Sofia, May 2018
This curiously named game is second in a series that currently numbers three in total, each in a different location in Sofia; I chose to play the second one because that was the one I’d noticed recommendations for. Despite the implied continuity, Dextrophobia’s games don’t have any narrative links between them. This one is set in a science fiction dystopia, where you are attempting to infiltrate a base on a mission to liberate humanity from their robot overlords.
Located a little way out of the centre in a large underground location beneath a concrete apartment block, it achieves an instantly convincing industrial atmosphere. Decorations are perhaps sparse in the large area but include some really nice custom pieces of equipment.
My experience of Dextrophobia’s second game was that it was an interesting, cool game that should have been great fun to play, but which was let down by a number of issues. Many of those may have been caused by the host rushing the game setup a little, due to us arriving ahead of schedule; a couple of elements seemed mis-set, in particular the game’s timer device. Since that’s likely not representative of normal operation it would be unfair to the game to place too much weight on that. However, there was also an obvious puzzle that was never used, which we were told after the game is no longer used but which had confusingly been left in the room anyhow; a couple of points where electronic mechanisms were temperamental about accepting a solution; and also the awkward moment when I got trapped between two magnetically locked doors with no way for us to open either, until the operator noticed and hit the override.
Only the issue with the timer had a significant impact on our enjoyment of the game, and that only because it appeared to have interfered with the game’s conclusion. I was also dubious about a particular puzzle which I found confusing because it involved doing something in simulation with a replica of an electronic device, where it would have been possible and far more satisfying to do the same thing for real.
But if I’m listing a catalogue of complaints, it’s due to frustration at small things that got in the way of a potentially great game. Its blend of grim concrete, futuristic stylings and post-apocalyptic rust had us immediately impressed, and I appreciated the way the game’s structure gives a feeling of progression towards your goal. Much of it is linear, and challenging in a lateral thinking kind of way, and it throws in a sudden curve-ball to boost tension.
Despite the various bumps in our game we reached the end after not much more than half an hour, so enthusiasts might find it light on content. I’m wary about being too critical of the game based on our experience, since I suspect we were unfortunate with how it went; but equally I’d expect other teams may also find it falls somewhat short of its potential, due to game length and/or some of the puzzle issues I noticed. Different teams’ experiences might vary considerably, but even with some problems it’s an impressive and atmospheric sci-fi game with many cool moments that you’re much more likely to enjoy than not.