Published on May 23rd, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Escapologic, Nottingham – Curio
Curio has a gimmick. And at some point that gimmick was probably an amazing and exciting surprise. But as with most escape rooms, as more and more customers come through the doors, the game briefing gets longer and longer to cover all the stupid stuff customers sometimes do. I won’t give away the gimmick directly, but will tell you what was said before we even started the game: we were asked if anyone had severe motion sickness or vertigo, told that if we wanted to get out of the game it could take a little bit longer than in normal games, and there was a special door that we could only go through when a green light was on, under no circumstances try and open the door when the red light was on, and the door might go to different places at different times.
And the thing about Curio is the gimmick really is just a gimmick. It’ll be the first thing you tell your friends about the room, and indeed has now taken over from “we all had to get in a coffin to be transported to purgatory” as my go-to “how cool are escape rooms” story – because it’s damn cool. But really, the game could easily exist without it.
(As as side-note, while not that important, the pacing on the room is essentially: small puzzle, gimmick happens, big puzzle, repeat – had it been big puzzle, gimmick happens, small puzzle then said gimmick may have worked better as a sort of reward, or even the coolest indication you’ve finished a puzzle ever, whereas instead it just sets up the next part of the game, which just doesn’t work as well).
But the real secret of Curio is it doesn’t need the gimmick to be an awesome escape room. It’s admittedly light on story – you’re in the home of a treasure hunter and trying to recover a treasure he’s hidden behind a series of tricks and puzzles – but it all just works so well. The puzzles are pretty much all top tier, involving a decent mix of observation, logic and teamwork. There’s some really solid physical elements to a lot of them too. It plays out in a fairly linear fashion, but there’s a neat way to track your progress through the room. Essentially, you work in the central room to unlock a passage to another part of the home, go there and solve that, and come back with something that lets you solve something in the central room, unlocking a passage elsewhere, and so on. The linearity is also compensated for by the fact that most of the puzzles require more than one person to solve efficiently. Clues were delivered through an appropriate mechanism and at sensible times.
The set looks good: unlike many of Escapologic’s other games, it’s not a particularly ambitious set in terms of design (gimmick aside, of course) but it does look like what you’d expect an eccentric explorer’s house to look like. The one issue we had was at the very end of the game, where something needed a lot more force applying than you’d normally be comfortable with in a game. And while that’s not a huge complaint, it’s made a little more problematic by what you do leading up to that: you’re performing a related task and a level of physical resistance slowly builds up in the mechanism you’re using, which is meant to be an indication for you to stop and then finish the task by manually applying force elsewhere. But the force you have to apply elsewhere is high enough that I think if you were to apply that level of force to the initial mechanism (against the resistance) there’s a good chance it would break. Indeed, I’m fairly sure I was pretty close to breaking it as is! A minor issue, but when it’s literally the final part of the game it does sort of ruin the ending to have the host have to shout “just pull it really hard” at you.
But all said and done, this is definitely one of Escapologic’s best games, and one that’s really worth playing. Even if you figure out the gimmick beforehand, it’s still sort of amazing that they actually made it work. And it’s coupled with exemplary puzzle design too. Our team were divided on if this or Heistakes were our favourite, although the latter just edged it out for me.
Result – we escaped in around 50 minutes, but with no clock in the room it was hard to tell
Date played: 30 Apr 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess, Alex
Summary: A game that surpasses its own (very impressive) gimmick to be a really great experience.