#57: Arctic Escape (Tromsø) – VX Snatcher

A game that flowed extremely well, with nice ambience in fitting with the theme, without getting in the way of some smart and creative puzzles.

Rating:★★★ (Recommended)
Location:Tromsø
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:16 February 2020
Hints taken:0
Time:50m39
URL:Arctic Escape

Front & Briefing

We found ourselves unexpectedly back in Tromsø in northern Norway and, confused by the shining light in the sky, headed to Arctic Escape’s “bloody dungeon” for the one game we hadn’t played last time.

The GM recognised us from a couple of months ago and we had a nice chat before she led us into the room – blindfolded this time! You’re told during the briefing that the team starts split up into two groups, so if you have a team of three as we did, have a think about who wants to be on their own to start with – though they’re not entirely isolated.

Theme

This is a serial killer’s workshop, and pretty believable in that respect if you’re willing to suspend disbelief. While billed as a scary room, there are no jump scares but the ambience fits the theme well and there aren’t any tongue-in-cheek elements.

Norway’s health and saftey rules must be a little less stringent than the UK’s because, although we were told how to get out in an emergency, there were a couple of sharp objects around and one thing in particular you wouldn’t want to get in your eye. Not too big a deal but I’d advise caution while rummaging through things.

Puzzles

This room had a really good flow to it, and we all came away from it feeling like we’d all been really on the ball this game. It was generally always clear what puzzle(s) needed to be solved and there weren’t too many loose ends around at any time, though enough to keep everyone occupied. There were some novel ideas for the puzzles, which tended towards getting codes for padlocks, but it didn’t feel tired for it. The creators also made good use of the two-cell starting positions, with some nice bits that required cooperation between members.

Hint system

Hints were via a screen that also showed the countdown timer. Our GM was well tuned to us by now, and clearly paying attention to us too. At one point we were discussing whether to ask for a hint and some text popped up on the screen saying she could give us a hint if we wanted but we were doing great for time. In the end we solved the puzzle shortly afterwards without a hint, but I think it takes some confidence and experience on the GM’s part to do that – imagine if we’d run out of time later!

The main other thing that appeared on the screen seemed to have been programmed in; depending on the state of the room it may have been non-obvious what effect taking a certain action had caused, and the message was just to look in a particular place if you hadn’t already noticed. Having played some rooms elsewhere where cause and effect has been difficult to determine, I think this was a good call.

Finale

No particular finale here, though during the briefing we’d been told what item the final puzzle involved, so we had a rough idea what we were working towards.

Debriefing

As with most other rooms outside the UK, payment is taken after the game, and there were no team photos, scoreboards or anything like that, just a nice chat with the GM! (Though I’m sure she would have taken a photo of us if we’d asked.) We didn’t have any questions about the room but based on past rooms here they have been happy to show us anything we had been stuck on.

Unfortunately they don’t have any new games in the works for the foreseeable future, but if you find yourself in Tromsø I would definitely book out their existing rooms.

#54: Arctic Escape (Tromsø) – The Backroom

Well executed both for theme and puzzles, The Backroom was a highly enjoyable game and while the theme wasn’t one I would naturally be drawn to, this didn’t detract from it being very enjoyable!

Rating:★★★ (Recommended)
Location:Tromsø
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:22 December 2019
Hints taken:3
Time:55m33s
URL:Arctic Escape

Front & Briefing

Our GM(s) from Carla’s Secret (#53) sat us down to watch the video introduction for The Backroom, a sequel to John Winter’s Office (#52), before leading us into the room. John Winter has been growing his empire, but a raid at the local bar hosting his illegal gambling has scared him and his associates away for an hour and you must collect the names of those associates before they return.

Theme

The room is atmospheric when you enter and a step up from the first John Winter room in terms of décor and immersion, and, size aside, feels like a real pub.

Puzzles

We missed quite an obvious thing to begin with that we took a clue for immediately, but after that everything flowed fairly well. There was a good mix of puzzles too, including one that I hadn’t come across anything like before (funnily enough, until the very next game I played elsewhere) which was really well executed and relied on a slightly different skill set to the usual escape room fare. It was difficult to fault any of the puzzles, in fact. Arctic Escape also solidified themselves in my mind, after Carla’s Room, as being expert hide-and-seekers with some great moments of inspiration leading to finding an item!

Hint system

As with the other two rooms we played, the GM cued us for hints rather than just dishing them out, except for the Very Obvious Thing we missed right at the start, which was a good judgement call. I think we took a couple of search hints, and one regarding a cultural difference between the UK and Norway which I should absolutely not have needed a hint for, oops!

Finale

No particular finale, but unlike other games where you’ve been collecting items from a list, the list of criminal names didn’t feel like we were just scrambling around for the last item forever, so it was much more satisfying.

