søndag den 13. august 2017

Ocean’s 12: Monaco Heist (Door Z, Prague)

“Ocean’s Twelve: Monaco Heist” (the escape room) is loosely based on Steven Soderbergh’s film, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and a number of other famous Hollywood actors. That doesn’t mean that the game is all that glamorous, unfortunately. It may be about a billion-dollar heist, but it feels very mundane. No, actually the link to the film is most obvious in the second part of the gameplay where the room opens up to a small and claustrophobic laser labyrinth that must be scaled in order to win. And it’s tough and near impossible. This is not a spoiler – it’s a disclaimer!

We get back to the lasers later in this review, since they took up at least 20 minutes of our game. Meanwhile, the setup to “Monaco Heist” is pretty straightforward: There’s a rich billionaire living in Monaco. He has a diamond. You need money. You go steal it. You have an hour to do so. Then the billionaire will return. It’s as barebones as it’s immoral, and the room could really do with more of a backstory to be discovered along the way. That would actually have been pretty simple and made your criminal objective more relatable.

Set decoration: 6,0 points
It’s a funny thing that Door Z, the company behind “Monaco Heist”, have pinned this escape room on the Ocean’s franchise. The casino theme is nearly forgotten, the owner of the room – the billionaire – doesn’t come off as a billionaire, and there are no diamonds or other expensive stuff lying around. What we have here is an escape room clearly made by somebody who fell in love with the Belgian surrealist artist, Rene Magritte – he’s the guy with “This is not a pipe” painting, the grey business men falling from the sky, the giant apples, and lots of other famous paintings and sculptures. And first and foremost, this escape room plays homage to Magritte – many of his paintings cover the walls together with photos, masks and paintings by other artists. Which is all pretty neat – who doesn’t love a Magritte painting?

However, since the paintings are of course reproductions, the room doesn’t come off as being particularly opulent or lavish. There’s no champagne, no yachts, no glamour. It’s neither realistic nor immersive for that matter. However, it feels quite small because it is quite small, with no windows opening up to the French vistas apparently lying outside – remember, it’s called “Monaco Heist”. It’s never perfectly clear what room in the house, the game is set in: It doesn’t come off as a library. It doesn’t come off as a lounge. Or an office. Or a living room. It was just pretty white and covered with Magritte paintings. In this way, it just served as an escape-game room. But a quite bland one. Your heist is accompanied by some jazzy lounge-like music, but unfortunately there were technical issues with the loudspeakers which made parts of the music sound tinny and almost like Morse code.

Puzzles: 6,0 points
The first part of “Monaco Heist” feels most like an escape game. The puzzles continue to pay homage to Magritte and the visual arts: You have to use your eyes and discover the true meaning of the photos and the paintings in a variety of ways. It’s quite creative and there’s a good flow in the game in this section. But then again: This doesn’t go very well with the whole heist/casino theme. There’s also a huge puzzle around midway through where you have to build something, which has very little to do with either Rene Magritte or Ocean’s Twelve. In this way, you could say that the puzzles are both fun and playful, but they’re also very inconsistent.

The hands-down most time-consuming puzzle of them all is in fact not really a puzzle, but a physical obstacle race. You open up to a small room crisscrossed with at least 20 laser beams that you need to manoeuver through in order to win. This laser labyrinth becomes almost a game in the game – a physical challenge that will make you feel like a king if you manage to get all the way through it and finish the proper game. And you can do it over and over, again and again, because you can switch off the alarm that sounds every time you touch a laser beam. So, it could actually be quite a fun thing to put inside an escape room, right? Make people let out their inner Tom Cruise. Right?

However, here are the problems: This is a nearly impossible challenge for big people – and that’s “big” in any sense of the word: fat, robust, buff, tall, long-limbed, 12-week pregnant. People with long hair, too. We also include people with baggy and loose clothes – the same kind of clothes you would normally wear in an escape room.

Actually, it’s quite a shame, because taken at its face value the laser labyrinth is fun! It’s challenging and it’s playful. It’s like playing a real-life action game rather than the real-life adventure game we are used to in escape rooms. But not when the laser labyrinth takes at least 20 minutes to accomplish and replaces maybe five creative and fun puzzles. Then the laser game within the escape game becomes a very lazy gameplay solution.

Game Master: 4,5 points
Our game master was both kind and forthcoming, but with no talent for the English language. There was a real and somewhat annoying language barrier between him and us, especially because we had to communicate through walkie-talkies in the game. This meant that the few hints we were served during the game had to be repeated several times, and at times we just gave up trying to understand the poor guy. Furthermore, there were no hints in writing to help him and us along the way. We were completely dependent on communication through speech and walkies. And here, in this particular game session, that just didn’t work very well, which is a problem when the game is advertised as being available in English.

The whole walkie-talkie communication could actually have added an extra degree of immersion to the game, had our game master been better at English and pretended to be part of the heist: He could have played the guy in the van, scouring the blue prints of the billionaire’s house for hints for us. That could have been fun, but it was a missed opportunity here.

Conclusion: 5,5 points
Overall, “Ocean’s Twelve: Monaco Heist” is a pretty inconsistent game with a handful of playful puzzles topped off with a frustrating, difficult laser labyrinth. Despite the many Magritte paintings, this escape game doesn’t feel the slightest bit surreal, but rather a little flat and mediocre.

Room: Ocean’s Twelve: Monaco Heist
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 the rooms, and be sure to bring at least a skinny athlete along!)
Hints: 2-3

We survived, 59 minutes played

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