Budapest Escape Review: MindQuest

Set above a ruin bar in the heart of the city, MindQuest is an interesting venue. Having played two of the games here and one when I was over in Amsterdam, I’ve found them to have a real range of quality levels. Diamond Heist was pretty poor and I wouldn’t recommend it. Legacy of Noo’Zaca, on the other hand, is one of my favourite games. What was pretty consistent across the three was a feeling that the GMing wasn’t 100%. It didn’t quite feel like they were paying no attention to us – they gave us clues at the right moments, for example but I never felt they really cared very much before and after the experience. Of course, we only met a couple of the GMs, so maybe we just had a bad day.

Diamond Heist (3 stars)

Ah, the dilapidated bank office – not the most inspiring introduction to the room. In truth, the d├ęcor wasn’t absolutely terrible, but that first impression was of something that had been put together with very little effort. I couldn’t help but worry that that would be how they’d approached the rest of the experience. Backing that up, the story element wasn’t strong, but there was at least a clear mission and target for the experience (the diamond) from well before we reached the finale and a good sense of progress towards that end goal during the game.

The puzzles were acceptable but not particularly exciting – certainly there was little that felt genuinely novel. Admittedly, one was particularly high-tech and very nicely integrated with the game, but it was also a bit temperamental, which took the edge off for me. It’s all very well putting in some super-exciting challenge, but that only works if it’s crisply implemented, and this one just wasn’t. In fact, while it was conceptually impressive, it was pretty poor in terms of how it actually added to the gameplay. The penultimate puzzle in the game was genuinely challenging but in a slightly “tedious task work” kind of way.

For me, the best part of this game came in a very random interaction that most players probably wouldn’t even think interesting. There was one particular puzzle where we had a very clear picture of how we would end up using particular props because we were escape enthusiasts and could see how it would finish. When we finally got to it, there was an entirely different solution which made us laugh. The problem with that, though, is that some random interaction really shouldn’t be the highlight of a room, and I think that sums up the experience a bit.

Legacy of Noo’Zaca (5 stars)

Having played Diamond Heist earlier in the day, I was a lot less confident about the quality of this Aztec-themed game. Although I’d heard great things, I found it hard to believe that it could be even half as good as what people had told me given our earlier experience. Add to that the seven games already played that day, teammates that didn’t seem amazingly excited about adding another one to the list, and a GM that didn’t seem much more enthusiastic, and things didn’t look great.

And then we entered the room. A room that was one of the most beautiful I’d played. Stone walls of a temple, spaces that opened as if by magic and a whole game that was playable without any language requirements. I’ll admit I have a penchant for temple-themed games, but this was a particularly beautiful example. It created a totally immersive set that, as long as you didn’t touch the walls and notice they definitely weren’t stone, really helped to convey the idea that you were in an ancient Aztec temple.

The puzzles seemed to be equally good. They were laid out in a relatively linear fashion and, while there weren’t as many as I’d have liked (the three of us finished in thirty minutes), they were enjoyable and logical. Some puzzles had a certain amount of theatre thrown in, although others suffered from a total lack of feedback that made it easy to completely miss the fact that a panel had opened – the addition of some suitable noise to indicate the puzzle had been correctly solved would have been good. Finally, I want to give them particular congratulations for a stunningly well implemented directional puzzle. I usually hate that genre of puzzles, because they’re either totally telegraphed to you or have ambiguous answers. Here they managed to strike the perfect balance between the two.

There’s no storyline to the game beyond retrieving an artefact, but that shortfall didn’t seem to matter to us in the slightest. Instead, we focused on the joys of each stage of the game, getting caught up in the moment and never really worrying about why we were there. Perhaps that works better in tomb games, where you can believe that you’re trying to overcome all the magic and traps that have been placed in your way.

The only disappointment to this game was when we escaped and had to go and find our GM. They’d paid attention during the game (offering us a couple of clues when they were needed), so I don’t think it was a lack of attention. Perhaps they got distracted at that moment or perhaps they just didn’t want to walk all the way along the corridor to the game. Either way, it didn’t take the shine off what was a thoroughly enjoyable room.

(Matrix – 3.5-4 stars)

I sort of played this over in Amsterdam. A solid room with some cool tech moments, but there was significant problem with their implementation in Amsterdam. This hopefully wouldn’t manifest itself in the Budapest version, hence the range in stars.

 

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