Bucharest, May 2018
Pădurea Fermecată translates as Enchanted Forest, and from the story seems to be a curious mix of Narnia and Middle Earth inspirations: a forest locked in eternal winter by a wicked witch, causing suffering to the intelligent trees known as Ents. There is also a time-travelling guide called Mr. Somebody who has left help for you, and appears to be a character brought over from the venue’s first game.
I struggle to find the right words to describe the decoration style: whimsical and home-made in feel rather than slick Hollywood realism, but also very thorough-going and creative. It’s a tall order to make a room look like a snow-laden forest, but if your suspension of disbelief is comfortable with cotton wool clouds and snowdrifts, then it’s a big success.
The look of the room is endearing, and the game style matches it; a couple of sections in particular with little props of hand-painted wood or an arts and crafts style that wouldn’t look out of place in an Etsy shop. Between that and the very friendly host it was a hard game to dislike, one that struck me as particularly well suited to family groups.
We found the game’s flow somewhat confusing, and were also surprised by a lock that appeared to be one digit off the code we expected. The reason for that became clear after the game’s finish: we’d missed a certain clue that was relevant to two later steps. One of those we’d managed to decode from first principles nonetheless; with the other we attempted a simpler approach than that intended, which just happened to give a solution nearly identical to the correct one. As a result the game appeared to have more loose ends and less coherence than was actually the case. Allowing for that, I still got the impression that the puzzles could be tightened up in places, that it’s currently a little too easy for players to dive into paths of investigation that lead nowhere. But the gamemaster was quick to sort out problems via the hint system that appears to be most common in Romania: hints in the form of photos slid under the door.
Everything built to a finish that was the highlight of the game – or should have been, but then fell a bit flat due to an over-fiddly mechanism that we struggled to trigger correctly, and a lack of fanfare as the game ended. As a result when the exit door swung open we were briefly unsure whether we’d done it correctly, or if the mechanism had failed and the GM had triggered the door themselves, or if the door had failed open early. But even with some rough edges, it was a game full of charm that should win over all but the most hard-hearted.