Big improvement on its predecessor
Welcome, Voyagers! Our ship has been taken over by an alien life force. They are overriding the ship’s power and steering us into the nearest black hole.
Your mission is to take back control of the ship, remove its crystal life force and get us safely home. This is our most desperate hour!
Help us, you’re our only hope.
We’ve played most of the games at Escape Rooms Cardiff now, and for the most part we’ve enjoyed them all. However there was one standout exception to that enjoyment, ‘Press Start’. Press Start was a game that we just didn’t get on with and really didn’t enjoy. So our interest was piqued when we received an email from Escape Rooms Cardiff saying that Press Start had been replaced with Astro Quest, and they promised a much better experience.
As we were already in the Cardiff area we decided to pop into Escape Rooms Cardiff to see if Astro Quest was an improvement over its predecessor – we really hoped it was! It’s worth noting that we played Astro Quest when it had only been open for a few weeks and it was still undergoing some tweaks. After speaking with our GM at the end of our game, it was quite clear that this is an evolving game, so your experience will hopefully be better than ours.
On arrival at Escape Rooms Cardiff we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who had us scan the QR to fill in our sign in sheet. We were able to skip over the health and safety briefing as we had visited recently. So with the formalities out of the way, we were introduced to our GM, and escorted up the stairs to the entrance to Astro Quest.
It’s interesting as the snippet from their website that we’ve placed above this review, is actually different to the story we were given outside the room. So it’s possible that not only is the game evolving, but the story is too. The story we were given involved having a brother who had a video game that we wanted to play, he was out for an hour, so we had 60 mins to find the game and play it – but of course, nothing ever goes to plan! The story we were told made much more sense.
First impressions when we entered Astro Quest were not at all what we were expecting. We were expecting to be confronted with a high-tech spaceship looking set, but instead we found we were in a child’s bedroom, and a 90s child’s bedroom at that. I was overwhelmed with the amount of nostalgia in this room and I would have loved to have spent longer taking in everything.
Mixed in with the nostalgia-fest were, as you may expect, puzzles. However not everything in the room was needed to complete the puzzles, so as enjoyable as it was to see all the items in this room, fishing out the props from the puzzles was the first challenge. Also shout out to Escape Rooms Cardiff for one of their choices in this room, it gave us a laugh and equally grossed Liz out.
Throughout the game there was good use of noise to help set the scene, whether it be some wonderfully retro music being played in the first area, or more spacey sound effects in the relevant section
As the game progressed, it became more familiar. At least familiar to those of us who played Press Start. The space was the same and the overall theming felt like it had changed little, but at least now it felt like it belonged in the story. There was some decoration that used to be puzzles in Press Start, but now simply were there to look good, fortunately they didn’t detract from the game.
Much like Press Start, Astro Quest is a linear game with few chances to deviate or split up. Saying that, one of the key problems with Press Start was that some of the puzzles only needed one or two people to solve them, so in a bigger team there was a lot of waiting around – from what we could see, this was not an issue in Astro Quest.
Liz and I did find a few moments where we could work on different things, but it was more investigating items rather than actively solving them. Early on we also found something before the signposting pointed us to it, but fortunately this didn’t cause us any problems and didn’t interrupt the flow.
Really, the best part of Press Start was the set design, and it was a game that was really let down by the puzzles. I’m pleased to say that only the set design was carried over into Astro Quest, fortunately the puzzles felt very, very different. Despite there being reminders of Press Start, all the puzzles were different, and much more enjoyable to solve (well all but one, but I’ll come back to that).
This was a game of two halves, the start was very much traditional escape-room style with padlocks and searching, and then the latter part was all about the tech and much more digital interactions – I can’t actually recall and numbered padlocks in the second part of this game, just one or two keyed ones.
The puzzles were certainly varied in Astro Quest; searching, observation, communication, physical, decoding and audio. It’s also worth pointing out that quite a few puzzles relied on colours so if anyone on your team is colour blind, they may struggle at times.
I alluded to it earlier, there was one puzzle we really didn’t like or get on with. This was an audio puzzle that wasted a lot of our time and ramped up our frustration levels. Fortunately, our GM, said that this puzzle is likely to change, and from the sound of it, it will be a much better puzzle. Ignoring the frustrations of the puzzle, it was actually quite cool and different to what we have seen elsewhere.
Normally if you require a clue you simply have to request it out loud, but as we played early in the life of Astro Quest, the microphones weren’t working, so we just had to use a walkie-talkie to request them. When requested, our GM was quick to send a message through to the screen that would get us back on track – and when we reached maximum frustration level with that puzzle, he was kind enough to provide us with the solution so we could move on.
The screen that was used for the clues, was also used to show a countdown timer of how long we had left. I can guarantee that we would have had a lot less time left (as it stands we still only just got out) had Escape Rooms Cardiff not been kind enough to put a digital notepad in the room!
At one point we seemed to receive an additional audio nudge. I’m not sure if that was just programmed into the game to go off regardless, but it came at just the right time and didn’t feel out of place.
Astro Quest is the rebirth of Press Start – and it works. The puzzles were much more enjoyable, the story made more sense, and the set dressing was good. It feels like this game now has something for everyone and it’s sure to be a much more enjoyable experience.
It’s great to see that Escape Rooms Cardiff have listened to feedback on Press Start and created Astro Quest. They had a great set and now they have puzzles that do the space justice.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 36:19
Address:119 St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1DY