Ashford, Sep 2018
Broken, currently Pressure Point’s newest game, is set in a nuclear bunker. Following the venue’s penchant for putting an unusual spin on a familiar setting, you’re not infiltrating a bunker or trying to break out of one – instead, this is an ageing home-made bunker, which you need to quickly repair before the nuclear first strike hits. Despite the impending Armageddon, this isn’t handled as a grim game. Broken may not be as light-hearted as its sister game Murder on the Dancefloor, but it shares its cheerful, fun style, though with an additional edge of tension.
I was surprised to learn in the briefing that we’d be split up for the game’s start, and it turns out that communication puzzles form a major part of Broken. It is however quite a civilised version of a split team where you can comfortably all communicate and even pass smaller items back and forth.
Extended communication sequences can become tiresome, even with good players who are in tune with each other, it’s a lot of work to describe everything they can see, purely using words; doubly so when the neither side may know what the key information is, and one small misunderstood detail can make the difference between the listener spotting how to solve the required puzzle or not. Broken does well to avoid that, by having a good portion of the information and clue items available to all players. That lets the team identify much more rapidly what they need to focus on, and then spend their time addressing that not describing everything they can see in laborious detail.
One oddity was that we were able to jump ahead to guess the solution to a large meta-puzzle before we’d completed all the sections that provided information for it. That didn’t allow us to skip any part of the game, so didn’t really matter; but it meant that when we did access the last component puzzle, that was short-cut in a way that was briefly confusing.
But despite that, Broken has the same excellent puzzle design that I saw in Pressure Point’s other games, and this one’s the most creative and original of the three. Two ideas in particular stood out, both near the end: one involving the use of a tool that I’d never expected to see used for real in an escape room, and one very low-tech but somehow immensely satisfying for the way it was both hands-on and a perfect match for the story.
Our progress was hampered here and there by, of course, some observation fails, but nothing that wasn’t completely fair in retrospect – we kicked ourselves hard a couple of times. You’ll want to pick teammates with whom you work well, so that the communication requirements don’t have you at each others’ throats, but the design does a great job of making that easier to deal with, and the split structure is one of several ways in which this feels like an interestingly fresh and unusual escape room – my favourite of three good games at the venue.