a surprising proportion involving physical interactions with the room.
Again, this game had what I felt was a weak ending. To complete your quest, you have to contact your handler (via the humorously customised walkie-talkie) and tell them a couple of pieces of information. Sorry if I keep banging on about this but making a break between solving a puzzle and finding out whether you’ve got the answer right interrupts the endorphin rush. I think that rush is a big part of what makes escape rooms such an enjoyable – perhaps even addictive – experience. Here that break was exacerbated by the feeling that the final answer we obtained wasn’t as clearly right as the end of “A Hidden Past” had been.
We escaped in about 50 minutes having taken one clue.
This was a great game that had the edge taken off it for us by a combination of a search fail and the GM’s desire not to give us an unsolicited nudge. However, I suspect that most people won’t experience that, and then, aside from that slightly uncertain finish, they’ll enjoy what I think is a fun-packed room.
We played as a pair, which isn’t usually possible but did work. In truth, at least one of the puzzles benefits from having extra bodies in the room, so three enthusiasts would be perfect for this game. Less experienced players should probably take along an extra player or two – there are only a couple of puzzles where they won’t be able to get involved, and that’s the perfect opportunity to dance along to the music!
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.