Gravesend, Dec 2017
It’s December, and along with other signs of the season such as tinsel, fake snow and endless Wham replays, quite a number of escape room companies are offering Xmas-themed games. The Panic Room’s take on this gives you the task of helping Santa’s elves rescue Christmas after they’ve left all the presents locked away.
This premise provides the structure of the game: there are a set of locked boxes, each containing a present and sometimes clues for other boxes. The game is designed to be family friendly, and has two versions: ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’, where the ‘nice’ version is a cut-down form of the game that needs only half the boxes to be opened (thereby rescuing presents for the nice children and leaving the naughty children’s presents still locked away…). The puzzles for the ‘nice’ version are the ones that involve more hands-on physical interactivity and fewer numbers.
We were playing the full version as a team of three adults, so I can’t speak for how well the ‘nice’ version plays. However, there was no sense that some of the puzzles were simplified kids’ versions; the design aims to be family-friendly by the style of puzzles not by dumbing them down. I would guess that the fairly non-linear structure and the inclusion of some easy-ish search targets helps keep younger players involved too. Still, don’t think of it as an escape room for kids, rather as one where kids can join in.
Unsurprisingly for a pop-up game, it’s slighter and smaller-scale than the other games at the venue. But it has a couple of lovely ideas that managed to be charming without being twee. One clue had a nasty flaw when we played, but it sounds like that’ll be promptly addressed (since this is a pop-up game we played much sooner after the game opened than I’d normally try), and the rest was all solidly designed as well as varied.
The Panic Room has games that are more interesting, impressive and/or memorable than this one. But if you want something to bring children to, or you’ve already played their others, or just feel like something seasonal, then North Pole Panic is a cute and fun game that works perfectly well as an escape room for adults as well as a good family option.