Outside the room
It’s clear from the moment you arrive that the MacGuffin Project is not your run-of-the-mill escape room. The outside draws you in, the foyer is beautifully decorated and the staff are a cut above average. After signing an… interesting disclaimer, you’re taken through to another room for your game briefing. As befits a venue which is all about the immersion, the briefings themselves are performed – at least in part – by an actor.
What performance you get will be determined by your GM. Each has their own character, with a ringmaster, a trapeze artist and a mechanic to name but a few.
Your fate is in your hands as you race to overpower The MacGuffin Machine or suffer the same misfortune as the late Morfran MacGuffin. As a great storm fast approaches you must piece together the past to find the machines weaknesses. Morfran was a great mind of his time, surely his other inventions will be able to assist you in defeating his greatest invention of all?
Inside the room
Given the foyer and intro, it’s no surprise that the inside of the room is beautiful. There’s a dark carnival feel to the experience that continues throughout the game (and, indeed, throughout the venue). It’s not just at the macro level that this room delivers, though: if you look closely, you’re unlikely to see any rough edges in the detail. That combination of intro and a stunning set really helped to immerse us from the moment we started the game.
It’s a pretty linear game so, once you’ve found out which puzzle you’re meant to be working on, it’s the sort of room where you can pretty much stick together as a team to talk through the challenges. There aren’t a huge number of puzzles, but several of them require a fair bit of thinking to work out the solutions, so sticking together and bouncing ideas back and forth is likely to pay dividends.
While that sounds like it’s full of difficult puzzles, I didn’t find this a particularly mentally challenging room. For most of the puzzles, we were given some sort of direction for what we were meant to do, and then it was more a case of working out exactly what was wanted of us. In some games that’s a frustrating experience, but here it worked reasonably well, with us typically throwing a few ideas out and quickly homing in on the one that worked.
If working as a single group isn’t your team dynamic, though, don’t worry; it’s perfectly possible to wander ahead in the room and start to investigate some of the subsequent puzzles, or to scour the room in search of the clues and props you’ll need later. Good news if searching isn’t your thing – while finding everything isn’t easy, they’re all big chunky pieces, so don’t expect a painstaking task.
The game has a clear mission from the beginning – defeat Morfran’s invention – and, once inside, your path is broken down nicely to give you a sense of progress towards your ultimate goal. Along the way, you’ll pick up a little more of the story and, hopefully, reach a fitting finale to the game. This isn’t a straight escape-the-room game, and they have taken advantage of that to make one of the most impressive endings to a story that I’ve ever seen.
Talking to them afterwards, it was clear that they’d thought carefully about how to handle the ending so, whatever your outcome, I think you’ll find the conclusion satisfying.
Our team of four escaped in 27 minutes without taking any clues (note that this was with an incredibly experienced team where the rookie had done over 200 games). Clues can either come in the voice of Morfran or via your GM entering the room in character and nudging you forwards.
The MacGuffin was a beautiful room with a well-developed story, a clear structure and a great finale. My only real criticism was that I didn’t feel like I was having to solve puzzles so much as work out how to interpret the direction in the game. Still plenty of fun, but it just took the edge off what is a central part of the experience for me.
I’d recommend a team of three or four, but it’s a great space to be in, so I wouldn’t worry too much if you want to take along an extra person or two, especially for less experienced teams.
Detailed Room Ratings
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page. They also went above and beyond the call of duty and helped us arrange a more than special celebration for two of our teammates.
Sadly this was a little disappointing. They’ve stopped using a briefing room, the GM aren’t in character and just enter the room to give hints. Not a 4.5 stars now I’m afraid.