Mission Breakout – Codebreakers

This could have been so much more. An awesome location and a decent concept let down by confusing puzzles and a string of defects.

When I first found out about Mission Breakout and the amazing setting of an abandoned London Underground station, it jumped up high on the list of places I wanted to try out. Team Ninty was able to gather together to play.

The premise here is that MI6 has found a leak, raided a bunker and switched off all the decoding machinery, and that you need to switch them back on and decode the source of the leak before they come back in an hour and you all get nicked.

First impressions were good; all I’ll say is always read your confirmation emails. We went downstairs where we were asked to sign waivers and fill in our email addresses, shut away our stuff in lockers, and watch the briefing. This showed good production values with a video message from Winston Churchill (though in places the subtitles somehow didn’t make sense). The host then hurried us through visits to the washrooms, for reasons which later became clear, before we got in the room.

There was an awful lot of stuff immediately in front of us and it wasn’t immediately clear where to start. We divided up to cover the necessary searches and started off OK with a few finds and a few quick wins. After that it sort of ground to a halt. There wasn’t a lot of direction on what to do, and we solved two puzzles without actually knowing what we had done to solve them, just randomly tinkering with equipment. And there was continuous loud background noise – my definition of too loud for background noise is when it interferes with conversation, which this certainly did.

Some of the instructions came via a clever gadget, but one of the messages we received there was wrong and related to a piece of equipment that had been withdrawn due to a defect. One of the panels, which was meant to light up to show it was ready for input, didn’t. An audio clue was inaudible due to buzzing, and we had to be fed the answer via the screen. Another puzzle required sustained care, precision, and attention for 3-5 minutes and making a mistake would mean needing to go back to the start. A further one was far larger and more complex than it needed to be, and just a time sink.

There were a couple of nice touches: the machinery clearly was very complicated and had taken a lot of work and love to build (perhaps too much?), and one of the hints was addressed by name to one of our team who was working on a puzzle and going down a blind alley.

Even in finishing and winning, a further unpleasantness: with 25 or so minutes on the clock, a loud alarm noise started playing and a warning came up on the screen to say that MI6 were nearly there and to hurry up. Really? Either we have an hour or we don’t…

We exited after 38 minutes. I’m calling our hint count 3, which is less than the number of hint messages that came through the screen – but I don’t think it counts as a hint if you’re getting a message which you wouldn’t get if everything was operational.

Teams start on the hour, every hour, which will also indicate a feature common to a few rooms that will become obvious when you’ve played.

In numbers
Overall: 3/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Theming: 6/10
Host: 5/10
Wow: 2/10

This room just didn’t do anything for us. No way for us to communicate out meant that we couldn’t get the host to understand the extent to which our difficulties were driven by defects rather than our failure to understand what we needed to do. The range of defects and non-sequiturs meant we kept second-guessing ourselves, and the central puzzle was very penal in the event of making a mistake. We can’t recommend this room because of this.

The overall mark was reduced by 1 point for the sneaky slapping-on of a 1.95% booking fee on the last screen. Booking fees are meant to be shown on the first screen that a price appears, if not integrated into the price completely, per the CAP Advertising Code. They also show prices excluding VAT, which isn’t allowed either.

Other details
Accessibility: Did not appear to be wheelchair accessible, understandable given the location. Steep downward stairs.

Alerts: Cramped space in which all team members need to remain for a minute or two. Loud noises, sirens, and dim lighting. Mandatory lockers in which you are required to leave bags and phones.

Capacity: A single game with space for 3-6 players.

Cost: We had a 20% discount and therefore paid a still-chunky £96 £97.87 after the booking fee for our team of 4. Whilst I don’t take cost into account in assigning ratings, this is definitely on the high end even for London. Normal prices range from £84 £85.64 to £150 £152.93 depending on peak time and team size.

Photo: The host took one for us on our own phones.

Getting there: About equidistant between Kentish Town (National Rail and LU Northern Line) and Camden Town (Northern Line).

Website: http://www.missionbreakout.london/

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