Outside the room
Almost exactly a year had passed since our first visit to gamEscape but, with the only other game available a prison-themed room, I hadn’t been in a great hurry to go back. The introduction of their Armageddon room reminded me of just what good value they are for two players at just £30. A quick look at their booking site and I saw they were available, so I called up to check that a last minute booking was OK – it shows the value in having a booking system that doesn’t close down entirely 24 hours in advance. If I hadn’t been able to check their calendar, I would likely have gone elsewhere.
We parked up just along the street and headed inside to a small but business-like waiting area. It’s certainly not designed to hang around in but there’s a toilet if you need one, and the games master (and joint owner, I think) was friendly, and we went pretty much straight into the room.
Scientists have discovered a massive asteroid that is on course to hit the Earth. If it strikes will destroy a whole continent or potentially wipe out life on the planet. Only a few people have access into the abandoned military bunker to activate a secret weapon capable to save the human race and the planet.
You only have 60 minutes left to find out how to destroy the asteroid, before it’s too late.
Inside the room
First impressions were a little disappointing in that way in which military bunkers and government buildings can be. It was bare and it was unwelcoming. Conveniently, they’ve built this room downstairs, so it’s easy to pretend that you’ve descended into some nuclear bunker to try to resurrect a secret military weapon. As the game progressed, while the bareness remained, the breadth of props changed my mind about the decor and I eventually came to the conclusion that the theming was well above average.
The props looked pretty, but the thing that really impressed me was that they actually worked. I felt like squealing with delight at times. They surely can’t expect you to do *that*. Oh yes, they can. Time and time again it turned out that what I’d thought seemed like just a background prop was actually a central part to the game. Indeed, that’s where this game really came into its own. With only a little suspension of disbelief, you could feel like you were genuinely getting a military weapon back up and running – searching the space to identify tasks that might need to be completed to bring the missile online. If you’re into physical interaction with the room, then you’ll be in your element.
It wasn’t all good – there were several places where the game let itself down. The highs of the physical elements really contrasted against some of the puzzle flaws. In some places, the puzzles were lazy – simple maths, strange clues or needlessly arbitrary puzzles. In other places, they were good puzzles but with a lack of direction. We didn’t do things because it wasn’t at all obvious to us we were meant to. Here, more than in most rooms, it was easy to feel utterly lost. There were a lot of props and a lot of things to accomplish, and at times I just didn’t know where to start. At other times, while I could see a possible way forward, I didn’t take it because it felt like brute-forcing the solution.
The upshot of that lack of direction in the game was that the games master had to give us more help than I’d expect. When we did need help, though, it was well delivered. Always very clear and via two different modes, one of which really helped the clue-giving merge into the game itself.
We escaped after 48:47 having taken six or seven clues.
I enjoyed this game but I felt it could have been so much more. At its core, this is a phenomenal game. There’s a good premise, a set that gets steadily more impressive from humble beginnings, some solid puzzles and a genuine feeling that you’re living the story. The failings that it has are all of a very fixable type, and I can easily see this blowing away all the competition in Liverpool and being right up there with some of the best games in the North West.
Liverpool lacks the truly brilliant game that it deserves and, with a just a few tweaks, I think this could be it.
Detailed Room Ratings