Portsmouth, Jun 2017
The three games at The Real Escape each have a very distinct style. The Chamber of the Deep is their pirate game, and the most realistic style of decoration of the three. You’re searching the pirate captain’s cabin for his treasure, and there’s a suitable quantity of wooden furniture and parchment and candles, though sadly no parrots or bottles of rum.
There is a series of computer puzzle games called The Room which I suspect many readers will already know (and if you don’t, make it a priority to try it!). That’s memorable for a particular style where a puzzle box opens out in first one way then another, unfolding one piece at a time as the player picks out little details and discovers new hidden compartments. No real physical room or puzzle box can remotely come close to the game version, but Chamber reminded me of it: to an unusual extent the objects in the room turned out to be concealing secrets, in ways the players are not expected to stumble across but which they’re directed to on the solution of the appropriate puzzle. This was what really made the room for me, with a succession of surprises that left me delighted with the ingenuity of the physical design of the room.
We ended with a final frantic search for the last of a set of small objects. Knowing that in all the chaos of the freshly ransacked room there was one tiny object to find, with nothing to do be search for it, I was getting ready to be quite annoyed at a frustrating finish to a good game. But then we figured out what we’d missed, and it was a puzzle clue that we’d failed to solve not a pure search, and it suddenly seemed much more reasonable. In fact, while this room felt heavy on the searching, and had some objects hidden in very hard to find places, I think all the difficult searches had clues telling you where to look – which makes them entirely fair.
The Chamber of the Deep is in some ways a fairly typical escape game, with plenty of familiar tropes, letter puzzles and clues scrawled on the walls and a word cipher lookup chart that outstayed its welcome; and the second part of the game is a bit bare compared to the first, a step down on the decoration quality. But there’s a mechanical ingenuity to the design that I found deeply pleasing. It’s not an unusually difficult room but it was comfortably my favourite of the games at The Real Escape, a fun and well presented game with flashes of brilliance.