Outside the room
We came out of Room Escape MK’s other room worried about what lay ahead of us. I’m not entirely sure what convinced us to play the second game. Perhaps the hope that, with six months of watching people blunder around their first attempt, they might have realised that obscure puzzles are a bad idea.
A short walk across the corridor and we were into room two, where one of our team was handed a laminated sheet of A4 to read to the rest of us. While our host was still in the room. It’s bad enough when companies just give you a sheet with the story to read but it’s surely far worse when they get one of the players to do their job in front of the host!
You are time travellers and beneficiaries of a handsome will if you can survive through the Sphinx era 2550BC.
Inside the room
Wait. Did you actually read the background? I know suspension of disbelief is fundamental to escape rooms, and I know that the stories aren’t always the clearest in the world, but does that make any sense to you at all? Could they really not come up with a better backstory? It didn’t get much better in the game – at one point we needed to buy tickets for the Olympics in order to continue…
OK, so the story wasn’t great but perhaps the theming was better. I suppose technically it was, but only because the bar was pretty low. A handful of miniature sphinx statues, a colourful throw hanging from the ceiling and a book on ancient wonders of the world were about as far as the game stretched. Oh, and once again, we were clearly in an office suite complete with those vertical blinds.
We’d had a shocker in the first room with no interesting puzzles whatsoever, but I have to give them their due here: there were at least two puzzles in this room which made sense. One of them I even quite liked. The remainder (and there weren’t many) were disappointing. When you lose faith in a room, puzzles that a company might get away with become frustrating, and I think that was the case here – these puzzles were tenuous but not quite at the terrible level of the other room. The problem was that we were so frustrated by then that, when the obvious answers didn’t work, we threw our net too wide assuming that the puzzles wouldn’t make any sense. If we’d had faith in the game, we might have narrowed that search more.
After ten minutes in the room, we’d got onto the penultimate puzzle. And I don’t mean just reached the puzzle: we’d had time to get stuck on it. We’d found the clue, we’d found where to enter the solution and we’d found the prop we needed. Entering the solution we thought was right just didn’t work. We called for a clue. “No”, came the response. We weren’t allowed a clue. Clues weren’t given out till 40 minutes. Let me put this in perspective – we’d been in the room for just over ten minutes so we would have to wait almost half an hour to get any help. 30 minutes of banging our heads against a brick wall. These games are meant to be fun. Being locked in a room unable to progress for 30 minutes without a clue is not fun. The thing is, it didn’t surprise me. It fitted perfectly with their customer service elsewhere.
We finally managed to get past that puzzle (in all fairness, it turned out to be a reasonably logical solution) only to be presented with possibly the worst finale to a game that I’ve encountered. A jigsaw. On a computer. Now, jigsaws are generally a pretty dull thing to include in a game, but at least with a normal jigsaw multiple people can work together. On a computer, one person does all the heavy lifting while the rest just watch on in frustration. The final puzzle in a room inevitably brings the whole team together. It should be something memorable, something that they can discuss, something that brings them together as a team. Ironically, this met those requirements – we’ve definitely not forgotten it. We most definitely did discuss it. In the pub afterwards, at length. And it did bring us together as a team, in the same way as any shared trauma will.
We escaped after 24 minutes with no clues (in spite of asking for one).
To be perfectly honest, this felt like a marginally better game than their previous effort, Decipher the Voynich. It’s still an incredibly sparse space with almost no puzzle content, no flow and very little of interest. It was frustrating and disappointing.
If you’re ever in Milton Keynes, don’t go here.
We had dinner beforehand in the Banana Tree, which was an excellent Indo-Chinese restaurant.
Detailed Room Ratings