Swamp Motel: The Drop

By | November 18, 2021

London, Nov 2021

Rated 4 out of 5
Toby says:

Swamp Motel will be familiar to many enthusiasts from their Isklander trilogy of online games released during lockdowns, starting with Plymouth Point; they’ve now moved from the internet to the real world, and The Drop is a physical escape room / immersive theatre hybrid that takes place in a location in Aldgate. It’s designed for small groups of 2-4, and is due to run until the end of the year.
From the website description you’ll learn that the plot involves a precious lost book and London’s seedy criminal underbelly… which gives flavour but few details. I’m not going to add any further information about the plot, since this is the type of experience best enjoyed with no prior knowledge of what to expect. But if you’ve played their online games, you’ll recognise Swamp Motel’s style in both storyline and immersion: The Drop builds a world of crime and conspiracy and employs an array of tricks to immerse players into it, from the moment you enter the building.
The Drop is a game with plenty of puzzles you need to solve to progress; but I’d say the immersive theatre half of its DNA dominates. Above all this shows in the set, which, although notably compact for one section, opens out into a very elaborate and detailed space. They’ve built the kind of environment that hides lots of little details and Easter eggs that you may or may not notice, where you could stay and explore for longer – if it weren’t for the time pressure. Where in another game every single item might have a use, here the thread of the game proceeds against a rich backdrop used to build the narrative world. To escape room players that might sound like a recipe for accidental red herrings, but there’s enough signposting that you’re unlikely to be seriously sidetracked.
Also helping keep you on track is the in-game help. As with their online games, this is provided in-character without breaking immersion. That makes it much smoother to receive a hint; though it also increases a sense that the game is quite guided, with teams broadly kept within a particular progression of events. Whether that bothers you may depend on whether you’re more used to escape rooms or immersive theatre.
That all adds up to a strikingly rich environment and a game that keeps finding new ways to surprise you and keep you on your toes. The puzzles are solid but not the main reason to book into this; that would be the story and the theatre of it. This is less a puzzle challenge and more an adventure to sink yourself into, and few games manage to play with your sense of what’s real and what game quite as effectively as this one. 4 / 5
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.

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