Coventry, Jul 2018
Escape Live’s casino game is one of that rare breed of escape room where you can emerge with a variable score based not on time but quantity of winnings. There is a central thread of puzzles leading to the exit, plus a number of additional puzzles which do not have to be solved but which determine how lucrative your heist has been.
As you’d guess, it’s a mostly non-linear game with puzzles that are usually independent of each other: broadly, each feature of the room is a single stand-alone puzzle. While the decor is quite sparse, it has several nicely on-theme pieces and an efficiency of design that means absolutely everything is part of the game. Tense background music helps build atmosphere too.
You’re unlikely to get too immersed in the heist theme though, since you’ll spend so much of the time searching for ways to discover codes in your surroundings. Almost all the puzzles resolve to numeric codes, mostly four digit ones, and there are accordingly many devices into which those codes can be entered. We found this afflicted us particularly in the early part of the game, where several puzzles suffered from ambiguities to a greater or lesser extent and we found ourselves tediously spinning each of many combinations in each of many locks. That improved as the game went on, partly because we learned that the code for a puzzle could be relied upon to open the lock nearest to that puzzle, and partly because we increasingly gained enough faith in the game’s design to not bother trying some of our more far-fetched ideas.
Those small ambiguities did rankle though, particularly when one lock used an auto-lockout mechanism with little indication of which code to use on it, and another used culture-specific outside knowledge in a mild way; hints from the gamemaster helped us past both of those. The game structure also meant that very often we solved something only to find it didn’t give us anything to help with other puzzles – which is discouraging when you’re stuck and hoping for something to get you unstuck.
Despite that, I do like the money-based win condition, which allows the game to use some trickier puzzles than might otherwise seem reasonable, since teams don’t have to complete everything to win. It has admirable discipline in the total lack of red herrings, both intentional and accidental. And a fun ending adds sparkle and flavour to what could otherwise seem a slightly dry game.