Gravesend, May 2017
If I’m ever kidnapped by a murderous psycho, at least I’ll have had no shortage of practice at extricating myself from creepy dungeons! Horror games often start with the players a little more restrained than in other styles of game, and this one has one of the more imaginative such opening sequences.
The room’s grizzly decor pulls no punches, and players will need to have a strong stomach at times. The Dollhouse is also probably the most search-heavy of the six rooms at The Panic Room, which (predictably) tripped us up for a while. This takes place in a poorly-lit room, but for once there is a sufficient quantity of torches, and, even better, the torches are unusually powerful. That left it atmospheric without any sense that darkness was being lazily used to increase the difficulty.
I always appreciate it when a game includes something to indicate progress, or some overarching structure which gives a shape to what would otherwise be a mass of unconnected puzzles. Dollhouse has a central point which achieves both of these with a light touch, while also complementing the theme.
There are plenty of padlocks, and instances of the more traditional style of escape room puzzle that involves finding a magic string of digits. But there’s also a bucket load of creativity and inventive ideas.
The game uses some nice tricks to keep the tension ramped high. I’ve searched through as many shelves of plastic body parts as I ever want to, but Dollhouse marries gruesomely artistic design with a story-driven, often quite physical game and some great drama, to hit a spot-on blend of disturbing and entertaining.