Paris, Oct 2018
Escape Lab is a curious experiment, a shared space where numerous different escape room operators can run their games, a business model that I could imagine succeeding elsewhere. PC Sécurité is from a design company named Oneway (previously Hydre), and is the first part of an ambitious sequence of games planned to share a common setting and narrative. (Part 2 is already available, but only in French.)
You play urban explorers sneaking into an abandoned military base, which might just turn out to conceal an unpleasant surprise or two. Your equipment for the game includes a head-torch for each player, and this is indeed played in low lighting – though not in pitch blackness, and with the high quality torches it felt atmospheric without lack of light becoming frustrating.
Grim metal and concrete combines with very authentic early 90s technology to set the scene. For realism, PC Sécurité is outstanding – arguably too much so. This is where your enjoyment of the game will depend on your tastes in puzzle design. Leafing through documents and electronic records is very much on theme, but doesn’t always make for the most thrilling puzzles. A central section uses a certain mechanism repeatedly in a way that I guess is plausible for the setting, but which makes for one of the game’s less entertaining sections.
We finished a couple of minutes over time, although I believe it was still technically a success, because of one of the game’s unusual features. There was no mention of it in the briefing, so I’m wary of saying too much about it in case it could be counted as a spoiler. But PC Sécurité is a somewhat dynamic game where you need to respond to events as they happen, not simply get through all the content within sixty minutes; and depending on what you do at certain points your overall time limit may be extended. This is a cool idea that was a bit confusing for us in practice. Personally I’d have preferred to know about it up front, though I guess the reason the host doesn’t mention it is to not break immersion in the in-character briefing.
A small handful of less clear moments diluted otherwise solid puzzle design. One audio clue was in French, and our one player with a good knowledge of the language couldn’t make head or tail of it; then our host sent through the English translation (as an in-character message) which made little more sense than the French original. We eventually worked out the intended answer through a mixture of guesswork and trial and error. Other weaker spots included a counting puzzle (solving these far too often comes down to a little guesswork), and a finish that felt like it relied on a bit of mind-reading to guess the designer’s intentions.
That was a shame, because it left us with a poorer impression of what I think is in most respects an ambitious, clever game that shows great dedication to building a consistent, convincing setting. I very much like the dynamic story-led structure, and there’s a whole lot of dealing with chunky big machinery and electronic systems that’s a blast to play with. We played as a team of five, which perhaps left those highlights spread a bit thin across different players, leaving the game’s weaknesses more prominent in the memory, and I suspect it’s better suited to a slightly smaller group. And if story and consistency of immersion is something you particularly look for in your escape rooms, PC Sécurité is one to try.