Liverpool, Sep 2018
The second room at Clue Finders is Egyptian themed, and has you in search of a secret tomb. I was a little cast down to find that we’d entered a room decorated as a study rather than anything more ancient in appearance, but the game has secrets to uncover. Our host described it as a more physical game, and that was entirely true: be prepared for plenty of movement, some narrow spaces, and a decent chunk of content based around physical manipulation or skill.
Be warned also that it’s pretty dimly lit, and you’re provided with only a single torch between the team. Our host did however tell us in the briefing that we should feel free to use our phone torches if we wished. In the end we didn’t, which goes to show that it can’t have been too dark.
Like its sister game Remy’s Room, in its small details The Tomb is not perfectly reliable; as an example, one puzzle involved touching an object to a hidden sensor, where there was a clear, logical and wrong place to put the object. That and a few other details sit uncomfortably close to the line that divides ‘difficult’ from ‘flawed’, though I think stays just about on the right side of it. As a result, and because there’s a lot to do, it’s a difficult room and we barely made it out in time (though we were playing with one fewer players than the suggested minimum of three). It’s also not easy to judge how close or otherwise to the end you are, while playing. I normally have a mental estimate of whether we seem to be ahead or behind, which affects how rapidly I’ll resort to gamemaster clues when I’m stuck on something; with The Tomb, I discovered I’d underestimated how much remained to do.
Special mention has to go to a certain ball-in-a-maze puzzle which looked standard and straightforward, but turned out to have perhaps the most evil construction of any similar puzzle I’ve seen. There are times when ‘frustrating’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’, and this is one of them. A different skill task also briefly had me thinking that we’d dropped something in a place it could no longer be reached, and we could no longer proceed; but it was possible, just very hard. Both of those hit the sweet spot of initially appearing unreasonable, but then yielding to persistence, which of course makes the triumph of completing them all the sweeter.
Despite the physical emphasis of the game, the mental solving is more demanding than an average escape room. Parts of it are driven by a journal of information with cryptic hints for things you may need to do at some point. That’s a mechanism quite often used with ancient tomb themes, a tendency that’s probably the fault of the Indiana Jones movies. I heartily disliked the reliance on this book of clues, and even more disliked the way the book mixes useful information with a great quantity of distraction junk to throw you off the scent. Even so, what I loved about the game was the way it built up its own internal logic as it went on, partly through use of that book. While plenty of the puzzles are effectively stand-alone, others require you to get to grips with the game’s story. It doesn’t reuse answers from one puzzle in another, but some of the earlier solutions contribute to a bigger picture that’s the key to completing later stages.
That made the game’s ending particularly satisfying, with a sense of everything coming together at the conclusion, instead of simply finishing the last of a sequence of unrelated puzzles. If you enjoy games that make you move around a lot (which I usually do), then The Tomb does well there too, conveying a real sense of exploration that completely took away any sense that I was in a building somewhere in central Liverpool.