London, Dec 2016
Hostage Hideout is hosted in a room in a pub, which is a sensible arrangement for an escape room since it neatly provides a waiting area that’s more spacious and better served than most rooms can manage.
This is a game created and run by enthusiasts, and it shows in a couple of ways. Firstly, this is a low-tech game, with a modern setting and a variety of padlocks, and pretty much no hidden electronic mechanisms. There’s a good deal of searching and several puzzle types that we’ve seen in other rooms elsewhere; however, the puzzles have excellent variety, and involve very little in the way of printed word – I always enjoy physical clues and mechanisms over ones that could be printed on a sheet of A4.
Secondly, the room is built with a clear appreciation for design pitfalls and how to avoid them. There are a couple of more skill-based puzzles that some teams might understand but still struggle to complete; and in both cases there’s a backup option or helping hand built into the room. There was a great deal that could be worked on in parallel, and at the same time it was pretty much always clear what clues related to which locks.
With four of us the space felt a little small at times – a team of three or four is probably best here, and with a fifth person it might be a bit cramped.
In the initial briefing, the operators gave us a heads-up that it’s a room that needs to be searched thoroughly, and also checked how quick to give hints we wanted them to be. I’d be glad to see more operators follow suit on both points.
I would have liked to see our progress in the room tie into the back-story more. We’re told there’s a hostage situation on-going, which is resolved happily if and only if we escape in time, but although some actions in the room relate to that, there’s no sign of a direct impact. I don’t mean that the story was flimsy – the vast majority of rooms have a tissue-thin story, if any! Rather, I can see a great opportunity to add a whole lot of immersion and interaction to the game by having the team’s progress have a direct and visible effect on the hostage situation portrayed, which would no doubt be very difficult to pull off but could potentially be magnificent.
Nonetheless, we all enjoyed the room a great deal. What it doesn’t have in the way of sophisticated electronics and high-budget decor is made up for by quality room design; and there was one puzzle that was so unexpected and neat that the two of us working on it actually gasped aloud in pleased surprise upon the ‘eureka’ moment of solving it.
They could also get some quick wins in improving the room by changing some of the identical combo locks to letter/magnetic. A very enjoyable room (and pub combo)!