Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. So this week you locked him in a room for an hour…
I know, I know: a ‘live escape game’ doesn’t exactly promise a barrel of laughs. Sounds more like the horrible consequence of an evening round Boy George’s place. But, hey, give the creators a break: this excellent, hour-long, puzzle-solving challenge is so different to other London experiences that it’s actually pretty hard to sum up. I mean, to explain it properly, you’d need some kind of professional describer. And… oh right, that’s my job, isn’t it?
Alrighty then. Essentially, it’s like ‘The Crystal Maze’ meets ‘LA Confidential’. You and three or four mates are locked in a ’40s-style detective office. You’ll notice the crime scene outline of a body drawn on the floor. A screen in the corner starts counting down from 60 minutes: you’ve got to figure out how to escape before the timer gets down to zero. It’s pretty leisurely at first. That 60 minutes stretches out in front of you like a Peter Jackson trilogy. You rummage through drawers with the insouciance of a bored cleaning lady. But, before long, someone goes: ‘Oh shit! We’ve already had 15 minutes!’ Thus begins the concentration phase. Maths types try bullying integers into opening combination locks. Wannabe Columbos lasciviously eyeball black-and-white photos. The office is searched so thoroughly that it begins to look like it was built over a fault line. And occasionally, the room rings with the slap of high-fiving palms and yells of ‘I’ve cracked it!’
As the end nears, it’s as though the universe’s remote got its fast-forward button jammed down. Ideas fly thick and fast. People move around the room at a speed usually reserved for kiddies who’ve left it too long to wee.
The ticking clock becomes so all consumingly important it’s like a ‘24’ finale, albeit without the slide into self-parodic cackiness.
Then, before you know it, it’s over. If you succeed, there are so many ‘yeahs!’ it’s as though someone’s auditioning Usher impersonators. If you don’t? Well, firstly, it’s genuinely gutting. But then, after all that, they just unlock the door for you. Know what that means? That throughout, there has been absolutely nothing at stake. You’ve driven yourself up the wall for nothing more than your desire to prove that your brain is as good as someone else’s. And if a game can do that, you know it’s genuinely brilliant. So, as I said at the start: let’s forgive the creators the name, eh?