Telford, Jun 2019
When picking a game at random at a venue I often default to the sci-fi option, and it was on that basis that I booked into Xscape Now’s Red Planet Panic. This one puts you on a base on Mars after a meteor strike has knocked out most of the systems, which you need to bring back online so that you can escape before a follow-up meteor storm obliterates the base. (It would be pure pedantry to ask why the escape pod system only works once everything else is restored…)
One of Xscape Now’s older games, Red Planet Panic has a very Star Trek visual aesthetic, all streamlined spacecraft walls and NASA-inspired fonts, which also mixes in several recognisably current-day items. Despite the setting, most puzzles used lower tech mechanisms with plenty of padlocks and few hidden electronics. It’s a bit of a code hunt, where your main focus is on finding anything that looks like a numeric or alphabetic code and then finding a place to apply it, but it also boasts some ingenious ways to find those codes.
Having powered through an ostensibly much more difficult game at the venue the previous evening, we found ourselves tripped up by all sorts of quite straightforward puzzles in this room. That was us being slow not any fault of the puzzles, and each time we found a solution we kicked ourselves for not spotting it sooner. More than once we made the mistake of dismissing items in the room that turned out to be important; it is in fact an efficient design where very little is purely for decoration purposes.
I continue to hate auto-lockout electronic safes; I really think designers should always provide something to make it clear which codes should and should not be used with it, or at least indicate what length of code it expects. Although to be fair, the one in Red Planet tripped us up mainly because I’d forgotten it was there…
It tied up with an ending that was good but which could have done with something a little more dramatic than the exit door swinging open. Red Planet is not the glitziest game around, but it’s solid good fun; most enthusiast groups will likely blast through it faster than we did.