This is part of a series of articles on games in Prague – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.
One of the older venues in Prague, MindMaze has just the two games but is very close to opening a third (and it is one of the few locations where two teams can play the same game simultaneously, in case that’s relevant to you). They’re relatively simple and straightforward setups but absolutely logical, which makes them perfect if you want a fun, care-free escape room before going on to some of the more impressive games in the city.
Alchemist (4 star)
This isn’t the sort of escape room that will blow you away with its decor, but what they’ve chosen to do they’ve done well. The room has a nice cartoony old-world feel with plenty to keep you occupied. Puzzles are strewn about generously and it’s really not clear where to start, but before long you have a feel for the overall aim of the room, which also provides you with a nice sense of progress.
The puzzles are generally fairly standard but nicely implemented, and one really stood out as unusual and impressive – to put it in perspective, it was a colour-based puzzle that I loved, and that’s very, very rare indeed. As mentioned in the intro, all the puzzles were perfectly logical, so we were never stuck on any one of them for very long – indeed, we got to the point where it became obvious that the thing we hadn’t done was search very well…
There’s a satisfying conclusion to the game too, with you finally retrieving your prize and gaining the ability to escape. We took 37 minutes in the game without taking a clue, but it didn’t feel like had gone through particularly quickly, which only goes to emphasise that this really isn’t a difficult game.
Enigma (3.5 star)
If you thought Alchemist was too straightforward, then you probably want to steer clear of Enigma. We’re experienced players but that doesn’t mean we’re actually good at these games. Finishing a game without clues in 22 minutes is unheard of for us as a pair, but that’s what happened. Yes, we were having a good day and yes, the puzzles were logical, but I think that suggests there’s not enough content.
The overall game wasn’t as fun as its next-door neighbour, with fewer, slightly more repetitive puzzles and a less enjoyable set, but it still threw in the odd surprise and, critically, the puzzles all had sensible solutions. If you’re a beginner in Prague, then these are a couple of good games to get you started while, if you’re an enthusiast looking to do a fair number of games, I think that doing this alongside Alchemist is a reasonable option. Either way, I’d stick to a pair and look at them as a bit of unadulterated fun rather than a challenge.
Probably the most central of Prague’s games, Door-Z is located in an office block right in the heart of the shopping district with a price tag to match. On arrival, you need to call their number and get them to come down to the front door to lead you up, which may be a bit annoying depending on your mobile price plan. They’ve got three games on their Czech website but only two listed in English, so I’d assumed that we wouldn’t be able to play Godfather. On arrival, though, I was told the third game was playable if we wanted but was “hard” – sounded like a good challenge! Of the two hosts we saw, one had perfect English – probably the best of the weekend – while the other’s would have been good enough for hints during the game. All of the games are film-themed on the website but, in practice, there was nothing inside them to reference the stories as far as I could see.
Inglorious Basterds (4 stars)
It’s nice to have something a bit different from the usual goals of escaping the room, defusing the bomb or retrieving an object. In Inglorious Basterds, you’ve got to escape from the PoW camp and blow up the munitions store. In truth, it’s not really *very* different, but variety is always a good thing.
The game’s played in a beautifully created PoW camp with a host of different environments and plenty of space. In fact, considering this is built in an office complex, it has a huge footprint with swathes of the room not containing anything useful and just being there for backdrop. I like games with plenty of space, but that could be a bit painful if you miss something while searching and have to go back through the room again. On top of the beautiful, spacious set, they’ve got an atmospheric backing soundtrack that isn’t distracting – yep, on the non-puzzle side of things, they’ve done a great job.
Content-wise – there are a small number of fun but fairly standard puzzles, and the game is almost entirely linear. That made it particularly suited to two players, and we rushed from puzzle to puzzle, rarely being challenged. There’s one pretty evil hide during the game which you’ll either find in passing or miss entirely and then be frustrated at being unable to solve one of the puzzles close to the end. I’m not a big fan of games where a big chunk of their difficulty comes from a single puzzle (especially a single hide), and I’m not quite sure how I’d have felt if we hadn’t happened to chance upon the relevant clue during an earlier search – especially given how big the room is.
It’s an interesting ending to the game which, combined with our host’s introduction, left us slightly unsure of exactly how to finish, but we went with what looked like the right option and escaped in 30 minutes having not taken a clue.
Ocean’s Twelve (4 stars)
Another beautifully crafted room but in such a different way. This time, we were in an art collector’s house trying to steal a prized diamond, so we were in a high-end apartment filled with artwork. I’ve been in a few gallery games but nothing at this level. Door-Z certainly know how to make impressive sets.
