Athens, May 2019
Third in Brainfall’s trilogy of games, Dark Seas takes the story in an unexpected direction by setting it on a pirate ship, though you’re still nominally in Wonderland. The Hatter remains the villain of the tale but features much less prominently, and although there are other narrative links to the earlier games it would work perfectly well stand-alone or played out of order.
Pirate themed escape rooms are reliably pretty in my experience, and some are quite spectacular. Even so, Dark Seas is special. It’s not quite true to say that they’ve built an entire pirate ship – but they’ve certainly built a significant chunk of one, and it sure feels the part. It’s a magnificent and expansive set large enough that you end up spending noticeable time simply moving around from one area to another.
Moreover, this pirate ship has actual live pirates. As with all Brainfall’s rooms, actor interaction is an important part of Dark Seas. It aims for a more comic tone than their other games, something which was very much to my taste, and exchanging banter with the quick-witted pirates was a big highlight for me.
My reservations about live actors, particularly live actors who provide instructions and direction to players, applied here just as with some of the other Athens games I tried. Dark Seas felt like it was a blend of escape room and immersive theatre, two types of entertainment that I enjoy in different ways. I had a great time playing the ‘escape room’ parts of Dark Seas, and an equally great time with the ‘immersive theatre’ sections, and enjoyed it less at those times when the two styles blended together.
I’m not sure what our time was – probably close to the full 90 minutes. It felt like it mattered less than in other games, because the focus is on the adventure more than it is on solving the puzzles. Brainfall’s website tells you that you will enjoy their games more if you play along, and that’s excellent advice. With all of their games and perhaps Dark Seas most of all, the interactive theatre element definitely rewards players who engage in the dialogue and get stuck into their roles in the story, and do more than the minimum required to move forwards.
There’s a lot of subjectivity and variation in what people enjoy in escape rooms, and that goes double for Brainfall’s games. Each of the three is very distinct from the others in its style of play, its puzzles and its appearance, and I liked each of them in different ways. If you can only try one then I think Dark Seas is my top pick; but everything about the venue and its three games bursts with style, character and professionalism, and you should certainly play the full set if you can.