Paris, Oct 2018
The second Parisian pirate game we played in two days, X Dimension’s Black Pearl has you on board an old frigate lost in another dimension, trying to guide it back. This venue follows the custom of blindfolding the players for their entrance into the game room, so that their first sight of their surroundings is a big reveal at the game start.
I’d heard this game had impressive decor, and that was indeed the case – for the quantity as much as quality. The remarkably busy environment goes overboard (no pun intended) on the nautical knick-knacks, up to and including the caged parrot who acts as your hint system. This is essentially a glorified walker talkie, in that it’s the gamemaster’s voice coming from the cage rather than anything that sounds like a parrot, but is still a lovely bit of theming.
Purists may dislike the cluttered feel of the room caused not just by the sheer number of things to look at but also the various digits and words that adorn some of the clue objects in ways that look potentially significant but sometimes are not. Nor is there any hesitation in the use of modern padlocks and laminated sheets. But although the result feels more like a Disneyland Pirates experience than a genuine 16th century vessel, it’s hard not to be won over by the eye candy.
Flow is a subjective concept, particularly since, at the end of two busy days of escape games, we were a lot shorter on energy than normal. Still, my impression is that Black Pearl requires its players to work hard to find the correct ways forward amidst many possible false trails. That’s caused not only by the quantity of decorations and the casual approach to including potentially misleading bits of writing, but also by some tough search targets. We’re certainly at fault for the embarrassing lapse where all three of us searched the same piece of furniture without spotting the item concealed inside, but still: there’s plenty to find and a great many hiding places to check.
But while Black Pearl often felt like hard work, it also rewarded that effort. Its coolest piece of tech has nothing particularly to do with the pirate setting, but will be an impressive novelty for many players. Small bits of humour helped too, as did a certain nicely macabre puzzle idea. And since we were playing a translated version, the clues that sometimes came across as a little cryptic in English may sound more natural in their original French.
Amidst the succession of first-rate escape rooms we played on this visit to Paris, Black Pearl was merely very good; and its busy, search-heavy design wasn’t a great choice for the last game in our schedule. By any normal standards though it looks gorgeous and, as long as you put sufficient focus on finding everything you need, has a solid sequences of puzzles with some memorable highlights.