Leeds, Apr 2018
Escape Hunt is a name that enthusiasts may recognise from escaping trips abroad: they have venues in more than two dozen cities around the globe. They used to have a location in London, which shut down some years ago; but they’ve now re-launched in three UK cities with at least another three due to open. I didn’t have a hugely favourable impression of their original London location, but early feedback on their new UK games was a lot more positive, so I was pleased to make a visit to their new Leeds branch.
They’ve opened with two copies of a single game, with a different game due to open in the near future. As you’d expect from a company of their size, the pre-game experience was very slick: a spacious and comfortable waiting area that’s clearly built to accommodate future expansion, very friendly gamemasters, and a tablet-based waiver system.
Our Finest Hour is a World War II game, where you must search a hidden Nazi bunker to decode their communications then find and destroy their superweapon. The decoration style is gritty and authentic, with austere 40s furniture amidst metal and concrete. Tiptoeing around spoilers, it has a couple of notably cool pieces of equipment that provide the highlights, both in terms of giving a good ‘wow’ moment and in providing puzzle segments that really fit the story, giving an immersive feeling of actually breaking enemy codes and sabotaging their plans.
We got quite bogged down near the end. One reason for that was an indicator on a machine that appeared to be pointing at one letter but was actually supposed to be pointing at its neighbour. However, I can’t really blame that for our troubles – that was a relatively minor factor and the main cause for delay was simply us overcomplicating what we were supposed to do.
A mark of good design is that when you do the right thing, you’re rewarded with an indication of progress, whether that’s a lock opening, a light coming on or a confirmation sound; players shouldn’t be left unsure whether they’ve solved something or not. One step in the game lacked that, although that was because we were attempting it slightly out of sequence; it stood out because the rest of the game was very good at providing clear feedback in response to player actions. (This being a recently opened game that’s still undergoing some fine tuning, that step may be something they tweak to make clearer in any case.)
Those couple of minor teething issues aside, it’s an impressive game with a consistently convincing atmosphere, and a tight set of puzzles that have excellent narrative flow. Team size is listed as 2-6, and I’d recommend 3 or 4 as optimal.