Present, in February 2023, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant
Questionable Ethics was a game I really didn’t know much about. Hounds, of course, has rightly received a lot of praise since opening a couple of years ago, but more frequently mentioned are Southern Dis-Comfort and their newer game, The Explorer’s Diary. Those two are also more self-explanatory when it comes to title and theme. I vaguely thought Questionable Ethics was mob-related and might be quite generic, but I was wrong.
Hounds labels itself an interactive guided experience rather than an Escape Room and this was most evident for us in Questionable Ethics. Our hostess “Katya” (like all of the game hosts) was in character from intro to outro and beyond, as our Russian friend/kidnapper who needs to “volunteer” us for a scientific Escape Room study, presumably to fund her vodka habit. We did really enjoy this aspect of the game – all the actors fully invest in their personas and are great fun to bounce off. Pre-Phantom Peak, I might have found this kind of interaction a bit intense, and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but embracing the experience definitely enhances the immersion. However, I will also say that, in our opinion, it is still very much an Escape Room: I suspect the guided thing is much more relevant to rookie teams and enthusiasts should not be put off. I was briefly concerned that we would have a GM at our shoulder through the game, but that was not the case.
As far as the plot goes, it probably is best to go in blind (as well as blindfolded) – suffice to say that the scientific study is probably not meeting health-and-safety regulations, resulting in a fairly tense, harum-scarum bit of escaping. Mostly, the elements are those of a lab-themed game, but with some surprises along the way.
Puzzle-wise, it starts off quite meta, allowing for some artificial puzzles while staying on theme, which is a nice twist. Deeper into the game are some creative uses of the set and some good interactions – this may not be as strongly puzzly, focusing instead on practical-type tasks requiring observation and organisation, but that really works with the immersion. There were possibly a couple of instances where we felt the logic leap was a little too far – and one place where I still have no idea what we did and why – but overall it was an entertaining and satisfying work-out. Any time we got stuck we did also have the hilarious Katya to help us out, usually with a handful of insults, ensuring our game flowed smoothly while also getting our full hour’s worth.
In the form that we played it, this game is NOT suitable for younger people, if you don’t want them exposed to alcohol references, threats of violence and frequent, creative swearing! Hounds, with the on-site bar, describes itself as a venue designed for more mature audiences, and this is true of Questionable Ethics more than the other games we played here. Some things could be toned down for a younger team but not everything, so book with caution. Or, preferably, just ditch the kids and enjoy the wild ride child-free.
- Storyline: Absolutely nailed, with bang-on internal logic and strongly narrated throughout.
- Theming and Set: High quality – although less showy than the other two Hounds games, stands up well against other competition.
- Searching: Not a major factor.
- Puzzles: Standard style puzzles given a creative, immersive spin.
- Physicality: A little hand-eye coordination required.
- Scare factor: Some strong moments of tension, use of blindfolds, flashing lights and loud noise, but not a horror game.
- Company Age Guidance: “We recommend a minimum age of 14 years old. It is at the sole discretion of parents/guardians whether under 14’s should attend. We strongly recommend 2 adults accompany groups of children. Guests under 8 years old are not permitted to participate in our experiences. No infants.”
- Age suitability: Personally, 16 would be the absolute minimum age (although the teenagers would probably roll their eyes and say I’m just boring. Oh wait, they do that anyway).