Peak District, Jul 2017
Extremescape’s first game was a big, brilliant pirate game. Their second is loosely inspired by Indiana Jones, and it somehow manages to be even better. Like Pirate Ship, Lost Tomb is a 90 minute game. Where Pirate Ship injects a moment or two of unexpected theatricality, Lost Tomb has a succession of them.
The game starts in a relatively small space, with the team instructed to find a way in an abandoned gold mine, and subsequently to recover each of a set of bags of gold. From the outset the experience is something special – I’ll avoid details for spoiler reasons, but it had won me over just a few minutes into the game.
It looks and feels remarkably convincing. Before being an escape room the space had a previous existence as a cowshed, and there are subtle traces of bovine odour lingering… but that works plausibly as a musty old mine. Despite use of lots of padlocks the puzzles tend to be hands-on, with large scale constructions of wood and rope along with a couple of gotchas.
We ending up achieving what I believe is a reasonably fast time for this game, much closer to the 60 min mark than to the 90 min limit, but it felt like a challenge. We had to fight for progress, with the occasional hint where we couldn’t find any way forwards; and several times we’d triumphantly crack a puzzle only to find that it hadn’t provided anything to move us forwards, throwing us back to checking the same things we’d already gone over several times. Even so it didn’t come across as frustrating. There’s one puzzle that was sitting in plain sight the whole time that strikes me as clever but a little bit of a stretch; other than that everything seemed scrupulously fair, and where we struggled it was because we’d failed to think of something.
There’s plenty more I’d like to write about this game, but which I’ll have to leave out for spoiler reasons. But it’s full of unexpected nice touches, some subtle and some very much the opposite. Even more than Pirate Ship it was packed with content, absolutely worthy of being billed as a 90 minute game – even without the final quarter of the game we’d have had no complaints about the game length. And it provided quality as well as quantity, with a whole parade of memorable moments and cool surprises made even more effective by good use of audio. The UK now has some outstandingly good escape games, and on the shortlist of rooms that could be described as ‘best game in the country’, Lost Tomb is a strong contender. Find any excuse to go play it.