London, Jun 2017
ClueTrace’s original game had you sneaking into the mind of a white collar criminal, and Mission Critical continues this idea, but this time with the mind of a Soviet official at the end of the Cold War, trying to find the identity of a double agent.
Like the first game at this venue, Mission Critical has a very stripped-down aesthetic. The initial area is nicely decorated in a somewhat minimal way; in other places the game looks surprisingly bare. That’s not necessarily a criticism, however. Those who like lush, extravagant sets will be underwhelmed, but those who complain about decorations being distracting red herrings will appreciate the simplicity here – almost everything you can see is part of the game in one way or another. And you could also argue that the sparse decorations are suitable for the 80s Soviet theme.
The concept that you’re inside someone’s mind is a clever way to excuse lots of aspects of the game that would otherwise seem artificial, such as anything that’s overtly a puzzle. On the other hand, they could go a lot further with this idea and create much more elaborate, surreal sets, so it also feels a bit like a missed opportunity.
The actual game content varies from simple hidden numbers through search (though the sparse decorations don’t leave all that many possible hiding places) and a number of well-themed puzzles and tasks that feel very suited to the theme of digging up Soviet spy secrets.
This is intended as their harder game, but we finished with plenty of time to spare despite spending more time than needed at quite a few points, so enthusiast teams find they rattle through this one comfortably under time.
It’s a well designed game which might be a little slight but which has plenty of variety. It’s unlikely to bowl you over, but it’s a solid and satisfying game.