Dublin, Oct 2019
Of all the escape room lobbies I’ve seen Clockwork Door’s was one of the most inviting, thanks to the board game café they run in the same location. We were welcomed in, offered biscuits and hot drinks, and encouraged to dip into the board games while we waited, or to try their VR lounge – I could happily have spent the whole afternoon there.
‘Witch House’ is a game name that could be anywhere on the spectrum from mildly creepy through to utterly terrifying. Clockwork Door’s game is much nearer the cuddly end of that range. Having unwisely eaten some enchanted (but slow acting) berries, you’re due to be turned first into frogs and then into dinner for the witch in question. Your goal is to find or make an antidote for the frog enchantment before it takes effect, and you croak both literally and figuratively. The story is more fairy tale than horror, and that carries through to the decor and atmosphere, and any chills are fairly mild.
I liked the wood-and-sackcloth decor used, atmospherically dim without being annoyingly dark, and with a ‘homespun’ feel that suited the setting. One specific piece of decoration went a step further in managing to be evocatively beautiful. I’m immediately won over when an escape room manages to create something with real aesthetic appeal beyond merely ‘impressive’ or ‘immersively convincing’, and that’s what they’ve done here.
Our game went a little off the rails at the end when we lost a critical game item – we’d found it earlier on, but when we needed it for the final step, it was nowhere to be found. After spending some time scouring every inch of the room in increasing bewilderment, the gamemaster eventually gave us a bypass; after the game she discovered it fallen down behind a piece of furniture. That compromised the ending somewhat, but was entirely on us (or on sheer bad luck); and the operator handled it well.
One reservation is that, in an entirely linear game, they’ve decided to put very early on the sort of puzzle that you might instantly get or just not be able to do at all. We solved it more by luck than anything else, and it didn’t particularly slow us down, but it could be an off-putting brick wall that leaves a team struggling before they’ve really gotten into the game.
Notwithstanding that, it used good signposting and made sure that the room’s difficulty was solving the puzzles not finding them, and some very satisfying physical interactions spiced up the various padlock puzzles. It’s not huge, but it was visually pleasing and unfailingly enjoyable.