Rawtenstall, May 2019
I’ve played plenty of escape rooms where I’d been falsely accused, and had to clear my name. Corruption takes a far more original approach by turning that premise on its head: you are guilty, and you’re urgently trying to sanitise all the incriminating evidence before the cops turn up and arrest you all.
That’s a distinctive and unusual idea for a game, and the way it’s designed is equally distinctive and unusual. With a variety of tricks (most of which I’ll avoid detailing here) the venue ingeniously blurs the boundaries of game and reality, throwing you into the experience in a way that’s vastly superior to the typical start of “this is the story, here’s your room, good luck”.
If you like your escape rooms to be perfectly efficient with no item or marking going unused, then the busy clutter of Corruption might not suit you, but if you put a higher value on realism and atmosphere, then you’ll love it. The garage style decor is as packed with random vehicle parts and tools as any real-world toolshed, and with our reliably poor observation and search skills we struggled rather a lot with the earlier parts of the game – particularly after I committed an unforgivable escape room sin by unplugging something I shouldn’t have.
The ‘find a code and put it in a padlock’ style of many of the puzzles seemed sometimes at odds with the very realistic, immersive style of the setting. That discrepancy left me initially a bit uncertain how to approach the game – how much to look for ‘escape room style’ clues and how much to think along ‘real world’ lines. However, that wasn’t a problem with the puzzles themselves, which were clear and clever. I often find myself overthinking a solution; at Lucardo Rawtenstall I found I was just as likely to have underthought a solution, where I guessed it would work in one way and it turned out to be something more complex or subtle. As we got further into the game we started to get more of a sense for it and progressed more smoothly, and eventually scraped to the end just ahead of the time limit.
Even if we had trouble getting into the flow of the game initially, it never ceased to be an interesting game that impressed on both style and substance. Strip away the immersive presentation and it still boasts solid, imaginative puzzles, a novel plot line and a lovely set. On top of that the inspired way it’s operated makes it quite special.
Our gamemaster afterwards asked me which of the two rooms we’d played I had preferred, and my immediate choice was their gorgeous Dragon’s Heart game. But on careful reflection, although both were superb, I might give the edge to Corruption. It’s not as immediately pretty, but for story and drama, and sheer quality of design, it more than justified our long journey to Rawtenstall.