London, May 2017
Da Vinci is a common escape room theme, which is probably the fault of the Dan Brown bestseller. Escape Land’s version has you hunting for the Holy Grail with the help of clues from Leonardo himself (no, not the mutant turtle) before unnamed ‘evil forces’ get their hands on it.
The game starts in a mostly dark room, which I’m rarely keen on, but we had a sufficient number of effective torches. The initial dark and somewhat small space fortunately turned out to be not at all representative of the game, and one of the great pleasures of this game was the way it expanded into new areas. It turns out to be both pretty and a surprisingly large space.
Like the other Escape Land game, this is a completely low tech game – no electronics, no arduinos, not even a maglock to be found. Most puzzles resolve to a padlock code of one sort or another, or sometimes a physical key. Despite the reliance on padlocks though, it was rare that we had to try a code on multiple padlocks to find the right one. That’s partly because some (not all) padlocks are labelled with a name that makes it clear which puzzle they go with; and partly because the game is phased such that the total number of locks available at one time is never that high.
More so than the other Escape Land game, Da Vinci relies on written paper clues, something I rarely like, even if the theme here gave a decent excuse for it. But again, it covers the spectrum of puzzle types, with a fair bit of searching, some observation, some abstract reasoning, some physical. The physical puzzles here are again custom and original, usually needing player cooperation, and straightforwardly fun, and include a remarkable Da Vinci themed setpiece.
The content is undeniably variable. But it’s so energetically full of things to do, with so much variety, that it’s hard to hold a few weaker puzzles against it when they’re mixed in with lots that are interesting, fun and/or memorable. Add some great decor (once you get past the initial room!) and some proper Da Vinci wooden machinery and you get a game that’s a great deal better than I’d expected it to be and one I’d enthusiastically recommend.