Reading, Aug 2018
The premise for 9 To 5 Assassin is that you’re trapped in an office trying to get out before a professional killer returns. ‘Office’ is a bit of a red flag in a room description – if you have a large budget to spent on making your escape room look fantastic, it’s unlikely that you’ll choose to make it look like an office. And this is indeed the least visually impressive of the three Knockout games we played, surprisingly so given it’s the venue’s most recent game. A bit of background context is the likely reason: they’re about to have to relocate, due to their current site being scheduled for redevelopment as flats.
But looks aren’t everything, particularly in escape games, and I thought in other respects Assassin was stronger than its two sibling games. It draws on a wide array of escape room staples and enthusiasts are likely to have seen many of the puzzle ideas elsewhere, but they’re widely-used for a reason: the various visual tricks and physical mechanisms here are good examples of what you can do in an escape room that you can’t do in a puzzle magazine. And there’s enough variety that anyone who’s not a hopeless escape room addict should find some things that are excitingly novel for them.
There were also a few misfires, such as a bit of a logic leap required to select the correct option from a set of alternatives. The clue provided wasn’t itself ambiguous, but seemed implausible until we’d checked through every other theory we could think of and made sure there weren’t any more convincing approaches to try. And the technology detracted from what should have been two of the best moments of the game by being too fussy. This included the final step – it rather deflated the concluding moment of triumph when the gamemaster had to tell us to go back and repeat what we’d just done until the sensor picked it up correctly.
One search target verged on unreasonable for me, but the game space is of a size where it’s possible to do a very exhaustive search, so I can easily believe a less search-averse group would be able to find it without hints.
The office setting and relative simplicity of the decor could make Assassin quite underwhelming. But broadly solid puzzle design and various fun ideas redeem it. I’d suggest beginner teams try one of their other games over this one, for greater atmosphere; but enthusiasts may find this one the most enjoyable.