søndag den 20. august 2017

Inglourious Basterds: Spring of 45 (Door Z, Prague)

You have to tip your hat to “Inglourious Basterds: Spring of 45”. Not only have the creators behind this escape room dared to recreate the plotline of a World War II prisoner-of-war movie – they also succeed in this seemingly impossible task. To a large extent, at least.

The idea behind “Spring of 45” has absolutely nothing to do with Quentin Tarantino’s counterfactual World War II film (2009). There are no hints or references to neither the film nor Tarantino’s gratuitous violence or humour. In fact, “Spring of 45” is a family friendly if still adventurous escape room. The setup may actually be the scariest thing about the whole room: You play allied soldiers who have been taken by the Nazis and locked up in a shed. You will be executed at dawn, and therefore you have to escape into the woods while there’s still time. And not just escape: Along the way you have to blow up the Nazi headquarters. And like most of the beloved classic WW2 movies, this escape room is probably not historically correct in any way – but it sure is a lot of fun.

Set decoration: 7,3 points
You start the “Spring of 45” escape room enveloped in darkness. Then the lights come on and you find yourself locked up in a tiny shed made of solid wooden planks. And no door! The lights are dimmed, and old discarded stuff fill up the shelves on the walls and the floor space. You can actually smell the wood, and in the distance you can hear soldiers fighting, shooting and screaming. This is a great way to start the story and get immersed in the story and the setting.

As you venture forward into the plot, the set design gets a little less impressive. You never feel that you stand in a real forest, but Door Z (the people behind “Spring of 45”) have made a decent attempt with a couple of tree trunks on the cramped 8 m2. It’s a difficult setting to create, and the solution here is most of all cute. Other creative solutions work far better. They involve lighting effects and TV screens functioning as windows – both of which open up the space of the escape room and underline the war theme. The room is also well designed in the way that it integrates various antique knick-knacks in the puzzles. This creates cohesion, which leads to immersion in the game play.

Still, the set design of “Spring of 45” isn’t perfect – it’s actually pretty easy to make the game even more immersive. For instance: They should turn up the volume of the sound effects to make it sound like there’s a war right around the corner. When we played the room, all the shooting and shouting was nearly drowned out by the Mission: Impossible theme music playing in the other game room. And then there’s the huge explosion towards the end of the game – where did that one go?

Puzzles: 8,8 points
Where as many escape rooms are constructed as a Freudian maze where you constantly have to unlock yet another box or open the door to a secret room or solve a riddle to reveal something hidden – “Spring of 45” is nearly the opposite. This escape room is constructed as an action-adventure computer game: You have to move forward, and you have to do things. Of course, you still have to unlock some doors, and find secret codes to deal with a couple of padlocks, but it’s not to solve some secret mystery. Your main goal is to escape from the claws of the Nazis and blow them to pieces in the end. This means that the game is very straightforward and linear: You have to move from room to room – from the shed to the forest and so on. So, once you get moving, the next door – the next challenge actually – is easy to spot.

This makes the game fun and action-packed. The 12-13 puzzles themselves are varied and involve a lot of physical activity and fiddling around with the set decorations. Light and sound play a crucial role during the game, as do German airplanes and an old accordion initially found in the wooden shed. You have to collaborate on some of the more inventive riddles, and you also have to search high and low for different details and clues, but it never becomes a chore of finding the needle in the haystack. In all fairness, there’s something for everyone in this room. 

Overall, due to the linearity of the game, there’s a nice flow in “Spring of 45”. This just underlines the sense of adventure and action, and you are quickly absorbed in the gameplay despite the set design.

Game Master: 4,8 points
Our game master was kind and forthcoming, but not very good at English. In fact, it was quite impossible to strike up a conversation with the poor guy before and after the game. However, during the game he was alert and responded to our three hint requests. Communication via text and a screen is not an option, but here it wasn’t a problem because we played the game pretty much on our own. Still, it’s annoying to ask – and ask again – about the deadline: There’s no clock or countdown timer in the game.

As with many other game rooms in Prague the hint system here also relied on the use of walkie-talkies – which doesn’t work very well with the game. It simply breaks the illusion of the World War II theme. Door Z should really come up with a creative solution that could go well with the 1945 setting – an old wireless perhaps and messages from our allied friends and fellow spies in Germany. Perhaps that could also incorporate the missing timer somehow. That would be a great improvement, but – again – we didn’t really need the hints, so we didn’t get all that annoyed with the walkie-talkie solution.

Conclusion: 7,0 points
If you forget about the missing connection to Inglourious Basterds and just play “Spring of 45” as a World War II-inspired escape game, it’s quite fun and adventurous, and works well with the whole family. The set design is pretty good, but it’s the inventive and diverse puzzles that provide most of the immersion in the gameplay.

Room: Inglourious Basterds: Spring of 45
Company: Door Z, Václavské nám. 837/11, 110 00 Praha 1-Nové Město
Languages available: Czech and English (beware the language barrier)
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: CZK 1590,- for the entire team (2-6 players)

This review:
Game date: 11 July 2017
Number of players: 2 (Door Z suggests that you are 2-6 players, but we wouldn’t recommend more than 3 players due to the size of each room)
Hints: 3

We survived, 52 minutes played

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