The reading of Dr. Mad’s will was a tragic event.
Location: New York City, New York (Traveling Game)
Date played: January 26, 2016
Team size: 6; we recommend 6
Price: $29.50 per ticket
Theme & story
Things started out well enough.
A charismatic and energetic man emerged on stage and explained to us:
“50 years have passed since the death of Dr. Mad, a physicist known as the greatest genius of the last century. Rumor has it that he uncovered the secret to human prosperity, but passed away before revealing it to the world. In accordance with his last wishes, his will was sealed for 50 years following his death. And now the time has come for it to be opened. Many mysterious clues lie hidden within, along with the following challenge —
‘Can you unravel the mystery of my life’s work?'”
The setup was clever, fun, and certainly had enough meat on it to sustain an hour long puzzle adventure.
With a quick look around the room I could tell that the game was set up in the same manner as other SCRAP mass events. I wasn’t titillated by the setup, but SCRAP’s last mass event, Escape From the Walled City, was a step in the right direction, so I had hope.
The clock started, we opened our packet of materials, and my hope died a swift death over the course of the following 15 minutes.
Wordy and tedious, the puzzles mostly felt like homework.
SCRAP always works in a few puzzles that are genuinely cool. That was true in Dr. Mad, but they were few and not everyone experienced them.
The rest was a grind.
The game had two rooms that we had to earn access to. Our gamemaster went out of his way to stress how observant we needed to be in those rooms and that there was an experiential component to them.
While we did need to be mildly observant to find a few things in each room, they were storage closets. When we actually attempted to search the room, we found an assortment of items belonging to the restaurant/club that was hosting the event.
There were puzzles; there was no environment.
When time ran out, we had about three puzzles remaining. However, we had actually guessed the final answer to the game about 20 minutes in.
And we wrote it on our answer sheet.
It was an actual cliché.
Later in the game we became confused and modified it by adding an additional word. We never would have counted it as a victory, but if Escape from the Werewolf Village had a deeply obtuse solution, The Crazy Last Will of Dr. Mad had the most painfully obvious one.
Back in June 2014, I wrote my very first escape game review on my personal blog. Having played quite a few games, I fell in love with them. Then I played one that I absolutely hated. That game was SCRAP’s mass escape game: Escape from the Werewolf Village.
To pull a quote from myself:
“My big concern is that there were people in that room who were doing a room escape for the first time and think that Escape from the Werewolf Village is representative of all room escapes. If this were my first, I am not sure I’d have gone to a second one.”
It’s now 2016 and pretty much everything I wrote about Escape from the Werewolf Village applies to The Crazy Last Will of Dr. Mad. However Dr. Mad was a worse experience because the escape game industry has evolved dramatically since those early days.
By playing escape games in six countries, I’ve learned that expectations shift from culture to culture.
I wonder if something is getting lost in translation from Japanese culture to American culture.
Should I play SCRAP’s The Crazy Last Will of Dr. Mad?
I have a deep reverence for what SCRAP has done for escape games in the United States. They produced the first escape game in the US. They have also created a few of the most memorable and incredible puzzle experiences I have ever experienced.
At the same time, their games are tedious to a fault and comically difficult (no one won). Their mass escape events are a poor ambassador for their permanent room escapes and the industry at large.
The Crazy Last Will of Dr. Mad was supposed to be a two night event, but they had to conglomerate the games due to poor ticket sales. Perhaps it is time for SCRAP to rethink their approach to the US market.
Full disclosure: SCRAP comped our tickets for this game.