Archimedes Inspiration – MAD [Review]

Brain Breaker

Location:  London, England

Date Played: May 5, 2019

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: £30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Previously known as Kill M.A.D., Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD wrapped an escape room around an award-winning short film. To our surprise, it worked.

If you had asked us going in, “Do you think that building an escape room around a short film is a good idea?” we’d have been pretty dubious of the concept… and still kind of are. However, Archimedes Inspiration picked the right film and found a clever way to essentially turn it into a compelling and justified cutscene.

It was worth playing MAD to see how Archimedes Inspiration pulled this off. We especially recommend it for players looking for something different.

In-game: The hallway of an asylum with patient clothes hanging from hooks on the wall.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

Now, as with Project Delta, this attempt at deep storytelling through gameplay stumbled in places. In the case of MAD there were two bigger issues that we found. The initial two thirds of the game were pretty standard escape room fare. The execution was fine, but nothing special, which was juxtaposed strangely against the interesting ending.

Additionally Archimedes Inspiration used a fairly recent real-life disaster as a plot point, which put an unnecessary social burden on this escape room.

Those challenges aside, MAD was worth playing for all of the things that it did differently. It was exciting to see the climax come together. That’s the memory I’ll keep from this game. If you’re interested in storytelling and don’t mind that the game is set in an asylum and pulls from a disaster in living memory, then MAD is worth your time, energy, and thought.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The strange and twisted story
  • Strong integration of an award-winning short film
  • A memorable ending

Story

Strange and terrible things were happening at Sally Star King Hospital. We entered this psychiatric institution to investigate unusual reports about its staff and patients. What we found was twisted…

Setting

MAD’s staging wasn’t fancy, but it was atmospheric. Archimedes Inspiration used each location that we visited within the hospital to convey something about the characters. It was spooky.

In-game: The hallway of an asylum with patient clothes hanging from hooks on the wall with the lights turned down.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

Gameplay

Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

In the end, we had to truly understand and internalize the story to earn the “optimal” conclusion.

Analysis

MAD’s story featured the 1993 sinking of the MS Estonia in the Baltic Sea. This was the second deadliest sinking of a European ship, claiming 852 lives (the deadliest being the Titanic). If the use of a real disaster from living memory is going to present a problem for you, then you should skip this game.

➖ We were unfamiliar with the MS Estonia going in. (I have a vague memory of it from when it happened.) Archimedes Inspiration’s website should disclose this aspect of the game. I’m not really sure what the MS Estonia added to MAD. If they had swapped in a made-up disaster, it would not have substantively harmed the game. It might have improved it by eliminating this whole discussion.

❓ While this escape room presents puzzles, it was more about the characters than the gameplay.

➕ Each environment within MAD conveyed something about the characters. The spaces were dreamily, yet eerily themed. It worked well.

➕/➖ Throughout most of the experience, the puzzles were good, but not particularly interesting or exciting. They worked pretty well. With the exception of the final puzzle, however, they weren’t memorable.

➖ One puzzle required us to coordinate an effort against really tight tolerances and some finicky tech. This was the low point of the game.

➕ Archimedes Inspiration incorporated an award-winning short film into the narrative and gameplay of this escape room. This was unusual and strangely captivating.

➕ The final sequence was beautifully lit and delivered a satisfying culminating reveal.

❓ At its core, MAD was a giant deduction puzzle. Our experience through the sets, puzzles, and gameplay would help us execute a final cerebral puzzle. There was no “correct” answer, but there was an “optimal” solution. This was an unusual approach to game design. We imagine that some folks will appreciate this approach to narrative and interpretation more than others.

Tips For Visiting

  • Take public transit to Bermondsey Station on the Jubilee Line.

Book your hour with Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Archimedes Inspiration provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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