Bournemouth, May 2017
The minute I walked into Marvo I got a sense of the quality of room I was to expect. An intricate foyer area contained artefacts and detailed decoration. Even before the game itself started properly, we were led down a secret passage to a highly ornate and beautifully decorated antechamber of the secret society M.A.R.V.O. (Mysterious Artefact Recovery Volunteer Organisation).
There we were inducted as M.A.R.V.O. agents, and were given our rescue mission brief, which unsurprisingly involved finding and returning an artefact.
The room starts out as a classic early 20th century office, with a series of well tiered mental, visual, practical and search puzzles, including some nice Easter eggs.
The depth of the technology and theme continued to escalate and impress in line with the story as we worked through the room. In addition there was great puzzle variety, with some requiring skill and teamwork, whilst others requiring lateral thinking or (limited) physical effort. No two puzzles were too similar, and all of them were robustly designed and clear.
The storyline also escalates leading to a tense and exciting finish for the final climactic escape.
The room felt relatively small, however the concentration of great puzzles without feeling crowded was an impressive achievement. The owners have clearly gone to lengths to ensure an incredible attention to detail.
Whilst there was no individual part that blew me away for the very top rating, this is a brilliantly executed, exciting and varied room, and you should visit!
The holy grail of escape room theming is to make the players feel like they’ve been transported to a different place or time. Marvo delivers that, even from before the game itself starts.
After getting the initial basic game rules briefing out the way, you’re led through a door into what feels like the sanctum of a secret society, where the proper briefing takes place. This takes place with the operator in character, and with the help of a high quality video briefing.
The decor progresses from very nicely themed to stunningly gorgeous. The puzzles similarly start well and then improve. Everything ties into the setting and plot, everything makes sense in terms of the story. The hint system is also custom, and brilliant enough that I was trying to persuade my team to take a hint that we didn’t need purely for the fun of using the hint system.
Games with this level of custom, original tech are few and far between. Something I’ve noticed about the handful that do reach this standard are that they tend to need more explicit instructions to the players – because the objects available aren’t familiar things with obvious functions such as a cupboard or a mirror or a phone, they’re fictional pieces of technology, and probably activated in ways that can’t be deduced by looking at them. Therefore the players need to be told that they need to, say, find three ribbets for the cauliflage frothilator and agify them vigorously (I exaggerate, the tech in Marvo has far more sensible names than those), because they’ve never seen a frothilator or a ribbet before and can’t be expected to intuit how they should be combined. The risk there is that the players’ problem solving is reduced to following instructions instead of coming up with brilliant ideas. But while there’s a little of that here, there’s no shortage of challenge for players to work out how the many weird and wonderful parts to the room will interact and how to make them do so.
It’s highly promising that the game’s name suggests there are additional Marvo games to come in the future. It’s a hands-down triumph, and if I lived nearer Bournemouth I’d seriously consider booking in for a second run through the room despite knowing the answers, just for the fun of playing with all the custom-built doodads. M.A.R.V.O. Induction is a glorious game, and one of a very short list of contenders for my all time favourite escape game.