Lincoln, Nov 2019
The woods must be packed with small sinister cabins, each inhabited by its own bloodthirsty maniac; and inevitably we end up wandering into one after another. Increasingly often escape rooms with this theme start you off outside the cabin; that’s the case here, and Deliverance have built a nicely effective ‘outdoors’ environment.
Cabin is designed as a scary game, and although it’s a long way from full-on terror, nervous players may find that it nudges the boundaries of their comfort zone. I thought they did a good job of keeping a clear separation between the more nerve-inducing moments and the bulk of the game – there weren’t any points where I felt unable to focus on the puzzles due to worrying about what might suddenly happen behind me.
More generally this game demonstrated a good sense of drama, shown in choices of lighting and, for example, points where the process of opening something is not just a matter of slipping off a lock but something more drawn-out and time-consuming, the better to heighten the anticipation of what you’ll find inside.
In places the decor seemed a little fragile in a way that required gentle handling. It’s rarely a game highlight to spend time pouring over scrappy paper items, worn from hundreds of players’ hands, without even being sure whether or not they are clues. I also briefly managed to skip most of the game by unscrewing something I shouldn’t have – fortunately the gamemaster let us know we weren’t supposed to have done that so we quickly back-pedalled – though that was more over-enthusiasm on my part than a flaw in the set.
But although a little flimsy in places, the decor was effective and convincing. Similarly, although I found some of the puzzle design not so sophisticated, the overall experience holds together with flair. A big part of that is the story, and while the narrative doesn’t go in any hugely surprising directions it’s well realised and an integral part of the game, very successfully making it feel like a coherent experience not just a jumble of puzzles.
The conclusion has a nod towards a variable score design, where your victory has different grades of success. In practice I’d expect most teams to get full marks here unless they’re already bumping up against the time limit, but it’s still a nice touch.
My impression of Cabin is of a first design from a promising venue – a bit older, and in places a bit less certain or sophisticated in design than the other one we played there, but also showing a great sense for how to build a gripping game.