søndag den 30. april 2017

Mr Grey's Room (Exit Games, Copenhagen)

It’s pretty clear that “Mr Grey’s Room” is tapping into the Fifty Shades of Grey craze. This escape room tries to appeal to maybe couples on a date, or maybe just escape roomies who are curious and don’t mind a bit of sexual innuendo in their games.

The set up to the game is quickly over and done with: You’re kept inside Mr Grey’s playroom like a prisoner, and you have to escape. And if you know all of your Fifty Shades of Grey, you also know that this background story isn’t really sufficient, but prompts numerous questions: Why has Mr Grey started abducting people? Why (in our case) has he abducted a man and a woman? Why is the room so tiny and shabby? Isn’t he supposed to be a billionaire and a recluse and a control freak to the n’th degree? But anyway, here we are inside “Mr Grey’s Room”.

Set decoration: 2,3 points
Trying to recreate Mr Grey’s room from the film version or the description in the original novel – that’s a tough task. A brave one, perhaps, but also a reckless one; this escape room version doesn’t even start to cover the basics: The room itself is around 9-10 m2 in total. That’s it. The walls are painted red, there are empty liquor bottles, used tea lights, IKEA furniture, IKEA boxes and a queen-size IKEA bed as well. On one shelf is a radio playing the background music of the room. The whole thing doesn’t give the connotations of a young, sexy billionaire. Unless, that young, sexy billionaire also has a secret passion for shooting dirty, cheap snuff films. It’s actually that bad.

Once you venture into the room and the game and start opening up the boxes, it gets slightly sleazier: The sex toys you stumble upon are of the cheap and cheesy variety. The old throw-away underwear which also plays a crucial part in the puzzles is tagged with H&M labels. And there’s even a box full of condoms – both unused AND seemingly used!?

In some ways, you could actually say that the problem doesn’t lie with the constrictions of the room, or the cheapness of the décor, nor the overall sleazy atmosphere. The lights are turned suitably low so part of the fun is to navigate around the puzzles using only one tiny flashlight, and the size of the bed is also a fun obstacle to put inside a tiny room. No, the real (and maybe the only) problem is actually the title of the room and the connotations that “Mr Grey’s Room” and the accompanying film poster give. The solution is simple: Remove the Fifty Shades reference and redress the room as an escape-from-the-mad-sex-addict story.

Puzzles: 4,5 points
The puzzles and the flow in the puzzles are the fun part of “Mr Grey’s Room”. It’s not a very complicated room, mainly due to the fact that the puzzles are all padlock based, and all 10 padlocks (bar one) are visible all the time during the game. You could argue that this game design is neither the most inventive nor the most adventurous, but on the other hand it’s well suited for the inexperienced players. Still, having all the padlocks in plain view from the get go doesn’t make the game complex in any way.

Considering the size of the room and the apparent simplicity of the gameplay, the puzzles in “Mr Grey’s Room” are actually quite fun. They involve a lot of moving around the obnoxious bed, searching high and low for clues, letters and numbers. Obviously, this creates a simple but also quite effective frustration between the players due to the lack of floor space. There is a nice little puzzle involving the sense of smelling, you also have to play with some sex dice, and spell a naughty word. A small dildo also comes into play at a certain point, and you have to put it to good measure. Whether you think this is too much, or just plain fun, obviously depends upon who you are, but there is a certain tackiness to the whole execution – again due to the cheapness of the room. We didn’t find the room erotic or arousing, but rather seedy and stressful.

Furthermore, what these puzzles primarily do is make you find the next code for the next padlock. It’s that simple. Likewise, the puzzles or the clues to the puzzles are oftentimes painted directly on the wall. There’s a nice drawing of the 69 sex position which is part of one puzzle, there are also strange numbers and equations, too, which have to be used in two math puzzles – and somehow it underlines the simplicity of the gameplay, but it also takes you out of the gameworld. Of course, Mr Grey wouldn’t write or paint things like that in his secret playroom. Neither world he put up a collage of pictures of himself and Anastasia Steele, but it’s right there on the wall among other pictures from other erotic film classics.

Game Master: 5,0 points
Our Game Master was the best thing about “Mr Grey’s Room”. Although the background story was lacking and the whole set up was almost non-existing, he was still kind and accommodating and ready for a quick chat about the room and the company afterwards. For us Danes, though, it is quite strange to participate in an escape game, where the only spoken and written language is English. Still, for international visitors, this should pose no problem.

