Weston-super-mare, Aug 2017
After the prolonged darkness of Lock and Code’s first game, I was looking forward to a nice well-lit room for their Alchemist game, and my heart sunk when we were passed a set of torches once again. Fortunately the light levels were a lot more friendly this time, with torches provided more as an aid than as a necessity.
Your goal is to find the Philosopher’s Stone and liberate it from its nefarious creator before he uses it to achieve immortality. You also need to escape, and for once this doesn’t automatically follow on from the main objective – you may find a way out some time before getting the Stone, or vice versa.
It’s a pretty room, lit by candlelight and filled with slightly steampunk pipes and mechanisms as well as astrological and alchemical diagrams and paraphernalia. (The battery-powered candles turned out to be superior to most of the torches we’d been given, in fact, and we soon abandoned the latter for the former.)
Given the theme, some matching up of arcane symbols is only to be expected. Spicing it up is a variety of puzzles using a little more physical interaction, including a lovely home-made skill puzzle. There’s a clear step forwards from their first game in the technology and ambition of the design here, and the components are built with skill.
Hints are provided by a nice custom mechanism, and must be ‘bought’ with gold coins that you find as you progress. Naturally we refused to use any at all, and our stubbornness earned us one or two free hints where the operator wisely judged that we really ought to be using a coin. One of those was for a larger puzzle near the end which tripped us up for a while since we didn’t realise we were trying to solve it with incomplete information.
Alchemist’s Enigma struck me as a fairly bread-and-butter escape game, but one with plenty to recommend it: nice appearance and construction, several clever touches like the hint system, and plenty of fun ideas used to build the puzzles. I almost always enjoy games more at small, enthusiast run venues, because the games tend to have that little extra bit of personalisation or idiosyncrasy, as well as a host who’s that much more passionate about the game they’re running, and Alchemist had those advantages as well as straightforward solid game design.