Sheffield, Apr 2018
Exactly 24 hours after attempting their Apartment 9 room, we were back at Crack the Code Sheffield for Zoltan.
This room’s description explains how the famous local magician Zoltan has mysteriously disappeared and it’s down to us to figure out where he is.
A bit bland, but I’ve done a number of superb magic themed rooms so I had high hopes. Most of the reviews or opinions I’d read online were more positive about Zoltan than Apartment 9.
The usual faff of buzzer entry wasn’t too bad this time, with the games master arriving to greet us personally at the door (which I think is a much nicer touch than “let yourself in”).
The host was one of the better ones I’ve had recently and far more enthusiastic than the previous night’s GM. She was clearly passionate about Escape Rooms and knew plenty about them from our lengthy post-game chatting.
My team today was a first timer (in a commercial room, at least) and my 7 year old son. I don’t make things easy for myself, but it’s always tricky squeezing a visit in with kids in tow.
After a mercifully brief briefing, we were shown to the room and got straight to it ahead of time.
First impressions…. not great. It looked pretty much like the Apartment 9 room, albeit with a few posters of magicians posted around the room, and a centrepiece puzzle, and another thematically interesting cupboard nearby.
With no obvious starting place from a puzzle perspective, we ground out a few quick wins, but struggled to figure out the significance of the central puzzle and how it related to multiple other props found in the room.
Without breaking the unwritten rule of escape room reviewing, it is hard to explain why this puzzle was so frustrating, but roughly speaking it is due to a lot of early ambiguity, which only gets cleared up later in the game. But with so few other means of progressing it is easy to waste time on trying relatively random but feasible things to move forward. By the end, it made sense, but this was definitely frustrating.
A prop/door failure didn’t hinder progress, but didn’t instil a sense of the room being a well oiled game, both literally and figuratively. Some keen observation was needed for the penultimate puzzle, and then a bit of old-fashioning code grinding to get to the final door code.
Despite entering the code a number of times, we couldn’t get the door open. Probably the wood expanding since the door was put in; regardless we had to be rescued by the host who had confirmed the door code was correct.
Although the host was really friendly and did a great job the room itself was simply not enjoyable. Very linear, yet at the same time, too revealing of props and codes that had no meaning until later on which caused long delays in progressing.
We escaped on 54min approx, although a couple of those minutes were wasted in getting the final exit door unstuck.
I just didn’t enjoy the room. The game play, the puzzle content, and the theming just didn’t flow for me at all. I’d add half an extra star onto my score just for the great host. Still, my 7 year old loved every minute… and really, that’s all that matters.