søndag den 14. maj 2017

Prison Break (Timequest, Copenhagen)

It’s safe to say that the idea behind the “Prison Break” escape room is not particularly original. Neither are the puzzles ground-breaking in any way. Still, if you have a knack for films set in prison – like The Shawshank Redemption or the aptly named World War II classic, The Great Escape – this escape room should feel like coming home. Despite its conventionalism and lack of inventive puzzles, it still has atmosphere, and – more important still – it’s a fun ride. 

The setup to the “Prison Break” escape room is as simple as it gets: You’ve been wrongly imprisoned — convicted and sentenced to life for a crime you have not committed. Luckily for you, the prison warden has locked you up in the same cell that used to belong to infamous escape artist, Peter Grant. Grant has left a bunch of clues to help future inmates to follow his escape plans. Obviously, your job is to find these clues, decipher them and leave the prison once and for all. But unfortunately those escape plans don’t involve a lot of physical puzzles, nor just loose floorboards, nor a huge Rita Hayworth poster on the wall. This escape room is all about numbers, logical thinking and cryptology.

Set decoration: 7 points
The best thing about the “Prison Break” escape room is probably the atmosphere of the room. When the game starts, you immediately feel that you’ve been taken back in time to an American prison around the 1930s or 40s. The room is nicely decorated with old furniture and the lights are appropriately dimmed to make it feel like dusk or night time. Indeed, you have to navigate the space with a flashlight, which just enhances the isolation experience of prison. From the loudspeakers of the room, you can hear your fellow inmates from the other cells, and at a certain point the sound of thunder and rain also kicks in to set the mood.

Overall, it’s quite immersive, also because the many knick-knacks make it feel like a proper room. Of course the attention to detail is easy to uphold when the room you’re decorating is just around 10 square-metres in total. However, as small as it sounds – and 10 square-metres is cramped ­– the room size is actually well justified in this context. You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic, because you’re supposed to feel that you are really locked in and you need to really get out. Now!  

What doesn’t work all that well in the set design of “Prison Break” is the wiring of the electric devices. The wires are actually completely visible which means that you could sabotage the entire escape game by accident. It’s also a little confusing that the controls of these devices are locked inside small cabinets with padlocks that look like the padlocks you need to open in the game. Also working against one’s immersion in the room is the fact that the walls illogically have been decorated with numbers and letters of the alphabet. They of course have to be used to solve the puzzles and find the many codes in the game, but it’s a rather crude way of integrating them into the set decoration to just write the numbers on the walls. And come to think of it, wouldn’t a normal-thinking prison warden have whitewashed the entire cell in order to strip it of any clues?

Puzzles: 5,8 points
Perhaps the best puzzle – or at least obstacle – in “Prison Break” was the fact that we were handcuffed together before the game started. In a way, it’s a very simple gimmick that suits the overall plot and theme very well, but it also forced us to work together while at the same time put a strain on our ability to move about the room. If the handcuffs hadn’t been part of the game, we probably would have solved the entire thing 10-20 minutes faster. In that way the handcuffs become a big part of the experience, like it or not.

Besides a couple of physical puzzles involving black light to illuminate hidden messages, a blinking lamp and some funny-looking utensils, the entire set of puzzles were of the brainy variety. You have to be logical and use all your cryptologist skills from math class – and fortunately there is a calculator located inside the room for your benefits. (It doesn’t really match up with the 1930s prison setting, though.) Just to make it clear, this means that there are many padlocks in this room – many codes to be found – not inside books or on slips of paper, but written directly on the bare walls of the prison cell, like mentioned before. On the one hand you could argue that this puzzle design makes the game feel more free and less constricted – you have to actually look and move about with the flashlight – but it’s still just a question of finding the right code or at least finding the right system or combination. And it’s even put right there in your face on the wall.

Game Master: 6,5 points
Our Game Master had to work pretty hard. Not only did he have to serve three different parties including us – he also had to play both host and Game Master at the same time. Needless to say, that meant that the ‘hellos’ and introductory remarks to the game weren’t very personal – and neither were the evaluation and the ‘goodbyes’ in the end. Since the other teams were still playing when we finished “Prison Break”, and since our Game Master of course had to concentrate on these games, communication with him was highly restricted. He was not unfriendly, he was just busy doing other things.

However, despite the heavy workload, our Game Master still did a good job during the game. At one point we were really stuck, and he was alert and he helped us along through the use of a walkie-talkie – that worked out fine. We heard from the other parties playing simultaneously with us that things hadn’t run as smoothly in their rooms: The count-down timer had simply disappeared for a number of minutes on the screen.

On a more positive note the backstory to the room worked excellently: We weren’t just handcuffed to begin with – we were also put in orange prisoner suits and blindfolded. Surrounded by darkness inside the room, with our hands on the wall and our legs spread apart, we could only hear the Game Master lock up the cell door, complete with heavy chains and padlock. That really set the mood and it was a great way to start the actual game.

Conclusion: 6,4 points
Overall, the “Prison Break” escape room is not inventive or ground-breaking in any way, but it does have a moody atmosphere due to the well-decorated setting and the immersive introduction to the game. Whether you think the linear string of puzzles works well (or works at all), depends on how much you like math and cryptology

Room: Prison Break
Company: Timequest
Address: Lille Strandstræde 20, 1254 Copenhagen, Denmark
Languages available: Danish and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: DKR. 595,- for 2 players

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

We survived, 42 minutes played

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