Gravesend, Nov 2018
With so many rooms based on classic stories ranging from Alice In Wonderland to Sherlock and Dracula it’s perhaps surprising that there aren’t more escape rooms themed for The Wizard of Oz; aside from one play at home game, this is the first I’ve seen. The Panic Room’s take on the story tasks you with finding courage, heart and brains through a set of locations familiar from the book or movie.
Suitably for the theme, Oz is pitched for family groups, with the ideal audience being a group with adults and younger players. While it’s not the venue’s most difficult room it’s certainly tougher than a game designed for kids; at the same time it deliberately includes some searching and physical tasks that are well suited for younger players and much more entertaining than simply finding a tiny key in a dark corner.
We had a slow start thanks to an observation fail. Between that, a slight cheesy use of video that reminded me of Christmas panto acting, and a bit too much use of riddles for the tastes of my group, I was getting ready to be disappointed. But thereafter the game won me over with charm and attractive design, with that relatively weaker early section quickly forgotten as the game hit its stride. The Oz setting is recreated lovingly, and although you don’t need to know the story it’s based on to enjoy it, if you do you’ll appreciate the many ways the game references it.
Whether due to over-excited youths or equally over-excited adults, this relatively new game was already showing some signs of wear and tear when we visited – particularly one prop where I guess the visual appearance means players tend to handle it more forcefully. But in my experience this venue tends to be pretty pro-active at keeping their games maintained, so that’s likely just a temporary state of affairs.
It’s the little touches that I really enjoyed about Oz. Those include the gamemaster-led intro, which the game’s finale neatly connected back to; the use of audio effects in certain places; and the pretty set design, each section with its own distinctive style. The whole thing comes together as good wholesome fun, a game that’s medium difficulty at most but which should be reliably enjoyable for almost any teams.