Escape Rooms Angel – The Dark Side of the Moon

Summary
One of London’s newest rooms, sadly disappointed us with the theme and with a mechanical breakdown that terminated our game part way through. I suspect they’ll get over the teething problems in due course, but few of the puzzles made sense much less indicated what to do, and this isn’t saved by the amazing technology, set design, and build.

Review
At an enthusiasts’ meetup a few months ago, The Logic Escapes Me and I were discussing the relative merits of attending and playing rooms early in the run. I like the idea of getting in early to deliver a review which will help others decide whether they’d like to play or not. The opposing viewpoint is that you could get caught up in teething issues or untested rooms. And sadly, that was what happened to us this time around.

Team Amaze was playing this evening with just under 50 games’ experience between the five of us. The location is just a little awkward for train access so we picked up a bus from our office and it was easy to find the location.

Minor building works seemed to be ongoing as we entered, which I sort of expected from a new venue. We were running a tad early and so we sat in the sparse reception for a while. There were lots of comings and goings for the 10 minutes before we were finally welcomed by a host and briefed, in pretty few words, about the goal being to get in and out within an hour. As you do.

Hints would be delivered via a text/picture messaging system: each team member was presented with an iPod touch, with a single walkie-talkie for backup or if we needed to communicate back. All seemed quite promising. The room was mostly dark and we were told that using phone torches wasn’t permitted.

Unfortunately, once we got into the room, we found the difficulty of this game to be off the scale. We spent most of our time trying to figure out what to do and hoping a hint would arrive. The game was entirely linear so when we couldn’t figure out what to do, which was most of the time, we were completely stuck and couldn’t go and look at anything else.

One of the puzzles, which was skill-based, was obvious in terms of what to do. For all the others, it was trial and error to figure out what to do. Sometimes we blundered onto the answer, more often we didn’t and had to get sent the solution on a plate through the iPods. Even on the times we got this – and to be fair, the iPods supported picture communication which helped – several of the puzzles were both difficult enough and fiddly enough that we took four or five attempts to get the machinery to accept the correct answer. At least three different puzzles, we would never have figured out what to do without a hint.

The iPods had several functions but we were only expected to use the timer and the messaging. There were options to enter in a code (misspelt “imput”), to scan QR/barcodes, and a few other bits but they weren’t in use. I would have appreciated being told that these weren’t in use so that we didn’t spend time faffing with them.

One of the segments required us to crouch or kneel for several minutes whilst completing a puzzle. This particular puzzle would have been quite a lot of fun if we could have stood up. But it was difficult enough as it was.

This difficulty challenge continued through to a segment with a puzzle powered by mains electricity. I was working on this and blundered through to a point where I thought I’d finished it, but nothing happened for a few moments. Then, smoke started to seep out from a crevice somewhere. I thought this was part of the game, but a message came through to the iPod saying to do such and such to reset the puzzle as we had done it wrongly. So I did, and then solved it again. A big fat nothing happened, and we got a couple of questions over the walkie-talkie, before the host decided she needed to come in and check the puzzle. After a bit of poking around, she declared it solved and signalled to someone else backstage to cut the power to the maglock of the door to the next area.

So far, so teething error. We moved through to the next area whilst another host kept poking around at the offending puzzle, and we were told to hang on so they could kick off the next one. And this went on for a while whilst we chatted about what we might need to do and how much extra time we wanted to ask to have added back.

Outcome
The outcome was that there wasn’t an outcome. With about 8 minutes left on the clock and after maybe 10 minutes of staff faffing with the facilities, a key turned in the emergency door and we were informed that the systems had irreparably broken down and that they could not continue the game for us. We were instantly offered a refund and profuse apologies, and this arrived the next day with a further emailed apology. We were also shown through what the rest of the game “should have been like”, and they activated and tried to talk us through the one remaining puzzle that they could get started, but we couldn’t make any sense of that either.

In numbers
Rating this is very challenging. No, we didn’t have a good time. No, that doesn’t mean you won’t have one either. I can only comment on the experience we had. And I’ve decided that the numerical ratings that I normally give would make no sense in the context of this room, so I’m not going to do them on this occasion.

I’ll repeat the heavy caveat that the room had been open for five days at the time of our visit. I hope (and, to be honest, expect) that Escape Rooms will work on rebuilding the offending puzzle so that it is safe and functional for future teams. I know that there are inevitably going to be teething problems so early in a game’s run. But an electrical puzzle shorting out and smoking? Oh dear.

Even with everything working, we would have failed the game miserably. As mentioned above, there were just too many leaps of logic needed, and twice we were sent the full solution to a puzzle. The build has clearly had lots of effort put into it, but it didn’t seem to correspond to the theme of going to the moon base, the puzzles didn’t really make contextual sense, and there was no indication of when we were actually going to the moon.

I hope that people attending this game a bit after it’s bedded in will have a better experience than us.

Other details
Accessibility: Not great. Two steps to the entrance, two steps to enter the room, a flight of stairs and other physical obstacles must be negotiated. The majority of the team will need to spend several minutes in a height-restricted space (about 1.1m tall) and all members will need to at least pass through that space.

Alerts: There are a few physical obstacles. Avoid wearing skirts, dresses, high heels, and clothing that you would not like to risk getting a bit messy. Moderately dark throughout, torches are not provided, and using phone torches isn’t permitted.

Capacity: The one copy of this room takes 3-7 people, as does the other room onsite, Project DIVA.

Cost: The room cost was £110.40 for 5 people after a 20% introductory discount – the standard price is £138. Full prices range from £90 for 3 people to £176.40 for 7. American Express is accepted. As noted above, we received a full refund of the cost of our room.

Photo: In the circumstances, we didn’t do one.

Getting there: Angel, Barbican, and Old Street stations are all within 10 minutes on foot, and several buses run nearby.

Website: http://www.escaperooms.co.uk

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