Winchester, Sep 2017
ClueCapers have memorably idiosyncratic names for their games, and it was some time after I’d first heard of them that I realised the name Winchintzy referred to the theme: chintz. The official storyline has you travelling through a portal into a parallel world to retrieve a misplaced set of blueprints, but that’s a thin excuse to build an escape room around a a flat gleefully over-decorated with tacky floral patterns and furniture too twee for Ikea. Perhaps after playing games where you’re defusing a bomb or escaping a prison it might sound dull to play one set in what might be your maiden aunt’s apartment, but don’t be put off: Winchintzy is bursting with clever ideas and sly humour.
There are two versions of the game to choose from, normal and dastardly. The dastardly version is mostly identical to the normal one, but has a couple of puzzles replaced by more difficult versions. Both of the dastardly puzzles were noticeably more challenging than typical escape room puzzles, at a level where I’d question their suitability for first time players, but which most enthusiasts will happily take in their stride – which is to say, they’re perfectly judged to give experienced players something a bit tougher, and I’d encourage all experienced teams to try the more difficult version of the game.
The pre-game briefing told us that we’d be in a parallel world where things looked familiar but might have unexpected differences. One of the joys of Winchintzy was exactly this, that it presents you with what appears to be a pretty mundane environment but which then turns out to contain hidden surprises. It’s both pleasing and funny when something apparently normal works completely differently to what you’d expect.
The other big joy of Winchintzy is that it’s a really well-designed escape room throughout. There’s a good mix of different types of puzzle, a little searching, and some physical and co-operative tasks. Some sections might have been fiddly or confusing but have been built in a way that just works. Although several padlocks are used, there’s rarely any confusion over what code should go with which lock and many more novel mechanisms are mixed in too. Players can divide and conquer for a lot of the game, but are brought back together for the final one or two puzzles for a satisfying conclusion and escape.
In some ways it’s difficult to pin down what made it such an enjoyable game, but that combination of quirky creativity with solid game design is a winning formula. With plenty of entertaining little touches and a near total absence of friction points, this could be the most fun you’ll ever have inside a room with pink floral wallpaper.