Liverpool, Sep 2018
Billed as the prequel to Breakout’s Sabotage game, Classified has you attempting to pass a set of tests to prove that you have what it takes to become a secret agent. Many game stories struggle to explain why you have a room full of puzzles to solve (or just cheerfully ignore the incongruity), but this one has the advantage that you’re supposed to be in a room full of puzzles and challenges.
It’s one of Breakout’s plainer-looking games, taking place in what’s essentially a single large grey room, with little decoration other than an array of padlocked drawers and compartments. However, the emphasis in this room isn’t on providing a thematic adventure so much the quick-fire endorphin hit of opening one padlock after another.
Your aim is a little more structured than simply ‘solve everything’. There are eight items to be found, each with a keyword written on it to represent one of the skills required to become a secret agent. The gamemaster explained this in the briefing, and we nodded and then instantly forgot as we dived into the puzzles – but after the first couple of mysterious objects emerged we remembered those were the items we were supposed to be collecting. Having gathered those items, they combine into a final meta puzzle that grants you your way out.
That structure helped make this game more interesting than simply a miscellaneous grab-bag of escape room puzzles. Finding a target item makes it clear that you’ve reached the endpoint of that particular strand of the very non-linear game, helping measure progress and reduce confusion. Each of the keywords also relates loosely to the steps required to acquire it, and there’s some nice use of physical tasks and puzzles based on different senses. Less nice is some some ‘key for a key’ and even ‘code for a code’ (where you open a box with one key only to find another key, or unlock a padlock with one four digit code and find the only thing inside is a different four digit code) – which personally I find a bit uninspired, though if you measure your satisfaction by the number of discarded padlocks then that helps give the game a fast-paced feel I guess.
Because a lot of the content can be tackled in parallel, if you’re shooting for a record time then take a large team, but otherwise per person you’ll get more out of the room if there’s fewer of you. Puzzle quality is broadly along similar lines to Breakout’s other rooms, although I got the impression that the relatively minimal theme granted the designers greater licence to include any puzzle ideas that they liked, without being constrained by what made sense for the setting. For that reason, this is one to consider if you’re less bothered by story and immersion and just want the pleasure of blasting through a whole bunch of puzzles.