Bucharest, May 2018
Should I ever turn to a life of crime and find myself in gaol, I’m going to be sorely disappointed when the cell doesn’t contain an array of hidden messages to help me escape. Most iterations of the jailbreak theme never bother to give an explanation for their cunningly concealed exits, or settle for a passing reference to a previously escaped prisoner who’s left a trail for you, so it’s one of the strengths of Chambers’ game that it has a more carefully thought-out story to explain their puzzles. Although I have to admit I didn’t entirely follow it while playing, only realising how the various pieces of narrative fitted together after the game finished.
We played as a pair, and that worked well. In the narrow game space anything more than three players would be a crowd. The pre-game briefing explained that one person would be separated, but still able to see and communicate with the rest of the team freely. Our host also explained that he would be more pro-active with the hints until we’d resolved that initial separation, particularly if we approached the 15 minute mark. Accidentally leaving one player unable to do much is a hazard of split starts, particularly when – as here – it’s not completely clear which of the available puzzles must be tackled to reunite the team, so that struck me as a highly sensible policy.
There’s often a balance to be struck between ‘realism’ and puzzles that are fun to do; I’ve yet to see a prison escape game where players just need to spend the time scratching away the masonry with a bent spoon. Electric Chair spans a variety of styles, with its strongest moments being both satisfyingly physical and also entertainingly cinematic, giving a much more convincing escape route than ‘finding the key to the cell door’. Some of the other steps along the way struck me as weaker but generally turned out to be better than I’d initially thought, such as an apparent bottleneck which I later realised had been set up to allow multiple people to tackle it at the same time.
One puzzle driven by electronics did seem to be a little flakey, though even there most of the problems I had with it stemmed from me initially not understanding the correct way to operate it. Translation issues interfered a little at one other point, though it’s clearly something they’re aware of and have taken steps to make sure their English-language players aren’t caught by.
The game’s brick-pattern wallpaper is low-budget relative to some of the extremely impressive games I found elsewhere in Bucharest, but still manages to look good, and the use of music throughout kept it feeling pacy and fun. The game also continued beyond the point I’d guessed would be the end, through to a smart and satisfying finish.
More than most themes, prison break games can start to feel a bit tired after you’ve done four or five (let alone twelve or twenty of them…). Electric Chair managed to avoid that with creative puzzles and a strong sense of story. It’s a fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and we found it easy to enjoy.