The hint system of the room worked okay. No more, no less. We were dealt the hints we needed, but also more so. At a certain point during the game, we were well on our way to sort out a particular puzzle, but we were given hint after hint, which was quite unnecessary. At another point during the math puzzles our Game Master just flat out gave us the code we needed. In that regard, there could have been more hints and fewer solutions – especially since we had 11 minutes left, and therefore plenty of time to work on the puzzles, before the game actually finished.

On a different note, the hints were not marked with a sound inside the room. They just appeared silently on the screen, which meant that we didn’t always catch the hint we were served. Also, at one point during the first part of the game, the countdown timer simply disappeared for 10-15 minutes, which proved to be quite stressful. Whether these mistakes just accidentally happened to us, or whether they are part of the normal gaming experience, we don’t really know, but they could easily be improved.

Conclusion: 3,9 points
Due to the direct references to Fifty Shades of Grey, “Mr Grey’s Room” ends up feeling like a failure. The set decorations never match the said room presented in the novel or the film, but feel cheap and constricted. So do the many padlock based puzzles. Still, there is a nice flow in the game which makes it suitable for escape-room beginners and maybe couples on a date.

Room: Mr Grey’s Room
Company: Exit Games
Address: Fredericiagade 30, 1310 Copenhagen
Languages available: English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: DKK 598 for 2 players – which is cheap compared to other escape rooms in Copenhagen, but quite pricy compared to what you get.

This review:
Game date: 10 April 2017
Number of players: 2
Hints: 5

We survived, 49 minutes played

søndag den 23. april 2017

Se7en (Brain Game, Copenhagen)

Remember the gruesome set piece scenes from David Fincher’s thriller Se7en? If not, BrainGame’s creepy escape room of the same name will certainly help you. It’s a trip into the dark sides of the human condition through all the seven deadly sins recreated in a series of suspenseful and inventive puzzles. It’s a spooky gaming experience in spite of the sparse decorations and lack of proper story.

That’s why the setup to the “Se7en” escape room is perhaps its most – if not its only –disappointing aspect. Why? Because there is no setup. You’re just put inside this dark and menacing room, where you have to find the seven deadly sins in order to win. In that respect, “Se7en” first and foremost comes to feel like a game, a trip through a playful haunted house. That this escape room still manages to absorb you is all due to the wonderful flow in the puzzles as well as their inventiveness.

Set decoration: 5,3 points
The lights are low, and the shadowy areas imminent in the “Se7en” escape room. Moody thriller-like film music also helps set the tone. The various sins have been scrawled on the walls with what appears to be blood, and when you take your first step into the darkness, you will notice that two of the more memorable death scenes from David Fincher’s film have been recreated as well. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that a number of Wunderbaums are dangling from the ceiling. And even though these two set-piece scenes may be lacking in life-like realism they nevertheless still produce an uncanny feeling when first discovered. Yes, it’s just a pretty low-tech doll made of papier-mâché, stuffed with old clothes and rubber bands to keep it all in place – but the face of that doll is still quite scary when lighted just the right way and with that ominous music playing in the background.

Still, the room feels sparsely decorated with some details lacking. It that way, it matches the missing background story perfectly. It quickly becomes just a room designed for the puzzles in it. Instead of blending the puzzles into an immersive room, the puzzles become the room’s decoration: For instance, right next to the entrance there’s a huge pizza-like board on the wall,  divided into the seven deadly sins, and your job is to find the seven missing ‘pizza slices’ and place them on the board. Directly opposite this is a huge maze hung on the wall – another puzzle to be solved. And though the puzzles are fine and very inventive in and of themselves, they are not well integrated into the set decoration.

On a more positive note, the set design in “Se7en” does open itself up – in various ways – pushing you further into the darkness of the sins as the game progresses. That’s great, and it ups the suspense of whether you can actually get through all the puzzles before deadline. However, what’s not particularly great is the fact that you – due to the darkness – can see light emanating from what should be hidden doors in the room, doors that sadly have absolutely no function in the game. Again, that’s not working particularly well with the players’ immersion in the room.

