Needing some TLC, or Retirement…
Your final stage before acceptance into local gang The Muggletons is a personal job by notorious leader ‘Mr Brenchley’. Retrieve his diamond collection stolen from him by one of the rival gangs, figure out who stole them before you get lead down a false trail and lose them forever.
After a brief rest following our escape from The Laughing Lair, we were rehydrated and ready to retrieve the diamonds from Mr Brenchley. Interestingly, we noticed a great many references to Brenchley throughout Maidstone, with pubs, grand houses, and streets all bearing the name in some fashion. The Brenchleys were a prominent family in Maidstone, particularly well known throughout the 19th Century. Although to my knowledge none of the Brenchleys were diamond thieves, I very much enjoyed the nod to local history from Escape Hub.
Unlike The Laughing Lair, this time we were led through the door of the game to receive our briefing, complete with a refresh on health and safety and the story. With our belongings stored safely out of the way in a corner of the room and our mission clear, it was time to find the diamonds and identify the thief.
At first glance, the decor throughout the room gives Mr Brenchley a rather sparse and quite run down look, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is plenty to explore, and Gord and I quickly set about working on completely separate tasks. The puzzles themselves, although fun, weren’t overly taxing, but this is a byproduct of the number of rooms we’ve done rather than a comment on the quality of the puzzles, as they very much stuck to the traditional escape room style puzzles, which were logical and not frustrating. In fact, there were several moments where either Gord or I said, “Well, the solution could be X, but surely it’s not that easy.” Spoiler alert: It was that easy, and teams will do well to avoid overthinking certain tasks.
Where Laughing Lair relied almost exclusively on padlocks, Mr Brenchley did introduce a few elements to break the monotony of three/four/five digit codes, but there were still a great many of those to work our way through. I was dismayed to find that again, Escape Hub have employed the tactic of multiple locks on one item. As a player, I find it quite frustrating to solve something only to not feel as though I have progressed at all, but it does make it easier for designers to give a game a nonlinear flow.
I often talk about how immersive a game is. Immersion can mean different things to different people, but to me this amounts to a combination of two things: First, does the set match the story that has been given to the game? Second, do the puzzles fit in with the theme and the story? Usually, the combination of these things draws me into the world created by the designers, and drops the pretense that I am solving puzzles just for the sake of solving puzzles. There are a few other things that can help with immersion for me (For example, performing more tactile or physical tasks, instead of simply seeing a sneakily hidden code for a padlock on a business card.) Sadly, Mr Brenchley never really achieved that level of immersion; the set was actually mildly confusing, with three differently themed areas, and I’m still not entirely certain how each area fit into the story, and the puzzles felt as though they were there just to help you unlock locks that were only in place to barr the way, not for any other reason, and they never really felt as though they centred around a theme or a story, at least until the very final one. The start of the game had plenty of open space, so Gord and I were never tripping over each other, though it did get a bit more cramped as we progressed. In addition, elements of the game were showing their age, and often we questioned if certain things actually worked.
It’s easy enough to overlook this, as I still enjoyed solving and moving through the game, but it’s clear that this is one of Escape Hub’s earlier rooms. I don’t typically use the classifications (Gen. 1, Gen. 2, etc.) but if there is a better way to describe Mr Brenchley: Diamond Theft than as a Gen. 1 escape room, I can’t think of it, although classic or traditional style would also work.
With the open space, nonlinear game play, and the traditional escape room style puzzles, this room is a good choice for larger groups of newcomers to the escape world to get a feel for what it’s all about, but with one twist: It is possible to complete the game in the allotted time, but still fail. The make or break ending adds an element of tension to an otherwise standard game, and players will either love this aspect of the game or hate it.
We needed a few nudges throughout the game, but it was mostly due to the abundance of four-digit codes throughout the game, leaving us to forget there were one or two that we hadn’t tried yet when we found ourselves floundering with a code and nowhere to use it. Unlike the other games at Escape Hub, clues in Mr Brenchley are delivered via screen, on which you can also see your time. Harrison was back as our GM, and did an excellent job as our eyes in the sky, nudging us at just the right points to avoid frustration.
Mr Brenchley: Diamond Theft was, in my opinion, the weakest of the games we played at Escape Hub. With some much better games on offer in Maidstone, and at Escape Hub itself, I would suggest that teams keen to play all of the games play this one first and move on to better options.
Team: 2 players – escaped (with the diamonds) in 31:28
Address: 39 High St, Maidstone ME14 1JL