Published on May 26th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Make Your Escape, Derby – Spellbound
It’s a big room full of puzzles.
Okay, that’s a tad reductive for an intro, but I’m not sure how else to describe Spellbound. The theme is neat enough: like The Signal it’s based on a story from Derby’s history, but this time going all the way back to the witchcraft trials of the 1600s. You start the game split up, and there’s a clever test of teamwork and deduction before you can reach the room proper (it took us a good ten minutes, though we were playing with fewer than the recommended number of people).
From here you’re able to access the entire playing area, and it’s a big, open plan room. It’s a size of room that could easily have been split into two where you move from one to the other, but instead Make Your Escape have opted for an almost entirely non-linear game. There are nine spell words to find. There are four items to find. The vast majority of which can be found in any order you like.
So you’ll work your way around the room, knocking out the easier puzzles or the ones you’re good at first (once you have a word, you write it down and a light comes on if it’s correct) before you’re left with the trickier ones. The puzzles are varied in some ways, but by that I mean they involve maths, decoding things, words, listening, logic: all mental tasks – there’s no tests of skill or even anything that requires a lot of physical interaction at this point. Generally the puzzles are all of a high standard, and the focus on this type of puzzle means some of them are actually quite challenging for an escape game.
And it’s this process that will make up the bulk of the game. And it’s loads of fun. Part of this is down to the set design: there’s a lot going on, and the environment feels very atmospheric (right down to being warned to watch out for splinters from the genuine wood panelling). So it’s an enjoyable place to spend an hour puzzling. Clues and story beats are delivered by videos of the witch on a screen which works well.
Once you have everything you need the game neatly ties it all up in a finale. The game won’t let you know about the last task until you’ve collected everything, but nevertheless it pulls it all together and has you use everything you’ve found to complete the game’s final task and escape. The one thing more satisfying than slowly filling in the board with the answers you find is then seeing them all actually used at the end: it makes you feel like you did it all for a reason, rather than just being a witch’s janitor for an hour.
It’s worth noting that there’s a lot of game here. We actually played with 3, but the game is designed for 4-10. For us, and I expect other enthusiasts, this will be a fun game to play with just 2 or 3 as it’ll really push you – there’s a price premium to that but there’s probably twice as much content in this game as your average room. For regular players I wonder if four might even be too few, and it feels like six would probably be the sweet spot. Which is a rarity in the UK: many games theoretically cater for six people but this is one of the few games I’ve seen that has enough to keep six people occupied and engaged for the hour.
So that’s Spellbound. I could say it’s a “sizeable, open-plan, non-linear puzzle extravaganza”. But I prefer “big room full of puzzles”.
Result – we escaped in 55:06
Date played: 1 May 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A big room full of puzzles. Really good puzzles. Really nice setting. Well worth playing.