#55: Excape (Exmouth) – E=MC Scared!

The theming in E=MC Scared! was done to a decent standard, but the puzzles were unsatisfying. I feel the creators, while enthusiastic, could have done with some more beta testing before opening to get the experience pinned down better. Playable, but unfortunately I can’t recommend it for enthusiasts.

Rating:★★ (Not recommended)
Location:Exmouth
Team:Family of 5
Date:28 December 2019
Hints taken:2
Time:Failed!
URL:Excape

Front & Briefing

Occupying some office space above a bank in Exmouth town centre, Excape is easy to find and after being buzzed in we went up a flight of steps to their floor. Both their current rooms are attached to a small mostly undecorated lobby, and while the rooms aren’t heated, our host did offer us a hot chocolate to get us warmed up.

The GM gave us a quick run-down of the story: we are schoolchildren trapped by “Professor von Doomington” and we need to escape before he gets back in 60 minutes. Everyone is also given a school tie and cap to wear, which is a little gimmicky for my taste but I could see other teams enjoying it.

Theme

As the title of the game suggests, this is tongue-in-cheek/twee horror, with a school science lab overtone. The storyline immediately falls apart as it appears that we need to break into the place rather than escape it, but it was functional and the game was fitted out to a good standard.

Puzzles

Aside from a couple of inventive physical puzzles the game was a let down in terms of both puzzle conception and execution. There were red herrings all over the place; one puzzle in particular was a case of trying nearly everything in the room in turn. I had deliberately overlooked one part because I knew I would be irritated if it was what I suspected, and it turned out to be so when we got a hint for it. “A classic escape room puzzle!” exclaimed the GM when someone mentioned it in the debrief.

This seemed to be a trend: the game relied on all-too-common tropes; for instance another puzzle basically required you to have encountered the same sort of thing done more logically elsewhere in order to know what to do; there was absolutely no hint I noticed to signpost it.

We also had what I would say was a technical failure due to doing two things in the wrong order that required me to apply my knowledge as a software developer to realise there was a problem and fix, and the GM didn’t seem to understand when I described the problem to him afterwards. I could go on; the game felt like irritation after irritation. There were also several unresolved padlocks by the end of the game which was rather unsatisfying.

Hint system

We’d been given a walkie-talkie during the briefing and checked it was working, but no other guidance as to how hints would be given. I hadn’t thought to ask in the briefing, but we had all assumed the GM would come on the radio every now and then if we were getting stuck. Eventually we realised during the game that this was probably wrong and asked for a hint. At a guess we were actually somewhat behind time by that point.

Finale

We ran out of time half-way through solving the final padlock, unfortunately! The room boasted a device that looked like it might have made for a fun success condition, but we didn’t get to see it. The GM did a good job at crafting a good ending for us nonetheless, which is always appreciated in the case of a failure.

While the team definitely wasn’t playing at their best for that room, I do feel that the technical issue we had and an earlier puzzle that could have done with having some maintenance, plus the other issues mentioned above, did cost us the couple of minutes we would have needed to get the last bit done.

Debriefing

The GM was happy to answer questions within the room after we’d finished, and took a team photo which was e-mailed to all the team members afterwards.

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