Prague Escape Review: The Chamber

This is part of a series of articles on games in Prague – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.

Currently, the Chamber has five games, and we were lucky enough to have booked all five (in a single day!). It’s worth noting that the price varies depending on the time of day, so it’s worth going along earlier if you’re flexible. They also run a scheme where, if you buy a “passport” for each player (90 CZK), then you can get a nice souvenir of your games and, more importantly, get your final game free. For us, that was a 180 CZK cost that saved us 1500 CZK on the Haunted House (their most expensive game, which we booked during their peak period). I should also point out that the games are split across three sites, with four of them evenly split about ten minutes apart and the final one about twenty-five minutes away on the other side of the city centre.

Across the five games we had four different GMs who varied in quality – one in particular had a tendency to give solutions rather than clues. Another genuinely added to the game, while the other two did a decent job.

The Emperor’s Secret (4 stars)

The Emperor’s Secret is a game woven into the history of Prague, based on the reign of Charles IV and, in particular, a mystery surrounding his disappearance for three months. During the game, you find out a little about the story although, in practice, it was really in the minute afterwards that we read the relevant documents and pieced the episode together. Like most of the Chamber’s games, this is not a padlock game and instead relies on a combination of mechanical puzzles and “magic” arduino/maglock solutions which were surprisingly satisfying given the old world setting. It was a strong start with interesting puzzles but, towards the end of the game, the logic of a couple of steps left us feeling slightly frustrated.

The set was gorgeous and gave us a real feeling of having been thrown back into history. There’s no clock in the room. Instead, bells chime every fifteen minutes, which worked well from an immersion point of view although walkie-talkies for the clue system somewhat spoiled that effect.

If you’re looking for a game that’s centred around Prague of medium difficulty and family-friendly, this will definitely fit the bill.

Medieval Dungeon (5 stars)

If you’re uncomfortable with blindfolds, imprisonment or handcuffs, then skip this room. It’s probably one of the most extreme games I’ve played from that point of view (and that list includes ones where I’ve been locked in a box and shackled to a chair with a hood over my head). The theatre on entering the game is designed to make you feel uncomfortable, separated from your team mates, gruffly ordered around by the dungeon master and unsure of your surroundings. One player will be in a particularly uncomfortable setup (both physically and psychologically) so, if anyone’s very nervous, make sure the games master knows!

As with some “prison” escape games, the start puzzles vary depending on player numbers, but be aware that some of those puzzles aren’t removable so, if you’re playing with small numbers, you may be distracted right at the start. After that, though, it flows very, very well. The puzzles are plentiful, reasonably tough and innovative – this is a game where enthusiasts will have less of an advantage than usual.  If you like physically interactive puzzles, then you’ll be in your element – it seemed like virtually everything we did was very hands on. This isn’t a combination lock kind of game: you’ll be interacting with the room on a very direct level and padlocks only appear where you’d expect in a prison.

This is another game with amazing decoration – in fact, probably the best overall set of the weekend (and the standard was pretty high!). It felt like a real dungeon, and on top of that, the puzzles blended in well to avoid breaking the immersion. Speaking of which, the clue system fitted well too. No walkie-talkies here – just the echoing voice of a prisoner from a nearby cell who was too old to escape but knew the dungeon well enough to help you.

It’s a tough game, in my opinion – and testament to that is the fact, in spite of taking a fair number of clues (four or five?), we scraped out with less than ten seconds remaining, having run back and forth to complete the final challenge. Of the 25 games over the weekend, this was my favourite.

Hacker’s Nest (4.5 stars)

On first glance, Hacker’s Nest might not look that exciting – as you can see from photos on the website, it’s a bedroom filled with computer parts. Once you get into playing the game, though, you really start to appreciate it. It’s very much a caricature of a hacker’s flat and, in the context of the game, they’ve done a great job  with the set.

The puzzles are more on the traditional side of escape rooms with corresponding use of padlocks but that’s not to say they weren’t enjoyable. There’s also a nice sense of progress to the first part of the game where you’re given very obvious sets of puzzles and get “rewarded” when each of them is complete. In good news for the majority of enthusiasts, while there’s a decent amount of searching, it’s very much directed searching.

Later in the game, there were a couple of puzzles that I thought could have been directed better. We lost a lot of time and, more importantly, gained a lot of frustration solving them. That was slightly made up for by a fun finale to the game that kept you on your toes right to the end.

Again, this was on the tougher side of escape rooms (although partly because of that frustrating pair of puzzles), and we escaped with exactly a minute remaining in spite of having taken about five clues. Overall, though, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

The Mysterious Office (3.5 stars)

The Mysterious Office suffers in comparison to all the other games at the Chamber. In most venues it wouldn’t look as bad, but here the weaknesses really stood out. The set was OK: a pretty, old-fashioned office with enough props to make it look plausible but not enough to caused red herring issues. The puzzles were generally fairly basic, although there were a few more interesting implementations. There was a bit of searching but it was usually easy or well directed. Pretty much every solution would result in unlocking another numerical padlock.

Overall, it’s a relatively straightforward game and, while we did take a couple of clues, we escaped with around 15 minutes remaining having spent a lot of time on a couple of those puzzles before admitting defeat.

I’m pretty sure, based on the design, that this was the first of the Chamber’s games – the relatively simple puzzles and the constant use of padlocks left me underwhelmed, but it’s hard to be sure whether that was really just in comparison to their other four games. For a first-gen game with simple puzzles it was well executed and, given the passport mentioned in the intro, well worth doing to complete the set.

The Haunted House (4.5 stars)

Although Medieval Dungeon was my favourite game of the weekend, this was probably the most impressive from an objective point of view. From before the game even starts, when they walk you out of the reception area across to a separate building and then send you down the stairs to the start of the game with the words “just close the door behind you”, they’re setting up the theatre of the game. You feel alone and unbalanced from the very start. Throughout the game they keep on chipping away at your confidence, at your sanity. Small things here and there, bigger things at times, until every noise your teammates make, every small movement is amplified. If you’re the sort of person who’s easily scared, this game is going to leave you thoroughly freaked out. It is brilliant in its execution.

As an escape game, I think it was a little lacking. The puzzles were a bit of a leap at times, and I felt the need for clues to solve some of them. However, about halfway through the game I made a decision that this was more of an experience than an escape room, and thereafter I really started to appreciate it. Having said that, there are plenty of puzzles, and some of them are well executed. The mechanism on one is absolutely stunning and, even knowing that it was just a mechanism created for a game, it still freaked me out a little – this was the sort of thing that I could only imagine happening in a film and yet… there it was, right in front of my eyes. Wow.

The set matched the effects with a beautiful, sprawling Victorian mansion for you to explore and, again, a good balance of props to create the atmosphere but not introduce red herrings. The set was more than big enough to hold the game and provide a sense of aloneness, but not so big that you got lost.  Again, it’s a tough game, with most teams failing to escape in 60 minutes. We got out with about five minutes remaining in spite of taking close to ten clues.

This is a scare game but definitely not a gory one. The puzzles are, overall, acceptable, the set is gorgeous, the effects are stunning and the story is beautifully woven through the game in a way that I’ve rarely seen. If you can cope with the fear factor, this is a must play.

That’s all on the Chamber – want to read more about Prague games? Click here to head back to the main Prague page.

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