The one to play in Carmarthen
Whilst maintaining our foothold on the Moon, you are carrying out your daily duties in Control. The station is thriving, residents are happy and the crop studies are a success. You are paving the way for the first colonists to leave earth and join you in just a few short years. With construction going to plan and the fundamentals all in place, something goes seriously wrong in the Control Room isolating your team from the rest of the Lunar Module and your colony mission becomes an escape mission.
Usually, when we visit Wales, we seem to stick around the Cardiff area. But this time, we decided to venture further into the country to enjoy the beautiful sights, take a walk along the coast, and of course, visit a few of the escape rooms that are just a bit further out. Carmarthen was only a minor detour off of the route back to our accommodation after visiting with friends for the day, so it was only logical to stop off to see what was on offer at The Escape Game Carmarthen.
Earlier in the week, we had stopped off to visit The Escape Game Swansea, so we had some idea of what to expect. But that was tossed out the window when we discovered that, despite sharing a name and being in business together, the games at each venue are designed by two completely different and independent teams. But first impressions were similar – we were warmly welcomed, the waiting area was comfortable, and the branding and health and safety video were identical. The Escape Game Carmarthen have deviated a little though, as they have an onsite coffee shop, with hot and cold drinks as well as snacks – perfect for a full day of escaping as the venue has three games on site.
After a bit of a chat with the owner, in which we learned we would be throwing all of our preconceived notions out the window, we sat through The Escape Game standard video brief. Then we didn’t have long to wait until we were introduced to Sam, our host and GM for all three games at Carmarthen. Convinced we were ready for the challenges that lay ahead, Sam led us across the courtyard to the entrance to Lunar Base Alpha, and gave us the lowdown on the situation inside.
Stepping into Lunar Base Alpha, it was very clear that The Escape Game Carmarthen and The Escape Game Swansea have very little in common, other than their name and branding, and the difference in designers was apparent. It’s not a bad thing, no, far from it, but it was unexpected. The style of game was an entirely different breed of beast in Carmarthen, with this venue striving for a more immersive experience. The game was heavier on the narrative, giving it a clear direction and flow. The sounds of the base, and the AI’s occasional warnings regarding our oxygen levels, all helped to further immerse us in our surroundings and drown out the outside world.
Having never been in space, I can only base my knowledge of space stations on films. Lunar Base Alpha ticked all the boxes for what my sci-fi movie-loving brain would expect from a space station. The interior was stark but clean. There was very little clutter, and everything had its purpose. Puzzles fit perfectly into their surroundings further blurring the lines between game and reality. Sadly, some of the set was a bit delicate and had to be covered in stickers to prevent us from touching certain things, which did break the immersion somewhat, but even that was easy to overlook as we got into a rhythm.
Lunar Base Alpha is entirely linear, with one task leading to the next, but many of these tasks are made simpler when completed cooperatively within the team. It makes it less ideal for larger teams, but even up to four people would find that there’s enough to do to have everyone pitching in. But the stronger narrative combined with the linearity allowed the game to build in intensity as we reached the escape pod, and eventually the exit.
We got off to a rocky start with the puzzles due to a serious observation fail. But eventually, a plea for help got us going and we realised our mistake. Once we were going, Lunar Base Alpha started to flow, and the puzzles that evolved, were, for the most part, more tactile in nature. This style of puzzle is always my preferred because if I’m meant to be getting a space station back online to boot up an escape pod, I want to really feel like I’m doing it.
The puzzles followed a clear sort of logic, and if you had the ability to put the clues in front of you together, things just fell into place. There were certainly aspects of the game that fell into place more quickly for us due to our experience, but even so, there were a few instances where signposting could have been different/improved, but there were no massive leaps to arrive at a solution as long as the teams’ critical thinking skills are working properly. (You’ll also want to make sure you keep your eyes peeled, as there are some very subtle parts of the game that are very easy to miss without a keen sense of observation.)
Like their sister site in Swansea, The Escape Game Carmarthen limits teams to three “free” clues. Additional help after three clues is, of course, available, but it comes at the price of two minutes added to your final escape time for each clue. I assume this is to encourage teams to use the available help sparingly, but as someone who is loath to ask for a clue even when they’re unlimited, it can often result in teams like us floundering around until we finally break and use one of our freebies.
We weren’t really on form in Lunar Base Alpha and did have to give in and ask Sam, AKA “Mission Control” for help getting started due to our own stupidity. Things didn’t really get better for us from there, as we got ourselves in a muddle again later, but fortunately, Sam was quick to type up a hint on the screen whenever we requested them, and we only used two of our three available clues. Thankfully, any help Sam decided to give unprompted wasn’t counted against us in our clue total.
If you’re planning to play only one game at Carmarthen and you’re struggling to choose, look no further. The stronger narrative combined with more tactile challenges made Lunar Base Alpha not just my preferred game at The Escape Game Carmarthen, but also my preferred game across both venues.
Team: 2 players – escaped in ??? (we didn’t record it)
Address:1 Priory St, Carmarthen SA31 1LS