Mastermind – Bank Heist [Review]

A puzzling withdrawal.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Date played: April 2, 2017

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket

Story & setting

Our notorious crime syndicate was robbing another bepuzzled bank.

Our goals were to steal as much money as we could within an hour and escape.

The set looked like a bank: a bland lobby and teller counter, along with a vault, which was absolutely the highlight of the set.

In-game: a closeup of a bank teller's window with the FDIC insurance sticker in the foreground.
Nothing says “cool” quite like an FDIC sticker.

Puzzles

The Bank Heist was tangled with puzzles and locks. There were plenty of puzzles to solve, but it wasn’t always clear what was a puzzle.

Additionally, once a puzzle had been solved, it wasn’t easy to determine where to input the solution as there were many similar input mechanisms.

Standouts

There was one well designed, dramatic moment.

One repeated interaction was lifted straight from banking hardware and protocol. This was a clever puzzle-esque design.

Something that originally seemed trivial, even out-of-place, turned out to be useful in a particularly satisfying way.

Shortcomings

There were a lot of numbers and all numbers led back to a lock. These locks were almost all identical. It was a lot of similar information to keep track of.

Much of the puzzling in Bank Heist was accessible before we’d derived all of the necessary cluing or components. Strategic puzzle-gating would save teams from spinning their wheels attempting to solve without complete information.

In one area, the puzzles weren’t well distributed across the space. We spent a lot of time tripping over each other in one small corner of a rather large set.

One critical piece of tech was worn and badly beat up. It needed refurbishment.

Bank Heist had a self-service, QR code-based hinting system that was immersion-breaking. Because the QR codes were beside input mechanisms, not puzzles, we had no idea which puzzle a clue would hint at.

We never understood whether it mattered how much money we stole in our heist.

Should I play Mastermind’s Bank Heist?

Bank Heist had a number of great and satisfying moments. It also had a lot of damaged props and weak use of space. It made nearly no effort to help clue players towards the correct input mechanism for solved puzzles.

This was a game that had promise, but was ultimately too choppy.

While there are a number of moments to enjoy, I think that beginners would find themselves pretty lost in Bank Heist and experienced players will be frustrated by its seemingly incomplete execution.

As I reflect back on the game, parts of it make me smile. Other aspects make me wish that Mastermind had seen this design all the way through to something special. It has the potential and I hope that they get there.

Book your hour with Mastermind’s Bank Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Mastermind provided media discounted tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “Mastermind – Bank Heist [Review]

  1. We did Mastermind here in Chicago (schaumburg) first we did Sorcerer’s Secret and we felt the same way. No guidance from the gamemaster, actually we had an Ipad that could scan QR codes to give clues, but they were general and unhelpful. We went back to try a different room Outbreak and had the same experience. This is the only room so far that I tell people to stay far away from!! Also when we tried to give feedback about faulty lock they brushed us off and actually tried to make us wrong. 😦 I LOVE your reviews, keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

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