Nottingham, May 2017
Epi-centre (also variously E.P.I. Centre and Epicentre) places you in a wrecked science facility with the loss of power leaving a store of hazardous chemicals on the verge of explosion.
The website description states that this is the most ‘real world’ of their seven games, and that’s accurate. The starting area in particular looks like a trashed office space, with papers and debris everywhere. This is a split team game, with one player locked in an isolation chamber, with the first main goal being to bring lab systems back online and reunite the team. This half of the game involves communication (of course) and search, but the biggest challenge is working out what to pay attention to.
Now, I have a dislike of red herrings in rooms. Items that look plausibly relevant but turn out to just be decorations are usually fair enough, but it’s much worse when the room contains intentional scrawls and messages that look like codes and clues but which turn out to be pure distractions. Even worse is where the room also uses many padlocks on which each plausible code must be tried, or with locks that use an auto-lockout system.
Epi-centre has a whole mass of information, both in the main initial room and the isolation chamber, and a veritable blizzard of books, newspaper pieces, and fragments of paper strewn around. But while this is potentially a red herring nightmare, I actually found it worked perfectly well. The key is that separating useful information from distractions isn’t a matter of just trying everything – instead follow the logic of the story, remember what you’re trying to achieve and focus on what might help you with that. Additionally, this ‘sorting through the debris’ style suits the theme exactly. (Although I suggest taking the time to glance over even the more clearly irrelevant bits and pieces – there are some entertaining easter egg pieces of text in there.)
The decor is less immediately impressive than that of Escapologic’s other rooms, but gets distinctly more striking as you progress. Of all the laboratory themed games I’ve seen, I felt this one was the most realistic, with some great industrial-scale equipment to play with. The game builds to a dramatic end with a fun unexpected twist.
Be warned that the game experience is somewhat different for the player who starts in the isolation chamber as for the rest of the team – it’s probably a good idea to volunteer the team’s most experienced escaper for that role, or the best communicator.
This was the second Escapologic game I played. The premise is that a lab has some dangerous chemicals in it that need to be made safe before the lab blows following an earthquake. One of you as a scientist goes in to fix the incident, but the computer thinks you’re an intruder and locks you in. The rest of your team has to rescue you and together you all have to escape before the lab blows.
I got “volunteered” to be the scientist and was locked away. The room I started in wasn’t particularly impressive; it did feel like a grubby basement that had been filled with decoration (a fault of a few of their rooms), rather than a lab that had been hit with an earthquake. By contrast my team were in a room that was reasonably coherent.
The clues and puzzles were logical, although there were an overly large number of red herrings mixed in with the valid puzzles. I have a particular issue with one of the puzzle solutions, which I wasnt sure was physically safe as it hadn’t been clearly highlighted before the game.
The decor of the game in the main lab was a significant theme improvement, with a couple of lovely physical puzzles, with a continued strong theme and physical puzzle in the final room (with an amusing plot note thrown in).
This room could be materially improved with some decor investment – a lab with an earthquake may be disorganised and scarred, but not run down. Overall enjoyable, but not spectacular.