Munich, Aug 2017
By all rights Mystery Rooms ought to have been quite sick of us after we moved our booking time to an earlier slot, called again a few minutes later to bump it back to its original time, then arrived at the game a full twenty minutes late. But they were thoroughly welcoming and unfazed despite all that.
We were led into the game room for the briefing, and it actually took me a moment to realise that we were in the room not a lobby area. That’s as much an observation fail on my part as any lack of decor in the room, but it’s certainly not a showy theme. The story is that a wealthy sea-faring relative has retired somewhere with a low cost of living and has left you his treasure – if you can find it. You therefore find yourself in what is essentially an elegantly appointed middle class drawing room. Although it’s low key it’s not cheap-looking, and includes some items that look on the fragile side of expensive.
Mystery Rooms have three branches (Essen and Interlaken as well as Munich), and Captain’s Secret appears to be the original game that’s present in all three locations. It’s certainly a traditional style of game, with a bit of search, a collection of puzzles that sometimes use the theme but don’t particularly relate to one another, and many padlocks and locked drawers and chests.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the age of the room showed through in the worn condition of several of the props. Two items were broken, one of which allowed us to circumvent a padlock (though we carefully placed it back until we’d solved it properly), another label was worn to the point where a critical piece of information on it was hard to see, and yet another set of clues were harder to use due to their age. I’m well aware just how hard teams can be on rooms, and the occasional breakage or worn item is hard to avoid, but here it seemed like the game could really do with a bit more care and maintenance.
That said, as a collection of puzzles Captain’s Secret had plenty of content and a great deal of variety. It used symbols and labels well to direct players to use keys and codes in the right places, and incorporated some good ideas. One in particular broke the normal boundaries of escape rooms in a way I haven’t seen before. Additionally the host managed the game skilfully, with some nudges at points that helped avoid possible frustrations without any sense that we were being given more information than we wanted.
I felt a couple of puzzles were on the tenuous side, one in particular. But that was easily balanced out by the game’s stronger points, and if your tastes run to quantity and variety of puzzles over, say, narrative or consistency of theme, then Captain’s Secret has a lot to recommend it.