Cringe & Cringier
Location: Crawley, England
Date Played: January 9, 2023
Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: from £64 per team of 2 to £161 per team of 7
Accessibility Consideration: There are stairs up to the game, but not within the experience.
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Southern Dis-Comfort was a brave game. It takes a courage that I do not have to build a 60-minute experience mocking a culture that you don’t understand.
The United States is a big country, and outsiders tend to conflate a number of our different regions and subcultures. Southern Dis-Comfort demonstrated the same comprehension of cultural nuance as a British Lord inventing national borders in the Middle East.
There were 3 thoughts that kept running through my mind while playing Southern Dis-Comfort:
- West Virginia has a unique culture.
- Hillbillies and rednecks aren’t really the same thing.
- Redneck doesn’t necessarily mean dumb.
I want to be clear. I wasn’t offended by this game; I’m from New York. But I did find the whole experience cringey because there was a way to tell this story and make it funny, but to do that you have to do your homework… and even still, it would be a brave thing to do.
Setting aside the whole story… Southern Dis-Comfort was a fine escape room. It looked good, played well, and had some solid interaction design. The finale fell a bit flat for us, but overall it was a well-constructed escape game.
Who is this for?
- Puzzle lovers
- Scenery snobs
- Any experience level
- Enjoyable puzzles
- Standout sequence that flowed into a fun reveal
- It’s funny if you can get past some of it missing the mark.
We wanted the moonshine from a rival redneck gang. This was our moment to steal West Virginia’s finest without getting caught.
The initial set was especially compelling. It included 2 spaces: garage and bathroom. The nods to red neck engineering were especially fun. As we got deeper into the game, the sets became less detailed.
Hounds’ Southern Dis-Comfort was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and solving puzzles.
➖ There was a lot of windup. First we were introduced to the game downstairs in the bar. Then our in-character gamemaster gave a lengthy introduction outside of the game. Finally, when we entered the escape room, we had to watch a video… which culminated in a countdown. It felt like we spent more time getting ready for this game than playing it.
➕/➖ “Discomfort” is in the name of the game, so in that regard, it hit the mark. Our gamemaster was fully committed to their character. From their costume to their accent to their interactions with us, they embodied a character from this place with enthusiasm for our mission.. and skepticism. If you love cringey humor, you might really enjoy this character. We felt the role took some bits too far. It was more uncomfortable than we would have liked.
➕ The split-team start worked well. Intimate knowledge of these initial sets led to some fun realizations later in the experience.
➕ The sets looked great and were well built. The opening sets were especially detailed. A lot of love and care went into the world of this experience.
➖ In once instance, a set piece was coming apart, which turned into a bit of a red herring.
➖ A few of the puzzles needed refinement. One puzzle lacked cluing. Another felt like it had been simplified.
➕ We loved how Hounds translated a red neck engineering cliche into a puzzle.
➖ Hounds missed the mark in a few thematic areas. For instance, the music felt all wrong.
➕ Two fun moments, augmented by effects, enhanced the second act. These were stellar sequences from the puzzles through to the reveals.
❓ Southern Dis-Comfort blended a lot of tropes into a strange portrayal of American rednecks. It felt like an outsider with some knowledge of different cultures from around the US homogenized them all into a weird stereotyping. We aren’t sure how many Americans play this game, and we certainly don’t speak for all Americans, but our group (half from the Northeast and half from the Midwest… so, not the butt of the jokes) didn’t feel entirely on board with the theming. Your mileage may vary.
Tips For Visiting
- Check in at the Kennel Klub speakeasy style mini-bar at the Hounds venue.
- There is plenty of parking nearby.
Book your hour with Hounds’ Southern Dis-Comfort, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Hounds provided media discounted tickets for this game.
Well, we need more comedy in the escape room genre but it had better hit the mark or there will be collateral damage. It is safer to miss with Corny stuff than Cringey stuff. Either way, as David points out…….Comedy takes b_lls.