London, Apr 2019
In the rapidly evolving escape room industry, there’s a constant pressure for each new game to be larger, more high-tech, more immersive or more pretty to look at; and as individual owners and designers gain experience, each new game at any given venue is often better-designed and more impressive than the ones that came before it. So it was something of a surprise to find that the newest game at Hint Hunt is very stripped down: it occupies half the space taken up by the game they opened six years earlier, and has some of the sparsest decor I’ve seen in any escape room.
The reason is that The Safe is clearly designed as a mobile game, easily portable and intended to be set up in a company office or wherever else it may be booked for. It primarily consists of one large, sophisticated piece of kit that acts as the centrepiece of the game, plus various peripheral parts that can be set up on and within whatever furniture happens to be available. If you’re playing it at Hint Hunt’s premises, then the decor is little more sophisticated than it would be playing it as a temporary installation in an office workplace.
The mission is to interrupt a bank transfer – I can’t say I entirely followed the story rationale, but you have a suspect in custody, and need to foil their dastardly scheme by cancelling their conveniently slow transfer of funds before it completes. In a nice touch that helps lift the bare-bones decor, the game includes a projected video stream of the interrogation room, and hints are presented as new information uncovered from the suspect.
We struggled a bit to get going despite the small number of things to focus on, and the early game contains two or three steps where it’s easy to overlook something and end up needing a nudge from the gamemaster to get past. But as with Hint Hunt’s two Submarine games, weaker puzzles seemed clustered nearer the start, and the game rose in quality as it went on. Although I thought it made a bit too much use of a particular electronic device, the puzzles are The Safe’s stronger point, with several clever and creative ideas – I particularly liked their variation on a magnet maze. And while mostly abstract in design, the later puzzles are brought together in a structure that ties them into the plot and helps make sense of the various bits and pieces available for the team to work on.
If I’d played this as a mobile game temporarily installed at my office or home, I’d definitely give it a higher rating. However, when you play it as a fixed installation at their venue, it’s almost inevitably going to give an underwhelming first impression. For me at least, an escape room lives or dies on the quality of the puzzles, and on that front The Safe delivers a solid, decent game – but there’s not a whole lot to lift it beyond the average.