Present, in May 2020, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger
My original starting point for this review (without reading any other bloggers’ opinions) was going to be that EPI-Centre could be a real Marmite game. I imagine some teams would hate the sort of experience that we enjoyed here. But then I had a mini-revelation, remembering something our excellent GM Pagan told us, about adjusting the game to the team. So, I suspect that the entirely bonkers and surreal EPI-Centre experience we had was, in part, our fault…
The premise of EPI-Centre is that an earthquake has struck, damaging an important laboratory and you have about an hour to rescue important information from the building before the next after-shock destroys it forever. I kind of expected more carnage – clambering through rubble type thing, but this is actually more of a standard office and lab set. I say standard, but it is still genuinely impressive, particularly as the game progresses, with an enormous level of detail. We were fresh into the room after a recent refurb, so everything was top quality (although would expect nothing less from Escapologic).
The detail in the set did catch me out a little. This is a split start game (as usual, if escaping with kids/newbies, be aware!). Teenage Avenger was locked in the lab, I was in the office, and I did feel like I had the monster share of work to do, with a lot of entertaining distractions (excellent nerd jokes on the white boards). Cue vast amounts of search fails and the odd moment of communication breakdown and I think we ended up split for slightly longer than average! This was a section that I didn’t love in the game, but would be less of a problem for a larger team (or one considerably better at searching than I am).
Teenage Avenger however, loved this game completely, partly due to this section and the presence of the potential Marmite element, E.L.S.I. Ostensibly the clue system, E.L.S.l. is the lab assistant A.I., who has malfunctioned during the quake and so is prone to random outbursts, cryptic musings and a pointedly sarcastic soundtrack. TA adored E.L.S.I. and spent most of his isolation trading insults (I could only hear E.L.S.I.’s side of it) while I worked my butt off solving clues. My belated realisation of the first paragraph was that E.L.S.I.’s level of involvement was probably directly related to the team’s engagement, so the amount of sass we got was mainly due to TA’s provocations… If teams don’t want the “extra player in the room” feel, then possibly not interacting as much would get the message across. Although it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun…
This is quite a physical game – some multi-levels, crawling (thanks E.L.S.I. for the comedic musical accompaniment to that!) and so on. The puzzles aren’t too tricky, lots of observation and communication, none are puzzles for puzzles-sake, which makes for a nice immersive game. However, I missed out on some, as TA, having a whale of a time with E.L.S.I., was busily solving things without me. (Example. E.L.S.I.: “This task requires communication. You are doomed”. Teenage Avenger: forcibly solos the puzzle to prove them wrong). The game sticks to the sciency theme well, which suited him perfectly. Tweens and teens who are not intimidated by a mouthy computer can have a great time here.
Out of the two rooms we played at Escapologic Nottingham, I preferred Robin of Lockskey, while TA preferred EPI-Centre. Difficulty-wise, I’d say they were similar, while being very different games. E.L.S.I. might not be to everyone’s taste, if you favour your GM to be heard only in the event of dire emergency. For us, the A.I. element really elevated this into such a fun experience and was the most memorable part of our excellent day of escaping.
- Storyline: Retrieve the data and get out. Actually very real-world, with little need for Escape Room Logic.
- Theming and Set: Very cool, lots of immersion, ranging from a fairly realistic office-feel to impressively futuristic-looking lab pieces.
- Searching: Less as the game goes on, but enough to cause me issues!
- Puzzles: Nothing too strenuous, with a practical, science bent.
- Physicality: Some. With a team of 3+ not everyone would have to do those sections. You need two players who can either crawl or cope with stairs. Stairs down to the location are more taxing.
- Scare factor: Not as nerve-shredding as the website suggests, although that may have been the ramped up comedy factor for us.
- Company Age Guidance: ” We say that anyone from the age of 12 and up can play but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been surprised by younger players before.”
- Age suitability: Great room for tweens/teens as long as you have enough capable players to cope with the split section.
Also at this venue: Robin of Lockskey