søndag den 9. april 2017

The Beast of Berlin (The Room, Berlin)

Apparently the ”Beast of Berlin” room is based on a real-life murder case from the 1920s Berlin. But as the game progresses it actually feels more like a mash-up between an old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes story and a diabolical trap as seen in the Saw franchise. In other words: It’s exciting, it’s daring, and at times it’s actually quite scary!

The backstory and set up takes the whole idea about being put into a locked room and twists it a bit. In fact, your initial goal is not to escape the room, but to find out how the murderer escaped the scene of the crime. In the “Beast of Berlin” you take on the role of the police investigators who are on the trail of a diabolical serial killer. You start in the detective’s office where the murderer has killed one of the servants and mysteriously escaped with the body and without a trace. Behind a locked door. If you’ve read your share of Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Allan Poe short stories, this is right up your alley. Your job is to find the solution to this classic locked-room murder mystery: How did the murderer escape? What has he done to his victims? What drives him? This journey takes you from the detective’s living-room headquarters as you follow in the footsteps of the murderer. And yes… There will be blood!

Set decoration: 9,5 points
With the game set in the 1920s, the detective’s room is set up to be both an office and a homely living room. And it has many charming and authentic details to explore. There’s an old wooden desk with drawers and cupboards that need to be unlocked. There’s a bookcase and a big map of Berlin on the wall, complete with police notes on the case, photos, and important locations. In the corner are two old armchairs and a table set for afternoon tea for two – just to remind you of the Holmes-and-Watson heritage. There are top hats and coats on the hat stand, and several walking sticks to investigate as well. The lights are dimmed, and 20s jazz music plays in the background from the old-fashioned record player.

There are also DYMO plastic labels on the obvious ex-library books that you find scattered around the room. And there is an electronic safe, with digital buttons and numbers. In a way, you could also say that the photos and other postmodern references to famous horror films like The Shining, Silence of the Lambs and Psycho should destroy the illusion, but actually it just underlines the playfulness and the cleverness of the whole setup. Once the game is afoot, you have no time to dwell on these arbitrary details. In nearly every way, this room invites you in and absorbs you right into the game. Actually, as the game progresses, you will find that the set becomes even more detailed, and even better furnished, more crammed, and with shadows everywhere. This is of course to reflect the insane mind of the murderer himself, and the plot becomes ever more absorbing.

Puzzles: 10 points
The main objective in the detective’s office is of course to find keys to desk drawers and combinations to padlocks. But the puzzles involve a lot of physical investigation and interaction as well – the pictures on the wall for instance hold their own secrets. As does the wooden wardrobe. You have to move around and combine objects like in an adventure video game, but since the room is quite spacious as well as well-decorated and full of details the start-up can be tricky. We certainly needed a couple of hints to begin with, because we hadn’t figured out that we should locate and combine three quite random objects to get the first code to get the game going. On the other hand, there are plenty of puzzles and square metres for two players to move about and fiddle with all the different things and secret contraptions.

Further down the line, you move into unknown and quite scary territory. As if to accommodate this change in setting, the puzzles also change: On the one hand, they become more collaborative and stressful and for instance involve finding specific objects among bloody body parts. On the other hand, they also become more clear and problem-based. There are also puzzles where you need to put a list of items in the correct order. Here, the main objective turns from detective investigation to taking part in a horror story. You no longer feel safe and secure in the old detective’s apartment, but feel the presence of the murderer lurking around every corner.

What’s truly great about the puzzles is that they are well integrated with the set decorations.

Game master: 10 points
The company behind “The Beast of Berlin” is called The Room, and they certainly know how to do it! Not just the game as such, but also the presentation and introduction to the game. The little speech our guide gave outside the actual game room worked very well and set the mood for our experience in the room. Standing outside the detective’s head quarters, in front of an old and weather-beaten door, we are immersed in pitch darkness. The only light comes from a street lamp. A perfect way to introduce your players to the setting and the mood.

The game master himself was always helpful but never gave away the solution to the puzzles. The hints we were given consisted of pre-designed slides of text or pictures. And they were always just hints — like “Where would you usually put books?” — which upheld the sense of accomplishment when we actually found out what to do with the damn books. 

You have the option of waving a flag at the camera to buy 15 minutes extra, which we ended up doing. Is it cheating? No, it just goes to show that the skilled people behind The Room know that what escape-room games should be all about is having a great time and feeling like a winner in the end.

Conclusion - overall score: 9,8 points
So, overall the “Beast of Berlin” scores 9,8 points. It’s full of atmosphere and suspense – and it even has a few frights up its sleeve. The game is extremely well-designed with interesting puzzles of various sorts, and the set decorations make you forget the world outside for 60 minutes. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper-related stories, this room is a must try. It’s highly recommended.

Room: The Beast of Berlin
Company: The Room
Address: Rusche Strasse 64-66, 10365 Berlin, Germany
Languages available: German and English
Game time: 60 minutes + 15 minutes extra
Price: 70 euros for 2 players

This review:
Game date: 15 February 2017
Number of players: 2
Hints: 8

We survived, 67 minutes played.

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