The puzzles here felt harder than in the previous game – progress felt far slower and we spent a lot of our time discussing how to progress. In the end we got ridiculously close to completing the game without a clue. We’d found two big clues to what we needed to do but we didn’t put them together and realise what was needed. At the time it felt like an unfair puzzle but, once we had the logic explained to us afterwards, it made perfect sense.
There’s one cool high-tech but straightforward puzzle that we enjoyed that you will likely either love or loathe. There are two ways of playing it – either through good communication or with all the players working independently. We opted (strangely, given there were just two of us and we have pretty good communication skills) to work independently and it turned out well. I can very much see this being a nightmare with five people, though – each person undoing other people’s good work and one careless person making life really tricky.
We ended up escaping after 40 minutes or so with that single clue, but well over ten minutes of that was a meticulous search of the room to desperately avoid having to ask our GM for help.
The Godfather (3 stars)
So, on to the “hard” game. There’s some theatre to the start of this room, where you’re led in blindfolded and really have no idea where you’re starting out. This would have been a cosy start for five people (especially being blindfolded) but for two people it was just fine. You’re quickly out of that enclosed space, though, and ready to escape the room.
The Godfather is definitely the least pretty of their three games, with the interest derived from a few centrepiece items rather than the whole room looking beautiful. I certainly didn’t feel immersed in the environment, which had been true for the other two games. Once again, they’ve gone for relatively straightforward puzzles which experienced players should zoom through. Our experience counted against us, though, as a slightly confusing direction left us thinking that we didn’t yet have the full solution to a puzzle, and requiring a hint to do the obvious thing…
I say, “straightforward puzzles” but it included some really tedious searching. Indeed, a significant proportion of the second half of the game is *just* searching for words hidden round the room, which was frustrating because (a) we’re really not very good at meticulous searching, (b) they were pretty small to search for and (c) when we asked for clues, the clue allowed us to find the next word but still left us stuck thereafter. After taking three hints to find all the things we required, we were back on to the puzzle flow, but by then the game was almost over. This room felt incredibly lazy. Beginners will have a fun time – searching their way round the room, wowing at some pretty cool high-tech stuff and making gradual progress towards their goal. For me, it felt like a very short game with periods of waiting around while I got sufficiently stuck to ask for a clue. Thinking was minimal and flow was constantly interrupted.
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The MindMaze games are the only overlap so far between your visit and the ones I played there a couple of years ago. Definitely agree they’re easy rooms and better for beginners. I still have a fridge magnet saying ‘Alchemist – 20:24 – record!’ – but then there were four of us, and most of the puzzles could be tackled in parallel. Yes, I posted this comment mainly to boast about the time. 😉
That’s an amazing time even with four people – I’d be surprised if it had been beaten despite the long period in between. If you played a couple of years ago you must have been pretty much a beginner (either that or it took you a while to decide that you needed to blog).
Of course, I notice that you don’t mention the time you got in the Enigma…
I believe they were my 16th and 17th rooms. Enigma was 33:35, which we thought was speedy at the time but is nowhere close to your 22 mins with a team of two!
When rating a room, I find it difficult to judge how much to penalise one that I escaped from ridiculously quickly. Sometimes everything just happens to flow, and it’s usually some combination of being in the ‘zone’, pure luck in happening to try the right things first, the room being well-designed (so no unnecessary sticking points), and the puzzles being too few and/or too easy. Only the last of those ought to count against a room, but it’s not always easy to detangle the different factors.
Yep – I used to make a cut off at thirty minutes but not any more. I’m about to rate a 22 minute game as my recommendation for Vienna… (admittedly, we were on a roll, it was perfectly logical and I was playing with a team where if you didn’t solve fast, you didn’t solve at all…).
It’s interesting, though, to look at those two sets of escape times. Presumably it was the same team playing both games for you. I find it surprising to see such a huge swing between the games.
OK, they may have changed the games in the interim and we possibly played in a different order (we played Enigma second) which changes things but that’s still a big swing. I think it’s that variance that keeps me hooked. There’s always that hope that you’ll walk into a room and it will just flow. And when it does… it’s a wonderful thing indeed.
Same team for both, yes; and I think we too played Alchemist before Enigma. It’s too long ago for me to be able to remember the details, though I remember losing some time in Enigma in a couple of places, including by overlooking a thing that turned out to be something we’d seen before in Wicklewood in Budapest. Despite having more trouble with Enigma, it was the one I preferred of the two, mainly because I thought the opening sequence was really good.
There have been a couple of games I’ve played with sub-30 min times that I loved despite their brevity: Airplane by Exite in Helsinki and Stormy Ocean by Claustrophobia in Tallinn. But then it’s really rare and special when a game has so much content that it lasts an hour even when the team doesn’t get stuck anywhere.