Peterborough, Feb 2018
This game is no longer available.
I’ve somehow made an accidental habit of playing games at Thinking Outside The Box in the last few days before they close. Last time I made an intentional trip to catch their Stranded game before it finished, this time I just happened to be in Peterborough a few days before their Xmas-themed game The North Pole closed.
TOtB build very attractive sets, and although on our visit The North Pole was showing many signs of wear and tear from six months’ rough handling, it still impressed, particularly with the initial entrance and with an intentional temperature differential between areas.
The game backstory has you as explorers lost and freezing in the Arctic, but, following a typically energetic intro from the host, the game immediately sheds any grim tone to become a light-hearted Christmas game. It has a wholesome family-friendly design, though with points challenging enough that teams will need either some solid escaping experience or some help from the hint system to solve them.
Our game was a bit stop-start as we made heavy weather of several of the puzzles, receiving rather a lot of clues, though also failing to notice or understand several of them (!). I could quibble over a few points, such as one step where clearer feedback when the players are doing the right thing would have been useful, or another which required the application of maths that was satisfying in the abstract, but seemed unintuitive in the context in which it was presented. It’s also not a particularly linear game, and the order in which you complete its sections could affect how logical the flow appears to you. But nonetheless, I enjoyed the ingenuity of the game as well as its presentation, with a couple of the puzzle ideas standing out in particular.
While I didn’t find The North Pole as strikingly impressive as the venue’s previous two games, it played as a substantial game not as a quick seasonal pop-up for Christmas. The high-tech hint system of their Merlin game is replaced here by simpler but quite charming alternatives, and TOtB continue to do well at how they handle everything ‘outside’ the game – the briefing and intro, the game start and post-mortem, as well as the themed hint system. Even though it was two months out of season and three days away from being shut down, the game still left me feeling cheerfully Christmassy.