Debriefing

We had a really nice chat with the GM and game designer afterwards, who had picked up that we were all experienced players and we exchanged notes about other rooms we’d played. It’s surprising that some venues can be internationally renowned, and at least I’d rated one of them as such here!

Unusually, there wasn’t a photo op for any of our games with Arctic Escape, though their Facebook page shows some group photos, so perhaps it was an oversight when we visited.

#53: Arctic Escape (Tromsø) – Carla’s Secret

A real joy to play, with great set design and a nice range of puzzles with enthusiastic GMs with a strong theme. This was my favourite of the three Arctic Escape games I played.

Rating:★★★★ (Highly recommended)
Location:Tromsø
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:22 December 2019
Hints taken:1
Time:Unknown (lost notes – about 55m)
URL:Arctic Escape

Front & Briefing

We had time to have a quick wander around Tromsø including the very nearby Tromsø Cathedral (the yellow wooden one, not the Arctic Cathedral across the bridge) before returning to “the world’s northernmost escape room” to play their most recent game, Carla’s Secret.

The GM mentioned that this game was made in response to their previous, scary, game, VX Snatcher (#57) (which we didn’t play because we’re not keen on scary games*) and was supposed to be the absolute opposite, and I’d say they pulled this off. A young girl called Carla has a friendly monster in her bedroom, and needs to persuade it to provide proof of its existence and that she’s not just imagining it.

[Edit: we played VX Snatcher later when our completionist streak kicked in. It was definitely a contrast!]

Theme

This is an absolutely beautiful escape room and a great example of how everyday items can be used to fashion a great game. Upon entering the room looks just like you’ve entered a 9-year-old girl’s room, and everything stays in keeping with this. It’s bright, colourful, and a generally fun place to hunt around for clues in.

Puzzles

We were the first group to play the room in English, and they’d done a great job at making any text clues bilingual. Despite the everyday setting, the puzzles were varied and creative, with plenty of nods to the sort of pop culture that would keep children entertained (and us adults too, for that matter) without requiring any outside knowledge, plus some rather fiendish ones that I felt pretty pleased with myself for figuring out.

Hint system

Hints were via a screen that also showed the countdown timer. We had agreed with the GM beforehand that we’d like to be asked before getting any hints, and found the “hint available” text appearing on the screen every so often a nice way of going about it. I think we took just one hint, for a search fail that the GM said afterwards was a commonly missed thing and they were considering moving. I hope they don’t, because it was by no means impossible and was a great kick-yourself moment when they point it out!

Finale

Given the theme we had certain expectations of what the ending might involve, and we weren’t left disappointed in this regard. The ending had us all grinning.

Debriefing

A quick debriefing this time but with both the staff GMs around. They’re clearly proud of this room (and their other most recent game, VX Snatcher) and their enthusiasm shows. They’d also managed re-arranged their schedule in order to get us into the final game of the night immediately rather than sending us out into the cold for an hour, which we very much appreciated, so we went straight into The Backroom (#54)!

#52: Arctic Escape (Tromsø) – John Winter’s Office

A well-designed room with smart puzzles and a good atmosphere created from off-the-shelf items.

Rating:★★★ (Recommended)
Location:Tromsø
Team:Rhubarb Rhubarb
Date:22 December 2019
Hints taken:3
Time:51m17s
URL:Arctic Escape

Front & Briefing

Arctic Escape claims to be the world’s northernmost escape room and deep into polar night with snow on the ground and streetlights on at 13:30 this was easy enough to believe! We were greeted by an enthusiastic GM and after a quick chat discussing how we wanted our hints, the briefing took the form of a video shown in the lobby before we were led to the room. In short, the aim was to find incriminating evidence of suspected criminal John Winter in his office before he returns in 60 minutes’ time.

Theme

The room was a pretty standard office theme with a couple of surprises, but executed to a high standard and with plenty of novel uses of off-the-shelf props.

Puzzles

A good mix, including some we hadn’t come across before, which is all the more impressive given the fairly standard theme and tech level of the room. I think everyone in the team came away with a favourite puzzle afterwards too.

Hint system

Hints were displayed in text on a screen that also showed the countdown timer. We had agreed with the GM beforehand that we’d like to be asked before getting any hints, and found the “hint available” text appearing on the screen with an audio cue every so often a nice way of going about it. We took 3 clues; one was a search fail, the other two were logic steps we hadn’t figured out but probably should have!

Finale

No finale to speak of, but it was clear when you’d finished because of finding the evidence mentioned in the briefing.

Debriefing

Seemingly commonly for rooms outside the UK we weren’t greeted by the GM until we got back to the front desk. They ran through any questions we had, then sent us on our way; we had our next room with them (Carla’s Secret (#53)) booked in 40 minutes’ time!

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