Published on October 3rd, 2017 | by Dean Love0
The Panic Room, Gravesend – Defective Detective
This is a weird one. Defective Detective is billed as a comedy room, and that’s a tough thing to try as comedy is so subjective. The room itself is packed full of puns which, if I’m honest, did nothing for me at all. But what the room does manage to do is create a degree of situational comedy. What’s weird is that the “situation” you’re in is half investigating a murder and half “being in an escape room”. So yeah, weird.
You’re given a quick briefing: to win the game you need to identify the killer, and communicate his name over the walkie-talkie. Then you’re off to explore a flat which is, well, a flat. It doesn’t look that impressive, and it feels very much like a detective escape room, though the jaunty background music adds a certain flair to proceedings. The first sign that things are a little off is one early part: it takes a fairly innocuous household device and turns it into a puzzle in the most ridiculous way possible. It makes absolutely no sense for that item to be even locked in the first place, creating the mechanism for entering the code to unlock it must have been quite a challenge, and when you finally solve it you don’t get anything of use anyway. It’s escape-game logic taken to extremes and, yes, it made me laugh a fair bit. It also sets a tone: be willing to try stupid things as they might well be the answer.
The game also has a willingness to poke fun at you, the player. Or rather, your preconceptions about escape rooms. Some of the puzzles are not just over-the-top escape-game logic, but instead require you to completely eschew the established rules of escape games and do something you wouldn’t normally do. These two strands of humour are strange bedfellows to each other, existing almost on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s almost like the game purposefully wrong-foots you, asking you to travel more deeply into the realm of escape game thinking than you ever have before, then demanding you jump right out if it. But it works.
Or at least, it worked for me. There’s an inherent problem here: when a game bases its unique selling point on parodying escape rooms themselves, then it’s hard to see the appeal unless you’ve played some escape rooms before. More to the point: unless you’ve played some bad escape rooms before. Defective Detective essentially parodies the sort of detective rooms that were common when these games first arrived in the UK five years ago. Now they’re a diminishing commodity as we’re seeing such a surge in good, different and better games. Part of me is tempted to say: if you’re reading this site, you’re probably the audience for this game. But the other part of me is thinking that if you really pay attention to this site then it’s probably helped you avoid playing many of the games Defective Detective references.
That’s also what makes it interesting though. Defective Detective is a game that can only exist now, in 2017. We’re at a point in time where awful detective games have been popular enough in recent memory for a parody to work, but not so far forwards that that memory has faded. It might have been a braver choice to parody some of the more modern trends in escape rooms, but as it stands this game instead acts almost as a handy capstone to the first era of escape rooms.
Which is all well and good, but is it any fun? Well, yes. I’ve probably played up the parody element here as it’s what makes this game stand out from the crowd. There are also some pretty solid puzzles, a neat way of scanning things for extra information and a story told by cutscenes delivered in a fairly interesting way. These cutscenes also tie into the evidence gathering theme, as you’re told upfront the game ends with you reporting your verdict on who the killer was, so paying attention is needed to work out who the suspects are. There are also some frustrations, notably the clue system is mostly via mobile text message, but also includes walkie-talkie communication. It’s almost like the latter was put in for the sake of parody, but it still got used at one or two points in the game.
So as a game in its own right, it’s decent. It’s fine. If this were your first escape room game you’d probably be a bit more confused than usual but you’d cope. For those that have been playing games for a while now, it works on a second level and delivers a bit more, so comes a bit more highly recommended.
Result – we solved the crime in 57 minutes
Date played: 5 September 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine
Summary: A great game for escape room fans, with diminishing appeal for those who have only played a few games before.