Worth visiting Worthing for
‘After a riotous run in with the local constabulary, your stalwart band of smugglers have had your precious barrels of gin seized! Rumour has it that your booze is in the possession of the crooked Commissioner of Worthing, and he’s secretly storing it somewhere at the town hall…’
Can you beat the Commissioner’s clues in time to reclaim your fortune of gin?!
We’ve twice been to Worthing now, and both times have been flying visits to literally just play escape rooms. Last time we were there we walked from Brighton (do not recommend) to play Deutschland ‘89 by TimeLock Worthing, interestingly since we played that game it has now been bought by MindWorks and is now part of their growing empire.
Smuggler’s Ruin is very easy to find as it is in a shopping centre in Worthing (plenty of parking). Our email detailed that when we arrived we had to give the secret knock in order to be let in, however as it turned out we didn’t need to do this as our GM/host was already standing in the doorway talking to passerbys and trying to convince them to give escape rooms a try (worth a shot).
We were greeted warmly and in character by
Barry Grand Admiral Fog and invited to take a seat in the comfortable and lovingly decorated waiting area. This waiting area was actually a lovingly crafted replica of the Worthing Town Hall, and here we were given a little background about the theme of the game and the venue where it was set (obviously we weren’t just in a shopping centre), and then shown a health and safety video. Grand Admiral Fog explained our mission and then before we knew it, our time began and we had 60 minutes to find the gin!
MindWorks is one of those venues that seems to go under the radar, and I’ve no idea why. I think it must be because Brighton has enough escape rooms to keep you going so Worthing gets overlooked? Because this game/venue is under the radar we didn’t know what to expect, but I must admit, first impressions were good.
I’m going to be a bit cryptic here as I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but the best way to describe how this game began was ‘interesting’ and it certainly caught me off guard, but I’ve got to admit I actually quite liked it – once my brain understood what was happening.
The set design here was good and there was a decent sense of adventure through the entire game, with a number of different style sets to explore. I don’t know much about smuggling anything, but I would imagine if one was a gin smuggler back in the day that there would be lots of sneaky passages and dark spaces – so that fits.
There was background music and noises being piped in throughout the entire game which again helped us forget that we were in a shopping centre in Worthing – and I genuinely did forget I was in a shopping centre. The space they used for the game managed to pack a few surprises and other than one rather dark area (with quite a crappy lantern) the game was well lit.
The ending of the game also through us a curveball, while we thought we knew what we were doing, we were suddenly given a decision to make – a decision that would affect how our game ended. We were a little dim at this point so we made the only decision we thought we could make, however after the game we were informed that it was possible to choose either option, we just had to put in a little more effort.
All the puzzles in Smuggler’s Ruin felt like they belonged in the space they were in, and I can’t think of anything that really felt out of place. Going into this room and having not heard anything about it, I was expecting to find a room with perhaps easy puzzles and a lot of padlocks, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find that this game used not only padlocks, but some tech too. Oh, and the puzzles were nicely varied too.
The puzzles we did encounter involved; searching, observation, communication, teamwork, some puzzles with dexterity, logic, and wordplay. I must admit, I wasn’t particularly on form in this game and I’m pretty sure Liz solved about 80% of the puzzles here. I had one moment where I was particularly dim but fortunately Liz is used to my dimness and swiftly realised I was being an idiot. Whoops.
The game was mostly linear in the order the puzzles needed to be solved, but we were able to split up and work independently on some things simultaneously, and some puzzles could be worked on at the same time, even if they couldn’t fully be solved at that point.
Grand Admiral Fog did a wonderful job as our GM/Host and stayed in character throughout our experience. It actually felt like he was happy to be there although I question how much of his character was actually a character, and how much was simply who he was.
The GM setup was a bit of an odd one here. He didn’t simply say ‘your time has started’ and then leave us along for 60 minutes, instead he was ever present and would randomly pop-up at times. It’s an odd one as it makes you feel a bit on edge, but saying that he would often appear with some witty little input and then disappear again – and in a strange way, I think it worked. We’ve played games before where the GM has literally just been standing in the corner of the room watching us and we 100% did not like that, but MindWorks felt like they had got the balance just right in this game.
If we needed a clue, we could request them by dinging a bell. I don’t recall ever dinging a bell to ask for help, but Grand Admiral Fog was watching us closely so I think he did chime in a couple of times to make sure we were on track. At one point I had explored something but not thoroughly enough, so he kindly offered guidance to perhaps check this area in a bit more depth.
We always knew how much time we had left, well kind of anyway. The timer was an era-appropriate hourglass but Grand Admiral Fog also chimed in every 15 minutes to update us.
Everyone knows Brighton has great escape rooms, but if you’re in the area then it’s definitely worth stopping by Worthing. MindWorks surprised me with the quality of this game, and it was a lovely way to end a day of quality games.
We were fortunate to speak with the owners after our game and it sounds like they have some great plans. They’re close to finishing (at time of writing) a new game which they think will be something different to what else is around, so we’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for that. Judging by some of their stories about the design and build of this new game, it will be an interesting one.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 36:19
Address: 26, Guildbourne Centre, Worthing BN11 1LZ