Published on May 24th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escapologic, Nottingham – E.P.I Centre
(Note that the team before us in E.P.I Centre had damaged one of the components, so the game wasn’t fully functional. We were given the option to play or not, and chose to go ahead – I don’t think it would have made much difference to our opinion of the room either way but it should be noted. We received press tickets for these games, so I can’t say how Escapologic would normally handle such issues, but got the impression that we’d have had the option for a refund had we paid.)
As this is our final review of Escapologic (at least until the new rooms open!), it’s worth talking a little about the venue in general. We visited on a Sunday and it was very busy, with a constant flow of people in and out. There were lockers to keep our stuff in (especially handy since two of us had overnight bags) and the staff were great – one thing of particular note was the game briefings: the staff had clearly been trained to deliver the story aspects by learning a script and learning how to perform it. You could almost see them switch into a performance mode as it came to that bit of the briefing, and they were always word-perfect.
Two of the neatest features of Escapologic have perhaps been victims of their own success: teams can write their team names on the walls, but the walls are so crowded with names it’s basically impossible to find a sensible spot (although the fact that somehow, in the thousands of names, I somehow spotted comic and podcaster Brendon Burns amused me quite a bit). They also have hand gel dispensers outside of all the rooms, which is perfect for after you’ve just been touching things handled by 100s of other people for an hour. But they were all empty. Not a big deal as there are also decent, clean bathrooms on site but also sort of a shame.
But to E.P.I Centre itself. The world has essentially ended in some crazy earthquakes, and you’re stuck inside a chemical research facility trying to reach the misery of the outside world and stop the facility from shutting down. One of the neatest elements of this room is the clock (a feature most Escapologic games lack) – there’s a screen which essentially shows a countdown but also periodic news broadcasts from the outside world. They’re pretty cool, even though you never really get a chance to sit down and watch them as you’re busy puzzling your way through the room.
It’s one of those games that separates one of the team members from the rest at the start, making your first job reuniting the team, which of course requires communication between those on each side of the game. The mechanism for doing that also activates the facility AI, whose omnipresent voice helps direct you through the rest of the game.
The aesthetics of the game are sort of hard to judge. It’s meant to look like a facility that’s been hit by an earthquake, so there’s stuff all over the place: it’s a complete mess. Obviously it’s meant to be, though that does make figuring out what’s a clue and what’s a red herring quite difficult. You’re never entirely sure if the papers and books strewn over the floor are clues or just set dressing. A couple of the early puzzles felt a little vague, and at one point we were even told (via a clue) that we had to use trial and error to get the final answer, even though later on it seemed like there was actually information to solve it properly that we just hadn’t spotted.
As you progress into the game the set gets more impressive as you leave the simple office and see some of the machines from the facility. We actually solved the puzzle that was broken, only for it to light up and absolutely nothing happen, at which point we realised that we’d already been given the thing that solving this puzzle was meant to give us, and then finally figured out how to use it. We could have skipped that puzzle entirely, but it was good the the hosts nudged us that way regardless, so we still got the experience.
The game ends with what’s essentially a physical challenge – you’ll look at what you have to accomplish and probably go “really?” – but whether in saying that you mean “really? That’s silly but kinda fun” or “really, I have to do this?” will depend on your temperament. We were in the former camp, although I can see it frustrating other people, especially when it finishes with a twist. (I did start to wonder exactly how mean the game was going to be at this point, but I was both relieved and somewhat disappointed it didn’t go down the even sillier route).
E.P.I Centre is a great game – it has a few more ups and downs than some of Escapologic’s other rooms. The first part was a bit dull, but it picked up a lot and I really enjoyed the final bit, ridiculous as it was. But it’s a less forthright recommendation on this one as I can easily see others reacting to the finale differently and so having a very different opinion.
Result – we escaped in around 45 minutes
Date played: 30 Apr 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess, Alex
Summary: A good game, with a strong middle section and a "love it or hate it" finale.