This review of The 13th Element is based on a visit from October 2016.
The opening of a new game at any operator is always an exciting time, but when that news comes from one of your favourite places it’s a red letter day indeed. So when Escape Quest announced the opening of their fourth room, The 13th Element, we were keen to book in as soon as possible:
The world’s leading scientists are missing! Their unexplained disappearances have remained a mystery until now.
The S.S.B (Special Scientific Branch) work undercover for the government and have been called in to help.
Setting up a covert operation to watch and track a selected number of scientists they have now located an area of suspicious activity, an old mill building on the edge of town where these scientists were seen to go in but never came out.
We sent in a team of our best undercover agents and managed to get a little information about what’s going on inside. It seems that the person responsible for these disappearances is a man known only as Dr Argon.
After taking the scientists prisoner he is forcing them to attempt to harness the power of 12 rare elements, combining these will activate and power the rarest element of all – The 13th Element, this is the element of immortality and its power can only be used by one person.
Your task as agents working for the S.S.B is to enter the building, infiltrate the lab and work together to harness the power of these 12 elements, once the 13th element is activated you need to enter Dr Argon’s office, initiate the self-destruct sequence & get out fast.
Read previous reviews of Escape Quest for more information on the venue and their other games.
There are a couple of things you can be pretty sure of in Macclesfield: 1) The game is going to be good. 2) The game is going to be different in some way. So it was quite surprising to enter the room and find many of the familiar science tropes; chemical element posters on the white walls, lab coats hanging up and a set of locked drawers. Maybe it was this (lack of) surprise, or maybe just a lack of practice, but it took us a while to get into the swing of things. There was also only really one thing to work on at once so we spent a bit of time staring at each other wondering where the surprise was going to come from. We found out a couple of answers later.
Trying not to give too much away, but when you access the latter part of the game you have more than one thing to work on at once. You may only have one thing that you can solve at that particular time, but that’s for you to work out. This presents a new challenge to your escape; assessing what can and can’t be answered yet, as well as the actual solving. There were times when this was a little frustrating as, with all open designs, you’re not quite sure if you have everything you need to progress yet, but it certainly means you’re never short of something to look at. We found ourselves splitting up into sub-teams (or even going solo) a lot more than we would normally. However, due to the room’s layout, you usually have quite a good idea what everyone else is doing even if you’re not involved directly. There’s also the chance for players to pick a challenge; featuring a good mix of physical and mental tasks; which particularly appeals to them.
Despite doing our best to over-think a number of the assignments we approached the grand finale, the self-destruct sequence, in around 50 minutes. We then took over-thinking to a whole new level as we resisted doing the final step of the game for a full two minutes while we tried to pre-empt what would happen. The answer was, somewhat disappointingly, nothing, and we were quickly outside the room. I like the final act of a room to be the most exciting, or at least memorable, so I thought it was a bit lacking here.
The 13th Element is a fun and interesting room. It’s an enticing mix of the familiar and far out, and as such, despite its 5/5 difficulty rating, I would particularly recommend it for beginners. And I’m sure a lot of experienced escapers will like the novel approach as well. If I was forced to pick (and I will be when I finally get my rankings updated) I’d say it’s my least favourite of Escape Quest’s offerings, but that’s hardly an insult. It’s a very solid addition to their stable, and now with four rooms you have reason to spend two days there (or one pretty long/very fun one).