Hamburg Escape Rooms: Team Breakout

Located just a stone’s throw from Hamburg’s main station, Team Breakout is a chain with three locations across Germany. One thing that’s worth highlighting up front is that they’ve bought in at least two of their games. If you’ve played in Budapest, you may have played Gozsdu Mission’s White game and, if you’ve been to Athens, you may have played their Cabin in the Woods game (no relation to the one in Escape World in Amsterdam, for the record).

I’d recommend White Mission and, if you’re playing that and fancy a second game in the same venue, you could add on Illuminati. Other than that, I’d direct your attention elsewhere – the rest of the games aren’t great, and I found the standard of GMing to be lower than in other Hamburg venues.

Illuminati (4 stars)

The best of the games we played during our visit to Team Breakout, Illuminati had a fairly standard conspiracy story that evolved to be a little more concrete and targeted than your average game on this theme. It was a similar story, with a set that was more involved than most Illuminati rooms – which are at heart an office – and that conveyed a sense of clandestine operations meeting with a ritualistic world.

The puzzles were generally logical, with a structure that gave a good sense of progress as well as allowing the team to work in parallel. In general, I’d describe the puzzles as fairly basic, but they threw in one curve ball with a 4- or 5-step puzzle. The only problem was that it was hard to be sure whether we were barking up entirely the wrong tree until we got the final answer and tried it out. Fortunately we were right, but we continued more with trepidation than with confidence.

This game felt like it could have ended with a theatrical finale, especially since there was a fun piece of theatre earlier in the game, but instead it finished a little flat – with a physical interaction that promised to be more interesting than it really was. All in all, though, this was still a solid game which should delight newcomers and both challenge and entertain more experienced players.

Cabin in the Woods (3 stars)

As you might expect, Cabin in the Woods is a horror-style game. It’s most definitely not one of those cheap games that use darkness to avoid proper decoration. In fact, quite the opposite: we found it to be both beautiful and impressive in its rendition of the theme. It genuinely felt like we were going into a cabin in the woods. First impressions count, and this game delivered well.¬†The transitions through the experience were good too – I liked the sense of anticipation at the beginning and some of the surprises along the way.

In addition to being a scare experience, it also tries to arouse disgust, including several parts that I really didn’t like. How you react is obviously an entirely personal thing, but for me it went too far. The perfect level is something that you feel uncomfortable with at the time but realise in hindsight that it wasn’t actually that horrible. In this case, when I look back I still find the things involved in the room to be unpleasant.

The puzzles were solid at face value, but a couple of things really let them down, and we lost quite a bit of faith in the game. Firstly, there’s a puzzle early on that is quite hard to make work. When you do eventually make it work, it gives you a clue that’s hard to read properly. We misunderstood what it was telling us; and this, combined with the puzzle benefiting heavily from some German knowledge, meant that we got frustrated for a very long time. Later on we would hit a similar problem with a puzzle that was far easier in German than in English, and another that seemed to rely on German cultural knowledge. In my opinion, if they want to offer the game in English, they need to think about how to handle those issues, because those three puzzles significantly affected what would otherwise have been a fun game.

It’s worth mentioning that we went for the non-scary option. From what I could tell, this meant we avoided a couple of jump scares that certainly wouldn’t have adversely affected the experience for me (indeed, it might even have made the game more enjoyable and slightly easier!) .

Metal and Picric (2 stars)

This is a difficult review to write because, unbeknownst to us for much of the game, we hit a major problem with the electrics for the first half hour which massively affected our experience. The opening intro was audio only (humorously, it worked pretty well without the video), the clue system didn’t work, and a puzzle that we were solving correctly failed to open because it had no power. Failures in a room are horrible for players, but they happen. However, in this case they failed to spot the problems, or our frustration, or the fact that we were ignoring the hints they were trying to give us. The consequences were pretty dire.

The decoration was reasonable – a science lab with plenty of props in it to carry the theming without quite reaching red-herring level. There’s a quick story in the video intro, but there was nothing in the room that really expanded or reinforced why we were there.

In terms of puzzles, they tended towards the maths side of things in a way that I found unpalatable, even as someone who likes a bit of challenging maths in a room. There were two main issues with it – first, there was just way, way too much. I don’t think anyone goes into these games to test their maths skills, so I don’t see the point of bombarding the players with puzzles that rely on long arithmetical operations. Secondly, the length of the calculations meant that, if you went wrong, you had no idea which aspect might be at fault, which made it very tedious to fix. In a couple of places, they’d given hints to tell you the answer range, which improved matters a lot, but it still felt like a flawed mechanic.

That flaw was exacerbated in one instance by two of the puzzles having a slightly overlapping set of clues Рor at least a set that could be considered overlapping Рso we ended up going horribly wrong for a very long time.

It wasn’t all weak, though: there were some tricky hides to discover, and they’d made nice use of tech in some of the puzzles to produce a more interesting interaction. The structure was pretty open, so the team could go off and solve puzzles separately before pulling the information back together for the endgame. I think three or four people in this room would get on fine.

In the end, though, that electronics failure broke up the flow of the whole game for us. We got frustrated with the room and lost faith in our GM. That, combined with the weak chain of maths puzzles and minimal storyline, overwhelmed the parts of this game which were OK, and left us disappointed.

Casa Moretta (3.5 stars)

There’s really not much to say about this experience. It’s a typical mafia-style game: set in the boss’ office with an hour to escape before he returns (or, in this case, before he leaves town forever). To be honest, it was pretty plain from a theme point of view: nothing noteworthy but nothing horrible either. Compared with Illuminati or Cabin in the Woods, it really felt like a weaker cousin.

On the puzzle side of things, it was a pretty similar story: nothing stood out but nothing significantly offended me. Some of the puzzle pieces felt inconsistent with the theming, while a couple felt like they weren’t as well made as they might have been: One fitted perfectly with the wrong item but not very well with the right one.

If this was your first time in an escape room, I think you’d have a good time and be very unlikely to find any faults with it. As an experienced player, I enjoyed my time but the game felt almost instantly forgettable.

(White Mission – 4.5 stars)

I played the same game in Budapest in September 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s no story or theming beyond being in a white room, but the originality of that made it really enjoyable. We briefly popped our head round the door and saw what, from a brief investigation, looked like a far better recreation of the game. Where the other version had been kind of cramped and a little bit grubby, this was the pristine white spacious room that the theme deserved. I’d really recommend playing it if you’re in Hamburg and haven’t played in Budapest.

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