It’s not just about escaping
The Wexell Corporation has developed an artificial intelligence, designed to create bespoke escape rooms that adapt to the competency of the players in real time. This exciting technology of tomorrow is not yet ready for widespread use, but this is your opportunity to get a sneak peek and apply to Wexell to become a beta-tester. You will be tasked with testing the system to its limits and provide feedback about how to improve it for the future; that is, as long as nothing goes wrong in the process..
Great for escapers that want a little more immersive story and humour from their rooms. Also, fans of Portal!
Following our successful retrieval of the Phoenix Research and a short break in the reception room where we were treated to cookies, water, and a wonderful chat with Charlie, it was time to embark on our next job for the Wexell Corporation: testing EROS, the new artificial intelligence designed to create the next generation of Escape rooms.
We descended the stairs, and donned our lab coats to start our testing, but unfortunately, it became clear as a previous test subject came rushing from the room in a panic, that EROS had become a bit homicidal, and rather than testing her, we would be shutting her down. And with that we entered The Testing Chamber.
Deadlocked have created a solid hour of entertainment here, with the highlight being EROS herself. Apparently I was completely oblivious in 2007, so I’m afraid I don’t have much of a frame of reference for Portal, from which I gather the game took some inspiration. Even without these feelings of nostalgia, the game is enjoyable, but fans of Portal will most likely enjoy EROS and her wit even more than I did.
The Testing Chamber had a number of puzzles that were varied in style, yet managed to remain on theme, with most requiring teamwork and some out of the box thinking. I am a fan of games that require you to perform more physical tasks to achieve your goals, rather than solve for a combination, as I find them more immersive. Without a padlock in sight, it should be no surprise that of the two games available to play at Deadlocked’s Reading location, this was my favourite, given that the style of puzzles were much more my speed.
The most interesting part of the puzzles though was their evolution. At first, tasks followed the theme of standard escape room-esque puzzles as designed by EROS, but this smoothly flowed to the task of shutting the homicidal maniac down; an impressive thematic switch.
We did encounter issues with one aspect of the game, where the tech proved to be temperamental. In reality, there was nothing wrong with the technology, we just happened to find a glitch in the system. Charlie let us confirm this following our game, and on the bright side, no one else should encounter this problem again, as Deadlocked will be creating a bespoke clue based solely on our idiocy!
Arguably, the set here was relatively simple: We entered the room and encountered a stark, clinical space, that at first seemed completely empty. The only thing in the room was the glowing red ‘eye’ of EROS and a structural pillar. Of course, as the game progressed we discovered some hidden secrets that were a delightful surprise, but the real gem of the game was the narrative.
While some of the set was a bit worn down in places, and showing a fair amount of wear and tear (we were able to simply bypass one fairly major puzzle early on, as we were able to see something that perhaps otherwise should have been hidden.), this didn’t affect how involved we felt in the story, thanks to EROS and her counterpart, Asimov, and the strong narrative of the game, driving you forward on your journey. The commentary throughout from the dueling AI systems provided quite a few laughs, particularly as they interacted with the players within the room, and the choices made by the team.
One thing I feel that is underappreciated by the escape room industry is how much the ambiance, and therefore the soundtrack, can either add, or detract from a game. The Testing Chamber had a very atmospheric soundtrack that worked alongside EROS and Asimov to further immerse you in the story.
Deadlocked pride themselves in the immersive nature of the game, and as such, the clue system and timer are fully integrated in the narrative of the story. Though she is intent on stopping you from shutting her down, EROS herself may provide clever little clues about how to do exactly what she doesn’t want you to, and also how much time you have left to do it; alongside EROS, there was a secondary AI system, Asimov, that was a bit less homicidal, and happy to offer guidance should you need it.
Outright clues were few and far between, as Deadlocked believe that needing to ask for a hint completely derails the feeling of immersion (something I wholeheartedly agree with), and so clues were more subtle nudges cleverly worked into the dialogue between the two AI systems. Charlie trod the line perfectly between allowing too many clues, and just enough help whenever we looked to be stuck, and I never once felt as though we had received nudges that weren’t required.
Like in the Phoenix Research, the decisions you make in the Testing Chamber will affect the outcome of the game, and every player will have a different experience. There are no less than four ways your game could end, depending entirely on the choices made by the players, which could cause many to have a love/hate relationship with this room, and some might find that the existential dilemma created for them by the room is perhaps the most difficult aspect.
Team: Five players – escaped in 40:12
Address: 122 Castle Hill, Reading RG1 7RG