Cafe Quest The Waterfront Centre, La Rue de L'Etau, St Helier, JE2 3WF
The UES Radiance has sent out a distress signal on its return to Earth. The spaceship’s core functions have failed and it is now on a collision course with the Earth’s atmosphere.
It is up to your team to bring the ship back online. But with only 50 minutes and a lock-in situation, your mission will be dangerous.
Can you save the ship and prevent disaster? The clock is ticking!
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Having played all of Quest’s previous efforts I wasn’t hugely optimistic about the opening of a new room, but a combination of the lack of other options in Jersey, and the possibility that they might have learnt from previous attempts drew me to give their new Space Quest room a try.
Sadly, it is another game that falls well short of standards, and many of the shortcomings of earlier games are repeated here.
One of the reasons Quest’s previous games have disappointed me is the sense that they have done little more than stick a puzzle in each corner of the room. Whilst it is often a positive for a room to allow team members to solve different puzzles in parallel, i.e. for there to be no linear order in which tasks must be completed, what lets Quest down is that there is no connection between those different puzzles. Space Quest hasn’t really moved past this approach – again it’s a case of solve x number of tasks to win. Much of the fun of an escape room can be in one puzzle opening up a new puzzle or a new area to explore, but here it feels like ticking a series of boxes.
There is vey little sense of physical exploration, with nearly all items and areas being available from the start. Likewise, beyond the very short initial briefing and the general spaceship décor there was little by way of development of any kind of story.
Like previous Quest rooms, there was no facility for two-way audio communication between the players and the gamesmaster. A spaceship theme could easily have integrated some form of screen to deliver text-based hints, and I would have had no complaints with hints being given over speakers. But sadly, again, the gamemaster has no means of hearing what the players are saying, so the only interaction with the gamesmaster is by way of him walking into the room to see how you are getting on. It is fairly well established that having the gamesmaster enter the room is a killer of any sense of immersion, any feeling that you may actually be in a space ship (or whatever the theme of the room happens to be), with the possible exception of where the hints/interaction are delivered whilst in full character/costume.
Another problem we have seen before at Quest is puzzles which rely on the player either not moving, or taking careful note of the particular position in which an item or items are first found in the room. Movement of the items by the players can then make the puzzle much more difficult to solve. Space Quest repeats this mistake, and again this is long established bad puzzle design. Players should and will pick up everything they can, and shouldn’t be punished for exploring.
Space Quest opts for a playbook/operations manual approach, whereby guidance or hints on each of the puzzles is contained in a single book within the room. This often isn’t conducive to fun escaping, although it works OK here in the context of getting the ship’s various systems back online.
The focus is very much on electronic puzzles, and skill games. It is perhaps a matter of taste, but for me the effort put into the electronics would have been much better spent on improving the quality of the puzzles and the general flow of the room. The odd skill game can be fun, but here they felt like time drains to make up for the lack of more conventional puzzles. There are of course techniques to skill games, but if you’re not very good at them they can become pretty tedious, and it wasn’t clear if there was any way for the gamesmaster to override them here if needed.
In another instance, even once the means to solve the puzzle had clicked with us, it felt like there was too much process to go through to finish off the puzzle. As usual, the fun is in the ‘ah ha’ moment of realising what has to be done to solve a puzzle, not in laboriously going through the motions once it is clear what needs to be done.
We escaped, and it wasn’t all bad, of course – the interior design gives a reasonable sense of being in a spaceship, and the electronics seemed to work well (in contrast to my experience in Quest’s Mission: Impossible room). The gamesmaster was friendly.
The £20 per head we paid didn’t feel too excessive for our team of three, but I’d have been much happier if it had been a 60 minute (rather than 50 minute) game – an extra 10 minutes could well have been used to incorporate a decent final puzzle or series of puzzles to draw things towards an ending – or perhaps even a new area to explore.
Aside from the generally poor nature of Quest’s rooms, one gets the sense that quality has given way to ensuring plenty of people are crammed into relatively short games. Space Quest can be booked for up to 10 people (with no reduction in cost per head), but it is beyond me how that many people could be properly occupied in a room with this little to offer.
Perhaps this approach works for Quest, at least in the short term, but my fear is that over the course of the last few years, the opportunity has been missed to demonstrate to the local population how much fun escape rooms can be when well-designed. Rather than wanting more, new rooms, people whose first experience of an escape room is Quest may simply be left wandering what all the fuss is about. I would desperately like Quest to make a room that was on a par with decent rooms in the UK and elsewhere, but this one is still some way behind what those UK rooms were doing several years ago.