Big Break Hamburg – Under Quarantine [Hivemind Review]

Under Quarantine is a digital puzzle game created by Big Break Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany.

Sketch of a mermaid.

Style of Play: Light puzzle hunt with audio storytelling

Required Equipment: a computer with internet connection and a phone that can make a call to Germany;

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: about 60 minutes

Price: €10 … and with your purchase, you also get a €10 voucher for one of their real-life escape rooms when they reopen.

Booking: Click to purchase and play over the next few days

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

An audio player over an image of smoke.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This was a standard linear puzzle hunt enhanced by solid graphics, audio storytelling, and an approximation of “searching” via hovering over hotspots. The puzzles themselves were neither frustrating nor exceptional. I actually expected the game to end a couple of puzzles before it did, which means both that the story could reiterate expectations more clearly but also that you get more puzzling for your money. Ultimately, the approachability of the puzzles and the solid production quality make this a reasonable entryway game for players new to this format.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.
  • + Puzzles were varied and generally entertaining, though quite easy
  • +/- Used a few interactions beyond the web site, but didn’t take full advantage of them
  • + Graphics were attractive and clear
  • – Audio clips were presented between most puzzles, but on an otherwise mostly empty screen. Clicking to go to the puzzle stopped the audio.
  • +/- Audio production was atmospheric and enjoyable, but the audio was not part of the puzzles. Listening to the audio often took longer than solving the puzzle.
  • +/- A storyline progressed as we solved puzzles, and the puzzle graphics were themed to the story, but most puzzles did not arise from the story.
  • – Answer entry format is unforgiving and must be in upper case
Sketch of a flower.

Michelle Calabro’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

The premise of the game is intriguing and that’s why I decided to play. I was disappointed to see that the narrative makes less sense as you progress through gameplay. Another disappointment was the fact that fewer than half of the puzzles were relevant to the theme. There were a few lovely interactions, but they weren’t paired with equally lovely aesthetics, narrative, and game mechanics. When you’ve played a certain number of puzzle games, it becomes harder to impress you. For some people that means they need harder puzzles, or more extensive sensory immersion, or more unusual interactions. For me, it means creating a compelling premise that evolves through an elegant intertwining of mechanics and narrative. In my opinion, this game needs a bit more development before it can reach that point.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Under Quarantine is a browser-based game with a decent amount of puzzles, which are all very reminiscent of classic escape rooms. After each puzzle, the game plays an audio clip to advance the story. I felt compelled to listen to every clip, but they would sometimes drag down the excitement after a successful solve. There were a couple of small unexpected interactions that I enjoyed. On the whole, it was a fairly inexpensive, low-key fun way to spend an hour, but does not really replicate the joy of playing with friends in an actual or remote escape room.

Format Description

Under Quarantine is a sequential set of self-contained puzzles. To progress, you enter a code for each puzzle, and you are rewarded with an audio snippet that advances the story. Then you receive the next puzzle.

Big Break Hamburg – Time Travel [Review]

Climb and crawl through time

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 10, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 75 € per Group for teams of 2 to 154 € per Group for teams of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As with Insomnia, Big Break Hamburg picked another brilliant theme in Time Travel. By having us traverse a broken space-time continuum, each new space was a completely different place, any of which could have been the setting for an entire escape room. (In fact, each setting in Time Travel was a theme for an escape room that we’ve played elsewhere).

Time Travel’s sets were solid. Its puzzles were strong. It played well from start to finish. This was a truly enjoyable escape room that just needed a memorable moment to pull the plot together and deliver something impactful.

In-game: The interior of a heavy metal vault door. Large gears and a locking bolt in view.

All-in-all, Big Break Hamburg is a company worth visiting if you’re in the region. I suggest playing both Time Travel and Insomnia. If you only have time for one, Time Travel played more cleanly, but Insomnia was a bit more memorable.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Diverse settings
  • Solid puzzling

Story

Many had attempted time travel, but no one had succeeded until Professor Emmerson did. Initially there were celebrations of the incredible accomplishment, until things started changing.

Emmerson had accidentally made minor changes to the timeline that reverberated throughout history. At first the timeline alterations were small. Then as the chaos spread, the changes to the timeline became catastrophic.

We had to repair the timeline before we all disappeared.

In-game: A wall of newspaper clippings, the NY Times piece about Apollo 11 in focus.

