Published on May 18th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escapologic, Nottingham – Cryptic
To be clear, there’s nothing particularly cryptic about Cryptic – those with an irrational fear of crosswords can still apply. Rather it’s another Escapologic trademark pun: this game is set in an old crypt.
So something happened at the start of Cryptic that immediately set off alarm bells: we were told the room is essentially pitch black inside, and then we were given just two light sources between the three of us. Rarely a recipe for a good time, it’s basically just handcuffing you together in pairs without the kinky undertones. It didn’t ruin the game in this case but it was frustrating at times. The unique thing that Cryptic does also happens before you enter the room. You’re given a knapsack (which immediately made me wonder if we’d be encountering any spinning blades) that has a few things which may be useful, the most important of which is a book, supposedly the recovered notes of a previous explorer. Now from what I could tell, there’s nothing in the book that’s essential to finishing the game – there’s no codes hidden in there or such. Instead it’s essentially a hint book, almost like one of the 90s adventure game hint books. If you’re stuck at any point, going through the book might offer a nudge in the right direction. It oozes theme and works really well – you’ll rarely be completely stuck in this game, as you can always go back to trying to figure out something from the book – what notes in there relate to the thing you’re stuck on? You might not always make the connections (in which case there’s a secondary, more traditional but still thematic, clue system in the game) but you always feel like you have somewhere to go to. The downside is that it’s (purposefully) very scattered and unordered, long (maybe 30+ pages) and coupled with the limited light sources can also cause frustration – it’s only large enough for one person to really be reading it at once, and they’re going to need one of your two light sources. Still, I really liked the concept and as as we were playing with just three players anyway that was less of a problem.
Much like Contraption, the set on Cryptic feels a bit worn, but it’s far easier to get away with it in the dark, and a crypt really should feel worn and dusty (while Contraption’s lab still works, it could equally have been a more pristine take). There’s a little bit of crawling and climbing involved which is fun and the puzzles are generally pretty good. It avoids any anachronistic combination locks in favour of cleverly activated mechanisms and solid, time-appropriate keys. There’s also a decent emphasis on teamwork across a few of the puzzles that will reward good communication.
More than anything, where this game excels is really in atmosphere: the darkness, the book, the physical aspects, the sense of adventure as you progress through the crypt – it really does everything it can to ensure you feel like you’re following in the footsteps of the explorers before you, and we enjoyed it a lot.
Result – we escaped in around 45 minutes, though as there’s no clock in the room it’s hard to know for sure
Date played: 30 Apr 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A room that emphasises atmosphere and teamwork, with a novel approach to clues.