Puzzles: 8,3 points
The puzzles in “Se7en” are both interesting and quite creative – involving music, magnetic dust, blacklight effects, lasers and, believe it or not, a jar of VIAGRA pills. There are also several padlocks and codes that you have to decipher from numbers you find scattered around the room, but finding the next combination rarely feels annoying but mostly adventurous and exciting. It just goes to show that even though the puzzles are as random as they are creative and funny to solve, the fine linear flow in the game works very well indeed.

Some of the more inventive mechanisms do involve the players interacting with dead corpses, so this game is not for the squeamish. More problematic are the more deal-breaking obstructions that you will find concerning a door in the game that must not be closed, lest you want to lose the game right then and there. In much the same way, you’ll also encounter an electronic safe, which will lock itself up for 15 minutes, if you enter the wrong combination 5 times. And there are many combinations to enter – forcing the player (or at least us) to simply give up and ask the Game Master for the four correct digits. That’s not fun.

Another point of criticism is the actual ending of the game, which comes to feel a little like an anti-climax. Maybe it’s because of the final puzzles in the room that become slightly less playful and more easy to solve in the final minutes leading up to the end. Maybe it’s because of a huge part of set decoration prominently placed in the room, leads you to believe something definitely will happen here, because it’s such an important part of David Fincher’s film. But, alas, there is no shock in the end, no big reveal, no nothing. You just unlock the door and finish the game, and that’s it.

Game Master: 7,3 points
Our Game Master was always kind and smiling and took her time to talk to us about the room, the concept and the company as well. We even got our photo taken after visiting the room. She very generously offered us five minutes extra playtime, because she wanted us to win the game. In the end we didn’t really need it, but it was a very nice gesture nonetheless. Furthermore, the one time, during the entire game, where we were truly stuck, because we couldn’t afford to enter the wrong code into the safe, she was alert and handed us the correct combination. No problems there.

However, when it came to the introduction of the room itself, it was quite clear that there was no story, nor any background story or proper setup. There was nothing to get us into the mood, nothing to help us immerse in the game before it actually started. We were just asked if we had ever seen David Fincher’s Se7en, and since we had, that’s where the introduction stopped. That’s probably not our Game Master’s fault, we realise that. It has probably more to do with the game designer behind the room. But it does make the “Se7en” escape room less of a sophisticated and immersive experience.

Conclusion: 7,0 points
Overall, “Se7en” is a fun and suspenseful game room – it’s even quite scary at certain times. Though the decorations are sparse and there’s no real plot, the game still works. First and foremost, the puzzles take the centre stage here – they are imaginative and there is a well-executed flow in the game. But a game – and a pricy game if we have to be honest – that’s what “Se7en” ends up being: A thriller-like obstacle race.

Room: Se7en
Company: Brain Game
Address: Gothersgade 35 1., 1123 Copenhagen, Denmark
Languages available: Danish and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: DKK 1050,- for 3 players. Brain Game suggests that you can be up to 7 people in your group, but we won’t recommend playing this room in groups larger than 3 or 4 people.

This review:
Game date: 10 April 2017
Number of players: 2
Hints: 3

We survived, 48 minutes played

mandag den 17. april 2017

Da Vinci Escape Room (Midgaard Event, Copenhagen)

The Holy Grail is once again in great danger! A strange cult want it for their evil schemes and it’s up to the members of the Da Vinci Order to stop them! And so, the hunt for the holy relic is set off against several exciting and creative puzzles in this family-friendly escape room inspired by Dan Brown’s bestseller. The room can be played either by one group or by three groups simultaneously, competing not just against the clock but also against each other.

The whole story starts right after you’ve received your initiation letter from the esteemed Professor Klosterberg. He wants you to join the Da Vinci Order and invites you to a meeting in a secret location somewhere in Europe. Once you’ve arrived, the professor contacts you via a video transmission to tell you about ‘The True Emperors’ – an evil society who used to be lead by notorious dictators like Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler. The True Emperors are of course interested in the Holy Grail because they want to use it to obtain world domination. This means you have your hands full: You have to find the Grail and save the world. In just 60 minutes!

Set decoration: 6,5 points
The feeling you immediately get from the “Da Vinci Escape Room” is that of an old Victorian room, be it a living room or an office of sorts.  The room has been beautifully decorated with handpicked, old-fashioned pieces of furniture and pictures on the wall. You will even find some rather interesting objects such as a piano and a stuffed animal’s head. However, the more homely knick-knacks seem to be lacking here, and the more exotic objects already mentioned seem to have been introduced to the room only because they go along with some of the puzzles.

