Published on February 22nd, 2017 | by Dean Love0
City Mazes, Oxford – Control Room 54
So after playing Pandora’s Escape and having a weird experience where we physically incapable of solving one puzzle, our hopes were still high. That first room wasn’t bad, it just made a single huge fuck-up. There’s very little chance of that happening twice, right?
And so off we went to Control Room 54. There’s a bit of plot this time – you’re trying to disarm a terror threat in a computer. Again, this is a game of two halves, you need to get from the first room to the second room, then escape. But this one has a twist: one player is isolated from the others in a separate room for the first half of the game, able to communicate with the rest of the team via an intercom.
It’s a twist used by a few games, and it does indeed work well in this one, testing your communication and cooperation. It also means I, as the selected player, never even got to see the other room, so I can’t judge that. But the room I was in was fairly bare, and there wasn’t a huge amount to do. They’d included a Bop-It in there, presumably to stop that player getting bored. But it was broken. Nor was there much in terms of actual puzzle solving: it was simply relaying fairly obviously marked information one way or the other. The final part of the room includes having to solve something on a computer, which allows for a slightly more interesting challenge (you’re trying to describe symbols or such) but putting puzzles on a computer rather than building actual props comes across as a little lazy in escape rooms. Especially when you’re effectively just playing an inferior version of Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes. It’s a shame, as the concepts behind both that game and what’s being done here are solid, it’s just a fairly poor implementation.
Once that’s solved you have the code to get the main team out into the next room, and then you can give them the door code to get you out, and you’re faced with the second half of the game. It’s a huge mechanical puzzle which involves correctly setting things as explained in a guidebook that I remembered seeing in the other room and headed back to get. But the other room had now locked behind us. Yes, the game was now in a fail state. Which, to be fair to City Mazes, in 50+ rooms I’ve played, was definitely a first.
So we buzz for a “clue”, explain, get patronised a bit by the host (who oddly referred to us as “boys” throughout despite me having about ten years on her…) and of course the wonderful “it does happen to quite a few teams”. THEN FIX IT! Put the code to open the door on the other side, or, I dunno, don’t use a door that automatically locks shut when it closes. I just. Don’t. Get. It. Why wouldn’t you fix such an obvious problem? This isn’t a design choice, or a puzzle that some people might like and others don’t. It’s the game reaching an unsolvable state mid-way through. That’s just broken.
Once this was sorted the second half is just this single mechanical puzzle, which was actually fairly decent, but we managed to solve it in around seven minutes, then not notice the very small indication that we had done it right, and so spent another 20 minutes switching things on and off trying to work out where we had gone wrong. Though I’m not sure what would have been more annoying – doing that, or solving the second half of the game in under ten minutes…
So an average yet sparse game – had the two issues we had with it been fixed, it’d be okay, but we’d also have gotten out in around half an hour.
Result – we escaped with around ten minutes to spare
Date played: 29 October 2016
Team: Dean, Jim, Andy, Jamie, Sam
Summary: Decent ideas, if nothing mind-blowing, and one big, huge, honking flaw in the middle.