Bristol, Jun 2017
Puzzlair is closely related to Hint Hunt, and as such was one of the first escape venues in the UK. They also share the John Monroe game design, and of the many locations across Europe that also offer that game, a good proportion of them also have Lev Pasted. It’s a widely replicated game design that’s been around since a relatively early point in European escape game history.
There’s not much in the way of story: you’re trapped in the laboratory of an evil doctor and need to escape. Actually, there’s a little more plot than that, with some information emerging during the game about nefarious experiments on samples of blood.
Lev Pasted is absolutely what is often referred to as a first generation game. It also demonstrates many of the reasons why a ‘first gen’ style is sometimes considered inferior (which, to be clear, is by no means true of all games in that style!).
This is an extremely search heavy game. My team and I reliably fail to search thoroughly enough, and predictably got caught here repeatedly. In one case we searched a location three times without finding the hidden object, until a hint redirected us back to it. But it would take an impressively systematic and careful team to get through this game without needing any hints to help them find something they’d overlooked.
In this game’s defence, although some puzzles are clichés that I’ve seen in two dozen other escape games, many of them have become clichés thanks to rampant imitation of the ideas pioneered by Lev Pasted and other early games. And there are some clever, original ideas in here too, including one that for me straddled the line between ‘inspired’ and ‘tenuously obscure’.
After playing Prison Van we’d requested that the operator avoid giving us hints unless we requested one or were clearly floundering. We did in fact need to request quite a few hints, many but not all of which were for items we’d failed to find. I do get the impression that frequent hinting is not just normal but necessary for most teams to beat this game, and not purely for the searching. Beginners may take that as a normal part of the experience, but for many enthusiasts it’ll rankle.
Like Prison Van, Lev Pasted suffers from the inclusion of a tedious search with a UV torch, this time across a larger area. Also tiresome was a time-wasting puzzle, which I was relieved to discover did not need to be completed in its entirety but which had already outstayed its welcome. And on a more basic level, even where the puzzles are more interesting than that, the game is still just a collection of puzzles with little to link them together.
There were certainly sections of this game I enjoyed, but also sections I did not. There are some excellent low-tech, padlock-based games out there, and there’s nothing wrong with a room being ‘first generation’ – it comes down to the quality of the puzzles, and with Lev Pasted those are too often a bit tenuous or primitive. There are better games at this venue that you should pick ahead of this one.