Chelmsford, Jun 2018
The premise of The Governor is that you’re a group of ghost hunters imprisoned in an abandoned prison by an ex-prisoner – thereby managing to combine no fewer than three of the classic escape room themes in an unexpected fusion of haunted house, prison break and homicidal maniac. That blend allowed the tone to range from sly humour to some genuine creepiness without ever feeling incongruous.
I found both the build and the atmospherics impressive. A complex layout makes it a larger and much more interesting space than a simple room, and the background sound effects will be either convincingly authentic or entertaining depending on whether you recognise where they come from. Some elements don’t exactly make sense in a prison that’s supposedly been derelict for forty years, but as long as you don’t think too hard about that it combines technology with ghostly abandoned building for a setting that’d be well suited for a Scooby Doo adventure.
We narrowly failed the room in a way that left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Naturally, after a failure there’s a tendency to blame the game and judge more harshly anything that slowed you down. On careful reflection I think it’s not just sour grapes; the game design makes it easy to get stuck having found a correct solution and with little indication of why it isn’t working. But if that’s a flaw, it wasn’t a terribly serious one, and seemed worse to me at the time purely because we happened to get tripped up by it. With a little more time we’d have worked it out and probably been much happier about it.
A couple of other moments left me feeling that the puzzle design wasn’t quite as strong as the visuals, where we weren’t quite certain what we’d done to trigger something, or where finding the way forward involved a little too much guesswork, or where it seemed to resort to ‘gotcha’ puzzles. On the other hand, it also builds in several moments of good silly fun, and sneaks jokes in here and there. I’d suggest playing with a larger team than we did, at least 3-4 people; for a “mates’ evening out” escape room which provides some shrieks and giggles as well as plenty of puzzles, as well as a great-looking set, this is a fine choice.