Published on April 5th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Mission: Breakout, London
The importance of location can vary a lot in escape rooms. Some are literally built in the historical place they’re themed around (such as Escape Room at Cromwell’s House). Others simply use the area as inspiration for a game (such as Murder at Brighton Pier). Mission: Breakout takes a different approach, by building the game in a really cool location, the disused South Kentish Town tube station, and then entirely ignoring that location and setting it at Bletchley Park. Which isn’t something to be held against what’s actually a really good game, it’s just an odd design choice.
So the approach to the game is pretty awesome, and starts with descending down into the disused station and entering a code you’re given by email to even get into the building (hopefully not too many teams get stuck here!). The surroundings are pretty neat, but you’re quickly whisked away into a briefing room, where you get a video briefing from Winston Churchill himself. Or at least, a not awful actor, which isn’t exactly a given when it comes to escape room video briefings. You’re trying to decode a secret Nazi message in order to win the war, and you’ll be using the Enigma machine to do it.
The game itself starts in a bunker, and the noise of bombs dropping around you is loud and ever-present, and in this case is on the right side of the line between atmospheric and annoying. There’s not much searching to be done, but a lot of machinery to interact with, big physical connections to be made, and messages to be received by what was either a genuine antique or a very good replica. There’s a decent mix of puzzles here, all of which were decent even if one seemed to only be solvable by trial and error.
Once the first room is beaten you leave everything except the provided WW2 era jackets behind (okay you could leave those behind too, but where’s the fun in that) and once the bombing raid is over you’re able to progress to the site of the Enigma machine itself. And the attention to detail here is pretty damn cool. You have the little teletype machine, and you have the big set of rotating drums. Only the first of those is actually functional, but while the latter might be painted wood, it looks the part and is used to solve the puzzle of this room. If you’ve no clue about the Enigma machine itself, these are just cool escape room props, but a lot of thought has been put into how to transform the notion of setting and using the machine to decode a message into a big puzzle that makes up the second part of the game. Although there’s a step in between, setting the drums correctly ensures that the decoder actually works. Then you tap in the coded message to find the solution to the game (that you then enter into something else to get out because it’s still an escape room). The decoder was the one frustrating element of the experience, as it seemed at times both under and over-sensitive to inputs. And if you got something wrong you needed to start again. That ramped up the tension a bit, but it eventually crossed over to just being a bit annoying. I’m not going to write it off to historical accuracy either because had the actual machine been that fiddly we would probably have lost the war. The flip side is that if that element had been too reliable the second part of the game may well have been a bit too straightforwards.
So many games, especially in the UK, take the “codebreakers” approach, many also matching it with a World War 2 / Bletchley / Turing theme – it’s an obvious fit for a genre of entertainment built around codes and puzzles. But Mission: Breakout is probably the best of these in really using that theme to its fullest and truly creating a game around it. It’d be the perfect game to have in Bletchley or at a World War 2 museum. Why it’s in a disused tube station in Camden Town remains an enigma.
On the way out you can see the huge hole where the lift shaft used to be.
Result – we escaped with around 5 minutes to spare
Date played: 1 Feb 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Kat
Summary: A great game, that's very rich on both theme and using that theme to create interesting puzzles.