Slough, Sep 2018
One of several companies that have opened in the last year between London and Reading, Bust Out 360 have launched with a classic serial killer scenario: blindfolded and handcuffed with an ominous voice promising you an unpleasant fate, just as soon as he gets back from an errand, which will naturally take the traditional sixty minutes.
I’m not always in favour of too much realism in horror games – a blood-stained basement that’s too authentically dank and smelly can get too grim to be enjoyable. That’s not an error that Taken makes. Your prison is surprisingly domestic, more like a neglected living room than a torture cell, and you’re unlikely to experience much fear unless your imagination takes the setting and runs with it. Expect dim lighting; however, our host told us that we were welcome to use our phones as torches, and in any case the game provided enough good quality light sources for us all.
In a game that we finished in a little over half an hour, we spent about a third of the time in handcuffs. That’s mostly our fault – naturally, we failed to spot something pretty obvious. Also, I suspect the host may have worked out that we’d played a lot of games before, and as a result held off giving any hints until asked. Still, restraints can impair to a surprising degree a team’s ability to inspect a room properly, so if you focus on the wrong things first you can end up wasting a lot of time; but if that becomes too uncomfortable it’s easy enough to resolve it by asking for a hint.
Once we got past that hiccup it didn’t take long to finish, and I’d expect many enthusiasts to find Taken a short game. The remaining impression was of a game that was free of glaring flaws, but also had little to appeal to anyone who’s played many other rooms. The straightforward decor perhaps aims to create a sense of dread but mainly just felt untidy, with props that never became distracting red herrings but also didn’t add much. Similarly, the sequence of puzzles all worked perfectly well but had little that was memorable, and leaned on the sort of ideas that tend to get mentioned in enthusiasts’ discussions of disliked puzzle types.
In its favour is I guess the way it uses technology and a nice mid-game reveal; plus the venue itself appeared well-run, a small independent company with a friendly host keen to make sure players have a good time. Even so, I’m struggling to find much praise beyond, “nothing very wrong with it”. A couple of years ago this would have been acceptably mid-range, and if you have little to compare it to you’ll likely find it a fun experience. However, with ever more creative, innovative and smart escape rooms to choose from, there’s not much reason to rush to this one.