Oxford, Feb 2019
While there are any number of escape rooms that carefully skirt intellectual property laws with thinly veiled ‘homages’ to popular franchises, fully licensed games are much rarer, and so it was with much fanfare that Escape Hunt announced their official Doctor Who game Worlds Collide. It differs from their other offerings in requiring at least three players and costing a higher ticket price. (I didn’t see anything in the room that was impossible to do with two people, so if you’re okay with the higher price and difficulty level there’s no reason you can’t attempt it as a pair.)
Officially sanctioned theming also means celebrity involvement, and you can expect to hear from the Doctor herself. That’s in pre-recorded audio form, though presented so as to give a light illusion of direct interaction. During the game, hints arrived both from the Doctor (pre-recorded) and from our ‘friend on the outside’ played by the gamemaster (live) – although whether by deliberate design or lucky coincidence, our gamemaster’s voice was close enough to that of Jodie Whittaker that there was no jarring contrast between the two.
Your task is, naturally, to save the world, from classic Doctor Who villains – if you’ve seen the game’s promo posters you’ll know which ones – with a straightforward plot that aims firmly at being a ‘typical’ Who premise. That plot is set up well and developed at the beginning of the game, then largely left as the justification for the game’s puzzles; which is fine, but felt like a missed opportunity for a more narrative-driven game.
The bulk of the game involves assembling a set of items. While that was probably intended as a clever use of the time-travelling premise of the Doctor Who show, it instead ends up leaving the game feeling a bit haphazard, a collection of unrelated ideas thrown together in a room. The TV show famously made do with some spectacularly low-budget set designs over the course of its long history, but the designers have included plenty of technology and impressive features in this game – it’s just that they come across as a grab-bag of bits and pieces with little reason to be there. On the plus side, that structure does mean that much of the game is non-linear and well suited for multiple players.
That lack of clarity in the set design extended to a considerable number of the puzzles too, sometimes giving the impression that getting to the correct answers required a bit of trial and error guesswork. With another item it was entirely clear what we had to do but just a bit of a tiring slog to complete.
Fans will enjoy the many references to elements of the past and present TV series, and where the game gets it right it has some cool moments. Worlds Collide has many impressive individual features, but those somehow add up to less than the sum of its parts, and is coupled with game design that wasn’t terrible, but which was a bit below the standard set by the other Escape Hunt games I’ve played in Oxford and Leeds.
If the idea of an official Doctor Who escape room has you salivating, then you’ll certainly want to play this, though perhaps with expectations carefully tamped down. If the theme does little for you, then there’s little reason to pay the higher price tag for this game – you’re better off picking one of Escape Hunt’s other offerings instead.