Dead on arrival
Location: Québec City, Québec, Canada
Date Played: October 22, 2022
Team size: up to 4; we recommend 4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $30.44 CAD per player
Game Breakage: One prop had a damaged button that caused confusion.
Accessibility Consideration: At least one player must be reasonably agile and at least one player needs to crawl.
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Prepare for tragedy.
“Dead” Zone opened up with so much potential. Then its high energy onboarding gave way to frustrating and tedious gameplay.
À Double Tour front-loaded a lot of uninteresting gameplay while more compelling interactions waited in the wings, taunting us. We spent a lot of this game in the dark, sharing one dim flashlight, as we slogged through wearisome puzzles and struggled to find visual clues.
The tragedy is that “Dead” Zone had a lot going for it, but misstepped where it could have shined. For example, it had a fantastic reveal and some outstanding set design, but we spent most of the time in a dim, uninteresting set. It also offered some pretty neat late-game interactions, and all players can see from the onset that these will eventually be relevant, but many teams run out of time before engaging with them.
“Dead” Zone’s difficulty was the most extreme representation of a trend that we saw throughout many escape room companies in Québec City: self-destructive difficulty. In this case, we had a truly cool set, story, and some amazing moments… and instead of creating heart-pounding gameplay, we were given slow, grind-y, and under-clued puzzles. Difficulty for the sake of difficulty. And all of this was made more irritating by the total absence of any game clock. (We were also made to leave behind our own timekeeping devices.) We lost this game… badly. If we’d had another 10 minutes, we might have won… but we probably needed more time than that.
“Dead” Zone was more frustrating than fun, but it doesn’t have to be. It has the components it needs to be a tense, high-energy, invigorating heist. We hope À Double Tour considers some modifications to the game flow in order to deliver on this promise. This could and should be a top-tier escape game. All of the bones are there.
Who is this for?
- Adventure seekers
- Puzzle lovers
- Thriller fans
- Best for players with at least some experience
- Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
- To “yes and” the in-character gamemaster
- A tense and exciting reveal
We’d met an informant who would give us access to the research facilities of the Enigma Corporation, responsible for creating a virus that started a deadly pandemic. We sought a hard drive that would incriminate them. We didn’t know what other horrors we might encounter within.
The majority of “Dead” Zone took place in a large, grim, dimly lit room. Along the walls, there were a few bigger props. The set was both deliberately weathered and just plain worn out.
We encountered some other spaces beyond this one, some with more impressive scenic design, but we spent barely any time anywhere apart from this grim room.
À Double Tour’s “Dead” Zone was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.
➕ “Dead” Zone had a fun, dynamic opening sequence. From the moment our in-character gamemaster greeted us in the lobby, through the first challenge, everything was high energy. Although we’d seen this challenge plenty of times before, it was a strong implementation that worked well in this scenario.
➕ Our performative gamemaster was a highlight. They walked a fine line incorporating silliness in a serious mission. We said “yes and” and had a good time with them. Furthermore, they were performing in a second language.
➖ After the opening sequence, we spent a lot of time in the dark with a single “just barely ok” flashlight for the entire team. This segment required visual solving.
➖ In our pre-game briefing we’d received explicit instructions as to which inputs mattered during this prolonged, dark segment. The relevant interactions were not the interesting ones. However, there was one relevant input that wasn’t mentioned, and we wasted a lot of time ignoring it, per the instructions.
➖ The most interesting set pieces were irrelevant for the first half of the experience. When we finally interacted with them, we found that one had a broken button and peeling labels.
➕ À Double Tour built tension with the reveal that opened up the majority of the set. It was visually arresting.
➖ Unfortunately, this striking area of the set was underutilized. We spent almost no time in this (well-lit!) portion of the set. Furthermore after the initial shock at uncovering this set, the whole gamespace quickly became familiar and we were no longer on edge moving through it. It ceased to be intimidating.
➖ “Dead” Zone lacked clue structure to link puzzles to inputs.
➕/➖ One puzzled solved elegantly, and clearly mapped to an input. Unfortunately, it was neither tangible nor accessible to multiple teammates, given its location in a cramped physical space.
➖ In this heist scenario with a low success rate, a clock would have been an opportunity to heighten suspense. The lack of a clock was immersion-breaking.
➕ The soundtrack kept us on edge. It augmented the experience.
Tips For Visiting
- We enjoyed dinner nearby at Le Clocher Penché.
- This game is fully playable in English.
Book your hour with À Double Tour’s “Dead” Zone, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: À Double Tour comped our tickets for this game.