Berlin Escape Review: Smart Room (Andere Welt)

This is part of a series of articles on games in Berlin – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.

Smart Room have a whole host of games in their outside-the-centre venue, but we only had time to play one of them, so we’d chosen their 90-minute Andere Welt room, which I’d heard interesting things about. For every game played, they make a donation to the local Deaf Association, which should give you a clue about one angle their room will focus heavily on.

It’s a strange venue – seemingly in a residential apartment block, with the Underworld game located in its own little corner, entirely separate from the other rooms. Inside there’s plenty of room for the team. Speaking of which, it’s worth mentioning that this game is for a minimum of four people. You might, just, with some creativity, be able to play with a team of three, but I really would recommend going for four or five. There are two moments in the game where it gets a little bottlenecked, but the vast majority of it felt engaging for the whole team.

Andere Welt (5 stars)

I’d like to pretend that I knew what the theme of this game was. At times, it had a whimsical circus feel to it, but the ending felt almost minimalist. The middle was all about communication. The website talks about how we need to switch off our phones and engage with each other. In truth, I don’t think there really is a theme. This is a puzzle room with decoration, and trying to make more of it than that is probably a mistake. That initial decoration really was very good, though, with a carnival of colour to overwhelm your senses.

However, it wasn’t just the decoration that overwhelmed me. There were a million things to explore, and it seemed like almost none of them showed us the way forward. We found lots of parts of puzzles but didn’t really know how to use them, and we must have spent ten minutes wandering aimlessly around the space to find a starting point. I imagine most beginner teams get a clue early on about where to start but, fortunately, our GM didn’t intervene, instead leaving us to explore the space thoroughly until we eventually started making the breakthroughs we needed.

And then it became a puzzle storm, with a host of challenges to take our interest. From time to time, that uncertainty of what to do next resurfaced and, on at least a couple of occasions, we wasted a chunk of time engaging with a puzzle when we didn’t have all the necessary elements. Most of the time, though, it was just a case of working our way through whatever was presented.

And what was presented was incredibly varied although, if you like technology or physical puzzles, I think you’ll be particularly pleased with some of the challenges they throw your way. A couple of the technology puzzles did bring with them one of the big flaws in this room – puzzles that leave some of the team sidelined for an extended period. It’s a shame because they could ditch either or both and I still think it would be an excellent room but having invested their money, I suspect that removing them would be painful.

In an unusual twist, this was a split-room game but not a split-start one. They do, however, make the partitioning clear in the intro, which was great because it gave us the option of choosing how our team took on the partitioned puzzles.

And that partition was the highlight of the game for me. I don’t think it will come as any surprise – given the charitable donation mentioned above – that there is a heavy emphasis on puzzles involving communication without some of the senses. The sequence of challenges as we worked to get information transmitted back and forth between the two halves of the team was one of the most fun I’ve experienced.

This was one of several games over the weekend where I really felt that fun was a key element. Time and time again they’d thrown in light-hearted puzzles, with plenty of frivolous activities to keep us occupied. Backing up that sense of fun was the fact that this room was expansive and, even better, made good use of the space by moving us back and forth within it. That constant crisscrossing of the room made me completely lose touch with the outside world and, impressively, caused me to be immersed in the game for the entire time.

We escaped the game in 84 minutes having taken a single clue. Make no mistake – this is a tough game which we were told had never been finished without a clue (although it’s most definitely doable), and few teams escape with much under 90 minutes. You really will get your money’s worth here!

That’s all on this venue – want to read more about Berlin games? Click here to head back to the main Berlin page.

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