Nottingham, Oct 2017
Contraption is Escapologic’s original game, the first of what is now eight different escape rooms at their Nottingham location, and it’s clear why the venue made a splash from the outset. The game is a steampunk-y fest of cogs and pipes and machines that dispenses with padlocks in favour of an array of imaginatively different mechanisms.
Your first task on entering the room is to turn on the lights. It’s not pitch black, fortunately (there are enough metal doodads around that the room might be genuinely hazardous if it were!), but the light is sufficiently low to make it difficult to progress until you work out how to change that. We managed that without too much delay, as I imagine most teams do; it concerned me though that the host said afterwards that some teams take ages to solve that, and sometimes spend the whole hour in the initial low lighting. It wouldn’t be impossible to play the game like that, but it would be highly frustrating, and I very much hope that standard practice is to give ever more blatant hints to teams who are struggling until they manage to get proper lighting.
I suspect the game looks a little less unique now than when it was first built, since whether by imitation or independent invention most of its more creative moments have been used in other games at other venues. But it still holds up very well. For our group of four enthusiasts it was on the easy side, and we escaped in just over half an hour, but with no feeling of having been short-changed – though the ending did feel a bit abrupt, we thought we’d discovered a new area and were surprised to find instead that we’d finished the game.
Contraption is more atmospheric than story-driven, but it’s got atmosphere in spades, and an exuberant variety of puzzle ideas. Other games at the venue have gone further with the theming and narrative, but their original game looks good and plays well despite its age.