Edinburgh, Apr 2017
A killer is loose, and the players have an hour to identify them and clear their names, searching for evidence inside the victim’s house.
Like Exit Plan’s other rooms, there’s a bit of a sense of the puzzles having been combined ad-hoc, with no particular link to the story or theme. But here there’s a unifying theme of gathering evidence to eliminate possible suspects and identify the culprit.
Again it’s very much based around padlocks and codes. That said, the best moments were much more impressive, both original and clever.
Non-linear games like this one are harder to design because the players are dealing with a greater amount of information and objects simultaneously, and it’s difficult to avoid accidental red herrings where items that are intended to be unrelated appear to the players’ creative minds to have a clear link. Framed! (and also the other two Exit Plan games) have an underlying solidity of design that completely avoids problems of this sort, and that manifests in a smooth flow to the game without unnecessary friction.
I liked the use of space in this game, where the placing of immovable pieces of information out of direct sight of each other requires cooperative play and communication to combine them and find the solution. Like Tesla Cube, some elements are very hard to find but have clues pointing the players to them.
The final step of this game requires the team to select the culprit from a set of alternatives. Picking the correct one wins the game, but picking the wrong one is an instant lose condition. If you’ve correctly solved everything else you have all the information you need to get this one right – barring slip-ups! I really enjoyed this design and the resulting high stakes of that final decision. It would be easy to implement something like this badly, but this felt completely fair and was a great tense conclusion to the game.
Exit Plan have an inspired table on their wall of success percentages, per room per team size. I’ve not seen that before, and it’s really a great way to look at it. Team size does have an effect on performance – but what makes it interesting is that there’s clearly not a linear relationship, and so each room seems to have a sweet spot. Anyway, we hadn’t seen the table before we arrived (and anyway our plans weren’t that flexible) so we plunged on in.
Framed is the second room we played at Exit Plan and, in common with the others, it is well lit and spacious. The goal of the game is interesting: Deduce the murderer, and unlock the correct box at the end to escape in time. If you unlock the wrong box, the game will end and you will have failed – so make sure you know what you’re doing! I’ve not played a game with such a clear ‘instant failure’ scenario – but it worked well as it focused us on the right puzzle at the right time. The clues appear throughout the game, and by the end you have plenty of information to make your decision. This gave us a sense of how far we were through the game, too.
Some of the puzzles in the room were brilliant, and Exit Plan made good use of a wide variety of tasks for us to complete. The puzzles were reasonably well signposted, and so we were able to work out where to apply a code or key or clue without trial and error. This was a great game, and I’d recommend Exit Plan for groups of any level of experience.
As with all 3 of the rooms at Exit Plan, I instantly wanted to open the little panels in the floor – but it’s not a spoiler to say that those are standard office fittings and there’s only sockets beneath them. It might make sense for Exit Plan to put in some additional flooring, although no harm was done. It was obviously a dead end and I didn’t lose much time on it.