søndag den 18. juni 2017

The Bedroom (Sherlocked, Malmö)

Not only is Anna’s House a remarkably well-restored authentic city house from the 1870s – it’s also a site for three escape games with hints and nods towards the gothic and the macabre. And when it comes to “The Bedroom” in Anna’s House, it doesn’t get any more gothic or macabre than that. Apparently, Anna didn’t socialize much, but died old and miserable, a childless spinster, alone and angst-ridden under very strange circumstances. In fact, her corpse was found weeks later locked up inside her bedroom under her bed. In her diary she had confessed that she believed that something or someone was after her and her family secret.

That pretty much sums up the set up to “The Bedroom”, and as with the other escape games provided by Sherlocked in Malmö, the finer details are lacking here, too. It wasn’t particularly clear what roles we were supposed to play in the room so many years after the fatal incident: Were we modern archaeological investigators, were we paranormal detectives – what was our business there in the room? Other questions were also left unanswered – like: why were we locked up inside the room at all? But the main objective was fortunately pretty clear: We had to search for the family secret inside the room and get out of there before the stroke of midnight because that’s when the ghosts start appearing.

Set design: 7,8 points
What’s truly brilliant about “The Bedroom” is the set design and the atmosphere generated first and foremost by the room itself. Actually, the game starts in the most spooky way in the children’s room outside the bedroom, and by doing the very first puzzle you end up locking yourself up inside the bedroom. Which is, by the way, pitch black. All the lights are out and you have to find your way through the darkness with the help from two small flashlights.

This way of entering and discovering the room, was both adventurous and scary. It was like rummaging through an abandoned room in a real haunted mansion. You slowly uncover old objects and various knickknacks inside the room, among those an array of eerie antique pictures of children on the wall, and a dark wooden wardrobe with a mirror. Discovering your own reflection in there is how close to a proper haunted house film this gets.

However, there wasn’t really a bed, which is kind of weird considering the name of the escape room. And furthermore, we were treated with famous film music streaming from the loudspeakers (from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas among others); this unfortunately didn’t really enhance the ghostly and dreadful experience, especially since the music changed to a thumping action film score only halfway through the game.

Anyway, we spent 20 minutes in complete darkness fiddling with a bunch of stuff and discovering the room – and it was great! Then the game master nudged us towards the turn-on-the-lights puzzle. Which apparently had been the one puzzle we should have started with all along…

Puzzles: 8,0 points
“The Bedroom” is not ground-breaking in any way when it comes to the puzzles. Here are lots of padlocks to open – involving both numbers and letters. It’s pretty straightforward, maybe also because once the lights are on you realize that the room is fairly small, sparsely decorated and therefore easy to survey. This obviously also means that there are less red herrings in this room compared to the others we’ve tried with Sherlocked – and the signposting of this room also works better. Overall, it creates a better game flow which we prefer any day.

There are a couple of troublesome puzzles, one of which involves some bottles you come across during the gameplay, but which doesn’t really make a lot of sense in this somewhat realistic context. The second one was just downright difficult because you have to bring your a-game math skills – and there is no notepaper, no pen, no nothing to help you.  However, most of the puzzles were playful and varied and used the room and the decorations in a creative way – as well as darkness and sound.
Game Master: 9,3 points
Let’s just make one thing clear regarding Anna’s House and Sherlocked: “The Bedroom” is just an escape game. It’s not “real life gaming” or “live theatre” or whatever Sherlocked try to brand their rooms as. First of all, you could argue that this kind of advertising is misleading to the customers – at least it might lead to some confusion. Especially because, secondly, the rooms can certainly stand their own ground: They are beautiful and gorgeous, suspenseful and playful. The house itself is a character that comes alive during the gameplay, and the introduction, the stories about the Frick family – it all works very, very well. Sherlocked don’t need to hype it.

This, also, because the game masters we’ve met have all been very kind and forthcoming. They’ve been more than willing to chat and show the details of the rooms up close – and even commented on some of the more problematic features. We’re not big fans of the hint system with hints delivered in that rumbling, distorted voice over the loudspeaker. We really missed a bell sound or something similar to make us pay attention as well as a screen with the hint spelled out in writing. Slightly more frustrating was the fact that we received the same hint several times – maybe 4 or 5 times – in connection with the bottle puzzle mentioned before. That’s not all that inventive or helpful for that matter...

Also frustrating was the fact that we never really knew how much time we had left. The old-fashioned clock itself is set inside a cabinet that you need to unlock, which of course is quite a playful and fun thing to do. But it also meant that we didn’t really know when the timer had started, and in the end we felt we were snubbed of maybe 5 minutes. Still, it didn’t really mean anything, because we unlocked the door, got out in time, survived – and got our picture taken as a souvenir.

Conclusion: 8,4 points
In many ways “The Bedroom” is the better escape room in Anna’s House. It’s more sparsely decorated, but the haunted-house atmosphere is near perfect. The puzzles are creative and playful, even though it’s all about opening another padlock. The game flow is very good, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend escape game enthusiasts (beginners and advanced, alike) to go and seek out Sherlocked in Malmö.

Room: The Bedroom, Anna’s House
Company: Sherlocked, Östergatan 5, Malmö, Sweden
Languages available: Swedish and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: SEK 295,- per person (minimum 3 players – SEK 885,-)

This review:
Game date: 28 May 2017
Number of players: 2 (Sherlocked recommends that you are 3-5 players, but that would be too crowded in the small room)
Hints: 7 hints

We survived, 52 minutes played

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