Warsaw, Mar 2017
This is not a game for the squeamish. Content warning: expect graphic imagery of nudity and mutilation.
Horror themed rooms are often gratuitously low-lit. This one hits a good balance, dingy enough to be atmospheric but with enough visibility to see clues, plus all players are provided with torches just in case.
The decor is excellent, particularly the crumbling floorboards. Subtle background audio reinforces the menace without being obtrusive. Of course, in this context ‘excellent’ means ‘highly unpleasant’. Given the theme there’s a surprising amount of technology hidden away to make the puzzles work. Some may think that finding a maglock or a key card in a crumbling serial killer’s apartment damages immersion; I thought it worked fine, used in a way that allowed some original and unexpected puzzles without jarring the theme.
Many of the puzzles use written notes as clues. These are intentionally florid, with less than perfect translation, but the resulting fevered style is appropriate enough. I generally dislike use of clues on paper handouts, but here it fits into the theme effectively, giving the desired impression of a maniac toying with the unfortunate players. Some of the clues strike me as overwritten – with one in particular, we wasted a large chunk of time trying to interpret a long written passage as a series of clues, only to later discover that all but one part of it was flavour text / red herrings.
Personally I found the game a touch too gruesome and grim for my tastes, to the point where it made it just a little bit harder to enjoy. However, it’s atmospheric and well designed, with touches of (very!) black humour, and teams who like horror rooms will probably get a kick out of it. Even if not though, as long as the game style doesn’t actively put you off, there’s plenty here to appreciate.
I actually thought some of the physical puzzles in this room were very cleverly designed (always a good thing) with the odd horrible (pleasing) surprise, in a room that Toby points out had the correct level of lighting; however the room was undermined by what I felt was a rather tasteless level of graphic imagery (without sufficient warning before we went in), and quite a lot of ambiguity in one of the puzzles that left us frustrated for a good while. This could easily be altered to make it a 4 with a few good tweaks.