London, Dec 2016
This room won us over with almost the very first thing we did after entering. It has a profusion of refreshingly original, nicely-implemented puzzles that all build on the theme and the story.
According to the plot, you’re searching for the lost secrets of a vanished conjuror, with an impending building demolition providing the time limit. This is a convenient theme since any manner of puzzles and locks fit plausibly in a magician’s storeroom. But the room design takes the concept and runs with it, lovingly building off famous magic tricks and referencing incidents from conjuring history, even more so than is apparent to casual inspection.
The actual room decor is relatively simple, because there are no pure decorations – everything is a clue, puzzle or hint, and it’s those that provide the theme. One large custom-built skill-based puzzle stands out, but there was plenty more that struck me as original or distinctive.
The strongest moments in the room use other mechanisms, but the majority of the puzzles do lead to padlocks. To their credit they’ve used an unusually varied and distinctive set of locks. Against that, some of the less familiar lock types could prove confusing to some teams; although I think the operator would have given more instructions on dealing with them to a less experienced group, and he would certainly prompt rapidly if a team had the correct code but couldn’t get a lock open.
The operator was in fact rather too quick to provide help for my tastes. On most occasions this wasn’t to help with puzzles so much as to point us in the right direction, directing us towards the right object to focus on. This is a room with plenty to get through, where dividing tasks between the team is important for making efficient progress, and plenty of hinting is probably necessary to give most teams a reasonable chance of winning. Our team wasn’t particularly efficient, and although we finished with a little over ten minutes left there was a section we managed to short-cut, without which it would have been much tighter – so we certainly needed at least some of the hints! But nonetheless I’d prefer to have been left to struggle a bit more before being given a nudge.
Skilful puzzle design is invisible – flaws grate and stand out, whereas when it’s done well you’re too busy enjoying the game to notice. That’s the case here, and between that, the freshness of the puzzles, and the consistent fidelity to theme, this is a stand-out room. I’d like to see it go further with more conjuring mechanisms in place of some of the padlocks, and perhaps the final unlock could be made more dramatic – but that’s nit-picking. It’s an excellent room, among my favourites.
This was a nicely themed room with varied and creative puzzles, including some I haven’t come across before. There is a lot to do, which could be slightly overwhelming for complete newbies. It is obvious that a lot of thought and attention to detail went into the room. One of my favourite rooms in London so far, thoroughly enjoyable.