Outside the room
We last visited the Panic Room Harlow at the tail end of 2016, playing both the games that were open at the time. Since then, they’ve doubled their offering with the arrival of ENIGMA and The Tomb. The former was bought in a from a company over in Bletchley Park where we’d played the game just before it closed. That left us with just The Tomb to complete the set, and I’d finally found my opportunity to travel up there.
As before, we parked in the multi-storey car park before heading over to the Quasar centre that houses the venue. It’s a five’minute walk, but it wiggles back and forth through the buildings, and Google Maps wasn’t as helpful as usual, so I’d recommend leaving a few extra minutes (and definitely don’t turn up fifteen minutes late like we did, after being stuck in traffic for over an hour…). A short stop at reception and we went up a couple of floors for the game-specific briefing by the excellent GM Mash before heading into the tomb.
This epic immersive adventure will blow you away! Ever wanted to be like Indiana Jones and be in your own movie? This is your shot!
Your mission will be breaking into an ancient Egyptian tomb to try and make a massive discovery. The situation takes a turn for the worse, you are trapped inside so you will need to work together to escape or become part of history.
Inside the room
The entrance to this game is a real highlight, kicking things off perfectly and, when you see what’s inside, it’s hard not to revert to childishness. As the website says, there’s sand in this tomb and you’ll be crawling at times, so don’t be surprised if you’re still tipping the desert out of your shoes a few days later… We were given a couple of (good!) torches before heading in, which worried me but, at least for our team of four, they didn’t cause any problems. In fact, they worked well to enhance the immersive nature of the event; never really presenting a real obstacle but reminding us that we were in a dark place full of foreboding.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start in the game but, once you’ve got your foot in the door, the puzzles flow pretty smoothly. It wasn’t entirely linear, but it was pretty close and, with reasonably straightforward solutions, that resulted in pretty rapid progress through the game. There were only a couple of points after the beginning where we really felt we had to pause and think much.
I imagine that, when the game opened, this was an impressive tomb that would have delighted me with its immersion. To some extent it still did – there was plenty in there to enjoy. The big problem was that it felt tired: at least one puzzle seemed to have been removed from the game; a few of the puzzles were triggered manually rather than automatically; several of the props looked like they’d been in the wars (and not in a designed way); and, on top of that, a couple of elements in the room felt a bit unfinished with the bare wood or mechanics still visible. It’s hard to quantify how that affects the game – it wasn’t any one thing that caused problems, just a slightly tempered feeling each time we progressed because we were consciously having to ignore the breaks in immersion.
That lack of automation resulted in actions often occurring a little while after we’d solved a puzzle. That, on top of a lack of player feedback when the solution occurred, meant that there was a real risk of not noticing we’d solved things. In an attempt to deal with that, our GM would sometimes tell us (in character) when something had happened. Valiant though his attempts were, they still felt like intrusions into the room that spoiled the immersion.
My instinct is to say that there’s no story in the game, but that’s unfair. You’re given an intro before entering, and there is a small amount of progression once inside, but it’s mainly reinforcement. That gap wasn’t a big deal, though, because there was a clear sense of progress during the game. They’d included three different ways of measuring how you were doing, each of which helped to cement that sense of mission and provide a gauge as to how far through the game you were. Once all the puzzles were complete, the finale started and the game ended on the high note on which it had begun. Well, with that and tipping sand out of our shoes…
We escaped in around 27 minutes. It’s hard to say what were clues in this game and what was just direction round specific frailties of the puzzles but I’d count one of the interactions as a clue.
Two tonnes of sand is hard not to love, as are flowing puzzles and the fun exploration during the game. The problem was that there were too many parts that felt like they were a bit stuck together with sellotape and sticky back plastic. Overall it was fun, but it wasn’t quite the immersive adventure it deserved to be.
This would be a good game for an experienced couple. Larger groups of enthusiasts will probably find there isn’t enough to keep them occupied. If you’re playing as first-timers, then it’s still workable as a couple, but something like four people would be optimal in my opinion.
Detailed Room Ratings