Hamburg, Nov 2017
Der Angriff, which translates to ‘The Attack’, is a bomb defusal game, or rather a missile defusal game. A nuclear missile is in flight and one hour away from impact in London, and you need to break into the command HQ and trigger its self-destruct mechanism before it hits. It’s quite an ambitious, tech-driven game that aims for something slightly different to a typical escape room and is quite impressive, but held back by several design weaknesses.
Those were more acute at the beginning, where we rapidly got bogged down on an ambiguous puzzle where the answer could be entered in various formats. That was made much worse by an unusually fussy type of electronic keypad, which meant we’d attempted the correct code and not realised it hadn’t been entered correctly; that turned a poor puzzle into ten minutes of frustration.
The initial quite low-grade escape room puzzles were soon replaced by much more interesting and custom components. The style here will likely appeal to some more than others, with lots of blinking electronic components and monitor screens. Two of the main sections here again caused frustration and confusion. In one case I think it was entirely us misunderstanding what was going on until we’d almost completed it. The other seems an invitation to over-thinking, partly because it involved plenty of information that appeared relevant but wasn’t, and partly because the correct solution was a bit unusual, so we first tried various alternative possibilities that seemed more likely approaches but which turned out to be wrong.
In contrast, I thought that a later task that was also a bit unusual for escape rooms was a lot more successful – a tricky co-operative challenge that was stressful but fun. With most elements of escape rooms, the challenge is in working out what to do, and once you’ve figured that out it’s easy to actually do it. The occasional dexterity task therefore adds welcome variety; I really liked that Der Angriff introduced other types of skill-based challenges that I’ve rarely seen in escape games. Others might find the style a bit too ‘computer game-y’, though.
The more a game departs from familiar everyday components, the more guidance players may need to tackle its puzzles. Everyone immediately understands how to use a key or a stepladder or a bottle of water, even if the intended use is deliberately unintuitive, but a set of switches and LEDs may follow a logic that’s completely obscure and which players need more information to get to grips with. Der Angriff handles this well, in that it establishes up front an iconography to mark instructions that players should pay attention to, and uses it consistently throughout. I suspect that these instructions lost something in translation, or in background cultural expectations,and some small rewordings might have gone a long way to avoiding unnecessary confusion.
Native German speakers may therefore find the game plays significantly more smoothly than our experience. Upgrading a certain pair of electronic keypads would help a lot too. It’s a game with several impressive and interesting moments, although the weaker early game and assorted points of confusion throughout made it harder for us to appreciate those properly. The thoroughly friendly host was another point in the venue’s favour.