Maidstone, Mar 2019
Escape Hub’s most recent (at time of writing) game is Inbound, set in World War II. Specifically, you’re in bomb-struck 1940s London, and your mission is to retrieve three envelopes of confidential information before the next air raid hits. Naturally, I quickly forgot about the details of what we were trying to achieve, and when I found the first of these envelopes I spent a brief time trying to work out what it was for, before remembering it was our goal.
Inbound’s interior decoration is lovely, set in an interestingly complex space that successfully puts you in 1940s wartime Britain, and then builds atmosphere further with audio and other effects. Escape Hub are located in a shopping centre, but the game interior bears no trace of being repurposed commercial space. It’s large enough that it could have been turned into two or possibly even three small escape rooms, so it’s to the venue’s credit that they instead chose to make a single game with enough space to allow a feeling of exploration and discovery.
While I could pick out one or two puzzles for small ambiguities, the vast majority of the puzzles here were thoroughly solid and the couple of times we needed nudges from the gamemaster were for things we’d missed not things that didn’t make sense. Despite the sophisticated set Inbound is very much based around padlocks, with most puzzles resolving to a numerical code. The sheer quantity of those, and the way we fairly often had to find the right padlock to use a code on by trial and error, took some of the shine off the game for my teammate. Personally I found that only a minor flaw in an excellent game. Needing to try two or three different locks to find the right place to use a code is inelegant, but doesn’t particularly break the flow of a game for me as long as I have confidence that I’m trying a correct code.
We played as a team of two, which it’s well-suited for as long as you keep up a reasonable pace, since there’s plenty to get through. I really enjoyed the way Inbound moves through different stages, each with a distinct style of decoration that carries over into the appearance and design of the puzzles. The rapid-fire series of padlock unlocks gives a good pace to the game, building up to a finish that’s a lot more satisfying than simply finding a key to an exit door. That all adds up to a polished and pretty game I’m confident will be enjoyed by both beginner and enthusiast teams.