Is this a dream (game)?
Dr. Lucy Dee set about attempting to conquer the art of lucid dreaming. She has become lost in her own dreamscape and we have asked you, and your esteemed colleagues, to unravel her troubles and step into her shoes… or should we say head?Your team must navigate through her dreams to unlock and find the DreamKeys to help recover Lucy from The Void.
You tune into her brainwaves and enter freefall, the world around you has morphed into view. All has become random and uncontrollable, will you rescue Lucy from her thoughts so she is able to finish her milestone research?
It’s time for a nap of epic proportions.
We’ve been to Nottingham thrice now, but on our first two visits, we seemed to miss out on Cryptology. In our defence, on our last visit earlier this year in May, it wasn’t by choice, as the venue hadn’t reopened post-lockdown until the week following our visit. Fortunately, it wasn’t going to be another two years before we visited Nottingham again. Oh no, for we had planned to make the trek northwards for M.E.R.K.I.N. just a few short months later in early September. (Yes, they really named it that. It’s an acronym for Midlands Escape Room Knee’s-up In Nottingham, and if you don’t know what it is, I highly suggest you avoid Google. Just… don’t.)
With the date for M.E.R.K.I.N. set, we decided to make a weekend of it to rectify the mistake of missing out on Cryptology in visits past and devoted an entire day to playing all four games at the venue, Cypherdene, Rameseize, Dreamscape, and Daylight Robbery, and enjoying the culinary delights of Nottingham. We arrived in the city bright and early on a Saturday morning, feeling a little sleepy thanks to our early morning, so it’s a good thing the first game on the agenda was all about sleep dreams.
Cryptology is conveniently located in the city centre (just a short walk from any of the other Nottingham venues, for anyone planning an extreme escape day in Nottingham), and upon our arrival, we were ushered into the lovely cinema-style reception area to have a chat with Mark (the owner) and our GM Sam, who I have to say was looking a bit like he was ready to just go straight back to dreamland in his cosy dressing gown. Eventually, though, we had to leave the amazingly comfy seats to make our way up two flights of stairs to Dr. Lucy’s sleep lab, ready to save the day. (Or at least, try.) Sam stopped us outside the door to ensure we were fully aware of any important health and safety points, then ushered us inside to further explain what we were there to do.
Covid-19 Precautions: Cryptology are taking customer’s safety seriously and are still participating in NHS Track and Trace. They also request that everyone, staff and customers, continue to wear masks in common areas, and hand sanitiser stations are plentiful throughout the venue. The games also undergo a thorough clean between teams, and game times are staggered to avoid cross over of teams in common areas.
When you make a game about dreams, the only limit is the designer’s imagination. I think it’s better to not describe each dream in detail, and let players discover these for themselves, but I will say that they ranged from the familiar to the abstract, and plenty of the dreamscapes were filled with delightful moments of whimsy. Each space we encountered was lovingly crafted, and there were no bounds to the creativity and variety that flowed through each.
Dreamscape is a little different to a standard escape room in that it is designed so that it is possible to successfully complete the game without actually solving all of the puzzles. The game consists of five separate areas in which players are presented with a series of totally non-linear puzzle tracks within each one. Solving a puzzle will reward players with a dream key, but the kicker is, you only get 12 minutes in each dream. Once your time is up, you’re whisked off to the next section. The dream keys you collect along the way will assist in waking Dr Lucy once you find her. If you don’t collect any, or only manage a few, it’s still totally possible to wake Dr Lucy and successfully escape her dreams, it’s just really hard.
Because Dreamscape doesn’t follow the traditional structure of an escape room, Cryptology highly recommend that you do not make this your very first ever escape room, or attempt this the first time you ever decide to play as a team of two, and we definitely agree! If you’ve played a few, you’ll probably be fine, but new players could quite easily find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated. This design choice means that each section of the game is entirely open and the entire game has a pace that borders on frantic as players practically sprint* from puzzle to puzzle, and dream to dream, accompanied by an enjoyable soundtrack to boost the pace even further.
*Please do not actually sprint, it’s just an expression.
Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles! Dreamscape is completely rammed with things to do, with five Dream Keys to recover in every dream you encounter, and each of these hidden away behind a puzzle. And then, of course, there’s the final challenge of waking Dr Lucy! Unlike in a traditional escape room, you don’t actually need to solve every single thing you encounter in order to successfully complete the game, but the more things you complete in each dream, the easier your final challenge will be. To date, I think only one team has ever actually managed to collect all 20 Dream Keys. We only managed to retrieve 13, and I’m rather impressed with that, especially as a team of two.
With the sheer volume of puzzles on offer, I can quite confidently say that there is likely to be at least one puzzle to suit anyone and everyone in the team. The puzzles were incredibly varied and encompassed everything you can think of, with tasks that included maths, logic, colours, physical challenges, memory tests, brainteasers, observation, audio, and even minor search elements. In fact, there were so many, that I am sure I’ve overlooked a few.
Ordinarily, a game with the variety of puzzles on offer might find that the tasks don’t actually fit into the theme of the game (i.e. Why is there almost always a complex mathematical equation in the sewer system of a prison break game?) but with what was essentially five mini escape rooms within one bigger game, the puzzles within each Dreamscape fit in perfectly. We also encountered a couple of tasks that we never would have thought should fit into an escape room, but thanks to the dreams, they did!
Our GM, Sam, greeted us in character as one of Dr. Lucy’s assistants and remained in character through to the end. Although, I have to admit I was rather jealous of just how comfy and cosy he looked in his jim-jams (this was after all, a sleep lab.) Sam was an attentive GM, chiming in where needed to avoid frustration.
Truth be told, however, as a team of two, we were unlikely to ever be able to solve everything, so with the nature of the game, we didn’t really need much help – if we weren’t getting something, we simply moved on until we found something that we did click with, and when our 12 minutes was up, we had no option but to move on. But once or twice, we were so close to solving a puzzle but weren’t quite getting it. At those points, we were given subtle nudges back in the right direction, and these came through as audio clues over a speaker system. Sometimes these clues seemed to be Dr Lucy’s memories, and other times, they were Sam chiming in with a more targeted hint.
If you’re planning a trip to Nottingham, be sure to include Cryptology! Dreamscape is totally unique, a total blast, and absolutely rammed full of things to do. It is a perfect game for teams that are looking for a challenge to test their brainpower.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 53 minutes (with 13 dream keys)
Address:107 Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham