Published on June 21st, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escape Rooms London – Dark Side Of The Moon
The second of two games at Escape Rooms London’s new venue in Angel, while I praised Project D.I.V.A for swinging for the fences and genuinely exciting me, Dark Side Of The Moon took a similar approach but fell sort of flat. Indeed, this one ventures even further from what you might traditionally understand as an escape room. Or put another way: it’s even more batshit crazy.
It’s one of those games that’s impossible to explain without spoiling a certain element, but that element is given away during the briefing. See, like the other game, you also get given iPhones for hints as you go along, but in this game, you also get given a gun. A big sci-fi laser rifle. Each.
And you won’t use them for a good fifteen minutes. Instead you’ll be dealing with gaining access to a secret Nazi moon base. If that sounds exciting it isn’t really – you’ll spend the first section of the game in a fairly drab room (far less visually interesting than D.I.V.A) doing some logical deduction and solving an annoying puzzle that uses technology that doesn’t work all that well. It’s actually a decent puzzle, but likely too hard for most people – we cracked it but still needed a few nudges – but the implementation is frustrating. Then you get access to the base itself and the game goes crazy.
Essentially it turns into the first laser-tag/escape room hybrid I’ve ever seen. Or even heard of for that matter. Much of the rest of the game will see you in shooting galleries taking out targets with your guns, while running back and forth to activate certain things. To give you an idea of how ridiculous this game is: there’s a point where the game wants you to keep moving forward, and to make clear that you don’t need to worry about going back to earlier areas. Other games would straight up tell you this, or lock the door behind you. Dark Side Of The Moon instead gives you a giant slide that’s steep enough you won’t be climbing back up it. Someone will probably get hurt on it but damn it’s cool.
It’s a very physical game, from this point forwards. And played out on really impressive looking sets that do the moon-base theme justice and don’t just look like some tarted-up offices. You’ll be shooting things, running and puzzling.
But it’s that last part that causes a problem. Because as much as it might want to be a laser-tag adventure, Dark Side Of The Moon is still an escape room. You spend a lot of time shooting things yet they’re never part of an actual puzzle. The first went on long enough that I was convinced we must be missing something – that there was an order we had to shoot things in such in order to progress. But no, it’s just a long shooting gallery. And it’s not laser-tag. You’re not wearing vests, you can’t get shot back – there’s no fail state. There’s just shooting the things until the game says you’re done and can move on. The closest we came to a puzzle was figuring out how to stand in one room to cover all the targets while not blinding each other with lasers.
When the puzzles do show up, they cause more problems. At this point you’ve been running around, your adrenaline is up and you’ve managed to figure out how to activate a countdown timer and now have one minute to do… something. We didn’t know what. We tried a few things, the timer ran out, nothing happened. We did the same thing we did to start with and the timer started again. That’s true to what the game is, but it also killed all sense of urgency for us. We knew we had limitless attempts at figuring this out and could take our time – which was utterly at odds with the story playing out around us. It just ruined the pacing entirely. Far better would have been to give explicit instructions on what had to be done – yes, it’s less of a puzzle, but it keeps things moving and most teams would never see what would happen if they failed to succeed within in the time limit.
The story here is fine, with a video briefing and various video sequences letting you see the progress of the plot. As with Project D.I.V.A, smart phones are used for clues but there’s no scanning of QR codes this time.
I wanted to love this game. I really did. I love the concept of laser-tag meets escape room, but it needs something more. Ideally that’s upping the physical aspect a bit: give the players laser-tag vests, have the enemies shoot back and really pull back on the puzzling in the second half of the game. But even without going to that extent, it’s a game where I think a scoring system could work really well: the faster you clear the shooting galleries the more points you get, failing at certain things sees you lose points and so on, with a weekly leader-board or some-such posted in the foyer. Something to give context to elements that are otherwise just fun diversions with little actual impact on if you finish the game within the 60 minutes or not.
Dark Side Of The Moon is a very, very different game, and one I would recommend to those interested in seeing a very different direction that the escape game genre could take, but it won’t work for everyone.
Result – we finished in around 45 minutes
Date played: 14 May 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A game that aims for something entirely different but fell a little bit short for me. But definitely worth trying if you fancy something a bit more off-the-wall.