Sofia, May 2018
Playing two Prohibition-themed games in two different cities in the space of a couple of days, I found both takes on the theme thoroughly successful in different ways. This version by 3Keys boasts an extended game length of 70 minutes and a play area that could actually double as a decently pleasant bar to hang out in.
In what sounds like a plan worthy of a Darwin Award, your job is to enter Al Capone’s bar on behalf of a rival gang, find details of his supplier network, steal his weaponry, and hightail it out of there. In fact the instructions are quite explicit: you must find the names of seven US states, as the locations where Capone does business. This is a feature of the game I thought worked very well: each state name successfully acquired bestows a mental thrill of success, and knowing how many there are in total provides a yardstick by which you can measure progress towards victory.
As you might guess from that, this is a largely non-linear game. It’s also one with plenty of searching to do, which for once we did okay at. It helped that not all of the search targets need to be found – a couple of the puzzles can be reasonably completed with less than the full set of clue items.
When booking you might notice that the booking form for this game has a checkbox for ‘child-friendly version’. This is because Al Capone’s secret bar includes some unexpected adult content in one section; the child-friendly version of the game skips this part entirely, and has a ten minute shorter time limit as a result. The second difference is that the non-child-friendly version has the beer tap switched on. I’ve played few escape rooms, usually those located above pubs, where players are encouraged to have a drink before playing; this is the first one I’ve seen where we could freely pour ourselves a pint or two during the game itself.
That’s the most unusual feature of a game that in other respects is a classic escape room: by which I mean not ‘old school’ (very few padlocks for one thing, and they haven’t scrimped on the decor) but with a style of puzzle that experienced players will find enjoyably familiar. A couple of decorative elements look meaningful enough that they could be accused of being red herrings, but other than those it’s a rock-solid collection of puzzles nicely themed for their environment, structured in an open way that gives everyone plenty to do while also still managing to give a sense of progression and momentum. As you’d hope for an extended length game, it felt full of content, and in fact turned out to have a surprising amount to solve after the point I’d expected the game to end. And anyone who likes their games to include silly, fun and/or physical puzzles should get a kick out of one section in particular. All of which is to say: this is a highly enjoyable game even without the free beer on tap.