Outside the room
We’d already played three of Lucardo’s room,s but we still hadn’t got a handle on the company – one game had been packed with fun, one had been a bit average and one we’d found a little frustrating. Word was that Gem Runner was one of their better ones, so we were keen to try it out for ourselves.
Lucardo have the good sense to keep their availability on their website right to the last minute, so we’d been able to book just before heading out. I’m constantly amazed by how many companies don’t do that. I realise it’s a pain for staffing but anecdotally, just at Lucardo, I once phoned up in the morning to book one slot and confirmed the option to play a second afterwards, only to find, when I turned up to play that first slot, that the second one had already been booked out.
Anyway, enough of my booking difficulties… What was the game like?
The famous 190 carat Saratov diamond from Russia is being deposited at the central bank in Manchester. Lucardo has hacked the security system, buying your team a one hour window to steal the diamond. Can your team pull off Manchester’s biggest ever heist?
Inside the room
Modernish office games are, on the whole, not very exciting rooms to look at and, while this was no exception, Lucardo had done a good job of creating a crisp environment that took the key elements and accentuated them while getting rid of irrelevant details. I say “office” but this was in reality a (retail) bank-themed game so, while it did feel a little bit officey, it was also a little bit vault and a little bit cashier desks. They may not be a huge budge venue, but the key thing was that they’ve managed to create something that conveys those environments.
Let’s get something clear first: this is absolutely packed full of escape room logic, so don’t expect to be doing things that you’d do in a real heist. However, there was never any pretence otherwise, and we instead got the feeling that they’d aimed for puzzles that were pure, unbridled fun. There was almost nothing in the way of red herrings in the room – anything that wasn’t necessary for the game was obviously just décor, so all we had to do was search thoroughly and solve some puzzles. Easy!
The puzzles come thick and fast in Gem Runner, rarely proving very difficult but still managing to include a few that are genuinely novel. Some puzzles either required or produced items that gave you a sense of progress, and there was usually fairly clear direction whenever you received a new clue as to how it was meant to be used. There may not have been any real story development in the game but that sense of progress combined with a clear mission carried you forward.
One thing that was common in this game (or possibly just in the order that we played it) was that we often received an item at one point in the game and had to remember it for later. I love that kind of thing when playing a room because, if you don’t solve the puzzle, you know that it’s 100% your own fault and – without wishing to appear masochistic – there’s something great about knowing that a failure is your own fault.
They’d thrown in at least a couple of puzzles where communication was a significant benefit – indeed, the only thing that I felt was lacking to cover all the bases was some sort of skill challenge, but it’s pretty rare for an escape room to cover all the puzzle types.
Finally, it’s absolutely clear when you’re approaching the finale, and the sequence of events that lead up to it really helps to up the tension and maximise enjoyment when you eventually (hopefully) escape.
We escaped in 38:33 without taking a clue. Some games, you’re on a roll…
Gem Runner is a fun-filled adventure, packed full of puzzles and searching, that kept the pair of us occupied for almost 40 minutes with barely a pause for breath. This isn’t high-brow escaping with complicated puzzles, amazing backdrop or deep narrative. This is easy-access, with challenges that aren’t too daunting, a set that more than does its job and a flow that kept the adrenaline high right to the very end.
For experienced enthusiasts, this is a great game to play as a two, although three would have worked just fine. For less experienced teams, four would probably work well.
Detailed Room Ratings