Setting

Time Travel opened up in a steampunk-esque time machine, which we used to travel through space and time. Each subsequent set took us to a different locale. Each location could have been its own escape room.

In-game: A strange metal device made from an assortment of objects.

Gameplay

Big Break Hamburg’s Time Travel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A wall of clocks.

Analysis

➕ The steampunk aesthetic of the first set was a strong opening location. There was a lot going on, but the set never felt red herring-y. Rather, it delivered the appropriate time-travel vibes.

➕ The sets each looked and felt distinct. For the most part, they were detailed and polished. Each was an unexpected and welcome next hop through time.

➖ The final set felt sparse. It was too large for the amount of interaction and not quite refined enough to pull off that look.

➕ We enjoyed a few key props, each in a different scene.

➕ Big Break used the layout of the gamespace to facilitate adventurous movement through space and time.

➕ Big Break Hamburg crafted substantial layered puzzles. These were well clued and fun to solve.

➖ While most of the puzzles worked well, there were a couple where the cluing could have used a touch of refinement.

Time Travel didn’t take itself too seriously. In the last scene, we got a laugh out of the goofy and political pop culture jokes.

➖ The “save the world” premise felt bolted onto a set-hopping puzzle game. Time Travel had a story, but it wasn’t a narrative-driven adventure. Although this worked from a gameplay standpoint, we felt it didn’t quite deliver on its ambitions.

➕ Big Break Hamburg hid Easter eggs in the escape room. Ask about these at the end of your play-through!

Tips For Visiting

  • This game involves some crawling and a little climbing.

Book your hour with Big Break Hamburg’s Time Travel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Big Break Hamburg comped our tickets for this game.

Big Break Hamburg – Insomnia [Review]

High stakes therapy

Location:  Hamburg, Germany

Date Played: May 10, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from 75 € per Group for teams of 2 to 144 € per Group for teams of 6

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Big Break Hamburg had us drift off into a dream world for Insomnia. Conceptually dreams are one of our favorite escape room settings because they allow the designers to justify a lot more than a setting in normal reality… and Big Break Hamburg took advantage of this freedom.

Insomnia had a number of otherworldly sights and moments that really stuck with us.

While there were a few interactions that could have used a little more grounding or better cluing, this was a great game. If you’re in Hamburg, you should confront Insomnia.

In-game: a red heart beating in a sea of blood.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Dreamers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • A fantastic concept
  • Some great moments

Story

I’d been suffering from insomnia and it was becoming maddening. One sleepless night, I had found an article about an experimental cure for insomnia.

The strange treatment required gathering my friends and having their consciousness enter my dreams so that we could conquer my inner demons.

This procedure came with a catch… if the group successfully defeated my inner demons, I would be cured. If we failed… all of our minds would be lost in my dream.

In-game: A glowing rotary phone ad the foot of a bed.

Setting

Insomnia was set inside of an eerie (not scary) dream world. Centered around a strange tree growing in a bedroom, the dream justified the presence of just about any imaginable object and Big Break Hamburg took advantage of the opportunity.

In-game: a large tree growing out of the wall with a strange hole in it.

Gameplay

Big Break Hamburg’s Insomnia was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ We entered Insomnia just as one usually enters a dream world. This was an amusing and enjoyable opening.

➕ The dream world scenario afforded Big Break Hamburg the luxury of randomness. It can be challenging to pull together unconnected objects into a cohesive puzzle experience. For the most part, they pulled it off. Because of it, we got the opportunity to engage with a shocking prop or two.

➖ Since anything was possible in a dream, we couldn’t necessarily intuit cause and effect. Sound or light clues would help players follow the dream world connections.

➖ Big Break Hamburg introduced a concept that flipped our assumptions. It was nifty, but not entirely consistent, which became confusing.

➖ A few of the puzzles didn’t flow quite smoothly enough, including some momentum-killing search puzzles. A bit of additional gating could add more energy to the escape.

Insomnia included some of our all-time favorite light switches. Through these, the game blossomed and then hit full swing.

➕ Big Break Hamburg hid Easter eggs in the escape room. Ask about these at the end of your playthrough!

➕ There were a number of memorable moments that really stuck with us. This game was weird in a great way.

Tips For Visiting

  • At least one person needs to crawl.

Book your hour with Big Break Hamburg’s Insomnia, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Big Break Hamburg comped our tickets for this game.