Warsaw Escape Review: Quest Hunt

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

Situated just south of the old town, Quest Hunt is a charming escape room venue that feels very much like it’s been created by an enthusiast. Where most of the escape rooms we played had a very professional feel to the decoration, this one was slightly more home-made. I don’t mean that as a criticism – I’ll happily trade off the perfect finish for something that feels like it was crafted with love.

There’s a large waiting area with plenty of space for big groups. I particularly liked that they had separate sofas for each room with a large picture advertising the corresponding game on the wall behind them. It’s nice to have your post-game photo taken with something specific to the game you’ve played.

Friendly though the company was, we were disappointed by the standard of GMing. During several of the games, when we asked for clues (and when they were given spontaneously), we were given hints about puzzles that we’d very clearly solved (in one case, we’d opened a door using the key the puzzle had provided). Perhaps that was because the CCTV wasn’t high enough quality or had blind spots, but it caused disruption and uncertainty in the room as we went back to check that we hadn’t missed something in the puzzle and then lost faith in the GMs’ ability to do their job. When they did clue the right puzzle, they’d often clue right from the start as if they were going through a list of possible clues rather than looking at what help we needed at exactly that point.

Of the games on offer, I’d recommend Space Odyssey as a delightful piece of exploration with mentally taxing puzzles and a solid end mission. Follow the White Rabbit isn’t designed for enthusiasts, and I’d really only recommend it if you’ve got children with you or are a big Alice in Wonderland fan. The Globe is not Enough is a standard escape room – the sort of game you might tack on to your other games because you’re already in the venue but not amazing enough to travel for.

The Globe is not Enough (3.5 stars)

As you can imagine from the title, this is a not-quite-007 room, and that theme extends through a humorous introduction video with a villain named Dr Yes. I’m not quite sure what to expect from the décor in a game like this but, while it started off a bit drab, overall I thought they carried it off.

The owner here was adamant that he didn’t want combination lock overload, so he’d chosen to effectively reimplement combination locks using a physical mechanism in the room. While those were a little fiddly at times, it fitted the theme far better than more padlocks would have (there were still some). It’s worth pointing out that the same lock mechanism is used several times in the game. Fortunately, they’ve provided user feedback in this and the other rooms so that, when you use the right combination, not only does the corresponding maglock release but a light goes green next to it.

That user feedback had a dual use. In the short term it told you when you’d solved a puzzle, which is obviously a good thing. As the game progressed, that green light would help to identify which locks hadn’t been released, so it effectively provided another visual indicator of your progress.

The puzzles varied a fair bit in style, but there was generally sufficient direction to indicate what you could solve next. The two big omissions were communications and skill challenges. While the puzzles involve tactile elements and get you physically interacting with the room a little, I don’t think there is anything that I’d describe as skill-based; and similarly, while there are a couple of points where having two people is slightly helpful, the extra people aren’t particularly useful beyond parallelisation of puzzles.

There was one puzzle that came with some instructions in English that confused us slightly. Amazingly, in spite of the translations having been around for a couple of years, there was a mistake that resulted in us going down a wrong path. It wasn’t a big deal but, for a room that gets a fair number of non-Poles visiting, I was surprised. In case that hasn’t been updated when you play, if you can’t make sense of how to decode something, then look at whether they’ve accidentally transposed two letters or take a look at the Polish version which is understandable and correct.

The central part to this game was quite involved, so I was a bit surprised to find that the finale felt like it was finishing almost as soon as we’d started. It’s absolutely the right ending to the game, and I liked the way they’d handled it, but I felt they should have stretched it out to give a more stressful close.

Through the Rabbit Hole (3 stars)

I have a soft spot for Alice in Wonderland rooms. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s the slightly surreal storyline that lends itself to weird and wonderful decoration. Maybe it’s that you can put in more thematic puzzles because standard tropes like clocks and playing cards actually belong in the experience. Maybe I just want to relive my childhood.

This room was no exception: I felt a warm glow inside as soon I stepped across the threshold. It’s a beautifully decorated space full of Alice allusions and with a charming centrepiece for you to explore. A friend described this as a gentle game, and I think that’s apt. It’s very much at the easy end of the scale, so don’t expect to find amazing puzzles.

It’s simple observation, occasional maths, a little bit of searching and nothing that really got me excited. If you’re going with children, they’ll enjoy themselves because it’s very accessible. As an enthusiast, the biggest problem is that you’ll try to be clever – indeed, at one point we were confused because we solved a puzzle that didn’t seem to get us anything. It turned out that we’d already retrieved the item involved and the puzzle we’d solved was just about giving you extra direction if you needed it. As with their other games, there’s good user feedback so, when you solve a puzzle, you’ll (ahem, generally – see below) know that you have and what’s been unlocked.

Sadly, there’s no real finale to the game. You solve puzzle after puzzle until eventually there are no more left. In fact, we didn’t realise we’d finished the game so, when we completed the final puzzle, we spent a while circling the room trying to work out what it had done before eventually realising that it had released the exit door…

Space Odyssey (4 stars)

I was enchanted as soon I crossed the threshold to this game by a room that looked reasonably spaceship-like and was jam-packed with information that was instantly available to us. Yes, there’s still a homemade feel to the game (hmmm, is that really a critical part of the spaceship or just an old parallel port?), but it works well to give a spaceship vibe, and later in the game there’s a sense of exploration that is very much in keeping with what you’d expect based on space-themed films. One aspect that I really liked was their recreation of banks of monitors, which they’d done with a very simple transparent overlay on a shaped “screen” that allowed them to capture the feel of a spaceship without the expense (and maintenance) of a bank of real computer screens.

As hinted at above, a fair part of this game is extracting the key pieces of information from the room and doing so at the right time. There’s sufficient direction to get you through, but it’s by no means 100% clear all the time. For me that worked, but for less experienced players I can see it being a real turn-off: you are overwhelmed with information and communication plays a big part, as we explained to each other what puzzles we’d already solved, what looked like we were missing information and where we thought the best avenues of attack lay next.

It’s not just communication and information-filtering skills you need here: you’ll also want to be reasonably good at maths. I think I can safely say that this has the most challenging maths element I’ve seen in a game that hasn’t given you a calculator. It’s by no means hard, but it involves a fair amount of work and definitely something you’ll want to calculate on the blackboard provided.

There’s a mission to this game, but it’s not made clear to you from the start (or maybe it was but I missed it). That’s a shame, because what appeared to be just one more puzzle to complete when the time came would have been far better had it been obvious that it was the overall goal. It wasn’t till about halfway through the game when, based on the way the puzzles were panning out, it started to become clear that one particular puzzle was likely to be fairly central to the game. In games without real storylines, missions really help to carry the experience, so I think they missed a trick not making that a more central part of the game from the start.

We made constant progress through the game right to literally the very last step, when it became apparent we’d had a search fail. Big deal – that happens quite a lot for enthusiasts. The problem was that the cluing they gave us was incredibly frustrating. When we eventually asked for help, they told us how to solve the puzzle we were working on, which we’d been well aware of about ten minutes earlier. There then followed a series of unhelpful clues that focused on more and more detailed help on that puzzle. Eventually, the GM came into the room to find out what the problem was. They knew we’d unlocked all the areas where the objects we needed were hidden, but it hadn’t occurred to them that we’d missed the objects themselves.

That ending was a shame because it took the very last experience we had in the game and turned it into a frustrating, tedious failure. In spite of that, though, the game was plenty of fun and, if you fancy the idea of exploring a space ship and more difficult than average puzzles, I’d recommend it.

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

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