Warsaw Escape Review: Escapers

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

Escapers is located in a seemingly residential part of Warsaw, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d turned up in entirely the wrong place. Fortunately (and necessarily), there are signs that point you from the street, round the back of the building, through the courtyard, to your ultimate destination, where you’ll be pleased to find a spacious waiting area and friendly hosts.

There are three games on offer here, and I’d recommend all three. Leonardo’s secret was a big, chunky, wooden escape room. The Abandoned Hotel is a slightly more subtle affair – not so obviously endearing at the time but has grown on me since. Finally, their most famous game, the Dragon’s Tomb, was my favourite of the three and well worth a visit if you’re in the city (but, truly, if you’ve got the time, I’d visit all three).

Leonardo’s Secret (4.5 stars)

As soon as I walked into Leonardo’s Secret, I was pretty sure I was going to like it. Big chunky wooden props were strewn around the room. There were interesting corners to explore, and the lighting was that perfect level that meant you could see details close up but still have character in the room. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Before we even got that far, we had to go through the time portal that gave us a natural transition to the experience. There’s no real need for that step – you could just have walked through the door and entered the room – but they understood the need to transition you from reality back to Leonardo da Vinci’s time.

It didn’t feel like there were a huge number of puzzles in the game, but there was definitely a sufficient number, and they were always interesting. The most impressive was probably one that genuinely involved all four of us and a fair amount of coordination, but there were a couple of others where teamwork was encouraged and, throughout the experience, the physical props we used were beautiful.

The one exception to the great puzzles was, sadly, the finale. It was beautiful to look at, in spite of having strayed away from the wooden theme for once, but we really struggled to make sense of it. After being stuck for a few minutes and having tried a variety of ideas, we eventually chanced upon one that worked. It may have been the answer they were looking for, but it just didn’t give us any satisfaction when there were a variety of good puzzles that they could have introduced. To exacerbate that, one particular element didn’t get any use and, while it’s possible that it was there just for decoration or to reinforce the puzzle, I couldn’t help but feel that the puzzle had been more complex and had been simplified to its detriment. It’s worth pointing out that we were playing early in this game’s history, so it was still bedding in. Given the quality of their other games, I’d be surprised if this didn’t improve over the next few months.

The Abandoned Hotel (4 stars)

After the impressive visuals of the previous room, it would be easy to be disappointed when you first walk into the Abandoned Hotel. It has much more subtle decoration, giving the impression of an old, slightly run down hotel with a creepy overview. It’s a big space with very striking features and, while at the time I wasn’t excited by what I saw, I look back at it fondly as a slice of normality rendered beautifully in an escape room experience.

There’s no real story in the game – indeed, it’s little more than a series of puzzles with vague echoes of a bygone time – but the puzzles are enjoyable and pretty tough. We took one clue during the game, but that was more our failing than the room’s, and several of the puzzles provided that beautiful balance between being difficult and requiring a leap of logic. There’s something satisfying about itemising the clues and props you have at your disposal and finding the connection that lets you continue. Many of the puzzles used behind the scenes electronics to make them work, and a couple of them had really nice directional hints at what you needed to do without giving the whole puzzle away.

The finale isn’t the most exciting in the world, but it provides the glue that holds the game together by having a single puzzle that unites several stages of the game. In truth, you could easily go away from this game non-plussed, but I think that, if you take the time to enjoy the setting, the subtle humour in the puzzles and the gentle flow of the game, you’ll have yourself a great time.

The Tomb of the Dragon (4.5 stars)

This is the game that the venue is known for, so I was excited to see whether it would deliver on that promise. Tomb of the Dragon is an ambitious idea – creating a setting that lives up to that name isn’t easy, but they’d managed to achieve it with some beautiful decoration. It was a little hit and miss, though, with some parts of the room feeling incredibly bare.

While the story is a little lacking, there are a couple of puzzles in there that seek to be more than just obstacles to escaping the room and instead add obliquely to the narrative. One particular set of puzzles was my highlight of the weekend, with four independent ideas coming together in a very satisfying way. Unfortunately, there was one particular flaw that meant we needed to get a clue with one of the strands. Talking to other teams, they hit the same problems and, while I don’t think it’s impossible for a team to get past it, I think it could really do with some more direction. Most of the puzzles weren’t quite up to the standard of that multi-strand challenge, but they were good enough to keep the game ticking over.

I often talk about the finales of games and whether things are wrapped up nicely. I’d go further with this experience, though, and talk about how that finale was gradually built up for most of the game. It seems like each step forward raised the game up to a slightly higher level and, while it peaked a few puzzles short of the endgame, there was enough in that final challenge to keep you occupied

And, to answer that original question – did it deliver? – overall, I’d say yes. There were moments where the decoration was lacking, there’s a distinct lack of storyline, and one of the puzzles felt a little bit fragile, but the rest of the game more than made up for it. The set of puzzles and the other parts of the decoration put this right up amongst my favourite games in the city.

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

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