Some pleasant surprises and lots of misdirection (some of it is misdirected).
Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario
Date played: May 16, 2015
Team size: 2-24; we recommend 5-8
Price: it’s complicated
Adventure Rooms Canada games’, as with all Adventure Rooms that we’ve encountered, don’t have plots. By virtue of the way it begins, and a couple of the puzzles, there is the faintest sense that you’ve been trapped in a room by a serial killer who likes to travel.
Bound to start
You begin this game handcuffed to the wall; it’s not scary.
The beginning of the game is a ton of fun, and a high point in The Missing Finger. In a weird way, being handcuffed creates an easier start by limiting options; you can only solve the puzzles that are within reach. It also forces communication in a way other starts do not.
Clever & unexpected
There are a number of clever and unexpected moments in this game. The second half of the game has so many great moments that caught us off guard because we thought we knew what was going to happen, and the reality was far cooler than what we anticipated.
These moments really make the game, and I can’t say more without spoiling it.
The Missing Finger is red herring heavy, especially in the first half of the game. We burned a lot of time just trying to sort the stuff that matters from the stuff that doesn’t.
A few of these misleading elements are so clever that we lost a lot of time on them because we were certain that they were relevant. I’m not fully opposed to red herrings, but I dislike games deriving their difficulty through obscuring the real puzzles with junk. I’m not a fan of misleading non-puzzles that make you feel clever only to pull the rug out from under you.
The Missing Finger teeters dangerously on the edge of too much obfuscation, but narrowly avoids that chasm.
Before the game began, our puzzlemaster (who was a really nice guy) made us sign an agreement. Most of it was your standard, “don’t be a destructive idiot… and you can’t sue us” boilerplate, but there was one piece that really rubbed me the wrong way: You must agree that if you hack or circumvent puzzles, you lose.
I asked how they defined “hacking a puzzle.” Our puzzlemaster explained that if we had a five digit combo lock, and we figured out four of the digits, spinning the disk for the last digit was considered hacking.
I took umbrage with that rule, and voiced my discontent. You can design a puzzle that can’t be “hacked” this way. Game designers shouldn’t need to cover the shortcomings of their work with rules.
Rules should keep players safe. Rules should protect the game space. Rules should not be used to add difficulty to a puzzle.
When you’re down to a one in ten guess at a last digit, spinning the wheel until the lock pops is not hacking.
Update – Adventure Rooms Canada’s owner has reached out to tell us that we were given the wrong definition of “hacking” when we played. She states that their rule is, “Having 4 out of 5 digits to a combo, if completed by doing the actual puzzle, is not a hack.” The rule is meant to prohibit wild guesses and physically breaking puzzles. Unfortunately this is not how we were introduced to the rule prior to our game, and we review the experience that we have.
Cross-game puzzle contamination
We’ve played three games with Adventure Rooms franchises: one in Niagara Falls, and two in Montclair, New Jersey. We saw three puzzles repeat between The Missing Finger and Penrose Dream.
This was a letdown, but it’s not a problem with The Missing Finger; it seems to be a risk of Adventure Rooms’ model of tossing puzzles into a room in one of their two dozen locations.
I hope this isn’t a repeating pattern.
Update – The owner of Adventure Rooms Canada insists that while puzzles repeat between Adventure Rooms franchises internationally, they do not repeat between Adventure Rooms Canada locations. This does not resolve the overall challenges that we found hopping over the border to play their game.
Should I play Adventure Rooms Canada, Niagara Falls’, The Missing Finger?
While I go into more detail on some of the things that fell short for me, this is a strong room with many great moments scattered throughout the game.
There’s a lot of original thinking and design in The Missing Finger. There was one big reveal in this game that left the whole team totally shocked (in a great way).
It’s a fairly linear game, and it’s heavy on misdirection, but it’s well worth playing.
It’s also worth noting that it is about a two minute walk from Escape Room Niagara Falls, so you can easily play both companies in one afternoon. We’ll be returning to Niagara Falls at the end of the summer, so we’ll play their games then.
One last thing… If you’re an American, don’t forget that you need a passport to cross the boarder into Canada… And you should expect your border guard to be aggressively baffled by the concept of an escape room.
Book your hour with Adventure Rooms Canada, Niagara Falls’, The Missing Finger and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.