*Ben’s Big Heist – Experios – Home Play Game*

Present-ish, April 2021, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness

Heist games are a whole subsection of Escape Rooms. The principal logic – escape from the locked room in the shortest possible time – is usually displaced in a heist. Instead, it’s all about using as much of the allowed time to gather the maximum amount of loot and then often simply strolling out of an open door at the end. We’ve played four or five of these IRL rooms, and with a full hour’s gameplay we’ve always got our money’s worth.

We were wary, though, with an online game – I don’t particularly know why. Being told we needed to solve a puzzle to make our final escape (and to be sure to leave enough time) did make us jumpy from the very start. And, with many of the remote digital titles we’ve played recently advertised as 90-120 minutes, we did wonder if the heist advantage of the full hour would actually still feel too short.

Newsflash – that hour felt very short! Clock ticking down immediately ramps up the tension and we found ourselves playing with unusual breathless impatience, stressing when we couldn’t instantly crack the opening ‘easy’ puzzle. The race against the clock practically encourages taking hints to save time, despite the 30 second penalty for doing so. Exciting, yes, but not our normal playing style, and this threw us off.

Ben’s Big Heist is nicely designed, fairly simple in format as a browser game but classily executed. It maybe lacked some technical interactivity – one task in particular would have benefited from some point-and-click action – and we all ended up with hundreds of windows open, but the graphics are clean and it is relatively easy to use. It is all quite grounded in Real World Logic – finding codes and valuables where you would expect to within the modern bank that you are robbing. Unlike many Escape Rooms (real and digital) it does also require knowledge or interaction with the outside world, so having an extra device free is handy essential. We quite liked this element to a degree, but…

We did have some issues with how this all worked. Hard without spoilers, but we had one instance where our outside world search clearly didn’t produce what the company expects, even though we were looking, without hints, for the right thing. A second instance creates a bottleneck where most, then all, players are forceably inactive for a period – only a few minutes max, but feels like centuries as the seconds tick by. Very frustrating. (We also had a grump that one puzzle had two seemingly possible answers, and the one we picked was not deemed as correct, but that’s by-the-by). It is a very linear game and from what we saw may be better played as a two. Only one person has to input answers (good) but it did leave the rest of us feeling redundant at times.

Back to the time again. We were slow, and stubborn about taking hints – so we didn’t get the most out of our hour. Having struggled with some of the earlier puzzles, we also left ourselves way more time than we needed to actually escape. As a result, this game was very light on puzzles for us. The linear format meant that the mad ‘grab as much as you can’ adrenaline rush from the RL rooms was lacking, and the strict time cap meant we’ve missed out on a huge chunk of gameplay. We may have escaped with A$1,750,000, but we still felt shortchanged.

  • Storyline: Help Ben Dover (they like their terrible puns) rob the bank. A cute explanation covers why each puzzle exists.
  • Theming and Virtual Set: Fairly simple visuals, but the odd bit of Real World interaction adds immersion.
  • Googling: Yes, definitely. Have a free device if possible to use.
  • Puzzles: Some interesting ones, some with vague/open answers. I wouldn’t particularly say they were difficult (apparently gets harder in the later vaults) but it was challenging against the clock and the format for inputting solutions wasn’t always clear. Not a game for casual players, or those who enjoy taking their time over a puzzle.
  • Physicality: Tension headache from staring at the clock.  
  • Scare factor: None.
  • Age suitability: “We recommend playing this game if you’re over the age of 18″ is the company’s slightly opaque answer. Not a kid-specific game, definitely. I would think it’s too difficult for younger ones, particularly the deeper you go into the game.
  • Timed?: Yes, very much so. And unlike most online games, you can’t keep going after the timer runs out.
  • Requires: PC/laptops (recommended by company) or decent tablet, plus additional comms and access to outside world internet (including QR reader, don’t want to be trying to download one of those against the clock). Pen and paper help, printer not needed.

Experios website