Norwich, Jul 2023
Cryptic’s Rose Lane branch is on the third floor of a car park, which is a curious location and one that seems like it shouldn’t exist; finding an escape room venue instead of more cars seemed a little like finding a hidden platform at Kings Cross.
The room gave a decent first impression; it didn’t exactly transport us to a different world, but it was a space containing many interesting and appealing things. The Harry Potter theming is clear, if unofficial, and pleasingly done; items are quirky and fun and make noises or react in other ways, and you will of course have the chance to perform ‘magic’ with a wand.
This is the sort of game that’s designed around a succession of stand-alone puzzle props. The downside is that there’s less of a sense of flow; at each stage we were looking around to work out which sections were now active and solveable, and the end is less a natural conclusion and more just the point where there are no puzzles remaining.
There’s plenty of cool technology, but impressive effects are sometimes given priority over ease of play; for example, there’s one puzzle with a delightful but slow effect when you change its state, and solving it is likely to require many such slow changes. Our host implied that with most teams they need to use an override to skip them past, which surprised me not at all.
Hints, of which we ended up needing several, came through on a tablet; we had to confirm we wanted the hint to read it, which was a nice guard against over-hinting.
While I thought there were a number of small ways that the flow of the individual puzzles and the overall game could be made tighter and smoother, none of them were serious problems; a less critical eye likely wouldn’t notice them. And it had a feel that I’d describe as lively, or even jolly – fun props, some entertaining interactions, and also friendly upbeat hosting. There’s not much to make enthusiasts rush to play this one, but no reason to avoid it either; and it should be an accessible and enjoyable game for beginners.