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.

Archimedes Inspiration – Project Delta [Review]

Recursion

Location:  London, England

Date Played: May 5, 2019

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

Duration: 100 minutes

Price: £35 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Project Delta was a 100-minute sci-fi mystery that took risks in service of storytelling. We wholeheartedly recommend it to players who are looking to explore a narrative-driven world. Archimedes Inspiration is one of the few companies that seems really committed to conveying story through gameplay.

In-game: a glowing sci-fi computer in a spaceship.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

That said, when pushing out to the frontiers of storytelling through immersive gameplay, there are common pitfalls. In Project Delta, these primarily stemmed from editing.

There were puzzles that would have been more entertaining if the interactions had been streamlined: more grappling with the concept and less fighting with the input mechanisms.

Project Delta told the most detailed and nuanced story that we have encountered in our escape room careers to date. It felt like too much to take in through the gameplay, necessitating an extensive debrief at the end.

These are the kinds of problems that creators encounter when they push boundaries, so they aren’t the “bad kind of problems” to have in escape room design. They are lessons to learn from.

Absolutely go play Project Delta. Pay close attention. Know that the gaps will be filled in at the end.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • An ambitious story
  • Some great puzzles
  • Surprising interactions and twists

Story

As new recruits for Rainbow Galactic, we had boarded our spaceship and set off on our first mission: Project Delta. Our goal was to run a series of experiments with the aim of improving upon the human race.

Our mission seemed straightforward until we learned that our employers had been far from truthful.

Setting

Archimedes Inspiration transported us to a spaceship for experimentation. The set was distinctly homemade. Some elements looked quite detailed; other aspects looked like present-day household furniture painted to match the color of the ship.

For the most part, it looked good enough to maintain the illusion. Every once in a while, something jumped out as being out of place.

In-game: Illuminated displays in a spaceship.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

Gameplay

Archimedes Inspiration’s Project Delta was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty, and a lengthy, nuanced story.

Gameplay was almost entirely linear.

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

Analysis

Project Delta took us through a series of solid puzzles with distinctive inputs. We enjoyed the varied puzzles and the many unusual input mechanisms.

➕ Archimedes Inspiration included some challenging layered puzzles. We especially appreciated how puzzle nuances were justified in the narrative and the game world.

➖ With involved layered puzzles, when a solution was incorrect, it could take a long time to uncover the error. Additional feedback would make some of these puzzles more approachable for a timed escape game. Sometimes they started to drag.

➕ In Project Delta, we built mastery of concepts that then recurred… with a twist.

➖ There was a lot of required reading aboard the spaceship.

➕ Archimedes Inspiration used their space creatively to support their narrative. While the decor was minimal at times, it was used thoughtfully to illustrate important story beats.

➕ /➖ Archimedes Inspiration attempted to tell a complex story through gameplay in Project Delta. The story was interesting and inventive. We picked up on pieces of it through the gameplay, which was neat. Some of the key story beats, however, weren’t communicated clearly enough through gameplay. When Project Delta “told” us rather than “showed” us the narrative, it became tedious and a bit annoying to follow.

➖ Archimedes Inspiration was eager to tell us the story after our escape and we were eager to understand it. This rehashing of our playthough, however, felt as though we were in school, being quizzed. This was a rough way to end an entertaining and engaging experience.

Tips For Visiting

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

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