London, Jul 2018
The prohibition-themed third game from Clue Adventures is based not in their main venue, but in the basement of a pub. Its lease at the pub where I played is about to run out, hopefully to be followed by it re-opening in a new location, although at time of writing that’s yet to be confirmed.
The pub basement that hosts (or hosted) the game is a real pub basement, in use by real pub patrons during the week. As with many games based in dual-use locations, that gives it a pop-up feel where all components must be portable. Despite some interesting-looking panelling in the walls, don’t expect any secret passageways to open.
This real pub basement comes with a real bartender, though – or at least, a real actor (or actress). Your gamemaster is in the room throughout, in character, and can be bribed for hints using the stack of dollar bills provided. This combines with what seems to now be the standard hint policy for Clue Adventures, where they ask you up front which of three levels of hinting you’d like them to use. Having that control over how ready the host is to chime in with suggestions was very welcome. I had slightly more mixed feelings about the in-room gamemaster; not for anything our host did or did not do, but simply because I find it weirdly distracting to be solving something while someone who knows the answers is standing right there.
Clue Adventures’ first two games are both quite challenging, and Gangster’s Treasure is more approachable; our team of three finished with ten minutes left on the clock. While there is a search element, most of the game is placed prominently in plain sight, to reduce confusion from the pre-existing pub decor. What felt initially like a grab-bag of unrelated puzzles turned out to just be the warm-up for a game structured into distinct stages; I won’t go into details, but the website description states that you need to identify a killer as well as find the murdered gangster’s treasure.
This struck me as both an easier and a less ambitious game than the others from Clue Adventures, but it shares a certain home-made style to many of the game components which adds greatly to its appeal. At several points I was aware that we could quite easily brute-force something by trying each of a relatively small number of possibilities in a lock, but even without the presence of the gamemaster that wouldn’t have been tempting; it wasn’t the sort of game to tempt you to take shortcuts.
Because of the need for the game to be packed away during the week, it seems more ‘bitty’ than it might if it could have been constructed as a permanent escape room; it has less that’s as impressive or striking than Clue Adventures’ other games. But it has solid puzzles with clever design, and a good final payoff. The last few slots at its current venue are all sold out, but as and when it reappears at a new home it’s worth paying a visit.