London, Feb 2017
The third Breakin’ game I played, Sherlock’s Despair is a much more traditional style of room – period furniture and padlocked drawers, four digit codes and charts of symbols.
I’d describe it as a somewhat more intellectual style of escape room, by which I don’t mean that it’s harder – although it’s rated as the hardest of their six, correctly I think – but that it has a greater focus on numbers, with more than one maths-y moment.
That said, skill-based puzzles seem to be something of a signature of Breakin’ rooms, and this room has a nice one too. It was a highlight of the game, and that’s even though both our groups struggled a bit with one part of this sequence, finding it awkward to [spoiler] the [spoiler] with the [spoiler] (though that was mainly the fault of how we approached it, and the second group found a cunning alternative way to solve it). Note that it can only really be worked on by two or maybe three people at a time, so would be a bottleneck for larger groups; that and the mainly linear structure mean I’d recommend a smaller group for this room, no more than four. On the other hand, since it’s fairly tricky, beginner teams would probably want a greater number of people, so as to have more eyes on each problem.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of the room is that it has multiple similar combination locks, and particularly early on we found ourselves trying different possible numbers in each of the possible locks. That’s a common flaw and this wasn’t a particularly severe case of it, though due to one early puzzle in particular I suspect it’ll be a common experience for teams.
While many of the puzzles here might strike enthusiasts as a little ‘dry’ compared to those in their other rooms, there’s a nice sprinkling of more creative touches, as well as the puzzle mentioned above and a fun mechanical contraption.
There is a story that unfolds, though with little clear connection to the actual game elements. The room could do with a final puzzle that clearly links to the plot and gives it a resolution; while there is a pleasing common thread running through that meant we knew when we were at the room’s climax, it still felt that the exit door opened because we’d finished the puzzles rather than as a consequence of resolving the story.
While it doesn’t have as much as a ‘wow’ factor as other Breakin’ rooms, it’s a solid escape room which will appeal to those who prefer a more classic style, with some inventive elements that add sparkle.
I am normally put off by rooms with traditional furniture and multiple padlocks; however this one really caught me. Firstly because although traditional, the furniture wasn’t a junk yard collection like in many rooms – the furniture was new, beautifully polished, and really created an atmosphere of being in 221B baker street. As with their other rooms, there was a strong theme – I loved being able to go in with a pipe and deerstalker, having an imaginary puff whilst sitting in a chair and musing over the next mystery.
There are a nice blend of skill, mental and mystery puzzles across the room, with a clear tracker that gives you a sense of progress as you reach each new puzzle.
I rate this as a 4, which would improve to 4.5 if they varied the styles of the locks around the room to avoid trying multiple codes in multiple places, and improved the sensitivity of one of the puzzles which didn’t work for us until several attempts of doing the right thing.