Fun in the morgue!
A door slams and silence follows. The adrenaline begins to kick in and your limbs start to tremble. The feeling is slowly returning to your body and with it, the growing realisation of what has unfolded. You have 60 minutes to find a way out of this dead man’s freezer before your torturer finds you!”
Dead on Arrival is billed as the most difficult room across the entirety of the Trapp’d locations, boasting a 13% escape rate at the time of writing this. With an escape rate that low, one has to ask the question: Why? Is there too much content? Do the puzzles not make sense? Are necessary items hidden in sneaky places? Or is it just a tricky room that requires more thought in order to find the solution to a problem, eating up the time?
My biggest fear in an escape room isn’t a live actor. It’s finding something to be frustrating, with nonsensical puzzles that baffle me even after a clue. When choosing our next escape room, if the game has them, we will often check reviews from other sources; it’s helpful to know what we’re getting into after all. (If you’re reading this review, chances are you’re the same.) Based on some of these reviews for Dead on Arrival, I was concerned that this was the cause of the low escape rate for the game. I can’t say for certain that the game hasn’t been revised over time, but I can say that I entered the room with low expectations, fully prepared to be nothing but frustrated, and instead found that I actually quite enjoyed myself, despite the bleak surroundings.
The puzzles started out in quite a straightforward manner, but there were a few bits in sneaky hiding places. There were a number of padlocks both keyed and coded, with the codes found mainly through observational puzzles. As we progressed through the game, a few more complex tasks revealed themselves, including a few logic puzzles and one requiring maths. The math puzzle actually seemed more difficult than it really was with an abundance of information presented at once. Fortunately, a calculator was provided, but my suggestion here is to not overthink it; forget the mnemonic device you learned in primary school about what order mathematical operations should be performed in – you’ll only confuse yourself – and don’t be too worried if it looks completely wrong at first.
Aside from the physical locks, both padlocks and keypads, Dead on Arrival incorporates some more physical puzzles, allowing players to interact with some elements of the set. With decent signposting throughout the room, we found very little ambiguity in what we needed to do and when.
Entering this game is no different than any of the others at any Trapp’d location. You will be led in blindfolded to keep the mystery, but the start was still a bit strange; some of the team is handcuffed, but not everyone. Handcuffing teams at the start makes sense in relation to the story, after all, the psycho that has abducted you knows you’re not dead. I would have loved to see every member of the team handcuffed with a more interesting mechanism to get the keys instead of just a search conducted by the free member(s) of the team.
Dead on Arrival is set in a morgue and let’s be honest, there’s not a lot to a morgue. Metal exam tables, filing cabinets, white walls, and of course, an entire wall of fridges to keep the bodies in were all present and accounted for. The space is massive, and larger teams will never feel claustrophobic as there is plenty of room to work with. The starkness of the space is effective and creepy; as we moved through, I even noticed a smell permeating the air. I would guess that this comes from a drain in the corner, and was perhaps even the inspiration for the theme, as it adds to the atmosphere. Playing in the winter meant that the smell was noticeable, but not overwhelming, although I imagine it could be less pleasant in a heat wave.
I rarely like horror themed rooms – they’re often poorly lit, grimey, and full of jump scares. Dead on Arrival bucked this trend. Yes, there were moments of low light, but they were necessary. For the most part, the lighting was bright and completely adequate, and yes, there were a few jump scares, but if you’re worried, just ask for them to be toned down and I’m sure the team would be accommodating.
We’ve now played a number of games at Trapp’d locations, and they’re all rather similar on this point: Clues are delivered over a speaker system, sometimes in character, sometimes not, and rarely are you given a way of keeping track of the time.
We had one nudge to confirm we were on the right track with one puzzle, so clearly our GM was keeping an eye on us, and I have no doubt that if we had hit a wall, we would not have had to wait long for help.
I always say that difficulty is subjective, I struggle massively in family-friendly Christmas rooms for instance, and while I probably wouldn’t recommend Dead on Arrival to someone that has never played an escape game before, Gord and I enjoyed Dead on Arrival, escaping in about 33 minutes, which leads me to conclude that the puzzles are sound, and it’s worth giving it a go.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 33:41
Address: Crow Lane, Great Billing, Northampton, NN3 9DA