Bishop’s Stortford, Jun 2018
Escape rooms are only one of the attractions on offer at Vire – they also provide VR gaming in a variety of flavours, nerf gun battles, and a café. On the occasion we visited they were also hosting a birthday party for thirty hyperactive 8 year olds complete with conjuring show, giving a surreal juxtaposition between children’s songs on one side of a curtain and imminent nuclear Armageddon on the other.
That was another unusual feature of the venue (one which was explained in the briefing, so this is not a spoiler): the game we played was spread across two different rooms. Another company might have put in an adjoining door between the two, but here the game intentionally spills over into the entrance corridor. While that left us with insufficient separation from the partying children and their noisy entertainer, I quite liked the unexpected layout.
Even so, that layout was indicative of a very basic design, which appears to have taken spare space at the top of the venue building and turned it into an escape room only for lack of other ideas. The simple white walls and basic furniture weren’t a very promising start, and nor was the over-use of a single type of padlock for a majority of the puzzles. All that could have been redeemed by a sufficiently clever and well designed sequence of puzzles, but sadly that wasn’t the case, and I found the puzzle design flawed in a number of ways.
These varied from an answer code where we seemed to have to simply try each of three possibilities until we found the correct one; an apparent reuse of a code in two completely different places; and a clue that output one digit more than was actually needed for the lock. That list is indicative rather than exhaustive, and looking back over the game sequence I’m surprised we didn’t struggle more than we did – I guess in the game’s defence many of the issues didn’t actually stop us reaching the intended answers, it just left it feeling more like informed guessing than watertight deduction.
And there were also plenty of points where we did need to be rescued by the gamemaster, including when what should have been the most interesting component of the game just didn’t work for us.
In the game’s favour I should note the effective use of audio, and also that the host dealt well with what must have been challenging conditions, thanks to the noisy party happening alongside. Even so, scraping together any redeeming features I can find, there’s still not enough to amount to a reason to try this game. The entire experience came across as an escape room built as an afterthought, in a style that would have come across as low budget three years ago, and which is an anomaly in the current ever more sophisticated industry. If you’re in Bishop’s Stortford, I suggest looking at Vire’s VR games instead of their escape rooms.