Gravesend, May 2017
The year is around 1920 and you’re staying at the Gilman Hotel in Innsmouth, on the trail of some missing artefacts from the Miskatonic university. Yes, it’s a Lovecraft themed escape room!
This room thrives through great decoration / theming. A mixture of old style hotel props, a creepy soundtrack, combined with some fantastic art on the walls, made this a really immersive tense thriller experience from start to finish.
Knowing that we had to find the artefacts gave the room a good structure as we could feel a good sense of progress. The puzzles themselves were nicely varied, with a reasonable amount of searching required to find clues and artefacts (keeping exactly to theme). There is a good escalation in difficulty with the final puzzle requiring a number of ideas to be joined together.
Also of particular note were the helpful staff – we felt very looked after in their hardest room, where they carefully watched us and provided useful feedback to make sure we had an enjoyable experience.
A must for Lovecraft fans and a great room for anyone else!
I went into this game with little idea what to expect – the website description gives away little apart from a mystery involving some missing occult artefacts, in a strange hotel in a strange town. Even when the briefing referenced Innsmouth and Miskatonic University, giving away the Lovecraftian theme, I was unsure whether to expect occult horror, slasher gore or a detective investigation with overtones of the supernatural.
And… I’m not going to tell you. 😛 At least not in detail. Nervous players can be reassured that the theme is not graphic, violent or frightening; it’s closer to creepy and unsettling. It’s also incongruously delightful, in a way I’m not going to try to explain: I’ll just leave it at that to hopefully pique interest.
It’s a fairly expansive game that moves through distinct phases. Having a set of artefacts to search for provides a non-linear structure to the game, as well as an indication of progress; and as you solve individual puzzles, the game’s back story gradually emerges. It’s something that adds extra colour and atmosphere rather than something critical for completing the game, but it’s a classic Lovecraft-style tale sketched out by a collection of historical documents.
The game goes beyond merely atmospheric to be successfully, and surprisingly, immersive. Technology, audio and other elements combine to great effect, and the reality of playing a puzzle game shaded at times into the illusion of actually sneaking around a musty hotel full of dark secrets. The Panic Room sets a high bar with the quality of their rooms, but after playing all six of the games currently available at their Gravesend location, my team unanimously agreed that Gilman Hotel was the one they’d enjoyed the most.