Outside the room
After a brief break in reception and a quick chat with the owners, it was back along the corridor to play our second game, Virginia House.
A serial killer is on the loose. Every hour, on the hour for the past 24 hours a murder has taken place. The killer has been leaving clues around the murder scenes, sending Scotland Yard around in circles. Your team has been granted access to the murder scene and is tasked with cracking the clues, riddles and puzzles to track down the next location before the murderer strikes again. An innocent life depends on you.
Inside the room
In contrast to the previous bright and cheerful room, Virginia House starts off with you working in almost total darkness with a single torch. You needn’t worry too much about that – they make it clear it’s only temporary in the intro although, given that we were a crack team sent in by Scotland Yard, the idea that we were going in without torches but would get them if we solved a puzzle didn’t really fit with the story. I guess this is something where beginners and enthusiasts will feel quite different. As an enthusiast, I saw it as an annoyance to overcome but, as a beginner, I think it would have been fun trying to find the torches as a group.
In spite of that dark opening and the murder theme of the game, I wouldn’t describe this as a scary room. There’s nothing to make you jump, once you’ve got torches it’s no longer intimidating, and the only macabre part is that there are blood smears around the walls – they don’t even have a body in the game. I’d avoid taking younger children but beyond that I wouldn’t worry.
The lack of a body is obviously unusual in a murder scene but I think it’s a great design decision. I’ve played plenty of rooms that contain a “person” and it always creates two problems for me. Firstly, it massively detracts from the immersion – mannequins and dummies just keep reminding me that the experience isn’t real. Secondly, I hate searching them. Do I want to rifle through the pockets of a supposedly dead person? Do I want to frisk them to check for hidden items? Should I take their clothes off? I just always feel uncomfortable at that moment and the omission here felt like such a good choice.
Beyond that, I really liked what they’d done to make the crime scene look authentic. There were several props in the room that just kept adding to the immersion in positive ways – it’s probably the best crime scene I’ve seen across all the games I’ve played.
As usual with the “killer has set you some puzzles to solve”, it’s easy to add in “escape room logic” that wouldn’t make sense in the real world. Why are the torches locked up in the room? Why is that code hidden there? If you can design something into the game, then it fits legitimately with the story. Most of the puzzles here were relatively simple (but still enjoyable) observational puzzles that made sense. There was just one part that I felt wasn’t at all logical: an observational puzzle where they just gave you no direction in the room that you should try to extract that information. Yes, you could see it once they’d explained it, but there really was no reason to look at it in the way they suggested. If my teammates had suggested the idea, I’d have laughed it off as ridiculous. I don’t see teams realistically getting it without a clue.
That’s not to say it was the only puzzle we got stuck on. We probably spent ten minutes totally failing on another observational puzzle. I can only imagine that the hosts were watching on in fits of laughter as we painstakingly searched for something that was staring us right in the face. We knew exactly what we were looking for, we knew pretty much exactly where it was and yet four of us managed to totally miss it for several minutes. Embarrassment is an understatement. Once we saw it, none of us could really believe we’d managed to miss it at all, let alone for so long.
For me, other than the puzzle above, the weakest part was the finale. As mentioned in their description, you needed to track down the location of the next murder before the time ran out. When the object of the game is to escape from the room, finding a code to exit is always satisfying but, when the goal is more of a quest as it was here, I always feel there’s this awkward transition from “I’ve completed the quest” to “I’m inputting something on the exit keypad”/”I’m finding the key to leave the room”. I’m not sure quite what I expected but I felt let down by this ending as the excitement of having found the location was dissipated by needing to convert that to a way of exiting the room.
We finished this room after 33:10 having taken clues on two puzzles. As an aside, we probably broke the record for the most experienced team ever to play a room, with 553 games between us. Yes – we need to get out more.
Another good game. For a company that’s pitching itself at a price point very similar to Breakout, I’m seriously impressed by their quality. The rooms felt designed to stand up to the abuse that players are likely to give them, and the puzzles are interesting and generally very logical. One puzzle in this room felt like too much of a stretch but that beats most rooms I play and, again, with four players, it didn’t feel like we were very short of things to do.
I’d recommend three to five players – probably capping at four if you’re experienced.
Detailed Room Ratings