Copenhagen, Jan 2017
A linear, lightly themed game with plenty of padlocks, this room tries to incorporate some more creative touches but does so in an incoherent way that made it a frustrating game to play.
The theme is loosely based on Murder on the Orient Express, and the decor broadly matches that, barring the hint screen and an anachronistic piece of electronics. They use the common system of stickers to mark anything that’s out of bounds, although in a more confusing way than normal – a couple of travel bags are stickered to show that they don’t need to be searched, but a couple of irrelevant wall switches were not; one object that provides a minor visual hint was stickered, while some red herring items were not.
There’s actually a decent amount of creativity and variety in the puzzles, including one early on with a physical mechanism I haven’t seen used elsewhere. However, the implementation was very arbitrary – there was no thematic reason to perform the required action, nor for that action to unlock a cabinet.
The operator told us up front that it was a linear game. That in itself is fine, particularly since we played as a team of two – the most common flaw of linear games is not having enough for everyone in a larger group to do at a time. However, this game tended to give us codes and items before they could be used, without it being clear they weren’t yet relevant. Since there were also plenty of padlocks accessible from the start, this meant a certain amount of trying codes and hoping. I’ll avoid further details for spoiler reasons, but after the first 15 mins we hadn’t unlocked anything, having wasted time trying things that looked like codes but weren’t on each of a succession of similar padlocks.
There’s a great deal of artificiality in almost all escape rooms, with rarely more than a paper-thin justification for why there’s a chain of puzzles leading to the prison escape / fabulous treasure / bomb defuse switch / whatever. Good rooms find ways to minimise that, or at least stop it distracting from the experience. Here it was constantly jarring. There’d be a nicely inventive puzzle solution, but which just had no connection to the story or theme; or puzzles involving combining some numbers for no real reason except that they’d been provided and so clearly needed to be used somewhere. Again: that’s a criticism that can be levelled at almost all escape rooms, it was just particularly prevalent here.
Rather than being carried along by the experience, it felt too much like we were trying to figure out which hoops the game wanted us to jump through next. In addition I suspect most teams will struggle to locate and solve the initial couple of puzzles amidst the many distraction items, making it more frustrating than it needs to be.