Exeter, Jun 2017
Of the three games at this venue, Bacterium uses the largest physical space. The website description of the game talks about being imprisoned in a chemical factory, the entrance door had a zombies banner across it and I’m sure the briefing mentioned something about a disease epidemic, or something – but whatever the story was supposed to be, it was delivered briefly and in passing, and didn’t really matter for the game.
The style here, even more than in their other games, is of a set of numeric padlocks each of which is opened by a different clue or puzzle. It definitely emphasises quantity of puzzles, with some of them being really quite straightforward.
We actually made a wrong assumption on an early puzzle, thinking it needed an extra clue object where actually we could have solved it immediately… but managed to plough on nonetheless, helped by the way many of the puzzle answers came one digit at a time, meaning they could be easily opened even when we’d only got three of the four parts to the answer.
Teams who like their games difficult will be unsatisfied, but a large number of less challenging tasks can actually make for a thoroughly fun game. Less great is the interchangeability of the locks, which means each solution often needs to be tried in multiple places – although the game’s sequencing into distinct areas reduces that somewhat. Many of the clues also reuse the same four colours, suggesting connections between clues that don’t exist.
I enjoyed the other two games at this venue more, but Bacterium is a decent low-tech game. It’s definitely on the easy side and relies too much on identical padlocks, but there weren’t any particular flaws and we didn’t regret adding it to our schedule.