Published on April 20th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
CryptX, Cambridge – The Haunted Pub
CryptX is based a few miles outside of Cambridge town centre, and having been there I’m still not entirely sure where it’s located. You essentially turn off the main road, drive half a mile through some fields, then take a left. “Glebe Farm Campus” is the name of the place, but it doesn’t appear to be linked in any way but name with Glebe Farm (which is a good 40 miles away) and the only other business located there seem to be manufacturing power supplies and printer cartridges. It’s probably not somewhere you’d want to try and reach on public transport!
Still, once you’ve solved the mystery of finding it, there’s a small reception area but the briefing happens in the room itself – The Haunted Pub has multiple difficulty settings, and we were playing on hard. The room had never been beaten in sixty minutes on hard. Gulp. The plot is neatly based around the story of a local haunted pub, and your attempt to help the ghost find peace. The rules: search, solve puzzles, and don’t jump over the bar, you need to unlock it first. The setting is pretty neat, with a genuine bar, pool table, piano and other pub features. It doesn’t look amazing, but then few pubs do, so it pulls off the theme pretty well – though might benefit from some background music to push the pub atmosphere a bit. Or a genuine, functional jukebox that runs off tokens you get as you solve puzzles. But now I’m just fantasising and who wants to pay for PRS anyway.
While the setting is decent, the real joys in this room are the puzzles. They’re really hard, but in a fair way. There’s a good mix of things to do, while observation and searching play a major part, the brilliance is in the logical deductions needed for some of the tougher puzzles. The finale, in particular, is a wonderful piece of design that may well infuriate some but I thought worked terrifically, and I’d never seen anything like it before. It’s perhaps appropriate that the game is based in Cambridge, and may well attract groups from a certain local university who will be looking for a big mental challenge, but it also makes it ideal for enthusiasts wanting to really test their mettle. The Haunted Pub is probably the hardest ‘fair’ game I’ve played – by which I mean there were rooms that have been harder, but only by having something ridiculous like a 20-digit directional code in UV ink all across the room, or puzzles that just straight up made no sense. I felt we could have solved all the puzzles here without hints given enough time. The one criticism I’d make is that when the puzzles are this hard, it’s almost necessary to give a strong indicator of when you have all the puzzle pieces. We struggled for ages on a couple of puzzles as we’d missed some well hidden components, which is normally something you realise pretty quickly, but with these we were sometimes a little unsure if we were missing components or an intuitive leap. Especially as you find quite a few bits early on that you won’t use until the very last puzzle.
Of course, the other way to address this is through the hints system, which involves walkie-talkies, and not particularly good ones. They served their purpose and we were given hints at sensible times, by a host and designer who was very friendly and very enthusiastic about his games. Almost to a fault, as a few times he used the walkie-talkies just to comment or point out something cool in the game which… is sweet but destroys the immersion a little. Arguably no more than getting clues via walkie-talkie does in the first place though.
We didn’t escape in time but were given a bit of extra time to finish up and were done before the 70 minute mark. Normally I’d say this was a great room for enthusiasts to test themselves, while novices should maybe steer clear, but there are alternative difficulty settings available – though obviously we can’t speak to how they work! More than many rooms I’ve played, it’s still in active development with bits being changed practically every day – a new component had been added to the room the morning before we played, although in this case it was just an emergency escape key!
Result – we ‘escaped’ in around 70 minutes
Date played: 29 Jan 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A decent room elevated by some really good puzzle design, especially the final puzzle