This is how heists should be done
Can you crack the security system, dodge the CCTV, dismantle the vault and escape with the famous Diamond?
Choose your gang wisely though – one wrong move and the plan is foiled!
Just over a year ago, we visited Clue Cracker on the way home from a short escape room break in Kent, and had the absolute pleasure of playing one of the strongest prison-themed escape games we’ve come across, Jail Break. So when Diamond Dogs was announced in February, due to open April 2020, we immediately began trying to work out when we could make a trip to Tunbridge Wells.
Of course, we all know what happened next, and lockdowns, social distancing, and various restrictions meant that the trip was delayed quite substantially. While Clue Cracker did keep us busy throughout the spring with their play-at-home games (The Haunting of Harlequin House and Escape from Extinction Island are particular favourites of mine), they just aren’t quite the same as a live Clue Cracker experience, and with the opening of Temple Quest in early October, we decided to brave the outside world and make the journey south and play the two back-to-back. And so, buzzing from the brilliance that was Temple Quest, we made the short journey across the street to The Shuffle House to steal the Montgomery Diamond.
Covid Procedures: It is necessary to pass through the Shuffle House restaurant to get to the game, and masks were required in the restaurant and Clue Cracker’s reception area; once inside the game we were given the option of taking them off as Gord and I live together (our masks remained on at all times, however.) Hand sanitiser was readily available in the Shuffle House, the courtyard and inside the venue. Clue Cracker allows two hours between games for deep cleaning, and arrivals for Diamond Dogs and Prison Break are staggered, so although we saw customers in the Shuffle House on our way through, we did not come in contact with any other teams.
We met our GM, and one of the owners of Clue Cracker, Ben in the courtyard of the Shuffle House, and following a chat and a short health and safety briefing, we equipped ourselves for the job at hand, and were led up the steps where we were bundled into the back of a van, to receive further instructions from our driver, Dave, before being deposited in an alley behind the jewellery store we were about to rob.
Clue Cracker have an eye for the details, and it shows. Every aspect of the game, from the unexpected start straight though to the explosive conclusion as we tried to flee from the police with as much stolen loot as possible, was designed to immerse you in the story and surroundings; synchronising of our watches to keep track of time, flickering lights and the sounds of a storm outside, and even the flooring choices as we moved from the van, to the alley, and all the way to the vault made it just that much easier to get lost in the game and utilise all of my ill begotten (escape game) cat burgler skills. Theatrical touches throughout the game only made Diamond Dogs more exciting, particularly as we reached the climax, and the pace went from frenetic to frantic.
With the basic theme of Diamond Dogs being a heist, I didn’t expect much in the way of a story, but the game showed a clear progression as we moved from space to space, with a set that was totally on point, taking us on an unexpected adventure. Although Diamond Dogs felt relatively linear in places, there were points where the puzzle paths diverged, allowing us to tackle several different things at once – which given the volume of tasks necessary to complete for a successful heist is an excellent thing. Of course, don’t let the sheer amount of things to do put you off playing in a smaller team – we managed to steal not just the diamond, but also everything else in the vault with plenty of time to spare.
Diamond dogs used a combination of keys, codes, physical locks, and tech, which allowed for a wide variety of tasks and puzzles to make an appearance in the game. Logic, critical thinking, correlation, maths, observation, even a bit of physical skill, and of course, just a bit of searching, all come into play. Everything had a purpose, and the puzzles fit well into their surroundings. Even things I had initially written off as set dressing were more; let’s just say, it’s very fortunate for us that Gord is a bit more observant than I am.
The puzzles were incredibly fair, logical and well signposted. In fact, I think that the fact that the only thing that caused our game to lose any momentum was a search fail (and putting a rucksack in a stupid place), which speaks volumes to just how well thought out the puzzles are, both in terms of theming and fairness. A keen eye is definitely an asset in Diamond Dogs however, and spotting something subtle can be the difference between a really satisfying “ah-ha!” or wanting to kick yourself for being so clueless.
After we were released from the van, we didn’t really hear from Dave again, however our man on the inside, Sam (expertly portrayed by Ben), was more than just a GM, but rather an integral part of the team, keeping us up to date with how much time we had, alerting us to security, and giving a helping hand where needed.
We kept in touch with walkie-talkies, which felt completely appropriate for the theme, and allowed us to feel a bit more like criminals breaking into a jewellery store than anything else might have. Not only that, but Gord and I were each given our own walkie in a handy sling, so it wasn’t always down to me to admit defeat and ask for a clue, and there wasn’t a chance of me leaving the walkie somewhere and totally forgetting about it (unlike my torch).
I think most enthusiasts have favourite themes for games, as well as themes they don’t particularly love. After having played a number of similarly themed games that were just “okay,” one of my least-loved themes happens to be a heist. But Diamond Dogs has shown that it’s true you should never judge a book by its cover, proving that a heist game can be adrenaline-fuelled, immersive and exciting; full of twists and turns, inventive puzzles, and with a strong story. TL; DR – this game is fantastic.
Team: 2 players (escaped in 50 minutes with all the loot, at the time this was the current room record)
Address: Clue Cracker, 59 St Johns Road, TN4 9TT
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review