Tallinn, Jul 2017
A year ago I visited Tallinn’s Claustrophobia branch and saw the beginnings of their Gravity game under construction. It sounded so remarkable and unique that this year while playing games in Riga, we tacked on a return visit to Tallinn expressly to play this game. So it had the highest of expectations to live up to.
The name of course matches a recent Sandra Bullock film, and the game shares with that movie the premise of being trapped on a failing space station following a disastrous impact. Other than that the game doesn’t particularly use the plot or other elements from the film.
Gravity is a very high tech game. The underlying build ambitiously aims to create the feel of being inside an unstable craft in space, and while sadly that doesn’t mean the game takes place in zero gravity (despite what the website’s promo pics might imply!), what it does do is pretty damn cool. (And yes, I’m deliberately skirting around the details of that, though note that before the game the operators will ask if any players are pregnant or suffer from motion sickness, and will also request all players to take off their shoes before entering.)
Quite apart from the way the room itself is constructed, each element of the game exhibits a quality of design and presentation that raises the bar for what I expect from an escape room. As with many very high tech games, the puzzles often revolve more around working out what the game expects from you than any more traditional puzzle solving, but personally I have little objection to that when it’s done well, and here it’s done very well indeed. And everything you solve not only suits the theme but is clearly justified by the story progression (at least, allowing for one or two unexpected twists that Sandra Bullock never had to worry about!).
I have two reservations about Gravity. Neither is a criticism of the game content itself, which was superb. The first is that I wanted it to be even more dynamic, with (for example) a big dramatic crash moment. The tech is so advanced that it seems churlish to complain that it’s not more advanced still; but I felt that they could more fully utilise the potential of the game’s technology, both within the main part of the game and by integrating the big finale section into the puzzles more.
Secondly, I just wanted more. I’d describe it as a superb 45 min game with a brilliantly fun and novel epilogue sequence. As a 60 min game, it’s a little short on content.
However, I’m judging it against a year’s worth of hype and anticipation. Go in thinking of it as a shorter game than normal and you’ll have no cause for complaint – quite the opposite. By any reasonable yardstick it’s great: a barrel-roll of fun backed up by fantastic technology, meticulously employed as the basis for a top notch sequence of story-driven puzzles.