The game started with complete darkness.
Edgy, scary music designed to make players nervous…
We entered not knowing what to expect. Sure, we’d played other escape rooms. Ones where you sift through drawers and empty cupboards looking for clues.
But this game was different.
This game was the Breakin’ Blackwing’s Cave room with its superhero theme.
A superhero lair doesn’t have cupboards and drawers to riffle through, so this was going to be a different type of escape room. One that uses high tech gadgets. We’ve played them before too. Some use gadgets to progress the story. Some just add them because they can, without adding anything to the experience. Some gadgets work, some don’t. Some require feats of incredible dexterity.
Starting in darkness, our first task was to find some light, so we began by feeling our way around the walls ….
Good set design, shame about the puzzles.
The set design was good so we were hopeful that the puzzles would be too. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Our friends had played the Sherlock game as a team of 5 and warned us that, being a linear game, only a limited number players could solve things at a time. There were times when some of them had nothing to do except watch the others.
The Blackwing room is also linear but with only three players, we had more chance of puzzle interaction.
The game is played in darkness so it takes time to find the limited light source and get accustomed to the room. We didn’t find the lighting a problem. However we were frustrated with poor puzzle design, lack of puzzles and poor customer service.
**NB this review contains spoilers**
During the briefing we learnt that Blackwing was off fighting his arch enemy, while we were needed to defuse bombs inside Blackwings Cave.
Early on there was a major puzzle which we failed. I don’t mean failed to solve. I mean failed, as in the countdown reached zero and the “bomb” exploded. [note 1]
We were left wondering if that was really the end of the whole game. [note 2]
Having paid almost £30 each for an hour of puzzle solving, we expected the game to last longer than 15 minutes. Therefore, we searched for something else to do.
It soon became clear there was nothing else to solve so we used our Walkie-Talkie to ask for a hint. We were told we could continue trying to solve the failed puzzle [note 3] or to ask for a hack to bypass it and move on.
How many teams continue trying to defuse an exploded bomb, I wonder? Was this designed to hold teams up rather than provide enough puzzles?
We were feeling frustrated by this point and elected to take the hack. The hack released a second wave of tech gadget and maths based puzzles. Having maths geniuses on the team (not me) we were able to quickly work our way through the clues until we hit another major problem.
We found a secret “room” – an oppressive blocked corridor where two of the team got locked in. Although we “solved” the escape puzzle numerous times, nothing happened. Finally we asked for another hint, which turned out to be to continue doing exactly what we had been doing!
I was hot, frustrated, and claustrophobic by now. Spitting feathers, I shot back into the Walkie-Talkie “we’ve been doing that but nothing happens”. At this point another Games Master took over our game and told me that nothing was supposed to happen; the puzzle only gave a clue to the person outside the room. [note 4]
Escaping from the sweltering, cramped corridor we found the exit door was now covered with lasers that appeared to serve no useful purpose other than to block the doorway. The clock above the door had also stopped, even though we had more time remaining.
Our original games master arrived and warned that breaking the lasers would incur a time penalty. It wasn’t clear that escaping within the 60 minutes depended on exiting the door without triggering the lasers, so they just looked out of place.[note 5]
By now we were infuriated and frustrated. Escaping in 60 minutes was no longer a goal. We just needed fresh air.
Had we enjoyed it, the GM asked? No we hadn’t.
When we left we complained about the puzzle designs and the claustrophobic second room.
[note 1] The games master (GM) said defusing the bomb was a difficult puzzle to solve, especially as you had to connect the wires to defuse the bomb in a certain way. They added that in training it had taken the GM’s 40 minutes to solve that single puzzle.
[note 2] The GM said some teams have given up and walked out when they failed. I’m not surprised, as it appeared to us that the game was over after 15 minutes when the bomb exploded. Having paid almost £30 each, we demanded more for our money and expected to be given more puzzles to solve. (Maybe the other teams were not offered the hack.)
[note 3] The GM said if you wobbled with a connection at any stage you had to start the whole process again. This meant a lot of teams failed and had to keep reattempting it.
The GM tentatively asked if we still wanted a photo to remember the experience, as she could sense we were very disappointed. I stayed true to the room, but my fellow players pretended they’d played something different. Blocking the memory before we’d even left the building, huh.
We left feeling very angry that we’d wasted our time and wasted our money.
Other Online Reviews
I hadn’t spotted the online reviews until after we’d played the game. Although we had the worst time ever, the others didn’t find the room too bad. Here are their thoughts, which include some of the points we raised about the room. I have no idea if they paid full price, like our team did. All I can say is we did not find it enjoyable, and certainly did not find it value for money.
“It’s a pretty linear game. We played with four people, and I’d suggest three as the best number. Two of the larger sequences of the game are limited in how many people can get involved with them at once, so larger groups may find players standing around in these sections…..The number of puzzles in the room is a little on the sparse side.”
[note 4]”………..we had issues with the actual game design and flow. Sadly, we also struggled with their clue system, that hardly helped us when we got stuck.”
[note 5] “The puzzles in the room are mostly high-tech with some cool twists. Another warning for the end though: the game is NOT over once the timer stops. We failed to realize that and got all our leftover time deducted, because we thought it was already finished……The last game-element in the Blackwing room was such a frustrating ending to the game that we were fairly stomped afterwards……..”
[note 5] “…with a final puzzle sequence that incorporated two unusual techniques to make the game stand out – one of which happens after your clock has stopped. Given that, in every other room I’ve ever played, that meant the game was over, it left us a little confused at a time when the endorphin rush should have just kicked in. “