Berlin, Nov 2017
Looking for an extra Berlin game to last-minute squeeze into our schedule, Illuminati Escape appealed partly because, as a recently opened venue, it was one of the few with any availability remaining; but also because of its concept. They have four games planned, each a separate part of an interlinked story, each set in a different geographical location and with a different play style.
For now the only one open is Cyber Attack. The overarching storyline involves the Illuminati attempting to take over the world, and your task here is to infiltrate an innocuous-seeming computer shop in Omsk and find the quantum computer with which they plan to do so.
I liked the game from the outset, which presents you with a fairly standard escape room environment in a faux Russian shop, but one with a solid non-linear set of puzzles. These varied from mundane tasks based on laminated paper clues to more fun and original ideas, and drew together well for the next stage.
At that point the game got a lot more distinctive, in a way that half our group liked a lot but which the other half disliked. The theme is cyberspace, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the second half of the game uses a more abstract, computer-driven style of puzzle.
One potential drawback to tasks implemented on a computer screen is that they can turn into a bottleneck, with one player attempting them while the rest of the team stands around. They’ve largely avoided that here by keeping a mostly non-linear structure, by including co-operative puzzle elements, and by mixing in other puzzle types to the ones on the screens.
It’s a funky, glitzy set that appearance-wise is a big step up from the simpler opening stage. It also incorporates a certain fiddly piece of apparatus that I’ve seen in a handful of other games, and which tends to rapidly lose its cool factor to the fiddly frustration of trying to operate it – but here they’ve judged the difficulty and length of the task just right.
Whether you enjoy completing sections of an escape game that take place on a computer monitor, essentially as simple computer games, is a matter of taste. Those for whom the whole appeal of an escape room is getting away from the electronic to a more physical real-life experience might dislike Cyber Attack on that basis. Additionally, it has some puzzles that struck me as quite ‘techie’, in the sense that they were more accessible to those who have grown up spending a lot of time with computers and computer games. For both of those reasons, this is a game I’d expect to win over some players and leave others cold. But if you don’t hate the sound of it, the robustness of the puzzle design and the cool set will give you plenty to enjoy.