Berlin, Nov 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art is a straightforward heist game, but one that uses its museum setting to build a series of puzzles around modern art pieces, most of which are lightly veiled versions of actual famous pieces. Some of the clues left for you are explained as the work of an inside accomplice, but the majority are presented as puzzles without attempting further explanation.
Large gallery rooms with labelled art pieces are perhaps simpler to create than some of the other Claustrophobia game sets, and correspondingly this game might come across as less impressive. Personally I thought it was an elegant design that worked well with the company’s usual streamlined style, that used the modern art setting inventively and sometimes wittily. Icons of contemporary art are subverted into puzzle items, each used differently in a way that matches its form.
As I’ve described with some other Claustrophobia games, there’s sometimes a feeling that you’re guessing which of the various items to focus on, and since it’s a mainly linear sequence of puzzles, time spent on the wrong items will get you nowhere. And there’s often not much justification for why a clue in this place should help with something over there, or why placing the right item in the critical location should open an apparently unrelated hatch elsewhere, except that the game appears to expect it of you. To be fair, Museum includes several sections where that criticism doesn’t apply, with the most heist-like steps managing a more realistic style.
One weakness that definitely does apply is with the ending, which is excellent – except that both our teams found that it was unclear when the game had ended, meaning it finished with a moment of confusion instead of triumph. Slightly clearer instructions in the briefing could have avoided that, and since English isn’t the default language for the game that might be something that was lost in translation.
Both our teams also completely failed to understand the logic behind one effect that appeared to occur unpredictably – in fact there was a clue that should have keyed us into what was going on that we’d forgotten about, and with retrospective understanding that part of the game was more satisfying.
For those used to traditional games full of padlocks, Claustrophobia’s usual zero-locks design principles and clever puzzle ideas will make this game look very impressive indeed. More jaded players may find Museum underwhelming compared to the other games at this branch and elsewhere in Berlin – a couple of our group found it actively disappointing. For my part, I found it a subtler but perhaps cleverer game than the others at the venue, a small step down in decor but more well-rounded.