#61: Mission Breakout (London) – Underground 2099

With puzzles that required you to intuit too much, and some bad decisions regarding the sequencing in the game, Underground 2099’s weak theme left us feeling let down.

Rating:★★☆☆☆ (Not recommended)
Location:London
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:3 July 2022
Hints taken:Not recorded (many)
Time:Not recorded (failed; somewhere in the region of 90m)
URL:Mission Breakout

Front & Briefing

For a disused tube station, it’s surprisingly easy to miss, but the Mission Breakout logo above the heavy black doors made the frontage easy enough to spot on the high street. After buzzing in and being let through the front door, we then immediately found another set of doors which we had to refer to our confirmation email to get through. I’m not sure why the GM couldn’t have let us through these ones too!

Beyond the key-coded door was a set of stairs in dim lighting that leads directly into the main reception area of Mission Escape. This is atmospherically decorated with broadly war-time props, and sets the scene well. There’s a couple of toilets, lockers for belongings, and after that’s taken care of the team is led into a briefing room with seating to sign the usual waivers—and to give us our Ghostbuster-style backpacks for the game.

Our GM was enthusiastic throughout (including her in-game personas) and this was a highlight of the experience.

Theme

Mission Breakout makes a lot of being set up in an abandoned London Underground station, and its other room, The Lost Passenger, uses the location really well. I’m disappointed to say that Underground 2099 does not. While the game uses actual rooms within the abandoned station that show some of the bare structure of the tunnels, which is a novelty, the theming of the props and puzzles were very generic. The futuristic element of the game was leaned into as you begin the room—ostensibly, you are special agents being sent to the future to find another agent who has become lost there—but then also entirely forgotten about, especially by the time you exit the game. The story never really seemed to be fully resolved.

Puzzles

This room could have been done by two people, and our team of five was far too many for it. (The booking allows teams of up to six.) The majority of our team were milling around with nothing to do, especially in a rather long middle section of the game that came down to communication between exactly two players. These happened to be the best puzzles of the game too, leaving most of the team feeling left out. The structure of this section meant that nobody in the team actually saw the whole venue, which is a big shame because the creators had otherwise used the location quite well.

A lot of puzzles that could have done with in-game feedback part-way through to assure us that we were on the right track didn’t give any indication of it, and a few times we had just given up before being told to continue just a little longer, or interact with something that had not been signposted in the slightest.

There were a couple of search puzzles that required you to do things you wouldn’t usually expect to do in an escape room, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Again, there was no kind of signposting and so the hints from our GM basically had to tell us what to do directly (though I think they could have been scripted better).

The room also relied on artificially increasing the difficulty of puzzles by using very low lighting levels and muffling audio, which is something that always irks me. That really needs to be changed, in my opinion. People who are colour blind or who struggle to see colour in dark lighting would find some puzzles impossible.

Hint and time system

One team member was given a walkie-talkie at the start. This mostly worked okay, though we had some technical difficulties at the start with the initial prop/puzzle and the GM was quite slow to respond to this, to the point that we thought the walkie-talkie was broken as well as the puzzle! (After resetting, the puzzle worked, but we lost confidence in whether it was working thereafter, and given the lack of signposting as I mentioned above, it was impossible to tell.)

The music in the final minutes was too loud to hear the walkie-talkie over.

I wasn’t counting hints. Our team usually asks for fewer hints from the GM at the beginning, and we did here, but in the end we needed loads.

We had no countdown in the room. The futuristic backpacks we were given at the start supposedly had an “energy meter” on them that, it was implied, would serve as a countdown, but the ambiguity actually made some of the puzzles harder too… were we supposed to be re-powering them? At any rate, the light on mine turned from green to red shortly after I reached the middle section and… surely that wasn’t an hour already?

We found afterwards the GM had allowed us overtime, which was welcome, but honestly by 90 minutes into the game we were kind of fed up with it. I would have no idea where we lost time compared to the ideal playthrough. If you knew the room you could probably speed through it, but with time for discovery, repeating mistakes, and so on, I didn’t think we were being that slow.

Finale

There was no finale as I would describe it; just a couple of puzzles that were a little bulkier than usual. Given how the game started, I expected a similarly dramatic ending, but instead the game ended with an air of anticlimax.

Debriefing

We had overrun a lot and met the next team who were up next arriving as we departed, so I suspect the debrief we got probably wasn’t representative of a faster team. We got a team photo wearing some futuristic safety glasses that had appeared along with the camera, and a chance to wash our hands with soap and running water afterwards, which was definitely needed given the dustiness of the game!

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