Published on August 5th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escape Time, Sutton Coldfield – The Bank Heist
There’s something I refer to when talking about escape rooms called flow. Not the way of describing how the puzzles connect up, but rather the state of mind it’s possible to enter in some rooms. The state of mind where you’re almost in the brain of the designer, knocking off puzzle after puzzle with expert precision. Flow is finding a four-digit code, seeing three four-digit locks, and knowing instinctively which is the right one, because on some subconscious level your brain has mapped out the progression of the next five puzzles…
So if flow exists, it stands to reason that the opposite must also exist. Games where you just can’t connect with what you’re trying to do at all. Not bad games, but games where you’re just on such a different wavelength to the designer, that as much as you try and tweak your frequency or amplitude to match, you always end up with destructive interference.
And so it was with The Bank Heist for us. We just could not get our heads around it. I’ll dig in to why shortly but it’s worth saying upfront: this isn’t a bad room. It has some questionable bits and areas that could improve, but our experience with it seems likely to be non-typical, and it’s worth bearing that in mind.
It opens strongly enough with a fairly impressive looking set, and ends in a similar way, but you’ll spend most of the game in a fairly uninspired bank manager’s office. It does the job but isn’t anything special. There are some okay puzzles here, along with a lot of searching for some frustratingly well-hidden things.
Here you’ll also find a collection of documents. These documents sort of sum up my feelings on the game. See, towards the end you’ll be required to interpret these documents and apply in the information on them as you would in the real world to solve some of the final puzzles. That last part of the game is probably the strongest and yet it stumped us for quite a while. The reason being that in earlier parts of the game you take similar documents and just have to use random information from them in order to open locks in the room. The game threw out real-world logic so early that we never thought to rescue it from the bin. And it’s a shame because there’s potential there. Some would probably argue there’s too many documents with too much information on them, but if they’re all used to build up some sort of real world story it could be quite neat. But instead they’re used in a far more disjointed fashion.
In a similar way there’s a neat physical puzzle that looks like the key to successful completion is good teamwork. But really the key is figuring out the trick. A trick that isn’t clued anywhere. Well, that or having really small hands and long arms. It’s quite literally painfully frustrating if you don’t figure out the trick. But if you do, you don’t even need your teammates.
Later we found what seemed to be a really neat dexterity puzzle, but it turned out not to be one, that solving it that was was incorrect, and we were just instructed not to take that route. The instruction was at least delivered within the theme of the room, but the fact that they’re able to do that shows were not the first people to make that mistake.
And the game has a jump scare which doesn’t make any sense in context of the story or setting. It’s just there for the sake of having a jump scare. Or put another way: if you were actually the characters described in the story, you’d have knowledge that the jump scare was going to happen.
It’s all so disjointed. This review sounds quite negative and that’s the weird bit: the individual bits are all fairly strong, which makes the game worth playing. It’s just the design never really coheres into a whole. It almost feels a bit like it was designed by committee, rather than having a singular vision. Or perhaps a few key puzzles came first and the story and setting were built around it.
The end result was to just leave us a little baffled. Inevitably we failed to escape. We got one puzzle short of the end although we required copious hints along the way. I think maybe we suffered a bit from playing Sam’s Saloon first. That was such a strong game that we just didn’t expect this one to be so all over the place. Ironically we might have had more success had we come in with lower expectations!
Still, the fact that this is at the same venue as Sam’s Saloon is handy, as that game is worth travelling here to play, and once you’re there you might as well give this one a go too, just don’t expect something on quite the same level!
Result – we failed to escape
Date played: 30 May 2017
Team: Dean, Sam, Andy, Jamie
Summary: A game that we just struggled to get our heads around. There's enough individual elements to make it worth playing but it never really comes together.