Like Locked’s sister game Labyrint, Kubus is as much art project as escape room. Art is supposed to be challenging, and it’s certainly a challenge to review – what this venue builds is so very unique it can’t really be measured by the criteria I’d apply to other games.
For a start, Kubus is 2.5 hours long. My impression is that the deadline is intended to give teams plenty of time, and you may find yourself finishing well before the time limit. Instead of a nail-biting rush to the end, the emphasis here is on exploring the environment and discovering its surprises, and it’s happy for that to happen at a leisurely pace.
As with its predecessor there is no plot, no decor and relatively little that could be called a puzzle. Markings on the bare plywood walls are more likely to be leftover irrelevancies than intentional clues. Where other escape games might fill the environment with puzzles, here the environment itself is the main puzzle.
Kubus must be played with exactly four players, and each player gets a somewhat different experience. As you might guess from that, the game involves separation of the players and has a significant communication element. Each player has a walkie talkie, used to talk to teammates as well as the gamemaster. Any veteran player will have little trouble imagining the difficulties of a five-way conversation via a device that cannot transmit and receive at the same time, particularly for puzzles that require everyone to let everyone else know what they’re seeing. This was an acute frustration that threatened to entirely derail our enjoyment of the game, until we gave up on the walkie talkies and switched to shouting through the walls instead.
I have to also note the various environmental hazards, starting with the occasional splinter or loose nail. If there are fire safety precautions suitable for what is essentially a giant wooden box, I didn’t notice them. It involves physical activity and small spaces; claustrophobics should stay well clear, and larger players may struggle to play it at all – though three quarters of our team topped 6’2 and managed to get through with a few contortions and plenty of enthusiasm and squeezing. And it can get quite warm, enough that the owner avoids running it during the summer. (Naturally, we played it during a June heatwave, by special request.)
Moreover, at some points players may find themselves stuck with little to do until a teammate does something to release them – or indeed find themselves just plain stuck. The operator needed to intervene more than once on our playthrough to keep things running correctly.
All of which probably sounds like the opposite of a recommendation. But Kubus is also unique and brilliant. If it’s a hot mess, it’s simultaneously a work of crazy genius.
It’s sometimes frustrating or confusing or even potentially dangerous, but it most certainly is memorable. Our group was split over which of the two Locked games we preferred, but on balance I’d pick Kubus. Where its sister game Labyrint has one particular moment of stand-out brilliance, Kubus boasts a succession of surprises that really aren’t like anything you’re likely to find in other escape games. There are lots of reasons you might end up hating it, but if everything above hasn’t managed to put you off then it’s much more likely you’ll love it.