Escape Venture are relatively new kids in Hamburg, although they have several venues across Germany. They’re located a little out of the centre and are probably the one game that isn’t super convenient for the metro or walking. For a venue with three rooms, there isn’t a huge amount of waiting space and this, compounded by a previous team wreaking havoc in one of the rooms (with GMs rushing back and forth while multiple teams hung around waiting), led to a poor first impression. By the time we’d played a couple of games, though, we were more than happy with the customer service side of things (especially once they told us what the previous team had done…).
We played two of their three games – skipping Carrie. The two rooms felt a similar level to me overall. Doc Eisenbarth had some really impressive moments but lacked consistency throughout the game. Artefacts was the more solid game but lacked anything special. Both still felt below average in a strong Hamburg scene.
Doc Eisenbarth (3.5 stars)
Sometimes you don’t fully engage with a room not because of the room itself but because of something external. This was one of those rooms and, while I believe I can still analyse it based on what I saw, there’s more margin for error, so you should take this write-up in that context.
Low light and handcuffs. That’s not my favourite way to start the game. A lack of lighting is frustrating – it adds extra difficulty and, while I get that it can add to the ambiance, I think all too often it’s just a lazy way of making the game more difficult. Handcuffs are almost always a bit disappointing – either you’re in them for a while (which is tedious) or you’re out of them quickly (which renders them somewhat pointless). This was one of the latter games, where you’re likely to be quickly on your way and ransacking the room. And there was a fair amount of ransacking, with plenty of red herrings to work your way through. A big part of the challenge here was working out what was relevant.
They’d created an interesting space with a better sense of exploration and discovery than most games and some solid decoration if you could see through the darkness. However, the majority of the interesting puzzles were all squeezed into one part of the experience. That part was well produced, with a real sense of a doctor that was dabbling in the dark arts and some pretty effects that added a bit of otherworldiness to the experience, but it couldn’t carry the whole game.
At its heart, this had the bones of a good game, but its weak start and lack of a strong finale left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
Artefacts (3.5 stars)
In contrast to the other game, this was a much brighter experience in a reasonable but not amazing period office space. From a set and prop point of view, the experience improved as the game progressed, finishing on a relatively high note. I particularly appreciated the finale, where you saw the final goal of the game before you could actually retrieve it, a detail that nicely built the sense of anticipation.
Where this game fell down was on the puzzle side of things. While there were plenty of them to get on with and they had a reasonable variety, there was a distinct lack of clarity to some of them. For example, we wasted time and mental energy trying to solve an incomplete puzzle and then inputting codes derived from partial solutions. It just wasn’t obvious whether we’d retrieved all the necessary clues.
For all that it was a reasonably lit room, one puzzle was seriously affected by a lack of lighting. On another puzzle, there was a lack of accuracy in one of the clues that made the obvious solution look like it must be wrong. Finally – and this was the thing that really grated – there was a repeated use of the same trope in a way that required a single member of the group to work on the puzzle while the others stood back and waited. I don’t mind people using “standard” escape room puzzles, but repeating them is a bit annoying, and making everyone else stand around while that’s happening is very frustrating.
In the end, this was a pretty room with a reasonable finale that was hurt by a run of small negatives that took the edge off the experience.