søndag den 3. september 2017

Gulliver's Travel (Runaway Escape Rooms, Prague)

There’s not much left of Jonathan Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels in this poorly named escape room. Not only have the so-called ”travels” been reduced to one singular ”travel” – Swift’s fun and wit have also been tossed out the window. What we do have is an uncomfortably moist and mouldy escape room, full of health hazards, which has been advertised and promoted in the most dishonest way possible. Without a doubt and without comparison, “Gulliver’s Travel” is the worst escape room we’ve ever played – and will ever play. Hopefully.

The set up to this travesty makes no sense. Apparently you are back in the 18th century, standing in Captain Lemuel Gulliver’s kitchen. Your job is to find evidence that Gulliver did actually find the strange countries and people there. But the big motivational speech is missing: Why do you have to find this evidence? Why do you only have 60 minutes to do so? What’s the point? Unfortunately, this set up is also deceptive, leading you to believe that you will visit or at least find evidence from all four travels that Captain Gulliver conducted. You won’t, which in an ironic twist to the established escape-room game concept means that “Gulliver’s Travel” is impossible to solve.

Set decoration: 1,5 points
For some strange reason, you start the game in Captain Gulliver’s kitchen. Apparently, you’re back in the 18th century, because everything is meant to look sort of authentic. Except for the padlocks on the cupboards here. Except for the electrical overhead lamps and the flashlight you’ve been equipped with. Except for the black-and-yellow stripes of safety tape, which are found every-single-where you turn. And except for the glaringly obvious fact that this is not a kitchen at all – at the very best, it’s one half of a kitchen and omitting the cooking section which to many people come to define the actual word “kitchen”.

But it gets worse: From the moment you step into this first section of “Gulliver’s Travel” you sense that there’s something wrong. Yes, the escape room is located in a cellar, but still an escape room should never ever be this moist and mouldy. You can almost feel the mildew enter your lungs when you breathe in. And to make matters still worse, once you start investigating the room, you quickly find out that the furniture has been attacked by nasty mold and fungus. Maybe this is why you only have 60 minutes to play the game – because if you stay any longer you will most certainly come down with something.

You do venture on from the so-called kitchen area, and end up both in the country of the Lilliputians and the country of the giants called Brobdingnag, and both rooms are as hopelessly designed and as damp and mouldy the first one. The Lilliputians room looks like the result of a kindergarten project of particularly unimaginative children. The houses have been lazily put together without any attention to detail: At the very least the designers could have made sure that the size of the Lilliputian dolls would actually match up with the size of the houses. But they haven’t. They have put out a thin green felt rug over the rocky and uneven cellar floor, making it very difficult for the players not to end up with at least one knee injury. 

But still, the worst thing about the “Gulliver’s Travel” escape room is the moist and damp atmosphere. Inside the Brobdingnag room the game masters place a giant Fatboy rabbit just before game start, and they hurry up and remove it again after each game, because they know that the stuffed rabbit will die a quick death among the algae and fungi down here.

Puzzles: 3 points
There are a couple of good puzzles buried in all the mouldy dampness of “Gulliver’s Travel”, but they are few and far between. You will have to spend far too much time deciphering unhelpful drawings and hints involving, for instance, a set of drawers and a group of Lilliputians – both have to be put in the right order, so to speak, and we ended up spending 30-40 minutes on these two puzzles alone. The puzzles are simply not logical or coherent: If the Lilliputians figurines you have to put in the right formation are supposed to represent real Lilliputians what kind of terrible creature do you as player become?

What’s worse, still, is that nearly all of these puzzles don’t really fit into “Gulliver’s Travel” as a theme and the 18th-century setting. We’ve already mentioned the modern padlocks and flashlights. But later on you will have to use black light to uncover some hidden signs around the Lilliputians houses – whoever painted these signs inside and outside the houses, though, remains a mystery. There’s also a puzzle that involves a reference to Alice in Wonderland, which of course was published more than 130 years after Gulliver’s Travels, so how that book ends up in this setting is another mystery.

The Brobdingnag room at the end of the game was the best area of them all – mainly due to the huge wooden chair that somebody has constructed here. And which you were also forced to climb in order to solve the game. Creating yet another excellent opportunity of injuring yourself badly from falling 2,5 metres down onto a hard brick floor.

Game Master: 2,3 points
Our game master was a clever one. She made us pay up front for both of the escape rooms we were going to play this afternoon, because she knew that after playing “Gulliver’s Travel” we not only wouldn’t be back for the second game, we would just downright refuse paying. It’s that bad.

The room is falsely advertised in flyers and online, due to one picture showing a completely different room: A couple of high-heeled ladies’ legs protrude into an office-like setting with sunshine in the background. When we pointed this out to our game master, it came as a huge surprise and they couldn’t see the problem. Now, one month later, that picture has been removed from the company’s website, but the accompanying promotional video is still taking its liberties with the truth: There is no rainbow-coloured umbrella.

False marketing aside, our game master wasn’t very good at English, and she wasn’t very forthcoming either. When we arrived a little earlier than scheduled, we were nearly turned away in the door – even though it was pouring down outside. And then there was the walkie-talkie situation: Not only are modern walkie-talkies in an 18th-century setting a no go, oftentimes it was completely impossible to communicate through the walkies. Either they were not set up properly, or the game master didn’t know how to use hers – pushing the wrong buttons, and her voice sounding fully distorted. It was terrible.

Conclusion: 2,3 points
Before playing “Gulliver’s Travel” we had to sign several documents stating that we wouldn’t destroy anything in the room or act violently during the game. Now, we understand why. This is the worst escape room we have ever played, and we would never recommend “Gulliver’s Travel” to anybody. What we would recommend is that the company behind it, Runaway Escape Rooms, feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves and simply just close “Gulliver’s Travel” and not open it again. Never ever.

Room: Gulliver’s Travel
Company: Runaway Escape Rooms, U Elektrárny 6, 170 00 Prague 7
Languages available: Czech and English
Game time: 60 minutes
Price: CZK 1200,- for 2 players, CZK 1400,- for 3-5 players

This review:
Game date: 12 July 2017
Number of players: 2 (Runaway Escape Rooms suggests that you are 2-5 players, but we would recommend as few players as possible due to the health hazards and the overall poor condition of the room)
Hints: 10-20, most of them on the same two puzzles…

We didn’t survive, 65:32 minutes played

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