Cambridge, Mar 2018
The latest game from Lockhouse is a Cold War spy theme, where you are trapped in a safe house and need to not only escape but also identify a traitor and find a set of blueprints.
The safe house is a basement room that suits the 1970s setting but won’t bowl you over; it’s a little dowdy, with a couple of padlocked hatches marked as off limits. It’s more impressive than the initial glance suggests though, and includes some cool pieces of period paraphernalia, and background audio to add to the atmosphere.
Lockhouse describe Secret Agent as their most difficult game. That wasn’t our experience, in that we completed it with two in considerably less time than we’d taken for their Armageddon game with three. That could of course just be random variation, but I’d give the game design credit as well. It has plenty of points that could be very tricky, particularly for teams who haven’t played many games before, but despite a few distraction items it’s all very logical. That is, you might get stuck on a difficult puzzle or two, but there aren’t many points where you’re likely to get stuck due to unnecessarily ambiguous puzzle design. (There is one tough search target that we’d have needed a hint on had we not managed to fluke our way past it.)
On our previous visit to Lockhouse we found the gamemaster to be too quick to hint. This time was much better, although I still got the impression they’re very pro-active about giving clues. Enthusiasts may want to tell their host clearly before the game to hold back on the hints.
Secret Agent is a fairly traditional game in its style, but shows solid quality where it matters most, in the puzzle design. Moreover, it’s got a couple of clever physical mechanisms mixing in with a bit of deduction and some good use of the spy theme. It also uses plenty of more standard escape room puzzle ideas, which don’t always link to each other or the setting; but I was too busy enjoying the game to want to nitpick.