Breakin’ Escape Games: Blackwing’s Cave

London, Feb 2017

Rated between 3.5 and 4 out of 5
Breakin’ claims to be “the most immersive Escape Room experience in London” – do they deliver?
The first of their six rooms I tried was the superhero-themed don’t-say-Batman game. What’s clear from the outset is that this is a high tech build, with all components custom-built and not a padlock or laminated print-out in sight. (Okay, one padlock, used in a perfectly reasonable way.)
Actually, at the outset not much is clear because it’s almost pitch black. Fortunately the lighting increased a bit almost immediately, and more so later on. Unnecessary darkness in rooms is a pet peeve of mine, because it’s often used without relevance to the theme and because it’s a lazy way to make a room harder. Here however it was entirely suitable for the theme, and more importantly none of the puzzles were made harder by not being properly visible. That is, there were a couple of points where we needed more light on something – but only because we were doing the wrong thing. While on the correct course, the lack of light was never an issue.
That was because the room uses lighting very well to signpost what’s active and what’s not, and to indicate when the players solve a problem. That’s always a sign of good design, and adds to the satisfaction of progressing.
It’s a pretty linear game. We played with four people, and I’d suggest three as the best number. Two of the larger sequences of the game are limited in how many people can get involved with them at once, so larger groups may find players standing around in these sections.
We actually messed up the start fairly badly, flailing around for twenty minutes and using a hint before discovering that the key we’d tried repeatedly to use in a particular place did fit there after all. (That was entirely on us, not anything wrong with the room – I still can’t believe we did that!) Thereafter things went more smoothly. On reflection I think the number of puzzles in the room is a little on the sparse side; although some sections by their nature take some time to complete, so experienced teams shouldn’t zoom through it that quickly.
Overall it’s a well-designed, high-tech room. Everything fits with the theme of gradually powering up Batman’s Blackwing’s cave after it’s been trashed and booby-trapped by a villain, including one or two surprise twists. It also mixes in skill-based and communication-based puzzles for a pleasing variety of challenges. Given all that, my rating is perhaps on the stingy side. The biggest reason is that one of the key pieces of technology just didn’t work very smoothly, probably because of the low light level, and that was a frustration that just doesn’t belong in such an otherwise slick game. I also had a number of other minor gripes (one element that was confusingly active earlier than I think it ought to have been, bottleneck sequences and not quite enough puzzles overall). I should note that the room had only been open a week when I visited, though I think few of those points were the result of temporary teething problems. Still, the tech and custom design are excellent, and teams used to padlocks and UV torches will likely be blown away. 3.5 / 5
Batfink’s Lair Blackwing’s Cave made some great design choices – and as Toby mentions it is dark but not simply to make it difficult to find things. Sound, light and (yes) UV were all employed for effect (and puzzle feedback) rather than distraction, and this maintained the immersion of the theme which is important to keep the game fun. At just one point the tech felt like it could have benefitted from a little more ambient light – but we were provided with what we needed to make it work (and when we noticed that, things went a little quicker again).
The puzzles were well themed, with high production values. We used 3 hints (which is the max you can use to get on the leaderboard), and for each of those we had missed something. None of them felt too obscure afterwards.
(Although we were told that one particular puzzle has only been solved by a single team without a clue, even that seemed reasonable in hindsight. We talked later about how we might gently tweak it to give players a better chance of noticing what you’d need to get it right – but perhaps it is reasonable to accept that most good teams will take a hint there, and exceptional teams have something to show for their insights!)
Overall – a fun and memorable game and very high quality. This is the Lego Batdude experience you have been looking for. 4 / 5

Want another opinion? This room has also been reviewed by the following fine blogs:

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