London, Sep 2017
Vegas Nights is that rare beast, a game designed for exactly two players. The industry could do with more of these, since there’s clear demand for it – I imagine it’s the economics of it that keeps them in scarce supply, since the work for a company to run a two player game isn’t much less than the work needed to run a six player game, and the latter can be offered at a much higher price.
As well as being a two-person game, it’s rather different to other escape games. It’s also difficult to review, since it became significantly easier to solve once we understood how the game is structured, and therefore I’m going to class as spoilers many of the details of how the game works. What I can talk about are the details that were covered in the initial briefing.
It’s a small room, much smaller scale than Room Lockdown’s other games. The decor is, of course, themed for Vegas and gambling tropes, but the main feature of the room is a set of metal boxes which will be immediately familiar to any experienced escape room player as electronic safes. The host explained to us that we’d be aiming to complete the games and thereby open these, with the ultimate aim of finding both a briefcase of banknotes and also a way out of the room.
He also explained that the safes had the usual auto-lockout mechanism: twenty seconds after three wrong attempts, and five minutes after another three wrong attempts. Moreover, they used a variable number of digits for their unlock codes, and we could expect codes to be anywhere between two and eleven digits long.
All the rooms at this venue give players an allowance of three clues to use; we never exhausted our supply, so I’m not sure how strict they are with giving hints once the official clues are used up. In Vegas Nights, there is an extra twist. The clues are represented with physical poker chips, which must be dropped into a slot machine to be used, and you then only get a clue for it if a set of three matching symbols comes up. That sounded like a potential nightmare, where a team might burn through all their clue tokens without getting any useful information, and end up stuck and frustrated. In practice I suspect it’s at the operator’s discretion whether the clue token ‘wins’ a clue or not, and since the host always has discretion over how big a hint to give, that’s not as different to usual practice as it sounds.
There’s also another type of hint teams may or may not receive via a different casino game, but the details of that were left vague in the briefing so I’ll skip over that here.
That hopefully all makes clear that with Vegas Nights the venue is experimenting with the escape room format and trying something different. That’s to be applauded. Nonetheless, I wasn’t a fan of the result. Although for spoiler reasons I can’t go into full detail, too many of the puzzles in the room were essentially the same type of puzzle, and that’s a puzzle type which naturally tends towards ambiguity. That was made worse by not knowing what length of code we needed, and worse still by a system where as a matter of chance we might have a larger or a smaller number of possibilities to consider for a lock.
I don’t mean to suggest that the game was a nightmare of guessing combinations and getting locked out of safes. In fact, I think we only triggered one auto-lockout, and that was only a twenty second one. However, we escaped around the half hour mark, despite having wasted plenty of time at the beginning and end. Given the nature of the puzzles, any additional time a team spends over that is likely to be in confusion or frustration, trying different possibilities on another safe keypad.
We didn’t hate playing Vegas Nights, and there weren’t any exceptionally painful moments of frustration or ambiguity – there’s just not very much that makes me want to recommend it.