Published on June 20th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escape Rooms London – Project D.I.V.A
Here’s a confession: I watch and enjoy the teen drama Pretty Little Liars. I’m not proud of that fact, my ex got me into it but I carried on watching it because it’s hugely compelling. Yes, it’s fluff, but it’s decently acted, decently written fluff with a ridiculous twist-filled story. I know it’s not good tele, but I really like it nonetheless.
So it is with Project D.I.V.A – this is a very flawed room that I’d be cautious about recommending but I absolutely loved it. I was buzzing when we finished it. Let’s get the obvious bits out of the way first: it looks incredible. That victory photo you can see is from inside the room and isn’t digitally treated at all. It really looks like that. It’s sci-fi, and where it comes from, sci-fi means bright lights and big set-pieces. There is a plot of sorts – it involves repairing an AI that controls a space station or something like that. There’s a video briefing and a few other video bits on-screen in game to deliver the rest of the story. But the story isn’t where it shines, it’s the setting. It’s a space station that actually looks like a space station. I’ve a theory that there are so few hard sci-fi rooms because the most common aesthetics of the future – bright and clean spaces – are anathema to escape room design. You absolutely can’t get away with just converting a room and doing minimal maintenance like you can with, say, a dungeon. You need to build an actual set and keep it well maintained. Project D.I.V.A definitely does the first, though playing shortly after launch we can’t speak for the second.
And it’s an impressive set. The initial room may feel a bit dull at first, once you’re over the initial visual impact, but the space quickly opens out into something very impressive.
Befitting a science fiction game, there’s a lot of technology too. You won’t find any keys or combination locks here, instead you’ll be entering things into computers and triggering things to open automatically. Each team member will also have an iPhone which is used for delivering hints and also for scanning QR codes which will give you “components” for a puzzle – instead of finding a piece of paper with a clue, you find a QR code which you scan and then get information from. The phones are all networked so everything one person gets is shared with everyone else. It’s a pretty neat system, though the custom app being used could stand to be a little more responsive (or perhaps the phones a slightly better model).
The puzzles themselves are probably too hard. There was one where we had two bits of info on our phones and had to use them to generate a code in a way we would never have figured out. It’s telling we were sent a “clue” within a few minutes explaining exactly what to do. But there are also some really, really good elements including a huge physical set-piece that you’ll work through a few puzzles on and didn’t get old.
As an aside, I’m fairly sure this is a game imported from somewhere else – the app we used (also used in their other game) appeared to give each player a “character” in the fictional universe and could track hitpoints (HP) and some other measure. And there were options for “equipment” which we never even used. All the video stuff was also subtitled as well as being dubbed (which, incidentally, I always appreciate in games as my hearing isn’t great) but the translation was a little garbled on the subs and different to the audio in places. Perhaps elsewhere this is even more of a videogame / escape room hybrid and Escape Rooms London are just using part of it.
Also of note: you get a physical print-out of your photo at the end of the game, and you’re also allowed to take your own phone into the game with you and are free to take photos whenever you like, which makes a nice change, though with just three of us there wasn’t really time for that!
So my opinion on the game? It’s probably too hard, the use of technology is gratuitous, we barely understood the plot and I loved it. It’s sort of like someone looked through a time portal to what escape games will be in 10 years’ time and went “fuck it, let’s build that”. They didn’t quite get it right, they screwed up some bits quite badly but good god is it ambitious. And when it does get it right, it’s terrific.
So certainly not one of the best games out there, but definitely one of the most interesting and impressive. If you’ve played a few games before this is pure popcorn craziness. Leave your critical brain at the door and just strap in for the ride and you’ll find a lot to enjoy.
Result – we escaped in around 45 minutes
Date played: 14 May 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A game where the flaws become apparent if you stop to think for too long. I suggest you don't.