The Rombo Code: Capítulo 43

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Outside the room

Some things just work out incredibly well. I’d been put in charge of organising a team building trip to Madrid for the forty or so people in my team. Naturally (although not at my suggestion, I hasten to add) we’d ended up with an escape room as one of our activities. In the process, I’d looked at lots of escape rooms in the Spanish capital, and realised that many of my colleagues would be quite happy to go either attend a second, or go to other formal activities and then do an “unofficial” escape room with me. So it was that I had managed to book five escape rooms in a twenty four hour period accompanied by eleven different people, with only one of those people sharing an escape room with me twice. Not only was one of those escape rooms paid for by my company, but the others were going to cost me a total of about £50 between them, which is about what I’d usually spend on two escape rooms in London.

Yes, sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I’d selected the Rombo Code because of convenient timings and good TripAdvisor reviews, both in general and when I searched out specific ones that were made by experienced players. With us choosing their other room for the general teambuilding activity, that left Capítulo 43 for my first overseas game.

The building itself was easy enough to find, so I was soon inside and considering how different it was to most British venues. Clean lines, minimalist design, modern, chic. Where British rooms look a bit geeky, this looked sophisticated. Fortunately they still let me play…

Background

The Rombo Code is a secret organisation devoted to preserving historical documents. Back in the 1600s, Cervantes wrote the famous novel Don Quixote. In his first version, there was no chapter 43 – the book jumped straight from chapter 42 to chapter 44 (Historical note – this isn’t made up!). Rumours have flown around through the ages of the existence of this missing chapter, and you’ve recently found out its location. You’ve got one hour to retrieve it before other less noble (and more violent) groups come to retrieve it…

Inside the room

Once inside the game we were presented with a fairly bare room, with various pieces of furniture. My team mates had each played just a single escape room before (and it was Escape Hunt which hardly counts!) so there was a slight delay before they really got going, as if they were somehow looking at me for a lead. After that initial stutter though, they quickly started ransacking the room and I was pleased that they were happy to shout out whenever they came across something that looked interesting.

The game is generally pretty linear with various parts that opened into brief parallels. With only three of us taking part though, that never felt a problem, and in general the game flowed very well. You’d typically find some item that gave you a new clue, code or key and you’d quickly move on to the next element in the puzzle chain. The puzzles themselves were, in keeping with the room, low tech. The clues were given very naturally and I think with the exception of the one outlined below, all of the puzzles were solvable without hints.

And hints did come. There was a screen in the room which was used to communicate to us if we looked stuck, although there was a distinction between “official” hints that you asked for, which you were only allowed to ask for every ten minutes, and “unofficial” ones which were offered if you got stuck.

We did end up requesting one hint, after being stuck on a particular puzzle for almost ten minutes, but there was a certain amount of cultural knowledge that we were lacking which made this solution impossible for my two team mates and non-obvious to me. If you were Spanish, I don’t think that would have been a leap, so I can see how it was deemed OK to be in the game. It’s an interesting debate – should escape rooms ever require any “general knowledge”? Overall I feel not – every clue should be solvable by using the tools in the room, and there shouldn’t be any reliance on knowledge from outside the room. It’s fine to have a puzzle that is *easier* to solve with general knowledge, but it shouldn’t require it. I wonder how many games I’ve done which have broken that rule without me noticing, because I happen to have the prerequisite knowledge!

The only other point where we got a bit lost was when we found a padlock that seemingly didn’t secure anything. That continued to confuse us until we found a code that didn’t seem to unlock anything. It turned out that they’d accidentally locked a padlock without closing the hasp. In itself that wasn’t too bad, but it meant we got a piece of the puzzle way too early, so were utterly confused as to how to use it. Fortunately they spotted that and told us to stop trying that avenue (because if we had worked it out, it would have shortcut the game), and brought us back to it later, at the point that we would have unlocked that lock. Good customer service isn’t getting everything right – it’s spotting how to fix things up when they go wrong, and I think they did that very well (aside from over-apologising at the end!).

Although we raced through the puzzles, I found this escape quite stressful, which is probably the sign of a good game. In part that was personal pressure I put on myself, because I’d heard that some of our colleagues had failed the supposedly easier room earlier in the day, and I didn’t want my weekend to start off with a failure. Mainly though, it was because there were a lot of puzzles to solve, and it wasn’t clear until quite near the end how close you were to completion.

Result

We escaped with 6 minutes on the clock. We’d been stuck on the puzzle mentioned above for a while, and only decided to take a hint when we got to the point where we thought it would affect our chances of getting out the game.

Verdict –

A great start to the weekend. There was a good selection of puzzles, and apart from a mis-set room (which they handled well), a missing English translation (which didn’t really hurt us) and a prepoderance of combination locks, it was a very solid room. Great customer service and a very welcoming venue so overall I’d probably give it a low to mid 4 star rating.

I think this will appeal to people who like playing rooms with lots of solid, low tech puzzles and would be fine for 3-5 players.

Eating

I grabbed a quick bite of lunch in Bertiz, just across the road on the corner. Ham and cheese croissant, bottle of water, glass of orange juice and a very large pain au chocolat (or napolitana as they call it in Spain). It was all very good, and a bargain at less than six Euros. You’ve got to love Spain!

Detailed Room Ratings

Venue
Host
Wow! factor
Immersiveness
Difficulty

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