Haverhill, Apr 2019
The second room at D S Escape Rooms puts you on an out of control spaceship, with a complete change of theme and style to their first game. It’s a challenge to build any kind of convincing spaceship environment, and while Luna 13 uses a simple construction and small space, again I thought that the overall effect came together well. The lo-fi production values were underlined by the way the intro video starred the very same gamemaster who’d just given us our pre-game briefing, but what that lost in immersion it gained in charm.
Once the game actually began we found ourselves slamming to a halt almost immediately. This turned out to be due to a puzzle that was somewhat ambiguous but which we really should have got anyhow. Having solved that… we promptly got stuck again. I’d put that down to us in the first place, but with some unnecessarily confusing small details in the room design having a contribution too. Those were subtle things such as lack of clarity on which parts of the room could usefully be tackled or not, and apparently meaningful patterns on a puzzle which turned out to be unrelated to the solution. A bugbear of mine is electronic safes, where it’s not clear how long a code the safe expects and therefore any numeric answer you find could plausibly open it; but which at the same time punishes you for failed attempts with an auto-lockout.
We certainly struggled more in Luna 13 than in their other game Elude. It’s a more ambitious and uneven design which has some more noticeable flaws but also more memorable strengths. As with Elude, it seems to deliberately include some red herring items as distractions, though these were less flagrantly misleading in Luna 13. Purists will criticise one puzzle for relying on outside knowledge, which I guess is a reasonable criticism even though I suspect vanishingly few groups will lack the knowledge in question. At the same time, it uses the space theme with a happy mixture of serious and decidedly less serious sources of inspiration that made me want to like it even when frustratingly stuck. I really liked the puzzle that felt almost like being a NASA engineer; I enjoyed the nods to popular sci-fi culture; I particularly liked the occasional gratuitous flash of humour. And even with frequent points of friction in the flow of play, they’d done enough to build a story and create a narrative arc that the result felt acceptably close to an adventure in space, something which many much more polished sci-fi escape rooms don’t always manage to achieve.