Outside the room
Finally, we rocked up in Bournemouth, four games and a ridiculous amount of driving into the day and with just a couple more to experience. First up we were off to the Lockey in the centre of the town. I have to confess I’d been a bit worried about this venue when it first opened because the website seemed to have taken excerpts from about five different companies’ sites and not even bothered to remove the references (indeed – even at the time of writing, there’s still a quote on their website which references Enigma Escape in London and other quotes that I know were originally about Lady Chastity’s Reserve and clueQuest). We’ll gloss over that and assume it’s just an overkeen website designer and a lack of attention to detail in leaving them up there once the game had actually opened.
No, wait. We shouldn’t. A lack of professionalism on a website generally translates to a lack of professionalism inside the room – poor briefings, shoddy props, bad logic. It’s not a perfect match but there’s a strong correlation. Not to mention that it’s dishonest to have quotes about other companies’ games on your website as if they’re actually describing yours.
That said, when I phoned up to book the game (they weren’t meant to be open on the day we were travelling), they were very helpful and arranged for someone to come in specially.
There’s a traitor in your organisation and, well, I don’t really remember. There’s nothing on the website to explain the story and once I was inside the game the story didn’t seem to make a huge amount of sense.
Inside the room
Ah, darkness and handcuffs to start the room. Don’t get me wrong – those are both acceptable in a game, but it didn’t really feel like it fitted into the plot. Case number 47 didn’t sound like we should be in that position. It wasn’t for very long, though, (fortunate, because our host was quite keen on getting the cuffs tight…), and soon enough we’d regained our liberty and light and were able to explore the space.
At first glance, it was a nicely laid out room with some interesting features and decent enough decoration. Several things immediately drew me in, and we were happily engaged in investigation for a while. We slowly cracked some puzzles but eventually got entirely stuck. There were lots of potential clues but nothing stood out as being a clear way forward, and eventually we resorted to asking for a clue over the walkie-talkie. The response didn’t make much sense but, after a couple of iterations, we were told exactly what to do. It still made absolutely no sense. How on earth were we meant to know to do that? In discussion after the game, it transpired that we hadn’t been told a critical piece of information in the briefing. Oh dear. I’m not a fan of information in the briefing being relevant to the game because, well, no one really listens properly but, if you’re going to do that, then it’s pretty obviously critical that you actually give us the information…
That theme played out to a lesser extent in other places where we got past puzzles but with solutions that left us distinctly unsatisfied. The finale in particular left us with a sense of disappointment, which is hardly the way you want to end the game. That’s not to say all the puzzles were bad – some were interesting and one in particular, that I missed, definitely impressed my seasoned teammates.
For me the game came to a crashing halt just past the halfway point when there were a series of puzzles that, while sitting very nicely in the story, were just not much fun. Doing one such puzzle would have been a disappointment, but having the same mechanic repeated was a real let-down. Perhaps as experienced players we’re a little more sensitive to tedious task-work in a game, but I think designers need to pay attention to the balance between the Aha moment in a puzzle and the follow-on labour. For me, the balance here was horribly wrong.
We escaped in 30 minutes having taken a single clue. A clue that we wouldn’t have needed had we actually been given the required information in the briefing.
Games can be bad for lots of reasons. Sometimes they’re cynical cash grabs. Sometimes there’s not been enough work/money put in. Sometimes they’re just not very good, and in my opinion that was the case here. A repeated dull puzzle mechanic, lots of red herrings, a very gratuitous start to the game, and moments where we were just milling around left us feeling frustrated.
I can’t recommend the room at all, especially given the quality of the neighbouring game I was about to play…
Detailed Room Ratings