Brussels, Jan 2018
I’d tried Enygma on a previous visit to Brussels a year and a half earlier. On that occasion I was underwhelmed by the puzzles in their Mayan game but subsequently felt I’d been overly harsh on it, so a return trip to the venue was high on my list. This time I tried their game based on the book Around The World In 80 Days, and found it an undiluted pleasure to play.
I think one of the hosts described the setting as steampunk, but the style is more faithful to Jules Verne than that: less faux sci-fi but plenty of pure Victorian travel adventure. Knowing the original book is in no way necessary, although if you do you’ll catch a few nods to characters and events in it.
The game’s premise is that, after successfully completing his first journey, Phileas Fogg is planning a second voyage and you’re auditioning to accompany him, demonstrating your acumen by solving the sequence of tasks he’s set for you in his house. That might sound like they’ve taken the theme as a thin excuse for a collection of puzzles, and there’s some truth in that, but those puzzles make good use of the travel theme and link together in a subtle metaphor for journeying through different regions of the world before returning to the starting point.
I suspect Enygma have a particular fondness for this game, since their lounge decor reflects it more than their others, and in a nice touch they have the English audiobook of Around The World In 80 Days playing in the venue bathroom. If this game is indeed their favourite, it’s justified. I’d describe Mr Fogg’s Residence as a traditional style of escape room, but a particularly satisfying one. The puzzles are a grab-bag of different styles and use a partially non-linear structure which gives team members plenty to work on in parallel while also giving a sense of moving forward through different phases of the game.
A smell-based puzzle predictably became a small speedbump when we struggled to distinguish the options correctly, but a bit of meta-puzzling working out what options it could be dealt with that. There was also an entertaining physical task where I suspect almost all groups will use a slight short-cut instead of the ‘correct’ approach; that’s what we did, though it’s a fun section either way. But with those possible small exceptions I found the puzzle design to be clear and solid throughout. Moreover, it’s a game that bristles with variety, providing a large number of puzzles instead of a few difficult ones, meaning teams get the endorphin rush of knocking out one solution after another. Even if you’re a jaded enthusiast who’s seen everything here before, it’d be hard not to enjoy, and a strong final section ties it together nicely.