Riga, Jul 2017
Mad Scientist had a very unusual beginning to an escape game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t by design. The operator let us into the room and shut the door behind us, leaving us in near complete darkness, with no torches and with a digital clock on the wall counting up… from twenty something minutes. So we patiently waited, expecting the timer to reset and the lights to come up. Eventually someone fumbled their way to the hint intercom to check, and we discovered that the game had in fact already started. (Shortly afterwards the clock jumped to the correct time.) Now knowing that the darkness was intentional, we eventually got the lights on and proceeded with the game.
Particularly in comparison to the several highly sophisticated and visually impressive games we played in Riga, Mystery looked and felt pretty old school, with objects hidden in the locked drawers of old furniture, numbers scrawled across walls, and some clues on scraps of paper. The theme is the familiar premise of a mad scientist who has stumbled across something powerful and dangerous and needs to be stopped. There’s little sign of anything connected to that theme though – they could rewrite the game’s backstory entirely and would need to change almost none of its content.
Although unconnected to the theme, many of the puzzle ideas were decently inventive, making particular use of modern(ish) technology. The ways in which these were used didn’t always impress – I thought it could do better than an arbitrary maths puzzle, for example, and we spent more time than I’d have liked checking each object we found for UV markings. Except of course the one item that we should have checked – due to missing that, I ended up accidentally circumventing one of the more interesting puzzles in the game when I over-enthusiastically dug into a computer filesystem and found a file that illustrated the answer to a puzzle, left over from the game’s construction.
Occasionally audio kicked in with a snippet of dramatic music or a loud tick tock sound. I guess the intention was to heighten the tension, though it was a little confusing the first couple of times (we thought we’d triggered something), and when it happened to coincide with a hint it made it hard to hear what the operator was saying.
The operator seemed fine in most respects, but was stretched thinly between two games, and I think the main reason for our bumpy start was that after letting us in she was then occupied for the next few minutes getting our other team into their game. It’s challenging at best for a host to manage more than one game simultaneously, and the venue had a slightly chaotic feel to it when we visited that didn’t entirely inspire confidence; and I think both our games suffered from that to varying extents.
That aside, the game itself was broadly acceptable with some fun ideas and some weaker puzzles, and a whole lot that was just average – probably still a great experience for first timers, and pretty forgettable for anyone who’s played a lot of rooms.