Contrary to some scurrilous rumours, I don’t enjoy handing out negative reviews. I fully appreciate escape rooms are businesses that someone has invested (at least a little) money and effort in, plus they provide jobs for people. So me saying “you shouldn’t go there” is not something I take lightly. But at the same time bad games are damaging to this industry/hobby. For the enthusiasts amongst us they’re a waste of time and money. But even more importantly, someone playing their first game could be lost to the pastime forever. I’ve decided I’m going to use what little community presence I can muster to try and prevent that, with the hopefully-not-too-regular series Really Not Fun, highlighting the games you shouldn’t be playing but should be directing people away from.
Yesterday I had the very great displeasure of encountering one of the worst rooms I’ve ever come across, Cyberwarfare at Escape Now in Birmingham. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways:
- Nothing works. And I don’t mean tech failures. I mean Cyberwarfare has been designed to be run by GM triggers rather than any level of automation. Except the GM can’t tell what you’re doing due to the limited way the room is monitored. So your experience is do something, nothing happen, ask the GM via walkie-talkie why nothing happened, they then trigger the next thing, or, even more inconceivably, tell you that you may now interact with a part of the room that was previously ‘out of bounds’.
- The things you are asked/told to do are stupid. At one point you’re told that a door is now unlocked, but that it will only release for one second once every 20 seconds, and you’ll have to grab it while it is available. Sigh. Oh, did I mention this is a pull door with no handle? So yes, that does mean grabbing it with your fingernails and pulling it during that one second window. This is not the only example.
- Some of the “puzzles” are completely incomprehensible. On at least two occasions the GM was only able to offer us the answer rather than a clue because she didn’t know why it was the answer. And despite offering it more thought than it deserved, neither could we.
- There is another major problem with this room that I can’t talk about for now. I only mention it here in case anyone is foolish enough to play it and is tempted to say “did you notice…” Yes I did.
Feels like I should have some sort of summary paragraph here, but there’s really not much more to say. Cyberwarfare is awful and should not be played by anyone. Please stay well clear.
In the interests of balance, I also played Sherlock’s Secret at the same venue and, despite a couple of slightly wonky puzzles, it was fine. So you can take that as some sort of positive ending. Enjoy.