Present, August 2019, were: Granny, The Ant, Panda, Cynical Panda Crew
Technology is a much vaunted feature in Escape Rooms right now. The move away from keys and padlocks and ‘old-fashioned’ boxes to open is seen as progress – giving games electronic razzle-dazzle is presented as a selling point (not going to venture into the gen 3 – gen 4+ argument here though).
I’m ambivalent about the whole thing. No passionate hatred of padlock-heavy rooms here, nor any wistful nostalgia for ‘traditional’ rooms. If an unlock solution elicits an ‘oooh!’ I don’t care if it’s powered by a deadlock key, a 4-digit code, a mag-lock, a laser beam or unicorn hair. I just like to see a variety of puzzles and progress elements, done well, and done appropriately for the theme.
So the lure for Trapp’d Kettering’s new VX 2.0 wasn’t the hi-tech spiel (‘Mission Impossible’, ‘exciting technology’, pushing boundaries). Breaking into a futuristic top-secret Russian laboratory; the most significant word for us wasn’t ‘futuristic’ but ‘Russian’ (a weird Escape Room fetish, don’t judge). I say us, just me and Granny, really. Kids weren’t bothered either way. Sometimes I wonder if venues think whizzy electronics make a game more appealing to the youth vote – far trendier than fusty analogue locks. But Teenage Avenger was unbothered enough about this concept to take himself off to the seaside to play penny arcades instead, so…
He genuinely missed a treat. VX 2.0 is a good example of using technology appropriate for the theme. It has gadgets galore – some we had seen before, some not, but all great fun for a hi-tech heist. Futuristic is maybe stretching it a little (is Russia a bit behind the times?) – in fairness it is difficult to use methods that haven’t been invented yet. The biggest tech omission was, sadly on the hottest day of the year, air-conditioning. Obviously, too cold in Russia to bother with it?
The variety, and wit, employed for the progress elements really made this room. The design made us laugh (a lot), dance (more than we should, probably), concentrate reasonably hard, and also run (possibly screaming) at the end. I’ll take those attributes in an Escape Room, whether cutting edge or not. Less sweatiness would have been good though.
The downside of fancy-schmancy gadgets was also briefly on show here. The endgame setpiece caused delighted squeals, but then partially malfunctioned on us. This was by no means the most technologically advanced aspect we’d ever seen (Teenage Avenger was probably looking at something similar in his end-of-the-pier amusements) but a fail meant a real sticking point. Fortunately, Trapp’d planned ahead and had a back-up system in place. It could have been more slickly implemented, but we appreciated the forethought. It did, however, highlight the perils of over-complicating a mechanism for the sake of impact.
Overall, tech dominated over actual puzzles in VX 2.0. Clever touches and innovation were our main talking points afterwards, rather than the intellectual challenges. When it is executed as well as this, however, in a way that is both appropriate and interesting, it was no bad thing. The future looks bright, comrades!
- Storyline: Concise background from Trapp’d for once. Does what it says on the tin.
- Theming and Set: Not quite 2040 in some respects, and without the wow of Dead Mans Cove, but fine.
- Searching: A little.
- Puzzles: From the practical rather than intellectual school, which fit the theme.
- Physicality: Some dexterity required.
- Scare factor: Jeopardy, rather than scares, nothing too intense.
- Company Age Guidance: “Suitable for ages 10 years and over. Players of 16 years and under must be accompanied by an adult.”
- Age suitability: The practical nature of the puzzles means kids can be thoroughly involved, probably from 8 up.