It felt like the graphics used on the website were a secret code telling you about the game. Voynich hollow…
Outside the room
We were up in Milton Keynes playing at A Great Escape Game when I found out some friends were passing through the area just afterwards and heading along to Room Escape MK, the other escape company in the area. It seemed almost rude not to join them. After a couple of somewhat confused calls with the owner, we established that we could come along and play in parallel (they’ve got two rooms).
There’s no marking on the door bells to indicate which office belongs to the company, but it was fortunately after hours, so we just hit all the buttons. I can only imagine they get little business during the day or surely they would have sorted it out. The host (probably owner) came down to show us in and explained that they were running late – we’d need to wait ten minutes before we played. No matter – we were perfectly happy to sit around and chat for a while. Except there’s no proper waiting area here, just an unheated tea room in the entrance to the building with two bar stools. Joy!
Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. We decided that, rather than wait for the second room to free up, we’d just head into whichever was spare as a team of five. He ushered us into the room, showed us the timer and explained that we had to collect five Chinese symbols to get the documents. Then he was gone.
Chief Librarian, Valery Ulanovsky, has got hold of a classified document which has the state secret. He has kept this in a room at his apartment. Mr Ulanovsky is scheduled to fly to The Republic of Tyrania in four hours. He has gone out to meet a secret agent and the meeting will last an hour . Players are from the Detective Agency and they have to find the documents and escape the room within the hour.
Inside the room
My first impression was that this was a very bare room. About six items of furniture and almost nothing in the way of locks. Little in the way of decoration. The furnishings and props looked old and battered; the only item in the room that didn’t look old was the sofa, and we had been told nothing was hidden there. There was no immersion – this was an office block, complete with vertical blinds and some random pieces of furniture. Perhaps it would have been less obvious if the room had been smaller, but this was a reasonably sized space and the lack of contents jumped out.
A room with poor immersion and set isn’t necessarily a total loss – puzzles can carry a game. Can. Not here though. These were some of the very worst puzzles I’ve come across, and the only positive thing I can say about them is that there were very few of them. We found two of those Chinese symbols via a cursory search of the room. They were handwritten on A4 sheets of paper with marker. One of them had a crossing out on it because they’d made a mistake when creating it – the lack of professionalism in not taking the ten seconds to create a new sheet was breathtaking. Add to that the fact that the symbols weren’t very well drawn and you get the idea of what we were up against.
When we did come across puzzles, they were tedious, tenuous and terrible. Twice one of my teammates came up with a frankly ridiculous idea which even they looked embarrassed to suggest but which then turned out to be right. On one occasion we had to arbitrarily ignore one of the clues in a puzzle and drop a number. On another we unlocked a box to find a code for another box. I never once throughout the whole game got a sense of satisfaction when we progressed. Unless you count finishing the game, but that was more relief than satisfaction.
The true low point to the game came when we were utterly stuck on what was obviously the final puzzle. We’d got a UV light (spoiler, sorry, but if you’re reading this review, I doubt it will matter) and the batteries were painfully low. We called the host in and explained. He tried to convince us it was working. It patently wasn’t. He took it away to replace the batteries. We waited around for five minutes wondering if he would return. That was when we realised that the door was locked, there was no emergency key and he really wasn’t paying attention when we called him. Fortunately he eventually returned, claiming he’d replaced the batteries. Either it was totally broken or he’d just left the batteries untouched. We pointed it out to him but he was having none of it – he just didn’t seem to care about our experience. Instead, he directed us to the place where the UV was relevant and explained what we’d need to do. It turned out that the markings were perfectly visible without UV and we’d spotted them but didn’t know what we were meant to do. Taking his explanation on board it turned out that (a) some were red herrings and (b) they didn’t line up with what they were meant to point to.
The finale was underwhelming – we opened the final lock and got our documents, a flimsy piece of paper that gave us no sense of excitement.
We escaped after 28 minutes having taken that single clue.
This was a truly terrible game from start to finish in almost every way imaginable. From the moment we arrived, to finding ourselves being asked to wait in a kitchen with two stools, through the totally bare room, the terrible puzzles, the unhelpful host, the battered props and right to the disappointing finale. I can’t recommend this game to anyone other than serious addicts who feel the need to play every game available. To those unfortunate individuals: please make sure this is the last game on your list.
More than anything else, this game felt like a cynical money grab to a level that I’ve just never seen before.
We had dinner beforehand in the Banana Tree. The food was very good – I went for the crispy chicken sweet and sour house combo, which was excellent, and the twoteam mates who joined me seemed to enjoy their food too.
Detailed Room Ratings