Okehampton, Jun 2019
Having just played Trapped’s other game Templars, we plunged straight into Bletchley Blueprints hoping that the game would flow more smoothly. It proved to be somewhat different in gameplay style and decoration, but broadly shared the same strengths and flaws. Like the other game, it appears to be designed from a philosophy that says frustration is an enjoyable part of the challenge, and that escape rooms should be hard enough that only a very low proportion of teams manage to escape.
As you might guess from the name, Bletchley is set in World War II, and you need to search an apartment to find a missing blueprint. ‘Set in an apartment’ often equates to ‘minimal decorations’, but the set for Bletchley has been crafted with loving care and attention to detail. It doesn’t have the instant glossy appeal of its sister game, since that would be incongruous with the setting, but it has a great deal of period detail and props that look taken straight from the 1940s. And I’ll avoid details, but right from the beginning it’s very clear that this game goes the extra mile to build something cool and immersive.
The puzzle style in Bletchley was less cryptic than in Templars, and focused more on numbers and codes. While it still entirely avoided padlocks, it used some equivalent mechanisms – not that there’s anything wrong with that, particularly in a game themed after the Bletchley codebreaker team.
It also suffered from the same paucity of signposting. At most points in the game there are a great many items available to investigate, most of which aren’t of use immediately, many of which aren’t of use at all; but all of which need to be carefully checked lest you miss a critical clue. The puzzles follow a linear sequence and normally each step gives you an indication of what’s required next, but not in a way that narrows down the range of items you might need to focus on.
With a relatively small number of puzzles and a high difficulty level, you’re likely to spend most of your time stuck – although one puzzle required a ferociously long process to find the answer, maybe 5-10 minutes of work after working out what to do, with any small error meaning you’d need to restart from the beginning.
Once again the final step of the game was inventive, unusual, and deeply frustrating. This time that was partly because of an observation fail we made, but even so I suspect many teams (at least, those who get as far as that point) will experience it as a bait-and-switch.
The problems with the game design are endemic but not insurmountable. Depending on your tastes you might not see them as problems at all, in which case you’ll have a fantastic time. Personally I’d happily go back and try other games at the venue as and when more are available, though would do so braced for frustration. I’d expect enthusiast views to be very split – if you give it a go, do please come back afterwards and leave a review here saying what you thought.