Bucharest, May 2018
I think I’m yet to see a pirate-themed game that didn’t look impressive, and Trapped’s game is no exception, with a black wood aesthetic and deliberately creaky floorboards. In fact, the main way in which it doesn’t resemble the inside of a galleon is to its credit: it’s surprisingly spacious, with a high ceiling that made it feel even bigger. With the insouciant approach to IP that appears common in Eastern Europe, the game is directly based on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and tasks you with finding the heart of Davy Jones to spare Captain Jack from slavery aboard a ghost ship.
I found Black Pearl to be a game with a great deal going for it that never quite came together for me. I think a few small things dulled its shine, such as the quantity of ‘do not touch’ stickers, or a particular moment which seemed to be crying out for a more dramatic audio effect, and which fell flat for the lack of one. It also seemed a surprisingly short game, which we finished in half an hour without having been solving especially quickly.
But even if it was a little short on content, most of the content it did have was excellent, such as a creative and fun construction that was much better than yet another magnet maze. I enjoyed the use of the space, which took advantage of the high ceiling and broke one of the standard escape room rules; and my favourite of the game’s puzzles had a clever blend of communication, movement and lateral thinking. More than that, each of the main puzzles ties into and advances the narrative, with a clever mix of puzzles that represent the story in miniature and others that act it out.
Perhaps the main reason my appreciation of Black Pearl was a bit muted was because it involved a certain amount of searching, and our predictable struggles with that meant more than once we spent a while casting around unable to continue with an obvious next puzzle, and when we eventually could it had become a formality instead of a thrill. But ‘flow’ is hugely subjective and variable between teams, and it would be easy for a different group to blast through this and be blown away. In the end my only real reservation about it is the relatively small amount of content; for which reason I’d suggest it as a great game for less experienced teams, who may very well find it a gorgeous and action-packed pirate adventure.