Gravesend, Nov 2017
I try not to visit new rooms too soon after they open in case they’re still affected by teething problems. The Panic Room seem to open rooms at such a rate though that it’s been hard to find a time to visit when there wasn’t a fairly recently opened game in their stable, and since we were visiting for their Dino Land game I couldn’t resist booking into the brand-new Ten Fathoms Deep at the same time.
The twist here is that it’s played as a versus game. Many venues offer a competitive option simply by having two copies of the same game, but Ten Fathoms goes a step further: the two halves of your group have mirror image rooms that culminate in a single escape pod, with which the faster team can escape while the slower team are left to meet a watery end.
Competitive play is encouraged from the start, where both teams line up beside their respective entrances for a countdown to begin play. Throughout the game there’s an indicator showing how far through the other team is, so you can tell whether they’re ahead or behind, and some sound leaks through the wall between the two halves. It’s soundproofed enough that there isn’t a serious danger of overhearing something critical, but it’s enough to increase the urgency and to make you want to whisper any codes you’ve discovered, just in case.
It would be throughly unfair for a team to gain an advantage over their rivals purely by asking for hints more often. The game design deals with that by offering any clues given to one team to the other as well. Since a clue for a puzzle already completed is not much use, this also acts as a mild balancing mechanism, helping a losing team catch up but not causing a winning team to speed further ahead.
The game itself gave a good impression straight away. Stepping in onto metal floors has an authentic submarine feel that the rest of the decor followed through on. It’s not a huge play area, though if anything it’s less claustrophobic than a real submarine.
Puzzle design is mostly naturalistic, with plenty of custom dials and dashboard bits and pieces, sometimes with the more playful feel that’s characteristic of The Panic Room. The difficulty level is perhaps a little lower than average for the games here, but then the challenge is not just to escape in time but to do so ahead of your competitors. The race setup meant there was no shortage of pressure, though I’d have liked the game to push that still further with atmospherics such as audio of rushing water or lighting effects, to give more of an impression of a doomed vessel. Still, the winning team is rewarded with a strong finishing sequence; and if both teams are fast enough, the losers may get to play out the rest and see the full ending as well.