Liverpool, Sep 2018
Rated as the easiest of Breakout Liverpool’s games, we added Cursed Carnival to our schedule partly for the theme and partly just because it was available at a convenient slot time. With most of Breakout’s games being on the easy side for experienced players, I was expecting Carnival to be brief and insubstantial, but was pleased to discover that it’s actually one of their better games, and not noticeably shorter.
Every now and again an escape game gives you an item or clue before you go into the room itself. With Cursed Carnival you get a freaky little monkey toy, which fits with the backstory: having won this toy you’ve had disturbing nightmares, and you need to take it back where it belongs to break the curse. Nervous players shouldn’t be put off by the description, Carnival is thoroughly tame with nothing more scary than a few bits of twisted prop design.
Decorations were lively, and if the various circus props felt a bit perfunctory the creepily modified teddies were entertaining. It features different areas with different ceiling heights, which might be awkward for the very tall but which was a good physical reflection of the deranged circus setting.
We were almost baffled by one puzzle that gave an obvious and straightforward code to use that didn’t work – the correct answer turned out to be a permutation of the obvious one. I’m not certain whether we missed a clue pointing to how to solve it; if not, then even though I happened upon the solution by lucky intuition, it’s unreasonable enough to count as broken. The other main weakness I noticed was that in places the sensors were fussy enough that we had to be clued to persist with the solution we were trying, which was correct but didn’t give any results until we’d adjusted the items in question. A couple of dead indicator lights caused brief confusion as well.
Other than those, I found it consistently enjoyable, and larger than I’d expected both in terms of puzzle content and physical space. It’s not likely to make many enthusiasts’ lists of favourite games, but as a straightforward mass-market game it’s perfectly successful.
(If you’re considering playing this at one of Breakout’s other locations, note that the Liverpool game is not the same as the other instances of Cursed Carnival, though it does share some of the puzzles with them.)