Sunday a group from the London IF Meetup got together to tackle the Enter the Oubliette escape room. This was my first contact with escape rooms, though I’ve heard about a number from friends who’ve either played or worked on creating them. (If you’re in Seattle, here’s Sam Ashwell on the work of Puzzle Break. In London, I’ve also heard good things about Time Run; in fact, here’s a whole blog about escape rooms, biased towards but not exclusively focused on London, with a review that gives Oubliette five stars.)
Enter the Oubliette was put together by project members who have Punchdrunk experience, and indeed a number of things about the props did remind me of Punchdrunk things I’ve seen: the meticulous documents with retro design, paper types, and illustration; the functioning retro technology; the inventive use of sound, film, lighting, and smoke effects as well as space and objects to create a particular experience. The room wasn’t as crammed-full-of-stuff as the setting of a Punchdrunk stage production, but that was a mercy: we already had plenty to search and already had to have some strong hints to guide our attention to some missed items.
With something like this that thrives on novelty and where each person who sees spoilers is a person who can’t realistically be a customer, it seems actively hostile to give too much away. So I want to be extra careful not to do that.
If you’re just looking for advice about whether this is worth doing: we liked it. We had a great time with a mixed group; most of us hadn’t been to any kind of escape room before. We had different degrees of self-confidence about our puzzle solving ability, but we did fine and everyone got to contribute in meaningful ways. And although you might try to place it by saying it’s a bit like a cross between immersive theatre and a graphical adventure game, in practice it is still really, really different from either of those things.
Below are some fairly general comments about how this experience worked as an interactive story experience, which I will still cordon off in case you don’t want to see even those.