One of the less central venues in Hamburg, Adventure Team is located about two minutes’ walk from a metro station, so don’t let its location put you off from visiting. They’d just opened their third game, but it wasn’t available in English yet, so we only played their first two. It’s testament to how much we enjoyed ourselves that we tried very hard to convince them to let us play game #3. I’d heartily recommend you play both their rooms – I enjoyed each of them in different ways, and which you prefer will likely come down to which theme appeals more.
They Stole a Million felt like a traditional game, while Countdown to Meltdown was much higher tech, but those different styles fitted pleasingly with their respective themes. The games felt very consistent, so I’d have no doubt that their new one, The Time Doctors, will also be high quality. There is one aspect of their rooms which is a “like it or loathe it” feature, but sadly I can’t tell you what without spoilers…
They Stole a Million (4.5 stars)
Good games start before the timer is running. In this case, there’s a short introduction video in the lobby, after which you have to rush off to your room and break into the game itself using tools from your thieves’ toolkit. I’ve said it in other reviews, but I love that added immersion of having to break into a game before you start. It works particularly well here if you’re playing with two teams, because everyone can watch the intro at the same time (with headphones so that it’s in English or German as you desire!), and then the two teams start at exactly the same moment. To add to the experience, it’s also a nicely produced video with some humour thrown in. Yes – this game got itself off to a great start.
Inside the room, the game started off fairly humdrum: a bare office with nothing that looked particularly exciting. However, as the game progressed, it became clear that this was a deliberate design choice and they had plenty of more engaging content. One thing I did like, that occurred a few times during the game, was the sense of anticipation they created. Firstly, before you enter they give you the toolbag. What’s inside? Then, once you know what’s inside, you wonder how/where/when you’ll use them. Later in the game, there are times when you see items that are tantalisingly out of reach. There’s a constant feeling of wanting to progress not just because you want to beat the puzzles and the game but because there’s something just ahead of you that looks interesting.
This game could just have been a run-of-the-mill heist, but it was in the little details of immersion that they really made it their own. As a non-spoiler example, the object of the game is to steal a rare stamp. In most games of this genre, that would have been a diamond. Here it was a stamp, which allowed them to add an extra piece of immersion to the theft: you have to retrieve it with tweezers in order to protect it. In the context of completing the game, that makes no real difference (you get told to do it in the intro video, and there’s nothing technically difficult about it). But in the context of immersion that makes a world of difference – it feels like you’re really taking something valuable in a way that diamond games never really do.
Puzzle-wise, there was plenty on offer, and all of it logical. It started off in reasonably straightforward obstacles and ramped up the difficulty later on with some nicely parallelised puzzles where the whole team were working towards different parts of the same goal. The final set of challenges were just right to get the adrenaline going and felt very much like a heist in a film – as we shouted to each other to get the final steps done and raced out the door.
We played as a four, and that worked well. Three people could have completed it just fine, but I rarely felt frustrated in the room while waiting for others to solve puzzles.
Countdown to Meltdown (4.5 stars)
Almost as if they wanted an excuse to put more tech in their second game, they’d opted for a nuclear reactor theme. To set you off on your journey, they play what is a relatively long video introduction. My attention span isn’t the best in the world, but I can just about cope with a long video. However, when you throw me into a room where I’m meant to be paying attention to the video but the (potential) clues are also on view throughout, it doesn’t work so well.
As it happens, the first step in this room is one where you’re told exactly what to do, so looking around during the video won’t massively help you. It also left me worried that this might be what I would call an instructional room – less about solving puzzles and more about performing the actions that you’re told in the right order. I needn’t have been concerned. While there were definitely moments where that was true, there was plenty of mental workout available.
On the puzzle side of the game, they’d thrown together plenty of original ideas. One particular strand of challenges felt a bit samey but, at the same time, fitted perfectly with the theme and had a different mechanism each time, so they just about got away with it. In fact, few of the puzzles we came across didn’t mesh nicely with the theme. In fact, they usually fitted perfectly with the storyline, and the finale puzzle was absolutely the right way to finish the game. There were typically at least a couple of puzzle strands on offer during the experience, but it always felt like we were moving as a team and not missing out on what was happening.
Beyond the puzzles, there was plenty of immersion and theatre to really embed you in the game. Firstly, the AI provided a constant backdrop to the experience with humorous and slightly chilling interactions to help you on your way or raise the tension. If you’ve ever played the computer game Portal, it struck the same tone as the AI there. All the way through there’s the constant noise of the power station and the periodic reminder of the impending meltdown, which come together to raise the tension from start to finish. Finally, there’s a pretty set with the expected nuclear reactor centrepiece to cap it all off. This is a game that will most definitely keep you on your toes from start to finish!