In Case of Emergency (A Door in a Wall)

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I’ve been hearing about A Door in a Wall for a while, and reading the rave reviews they get from escape room and immersive theatre review blog The Logic Escapes Me. This month, we decided to hire them to run a game for the London IF Meetup — one of their smaller pieces, suitable for 15-25 players rather than being performed in a whole pre-set house. They sent out a facilitator who gave the story background, MC’d, scored and awarded prizes at the end; and a suitcase full of clue and puzzle items. Our 20-odd group divided into teams of 1-4 people apiece, and we were off.

Conceptually, this is more in the escape room space than the feelies space. There are a few puzzles that are totally overt about being puzzles and have no story explanation — something that’s often true in escape rooms as well. And there’s not a lot of extraneous world-building. A handful of escape rooms have elements that are just there to flesh out the world — Oubliette played with this — but this particular piece was more streamlined.

At the same time: because there’s a human MC there to read the players’ interpretation of events, it’s possible to make the ultimate puzzle solution more abstract than you could easily get away with in traditional IF. This is a game that basically just asks, “okay, given all this evidence, what happened?” and requires the players to explain in their own words. So the story is the goal of the exercise, even if most of the intervening steps are highly puzzle-focused.

The coolest aspect for my tastes was how, at a couple of different points, in different ways, the game escaped (what I assumed were) its natural boundaries and drew in elements from what one might rather have considered the real world.

Overall: not too difficult, possibly because we tended to have 3-ish person teams of fairly seasoned puzzle solvers. Individual puzzles were also for the most part not too tricky to work out. There was a good mix in terms of puzzle style/required activity. As in a good escape room, you want different kinds of tasks at which different participants will be likely to excel. But it’s also more laid back than an escape room, and allows you to have drinks and mill around during the game — which is definitely more suitable for some social circumstances.

Some of the puzzle/clue items are intentionally consumables and provided with lots of duplicate copies, too, which is helpful when there are so many people each trying to understand the game.

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