Loughborough, Aug 2018
First, a disclaimer: we played a bowdlerised version of Nerve Klinik, due to a teammate’s aversion to jump scares. Since this is a game designed from the ground up to scare its players and keep them nervous of what might happen next, that removed an important part of its design, one that’ll be its biggest draw for those keen on being frightened by their escape rooms.
Your backstory is that, in search of a missing friend, you’ve entered the dark and creepy clinic of a murderous doctor. That’s a classic serial killer premise that here instead leads into occult horror: the clinic is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, some helpful and some malevolent, and to escape you need to find a way to grant their souls peace – possibly while also worrying about the psycho doctor who killed them in the first place.
Some games try to slowly build up a sense of creeping terror or of an impending horrible fate. Nerve Klinik aims to scare you witless any way it can, with every underhanded trick at its disposal. We were spared the majority of those (though had an explanation of what we’d missed afterwards), but even the toned down version of the game employed an imaginative variety of surprises to keep us on our toes.
The game is rated 16+, and deservedly so – while I have zero objection to gore or nudity on their own, the combination of the two sometimes seems distasteful. If you don’t share those qualms, you’ll likely find the way it’s used here to be inventively macabre.
Some games aim to have zero intervention from the gamemaster, except where absolutely necessary to help the players advance. This is a far more interactive style of escape room. Even without the scare elements, the unseen spirits (friendly and less so) are a constant presence. Our gamemaster seemed quite pro-active in nudging us forwards, although that may have been because he knew we had to escape in less than the official time limit to catch our train… In any case, what might have seemed intrusive with a different clue system instead came across as part of the game, thanks to the in-character delivery.
I imagine most teams who pick Nerve Klinik will choose it for the scares, but behind the flickering lights and spooky voices there’s some nice puzzle design, involving a lot of object collection that then comes together for a satisfying multistep solution. As with their Boiling Point game, many puzzle ideas will be familiar ground for experienced players, but no less fun for that; and there’s plenty of invention in the puzzle construction and the transitions between stages of the game. All of which made it a thoroughly enjoyable escape room even with (most of) the scares taken out. What I saw of the scary bits suggested that it has a relentless array of tricks to unnerve its players, and will manage to provide good puzzling while also leaving you shrieking.