To put it more directly: The room could do with more atmosphere. It feels a little insipid, due to the lack of details. For instance, the three drawers in the writing desk in the room are all empty save for that single clue you have to use for a specific puzzle. Likewise, the shelves of the bookcase are also quite empty, except for the objects you have to use in other puzzles. On the one hand that’s a great help for the inexperienced player, but on the other hand it doesn’t do anything for the atmosphere or the mood of the room.

In much the same way, the suspense in the line of puzzles is never truly emphasized by the set decorations either. Even though the set up with Johan Klosterberg is both exciting and immersive, it’s not really carried through in the set design. In order to achieve a more suspenseful feeling, the lights could have been dimmed, creating more shadows as you venture through the story, and the muffled film score on the loud speakers could also have been turned up a notch to match the different puzzles in the game. This, however, is not the case in the “Da Vinci Escape Room”, but on a more positive note, this actually makes for a great family game where all ages can play along, because the room never gets scary.

Puzzles: 8,8 points
No doubt, a lot of work has been put into the puzzles in the “Da Vinci Escape Room”. They come in many shapes and sizes, and they are never repetitious but always creative: From the use of the zodiac signs, colours and music, and further on to the revelation of various secrets in the room. Surely, there are also a fair share of padlocks and numerical codes to be found, but it never feels pedantic or bothersome. You’re rarely standing with a piece of paper in your hand and scratching your head to find the next key.

In other words, the puzzles are both varied and creatively put together. There is also a very nice flow in the storyline, due to the little hints you are dealt along the way. For instance, certain objects have been marked in a special way, so it’s easier to tell when and where to use them. Furthermore, many helpful pointers to the puzzles are found very close to the actual puzzle itself, making the “Da Vinci Escape Room” a very intuitive and easy-going gaming experience. Some of the puzzles can even be solved in multiple ways, which means that you may have a greater success rate in your group, because different players excel at different things, meaning that more people can join in on the fun.

This clearly underlines the fact that the company behind the “Da Vinci Escape Room”, Midgaard Event, have designed it with the players and puzzles in mind. It’s a fun and imaginative room, and once you have connected the dots, the feeling of accomplishment and victory is not one to be missed.

Game Master: 9,8 points
Our game master was a definite plus to the overall experience. She and her assistant were dressed in dark robes, the kind you would imagine members of the Da Vinci Order to wear. We were handed a proper letter, which looked like it was written on old parchment and arrived in a properly sealed envelope. This was our initiation letter from Professor Klosterberg. We were then told the rules of the game and escorted to the entrance of the room. Once alone inside the room, a TV set was switched on, and Johan Klosterberg appeared onscreen and finished the setup.

This introduction is among the most immersive we’ve seen yet. The whole concept of starting the introduction outside the room, and then let it segue into the room itself by one of the actual characters in the game is brilliant.

The hint system also works very well. You even have several options before your game starts: You can choose between HARD or EXPERT level – on the difficulty called HARD you are offered several hints along the way, while on the EXPERT level you only get help if you are truly stuck. Furthermore, you can choose between either seeing your completion percentage or not seeing the completion percentage. For the record, not knowing what to expect, we chose the HARD level (with the option of more hints), and we also chose to see our completion percentage, which proved to be both very stressful – when we got stuck at a particular point in the very beginning of the game – and stress relieving when we found out that we could actually beat the game. This was an interesting and different element in the “Da Vinci Escape Room”, that we would not mind seeing in other escape games as well.

Conclusion: 8,4 points
Overall, the “Da Vinci Escape Room” is a fun experience, full of creative puzzles and a nice storyline. Don’t expect it to be either scary or very suspenseful — without a doubt the most scary thing about it is its price tag! The room itself, however, is first and foremost an enjoyable adventure game for the whole family – and regarded in this way, it’s pretty flawless.

Room: Da Vinci Escape Room
Company: Midgaard Event
Address: Aldersrogade 6A, 2100 København Ø, Denmark
Languages available: Danish and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: Full price: DKK 895,- per room (Friday 4 PM – Saturday). Reduced price: DKK 495,- pr. room (Sunday – Friday 4 PM). Additional cost for players: DKK 150,- per adult and DKK 75,- per child.

This review:
Game date: 12 April 2017
Number of players: 2
Hints: 1

We survived, 48 minutes played