#37: Mystique Room (Budapest) – The Tower of Wollongong

Oh dear. Mystique Room were not having a good morning when we came to do The Tower of Wollongong and the room ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:25 March 2019
Hints taken:¯\\_(°_o)_/¯
URL:Mystique Room

Before I start, I should say that the other rooms we played at Mystique Room were perfectly fine rooms, but Wollongong, in my opinion, really should be retired as the problems extended further than just the technical ones on the day.

Other reviewers have touched on the fact that Wollongong is essentially a single interactive item in the middle of the room and as a concept I didn’t have a problem with that – I was sufficiently intrigued as to book it! – though the item wasn’t quite as full of bells and whistles as I had hoped. The oddest thing was the storyline that the GM told us beforehand, which had no bearing on the game; I would much prefer escape rooms were just honest with you if they consider the room to be an hour-long puzzle – other rooms do this and it doesn’t detract at all (for instance White Room (#39)).

We followed the GM into the room, who immediately had to apologise that some lighting effect wasn’t working (“it was just distracting anyway” – so why have it at all?) and the TV screen with the timer was defunct too; she suggested we just use our phones to measure the time. Fine; technical problems happen; I made a note of the time on my phone as we started.

The sense of exploration at the start was fun, and they’d done some inventive things with the first few puzzles that emerged. However we came to a bit of a standstill after a while and radioed for a hint. It turned out it was something a team member had tried earlier and hadn’t worked, and after the GM repeatedly told us to try it again, we absolutely could not get the mechanism to work. Eventually the GM came in and tried it herself, to no avail. There wasn’t an override for it either!

So. Gathering up our things, it was time to go down the hallway to their second copy of the room, and helped the GM get this version back to the same point as before, before continuing. The GM said they’d give us the time back. I’d forgotten to look at my phone for the time when we’d aborted the first time around, and the countdown timer wasn’t working in here either, but I estimate we spent about five or ten minutes moving rooms.

The game didn’t cease to be frustrating and we’d lost a lot of confidence in the build quality of it too, to the point that during one puzzle we were absolutely convinced it had some kind of electronic fault preventing us from solving it. The GM was unhelpful at this point (“have you tried looking harder?”) and didn’t seem to understand that we thought the game was broken again. Eventually she gave us the answer to the puzzle. As it happened, we were talking to a different GM when playing Pirate Bay (#41) the next day, and it’s possible that the puzzle wasn’t broken after all, it just … appeared broken? I can’t verify whether it was or wasn’t after the fact, of course, but it wasn’t satisfying that the original GM wouldn’t believe us when we asked her to confirm if it was a problem.

This segues into another issue with the room: the CCTV cameras were not optimally placed for the GM and a lot of the actions you took actively obscured parts of the puzzles from the cameras, meaning that the GM wasn’t generally able to give you very context-sensitive hints. This would be a minor problem if everything was going well, but for us it added to the frustration.

Due to the technical issues we’d had (and possibly the fact that most of the staff seemed to be trying to disassemble and fix the first copy of the room), nobody came to tell us we’d failed the time limit, and by about 90 minutes in we were discussing just giving up, but persisted out of sheer completionism.

Three of the puzzles turned out to be recycled in very similar forms in the other rooms we played from Mystique, which I also feel is rather problematic, and the final puzzle was in the same class of puzzles as a Rubix Cube: easy to do if you know how, but immensely frustrating if you don’t. It wasn’t a good finish and we all had to put on smiles for the GM as we emerged from the gruelling experience! She had better sense than to ask us how we enjoyed it, and after we’d recharged our batteries with a snack from our bags, instead showed us directly to the other room we had booked for that morning, with other worried-looking staff carrying power tools in the direction of the Tower of Wollongong…

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