London, Feb 2018
I’m not sure if it’s daring, foolish or inspired to take as a theme something about which many people have a genuine phobia. The name and promo picture suggest quite a grim game, which I suppose is appealing to some and off-putting to others. Depending on which camp you fall into, you might be relieved or disappointed to discover that it’s not an extreme game and will disturb only the most sensitive. There are no restraints or confinement, the environment is not notably unpleasant, and any dental tools can stay well away from mouths. It is in fact a fairly standard serial killer premise: the psycho killer will be back in an hour and amidst the debris of his daily life and hidden crimes you need to find a way to escape.
Your first challenge will be finding the venue. It’s on Oxford Street, so no surprise that space is at a premium; the directions are on their website but it’s obscure enough to mention here. You can find them by entering the Londis near Tottenham Court Road station and going up the staircase you’ll see on the left, past a massage parlour and tattoo shop. When we visited there were no signs until we reached the very top and went through a door, though no doubt it’ll be better marked in the near future.
A short way into the game there was a loud banging on the exit door and I briefly thought we had an unexpected live actor to deal with – but no, this was the hint system, where the host slides a clue under the door and knocks to make sure you notice it. Our experience was that the clues arrived thick and fast, before we’d really had a chance to feel in need of them, to the point where we asked the host to hold back – though we realised afterwards that she’d probably not been able to hear us. I counted 13 paper clues slipped under the door, which the host told us was considerably fewer than for most teams; and we finished well under time, so it wasn’t because we were struggling.
There are some venues that get in the habit of showering players with hints because they find that too many groups fail if they don’t, and that can be a sign of poorly designed puzzles that can’t be solved without the hints. I don’t think that was the case here, I think it was just a gamemaster who’s mostly hosted beginner players and who hasn’t played many games elsewhere, so although we found it irksome they’ll likely learn to calibrate better over time. If in doubt, I’d suggest talking to the gamemaster before playing about how proactive you’d like them to be with their hints.
That aside, it was a broadly acceptable but unremarkable game. The decor had a fairly basic office-style appearance, though improved with plenty of quite authentic dental and medical items, as well as some gory horror theming and one or two antique furniture pieces. I found some elements of it frustrating in small ways: a use of a UV torch that became a brief but tedious bottleneck, multiple identical padlocks, and a couple of codes that worked but which felt more like plausible guesses than conclusive solutions. None of those were serious problems, but – at least to our jaded eyes – there was little to make the game stand out, a shortage of moments that impressed us with its ingenuity or caused a ‘wow’ reaction.