Porto, Nov 2017
The more escape games I play, the more I enjoy unusual, genre-breaking games that play with immersion or story-telling or unexpected twists, and I’ll usually prefer something ambitious but flawed over solid, standard game. Even so, quality can beat novelty, and blasting through a traditional but well-designed game can be huge fun. That was the case with Porto Escape Game’s original room, which is firmly in the mainstream of escape room design but which was both rigorously fair and also fun to play from start to finish.
Perhaps because we booked in last minute late in the evening our game started without any story intro, but I asked afterwards and it involves the players investigating a villain who may be behind an insect plague that threatens to destroy all production of port wine. That translates to a game built around bottles and barrels, but with a couple of darker twists that might be off-putting for players who have any particularly severe insect-related phobias.
Much of this game is very much bread and butter escape game puzzles, with searching, collection, co-operative and physical elements, and plenty of different types of padlocks to open. But everything made sense in a way that’s quite rare. Of course, different teams struggle with different sections of a game, and one team will think a puzzle is ambiguous while another has no problem with it. But it’s a sign of quality design when, each time you’re stuck on something and eventually work out the solution, that solution is something you kick yourself for not thinking of sooner. The best puzzles are obvious in retrospect.
I was also impressed by some good (okay, creepy) atmospherics, and several cleverly designed custom wooden puzzles, two of which required co-operative physical solving. We played as a pair, and since there are plenty of non-linear sections a larger team of enthusiasts could well smash through it in a short enough time to feel it was over too quickly. But it wasn’t short of content, and if it was quick to play that was because it was free of unnecessary points of frustration.
Most enthusiasts will probably find the venue’s Lost Memories game more interesting, and I’d give the edge to that one over this; but I had a great time playing this one too.