Maidstone, Mar 2019
Previously known as The Room Maidstone, The Extraction Room recently rebranded to avoid a naming conflict with a different escape room company. Their now-eponymous first game follows well-trodden ground by having you imprisoned by an insane scientist, though throws in a touch of moral ambiguity by adding that your captor’s motivation is to find a cure for a virus and thereby save his daughter. Perhaps unfortunately that premise wasn’t explored much further in the game, instead serving as a rationale for combining elements from more than one genre: mostly a combination of maniac’s basement with laboratory.
Tastes vary but that’s not a description that would immediately draw me to a game, and on discovering that part of the game leaves the players in darkness with scarce light sources, I was preparing for disappointment. However, I was pleased to find that it rapidly improved. While the decor was on the whole quite straightforward, it used the physical layout along with some more eye-catching features to create an interesting space; and despite one or two red herrings filled that space with fair puzzles.
We jumped ahead of the intended flow at one step, which could have been confusing, but our gamemaster was quick to clarify over the walkie-talkie. My impression is that the game design leaves a number of opportunities for teams to confuse themselves in small ways, but that good gamemaster intervention smoothes that over, as it did for us. It’s a small family-run company that seems driven by enthusiasm for escape rooms, and that helps lift the game in small ways ranging from careful gamemastering to an energetic briefing.
Despite an off-putting start Extraction delivered a varied and enjoyable game, with the way it shifts through distinct areas and styles being a particular strength. With a team of four I felt we had slightly too many players. Most of the game is linear, with a couple of more significant bottlenecks, in particular something that is in other respects a cool highlight of the game; you’d enjoy that section more, and for that matter the rest of the game, if playing with a smaller group.