The doctor will see you now
It is September 1942. Having recently left his Lemon Street Surgery in Truro under somewhat of a cloud, Dr Sebastian Herbert is coming towards the end of his first week in his new Chapel Street Surgery in Penzance. Already there are rumblings about strange goings-on and disappearances in the town. You’ve made an appointment to see him as you’ve been under the weather, surely such an upstanding member of the community must be trustworthy?
Sometimes, when one visits Cornwall, it feels like navigating the Cornish roads is a puzzle in and of itself. But Cornwall is surprisingly well connected by train, and it was a breeze to hop on the train at Hayle, and arrive 15 minutes later in Penzance. It has been over a decade since the first (and only) time I’ve visited Penzance, and at that time escape rooms weren’t even a blip on my radar. But this time we wouldn’t be off to St Michael’s Mount in the pouring rain, instead we were in store for a few hours of escaping at Eureka Escapes. Located in the centre of town just off the High Street, and well sign-posted, Eureka Escapes was almost as easy to find as it was to catch the train.
One should note that Eureka Escapes do not have toilets on site, so if you think you might need to use the facilities, or even just want to properly wash your hands, it’s best to do so before you get there. Luckily, being a popular tourist destination, there are public facilities available around Penzance. We arrived at the venue at the appointed hour and discovered the door was open. We descended the stairs to the basement only to find a rope barrier across the landing. There we were met by Berri on the stairs, where we were warmly greeted, and given the low down on the venue specific health and safety stuff.
As there’s no proper reception area, it doesn’t leave much space to have a long chat, so it wasn’t long before we were shown to the entrance to the Doctor’s Surgery. We stepped inside, and after a basic briefing video, we were off.
Eureka Escape’s basement venue lends itself well to the 1940’s theme of their games, and they use the space they have to their advantage for ambiance. This ambiance is somewhat disrupted by a lack of sound design, apart from warnings of the Doctor’s imminent return every 15 minutes, but as we got into the swing of things, this soon faded into the background. When we stepped through the door into the doctor’s surgery, there were plenty of era-appropriate things to set the scene: An exam bed, a chunky desk, book case, and even a pharmacy dispensary behind a locked gate.
We got off to a slow start, but quickly picked up the pace as we found our starting point. Death by Prescription progressed in a relatively linear manner, although there were a few puzzles that defied this pattern, and could be solved at any time. The entirety of the set was on show from the start, but there were still a few surprises along the way. As a team of two, this worked perfectly, but the space would be cosy for a team much larger than four.
While it wasn’t a particularly story-heavy game, linear rooms do tend to lend themselves well to storytelling, and the narrative behind Death by Prescription unfolded bit by bit as we progressed through the game. This all culminated in one final puzzle push, and a frantic hunt for a key, which finally released us from the room.
Looking back at this game, the thing I remember most clearly on puzzle front was something that isn’t actually a puzzle at all. Instead it was the search element, and this is primarily because some of the hiding places were really rather sneaky. Not only were there physical things to find, but also some mechanics of other puzzles were put in places that would make it nearly impossible to progress if they weren’t spotted. Even one perfectly well sign posted hiding place proved tricky due to my height and tendency to be gentler with things in escape rooms for fear of breaking them.
When we weren’t hunting for physical things, we discovered puzzles that incorporated word play, maths, logic, general observation, and of course, a hefty dose of “connecting the dots” from all of the various clues presented. Of these puzzles, there were a number that felt layered and gave a few lovely “Ah-ha” moments for us to revel in when we reached a solution. Midway through the game we found one prop in the room that Gordon felt was a bit of a red herring, but I personally felt that the puzzles were signposted well enough that I never even considered it. If anything, it could have been a way to help solve another puzzle for those of us that are better with visuals than puzzling things out in our brains.
Berri was a lovely and enthusiastic host. But even more importantly, she was speedy with the clues when required, so we know she was attentive as well. Fortunately we got on well enough with the puzzles that we didn’t really need to trouble her too frequently.
Perhaps the only thing that felt chronistically out of place (other than a few modern padlocks) was the clue system. On the wall was the same screen that delivered our briefing and displayed a timer. But whenever we needed help we simply had to dial “999” using the keypad located on the desk, and moments later, a clue would appear on the screen.
Of the two games we played at Eureka Escapes, Death by Prescription was my preferred. There were a number of satisfying puzzles, and very little ambiguity which can sometimes lead to frustration in escape rooms.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 34:55
Address: 43-44 New St, Penzance, TR18 2LZ
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.