Peterborough, Sep 2019
Each of the three games Escape have built in the Peterborough Museum vaults uses the space in a different way, relating to the crypt’s history: as a mortuary, as a Civil War hiding place, and most prosaically as a wine cellar. The game room in fact comes with racks of ancient bottles, and our gamemaster carefully briefed us as to which of these were off-limits museum pieces and which were game props. (The official distinction was the colour of the corks, but we could equally have told the difference by looking at how deep the layer of dust was.)
As a plot, you’re a gang of Victorian thieves, in search not of wine but of a jewel that the owner of the cellar has concealed somewhere. I managed to get sufficiently distracted by the game while playing that I’d completely forgotten what we were looking for, and was quite surprised to find the final macguffin -it’s a pretty nice macguffin though.
I didn’t enjoy playing Wine Cellar all that much, due to stop-start gameplay that seemed to steer us away from the things to focus on not towards them. That was particularly noticeable in the earlier sections of the game, and partly due to us just not looking closely at something we’d assumed was out of bounds.
One other cause of confusion appeared to be a ghost puzzle; I’m pretty sure at some point they’ve decided to remove a puzzle from a game and simply provide players with the three items they’d have got from it, but as a result we kept trying to find a puzzle for the items to go with.
I have the feeling that maybe there’s a decent game somewhere in here. The individual puzzles are often a bit clunky but didn’t have any serious flaws. The strongest point is the dusty atmosphere of the vaults themselves. All three of Escape’s games in this location benefit from that, and Wine Cellar is emphatically my least favourite of the three; but still, it uses the space in a more authentic way than the other two games, and there’s a greater sense of being somewhere with a considerable amount of history.
Even so, between the sometimes ropey puzzles and the inadequate torches – something which would have been much more frustrating with a larger team – I’d suggest picking one of Escape’s other two games in the vaults ahead of this one.
You’re stealing someone’s fortune (a huge gem) from a rich person’s wine cellar. You’ve drugged the owner and have one hour before he recovers (quite how you know it’s an hour, or who you are, or any other details, seem to be omitted).
Unusually this company briefs you inside the room rather than outside, which takes away some of the initial excitement, but does eliminate some needless searching.
The crypt looks rather appropriate for a wine cellar. However the room had a number of issues:
- Far too much reliance on multiple padlocks and chests of unclear orders
- A puzzle that was broken which prevented us finishing the game
- A puzzle that we could have broken without realising (it was only because I thought to ask the operator that we didn’t break that element of the room)
- A very ambiguous puzzle that resulted in us wasting a huge amount of time
- The use of UV in a room that was very difficult to distinguish the clues from background noise (it also was unclear why you wouldn’t go in with a UV torch but “find it” lying around to discover the secrets of someone who’d gone to great lengths to protect it)
- A lack of originality.
It’s rare for me to leave a room feeling frustrated and annoyed by a game, but I was honestly glad to get it over with.