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

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