London, Feb 2017
Though any potential copyright infringement is carefully skirted, let’s just say that fans of a certain sci-fi franchise created by George Lucas may particularly enjoy this game.
Horizon Alpha is, like their Blackwing game, a high-tech room built entirely with custom electronics. Also like the other Breakin’ games, it’s more or less entirely linear, which is fine but means enthusiasts will probably enjoy it more playing in smaller teams.
Amidst a profusion of intriguing switches, buttons and displays, we needed a hint to find the starting point, and I suspect many teams will have difficulty getting going in the same way. The stumbling block at this point is arguably a weakness of the game, in that the style of the room invites players to investigate on one path where in fact they need a completely different approach initially.
Once past that the puzzles unroll smoothly, with a clear indication of progress as each is solved. I’d say this room has puzzles that tend to be somewhat harder than average – although perhaps that’s partly because it consists of high tech, custom components. Enthusiasts are on well-trodden ground with codes and padlocks, so the familiarity makes them easier; and with custom mechanical puzzles, even where the puzzle is entirely novel, the players may be able to work out clues to the mechanism by looking at it. With a space theme like this one, most of the mechanisms are invisible electronics, and the team has fewer ways to narrow the space of possible solutions worth trying.
Not everything in the room is part of the puzzles, and if you hate red herrings that might grate. Personally I didn’t find that a problem. Since the story is that we’re trying to hack into a hostile space station, it seems right and proper that there’s a baffling array of instruments to navigate, and broadly the hinting for what to focus on next is subtle but effective.
The game draws together well towards the end with a satisfyingly complex puzzle. There’s then a final stage that needs a leap of intuition, which will be a highlight for any teams that manage to get it and probably still fun for those that need a hint. Overall it’s a good series of creative, original puzzles, and while it’s not a huge room, any players who are used to games full of padlocked furniture will be blown away.
I really appreciated the build quality in this room which added to the sci-fi experience – I’ve been in several rooms that have tried this and not executed quite as well; there was a real feeling that it was a robust room. The final puzzle could be tweaked to give a slightly better clue; even after I understood it, I still felt it wasn’t great. We also (unusually for this room) had a problem getting it to work. That said, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – a solid 4.