This review of Operation Blacksheep is based on a visit from April 2016.
In the beginning there were puzzle rooms. There was no explanation to what you were doing other than “solve puzzles to get a code that will open the exit”. Then there came theming. There was still no plot as such but the room would be decorated in a certain way and the puzzles would attempt to fit in. Next came story, and suddenly you had a reason to solve these puzzles (overlooking why things would be locked with puzzles) as you worked towards a goal. A lot of places are still struggling with that step between theming and story. Operation Blacksheep at clueQuest is not:
Professor BlackSheep, Mr Q’s arch nemesis, has been scheming and plotting against our agency and the whole of mankind. The Professor has built and launched a satellite into Earth’s orbit, capable of controlling all human minds.
You and your team will be sent behind enemy lines with the mission to infiltrate into the Professor’s command center, hack into his system and obtain the missile codes in order to destroy the satellite once and for all.
Agents, be aware! Launching the missile into the satellite will trigger the command center’s self-destruct sequence. You will have only 60 Minutes to destroy the satellite until it goes online and then to evacuate the command center before it self-destructs.
The lobby at clueQuest is a beautiful place. Nicely decorated, fashionable (at least as much I understand fashion) furniture, bright and spacious etc. Conversely when you first enter Operation Blacksheep there’s not a lot to look at. But there’s a lot more to this game than meets the eye. While at first glance the room contents and puzzles appear to be stuff you’ve seen before, the answers were very rarely ‘the obvious’. A lot of thought was required from our experienced group of three to make our way through.
And as we made our way through we learned more and we found more. And boy what we found was good. Solid challenge followed by interesting idea, leading to wow moment. The game just kept getting better and better. And even though we felt like we were working well and answering quickly the clock was right against us. We only had a few minutes to go as we accessed the final puzzle, and were literally running around the room to solve it.
We escaped with 60 seconds to spare. At the time it was the closest call I’d had whilst still escaping. Pushing an experienced team right to the wire is a rare thing, and I’m both appreciative of and impressed by any room that manages it. And it didn’t achieve that just by filler; a long time later and I’m still to see anything like many of the puzzles I faced here. Perhaps above all else the pacing of this room was top notch. From an inauspicious beginning to a thrilling end I was continually intrigued and excited. To return to whence I started, this is the best ‘third generation’ room I’ve played.