Reading, Mar 2018
Bank Robbery is one of the two games at Escape Reading’s original branch, located on the west side of the city. I frequently book games without reading their descriptions very closely, and I’d assumed from the name we’d be robbing a bank. Instead, the premise was that we’d been framed for a robbery, and our only chance of avoiding a jail sentence was to break into the apartment of the actual culprit and gather evidence of their guilt before the police arrived.
An apartment is a much simpler environment to create than a bank vault, and the decor is certainly on the simple side. Visually the style is that of many earlier escape games from 2015 or thereabouts, where the emphasis is firmly on puzzles over story or setting.
That probably doesn’t convey much enthusiasm, and I did start Bank Robbery with a slightly disappointed impression that it was a basic, traditional game with not much to get excited about. However, by the end, it had won me over. The decor isn’t particularly striking, but the consistently good puzzle design and the quantity of things to solve went a long way; and one task in particular was a great highlight that left us grinning happily.
One hesitation I have about this game is that a couple of elements seemed like potential sticking points. One was a tricky search task; another was something that was very simple for us because we knew how to do it, but could be a frustrating blocker for teams who haven’t seen it before.
However, in most respects it was scrupulously fair. We managed to stumble across two or three hidden objects that seemed unnecessarily hard to find – but then subsequently unlocked clues pointing us towards those places, which made the hiding places completely reasonable. (In a complete break from all precedent, for once we actually did a pretty decent job of our searching!) I’d describe that as good judgement about the right level of guidance to give players, and that also showed in the simple but very effective method used to tell players what they need to find to win the game. Since your goal is to accumulate evidence not just find an exit key, this could easily have been confusing, but instead it’s obvious when you’re missing something, and once you’ve found everything it’s obvious what to do with it. That all helps the game to conclude in an excited rush instead of a fizzle of confusion.
Escape Reading’s more recent games are more obviously impressive than this one, and at a variety of ways it feels like an older design of game. Nonetheless, I liked it more and more as it went on. The quick-fire gratification of solving lots of puzzles in quick succession, free from unnecessary points of frustration, made it an easy game to enjoy. It saves its most fun and memorable sequence for the later stages of the game, for a strong finish. I’m erring on the stingy side when rating it because I wonder whether a few points that we flew through could be more frustrating for other teams; other than that minor concern, I’d rate it just as highly as the two more obviously impressive games that we played here.