London, Apr 2019
It is deeply weird to walk into an escape room that you’ve played just a few days before, with all the pre-game intro causing serious déjà vu. But Deep Down is the alter ego of Torpedo, the two Submarine games being Hint Hunt’s ambitious attempt to create two different games within the same physical space. Both have existed on the continent for some time, but have recently made it to the London branch.
The two games are entirely distinct, and designed to let teams play both without repetition of content. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, the first few minutes of Deep Down had a great deal in common with the start of Torpedo, and I was beginning to worry that we’d paid for an escape room that we’d already solved large parts of. Fortunately it was only that brief initial section that had any commonality with the other game, and thereafter it was indeed entirely different.
Even so, it was oddly distracting to be playing in familiar surroundings. Some elements of the decor had been used in Torpedo, and were pure scenery in Deep Down, and others the reverse. Others were used in both games, but in different ways. Awareness of how items had been relevant the last time round inevitably coloured how we saw them this time. The experience would be different for anyone playing Deep Down before Torpedo, but my impression was that the loose ends left over from Torpedo were more prominent in Deep Down than vice versa – we knew to ignore them, but if you start with Deep Down, these could turn into the worst sort of red herrings.
All that aside, Deep Down has the same nice decor as Torpedo (literally the same, of course!), and plenty of quite original puzzle ideas – some more successful than others, but showing a pleasing amount of creativity. While the two Submarine games are similar in a lot of ways, and I’d peg them at a similar standard of quality, they’re not interchangeable: Torpedo felt like it had a somewhat greater emphasis on realism, whereas Deep Down is a bit more physical and a bit less serious, with more ‘pure’ puzzles based around random symbols unconnected to the theme. Deep Down was narrowly the game I preferred, for its more creative and physical style, but my teammate liked Torpedo better for the greater focus on story.
While it had various smart and clever puzzles, some of the content felt a little like filler, both here and in Torpedo. While the novel approach of building two games in a shared room is an interesting experiment that Hint Hunt have, broadly, implemented well, I’m not surprised that (as far as I know) they haven’t repeated it since with their newer designs. As well as the unwanted distraction elements left in for whichever game you’re not currently playing, it also seemed like the highlights were spread just a little bit thin.
If you took all the best puzzles of the two games and combined them into a single experience, it would be dramatically better than either actual game is on its own. (Or maybe they could find a way to blend the two into a single extended game, with more or less all the content from both, and a combined storyline?) In the meantime, Deep Down is, like Torpedo, an impressive game that falls a bit short of its potential. Which of the two you prefer will come down to what you enjoy in a game; and you may find it better to wait a while between playing the two games, so that the experience of the second is less affected by memories of the first.