We would be terrible police officers!
A serial killer is on the loose. Every hour, on the hour for the past 24 hours a murder has taken place. The killer has been leaving clues around the murder scenes, sending Scotland Yard around in circles. Your team has been granted access to the murder scene and is tasked with cracking the clues, riddles and puzzles to track down the next location before the murderer strikes again. An innocent life depends on you.
After successfully stealing the Saratov diamond from the bank vault in Gem Runner, it was time to join the other side of the law, and put on our detective hats. As we were at Lucardo for the entire day, our briefing was, well, brief, since we had already covered the health and safety. Instead, we were handed our police badges and led to the door of Virgina House, to try to crack the case before another murder was committed.
In stark contrast to the bright natural light of the bank in Gem Runner, Virginia House is dark and almost grimy feeling, fitting in with the theme. The darkness doesn’t last forever, and while lighting is sufficient enough to not trip over furniture, it often felt like it was an obstacle to just make things harder. I personally find this particular design choice simply frustrating, as I really do struggle to see the numbers on padlocks in low/no ambient lighting, but also because if you were really investigating a crime, the lights would be on.. But it did enhance the atmosphere, and added a bit of drama, and most players will probably enjoy the start.
Despite the dark, and the eerie sound track, the game isn’t scary, simply atmospheric. Aside from a few stumbling blocks, the game flowed logically, although it required some suspension of disbelief: What murderer has time to kill every hour, on the hour, and still spend all of this time setting up taunting clues for the police chasing him? While some of the puzzles were on the weaker side, particularly when compared to other games on offer at Lucardo, this is still a solid room, and fun.
The majority of the puzzles in this game relied heavily on observation, with a focus on spotting a combination in plain sight, or finding all the clues and decoding them to open a padlock or a key in a code on a pad. Some searching is required, but for the most part,the information you need is either in plain sight or locked away. For me, this meant that the most difficult aspect of the puzzles in Virginia House was determining what could be solved first, and what might come into play later.
With an almost overwhelming amount of information in front of you from the start, it did make the game feel as though it had a few too many red herrings at first, as you could easily be distracted attempting to solve something that you simply won’t be able to until you have additional information. Of course, this means you do actually need to be aware of your surroundings, and make sure you do take in everything around you; we had to ask for two clues, one quite early on, and both due to a failure to observe properly. (Gord and I both looked at the same piece of information and completely discounted it, only to require a clue confirming that we really should have known better.) Once we had that first clue, we were able to stop distracting ourselves, and the game flowed much better, until we hit another stumbling block. This one was a bit more frustrating, as there was very little that would direct you towards where you needed to be, and we spent several minutes hunting for a solution and becoming incredibly frustrated before we asked for a hint to point us in the right direction
But aside from observational puzzles, and an abundance of padlocks, there were tasks that required logical deduction and some team work. For a room that relied heavily on numerical combinations, there was a surprisingly refreshing lack of maths required to find the combinations.
With blood smears on the walls, furniture askew as though there had been a struggle, the outline of a body, and evidence markers, it was easy to believe that something awful had happened in this room. The darkness provided a bit of atmosphere, and being greeted by our police uniform clad host and handed our own police identification helped to immerse us in the story. However, beyond that, there wasn’t much in the way of immersion. The game is light on back story, and while the puzzles are generally pretty logical, they don’t take you on a journey or further the story of Virginia House. You’re there to find and stop the killer; and with all the clues he’s left you, he clearly wants to be caught.
“Scotland Yard” was on hand to help out with clues and nudges when requested, delivering these through a screen in the room counting down the time until the killer would commit his next murder. Our host delivered clues swiftly whenever requested – usually to tell us that we hadn’t looked at something properly.
This felt like a very “traditional” style escape room, with padlocks and keypads at every turn. That’s not to say it was a bad game. As a team of two, we found the progression of the game to be a bit linear, but there are certainly points where larger teams can adopt a divide and conquer strategy. With the types of puzzles and the design choices, I would say this game is perfectly suited to small groups of enthusiasts (perhaps those that want to try their first room as a two) or larger groups of new players.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 50:36 with three clues
Address: Virginia House, 5-7 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5AD