Month: January 2019

Room review: Bearcraft: Dreamworld

Their description: This is why you should stop playing so much video games during the day. You are now trapped in your dream and this is a game where you must win in order to wake up!

Bearcraft combines rigorous logic puzzles with a pleasant if fairly minimalist setting. I can’t stress enough that your enjoyment of the game will be directly related to how much you like solving logic puzzles in an escape room. There’s still some hands-on interaction and a couple of cute surprises, but the room is ultimately much more of a cerebral experience than an adventure.

At the risk of repeating myself from my other Lockdown reviews: if you don’t mind the use of a tablet and logic-heavy puzzles, Bearcraft is WORTH A TRY. If you actually enjoy rigorous logic puzzles and don’t mind a less immersive room, it’s RECOMMENDED.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 4/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 2/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 3 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Room review: Bears of Justice

Their description: A super villian has planted a bomb in a nuclear facility. It is up to the Bears of Justice to save the day!

Lockdown rates this as their hardest room, and that’s certainly the case. But there aren’t unreasonable leaps of logic required, at least. On the contrary, all the puzzles are scrupulously logical, to the extent that teams that aren’t fond of logic-based puzzles might find not find this room’s puzzles to their taste — though at least one puzzle has quite an inspired aha which I enjoyed.

There’s some clever incorporation of puzzles and reveals into the physical setting, with a few dramatic touches and a sustained attempt at maintaining the narrative. But as is the case with all rooms in this outlet, the tablet remains a somewhat immersion-breaking layer between players and the room. If that doesn’t bother you, Bears of Justice provides a very rigorous experience that’s WORTH A TRY, or even RECOMMENDED if you prioritise puzzles over setting and are a fan of logic puzzles.

Puzzle difficulty: 4/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2.5/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 3/5
Storyline integration: 2.5/5

Their suggested number of players: 3 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4

Room review: Captivate: Murder on the Singapore Express

Their description: The murder of a little known Belgium detective in Singapore has captured the world’s attention. Mysterious murders on railway stations are normally limited to novels or movies. Especially those with devious clues left by an evil killer. Buy a ticket for the Singapore Express today.

Despite the references to Poirot and other well-known murder mystery properties, this train-themed room is very light on narrative, particularly when it comes to ‘figuring out’ the murderer and weapon — let’s just say that the way you arrive at these answers is wholly unrelated to detective work. (It’s also incredibly vulnerable to brute-forcing, alas.) If you can forgive that, however, then you might still be in for a fun ride.

The playing space is small, if set up decently; the decor is haphazard, though with charming touches. It’s the puzzles themselves that make the room worth playing. There’s a good mix of puzzle types and difficulty levels, with small surprises in store — delivered by puzzle-solving rather than room technology. And while the puzzles may not make much in-narrative sense, each individual puzzle is certainly logical from a solving perspective. (The puzzle flow, however, might be a bit head-scratching; our group managed to bypass one puzzle altogether, and you could end up skipping even more.)

Though neither perfect nor even very polished, there was something about Murder on the Singapore Express that left me charmed and satisfied (though it might have helped that I played it after a disappointing room elsewhere..). Despite the low scores below, I’d still say the room is WORTH A TRY — most importantly, don’t expect to be investigating a murder mystery.

Puzzle difficulty: 3.5/5
Puzzle logic: 5/5
Multimedia aspect of puzzles: 2/5

Atmosphere and setting: 2/5
Exciting flourishes, use of technology or physical aspects: 1.5/5
Storyline integration: 2/5

Their suggested number of players: 2 to 8
My suggested number of players: 2 to 4. The room might start feeling crowded with more people.

Game review: Murder Mystery SG: Castle Lumiere Nightfall

NOTE: This game was played at the invitation of Murder Mystery SG.

Their description: Castle Lumiere is no ordinary castle. Owned by Baron Quinn Fontaine, it appears to have a ‘magical shield’ that stops and kills anyone who attempts to enter. A dinner meeting is set-up by the Baron you are determined to attend. You know the place is both mysterious and magical. And, although you have no idea who else will be coming, you know that you have to be there!

Murder Mystery SG offers tabletop murder mystery games, similar in format to two of the games at LOST in JB’s Crime Scene branch.

Unlike Xcape’s Shanghai 1943 or LOST in JB’s main case The Tenants Upstairs, Murder Mystery SG’s games do not take place in a real ‘crime scene’ with hands-on searching. Instead, their sit-down games have maps and clue cards. Players take on the roles of suspects and must find the murderer in their midst, investigating the case by spending tokens to look at clue cards. Everyone has individual goals, and everyone is allowed to lie. Interestingly, there is no detective role, so you really can’t be sure whom to trust.

At their invitation, a group of us played one of their cases in December. You have the option of using their premises in Hougang — which we did — or finding/providing your own space.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the case we played is that every character has a fully-developed backstory and secrets to hide, making for a balanced and engrossing experience regardless of which role you get. Individual goals come with points assigned, allowing for a more complex endgame than just whether or not the team succeeds in finding the murderer.

Another interesting mechanic is the use of image-only clue cards, forcing players to analyse evidence for themselves. (LOST in JB, by comparison, has captioned cards, removing a bit of the ambiguity.) It’s possible to miss out crucial details or misinterpret evidence, which adds an additional layer of complexity.

What about the case itself? Not all of us were fans of certain broad case aspects (though I personally didn’t mind). The case solution included some clever elements, but also some questionable aspects. I enjoyed the process of the game, so my overall experience wasn’t that affected by the conclusion; players who focus strongly on the outcome might feel differently.

In conclusion, I’d still prioritise the set-based games Shanghai 1943 and The Tenants Upstairs — but if you’ve played those and are eager for more in the same vein, Murder Mystery SG might be the closest alternative. Some of us are certainly planning to check out their other cases…

(My team had some minor quibbles about production values, but Murder Mystery SG is apparently in the midst of printing an updated version of the game materials.)

Case difficulty: 4/5
Case logic: 3/5

Their suggested number of players: 5 to 8
My suggested number of players: 7 to 8