London, May 2017
Enigma Escape opened a couple of years ago with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Their game concept stood out for the then-novel idea that their games would aim for realism and immersion, following the logic of the story not just an arbitrary series of puzzle challenges.
We played The Killer first, their original game. It’s worth noting that although each works fine as a stand-alone story, their games are linked in an on-going narrative with recurring characters, so if you want to play them in story order you should start with The Breakout instead.
The website backstory describes you going to a film premier only to discover that you’re the only ones in the cinema; in fact, that’s dispensed with in the introduction, and the game begins with a situation familiar from many horror escape games, with the team imprisoned by an unknown psycho.
The early sequence of the game is particularly strong, with an emphasis on practical, physical problems with good use of found objects; though it’s a bit marred by one piece that’s a bit maths-y and artificial.
Glossing over that and one other fairly artificial puzzle, The Killer broadly succeeds in its aim of realism. There’s plenty of searching for codes and the like, but instead of, say, solving some logic problem to find a sequence of digits, the style is closer to: investigate someone’s personal effects to guess what code they’d have selected, or find the reminder note they left for themselves. There is definitely some suspension of disbelief required, but it works, and the result is a more immersive game.
Having recently played a couple of other games that share that naturalistic style, for me The Killer fell between two stools. I like the immersive style, but it’s only extended to the game itself, where elsewhere I’ve seen the hint system, initial briefing and more incorporated into the experience. Even within the game, the realism is sometimes mixed with more traditional escape room fare, which is fine – better for a puzzle to work well, even at the cost of a little artificiality – but the mixture left me not quite sure which assumptions to make about how the game worked.
That’s all in the context of it being a fun, interesting game though: these are all quibbles, not severe weaknesses. If you prefer your puzzles clearly signposted and don’t care about story then give it a miss, but otherwise it’s well worth a look; and the quality of their give-aways, especially the chunky medallions given to successful teams, are second to none.