90 minutes of Apocalyptic fun!
A world ending virus. One chance remains. Succeed or die
Doomsday Scenario: Pathogen
The year is 2035. Humankind is on the brink of destruction from a deadly pathogen. The world as we know it was wiped out in a matter of months, leaving the global population at just under 20% of its pre-outbreak state, and the infection rate is rising rapidly. Humanity is about to disappear… forever.
The last remnants of society have worked tirelessly to trace the spread of the infection. All signs point to an inconspicuous rural location. All previous attempts to gain further information have failed, leading us to believe that the site is most likely contaminated.
Despite these setbacks we still need someone to investigate the site; the mission is too important to give up now. Any attempts to enter the area will certainly lead to exposure and the disease takes hold quickly, which means you won’t have long. The human race is on the edge of extinction… People are dying… You are our last hope.
On Halloween we decided to avoid the trick-or-treaters, so rather than our usual activity of hiding in the flat with horror movies we made our way to Colchester for Pathogen. We’ve heard nothing but good things about this game, and I was looking forward to spending the evening saving humanity. It’s a bit of a trek from the centre of town out to the venue, but thankfully not too far; it is walking distance, but unless you’re looking to get some extra exercise, I expect most people would prefer to drive/take a taxi. In our confirmation email, we were asked to wait in the main lobby area of the building, and someone would collect us. I’m still not entirely certain how Simon knew we had arrived, as we were a bit ahead of schedule, but a few minutes after our arrival, he appeared, and led us through to Doomsday Games. It’s worth noting that the venue is located on the first floor, and there is no lift available, so you will need to be able to manage one flight of stairs. (Once inside the game, at least one member of the team will need to be mobile enough to crawl, but other than that and the stairs, it is fully accessible.)
We stepped from the corridor into the post-apocalyptic scene of reception, covered in graffiti, and looking exactly like any movie set after the total collapse of civilisation. Following a brief chat with Simon, it was time to embark upon our mission, and save humanity from the deadly pathogen.
Pathogen was filled with complex, multi-step puzzles, almost like having a puzzle within a puzzle. Many of these were more physical, almost real-world tasks, requiring players to interact with or manipulate actual things, following more “real-life” logic than looking for patterns in traditional-escape room style (although there were a few of these too!). While my favourite puzzles in an escape room are those that require a bit of logical deduction, games that incorporate more “real” tasks often stand out to me, and Pathogen was no exception.
Puzzles ranged in style, incorporating a number of skills including logical and lateral thinking, and a minor bit of searching. While many of the puzzles were science-based in the latter half of the game, Doomsday Games have done well to ensure that anything you might need to solve the puzzles is located within the room, without requiring excessive reading of any materials or requiring players to remember the chemical symbol for sodium. Add to that a few bits of fun to actually make you feel a bit like a scientist, and you have a recipe for a great game.
Whether it was a more traditional escape-room puzzle, or an immersive challenge, each task along the way fit into its surroundings, and did make me feel almost like I was Brad Pitt in World War Z, investigating the origins of the disease, and then finally synthesising a vaccine to save not only the team, but also the remaining survivors.
Rather than stepping directly from reception into the room, instead you enter quarantine. It’s here that you receive your mission briefing and are equipped with whatever you may need. (It was nice to be able to take as many tiny torches as we felt were necessary rather than being limited to one per person…or less). As we stepped out of the quarantine area on to the darkened “street,” it was clear that Pathogen was not your average game.
I’ve become accustomed to an atmospheric sound track in escape rooms, so the lack of one here was jarring. And yet, it was absolutely perfect. The absence of noise other than that created by ourselves only served to reinforce the narrative, immersing you further into the world of Pathogen, where humanity is on the brink of extinction. As you make your way from the quarantine onto the street, and beyond, the game does well to take players on a journey, providing distinct and perfectly themed areas, and a solid, clearly defined ending.
I do love a themed clue system that fits into the game seamlessly, and Pathogen managed to cleverly integrate the timer and clue system without breaking the immersion. With CLU strapped to Gord’s forearm, we were unlikely to leave it behind – unlike when I’m handed a radio – and Simon was able to deliver perfectly timed nudges when it was clear we had failed to read something closely enough, or a clue when requested.
In a market filled with 60-minute games, Pathogen is one of the rarer 90-minute experiences that are cropping up, and it certainly sets the bar high. The game was highly immersive, with excellent theming, and clever puzzles; I certainly couldn’t ask for more from a game, and I personally can’t wait to see what is next for Doomsday Games.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 60:32 with a couple of clues
Address: 1st Floor, Global House, Moorside, Colchester CO1 2TJ