Peterborough, Feb 2018
My experience of Escape is that their games are reliably decent, but that the decor and atmosphere are rarely a particular strength – typically a nice enough set of props and themed puzzle components but usually starting from generic office space that is difficult to imbue with much atmosphere. So it caught my eye that in Peterborough their second location is in the Priestgate Vaults beneath Peterborough Museum.
The Vaults are a set of underground chambers that have a five hundred year history, having been used at various times as a wine cellar, morgue and air raid shelter. The three games available at the Vaults only run Thursday to Sunday, with the space used on other days and at other times for ghost tours, educational visits, and other purposes. Each game is based on a different part of the location’s history, and The Hunt is set in the English Civil War, casting players as a Parliamentarian group searching for the location of the defeated King Charles I.
The impressive location is matched by some lovely old furniture that may not date back to the era in question but certainly evokes the theme. It’s a small room and a shorter than usual game time (45 minutes not 60), so I’d suggest a team of two or three.
Most of the games I’ve played from the Escape chain have used a mostly linear structure with a sequence of independent puzzles, each of which typically resolves to a code that opens a padlock and releases clues for the next puzzle. The Hunt follows exactly that style. Since the game takes place in a historic space subject to preservation laws, which needs to be returned to its prior state whenever it’s being used for other purposes, it also relies a lot on small padlocked chests and other easily removed components.
I’d have preferred it to lean less heavily on laminated clues and sometimes anachronistic padlocks. It’s also quite a slight game, which many enthusiast groups are likely to finish in under half an hour. Since it’s priced at the same level as their other games despite being 15 minutes shorter, you might find it less good value for money. But as with most games from Escape, the puzzles are well designed without needless ambiguities or frustration points. It’s fairly lightweight and feels halfway to being a temporary popup game, but what’s there is fun, and the location plus some quality decor give it a boost.