Athens, May 2019
At time of writing MasterClue’s website is in Greek only, which made booking a slightly hairy process reliant on Google Translate – but the game is entirely fine to play in English. Which is only appropriate, since it’s set in a U.S. military base. The base has been evacuated, but you need to infiltrate it and locate a biochemical weapon that might just wipe out the entire country if you fail to find it in time. You have a deadline of 80 minutes to do so, which makes it unusually long by most standards though relatively short compared to some of the mammoth Athens games we were playing.
You’re unlikely to be immediately bowled over by the start of this game: it kicks off with a pretty plain environment based around simple furniture such as a desk and a filing cabinet, and a whole bunch of files to sort through. It’s also tricky enough that we initially struggled to get going, with a slightly involved early puzzle in which information is presented and used in a way that works as a puzzle, but makes little real-world sense.
The underwhelming decor was not representative of the whole game. I liked both the visual presentation and the puzzles more and more as we progressed through, with the best moments clustered near the end. Even so, and despite plenty of audio effects to build atmosphere and story, my impression was of an escape room designed with more attention to puzzles than to flashy effects. If the theming is somewhere between military, office and laboratory, the puzzles skew more to the science side of that, and are sometimes quite sneaky in their design.
As with several of the Greek games we tried, we played Defcon 2 with fewer than the minimum number of players. In this case this only really mattered for one task, which was designed for at least three and which was physically awkward to complete with only two; but in practice it wasn’t particularly a problem, and I enjoyed the added challenge.
Despite the relatively unsophisticated early section Defcon 2 was entirely enjoyable, with solid puzzle design and an enthusiastic host whom we immediately warmed to, and a game that got increasingly interesting and distinctive as it went on. Even so, it struggles to match up to the really top-notch games on offer in the city. But while not a must-play, if you’re nearby and can fit it into your schedule then it’s certainly worth dropping in to try it.