søndag den 4. juni 2017

Moriarty (Sherlocked, Malmö)

The adventures of the world’s greatest detective Sherlock Holmes have been covered widely over the years. But little is known about Holmes’ archenemy, the evil mastermind Professor Moriarty. In fact, Moriarty only appears in two of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and so the aptly named “Moriarty” escape room is about to change all of this. And let’s be absolutely clear about it from the get go: The Moriarty escape room is as beautifully decorated, as the puzzles are tough to solve.

However, the set up to the room should be pretty easy. Or so you would think. Moriarty has escaped – obviously – but he has taken somebody with him. It’s not really clear, if the person has followed along willingly, or has been kidnapped, or maybe in a more symbolic was has passed away. It’s all very strange, and in all honesty also kind of confusing – maybe because it’s never really clear what role we as escape room players should partake: Are we the police? Is this the crime scene? Are we the aforementioned “stranger” whom Moriarty has taken? Anyway, fortunately the objective of the game itself is very clear: You have to find out who has disappeared? Where has this person gone to? And when did this person in fact leave the room?

Set design: 8,3 points
The first impression of the “Moriarty” room is that it is gorgeous to look at. Beautiful and authentic. When the door opens, you gaze into a dimly lit office back from the Victorian age. Dark furniture fills up the room with supplementary knickknacks here and there: A big and clunky typewriter, an antique tube radio, and there’s even an old (if rather weather-beaten) violin lying around. Everything is dimly illuminated by the giant chandelier that hangs from the ceiling, and from the loudspeakers light and somewhat jazzy orchestra music fills the room.

In other words: It’s perfect. And we haven’t even mentioned the rosy wallpaper, the wooden panels and all the rest. The place simply oozes Victorian England – and maybe that’s why you constantly think that this is not Professor Moriarty’s abode but rather that of Mr Sherlock Holmes himself. If you love all that turn of the century stuff, this is the room for you. 

However, it’s important to mention that – as the game progresses – the set design opens itself up to more adventures, but in doing this the suspenseful mood and the Victorian flavour disappear somewhat. First of all, the music changes to a thumping action-packed score already at the 30-minute mark, which is very early: Yes, it gets the adrenalin up and running, but it also makes any communication and concentration difficult to the nth degree. Secondly, the room itself evolves into something more barebones and simplistic – one might even say modern. This doesn’t destroy the first impression of the “Moriarty” escape room, but it still taints the perfection of the set design.

Puzzles: 6,3 points
All of the puzzles in the “Moriarty” escape room are of the padlock variety: There are padlocks based on numbers, padlocks based on letters, and also padlocks that need to be opened with a proper key. This is a very padlock heavy room. Therefore, the interesting question is: How do you find all the four-digit codes, the five-letter words, and all the keys? Are those puzzles interesting? And yes, fortunately they are. Most of them at least. ‘ ‘ ‘’

The best puzzles in the “Moriarty” escape room make creative use of the antique decorations and set design. We won’t spoil any of them here, but nearly all the decorations are put to good use. So, that’s why it’s also a little odd that there aren’t really any puzzles that rely on sound or playing music, since Moriarty apparently was a great musician himself. That would have been great.

What can be said about many of the puzzles is that they are very challenging. To such a degree that it nearly kills the flow of the game. It’s a difficult room to solve due to (of course) the number of red herrings and the jumbled linearity of the room: You spend what feels like many minutes experimenting with numbers and names that are scattered around the room. It’s not all that inventive or particularly fun – it’s just difficult.

Besides these red herrings, what makes the room even more difficult is the structure of the puzzles. Each puzzle actually consists of several – 3 to 5 – steps, and you are dependent on solving each of these correctly, if you want to reach the final solution of the puzzle. As such, some of these steps or smaller puzzles are both fun and creative, but they are also extremely linear, which means that there’s a big chance that you will get stuck along the way before you have connected all the dots. In other words: It’s difficult!

Thirdly, and more problematic, some of the puzzles are designed to be solved by one person only, leaving the other person (or persons, actually) on the team with nothing to do. In a way this also underlines the tension and atmosphere of the room, but it’s never fun to just stand around waiting for something to do. And again: The booming action music just enhances the growing feeling of being isolated or unconnected with the game, unable to communicate properly with the other team members. And yet again: It steps up the difficulty level of the “Moriarty” game room.

Game Master: 9,3 points
Our game master was both kind and alert during the game. He spoke both Swedish and English fluently, and he also had time for a chat both before and after the game. We were served around 3-4 hints during our 57 minutes inside the “Moriarty” escape room, and we really needed them. We communicated with our game master via a screen where the hints were written in flawless English. The hints are also accompanied by the sound of a bell, so it all works very well. 

Interestingly, our game master (and apparently the rest of the company behind Sherlocked) was completely aware of the steep level of difficulty of the “Moriarty” game. According to our game master, only 40% of all visitors make it out of the escape room in time. That means that the company have to deal with 60% of all customers feeling like losers at the end of their – maybe very first – live escape game experience. And we wonder if “feeling like a loser” or feeling frustrated or feeling that this is too difficult and stressful will make people come back for more? Is that a clever business model for a live escape game company?

Anyway, our game master was helpful and very well dressed in old-fashioned clothes. In fact, he was quite a pleasure, and we even got our photo taken afterwards as a souvenir. What we need to mention, too, is the waiting area outside the “Moriarty” room: That’s really something. It’s both gorgeous and adventurous. It’s even more overly decorated than the room itself.

Conclusion: 8 points
The “Moriarty” escape room is beautiful to behold. It’s created with every attention to detail. The puzzles and especially the flow in the puzzles could be improved upon, and the level of difficulty is pretty high. Still, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Victorian London, this room is definitely one to seek out.

Room: Moriarty
Company: Sherlocked, Norra Vallgatan 16, Malmö, Sweden
Languages available: Swedish and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: SEK 295,- per person, with minimum price of three players.

This review:
Game date: 28 May 2017
Number of players: 2 (Sherlocked recommends that you are 3-5 players, we won’t disagree due to the level of difficulty)
Hints: 4

We survived, 55 minutes and 57 seconds played

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