Frustratingly, this could have been a four-star (highly recommended) room, but so many small things let it down, mostly around the puzzle design and game flow, that despite its good looks it’s difficult to recommend Magical Championship to experienced players.
|Rating:||★★☆☆☆ (Not recommended)|
|Team:||Team of 3 in Zurich (R, Z & me)|
|Date:||29 September 2019|
Front & Briefing
One street back from a well-served bus stop, Escape Quest is somewhat hidden behind a garage facade, where you’ll need to ring the bell to be led through a car park and up the stairs of the small office block it resides within. The briefing was fairly short and took place in the room itself. It’s certainly one of the more novel concepts I’ve experienced: the task was to discover which of four animal magicians had won a past magical tournament, using clues around the room, and a central playing board that felt a little reminiscent of the board game in Jumanji.
My first impression of walking into a dimly lit room was of disappointment – dim lighting often tends to get used to cover up a set design that’s been left wanting, or to artificially make puzzles harder. In this case, I think it was misplaced, because the artwork around the room was beautiful and I feel the creators should have celebrated it more.
As the game progressed, the quality did drop somewhat, with the final few puzzles feeling like we could have encountered them in any other escape room (as I often have!)
The puzzles started off fairly well in sync with the theme, but descended into more classic escape room fare pretty quickly. While the game wasn’t particularly linear, all the physical puzzle games got clumped together, as did the brainteasers, which meant that different members of the group weren’t able to play to their strengths in parallel.
That said, there were a couple of clever mechanisms, including a small incidental one that I haven’t seen before and was a clever use of the theming; it has brought a smile to my face just thinking of it.
Such mechanisms were unfortunately outnumbered by ones that, if they were signposted or hinted at by the room, we totally missed. We needed two hints alone just to work out what to do with a prop that really should have been obvious, and the actual solution didn’t feel satisfying. Having to work out how the central board game interacted with the rest of the room was also a problem at the beginning – it wasn’t clear what sort of solution we were trying to get from other puzzles in order to interact with it, which held up our ability to make logic leaps.
We had caught on that we were running behind time by the end of the room, which made the choice of the physical puzzles, which you can’t speed up by taking some extra hints, especially frustrating for me.
Hints were by request only, via a wall intercom here. When we did ask for hints the GM didn’t seem to have been following what we’d done so far, and having to explain what we were having trouble with and what we’d tried so far was a little irritating.
Almost uniquely there was no countdown timer of any sort in the room. I can’t blame our going over time on this (one team member had a watch, and we incorrectly assumed we could see where the game was heading towards a finale, which it wasn’t), but it was an odd omission.
To the venue’s credit, they allowed us to go over time, which they say they will try to let teams do if there isn’t another team booked into the following slot.
The game had a natural finish, but nothing I would particularly call a finale here. In fact it wasn’t even immediately obvious what we were supposed to do when we finished the game’s main objective (wait for the GM to greet us, mostly).
Quite a functional debriefing; we were over time so this may have affected things, but it was a photo (using our own camera) of us with a couple of props, then payment, then we were lead back out the building by the GM.