Basingstoke, Dec 2018
As is not at all evident from the name, Banking on Trouble is set at the beginning of World War II, and your goal is to find information about a possible Nazi invasion of Britain – specifically, the landing place and time. The game’s name is a reference to the fact that you’re infiltrating the office of a traitorous City banker to find this information. (If you find use of Nazi symbolism distasteful, be warned that you may encounter some in this game.)
Banking on Trouble follows the well-established house style of Exciting Escapes games. As with their others, puzzles mostly resolve to padlock codes, and padlocks are labelled with clear icons to indicate which solution goes with which lock. Another nice tactic for getting novice players off to a fast start is the clipboard provided for taking notes – underneath the sheet of blank paper, it has another page giving prompts for starting points. Experienced players may prefer to ignore it, since it doesn’t provide anything essential to solving the puzzles, but it’s a good way to make sure beginners find their feet quickly.
Straight from playing the venue’s sister game Murder at the Movies, we found this game contrasted in puzzle style. Where the other makes a point of including a variety of physical and sensory puzzles, this one has a more traditional and intellectual feel – the use of maths, words and symbols seemed ‘classic escape room’ in design. Similarly for the decor: drawers, posters and filing cabinets were just some of the escape room tropes in use. However, that appeared to me a deliberate choice not from any shortage of ideas, and since the puzzles were also clear and well-designed, the result is thoroughly successful.
One possible exception to that was a particular puzzle where the answer seemed straightforwardly wrong, though in a way that narrowed it down to a few possibilities that we could brute-force through. That puzzle seemed so clearly broken I’m inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume I misunderstood something, though it’s hard to see what that could have been.
As with the game we played immediately before it, Banking on Trouble was on the easy side for an experienced team. That and the traditional style of gameplay might make it less appealing to experienced players than some of Exciting Escapes’ other offerings, but it’s a satisfying sequence of puzzles with an investigative slant that fits well with the setting.